Tag Archives: Writing

NEW STORY IDEA

I’m beginning to think new story ideas are a way to procrastinate on other works in progress. This is the second time in two months that getting bogged down in a complicated, research-intensive piece has led me to start work on something shorter and seemingly easier. Of course, the ease or difficulty when I set out to write a new story can be awfully misleading. This one, however, takes place in a setting I’ve used before with an antagonist I’ve also spent a good deal of time contemplating. Wish me luck!

Also, I will go back to that other work in progress. Those characters are getting impatient!

SMALL DOSES OF TERROR

There’s nothing better than a short, sharp slice of flash fiction to get the mind working. 99 Tiny Terrors is an anthology that the reader can dip into for something deliciously dangerous in a short amount of time or spend an afternoon trolling through blood soaked stories from all over the world including Canada, England, Germany, Greece, Ireland, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United States, and Wales.

It features stories from the devious minds of Seanan McGuire, Ruthanna Emrys, Meg Elison, Wendy N.Wagner, Scott Edelman, Cat Rambo, Tim Waggoner, and more. Oh and I’ll be in it with a piece that has the longest title I ever wrote: The Holy Wars of Mathematics: A Secret History of the Calculus of Chicanery.

Check out the kickstarter!

GETTING AN IDEA FOR WRITING

Ideas for stories come easily to me. However, not all writers and would-be writers can say the same. If you struggle to come up with ideas, or perhaps ideas you think are good enough to sustain an entire story that people will want to read from beginning to end, let me assure you it’s not an impossible feat. In fact, it just might be easier than it seems.

Here’s how a new story came to me a couple of weeks ago: I was staying with a long-time friend at a cabin near a lake. Naturally, as you might expect, we got to talking about mutual friends and acquaintances. A couple of those people had done things that I could very loosely use in a story. Next, since my friend and I are both kayakers, we went out on the lake. Since she knows the waterways quite well, she led me through a series of channels when the water was unusually high for August. Still, there were challenges like getting around a beaver dam and one narrow, brisk channel where we wanted to go upstream. We finally reached a calm, lovely pool. Some days earlier, we had visited the house where John Brown once lived and is buried, now a historic site. I had had no idea he even lived there! I did know that several forts in the region played key roles in the French and Indian War.

I put these disparate elements together into a new story, one I had no notion of writing before my visit. Notice how I’ve shifted from talking about story ideas to story elements—setting, backstory, characters, events. That’s how I cobble together a bunch of my stories. It’s nothing like starting off with a killer idea.

Now here’s my challenge if you are struggling: What events—be they historic or simply fascinating incidents—happened near where you live now or once lived? What about them intrigues you? What have you seen, done, and experienced in these places? Who else was with you? What else can you throw into the mix, especially an obstacle or two? I hope that before you know it, you’ll be in the middle of a fine story that only you can tell.

REINVENTED HEART: SPECIAL PRE-PUBLICATION PRICE

I woke up this morning to find a Bookbub ad in my inbox for The Reinvented Heart. This fabulous anthology featuring Seanan McGuire, Jane Yolen, Naomi Kritzer and others including me (still hard to believe!) will be on sale for $6.99 until it is released next February. But chances are a lot of you will forget all about it between now and February, so order it now. My never-before-published “Etruscan Afterlife,” plus other stories, will be a big batch of sweet surprises when the book shows up on your electronic To Be Read pile, I promise you.

Q & A ON WRITING ALTERNATE HISTORY OF WOMEN EXPLORING SPACE

On the day after Wally Funk successfully completed her flight on the Blue Origins rocket ship, what could be more appropriate than some thoughts about how the 1960s space program could have really included at least one woman astronaut? My Analog story, “The Next Frontier,” explores this possibility. For readers and writers, here’s how I took my initial idea all the way to the completed story, which I hope you will read, too!

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A WRITER

Do you envision my day beginning with a beautiful fountain pen and crisp, blank pages awaiting my musings or dare I say, insights? Do you picture me putting fresh paper into a typewriter and pounding away until The Story sits in a neat pile of pages on a polished wood desk?

