Sunday, July 20, 2014

Write-a-thon: Week 4 Update

Greetings, dear readers and sponsors.

We've reached the two-thirds point!

The word count for week 3 was 2986, for a daily average of 427, and (coincidentally) my slimmest day was (again) 261 words.

I've continued work on the bead story, though its forward progress has slowed as I've had to spend more time thinking and outlining, rather than actually writing. I've also written a bit more on the additional scenes needed for my novel revisions, and I started another new story. This one is set in New Orleans (where I lived for a year, back in '01-'02). Actually, calling it a "story" may be a bit of a stretch. I really don't know where it's going. Mostly, I just had a very memorable scenario in mind that I wanted to get down... and then I was having so much fun writing it that I just kept going. Maybe it will develop into a story.

Oh, and I've also been reworking a story that I wrote last fall called Elm & Fergus. I sent it out to several magazines without success, and then in February, I was invited to do three micro-readings (seven minutes each) at the Winter's Hill Winery's "Wine and Words" event. I selected three excerpts from the Elm & Fergus that together comprise the important parts of the story. Afterwards, I decided that the story was stronger without the parts I'd left unread, so now I'm polishing up the trimmed-down version and I hope to get it sent out again before the end of write-a-thon.

On the fund-raising end, no forward progress yet. I'm still $227 short of my $600 goal, so maybe I need to get out there and start campaigning a bit more.

And now... here's your weekly sample of work (from the New Orleans thing):

As on most Thursday afternoons, at 3:15, Mordechai Davies took a clean t-shirt from one drawer, a pair of socks from another, and a mesh bag containing a pair of shoes from the closet. All of these items went into a light backpack. He brushed his teeth, even though he had done so three hours before, immediately after his lunch of instant ramen and carrot sticks. He checked his wallet for small bills, slid loose change from the top of the dresser into an open palm and from there, to his jeans pocket. A pen and checkbook went into the small pouch on the front of the backpack, then he lifted the apartment key from the hook beside the door and exited. 

There was a six-block walk to St. Charles, but he was not aware of it, as his mind was already fully engaged in the approaching encounter. Similarly, the streetcar ride—paying the fare and choosing a seat, even—were automatic functions that he performed without notice. His feet moved him from the Felicity Street stop to his destination, but the steps that possessed his mind, accompanied by absent melodies, took him nowhere, transported him.

Outside the red-footed tan stucco building at the corner of Sophie Wright Place and St. Mary Street, standing under the daylight-deadened neon signage of the Half Moon Bar and Grill, Mordechai checked his watch. Four minutes early. Good.
He breathed deeply. Calmed his mind. His body. And he laughed.
Because of what his classmate—no, not just classmate, but, increasingly, friend—Jonathan had said when Mordechai told him about his Thursday appointments.

“So let me get this straight. You walk up every week, ring her bell, spend sixty minutes in her arms, body-to-sweat-drenched body, and then you pass her a couple of twenties and leave?”

“I write a check,” Mordechai had said.

“You do get how this looks though, don’t you?”

The thought of someone else thinking of it in those terms when Mordechai was so careful not to, prompted a tension in his jeans that—he checked his watch—he had less than three minutes to dispel. He walked briskly to the end of the block, then back. And again. After the third trip he felt ready.

He rang the bell.

Thanks for reading, and if you would like to sponsor me, you may do so by visiting my Write-a-thon page.

[My Clarion West Write-a-thon Page]

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Write-a-thon: Week 3 Update

Hi, readers and sponsors.

Halfway through the write-a-thon... and the six-week workshop.

It's been incredibly exciting to be so closely involved with the day-to-day operations of the workshop and to see the students develop, both as writers and as a group. It's also been challenging to find time to write every day, but thus far, I'm still fulfilling all of my write-a-thon goals.

I wrote 2653 words during the third week of the write-a-thon, for a daily average of 379 (down a bit from last week), and my slimmest day was 261 words. Again, I worked on both the previously-mentioned bead story and on revisions of my novel.

Also, I've gained a couple more sponsors, but I'm still $227 shy of my $600 goal... so if you know any readers who might want to chip in and support Clarion West (and encourage me in my writing), spread the word!

