Posted onMarch 4, 2023|Comments Off on Catching up after a week of SNAFUs
There is a great irony in being Between Gigs. You have no money but lots of time. Then Tasks and Urgent Matters dance on stage, blowing trumpets and hauling your ass out of bed. You need to look for work and you want to write. Then, hey, the physical objects in your previously employed and relatively comfortable life begin cracking, groaning, and downright breaking.
Some of it was inevitable: an 12-year-old iMac that couldn’t support recent software updates and therefore, could not run critical web-based software; an electric kettle (3 years) with a worn power switch; a printer (5 years) with an intermittent power glitch; a router (8 years) that kept losing Wi-Fi connections; and another iMac (5 years, but upgraded) with a bad microphone and a hairline crack in the display. Plus, the Pocket Panther was behind on his regular vaccinations because the reminder notices were caught in the Spam filter.
We are replacing things (thank Buddha for emergency savings), the cat is healthy, and the lovely folks at the state Employment Development Department (i.e., Unemployment) have released some overdue benefits after I convinced them that I was not, in fact, part of an organized crime heist to plunder California.
I have been writing. And submitting. Which means more rejections. And a few sales! In fact I was able to add a new square to my Writer Bingo: 2 sales in one day. Both were flash stories and you can find them at Stupefying Storieshere and here.
There are two lengthy Revise & Resubmit projects underway, and I’ve completed final edits on my contribution to Kickstarter project: The Science Fiction Tarot. I’m very excited for this project, first because it’s a cool concept and second, the preliminary was, well, very cool.
I continue to work with Cat Rambo, whose insights and gentle ass-kicking keeps me on deadline. I’m also trying to beef up my reading of contemporary fiction (so much good stuff!) and re-visit some old friends. Kurt Vonnegut’s prose still delights. Ursula Le Guin is a master. Daniel Keys Moran reminds me that very good books are too often derailed by publishing travails and general life challenges. And so it goes.
Thanks again to the small but merry band of writers who join me in the Interwebs. Some days I don’t know how we manage to light the headlamps and ride the creaky elevator down into the word mines, but we do.
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My previous post talked about the things I published this year. Today, I wanted to look back at what I wrote — or tried to write — in 2022.
In 2021, I started working one-on-one with Cat Rambo (in addition to participating in her classes). When my kinda-sorta surprise bonus showed up, I decided to channel that cash into more coaching time in 2022. And then I added a goal: draft a new complete story every month. And write every day during November (the dread time of NaNoWriMo). No problem.
Narrator: It was a problem.
It wasn’t a complete bust, though. Thanks in part to hosting twice-weekly writing sessions on Zoom, I was able to draft and finish 10 stories. (There is, of course, the small chance I’ll finish something new this month but I’m going in for foot surgery soon and then the holidays descend. Let’s go with ten.)
Here’s what it looked like:
Stories completed in 2022:
Jan – Ruby Throat and Gold
Feb – The Antidote for Longing
Mar – The Great Contraband Race
Apr – For Better or Worse
May – Take a Leaf from the Bodhi Tree
Jun – Petition the Order of Compassionate Death
Jul – Last Cold Beer for 50 Miles
Aug – The Four Noble Truths/Monkey Brain
Sep – Lizzie McNeil and the Veil Between Worlds
Oct – (Classes)
Nov – Small Pleasures /NaNoNotSoMuch – WRITING EVERY DAY NO MATTER WHAT!
Dec – TBD (Classes)
Cat was in Spain for a month and there was a serious amount of fusterclucks going on at DayJob starting in October, so the year hasn’t ended strong. Oh well. But hey, there’s still stuff on the stove:
The Third Bell
Don’t forget revisions!
The Machine Mage of Umea
Petition the Order of Compassionate Death
The Four Noble Truths/Monkey Brain
Lizzie McNeil and the Veil Between Worlds
or leftovers – scraps and fragments
Pull the Red Cord
Not Sleeping Beauty
The Bone Fetcher of Alijah
Bonus section – future good news?
Antidote for Longing–Rewrite Request
Bodhi Tree —Second Round consideration
Between the Stars—Sent 10K sample; editor asked for the entire novella
Last Cold Beer for 50 Miles–Second Round consideration
Overall, I got stuff done.
(Now I just need a new DayJob.)
To everyone who’s come to the writing hangout, followed me on social media, and read my beta drafts. THANK YOU. Couldn’t do it without you folks.
I added a new box to the Career Bingo card recently – “Lead story in a TOC” – thanks to my flash story, “The Last Best Day of Antonio Silveri, Ph.D.”
On Spec is a nifty little digest proudly published in Alberta, Canada. For the record, this is my sixth publication in that country, and every one has been marked by positive interactions with the editorial team. Plus, they tend to have cool cover art.
“Last Best Day” started life as a 500-word flash fiction contest entry. It didn’t win, but it gave me the general shape that I later expanded (a bit) and polished (a lot). So if you get a chance, check it out.
I think any story that infuriates your beta readers and makes the editor cry is a success.
