Two quick bursts of shininess!

Shiny #1:  I’m thrilled to say that my story “The Girl Who Welcomed Death to Svalgearyen” is now out in issue 124 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies! Much happy dancing has ensued. Here’s a snippet:

Adda looked up and down the snowy lane, but Grandma Marit had already disappeared into the darkness. The only movement came from flickers of firelight sneaking out of neighbors’ windows. The darkness groaned in annoyance at the tittering flickers, who flitted up and down the sides of the box-like wooden homes. The flickers skipped over the ground and tickled Adda’s feet, even through her heavy boots.

Shiny #2: I’m also happy to announce that a new story called “The Whole of His History” will be appearing in Stamps, Vamps, and Tramps, an anthology being published by Evil Girlfriend Media. It looks I will have some lovely company in TOC for this one.

On that note, things will likely go quiet here on the blog for the next few weeks as I go off and have some fabulous vacationy adventures. Not that I’ve been posting all that much anyway, so y’all probably won’t even notice that I’m gone.

#SFWApro

Ambivalent Hopefulness: Or, why my endings aren’t the pit of despair and misery my friends think they are

jk-rowling-youre-adorableI find it fascinating when people need to have a certain kind of ending in order to enjoy a piece of fiction. Person A is upset about that story with the tragic ending and the high body count; she sees enough depressing things in real life and wants everything in the fiction she reads and watches to work out for the best. Meanwhile Person B is rolling her eyes at that story with the happy ending; she thinks the world is a dark, gritty place and has no time of day for fiction that doesn’t reflect that.

Me? Dark, happy, ambivalent, whatever—just give me an ending that fits the story. If you can give me an ending that fits the story yet still manages to surprise the hell out of me, even better.

As for my own fiction, I’ve gotten a reputation among some friends for depressing endings and George R.R. Martin-esque character-killing sprees. A few years back, I recall one person pleading with me during a critique session, “Just one happy ending, Barb? Just once? Please?” But the thing is, I totally haven’t earned this reputation. For starters, I haven’t killed off nearly as many characters as I’ve been given credit for. (Is it wrong that I’m kind of disappointed by that?) In some cases, the characters were already dead when the story began, so technically, I didn’t kill them off. They came pre-killed. And my endings—well, like my tastes in other people’s fiction, they’re a mixed bag. Yeah, there are some dark and depressing endings, but there are a fair number of happy endings in there as well. Most of them fall somewhere in between.

If there’s any kind of trend in my endings, I’d describe it as one of ambivalent hopefulness—stories where things sort of kind of work out for the best, but not without some degree of loss or sadness or uncertainty. Bittersweet might be a more concise term, but I’m not sure it’s quite right for all of the endings I’m thinking of. Some of them definitely, but not all. But whatever you call it, at the end of the day I’m quite pleased when I write a story that gets responses like this comment I once received during a critique: “It’s okay if everyone dies happily ever after.”

#SFWApro

Not that the intrawebs need another post on the SFWA kerfuffle…

So, there’s been a lot of drama going down regarding the SFWA Bulletin put out by, you guessed it, SFWA. Due to other obligations over the last few days, I haven’t had time to organize my thoughts on the matter until now, and at this point, I don’t have much to say that hasn’t already been said more eloquently by others. If you know me well enough, then you can pretty much guess where I stand on the matter. If you don’t know me so well, if at all, then let me try to put it as succinctly as I can.

When it came to the SFWA Bulletin’s fetishistic cover art with the woman in the highly impractical chainmail bikini, I merely rolled my eyes and thought, “Really? Still this?” But then it got worse. I’m seriously bothered by how often women’s accomplishments are conflated with their looks, especially when said conflation happens in a publication that serves as one public face of a professional organization to which I belong. And when that publication–which my dues help to fund–then allows the people responsible for such conflations to meet criticism with an ill-informed, straw man-wielding rebuttal, I go from seriously bothered to seriously aggravated.

To add to my exasperation, in between all of the above we got the Bulletin article where the improbably proportioned Barbie was extolled as a good role model for girls because “she maintained her quiet dignity the way a woman should.” Look, dignity is a good thing, but I don’t see any reason why women have to be quiet about maintaining it. That, and the only reason Barbie’s quiet is because she’s made of plastic.*

I am not going to deny people their right to spout off all manner of ridiculous crap, and they have all manner of venues in which to do so, especially on the internet. However, 1) other people have just as much right to call them out on their ridiculous crap, and 2) the publication of a professional organization should not serve as a megaphone for speech that disrespects a large portion of the organization’s membership.

