Signal Boosting: Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories

Alex Shvartsman is running a Kickstarter for his upcoming short-story anthology. Unlike the UFO series that he edits,  this collection, titled Explaining Cthulh to Grandma and Other Stories, is all his own work.

I know Alex–he’s a heck of a nice guy. He’s also a really good writer. If you like humor, especially quirky humor, you’ll love his work. If you like military-themed SF, you’ll like his work. If you like “giant alien, telepathic spiders that sing,” you’ll like his work! And Ken Liu will be writing the introduction, and I don’t know too many people who wouldn’t like that!

$10 nets you an e-book, $20 a physical book, and $25 a signed book. Check out the Kickstarter page for other amazing  backer levels. And help Alex pay for his sacrificial goat, if you can. ;-)

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Writer’s Desk, 7/26

It’s been quite a while since I’ve done one of these. It seems about time to change that, and update the world on my goings-on.

Out the window: High clouds, with smatterings of sunlight burning through now and again. Though it’s cool, the humidity is rising and it’s likely to rain (again!) later today.

On the desktop: The general clutter, somewhat tamed. I’ve packed away some things into a box, things that I want nearby once I move but that I won’t need in the next 1.5 weeks. Also, two pair of eyeglasses. Unfortunately I need to wear them most of the time while using the computer (groan).

Today’s Work-in-Progess: The novel, of course. But also, this is the last weekend for the flash fiction writing prompt contest at Codex, so I’m puzzling over the prompts and trying to determine which one (or ones) to choose. Fortunately, I have more time to ponder, as the story isn’t due ’til the end of Tuesday. More time to procrastin–I mean, more time for research! Yay!

Good news: On the novel front, I’m nearing the end of the month, and am right on target to finish my 25,000 words for the month, thanks in great part to the Camp NaNo and my cabinmates.

Bad news: My original schedule had me near 80,000 words at this point. And I’ll be just over 60,000 words on the 31st. So, even though I met my target for the month, I’m still behind. And the move is before me, nearly upon me. With another 30,000 words to go (I’m guessing 90,000 at completion). Time to focus. Ignore boxes. Ignore email. Write. My characters are depending on me!

And Another Thing: Need I actually say it anymore? My fish had babies. Again. *drops head in hands and moans*

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Hey, Is This Thing Still On…?

If you’re reading this, you can see that I’m back, and know that I’ve been absent. Again.

In addition to life, and the novel, and “the upcoming move that freaked me out,” my face turned “worse sunburn of your life” red, and blistered and weepy. It was gross, it really hurt, and to say I was concerned is putting it mildly. Fortunately, it turns out it was contact dermatitis–i.e., I have an allergy. An allergy patch test showed sensitivity to (get this! I’ve learned to both spell and say this–cool, I think?) methylcholorisothiazolinone / methylisothisazonlinone. Turns out, it’s a synthetic preservative that was in my sunscreen. Every time I slathered sunscreen on my face, my face flared–making me think that, somehow, I’d gotten sunburn despite the sunscreen. Puzzling, as I rarely (like, once a decade) get sunburned. Ironically enough, while this is one of the 36 most common allergens contained on the standard allergy patch test, it’s in most “hypo-allergenic” dish soaps. Oh, the ridiculous things I keep discovering in this world…

My move has not yet happened, so I’ll likely go missing for a week or so in early-mid August. Just a warning.

Other than that, let me show you what’s up:

Sorry, I ate some before I took the photo.

Sorry, I ate some before I took the photo. OK, I’m not really sorry.

Raspberries! They are lush and delicious and overflowing the canes that grow wild in the nearby park. Warmed by the early morning sun, they explode with sweet-tartness in my mouth. I have a small container of them yet, and I’m pondering what to do with them. On cereal (seems like a cruel thing to do to something so divine), on yogurt? Mmm, maybe in scones…

This isn’t to short-change the blueberries, let me say. They are awesome, and they came ripe first. But they’ll linger, ripening all through summer, while the wild raspberries are here and gone again too soon.