My last in-person con was FOGcon in March 2020, when COVID was just starting to build itself up to the life-changing, death-dealing, absolute FUBAR pandemic that continues to run off-Broadway (and everywhere else).
My last Worldcon was #76 – San Jose (2018). The ones that followed were avoided due to finances /COVID (Ireland, New Zealand) and scheduling/COVID (Washington, DC). Which brings us to Chicago in 2022.
By this time, my daughter was starting her third year at Columbia College Chicago, giving the family an opportunity to travel together, get her new apartment set up, and maybe take in some panels. Thanks to a fellow Viable Paradise alum, we were able to snag another adult membership for $0. Huzzah!
We stayed for the entire length of the con (plus an extra day for me) at the Hyatt Regency, the event venue. In a suite. So there was plenty of time to sprawl and, later, host our first Cards Against Humanity game in, uh, about 4 years.
It was good. Weird, but good. My in-person event skills were rusty, to say the least. So many people! So many masks! The volunteers/staff all did a pretty fine job of herding the cats. There was an enormous, overwhelming amount of programming, offered in-person, online, and hybrid. So kudos to everyone who pitched in. I wished I’d had the time and energy to do more.
So what did I do, between getting my daughter moved in and trying to catch a few minutes to say hi to friends from the Before Times?
Thursday – Got our badges and attended the Opening Ceremony. The toastmasters, Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders, acquitted themselves pretty well (although I will admit their shtick works better in online venues).
Tabletalk – Catherynne M. Valente. She was an utter delight and her stories of writing in These Trying Times™ resonated strongly. (Full disclosure – I had entered the lottery for two different author talks (the COVID version of the traditional Kaffeeklatsch) and had to bail on one. Sorry, Lawrence M. Schoen! )
Geeky Parenting: Raising the Next Generation
What’s With Chicago? Its Quirks, Personality and Charm – Hey, I learned some fun things about the Windy City
Improv Star Trek – Attended with my daughter. An absolute hoot.
Themed Readings: Fairy Tales and Myth – Spent a lovely hour listening to Elise Stephens and Jean Bürlesk. Quality writing and excellent performances in a small room so we could hear everything. We could have spent a few days just doing this.
Let Me Tell You About the Very Alien: They Are Different From You and Me
Getting the “Cyber” Part Right
Best of the Year – Listened to a top-shelf panel of anthology editors, including Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, who overcame all manner of obstacles to reach Chicago. Pleased to finally meet him in person after following his social media.
Dealer Room – As the last part of my belated birthday celebration, I bought a couple of prints in an auction, and acquired several tee shirts and books.
Cards Against Humanity in our suite – our intrepid band included four (4!) Fire Wombats, plus family and friends, two of whom had never played. Much horribleness ensued.
What makes The Good Place Work – a fun, philosophical panel devoted to the themes and characters of the meme-worthy sitcom. Got to meet one of my Canadian editors, Andy Dibble!
Themed Readings: Humor-A – Listened to another Fire Wombat, Alex Shvartsman, read from his new novel, The Middling Affliction. Found a copy later in the Dealer Room.
Hugo Awards Ceremony – watched the stream from my suite because the reported COVID numbers were starting to creep up.
Our suite didn’t have a kitchenette, or even a microwave (boo, Hyatt) so we stocked up on Whole Foods groceries and gave the local restaurants some business, as long as we could get outdoor tables. Special mention goes to FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar around the corner at the Radisson Blu hotel. There we encountered The Primordial Pretzel. Two pounds of salty, bready goodness. With sauces.
I’m glad I went, even if it felt particularly awkward at times. My one wish would have been more time just hanging out with people and buying them drinks. It was very, very good to see my fellow VP 16 alum, and some of my favorite writers and editors.
More writing time (or writing brain) would also have been good.
And yeah, I didn’t take enough pictures (or good ones, at least).
Posted onAugust 25, 2022|Comments Off on Significant Dates and Anniversaries, Part 2
Ten years ago, I attended Viable Paradise 16, where I met many fine folks and learned a lot, especially how little I actually knew about writing. Up to that point, I’d been running on ideas, ego, and caffeine. (The official term is “pantsing” but you already knew that.) Sure, I’d attended a moderately competitive and stupidly expensive MFA program, but my primary advisor didn’t really grok “fantastic literature” and my utter lack of life experience didn’t help.
Since having my words dissected, inspected, and cheered on by 23 other students, 6 instructors, and 3 awesome house elves, I am happy to report (and a little surprised, honestly) that I’m still doing this thing. And I’ve made friends. Thank Buddha for the interwebs, for apart from a few cons and weekend writing get-togethers, most of my interaction has been online. Zoom, of course, is a game-changer (as was Google Hangouts before that). Most weeks I get to see at least a couple of friendly faces who understand what it means to grab a pick and shovel and head into the Word Mines.