Finally, here's your weekly sample of my work (from the bead story):

I walked until I got to the place where only the foam edge of the bravest waves could reach, after all of their power was used up and they were tired and ready to fall back into the big water behind. I dropped to my knees, set the pail aside, and started digging. I piled the sand that I took out of the beach to one side of me. The pile grew faster than the hole, because the bottom of the hole was full of water and every time a wave came, it washed more sand into the hole.

I kept digging, though. I wanted to see if I could get to the other side of the world that Dorothea had told me about. I knew that Earth was a ball and I’d never really be able to dig all the way through it, but I was pretty sure that Dorothea knew that too, so I don’t think that when she talked about making holes through to the other side of the world, she was really talking about the Earth as a planet, but some other type of world, and I knew that it was stupid of me to even dream of digging my way there with a plastic shovel. Still, I didn’t stop digging.

The wind had been blowing in hard little gusts when we arrived at the beach, but it got stronger and more steady the longer I dug, so I started thinking about going back and getting Mama to help me launch a kite. But then my shovel hit something that wasn’t sand. I set the shovel down and reached down into the hole with my hand—down through the water in the hole—and felt for what I’d struck.

Thanks for reading, and if you would like to sponsor me, you may do so by visiting my Write-a-thon page.

[My Clarion West Write-a-thon Page]

Friday, July 4, 2014

Write-a-thon: Week 2 Update

Hi, readers and sponsors!

A few announcements:

First, I'm delighted to be participating in the Write-a-thon Google Hangout Event on Sunday, July 6th, and 11:00am (Pacific Time), a broadcast gathering, in which Write-a-thoners will read 10-minute samples of their own works. I will read the opening to my novel Florence Park, and it will be the first time I've read aloud from it, so come tune in and enjoy!

Next, I'm thrilled to announce that thanks to all of you, as of this morning, I'm over half way to reaching my fund-raising goal of $600 for Clarion West. If you know others who might be interested in sponsoring me (and supporting this amazing organization and all of its efforts), please spread the word!

And finally... the statistics: Since last friday (days 7-13 of Clarion West's Write-a-thon), I've written 2811 words of fiction (about 401 per day, on average, and never less than 271 on any given day), so I continue to meet my writing goal of at least 250 words per day and my daily average has increased by 53 words as compared to last week. I've worked on two different projects. In addition to the science-fiction/horror story inspired by Vonda McIntyre's amazing bead creations that I mentioned last Friday, I am also working on revisions to the above-mentioned novel, Florence Park.

And here's your weekly sample of my work (from the bead story):

When we got to her room, Dorothea set her tea on top of the dresser without even tasting it and she took the paper coasters from me and sat down at her table. She cut halfway through each of them, from the outside to the middle. Then she folded and unfolded them a bunch of times, so that they looked like little fans, and she taped the two fans to each other so that they made a single circle that didn’t lay flat anymore, but bent up and down and up and down like the stretchy middle part of an accordian.

“You see that?" she said. "How if you look straight down on it, it has the same area as just one coaster? See how I fit two whole circles into the space of one by forcing its perimeter to rise and fall out of the plane?” I kind of understood what she was talking about, now that she had shown me, so I nodded.

“It’s the same with the bead flowers I make,” she said. “If you flatten out any little part, it will be just like a little part of any circle that's stuck to a plane, but you will never be able to flatten the whole thing.” She handed me the taped-together, ruffled-up coasters and I tried smoothing out the folds, but when I flattened one part, it made the rest just fold up tighter.

“I will teach you more tomorrow,” she said. "Right now, it's time to learn about today."

Then she gave me paper and markers and asked me to draw her a picture of my favorite thing. I drew the library with Hannah in it, but then I thought it might be bad of me if I didn't have Mama in the picture too, so I put her in the yard outside the library, next to the flag-pole.

While I was drawing, Dorothea went back to threading beads onto the peach-colored flower she was building. When I was done, she didn’t say anything. She just took the picture and taped it to the wall above her dresser. 

Then she gave me another piece of paper. 

“Draw the thing that scares you most,” she said.

I drew the stain on my living room floor.

Thanks for reading, and if you would like to sponsor me, you may do so by visiting my Write-a-thon page.