When my SFWA membership comes up for renewal in the fall, I will very likely renew it. The advocacy work that SFWA does on behalf of authors is the main reason I joined, and I’d hate to lose that because of the issues concerning the Bulletin. More importantly, there are people actively working to address these recent problems, so I’m hopeful that some positive change will come out of this. Still, I totally understand and respect why some other people have chosen not to renew their SFWA membership after this whole kerfluffle.

And now that I’ve written far more about this than I was planning to, it’s time for me to call it a blogging night and go get some fiction accomplished.

*Also, anyone who thinks Barbie represents “quiet dignity” never encountered a kid who played with Barbies the way I did. My Barbie dolls were usually helping my He-Man figures fight monsters. I also had a Western Barbie whose head broke, so when you pushed the button that was supposed to make her wink, instead her head would rotate all the way around, Exorcist style. That, of course, led to me putting my Barbie dolls into many a horror movie-style scenario. Pretending your Barbie doll is possessed by an evil demon? Not so much with the quiet dignity.

The Semester That Ate My Blogging Time

So, um, you may not remember me, but I used to blog here. I know it’s hard to tell, what with the eerie silence and the dust and all. In fact, the dust bunnies have grown large enough to feast upon small mammals. And that huge one lurking over in the corner? He’s got that “Why, hello there, lunch” look in his eyes.

But seriously, I need to stop pretending that I’m going to have the time and mental reserves necessary to maintain any kind of blogging routine when grad school’s in full gear. So come fall, blog silence will probably resume. But in the meantime, summer break, baby! And only two more semesters left before I’m all masters-degree-ified!

So what’s been going on during the two-plus months I haven’t been blogging? Let me explain … no, there is too much. Let me sum up:

* School. Ridiculous workload. Fried brain.

* Awesomesauce story sale! Beneath Ceaseless Skies bought “The Girl Who Welcomed Death to Svalgearyen,” a story inspired by the Norwegian town Longyearbyen, where you’re not allowed to die. A story I absolutely adored writing + one of my favorite short fiction publications = squee!

* Lots of singing and piano. Even my clarinet got the dust blown off it a couple times.

* My writerly pal Krista Magrowski invited me to do a talk on “Turning Ideas Into Stories and Other Tales from Publishing” for the South Jersey Writers’ Group last month, which was a lot of fun and involved much discussion of bunny wrangling.

* Day job. I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it here, but I’ve been doing a fellowship in an orchestra library, which has been (and continues to be) a great experience.

What hasn’t been going on these last couple months, unfortunately, is fiction writing. I cranked out a bunch of flash pieces right before the start of the semester, but so far I’ve only been able to get one of them cleaned up and flung out into the submission void. But now that I’m done with school until the fall, fiction shall be accomplished!

Shiny things that are shiny!

The writing has been slow-going these last couple weeks, but there have at least been writing-related shiny things that I finally have time to post about:

* Shiny thing #1: My story “Notes on a Page” (along with some shiny pretty artwork by Nick Greenwood) is now out in issue 32 of Intergalactic Medicine Show.

* Shiny thing #2: I’m super late mentioning it, but a few weeks ago I got to babble over on my awesome Odyssey classmate Rebecca Roland’s blog as part of her Thumbnail Thursday series.

* And last but certainly not least, shiny thing #3: I’m quite pleased to say that I recently received an acceptance from Daily Science Fiction for my story “Memories of Mirrored Worlds,” to which I owe thanks to Jaime Lee Moyer’s orphaned first sentence contest for the inspiration.

The Next Big Thing: My Contribution to Blog Hopping Fun

The obligatory intro text:

There are the authors everyone has heard about: George R. R. Martin, Stephen King. But what about all those books written by people you’ve never heard of? Some of them are treasures just waiting to be found, and that’s what this blog hop is all about: the books you might not have heard about, the authors you might end up loving.

This blog hop is like a game of tag. One author posts and then tags other authors who link back to their website the next week and tag new authors. If you follow the blog hop long enough, you’re bound to find some writers you’ll love! Maybe you’ll even discover a book that ends up being the next big thing.

The Taggening, Part I:

I was tagged by Brent Smith, who is a 2012 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. Brent and I met this past summer at the annual shindig held at the end of Odyssey where the graduating class and old fogey alumni like myself get to hang out. Odfellows are made of awesome, so please do hop over to Brent’s blog to learn more about him and his writing: http://fossilist.wordpress.com.

The Q&A:

1. What is the working title of your current project?

The novel that I’ve been in an on-again, off-again revising relationship with is currently called Future’s Gambit. I’m not happy with the title, though, so I usually refer to it as My Big Fat Epic Fantasy Novel. Once upon a time it was called Prophecy’s Sons, but then I decided it would be a much better story without the prophecy, so there went that.