Doing a very unscientific review of my fiction efforts (thanks, Submissions Grinder, you’re the best), here’s what I came up with:
Stories accepted since VP: 25
Total all submissions same period: 357 (approx)
Fewest submissions to sale: 1 – Tie: “The Long View” and “Jizo Rides the Bus”
Most submissions to sale: 23 – “The Astrologer of the 5th Floor”
Most submissions without a sale: 44 (and counting) – “Schadenfreuders”
Stories in submission as of today: 10
Stories abandoned to the trunk/did not finish: 6
Stories in progress: 8 (some of which will probably be trunked)
Public readings: 5 (including podcasts)
Total $$ to date: Don’t go there.
Next week is Worldcon in Chicago. It is my sincere hope that I sit down with some of my fellow Fire Wombats and raise a glass to 10 years of serious mining.
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Posted onAugust 18, 2022|Comments Off on Significant Dates and Anniversaries, Part 1
So… I woke up this morning another year older, as such things are measured. Not thrilled to be reaching such a high number, but as wise people have noted, it sure beats the alternative.
To help me celebrate, my spouse and daughter bestowed upon me a number of gifts that shows they do, in fact, understand me:
Single malt scotch from Skye
A package of edibles (“the relaxing kind, not the take-a-trip kind”)
A bit of pottery: a Felis domesticus fighting off a band of garden gnomes
An open gift certificate to acquire something fun from the Dealer Room at Worldcon next month
Tonight will feature Indian takeout and something with dangerous levels of chocolate.
For my part, I acknowledged the event by getting a deep-tissue massage, a chiropractic adjustment, and braces. Yup. Braces. I’ve never liked my smile and hide it in most photographs. (There were also some long-term issues with my front teeth that will be addressed at the same time.)
By the way, when you see this well-known brand:
it’s important to note they don’t mention the appliances need anchor points, so that procedure makes you feel like this:
I also participated in DayJob today because I wasn’t brave enough to call in sick. Yeah, bad choice.
This year also marks the 20th anniversary of paying a mortgage. That fun won’t end anytime soon, although we’re accelerating our payments to try to put a stake in it ahead of schedule.
And it’s been 10 years since I was accepted to Viable Paradise (which took place in Oct 2012!). More thoughts on that later.
Now I must return to planning meetings. A heartfelt thank you/tusen tack to You Who Read the Blog.
You’re the best.
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Posted onJuly 14, 2022|Comments Off on Hey, I did my first (video) reading
My first reading took place (mumble mumble) years ago when I was teaching English Comp and Creative Writing at a community college in Puyallup, WA. I think I did about 15 minutes of my story “Walking Backward Through Death’s Door.”
Since then, I’ve done one reading at FogCon and another in San Francisco for the Abandoned Places book launch. That was a dark and stormy night, literally, so we had only 4 people in the audience.
Last night I participated in Story Hour at the invitation of fellow SF/F writer, Laura Blackwell. This is a weekly online event that gathers together some excellent writers to read a complete story. In my case, I didn’t have anything of the appropriate length (20-25 minutes), so I did a selection of flash fiction.
Man, I wish I had a TelePrompter – it was a bit of a challenge to balance reading from my screen and monitoring the Zoom call. Having said that, folks seemed to enjoy my performance. (And kudos to the other author of the event, Izzy Wasserstein. Go read her stuff. She’s really good.)
Posted onJune 16, 2022|Comments Off on Not exactly a writing square, but I’ll take it
Some of you may be familiar with the Career Bingo tab on the Tools for Writers spreadsheet, which is distributed every year by Christie Yant. There are squares for things like “First submission!” and “Apply to a workshop.” I’ve added my own squares, such as “200th Rejection.”
This month I hit a small milestone: four sequential months with stories published. It wasn’t planned, believe me. Just the vagaries of publishing, or the alignment of planets.
Posted onMay 7, 2022|Comments Off on War and (Inner) Peace
The anthology Strange Religion launched today, the companion volume to Strange Wars (which debuted last week). I’m pleased to say that in addition to assisting with first reads (i.e., slush), I contributed one original story and one reprint to the project.
(Some of you may remember my appearance in the first volume in the Strange series, “Supply and Demand Among the Sidhe” in Strange Economics. So I’m 3/3. Huzzah!)
“Burial Detail” is a reprint (with minor edits/updates) from The Word Count Podcast. It’s lovely to see “Burial Detail” in print, though it was published not long after the death of my university partner-in-crime, Dr. John A. Maynard. Our conversations about his military service helped inform the story.
“Jizo Rides the Bus” was a much more difficult story to write since it was the first new fiction I attempted after the death of my father, Frank Schlosser. I learned about Jizo, a bodhisattva popular in Japan, during a practice offered at the San Francisco Zen Center. Jizo is the patron of travelers and children who die before reaching adulthood. An unusual bodhisattva, Jizo vowed to avoid Nirvana until he could accompany all beings to safety, even those trapped in the hell realms.
Statues of Jizo are common in Japan, especially in graveyards, and are often decorated with red hats and scarves, since the color is often associated with protection from evil.
After I completed the practice period, I decided that Jizo would make an excellent POV character for a story about grief and samsara set in Silicon Valley. I hope you enjoy it.
For the next few days (May 7-11) Strange Religion is available as a free Kindle download. Please have a look. It’s a big volume with a lot of ideas.