[My Clarion West Write-a-thon Page]

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Write-a-thon: Week 1 Update

During the first six days of Clarion West's Write-a-thon, I wrote 2090 words (about 348 per day, average, never less than 250 on any given day), so thus far, I am meeting my writing goals.

Here is a small sample from my work-in-progress, which is a science-fiction/horror story inspired by Vonda McIntyre's amazing bead creations:

The tiny black beads are my favorite. Like caviar in linear formation. Or shrews’ eyes, cut from their pointy brown faces and lined up to stare back at me as I string them on a wire filament. Colorful beads are nice too. Black ones, though—shiny black ones—they are special because they know how to vanish into their own shadows when the light isn’t shining on them just so.

I learned this from Dorothea. Dorothea saw it as a bad thing, though. She let me have as many beads as I wanted, but not the black ones. Dorothea never used black beads in her creations, so it was a mystery to me how she managed to drop so many on the floor each day. Also, why she bought them in the first place.

Thanks for reading, and if you would like to sponsor me, you may do so by visiting my Write-a-thon page.

[My Clarion West Write-a-thon Page]

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sponsor Me in the 2014 Clarion West Write-a-thon

It's that time again!

Come sponsor me in this year's Clarion West Write-a-thon, the annual fund-raising event for the Clarion West Writers Workshop, a non-profit organization devoted to providing fantastically stellar training to emerging writers of speculative fiction.

This year, I'm using a crowd-funding type structure of incentives for my fund-raising goals, so go check out the premiums and pick your donation level.

Conflict of Interest statement: Although I am a paid employee of Clarion West, my Write-a-thon fund-raising activity is entirely voluntary and independent of my salary. I receive no monetary or material incentive from Clarion West for my particpation in the Write-a-thon.

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Monday, December 9, 2013

A Year of Reading

After reading Tina Connolly's recent post about what she's read in the past year, I decided to do the same. For now, though, mine is just a list of titles. Maybe if I find time, I'll come back and flesh this out a bit.

I'm pretty sure that this list isn't complete (I'll add more as I remember them), and I'm not sure that all of these were actually read during the 2013 calendar year (I might have read a few of them in the final months of 2012). In any case, I only listed books that I'd recommend reading.

I also read a few hundred short stories (many of them were slush for a magazine and many others were works-in-progress, by friends), but I'll save my list of them (the published ones) for another (unlikely to ever materialize) post.

Oh, and I haven't finished Nicola Griffith's Hild yet, but it's shaping up to be one of the best books ever. Really. Go out and buy it, people. It is truly amazing. I can hardly wait to get back to it. In fact... why the heck am I blogging when I could be reading Hild?

Enough said. Here's the list:

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks
Among Others by Jo Walton
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
The Shining and Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi
The Age of Ice by J.M. Sidorova
Hild by Nicola Griffith

Comics and Graphic Novels
Locke & Key (vols. 1-5) by Joe Hill
From Hell by Alan Moore
Saga (vols. 1-2) by Brian K. Vaughan

Short Fiction Collections and Anthologies
Hair Side, Flesh Side by Helen Marshall
At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson
Remember Why You Fear Me by Robert Shearman
Unpossible by Daryl Gregory
Telling Tales: The Clarion West 30th Anniversary Anthology

The Big Burn by Timothy Egan

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Friday, November 2, 2012

The Next Big Thing

This is my response to a "blog survey" about my Work in Progress. I was tagged for this by Carlie. Others of my Clarion West 2012 cohort who have been tagged on this include AlycCory, Helen, Kim, Blythe, and Georgina.

Here goes.

1. What is the title of your Work in Progress?

The Resurrectionist

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

As faithful readers will no doubt recall, I sometimes post my daily timed writing exercises on this blog. Some of them I later develop into longer pieces. Most of them are responses to lines pulled randomly from books around the house—lines taken completely out of context.

Back in February, I wrote on a prompt from one of H.G. Wells' late (and lesser-known) works, The Happy Turning. Later, at the Clarion West Writers Workshop, I developed it into a short story. I had so much fun writing it, and received so many intriguing suggestions from my colleagues and the instructor of the week (Stephen Graham Jones), that I began to think of it as the beginning of a novel.

