Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Sale!

Woohoo! I watched Glee with my lovely and talented spouse tonight, then wandered over to my computer to check my email. I usually keep Gmail open in Firefox so I can see at a glance if I've gotten any mail, just in case sometime wants to buy one of my stories. Most days it doesn't happen.


Tonight I found a contract offer for "Bound by Convention" from Cobblestone Press. It's my second sale, and a sequel to my first. The editor wrote, and I quote, "You sure make 'super heroines' fun to read about. Enjoyed revisiting the Black Knight and his Iron Maiden." I'm glad to hear that, 'cause I like writing about them--one of the stories I'm working on this week is still another in that series. Needless to say, I'm very pleased.

Friday, September 25, 2009

My story is available now!

Hurrah! "Flying High" is now on sale at It's my first fiction sale--but only the first of many, I hope! Click on the image to the right to go to the sale page.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Weekend Writing Workshop

My lovely and talented spouse and I spent four days at the coast this past weekend. We drove down on Friday morning and enjoyed lunch at Kyllo's, a great seafood restaurant there. We enjoyed the beach for a while, then checked into the inn where the workshop was to be held. The workshop was all day Saturday and Sunday, with extra bonus activities on Saturday evening. While I was workshopping, my lovely and talented spouse was busy enjoying the coast. We ate lots of good food all weekend and had a wonderful time. We even stayed over Sunday night to spend the next morning on the beach and eat lunch (Kyllo's again) before heading home.

So. The workshop. It was a two day introduction to life as a professional fiction writer, aka The Kris & Dean Show, taught by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Katherine Rusch. With nearly a couple hundred published novels and hundreds of short stories between them, to say nothing of experience as editors and publishers at one time or another, they had a lot to convey. There were nine students there, including myself.

First thing they brought up was Heinlein's Rules for Writers:
1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must not rewrite except to editorial demand. (Harlan Ellison's addition: and only if you agree.)
4. You must mail your story to an editor who will pay you for it.
5. You must keep your story in the mail until it sells.

That's it. That's the whole secret of being a successful fiction writer. Simple in theory, but hard to do in practice. Fear will stop you in many, many ways--Heinlein's rules are largely designed (intentionally or otherwise) to circumvent those fears. If you follow the rules faithfully, you'll do what you need to do even if you fear rejection or failure. Afraid you're no good? Write anyhow. Afraid your story sucks? Finish it anyhow. Afraid it needs rewriting--an excellent way to avoid sending it out? Mail it. Afraid a rejection means you're a failure, an awful person? Keep sending it out. Just because one editor (or a hundred) rejected it, doesn't mean the next one will.

Kris Rusch mentioned that she'd recently just sold a story that's been circulating for TEN YEARS. Sometimes you let a story rest--when you've tried all the markets you can find--but when you discover a new potential market, out it goes again. Never say die.

They spent time busting some of the myths that have grown up around writing. Myths like "Good writing takes a long time.*" Lots of classics of modern literature were written very quickly. Many if not most successful fiction writers write quickly. Writing quickly helps keep your internal editor out of your way.

Myths like "You must rewrite to write well." Again, many successful writers do no substantive rewriting*. That is, they write a first draft, spellcheck it, have a trust first reader look it over, make any minor changes the reader suggests (assuming they agree) and then sent it out. Rewriting (actually changing character actions, plot points, and so forth) generally doesn't help-- it does, however, allow you to sand off the sharp edges and rawness that gives your work your distinctive voice.

Myths like "You need an agent to sell your story." No, you need an agent to negotiate a contract once you have an offer on the table. And to play attack dog for you when you need one to shake loose overdue checks, maybe. But that's it. You don't need an agent to submit your story to a publisher, no matter what the publishers tell you. And you never, ever, ever submit stories to an agent, or listen to any agent who wants to tell you how to improve your manuscript. Agents don't buy stories. Editors buy stories. See Heinlein's Rule #4 again. If the editor is paying for the privilege, HE gets to suggest changes. Nobody else.

Myths like "Nobody but a handful of big name writers can make any real money writing fiction." That's just not so. They went into a lot of detail about this one, explaining just how you can make a very good living writing fiction. I may go into the details in another post. But suffice it to say for now, that making a living as a writer of fiction is not only very possible, hundreds of thousands of people do it very comfortably. It only requires that you write a lot (so writing fast is good), and that you keep your work circulating.

They also had lots of practical advice on writing--physically writing, I mean. You can't spend hours every day sitting at a desk wiggling your fingers over a keyboard without serious physical issues if you don't a) make sure your desk, chair and computer are aligned properly, and b) get up and move around regularly, including lots of exercise. Writing is a sedentary job, but you have to take care of your body all the same.

They also gave us advice on other issues--tracking your manuscript submissions, making sure your stories and documents are safely and redundantly backed up in case the worst happens (Dean's house burned down many years ago and he lost a lot of his early manuscripts in that fire), and other practical issues.

I'd heard much of this before, of course. I read both of their blogs. But a good part of the material was also new to me. And it was all very inspiring. I came home with a renewed desire to write, write, write--and get my stories out in the mail (or e-mail, as the case may be).

My goal for at least the next few months is to write and mail two short stories (or one novelette or novella) a week. The more stories I can get in circulation, the better.

*A caveat: there is no one Right Way to write. Some writers DO write slowly, and some do rewrite extensively. If that works for you, go for it. But at least as often as not, and maybe more often than not, that's not the case.

Friday, September 11, 2009


So I'm watching Glee! this season. They ran the pilot last spring, then again last week. The first new episode aired this week. I enjoyed it all very much.

I didn't think I would. When I first heard about the show and its premise I figured, "Pass!"

