Full brain is full!

I’m currently trying to readjust to reality after a couple weeks away—first for a week of writerly workshoppiness at TNEO, and then for a week of vacationy goodness down the shore. My brain’s a little scattered, so bear with me as I share the writerly randomness that has occurred during my absence:

* First, story news! My flash piece “The Little Things,” which was published in Every Day Fiction last month, will be available as a podcast (read by Izzy David) on August 13.

* While at TNEO, I finished a shiny new short story called “Memories of Mirrored Worlds” and sent it off into the world. Fly, little story! Fly!

* Speaking of TNEO, it was once again fun and full of awesome people. Lots of great feedback and brainstorming and bouncing around of ideas. Not to mention a highly hysterical evening of people trying to read bad sex scenes without laughing.

* Among my revelations at TNEO this year: I need to stop procrastinating and just revise My Big Fat Epic Fantasy Novel already. I’ve spent the last couple years stopping and starting and hemming and hawing and it’s all rather silly at this point. Brainstorming is all well and good, but there comes a point when the only way to figure out what works is to just finish the damn thing.

* BUT! Before I go back to the novel, I will revise a few short stories that are in need of attention. Revisions on one of those began this morning and will continue after I finish with this post. Which means now.

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Rediscovering Words

So I lied about eventually having a more substantial post last week (not that I think anyone was eagerly awaiting one, especially given my half-assed blogging tendencies of late). I had intended to write a post last week, but I got distracted by something that was probably far more worthwhile for me. I rediscovered how much I like words.

I’m a fairly slow reader, so once I started grad school, I didn’t have much time to read anything beyond assignments for class. And as soon as the spring semester ended, I had a big pile of critiques to get through for TNEO. But then, last week, a beautiful thing  happened: I was done with critiques, and I had before me an evening with no rehearsal, schoolwork, meetings, or anything else to do or go to. So I read. Fiction. For fun. For the first time in months. It was glorious. And it continues to be glorious.

In addition to getting to lose myself in someone else’s words for a while, I also got to rediscover some joy in my own words. Even though I’ve still been working on fiction these last several months, my writing routine during my spring semester . . . well, I no longer had one. I squeezed in what I could where and when I could. And everything I was working on was revision. With deadlines. And therefore pressure.

But last week, I started a new story. Every day on the train ride to and from work, I’ve been writing. And when there’s time in the evening, I write some more. And since it’s not revision, I’ve been able to use my old battle-worn AlphaSmart (aka VoldeSmart). In other words, no shiny things on my Macbook to distract me. Just me and my words and no deadlines. I had forgotten how much fun it can be to just play.

Adventures of a Fiction-Writing MLIS Student: Semester 1

My first semester working toward my masters in library and information science is over, and I feel confident in saying that I totally rocked it. I was pleased to discover that, twelve years after finishing my undergraduate degree, I haven’t lost my Nerd-Fu.

On the downside, first semester craziness combined with Ye Olde Day Job seriously cut into my fiction writing time. I did, however, find my fiction writing life creeping into my grad school life in fun little ways.

How do I love Scrivener? Let me count the ways . . .

I bought Scrivener several years ago for novel writing. When putting together a lecture for TNEO one summer, I discovered that Scrivener was also great for collecting and organizing research for that. So when it came time this semester to turns lots of research into a presentation for a group project in my Human Information Behavior class, Scrivener once again became a handy tool. And then came my final paper for that same class. In addition to using Scrivener for organizing my research and turning it into a paper, I discovered that Scrivener had an APA style template. From my undergrad days, I was used to writing papers in MLA format, but the MLIS program requires APA format, which was new to me. Scrivener saved me huge amounts of “how exactly am I supposed to format this again?” time on the APA learning curve.

It’s just like a short story, only it’s mostly plot with very little setting and character development . . .

At first, I was a little apprehensive when faced with the prospect of writing a 15-page research paper for the first time in over a decade. But then I thought, “Hmm, 15 double-spaced pages in 12 point Times New Roman font with an inch margin all around–that’s roughly the equivalent of a 4,600 word short story for which I’ve done lots of background research. Piece of cake!” On the downside, years of focusing on the style and rhythm of my prose made the paper revision process go a little slower than it might have otherwise. Without the fiction writing experience, I probably wouldn’t give a damn about using the same sentence construction twice in a row in a research paper.

This one time, at writing camp . . .

Human Information Behavior, where we studied how people search for and process information in a broad number of contexts, was a fascinating course. Several times I found myself drawing on writing-related experiences as an example of information-seeking behaviors and how library and information science professionals interact with users in their search process. One example was the judgmental you-frighten-me look I got while checking out a book called On Killing for research purposes and how that kind of attitude can dissuade people from using the library. And as an example of the Principle of Least Effort, where someone consults a known resource instead of investing the small bit of extra effort needed to get what they know would be a better quality answer, I mentioned the weird phenomena I sometimes saw of individuals asking very specific research questions in a writing forum where it was unlikely anyone had expertise in the area in question, and then balking at suggestions to consult resources more likely to actually provide an answer to their question.

The geek is strong with this one . . .

My other class this semester was Information Technologies, where we got to learn some basics about web design, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, MySQL, and other fun stuff. The class seemed like it was a struggle at times for several folks, but I was safely in my geek comfort zone. I already knew how to create a website with HTML going into the class, and I picked up the rest of it pretty easily. Two of our projects involved creating an “information resource” on any topic of our choosing, so I created a site called So You Want to Write Speculative Fiction? And for our final project, we had to create a site using WordPress, so I tested out a redesign of my writing website.

And there you have it. Now to check off more items on my winter break to-do list, which includes paying attention to this blog again and rediscovering the fact that I’m a writer.