And then there are all of those shiny little short story projects clamoring for my attention. I have a few flash-length first drafts that I plan to revise in the coming weeks. I wrote them for a contest over at Codex Writers’ Forum where our entries remain anonymous until the end, which means I can’t reveal their titles without giving myself away. So if you really want to know what the titles are, ask me again in two weeks when the contest is over.

2. Where do your ideas come from?

The better question would be, where don’t I get ideas from? The little buggers are everywhere. I pretty much spend my life looking around and asking myself, “Is there a story in that?” Sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes there is, but it’s a sucky story that no one wants to read. But often, there’s something cool there worth exploring.

3. What genre do you write?

Most of my work falls under the fantasy, horror, and science fiction umbrella, but I write the occasional mainstream piece too, usually of the quirky variety. I write more fantasy than anything, but even within that genre, there’s a whole mess of sub-genres that I’ve tackled—epic fantasy, contemporary fantasy, steampunk, humor, alternate history, dark fantasy, magical realism, etc. At the end of the day, I just want to tell a good story, genre be damned.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition of your novel?

This is the really sad part about my on-again, off-again relationship with my novel-in-progress: I finished the first version of it back in 2005, which means some of the actors I first pictured as the characters are now too old to play them. Whether reading or writing, the cast in my head tends to have a direct correlation to whatever TV shows I’m watching at the time. So in my head, a movie version of my novel would bring together actors from Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, and Farscape.

5. What would you do with your spare time if you weren’t writing?

Theater. I used to perform in community theater productions, but I haven’t done a show in about eight years now. Finding the time and energy for both that and writing just wasn’t happening.

6. Will your work be self-published or traditionally published?

I prefer the traditional route. Self-publishing involves a level of self-marketing that I just don’t have the time or emotional energy to invest in. Not that there isn’t any self-promotion involved when you’re publishing the traditional route, but I think you have to work twice as hard when you don’t have an established publisher putting their weight (and money) behind your work. I’m an introvert who constantly has too much going on as it is, so my self-promotional energy needs to be carefully rationed.

7. How long does it take you to write a story?

For short stories, anywhere from a couple of hours to a month. It all depends on the scope of the story, what else is going on in my life (trying to write while in grad school has been a challenge), and whether it’s one of those stories that just flows onto the page or one that I have to pull kicking and screaming out of my brain.

For my novel, it’s taken too damn long. First, I wasted the better part of my 20s constantly rewriting the first two chapters without moving forward. Once I finally got serious about writing and started doing it regularly, it took me a year of writing during my lunch break to finish the first draft. After that, I spent a few months getting feedback and revising. I queried agents next, failed to land one. Then I attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2007, saw all of the flaws in my writing, and realized why I had failed in the agent search. Cue brilliant epiphany on how to revise the novel! Unfortunately, I’ve only been revising in fits and starts since then due to divided loyalties—I’m excited about the novel, but after finishing the first draft, I discovered just how much I love writing short stories too.

8. Whose work would you compare yours to within your genre?

I’m such a horrible judge of my own work that I honestly have no clue. About the best I can offer is that I’ve gotten several comments on my novel that say it has a George R.R. Martin vibe to it, though thankfully not in a derivative way.

9. Who or what inspired you to write your novel?

When I was in high school, I wrote a novella that I of course thought was brilliant. Several years later when I was in college, I pulled out the novella and was horrified at how derivative it was. Among the numerous epic fantasy clichés and one-dimensional characters, there was your stereotypical white-bearded wizard. I was sick of white-bearded wizards and decided I needed a different one. While mulling that over, I sat down to watch Deep Space Nine. Epiphany! My wizard would look like Captain Sisko and be just as badass. As soon as theDS9 episode was over, I started writing a scene with this new wizard, at which point my years of constantly rewriting the first two chapters of my novel officially began.

10. When and where do you do your best writing?

I can write just about anywhere, any time. The less distractions, the better, but sometimes I don’t have much of a choice. Right now most of my writing gets done on my train ride to and from Ye Olde Day Job.

The Taggening, Part II

Here are the writerly types I’m tagging to continue the blog hop. Alphabetical order is boring, so I’m going to tag them in order of how long I’ve known them:

Rebecca Roland: Becky was one of my awesome-sauce classmates at Odyssey. She’s also a fellow member of the Codex Writers’ Group, as well as a fellow wine and chocolate addict. Her first novel, Shards of History, was published by World Weaver Press last year and grew out of a story I had the pleasure of critiquing at Odyssey. She has also had short fiction published in Uncle John’s Flush Fiction and Every Day Fiction.