But then I stumbled into the first episode last spring and it was...surreal. Crazy obsessed people, music and dancing, weird relationships, high school as hell redux. It was fascinating.

And the second episode gives me confidence that it will continue to be a fascinating, slightly surreal world peopled with oddballs. And as the spouse and I discussed on our drive to the coast today, almost everyone on the show is Crazy!

Our hero, Will, teacher and glee club facilitator? Crazy.
Will's wife, self-absorbed housewife and crafter? Crazy!
The cash-flow obsessed Principal? Seriously crazy!
OCD Guidance Counselor in love with Will? Crazy.
Football Coach pining for OCD Girl? Crazy.
Butch Nazi-esque Cheerios Coach? Dangerous Crazy.
Cheerios? Run-of-the-mill celibacy club Crazy.
Rachel, would-be superstar? Crazy.
About the only character who isn't clearly crazy is the football quarterback Will had to mousetrap into joining Glee...until he admitted to himself that he liked it and chose to stay.

The first episode introduced us to everyone and sketched out the relationships. This second episode dug a little deeper--and there's been movement on some storyline fronts already, a very good sign.

Football Coach's speech to OCD Girl was heartfelt and made some valid points. I was pleased when she changed her mind to accept his date and backed off a little from her daydreamy pursuit of (the married) Will.

Cheerio Coach was simply growling at Will in the first episode. She was protective of her turf but didn't feel seriously threateneed. Now that she's had her funds reduced slightly--and lost face in a couple of showdowns with Will in front of the Principal--she's definitely out for blood. Will, of course, is clueless about this. He really doesn't grok--yet--just how seriously she takes this threat to the Cheerios' supremacy in school. But he'll learn...the hard way, probably.

There was lots of good stuff in this episode. The only real flaw, in my view, was when Will's wife learned that she wasn't really pregnant...but didn't admit it to him. Yes, she's self-absorbed. She's materialistic. She's a social climber. She shamelessly manipulates him emotionally. But I was really hoping she'd come clean--that we'd see that there was some line she wouldn't cross.

Alas, they went for the easy--and predictable--plot point of having her lie to him. Instead of telling Will she'd learned she wasn't pregnant after all, she told him she'd learned that it was a boy at her appointment that day. Sigh. So far there is nothing to suggest what Will ever saw in her besides her looks. I was hoping for better.

She did back off on the new house, agreeing that they could stay in the apartment they've got. Which, as my spouse pointed out to me, was some growth for her. But not much--and giving her some much needed humanity would strength the love triangle subplot. At this point, Will's choice is between his (self-absorbed, greedy, materialistic, manipulative and now deceitful) wife and OCD girl, who clearly has her own problems but at least sees him as something more than a meal ticket and fashion accessory. Were she more sympathetic, Will might have a genuine dilemma...if he ever sees the truth.

Will is almost painfully naive. He doesn't see his wife's flaws. He's the ONLY person in the entire school (including the students) who doesn't see OCD Girl pining for him, and he has no clue the Cheerios Coach has him in her mostly-metaphorical gunsights.

But overall I'm really enjoying this show a lot. I recommend it!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Labor Day Weekend

I got no writing done so far this weekend, but then I didn't intend to. Tomorrow I'll get back to writing, despite it being the actual holiday in question. My spouse has the day off but as a self-employed writer, I don't get paid days off. So it's back to the grindstone for me. What I have been doing is reading. A partial list of the books I'm currently reading or have just finished would include:

Class by Paul Fussell, an exploration of class and status in American society. It's from 1983 so some of the details are dated, but the principals he teases out are as valid as ever.

Galatea in 2D by Aaron Allston. Allston is known primarily as a writer of gaming materials, but he's published several novels. His novels are always entertaining and well thought out. His characters are smart; they think things through, try all things the reader--or at least this reader--would want to try, and generally avoid the dreaded idiot plot at every turn. I recommend them all.

The Last Hot Time by John M. Ford. I've not gotten far into it yet, but I'm enjoying it very much.

Redesigning Humans by Gregory Stock, nonfiction about the possibilities (for good or ill) occasioned by our rapidly approaching power to redesign the human genome.

In addition to reading, I spent a good part of today working with the spousal unit to thoroughly clean our bedroom. Since my spouse has suffered from increasing allergy and asthma issues lately, and went to see a specialist about them, we've buckled down to try to get our sleeping area as allergen-free as humanly possible. So we pulled everything out that we could reasonably move, dusted the walls and ceiling, the bookcase, the bedside tables, --everything, basically. Then we vacuumed the curtains, vacuumed the floor, stripped and washed all the bedding, and then put it all back together again.

Tomorrow--back to writing.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Story Away! Plus, Publication Date Revealed!

Today was a good day in writing. I printed out the first draft of my most recent story and edited it in the waiting room while my spouse was being tormented treated by the dentist. When I got home I made the revisions to the story, hammered it into the proper form for an electronic submission, wrote the cover letter--and emailed it to Cobblestone Press.

I also did the final edits on Flying High and emailed them to my editor. (I have an editor--squee!)

And I got an email from the publisher's announcements list--Flying High will be published on September 25th! No wonder my editor told me we were on a tight schedule for the edits. (It wouldn't have been quite so tight, but the first time they emailed me the manuscript to edit, it went to the wrong email address. It didn't bounce, so apparently that address exists--it just isn't mine. So we were late getting started once the snafu was straightened out.

But it's done, and on track for publication on schedule. Yay!

So--tomorrow. That's when I decide which story to finish next. I have several in various stages, from a fuzzy idea in the back of my mind to those with several thousand words written, but no real structure yet. I'll pick the most promising and start on it tomorrow.