This year I decided to change tack when submitting stories. Instead of writing stories and then looking for a market, I study a particular market and write a story for them. My first deadline was Monday. I wrote the story (“Funeral Champagne”) the first part of January, edited it over the weekend, and sent it out in time to meet their deadline for the next issue.
Today I start conjuring up a new story for a new market with a deadline at the end of February.
I’ve edited two of ninety sections in the novel. Not as far as I wanted to be, but at least I finally got started on it. I’m setting that deadline for the end of March. By ninety days into the year I should be able to finish editing ninety sections, right? It will need multiple revisions, so this will be going on all year.
I finished reading Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin and enjoyed it immensely. I’m typically not drawn to multi-volume fantasy series. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them. I feel anxious about spending so much time reading one long work instead of multiple shorter works. Before I start the second volume I’m going to read Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin (another multi-volume work!).
I liked Stone Sky because it wasn’t a typical orc, dwarf, thinly veiled European mythos fantasy. Instead it has a Jack Vance Dying Earth far future weirdness vibe I dig.
I watched Mother! recently and thought it was terrific. Less enthusiastic about the new season of Black Mirror, or the one episode of Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams I watched. Of course, I’ll probably watch all the episodes in each series.
I’m secretly excited for the rest of the Supergirl season. I haven’t watched it at all this season, but I deeply loved the Legion of Superheroes when I was a kid, so I’m looking forward to seeing them live and in action.
I added a text widget in a column on the blog which tracks my movie/tv watching.
The cold snap we had killed all my peppers, basil, and tomatoes (though the carrots, beets, and green cauliflower came through OK), so I’m going to re-seed next weekend. It’s supposed to get down to below freezing tomorrow. In Florida. I know it’s cold everywhere, but it’s not supposed to be that cold here. I can’t grow peppers when it’s freezing outside! And, I don’t know if the banana trees will make it through this winter.
Still getting into the rhythm of the new year. The 3-day weekend felt almost like a continuation of my winter break/vacation, but there’s nothing but work for the foreseeable future. At least until May/June. I feel like I’m starting slow, but I’ve managed to be somewhat productive and found time to hang out with friends, so maybe it’s not a bad start at all.
At the end of 2017 I organized all the sections of my novel, put them in order, then printed out the whole novel. Then I typed up and printed out all the accompanying notes. I did a run-through on my initial editing process to make sure it would work, then I put the whole thing away.
Then came JB’s birthday (which we celebrate around here rather than Christmas), then the New Year, then Key West. So, now it’s back to work and time to start editing the novel.
One goal this year is to not get down on myself if i don’t get some writing/editing done every day. Instead, I’m scheduling four hours every Saturday for writing work. I’d like to make it 10 hours a week somehow, but I want to be thoughtful about where those hours come from.
In the sidebar of the blog I have a space to track the first round of edits. Right now it sits at 0/90. We’ll see where it is after the MLK weekend.
My goals for short story writing this year are to select markets and write stories targeted to those markets. My first deadline is January 15. The story I’ve started is stalled. I’m not exactly sure where to go with it. Over the next few days I want to read more stories published by this market to get a better sense of what sort of flavor they prefer.
And, since I’m currently conjuring up a story, I thought I’d take a minute to discuss my own creative process for stories.
I tend to work by a method of accretion or lamination.
Some of you might remember a story I posted last year titled “An Unhaunted House.” The premise is that there is a small town where every house is haunted, and the single unhaunted house is a hard sell. A real estate agent decides she can sell it, but she decides that instead of selling an unhaunted house she will kill someone in the house and then have the easy task of selling a haunted house. Her plans backfire somewhat. She ends up accidentally dying and becomes the ghost that haunts the house.
The initial story idea – ‘an unhaunted house in a town of haunted houses’ went into a notebook. I keep notes like that in google docs and in a tangible notebook I carry with me. Each idea is like detritus in space, floating in isolation. But, sometimes, another piece of space junk runs up against it and sticks. In this case it was the name Country Rose (the real estate agent’s name). Unrelated to the story I jotted down the name Country Rose as a child’s name given by a mom and dad without much foresight. It’s a pretty name, and a sweet concept, but problematic when it comes to diminutives (what do you call her for short?).
What keeping notes like this does is allow the alchemical mystery of the creative process to do its work. I had a sense of what a woman with this name would be like, and she struck me as the perfect person to cast in the role of real estate agent in “Unhaunted House.”
Once this character and this story idea came together I had a stronger sense of what kind of story I wanted to tell, which is common for my process. If I can get a concept and character together a large chunk of the story reveals itself. A large chunk, but not all.
Once I had the concept and character of that story I ran through a lot of “what if” scenarios until I got to the point where I could write a beginning, middle, and end.
Sometimes it takes months to laminate one element on top of another.