Finally, I’ve been writing–on the novel and on flash fiction. It’s contest time in my writing group, and I’m writing a flash fiction story once every 2 weeks. So far, I’m doing pretty well (better than I anticipated, in fact) in the scoring–not that the scoring means much. Some of these stories are so amazing they hurt to read. Others aren’t there yet, not in this incarnation, but I can see the stunning gems they’ll become with polishing, now that contest time-constraints are off. So the scoring really means nothing at all. It’s the comments that are the real gold, as these will help me edit the stories into something better (and salable, I hope).

These are the ups and downs of the summer for me. The season’s half over (eek! how?), and I hope it’s been good to you. Here’s wishing you raspberries!

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Failure, Success, and Keeping On with Keeping On

I’ve been busy lately: battling health issues, traveling, dealing with house hunting/moving, and yes, even writing. So I’m sorry to have let the blog here slip, but, well, something had to give. It was this or what little remains of my sanity, and, well, hubby dearest is rather fond of my rare moments of sanity.

That said, I’ve got things on my mind (uh-hunh, and when don’t I?) and I’d like to share them. First off, Hugo voting. Wow. There are some amazing contenders for these awards. The artist categories are blowing me away. I’m reading the Novellas now, and again, just…wow. I hope to come back to this later, but let me encourage you to read some of the nominees in any category.

And now, a thing that’s been preying upon my mind for some time, bothering me. When I started thinking about writing seriously, I–like many others–read books on learning the craft of writing. I wanted guidance. A helping hand pointing the right way, and barring the wrong way. I found some of that, and am grateful for it.

But I also got ambivalent about trying to write, even afraid to try, when I read, over and over, the advice that goes something like: Writing is tough, so if you can walk away, if you don’t have a burning need to write, just don’t. Do something else, anything else, instead.

Well, I thought. I don’t have a burning need to write. Not really. If I learned I had 6 months to live, I’d quite writing in a heartbeat. Honestly, I would. That said, I do love writing. I enjoy the written word, and always have. But I value living my life more, and I think that, for me, this is the right way to go about things. And so the newbie writer in my wondered: Does this make me a bad choice for a writer then? Should I just give up now? After all, so many writers say just that.

Fortunately, I am (as my grandpa would say) full of piss and vinegar. The surest way to make sure I do something is to tell me not to, to tell me that I’ll fail and therefore shouldn’t even try. That kinda makes me mad, and contrary. So, I kept at it, writing even when, deeply depressed by rejections, I remembered those words and wondered if they were really right, that I’d never make it since I didn’t burn with the need.

Just recently, I’ve read two separate posts on just this topic, and both have made me cheer, and punch the air. Yeah! So there! that little voice inside me cheered. And, Yes! I’m not alone in this feeling.

Let me give you these links. First is a post from Josh Vogt. It’s a sideways look at the subject, but one that really resonated with me. What is success? Does it only come in one size: writing full time for a living? Or can I make it something else? Read his post and see.

The second hits the target squarely in the eye. (I have to thank Philip De Parto of the Writers of the Weird for bring this  one to my attention.) It’s a Locus Online posting from the incredible Kameron Hurley titled “Busting Down the Romantic Myth of Writing Fiction, and Mitigating Author Burnout.” Here, she comments on “not having the passion” vs “having the passion” and what that truly means in everyday terms. And she makes a surprising, and yet vindicating, conclusion. If you’re wavering, wondering if “this writing thing” is for you anymore, you may want to read this. Pronto.


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A New Way to Motivate through the Move

2014-Participant-Vertical-BannerThis move is really starting to stink, in a big, messy, triplets-with-diarrhea kind of way. It’s really screwed up my June novel-writing plan; I’m writing more than 1000-words a day right now, trying to play catch-up, but in no way will it work. I’m too far behind. (sigh)

That said, my “plan” held room for slop at the end, so I’m not totally freaked out by this. Not yet, at least. It’s just…frustrating. And the move itself hasn’t even happened. Isn’t even fully planned and dated and ready to roll yet. (Really, let’s just not go there–it’s that bad, that hair-ripping-out-maddening, and completely out of my control.)