Today, as I was going through my timed writing exercises, looking for the one mentioned above, I found several others, with related themes (here, here, and here). It seems that my mind has been delving into (and back out of) the grave rather frequently.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Hmmmm... difficult question. At the risk of giving too much away, I think of it as paranormal horror, disguised as a light-hearted science-fiction adventure.

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

I've never been one to generate a clear picture of what characters look like in books that I'm reading. The same goes for characters that I write. When it matters, for any story reason, I'll describe elements of their appearance, but when it comes down to it, I really don't care what faces my characters have in the minds of readers. I want readers to supply the face that works for them. I am, therefore, sorely tempted to boycott this question altogether.

However, to engage the spirit of the survey, I'll give it a try. But only for two of my characters, and I reserve the right to come back and alter this post later, should the faces of these actors begin to exert too heavy an influence on the natural evolution of my creations.

Ella Ferry, the protagonist, is in her mid-sixties, and is a smart, crusty, wiry, curmudgeon. Life (and a few of life's less savory emissaries) have dealt her a pretty shitty hand, but she manages to get the job done and to sort out whatever (and whoever) needs sorting. My top picks to play her would be Frances McDormand or Sigourney Weaver.

Turner Luce, a sophisticated but rather unpleasant character about whom I shouldn't divulge too much, might be well played by Ralph Fiennes or Clive Owen.

5. What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book?

In the near future, technology that restores deceased persons to life proves to be a blessing for some, a curse for many, and, for a privileged few, one hell of a business opportunity.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The latter, if I'm lucky. If not... well, we'll just see how desperate I get. I don't particularly like the idea of self-publishing, as I'd rather not have to deal with any aspect of the process besides writing. Agents and publishers play important roles in turning a book into something that people might actually want to read. I'd like my novel to benefit from such expertise.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Ha ha ha ha. Good one. First draft? Past tense? Ask me again when I've written a first draft and I'll be delighted to tell you.

8. What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

Um... we may have encountered a problem here. Although I'm sure there's nothing truly original about my novel, I'm at a loss when it comes to comparisons. I read mostly hard SF and literary classics, with a bit of fantasy and modern literary tossed into the mix. Books that feel similar to some of what I'd like to capture in this novel include:
The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (for dark, creepy, moral ambiguity)
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (for on-the-road--or river--adventure with plenty of humor)
Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey (for tumbleweeds, old-west feel, religious zealotry, and guns-a-blazing)
The Queen of the South by Arturo Perez-Reverte (would-be damsel-in-distress defying expectations to become kick-ass, uber-pragmatic, violent-when-necessary kingpin)
The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton (for secretive organizations, plot reversals, and the-completely-unexpected-seems-inevitable-ness)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson (for freaked-out, substance-fueled humor, sheer paranoia, and dry, dusty, road-trip-through-the-American-Southwest mystique)

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Part of this is answered above in question 2, but I suppose that some of my underlying interest in the idea of corporeal resurrection stems from growing up with people who believe in a literal resurrection of the dead. This novel is not a commentary on any specific religious beliefs (the mechanisms of resurrection in my story have nothing to do with those suggested by Christian traditions), but tales that I heard as a child, from both the New and Old Testaments of the Christian Bible, may have planted early seeds this project.

That would be the "what" part. As for the "who," most of the credit goes to my Clarion West cohort and Stephen Graham Jones, for giving me such enthusiastic feedback on the short story, and for giving me so many additional ideas about where I might take it.

Also, in that this story features a tough, practical, often abrasive, but ultimately caring woman as the protagonist, it is certainly inspired by many such real-life women who I know or have known.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

I will include realistic details about disease, death, and mortal remains—information gleaned from medical training (especially from forensic pathology rotations). It will be set largely in wastelands of the American Southwest, but segments of the story will occur in cities as well. I intend to explore the fuzzy line between incomprehensible technology and old-fashioned magic, and whether the distinction even matters.

Mostly, though, I just want to create something fun—fun to write and fun to read. I've been writing sad stories lately, and I want to see what it feels like to laugh and smile while typing, so if I succeed, readers can expect to be entertained.

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