In my ideas notebook I recently jotted down the name Croaker, as a character. I had some ideas about who this might be, but it didn’t go anywhere. Then I overheard JB talking about a gift her niece got for Christmas, which is some sort of 3D printing device. “Croaker should 3D print drugs,” I thought. When that idea came a few others followed — he works for a private prison that lets him get away with his shady drug creation work. I asked a few questions about what kind of prison that would be like and realized that his story could be the subplot missing from a draft of a novel I wrote four years ago. (I looked up Croaker when I had the idea as a name and saw that prison physicians are sometimes called croakers.)
The collection of ideas is the seed and soil of the story. Once two or more ideas/characters are pushed together I start the inquisition. Why are they here? What does that world look like? What do they want? What’s stopping them from getting it? Who or what opposes them? Do they have an adversary? Can I make this go in unexpected directions?
Even if a story gets as far as the inquisition stage it often doesn’t get beyond that.
And that’s where I am on the story I want to write by this weekend. I have a scene. And that’s it. I don’t have the next idea to laminate on top. I’ve tested out a variety of ideas to push the scene forward, but nothing’s stuck. Saturday I’ll pore through my cache of notes and see if I can find something that clicks into place and brings the story more into focus.
Ideas come from everywhere. What’s important is getting in the habit of collecting them. This is one reason I like to read book reviews of academic titles. Yesterday on Twitter I pointed to an essay (Wily Ecologies) on the lack of humor in US fiction about environmental catastrophe. Not an easy topic to joke about, perhaps, but the author was pointing out that there is a significant lack of satire in this realm as well. The worst excesses of humanity often attract satirists, but this doesn’t seem to be the case for tales of environmental collapse. I jotted in my notebook – satire about environmental collapse. Then I wondered briefly if VanderMeer’s Borne might be considered a satire. Or, how would it be different if it had been written as a comedy? That’s not enough for a story, but the seed has been planted.
To get 2018 started off right I went to Key West. Even this far south it’s blustery, drizzly, and overcast. Here’s me and the missus out on a cold(ish) blustery drizzly day in paradise. 2018 can wait until this weekend.
To start off the new year I’ve re-designed the blog and renamed it. This year’s blog title is Bustling Folly.
“Bustling folly is the character of our species: people hastily set off on the path of the good, but do not persevere steadfastly upon it; indeed, in order to avoid being bound to a single goal, even if only for the sake of variety they reverse the plan of progress, build in order to demolish, and impose upon themselves the hopeless effort of rolling the stone of Sisyphus uphill in order to let it roll back down again.” — Immanuel Kant
This year there will be no 21st century politics or hot take on the outrage du jour. Instead of venting my anger I’m going to focus on the stuff that engages me. And what engages me are books, stories, and ideas. Especially weird books, stories, and ideas.
Because of my day job I spend more time than the average person reading book reviews and skimming scholarly papers. I’m going to start funneling some of that into this blog.
Because of my hobby I spend a lot of time reading weird fiction, science fiction, and fantasy. I also want to funnel a lot of that into this blog.
With any luck it will be weird and fun and maybe inspire an idea or two. At the very least it might provide a moment’s reprieve from the inside-out, upside-down lunacy of our current situation.
Here’s to a new year of bustling folly and mind-bending weirdness!
“I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries, the realists of a larger reality.” —Ursula Le Guin
Fresh beginnings. I love them. I am that weirdo that loves Mondays, because with a new beginning everything seems possible.
I don’t love January 1 and Mondays because I’m optimistic, or because I think everything is going to be OK. I don’t. I like them because they are cues, opportunities to re-focus my attention and energy.
And it’s because of the opportunity to re-focus, to re-plan that I love resolutions.
Typically I try to avoid self-improvement resolutions. Last year I resolved to get in tune with the moon. A few years ago I resolved to eat more pie. This year, though, I’m tilting toward the betterment of self.
This year I’m resolving to be more social. Online and off.
I am an introvert in the sense that I find being around people to be tiring. I like people just fine. I’m comfortable in front of a crowd. I can speak extemporaneously to any size group without fear. I like parties, and hanging out with friends.
But, I have a weird sense of hypervigilism when I’m with a group of people. This sort of extreme attention can be exhausting.
Over the years it’s become apparent that that sort of isolation isn’t healthy. So, I’m working against my instincts this year and plan to spend more time hanging out.
Other resolutions are simply to do more of what I enjoyed in 2017. Write more, read more, blog more, submit more stories, and move around more. Where will I find the time? Less passively browsing the internet and fewer TV hours.
I hope your 2018 is getting off to a great start despite the blast of cold that’s chilling us all, even down here in Florida. Here’s to 2018 and more of the good stuff!
This blog, (formerly known as) Balderdash and the Moon, started as a way for me to sort my thinking/feeling about Our Current Situation. By the end of the April I’d stopped writing about politics at all, and the hot takes were all served liquid nitrogen cold. The last two thirds of the year were mostly novel progress updates and full moon stories.
