November 30, 2012

Cleaning out the trunk

Allow me a moment of indulgence: they are rare in a writer's life. More common are moments of crushing defeat, like Wednesday when the news that I hadn't won a contest that I had little chance of winning nevertheless hung like a raincloud over my mood.

Today, a sale. A sale that is part of a larger trend this year, in which all my oldest stories are finally finding loving homes. I don't want to break it by talking about it, but I do want to exclaim! Yay! It's so easy to feel down about writing, and it's so nice, for a change, to feel something like momentum building.

Like this, I hope.
At least that's what I hope: that this means I'm reaching a point in my career where sales come easier. Of course, I can only believe that by ignoring some of the salient facts. Like the fact that without exception the stories were written over a year ago, or that they visited an average of seventeen markets before landing on their feet. Or the fact that none of the sales are to markets paying pro rates.

But still, I am pleased. They're lovely semi-pro markets and I'm proud to appear in them. And even though I'm still slightly baffled by which stories sell and which don't, I'm hopeful that my current favorites will soon follow suit and find editors to love and publish them.

November 22, 2012

Turkey with a side of guilt

Yesterday my cousin posted a picture of his son dressed in an Indian vest and feathered headdress of construction paper, and I thought, "What a cutie." But I immediately worried that what I should have thought was, "Cultural appropriation is wrong at any age."

And then I thought about the other kids, dressed as Pilgrims with big paper buckles on shoes and hats. And this is even more problematic, almost like dressing as a Klan member or a Nazi. I wonder how cute those kids look. 

We're perpetuating a harmful myth!

It does upset me that in the year 2012 my little cousin is still being taught the myth of Thanksgiving. I’ve read a lot about the reality of Puritan genocide and also how perpetuating the myth continues to hold us back from becoming a “post-racial” society. Let’s throw that junk away!

But on the other hand, do I want my sensitive young cousin to feel guilty about something that people he resembles but is in no way related to did hundreds of years ago? Because he probably would. And while glossing over the violence in America's past is wrong, the moral of Thanksgiving, the one that never actually happened, is a good one: people from different backgrounds sitting down together in friendship. Isn’t that what we want?

And further, with the ever-changing nature of this country, how long must we be responsible for the actions of people who are not even, for the most part, our ancestors? I understand that I benefit from all that horrible stuff the first white Americans did, but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do about it.

So yeah, Thanksgiving. We get a long weekend, time to gather with friends and family. That’s nice. Frankly, I’m a big fan of re-appropriating holidays as I see fit. I keep the Christ out of Christmas, and my Easter tradition borders on sacrilegious (though I think of it as sacrilicious). In the case of Thanksgiving, I think it’s worthwhile to spend a day overeating among family, loosely defined as whoever I choose to be around, and to take a moment to appreciate what we have.

And tomorrow most Americans will rush to stores to buy more, and some people will die in that pursuit. And then there are the deeply ingrained gender roles that usually come along with this holiday. But those are both matters for another post.

Happy Turkey Day, folks.

November 20, 2012

Another story!

My not-especially-SF story "Like Braces for Broken Teeth," is live today at Every Day Fiction. 

Of course, it is SF in the sense that OnStar can't really control people's cars to the degree depicted . . . yet.

The story was sparked by my friend Matt Macfarlane, who innocently commented that someday there would be people whose lifelong aspirations were to work for OnStar. Which just goes to show that you can never be too careful what you say to a writer. Any little thing you say may lead to some perfectly nice (if rather bland) fictional person being tortured.

And with that, I'm off to murder some (fictional) teenagers.

November 13, 2012

After Death . . . Coming next year

This week the Table of Contents was announced for Eric J. Guignard's After Death anthology. Spoiler alert--I'm in it!

