The writing hiatus is over

I took a short break from writing fiction. I make the distinction because I do a lot of non-fiction writing for work; software code, software manuals, useless paperwork, etc. Well some of the useless paperwork can look like fiction at times…
It has been a busy springtime, but it is time to get back to writing stories. I must admit I was a little down about writing. I had a long string of rejections. But then, during the hiatus, something interesting happened. Two of my stories survived the slush piles and are now waiting for further consideration. They are at markets that I really would like to break into, and one of them is a market recognized by the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA).

I am on pins and needles waiting for replies.

Advertisement

‘How Odd’, I thought

I had a very odd thing happen to me earlier today.  I was working on a story that has a character I used in a previously written story.  That is not odd.  I have several serial characters.  When I am working on a story with one of these characters I try to keep the character consistent, often referring to the text files of that character’s other stories.  What is odd is that today I could not remember the exact name of a philanthropic effort of McKaleb Yazzie.  I spun in my chair, pulled a magazine off my shelf, and looked it up.  How odd it felt to be looking up information about one of my creations in a magazine sitting on my shelf.  McKaleb is the protagonist in “Language Barrier” published in Abandoned Towers #2.  I wonder if other writers have had similar experiences…  I got goosebumps!
I have been taking a break from making myself write every day.  I was thinking about doing it, when on April 1st I just didn’t squeeze in the time to tap out 100 words.  I haven’t written everyday, but I have written.  I have also been editing stories that I finished the first draft on.  When I start back to working on “writing” everyday on May 1st, I am going to either write at least 100 first draft words, or edit for at least a full thirty minutes.  I have five or so first draft stories waiting for polishing.  I need to get those out to slush piles.

And speaking of slush piles, I have two stories that have passed inital slush readings and are being considered for publication.  Each is at a venue I really like and want to break into.  Fingers crossed.

About that VPN…

My flash fiction story, “VPN Dosen’t Work” is up today at Every Day Fiction.

I find that I am just a little nervous about this story. It uses computer technology as its base to drive the plot. I am a computer professional. If I got something substantially wrong about the computers, it will be embarrassing. Luckily, the editors had me remove some computer jargon to make the story more accessible to non-computer readers, and that should help smooth over any problems. I can always claim poetic license as it were… but still… if I missed some detail…

I am exited about this story because I am hoping that its protagonist will be a publishable recurring character. He has been bouncing around in my mind since 1981 or so, thanks to Frederik Pohl and his Heechee Series of novels. Thank-you, Frederik (and thank-you Robinette Broadhead) for stories that have stayed with me all these years.

I love science fiction, and I hope you like this latest attempt of mine within the genre. Let me know what you think!

Abandoned Towers has Language Barrier

My flash fiction story “Language Barrier” is now available in Abandoned Towers #2.

Abandoned Towers #2, March 2009

Abandoned Towers #2, March 2009

This marks the second time a story of mine has found a home in print medium.  This apparently is important to me.  I grew up seemingly with books in my hands.  I was, and still am–time permitting, a voracious reader.  Over 95% of my recreational reading is off-line, with a book or magazine in my hands.  I will read on-line fiction, but nothing of any great length.

This is perhaps why I submitted this story to the print version of Abandoned Towers.  Or perhaps it was because the pay was better.

In either case, there are some very good stories, in addition to mine, in this issue of Abandoned Towers.  Click on the image of the magazine cover to purchase a copy if you are so inclined.

While you are at it, go ahead and check out the stories in the free online version of Abandoned Towers.   But if you want to read any of the stories in the print version, you have to buy a copy.  The content of the two versions do not mix.  Print is print, online is online.

I had a lot of fun writing “Language Barrier”.  Because it is flash fiction I can’t say much about it, other than it focuses on myopic bureaucracy.  It is part of my Warp Lane milieu, and is contemporary (time-line, not location) with my story, “The Journey”, which focuses on myopic social attitudes.

If you happen to read it, let me know what you think.

Winds of Time

In this neck of the Southern Ohio woods we had a big wind storm on Wednesday.

It blew my stepladder across the yard.  A lawn chair went on walkabout, and another decided to hide in the bushes.  The new fancy high-gain radio antenna provided by my broadband internet provider turned its back to the wind and almost wiggled loose from its roof-line mounting bracket.

Of more importance trees, cracked and stressed from the recent ice storm, gave up hanging onto their limbs and disrupted power lines.  We were without power for over 12 hours.  I feel lucky because the weather was warmer, and if I had to choose, I would choose to lose power during a warm wind storm instead of a bone chilling ice storm.  So, believe me when I say that I am not complaining.  Not one bit.

There was an interesting thing that happened while the power was out.  After I assured myself that we were not going to suffer any catastrophic damage, and Doris and I had set out candles; after the sun set and the doors and curtains were closed against the dark; after the power returned for a flirtatious fifteen minutes before vanishing again; after all of this I found myself curled up on the couch under a warm quilt reading by candlelight.

