Vacation and Status Updates

 

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I went to Florida for a long weekend and had a wonderful time with a good friend. I got a sunburn, but the above was worth it; nothing soothes and relaxes my brain as much as going to the ocean.

While I was away I got a few updates on story statuses; “From The North” was passed on by Lightspeed and “The Price of Wool and Sunflowers” was held for further consideration at the specfic economics anthology. They plan to make final decisions in the next few weeks, and I’m very excited to hear back.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my novel outlines/ideas/works tentatively in progress, and have firmed up my resolve to move those into higher priority status once I wrap up the handful of planned short story submissions in my queue. Not that I’ll stop keeping an eye out for short story ideas and markets, but I’m ready to re-prioritize a bit, and the rush of enthusiasm I feel when I think about it tells me it’s the right thing to do.

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Visuals

When I’m brainstorming, stuck, or procrastinating, I like to dig through pictures and look for things that resonate with me. Tumblr is great for that, but also dangerous, because it’s very bad about attribution and I don’t want to steal anyone’s images. For free stock images that request either only basic attribution or nothing at all, Pexels is a great, user-friendly source.

I’ve used images from Pexels to mock up covers for novels and story collections that might or might not ever happen; I go browsing there for inspiration; I’ve even specifically gone looking for pictures I can use as a clarified mental image of a character. It’s really useful.

Here are a few I pulled tonight on a desultory series of searches.

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Stories in Circulation

Here’s a look at what I currently have in circulation, with title, market, and how many markets that particular story has been to.

  • “From The North”; Lightspeed Magazine; 6
  • “In Bloom”; Abyss and Apex Magazine; 8
  • “The Price of Wool and Sunflowers”; Strange Economics anthology; 1
  • “Wax-Wire Wings”; Persistent Visions Magazine; 6
  • “Out Stealing Horses”; Hex Gunslinger anthology; 3
  • “Screens” (reprint call); Uncanny Magazine Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction special edition; 2

I have two drafts in progress for other calls, one story in revise-and-resubmit mode, and two stories waiting for submission to magazine markets when they open for subs next; those will be those stories’ third and sixth markets.

It’s interesting to watch the life cycle of completed drafts and see what happens with them. Seven rejections and still chugging along, go “In Bloom” go.

Writing Reference: Ordinary Genius (Kim Addonizio)

Kim Addonizio’s Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within is, clearly, meant and marketed as a book for poets. But Addonizio notes at several places throughout the book that it’s all about language, sentences, craft, and that all of that is applicable to all kinds of writing. I don’t write poetry, but I loved this book, and I feel like I can use a lot of it.

Here are two quotes that stood out to me:

“Art is energy, held in a form long enough to be experienced. A fresco on a church wall in Italy. A dancer’s controlled movements, the drawing of a bow across a vibrating string. Or an exquisite arrangement of sticks held together by ice that will melt—until there is only a pile of sticks, a memory of the sculpture.”

Energy, held in a form long enough to be experienced. Energy held in the form of words, vibrating on the page.

“One technique you can use to handle emotion on the page is to ‘write it colder.’ This is from a letter written by Anton Chekhov, the great Russian playwright and short story writer:

When you want to make the reader feel pity, try to be somewhat colder—that seems to give a kind of background to another’s grief, against which it stands out more clearly. Whereas in your story the characters cry and you sigh. Yes, be more cold…the more objective you are, the stronger will be the impression you make.”

Addonizio takes the idea of necessary coldness and returns to it many times, along with the idea of balance; sometimes you need to dive into the emotions, sometimes it’s necessary to be cold. The key to figuring out when to do either is (of course!) practice.

The book alternates between lessons or discussions and exercises, many of which dig into writing and then rewriting with a specific goal in mind, mostly related to language and craft. An exercise that stood out to me was the American Sentence:

“Allen Ginsberg, inspired by the traditional Japanese haiku—three lines of five, seven, and five syllables—invented the ‘American Sentence,’ one sentence of seventeen syllables.”

  • Examples of American Sentences include:
    Taxi ghosts at dusk pass Monoprix in Paris 20 years ago.
  • Put on my tie in a taxi, short of breath, rushing to meditate.
  • Crescent moon, girls chatter at twilight on the bus ride to Ankara.

The exercise here is creating a clear image while adhering to a set structure. Like writing haiku, it forces discipline onto your writing and makes you cut down into what’s essential to the image you want to convey. One of my first disciplined fiction exercises was writing drabbles, or a story of exactly 100 words. It could be a vignette, action, or all dialogue, but the challenge lay in cutting it back (or building it out) to exactly 100 words without losing tension or the point.

There are lots of other great exercises here (both thought exercises and writing ones), as well as some broader ideas and discussion. I recommend it as a shelf staple to go back to regularly when you want to check in with the bones of craft.

The other book I do this with is Stephen King’s On Writing. I need to re-acquire copies of Natalie Goldberg’s books as well; I relied on them a lot when I was younger but misplaced my copies over the years. I’d like to see what I take from them now, after such a long hiatus.

Sub Day and Pep Talk

This has been a three-rejection week, which is always a bummer. My stories for the Economic Security Project/Into the Black contest and the  Trouble the Waters and Guilds and Glaives anthologies did not make their respective cuts.

I just sent another story out, though, to Abyss & Apex magazine’s reading period. Keep on keeping on!

Additionally, I missed noting here that while the story kept for further consideration at Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores was rejected, they did invite me to revise and resubmit it at their next reading period, with feedback for the revisions. So I will definitely be doing that. It’s pretty rare to get that sort of feedback and invitation, so it’s a bit of encouragement to hold on to when a bad week rolls through.

January Reading Log

Read in January:

  • Free Food for Millionaires (Min Jin Lee)
  • Samurai and Ninja: The Real Story Behind the Japanese Warrior Myth that Shatters the Bushido Mystique (Antony Cummins)
  • Sarmada (Fadi Azzam)
  • The Portable Veblen (Elizabeth Mckenzie)
  • The Unquiet Dead (Ausma Zehanat Khan)
  • Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within (Kim Addonizio)
  • Art Made from Books: Altered, Sculpted, Carved, Transformed (Laura Heyenga (ed.))

The fiction this month didn’t do a lot to impress me (Free Food For Millionaires is very good but stumbles in the home stretch), but both Ordinary Genius and Art Made From Books are wonderful. I have a separate post coming on Ordinary Genius; short version, it’s about writing poetry but is extremely applicable to writing anything.

Art Made From Books is from a museum gift shop, and more of a photo collection of, well, art made from books than an in-depth analysis of same, but it got me thinking a lot about the form and function of books beyond the story on the pages. I might go visit some library sales and used bookstores in search of some books that are no longer useful as texts (out-of-date reference books, etc) and see about making some art from them myself. I’ve been feeling a strong urge to make visual art lately, and indulging that is always good for my brain to cross-pollinate creative energy.


Currently reading:

  • Family Lexicon (Natalia Ginzburg)
  • Empire of Cotton: A Global History (Sven Beckert)
  • How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (Bart. D. Ehrman)

I’m not sure if I’ll finish Empire of Cotton; it’s very good, but very dense, and the analysis of cotton as where both war capitalism and industrial capitalism flourished is a bit hard to work through right now, with the world being as it is. Still, I may surprise myself.

How Jesus Became God is gym reading that might vault out of that category into must-finish reading, because it’s such an interesting topic.