As are all of these fine people:

Andrew S. Williams — Someone to Remember
David Tallerman — Prisoner of Peace
Steve Rasnic Tem — The Last Moments Before Bed
Lisa Morton — The Resurrection Policy
John M. Floyd — High Places
Kelda Crich — Circling the Stones at Fulcrum's Low
David Steffen — I Will Remain
Aaron J. French — Tree of Life
Sanford Allen & Josh Rountree — The Reckless Alternative
Brad C. Hodson — The Thousandth Hell
James S. Dorr — Mall Rats
Ray Cluley — Afterword
Jonathan Shipley — Like a Bat out of Hell
Edward M. Erdelac — Sea of Trees
Jacob Edwards — The Overlander
Bentley Little — My Father Knew Douglas MacArthur
Jamie Lackey — Robot Heaven
John Palisano — Forever
Robert B. Marcus, Jr. — Beyond the Veil
Alvaro Rodriguez — Boy, 7
William Meikle — Be Quiet At The Back
Christine Morgan — A Feast of Meat and Mead
Simon Clark — Hammerhead
Peter Giglio — Cages
Kelly Dunn — Marvel at the Face of Forever
Trevor Denyer — The Unfinished Lunch
Steve Cameron — I Was The Walrus
Larry Hodges — The Devil's Backbone
Benjamin Kane Ethridge — The Death of E. Coli
Emily C. Skaftun — Final Testament of a Weapons Engineer
Joe McKinney — Acclimation Package
Josh Strnad — Hellevator
Allan Izen — In and Out the Window
John Langan — With Max Barry in the Nearer Precincts

My story is about a ghost with a serious problem to take care of back in the physical world. And probably the other stories are much better than mine.

This thing will be available next spring, printed on genuine paper! Yay!

November 10, 2012


Last year I tried NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time, and to my great surprise found the challenge doable. It was hard, but I put writing first for 30 days and wrote 50,000 words of a novel. Yippee!

This year? Not so much.

As the month approached I started fretting that my next novel idea was little more than a concept, with no real characters or plot. I thought maybe I'd start pantsing it, but I had no real faith that that would work, especially in the relentless word factory of NaNo.

Ten days in I find myself trailing the daily goal by about half--down some 7,000 words. Boo. When I look at the word totals it makes me want to give up.

But on the plus side, I've written a little something every day, even if some days it's only two hundred words. It's two hundred words that maybe I wouldn't have written otherwise.

Will I write a novel this month? No way, José. Unpossible.

But I am writing. One word at a time.

November 07, 2012

Peaceful Transitions

I generally try to keep politics off this page--I have very strong opinions about political issues, and the leanings of these opinions would probably not surprise anyone who knows which broad demographic slot I fit into, but I don't think they are particularly relevant to my life as a writer, which is what this site is about. All of which is to preface this post about last night's election. This will be an exception to that rule. You've been warned.

The first presidential election I was legally eligible to vote in was Bush II v. Gore, in 2000. It would be a gross understatement to say that the resulting mess (hanging chads and suspect recounts and corporate voting machines, oh my!) upset me. What it actually did was obliterate my faith in our system of "democracy." For eight years I believed that our country's fate was irredeemably out of our hands.

And then Obama was elected, and that was great. We drank champagne and cheered and maybe cried a little. I can't remember for sure.

But I remained trepidatious for a few more months. My cynicism was so great by that time that I feared Bush II would refuse to step down. People told me this was ludicrous, and I'm quite glad that they were right. That moment, on Inauguration Day, when the outgoing President calmly stepped onto a helicopter and out of our lives, as the crowd below chanted na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, GOODBYE!--that was the moment that a strange feeling tugged at my heart, literally raising the hairs on my arms.

Don't let the rotors hit you on the way out!

The feeling had lain dormant in me for so long that I'd forgotten what it was. It took me a moment to recognize it as . . . patriotism. Pride in my country.

I felt another taste of that last night. Not because of any particular person or thing that was voted for or against, although I think a lot of good choices were made yesterday. What made me shiver was watching Romney up there on his stage, conceding that it was over and oh-so-sincerely wishing the President well. I don't care what he was really thinking behind that smirk. What makes me teary with pride is the peaceful exchange (or in this case non-exchange) of power.

I love that it was ridiculous of me to fear a coup four years ago. In many parts of the world, peaceful transitions are not a given.

Change is built into our system. That's very scary sometimes, and I'll admit I was a bit nervous about this election. There's a lot that's ugly about the process. But it has the potential for great beauty, and some of the choices we made last night--narrowly, squeaking by--show just how willing to evolve this country is. For a big, fractious, diverse nation, we're doing okay.

Or so it seems today, anyway.