This year’s writing success was finishing a novel. Yay! I started working on revising the draft last night and it was loads of fun. I’m looking forward to re-working all that writing over the course of the next several months.
I also posted a story for eleven of twelve full moons. I hope you enjoyed them! I’ve pulled them off the site, but there will be more in 2018.
I read about 50 books for fun last year, and read/skimmed a couple of dozen for research. Here are ten that stood out:
Animal Money by Michael Cisco – I didn’t finish this book, but I still think about it. Not finishing it kind of haunts me. I’ll probably return to this again in 2018.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler – Embarrassed to say this is the first Butler book I’ve read. Good in so many ways.
Book of the Phoexix by Nnedi Okorafor – Currently reading Who Fears Death which is equally as awesome.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston – Utterly brilliant. Tremendous command of language. Re-read the hurricane passage as Irma approached.
Roadside Picnic by Arkady Strugatsky & Boris Strugatsky – Unforgettable story premise.
Citizen by Claudia Rankine – I think about this book all the time, and constantly want to re-read it.
The Baby Jesus Butt Plug by Carlton Mellick III – I seriously should be reading more bizarro fiction. Maybe that will be a new year’s resolution.
Hunger by Roxane Gay – A reminder of the importance of bald-faced honesty.
Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente – Looking forward to re-reading this one.
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer – So much my kind of book. It has the benefit of recency, but it is my favorite book this year.
A few books I read for research also stand out.
Chronicle by Bob Dylan Living Like a Runaway by Lita Ford Daughters of Aquarius by Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd Neon Angel by Cherie Currie Desperados: The Roots of Country Rock by John Einarson
My New Year’s Resolution in 2017 was to be more in tune with the moon. Like many resolutions this one had more success at the beginning of the year than the end. Nonetheless, it was one of my favorite resolutions, and something I expect to stick with me.
So long, 2017. I have my doubts about 2018, but for a moment there is hope.
Look for a revamped blog this weekend or next.
Next year’s blog (tentatively titled Bustling Folly) will lean into the lack of politics and hot takes. AND, will also have more posts (focusing on books, writing, and weird ideas that catch my attention).
Along with the revising of the novel, I expect next year to write new stories and submit to markets. I will be sending off the first sometime during the second week of January, a short-short I’ve written and am currently revising. The story strategy for 2018 is to write stories to specific markets, rather than write a story and look for a market that fits. I’ve identified a dozen pro/semi-pro markets, and am educating myself about each, one at a time.
Happy New Year, everybody! Stay safe, rejuvenate, and get plenty of rest, because we have our work cut out for us in 2018.
(UPDATE: The full moon story series was only available in 2017. All stories posted in 2017 have been taken down.)
In December we have a supermoon! If you saw the full moon last night it probably looked closer, bigger, and brighter than usual.
This month’s full moon story is an attempt to take a myth and write it as a short story. Any guesses on the original myth on which this story is based?
This month’s story is barely more than a short-short. I had another queued up, but it needed too much revision. After the effort of November’s writing to finish the work-in-progress, I didn’t have it in me to substantially revise.
I love J. G. Ballard’s story “The Drowned Giant” and this story is a slight play on words. It is about a giant who drowns his children, rather than about a giant who cannot swim.
Hard to believe December is already here. Even harder to believe that with the distractions of work, the Oval Office, and various hurricanes I managed to piece together 95,000 words and get nearly a dozen stories up on the blog.
I’m not sure what the plan is for next year, but I still have a few weeks to figure it out. I have a short-short (which was never on this blog) I’ll be submitting to the markets in January. I have to revise the novel (which I expect will take at least another year). I want to post more frequently, but I want to avoid politics, so I need to figure out how I can carve out time, and what sort of topics will be suitable.
I’ve got a few more posts for this year, but until then stay warm, stay safe and I hope you enjoy the final Full Moon Story of the year.
It is evening and I watch him mourn on the beach. He wails. He kneels on the beach, a thatch of seaweed hanging from his shoulder. He is too distraught to clean himself. Sea water drips from his long black hair. His keening cry can be heard for miles.
Near him lays the drenched and drowned body of his daughter, the surf washes up around her legs, and then away again.
Not long after that evening I watch him mourn again. His pain fuels my rage because I knew his pain is a lie. I watched him murder two of his daughters. My sisters. He pretends he had no choice, that they were working to destroy the paradise he built. Paradise? What paradise is there for my two dead sisters, and the dead brother I know he killed before I was born?
I needed a push to finish a project started at the beginning of the year. Coincidentally, I needed about 50,000 words to complete the project, and NaNoWriMo requires 50,000 words to claim victory. It worked. I finished. And for this brief moment I am a winner. Yay, winning!