Except for the light source, the evening reminded me so much of the many evenings I had as a kid.  I grew up–well lets say ‘went many years’–without a TV.  Our entertainment was reading.  That is what I did while the wind howled outside.  I read.  I finished off a novella I had started.  It was the longest sustained reading period I have had in recent memory.  Close to three hours straight, just me and the story.  It was a blast.  I have gotten into the habit of reading in snatches; a few minutes here, maybe a half-hour there.  I am going to try and block off bigger chunks of time to devote to just reading.

After I finished reading I had a strange experience.  I have written some fiction every single day since the first of the year.  I had not gotten around to writing earlier in the day and with the power off my brain sort of shut off as well, informing me that my streak of days of continuous writing was over.  It wasn’t until I went to write “wooden matches” on the grocery list that it, um, occurred to me that pen and paper did not require electricity.  I grabbed a spiral notebook, ran through my mind the story I am currently writing, and filled a page.  261 words later, the streak was still intact.

The winds gave me time to destress as well.  Something I didn’t realize I needed before the power went out.  Work has been getting to me a bit.

Editing a ‘Feral’ story

I have had an interesting experience the last few days.  Sort of an epiphany on a better way to approach my editing process.

I mentioned before that I stopped writing a story targeted for an anthology when I realized that I had discovered the open submission call for the antho. much too late and would not be able to finish a polished draft of the story in time to meet the deadline and submission criteria.   The story idea was so good it wouldn’t leave me alone, and I realized that I could rework it into a tale for my science fiction DuaLine/WarpLane milieu.  (I still can’t decide what to call it.)  This story, “Feral”,  is contemporary in that universe’s timeline with “The Journey” and “Language Barrier”, flash fiction stories that I have sold.

I knew where the story was going, so I started adding new material where I had left off.  When I hit spots where I had to contemplate what to write next, I would go to the beginning and edit the story to fit the new material–switching the background setting, revising characters and terminology.

For the first time working on a story, I realized that I was subconsciously thinking about things like plot cohesiveness, and strong characterization and point of view.  During the edit, based in part by the new bits I was writing, the story changed from a plot driven story into a character driven story.  The original ending morphed into an additional conflict for the protagonist to deal with.  The new climax/ending (which I am in the process of finishing the first draft of) is not only is a proper ending for the story, but it also very strongly continues the theme and reinforces the overall conflict that defines the DuaLine/WarpLane milieu.  For one the secondary characters, “Feral” is a prequel to a story where he is the potagonist.  This prequel is currently out in the wilds of submission.  I have plot ideas for this milieu and I am sure the main protagonist from “Feral”, Samantha, will pick up some of those for her own future tales.

Epiphany, ‘ah-ha’ moment, the light bulb came on; whatever you want to call it, I think I have found my editing legs.  I know I still have a lot to learn about this process and about the craft of writing, but this feels so comfortable.  I am very glad that I decided to finish ‘Feral’ before I tackled edits for a few stories I have that are nearly finished.  Editing is going to be much more fun now, I think.

Frustration leads to an acceptance

Story ideas.  Where do they come from?

Sometimes they come from dealing with frustration.

Almost a year and a half ago I wrote a blog post about why VPN (Virtual Privacy Networking) sometimes doesn’t work on all types of broadband.   I had trouble finding a broadband solution that would work and was available where I live.  I wrote the blog post to help others who might find themselves in a similar frustrating circumstance.  The post about VPN has become the most visited post on my blog and is still getting about ten hits a week.

A few months back I was having a miserable time with my broadband connectivity.  In the middle of this my Day Job switched the way I connect to the workplace computers.  In short, they rolled out a new VPN solution.  It got so frustrating that at some point I mumbled to myself, “I need to write a story about this.”

At some point after that I was thinking about a character I am using in a series of stories.  I had a problem with him because he seemed too perfect.  I dislike perfect characters.  This is why I like Batman more than Superman, and Lalo the Limner more than Tempus.  I felt this need to knock my character down a peg or two.

All of these things came together one afternoon.  My most popular post (about VPN), my frustration (about VPN) and my character (who constantly uses VPN).  A story idea popped into my head.

I wrote, “VPN Doesn’t Work” and sent it in to Every Day Fiction.  I tweaked it a bit after the editors made a rewrite request, and today, it was accepted for publication.  My first sale of 2009 and my fifth sale to EDF.

While “VPN Doesn’t Work” was in submission there were discussions on the SF Reader Forum and on a blog that I frequent that delved into whether or not a blog was helpful for novice writers.  I had a stray though that if I had a title for a story that matched a phrase that was frequently searched for on the various web search engines, then that story might do better than if I simply promoted a story on my blog that had a title with words that were rarely searched for on the net.

