Monday, February 03, 2014

Pulling Teeth

That's how it's felt to write the latest chapter of A Separate War, which I've been serializing at JukePop Serials. My plan was to put new chapters up on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule, but Friday night I was still stuck so hard on it that I could tell there was no way I'd get it done in time. I didn't even know how I was going to get it done at all.

So I printed it up and decided to take a second look at it, away from the computer. Sometimes looking at the text in different format will shake something loose in the subconscious and the words will start flowing again.

After a little consideration, I realized I needed to redo the beginning. Instead of having Nora and Deniz get the water rescue call in the middle of the chapter, it would start out with the call coming through and them racing off to respond.

However, although I got some good momentum going Saturday afternoon, I couldn't maintain it all through the evening. I'd been hoping to get the chapter done and up by Saturday evening and be able to start on Chapter 6 Sunday, preserving some semblance of my MWF schedule. But that wasn't happening, so I decided to give this one some extra time and make it my Monday posting.

So I'm now a little behind, but it's not a disaster. I'm hoping the next several chapters will prove less difficult to get written.

Assuming of course I don't have to deal with Life Happening.

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bummed about Space

Ever since the end of the Space Shuttle program last July, I've been feeling glum about America's space future. Right then, I was so bummed out that I couldn't even imagine a future for American space flight, to the point that I was imagining a scenario in which aliens arrived and told us that our status in their polity would depend on our ability to travel to another world. We point at the Apollo moon landings and are told no, they don't count, because we no longer have the capacity to do it.

Although my initial idea was unpublishable (other than as Real Person Fanfic), I realized it could be done as steampunk. So I jotted down some ideas for a Gilded Age version of Apollo, with the UK as our adversary in an alternate Space Race, and some decades later the elderly moonwalker is visiting the Smithsonian before testifying to Congress, only to have the aliens arrive and announce that no, that decades old landing doesn't count unless they can replicate it Now. So our aging moonwalker, after his initial outrage, buckles down to lead the new effort to get back to the moon -- but where does the story go and how? Is it a short story, or a novel, or a whole series?

But even as the effort peters out, I begin to see the possibilities of the Lanakhidzist timeline. I'd made some cursory mentions of there being US and Soviet space stations and a moonbase at the time of the Lanakhidzist Revolution, but had never really developed it, because my interest was on terrestrial events. However, even in my earliest versions of the Lanakhidzist universe, I knew that America's slip-slide into dictatorship was ended with a confrontation between the Administration and America's permanent space settlements.

So since then I've been working on the rocketpunk side of the Lanakhidzist universe, how the moonbase grew into a full-fledged lunar settlement, and how others developed, how the first expeditions to Mars led to a personal base, etc. It's interesting to see a completely different side of that world -- although frustrating that most of these stories are bouncing around from one market to another, and the one that has been published is the one that has no obvious alternate-historical content, and is recognizable as part of the Lanakhidzist universe only if you read other stories in which those characters show up, and in which clearly Lanakhidzist elements like human cloning as a Cold War secret project are mentioned.

And now I get the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away, and I'm even more bummed about the future of space exploration here in the Primary World. And worse, I feel weird about writing Lanakhidzist space stuff, because in that world Gemini VIII went very differently, and as a result Neil Armstrong isn't the icon he is in this timeline.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Perseverance Rewarded At Last

My short story Royal Steel went up today at Swords and Sorcery Magazine.
This is a story with a long history. I originally wrote it back in 2002 for the first Sword and Sorceress volume published after Marion Zimmer Bradley's death. It get held a long time and I actually thought I had a chance (especially after I had a story held right down to the final cut for the last three volumes, which were published out of her "hold" pile at the time of her death in 1999). However, at the very last minute it came back with a "liked it but couldn't find a place for it" response.
After that, it bounced around from one market to another for several years. I went through some rough times in which I pretty much quit marketing stuff because I barely had seconds to jot down story ideas because I was so busy in frantic efforts to make money to pay the ever-mounting pile of bills. So when that situation finally eased up, I decided to put it through a major revision -- but by that point so many markets had already seen it that I didn't have many places left to send it. So it's really great to have it finally see print, right as I was ready to give up on it.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Oh, Rocketman!

It's now official. My short story "Tell Me a Story" will be appearing in Rocket Science, an anthology of hard science fiction.

This story has a rather interesting genesis. I originally wrote it for the September 2001 On the Premises contest prompt. However, I apparently screwed up the submission process, because a completely different story showed up in the listing at Submishmash. Don't ask me how I managed to goof it up that bad. The other story sort of fit the prompt for that contest, but not as well. So I now had a story that needed to find a home.

Meanwhile, I had tried several different story ideas for Rocket Science, and none of them were working out. Worse, all of them seemed to fall into thematic zones that were already well covered by the existing submissions, so I wasn't sure if I wanted to spend a lot of time wrestling a story into shape only to have it rejected because it was too similar to stories already accepted.

In writing "Tell Me a Story" I drew upon my background as both a librarian and a historian, not to mention my own personal experience of being a small child and having my parents read to me. Telling the story through the eyes of successive generations of children gave me an opportunity to take a new look at humanity's future in space, not to mention showing how the historical memory can become confused as events recede into the past.

Rocket Science is scheduled to be released in April, with a big party at the UK convention Eastercon. It will be coinciding fairly closely with ConGlomeration, a convention in Louisville, Kentucky, which I'll be attending, so I may try to do some promotional activity for it there.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Length Problem

After getting a personalized rejection on "The Angry Astronaut Affair" (the first three were form rejects), I'm thinking that I need to give it a serious rewrite to expand it. When I originally wrote it, I was aiming it at a contest with a 4000-word length limit. In order to make it fit, I had to leave out several elements that I really wanted to get in, because I could tell that nips and tucks in the wording wouldn't bring it back down if I added those things.

However, on retrospect, I think that letting them fall by the wayside actually hurt the story more than I realized. Yes, people do miss them, even if they don't know what those specific things were supposed to be. There's still a gap that leaves the reader less than satisfied.

And I'm thinking that I really need more than one POV. Reggie Waite's a difficult character, and in this story he really comes off as a jerk, which is probably making it difficult for him to be the story's protagonist. But if he could be seen through other eyes, so that the reader gets more of a sense of his complexity, it might get past the reader sympathy problem. The Jerkass Hero is a recognized trope, after all, and it's common enough that it obviously does work.

And sometimes a story really does need to be allowed to find its own length, instead of being forcibly crushed down to an arbitrary length.

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Friday, November 04, 2011

Well, Drat

I just got a rejection from an anthology I'd really hoped I'd have a chance to get into. It looks like he got a lot of really good stories, to the point that it was really hard to pick between them.

Now I've got yet another story I'm going to need to send through the rounds in hopes of finding someplace it'll stay at. Which is getting harder as I have more and more stories circulating, because most markets don't want you to send more than one at a time. When you've got five or six stories, it's fairly easy to keep them all out at any given time. When you've got thirty or forty, it gets a lot more challenging.


Friday, October 28, 2011


I swear, some readers feel positively threatened by details. If they don't see an immediate purpose for the detail, it makes them anxious, like they need to take notes or they're going to have a quiz on them. They can't just let the details be part of the flavor of the story.

I wonder if some of them have had one of those nasty teachers who thought the best way of testing whether students actually read the story is to give quizzes on the minute trivial details of the story -- the sort that you're apt to read over if you're just reading normally, to absorb the gist of the story rather than to search for details you may be quizzed on.