Shveta Thakrar: Shveta and I have been through two writing groups together—a Philly-based spec fic group where we met, and then what we dubbed the Awesome Ladies of Awesomeness. Shveta writes Indian-flavored fantasy that very often makes me hungry, so it’s a good thing we live close enough to go out for Indian food on occasion. She recently finished Sipping the Moon, a YA novel set in Philadelphia and featuring Indian fey, and has had short stories in PodCastleDemeter’s Spicebox, and Steam-Powered 2: More Lesbian Steampunk Stories.

K.A. Magrowski: Krista has been one of my fellow Awesome Ladies of Awesomeness critiquing partners and often incites me to mock Giorgio Tsoukalos’s hair. Like me, Krista is determined to achieve novel-selling success before the zombie apocalypse arrives; unlike me, she has actually finished her novel, a ghostly YA tale called Small Town Ghosts. Her short fiction has appeared in Dreams of Decadence and Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey.

Guest blogs and awesome and coldness, oh my!

My spring semester has begun, so I’ll be spending a lot of time in the lack-of-blogging abyss once again, but for this brief moment, I emerge with three things, two of which are shiny, the third not so much:

1) I’m thrilled to announce that my short story “Notes on a Page” will be appearing in Intergalactic Medicine Show! Some squeeing may have ensued.

2) Today I’m babbling over at Penumbra‘s blog about turning an idea into a story–or, as I call it, bunny wrangling.

And finally…

3) It’s way too fricken cold out!

Trespass: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction

What’s this? A post from me two days in a row? Next it will be dogs and cats living together…mass hysteria!

Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, onto the shameless plugging that brought me here. I’m pleased to be appearing with several lovely fellow writerly types in Trespass, a speculative fiction anthology now available in Kindle format. My story “The Wounded House” (originally published in issue 20 of Black Static) is included along with stories by Daniel AusemaNyki BlatchleyLindsey DuncanLydia KurniaJonathan S. PembrokeLeslianne Wilder, and Erika Wilson. Only $0.99 US, £0.77 UK!

The 2012 Writerly Recap

A New Year’s surprise: I’m actually writing a blog post!

*blows dust off the den of writerly wackiness*

So, 2012. You’ve been insanely busy, frequently maddening, occasionally shiny, and utterly draining. You’ve been the year of the “lovely writing and there’s a lot to like but . . .” rejection. You’ve been the year of stories I adore and am really proud of not finding any love. But I am done with you, 2012. Done, I say! Now get off my lawn.

2012 Writerly Progress

Despite having some trouble with that whole writing/work/school/singing balance thing, I somehow managed to produce a fairly respectable amount of fiction this past year (respectable for me, at least). One new flash story still needs some pondering and revising, but I also finished four other new stories, one of which has already found a home (see shiny things below). I finished some substantial revisions on two other stories, one of which was a rewrite request that led to a sale to Every Day Fiction (also among the shiny things below). And I’m partway through major revisions on yet another story.

Shiny 2012 Things

Since my last blog post, I’m thrilled to say that I received an acceptance from Flash Fiction Online for “The Swan Maiden,” one of the new stories I wrote this year. This will be my second appearance in FFO.

As mentioned in a post many months back, my opera-singing zombie story “The Holy Spear” from issue 25 of Black Static made Ellen Datlow’s full list of honorable mentions for The Best Horror of the Year, volume 4. Admittedly, it’s a rather lengthy list, but I’m pleased to be on it all the same.

And I’m happy to have seen the following stories published in 2012:

2013: Bring It!

Ok, 2013, here’s what I’d like to get done in the writing department: Those revisions on that story I mentioned earlier. Some more flash stories that actually stay at that length. Perhaps tackle a couple of those short story ideas that have been nibbling at my brain. And get back to the revisions on My Big Fat Epic Fantasy Novel.

Work with me on those, 2013, and I think we can accomplish some awesomeness together.

Blog post at Penumbra and other miscellany

Sorry to resurface with nothing but pimpage, but it’s about all I have time for until the Semester Workload from Hell is over. That said, onto the shameless self-promotion:

* Yesterday I was lying; today I’m babbling about suspension of disbelief and what the phrase actually means over at Penumbra eMag’s blog.

* I’ve added my story “The Wounded House” (originally published in issue 20 of Black Static) to my stories available for purchase at AnthologyBuilder.

* And I’m dreadfully behind in giving a shout out for this, but Not Just Rockets and Robots: Daily Science Fiction Year One, which includes my stories from Daily Science Fiction‘s first year of publishing (“God’s Gift to Women” and “A Song Never Tasted”), is available for purchase.