On epic fantasy and bodily functions

Dear Potential Future Readers:

So I’m working on this Big Fat Epic Fantasy Novel. If it ever sees the light of publishing day, then you, dear epic fantasy fan, will possibly read it. And several of you are going to raise certain complaints. I would like to preemptively address one of them now:

No, it’s not that my female characters never menstruate. It’s just that their menstrual cycle is not relevant to the story*. And while you may not see my characters answering the call of nature, it’s not that they don’t have to. They urinate. They have bowel movements. Again, it’s just that those things generally don’t contribute to the advancement of the story*, and so I don’t include them.

Trust me, dear reader, if I ever find that a depiction of defecation, urination, or menstruation would serve to advance plot or character, enhance my setting, or otherwise serve the story, I will not hesitate to describe it. In fact, such things have showed up in my short fiction when relevant. But as far My Big Fat Epic Fantasy Novel goes, please just assume that my characters take care of their business off-page. I mean, when your first draft clocks in at 118,000 words, the poo really has to earn its place on the page.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go use the bathroom.

Love,
Me

*To clarify, when I talk about relevance to the story or advancement of story, I’m not talking about plot alone. If a woman’s menstruation or the way a person goes to the bathroom tells me something about a character’s personality or the world or the setting, then I consider that relevant, something that advances the story by adding to my understanding of the world and the characters. But showing someone going to the bathroom simply to establish that they sometimes have to go to the bathroom, not so much.

Signals and study and stories, oh my!

It seems I went AWOL on the blog posting front. Again. But now that I’m here, many things…

SIGNALS: First, a signal boost: Say Yes to Gay YA, where authors Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith talk about an unfortunate instance of being asked to either make a gay character in their novel straight or remove the character’s POV altogether. EDITED TO ADD: Some follow up. And this is where I bow out without further comment other than to say: must so many people resort to needing to cast a villain with a dastardly agenda in the matter instead of considering that it’s more likely not so clearcut?

STUDY: Busy grad school is busy! But despite some initial moments of panic (because that’s what I do), I’m settling into the school routine just fine and have started to find a balance between class and everything else I need to squeeze into my days. You know, like writing. Speaking of…

STORIES: Appropriately enough for a writer, there are sevveral things going on in the story department:

* Now available for purchase is the 2011 Untied Shoelaces of the Mind Anthology, which includes my twisted little flash piece “Mr. Fluffy.” The story should also be online soon in issue 5 of Untied Shoelaces of the Mind.

* My story “The Cycle of the Sun” was accepted for publication in the March 2012 issue of NewMyths.com! My Odyssey classmates will quite possibly remember this piece as “the orgy story.”

* My steampunk lemurs on a dirigible story, “A Red One Cannot See” (originally published in Shimmer’s Clockwork Jungle Book issue), has been added to my stories available at AnthologyBuilder

* And I’ve finally gotten to work on the revisions for my story “The Girl Who Welcomed Death to Svalgearyen,” which I got some great feedback on back in July at TNEO. Much like my daily schedule right now, these revisions are proving to be quite the balancing act. There are some changes to make that I think are going to really strengthen the story, but I feel like it would be easy to do too much and totally edit all the life and magic out the story.

The Writerly Update: Rising from the Grave Edition

Holy crap, has it really been that long since I’ve posted something? Sorry not to have been keeping up lately, but life has continued to dance on the insane side of the fence. Hopefully come fall I’ll be able to settle back into a blog reading and writing routine. Until then, I’ll probably remain my current scattershot, occasionally resurfacing self.

In the meantime, here’s the bullet points of what I’ve been up to in the writing department:

* My zombie apocalypse story “The Holy Spear” has been accepted by Black Static. This will be my second appearance in their pages, which I’m thrilled about.

* Speaking of Black Static, reviewer Peter Tennant wrote a nice post about my story “The Wounded House” from issue 20 on his blog.

* Received my shiny contributor copy of Aoife’s Kiss (10th anniversary issue) this morning. Pretty.

* Gearing up for this summer’s TNEO workshop for Odyssey alum. As of last night, all the critiques I had to do are officially done! I’ve still got a ton of other things to do, but it’s nice to put a big fat check mark next to that beast of an item.

* Unfortunately, progress on the writing front has been mostly non-existent. I got in a good afternoon of revision work on My Big Fat Epic Fantasy Novel a couple weeks ago, but otherwise, that’s been kind of it. But now that TNEO critiques are out of the way, I can hopefully get back in gear. I’ve got some revisions to do on a short story, several flash pieces I should probably polish up and send out somewhere (anyone have suggestions on where to send an unabashedly liberal-leaning gay superhero flash story?), and then back to the novel grind.

A sale, and unexpected responses to saying you write fantasy

I’m happy to say that I’ve sold a twisted little flash piece of mine called “Mr. Fluffy” to the wonderfully named Untied Shoelaces of the Mind.

And on a non-pimpage note, I’ve now encountered the following situation enough that I’m curious to know if any of my fellow fantasy writers have as well:

I’ll be in a conversation with a non-writer and/or non-speculative fiction reader who finds out I’m a writer and asks, “What kind of stories do you write?” The “science fiction” and “horror” parts of my answer usually go over as expected, but saying “fantasy” often earns me awkward silence and a strange, questioning look. So, even though I’ve never written anything with an elf in it, I elaborate with, “Elves, magic, Lord of the Rings, that sort of thing.” The person then laughs in relief and says, “Oh, when you said fantasy, I thought you meant like sexual fantasies.”

Erm, no, I did not. At least not unless one of my characters has a sexual fantasy relevant to the plot.