I’ve completed the first draft, but there’s still several shit tons of work left to do. I have a big pile of …clay, and now I can start to shape it into something that might be interesting and entertaining.
I’m not sure how to track the revision process, but that’s not something I need to figure out tonight. Right now I’m going to go drink a beer.
(UPDATE: The full moon story series was only available in 2017. All stories posted in 2017 have been taken down.)
This month’s Full Moon story is inspired by a true event. The beginning of “The Hello Man” is a super-creepy experience I had a few years ago.
With crystal clarity I heard someone say “Hello” and it jolted me out of my sleep. I was disoriented and for a moment thought someone was in the room. Then I thought they must be outside the window. I went to the kitchen and peered through the window to see if I could see someone next door.
To this day I’m still not certain if I heard someone on their phone in the carport next door or if it was a dream. I assume it was a dream, but it was eerie and scared the shit out of me. The fear, I think, came from the moment of believing someone was standing next to me as I slept.
He spoke clearly, in a conversational tone. In an instant I awoke completely. A muscle in my back tensed and I shivered.
I pulled my exposed, cold foot under the blanket, and arched my head to look to the end of the bed. I could barely make out the figure of our dog Abbie sleeping on her dog blanket.
“Hello.” The voice wasn’t loud, but it was clear. And close.
Jessica snored softly next to me, curled on her side, her back to me; her shoulder softly illuminated by the streetlights outside our house.
The man’s voice disoriented me. It sounded as if he were standing right beside me, but as my head cleared away the sleep I determined the voice must be a neighbor in the carport speaking on his cell phone. Our bedroom window is only a few feet from our neighbor’s carport.
The voice was calm. It occurred to me he might be speaking to get my attention. I pushed myself up so my eyes peeked over the bottom of the window. I inched back one of the white curtains and did my best to look outside. The ambient glow of street lights and porch lights was enough to make out shapes. I saw no one.
I slipped back into the bed, pulling the blanket over my shoulder. I was fully awake. Jessica rolled on her back and mumbled something. She was dreaming.
“Hello.” The clarity and closeness convinced me I must be hearing a neighbor in the carport speaking to his phone. He probably stood on the other side of the cinder block wall.
I looked at the clock. 5:33. Still a half-hour before the alarm went off. I turned the alarm off and quietly slid out of bed. I could tell by the silhouetted tilt of her head that Abbie watched me, hoping for an early breakfast. I pulled my robe from the back of a dining room chair we kept in the bedroom and moved to the kitchen to make coffee. I was happy to get a jump on the day’s work.
The kitchen door looks out at the same carport as our bedroom window. Before I turned on the kitchen light I pulled the curtain back and looked boldly outside. I was up. If someone wanted my attention I could give it to them. I saw no one.
I started in 2010 and this will be novel number six.
In all candor I’m using this opportunity to push through on my current work-in-progress, which has sort of stalled out at 45,000 words. However, since the goal is somewhere between 90,000 and 100,000, then adding the concluding 50,000 in the month of November works perfectly!
In 2010 I finished grad school, and only had a part-time job. After grad school I returned to all the things I loved before academia sucked up every free moment. I started reading for pleasure and writing for fun. That first novel was a near-future eco-disaster involving time travel, future mutants, and ancient abandoned cities on Mars.
2011’s novel was an update on Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. Tim is rich and generous, but when he loses his fortune he learns he never really had any friends and dies bitter and broke.
In 2012 I returned to gonzo fantasy with story about a girl and her dog. But, her dog gains sentience as they travel through weird dimensions, and then each have to cope with the new complexities of their companionship.
2013’s Swamp Ape spawned Denny and the world of Abdera, Florida. Several of the stories in the right-hand column take place in that world. When I complete the current WIP (probably toward the end of 2018) I plan to re-write this novel.
In 2014 I did not participate in NaNoWriMo. Instead I worked on creating a full-length work over the course of the year. I completed it, but this one really never came together. Some of the ideas were OK, but the characters never came to life. It was about a group of body-modification hackers who stumble across a government plot to deploy mind-reading technology across the internet of things.
In 2015 I tried my hand at satire and wrote an updated version of Candide, starring a sentient sex-robot.
2016 was a year for short story writing.
And, this year, I’m using NaNoWriMo to complete my current work-in-progress. I describe it this way on my author’s page:
“In the 1970s Annabelle Easley went from the rarefied heights of rock stardom and Rolling Stone covers to being charged for the murder of a popular New Age guru. This story chronicles her life of sex, drugs, rock & roll, and her awakening spirituality.”
There will be a widget in the right-hand column of this blog to chart my progress. You need to average about 1,667 words a day to successfully complete the challenge. I’m pretty sure I’m going to start out in the hole because next week is an extra-busy time at work. Regardless, I’m looking forward to re-visiting the challenge!