This story matches that criteria.  Granted, ten hits a week is nothing in the normal scale of things on the world wide web, but it is something.  A Google search of “VPN doesn’t work” has my old blog post as number two on the results list.  Now I’ll get to see if my stray thought about search engines was valid.  I think I will still promote it here regardless.

And it all started because I was frustrated about my own VPN connection.

Thinking Positive

I have finally started being a little more optimistic lately.

Things at work are going better.  Not a lot better, but some of the irritating things are better.  We also have better support.  With our New project manager we also got people assigned to the team in other slots that had been vacant since 2005 and in one case since 2003.  We are still down one senior programmer.  Granted, most of these new folks have a steep learning curve, and there is no guarantee that they will still be around a six months from now, but at least they are enthusiastic and bright.  One of the things that was worrying me was our broadband connection.  When the broadband doesn’t work, neither do I.  It was finally serviced and (knock on wood) appears to be stable again.  As soon as I am up to it, I am going to anchor the antenna with some quy wires.

My health is better.  Overall, that is.  I had the worst bout of back-to-back colds in December that I have had since returning to Ohio in 1999.  Yesterday, I twisted wrong, and I have a spasm in my upper back.  But these are the anomalies.  I have been getting good exercise and my back has been much less of a problem overall.  Now that we are watching the grandson less, there will be less sharing of the colds his parents bring home from work.

My comfort level with writing is the highest it has ever been, I think.  I have been able to write at least 100 words each day since the new year began (actually, since before the new year, I just started counting on Jan 1st).

I realized while I was sitting here reading emails and blogs, that I really have been tinking positive lately.  It feels good.

2008: My Writing Year

2008 was a good year for me.  I continued to have sales, mostly flash fiction.
I also tackled the backlog of stories that I had been accumulating over the
years.  I have story notes, false starts, and scraps of ideas that date back
to 1978, though the majority are from the mid-1990’s.  I had a chunk of
vacation time in December, and planned on clearing out a good bit of this
backlog, but a persistent head and chest cold dogged me all month, and I did
not feel comfortable submitting.  I don’t trust my brain when it is clouded by
fever or medicated to the point of drowsiness.  For the record I am still
sick; this is the worst cold I have had since returning to Ohio in 1999.

I am getting writing done, albeit slowly, but am waiting for a clearer mind to do
final edit passes and submissions.

One change in my process for 2009 is that I am going to give serious effort to writing some fiction each day.  I have set a minimum word count of 100 words because I can kick out that many words in a very short amount of time no matter the circumstances.  You know, like those days I am trail building, am attending Origins, or am on a business trip.

Successes

I wrote 12 stories.

I sold five stories, and had another selected for a reprint.
“An Awakening of Shadows” will be in Carnivah House’s “The Infinity Swords” Anthology.  This is the longest story I have sold to date.
Three flash stories sold to Every Day Fiction. — “All That Glitters”, “My Day Off From The SETI Project” and “Becoming Cottontail”.  All three of which were published in 2008.
“Language Barrier” sold to Abandoned Towers magazine.  This story is part of
the same milieu, which I think of as “the warp lane”, as my previous story
“The Journey.”

Then there was the news that really surprised me and to me is a big deal.  Every Day Fiction picked my story “The Journey” to be included in their “Best of Every Day Fiction 2008” print anthology.  This is my first reprint sale and is available for purchase.

Postponed Success
The publication date for “An Awakening of Shadows” is still to be announced.
“Language Barrier” will appear in the March 2009 issue of Abandoned Towers.

A rewrite request submitted to Every Day Fiction for my story “VPN Doesn’t Work” is still pending, but I feel very good about its ultimate acceptance.

Success in Limbo

As of one second till midnight, 31 December 2008, seven stories were out in the wilds of submission.
I parked one humor piece.  I like its theme (anti-Mundane SF) and will likely revisit it should an appropriate market appear.  It is silly/campy and I am not quite happy with it.
I have two stories currently undergoing final editing, and three stories started.

Overall Stats

12  Stories written
2  Carryover stories from 2007
38  Submissions
5  Acceptances
1  Reprint Acceptance/Selection
3  Rewrite Requests
26  Rejections
4  Publications
7  Pending in Submission

2007: My Writing Year

This is a catch up post.  I meant to do this a year ago, and totally spaced it.  I hope to have a yearly post like this one for many decades to come.

Successes

In 2007 I sold my first work of fiction.

“The Journey” was submitted, accepted and published in 2007 by Every Day Fiction.

Postponed Success

One story was rejected, but was turned into a rewrite request before the year ended.

Success in Limbo

As of one second till midnight, 31 December 2007, two stories were out in the wilds of submission.

Stats

  • 4 Stories written and submitted
  • 1 Acceptance
  • 1 Publication
  • 1 Rewrite Request
  • 2 Pending in Submission