So, /breathes/ here is my motivation plan: I’ve joined up with Camp NaNoWriMo.

Unlike the normal NaNoWriMo, during Camp NaNoWriMo, your goals are your own. This sounded great to me. At the urging of a VP cohort, I joined into a private cabin, where my cabinmates and I will spur one another along to meet our individual goals for the month of July. My current goal is to somehow manage to meet my “25,000 words in July” goal that I’d made before the move became “The Move that Ate My Life.” I hope that by August 1st, I’ll have good news to report on the writing front.

There’s still time for you to join Camp Nano. Check out the link if you’re interested. And don’t forget the bug spray!

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Hey, Guess What…?

We were gone overnight last week. When we got back, I discovered my fish had had babies. Gee, who would have thought?? /headdesk/ It’s only, what, the fourth (or is it now the fifth?) time.

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Silence in the Library’s Stretch Deal

Exciting news! Silence in the Library Publishing is right now running a Kickstarter for their next anthology, HEROS!  From the Kickstarter page: HEROS! is “a collection of short fiction about superheroes, not-so-super heroes, and everyday people who find the hero within.”

Since I’m not in this anthology, how does this relate to me? Sidekicks!, an anthology I am a part of, is now being offered as a stretch goal. If 350 people sign on to support HEROS!, they will be rewarded with a free copy of Sidekicks!…and they’re almost there! There are 19 days left, the project is fully funded already, and as I write, there are 344 backers. So, if this sounds like exciting  reading to you, I urge you to support the effort and get Sidekicks! thrown in for free!

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The Morass in the Middle

So, here’s the thing: writing a novel? It takes time. Shiny, new things wink and glitter, while your “graceful idea” metamorphoses into sludge between your brain and the page. You drag yourself to the altar of Novel, sacrificing yet another day to the Unending Drudgery story that’s eating your life.

Does that mean it’s a bad novel idea? Should you just pack it in and start over, fresh? Maybe pick up one of those shiny short story ideas flirting from the shadows instead?

Not necessarily. It may just mean that you’ve hit the Swamp in the Middle of the Novel. I’ve been assured it’s “a thing,” this bogged-down sensation where you think you’ll never be done. I’ve been assured that the only way to overcome it is to stride on through it. In other words, keep on writing.

I’ve just found the edges of this Swamp inside my novel. Fortunately, early planning has my way mapped out for me, so I have a trail of crumbs (or, in this case, Scrivener’s 3″ x 5″ cards) to follow, preventing me from wandering in circles. All I have to do is write the scene that I’ve put onto that card. Then the next one, and the next. See? It all works, I tell myself. And reading over the flow of those cards, it does. So I have faith, and just keep writing.

T-shirt found at Buzzy Multi-media that sums it up!

T-shirt found at Buzzy Multi-media that sums it up! While there, read some fiction, too!

Today, I found this T-shirt over at Buzzy Multimedia. It pretty much sums it up, and it made me laugh out loud. I mean, how perfect is this? Looking at this, I’ve just hit Step 5: “I’m still writing my book.” Looks like the real fun is still to come :-/

Oddly enough, I’m still jazzed about the story, and about the characters. I think that just knowing “The Swamp” exists, that it sucks in the most dedicated novelists, is helping me to stay motivated, and that keeps me writing my way out of the middle. To paraphrase: All who wander are not lost; some are just writing a novel.

Also, knowing that revision is a thing that exists for a reason–wow! That’s another huge relief. I’m not trying to make this “perfect” the first time. I’m just trying to get through it, you know? Perfection–or my attempt at it–can come in later drafts.

If you have experience getting through the Swamp, I’d love to hear it in comments. If you’re there in Swampland, keep going. We’ll come out on the other side, and have a first draft of a novel to show for our work. And how awesome will that be?

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