Hah! Here’s one day this week: It starts when, upon waking, I realize I forgot to include something in a chapter I said I’d send off today. So I do some quick reworking via computer before breakfast. Food and tea are accompanied by a side dish of email. That’s when I discover my spam filter claimed for its own the galleys my editor sent me a full week ago. Yikes. They need to go back today.

Once that’s done, including a detour to verify that I have properly employed an infrequently-used adjective, I can get the promised chapter shipped out and eat lunch.

Next up is outlining a few scenes, which bring the conundrum as to the best point of view in a novel told from several characters’ viewpoints. None of the three choices is clearly best. I take a stab at reorganizing some scenes.

Then I look at email again and see that an editor needs my bio. Given the publication’s length constraints, I dig out a recent one and update it.

By now, thoughts of putting a well-balanced fountain pen to creamy paper are a fading memory. However, a blog post to end the day…well, here you go.

SUPPORTING WRITERS & OTHER CREATORS

It’s the beginning of the month, which means my Patreon statement shows up today listing the wonderful writers, editors, and other creators whom I support via Patreon each month. Yeah, no doubt about it, I feel good each time this arrives and I can see how I’m helping, in my modest way, these terrific people to do marvelous work. But…

Here’s the thing: My Patreon list is nowhere near as inclusive of diverse and/or marginalized individuals as I wish it were. Oh sure, I buy lots of books, magazines, and other works created by folks from all sorts of backgrounds. But still. It’s time, maybe past time, for me to take a hard look right now at who I support and how much.

WONDERFUL BOOKS BY TAOS TOOLBOX WRITERS!

I’m thrilled to say that my interactive fiction game, T-Rex Time Machine is but one of a double handful of science fiction and fantasy works written by Taos Toolbox alums in the past year or so. Hope you’ll check out the wealth of reading featured on Walter Jon Williams’ blog. They all make great last-minute gifts for yourself or someone else!

                    

See you in San Jose — Worldcon!

Here’s where to find me at Con Jose Aug. 16-20. Bay Area peeps: this means you!

Ordinary People

16 Aug 2018, Thursday 16:00 – 17:00, 210F (San Jose Convention Center)

Sometimes, main characters in a story are ordinary people – not everyone is extraordinary. Can such a focus make a story more powerful? What makes them appealing? How does such a story differ from a story of heroes and villains?

Panel discussion with Cecilia Tan (M), Nick Mamatas, Christine Taylor-Butler, Rosemary Claire Smith, Sheila Finch

Signing

18 Aug 2018, Saturday 15:30 – 16:00 SFWA Table (San Jose Convention Center)

Stop by and I’ll sign promo materials for T-Rex Time Machine (my interactive fiction game) or any magazines or anthologies you brought with my stories and/or articles.

Clarion 50th Reunion Party

18 Aug 2018, Saturday 20:00 – 23:00

Many, many Clarion classes come together to celebrate fifty years of the boot-camp for writers that launched so many careers. Mine included!

EAT YOUR WORLD (Read Your Food)

19 Aug 2018, Sunday 16:00-17:00 location TBA

Dive into Worldbuilding is throwing a party. Juliette Wade and others will bring foods inspired by fiction. Author attendees will be invited to read food-related snippets from their work.

PAY THE WRITER

Like me, many science fiction writers and readers are getting word today about the passing of Harlan Ellison. Some who knew him will sit down to summon words to commemorate his brilliance as a writer and an anthologist coupled with his larger-than-life personality. I want to take a minute to pay tribute to his eloquent advocacy on behalf of writers everywhere. I can think of no better way to do so than to repeat the three words he put forward: Pay. The. Writer.

In this age of digital piracy, to say nothing of good old-fashioned scams at every turn, Harlan Ellison articulated as well as anyone that the money should flow to the writer, not away. If any of my readers are new to the business of writing (and yes, always treat it as a business as much as a creative endeavor), you would do well to keep this principle in mind when someone tries to talk you into giving them your property (which is exactly what your written words are) for free. They may say something to the effect of, “It’ll be good exposure.” One response is, “People die from exposure.” Here’s how Harlan Ellison put it.

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