Monthly Archives: June 2011

WIP Wednesday: The Horse Latitudes

The excerpt for this edition of WIP Wednesday is the story I talked about back on Monday–the one that, at times, practically edges into prose-poetry. It’s a story that I’ve been waiting to write for a year, and it’s huge and thematically sprawling and will probably need a lot of tightening in the editing phase. But without saying too much, it’s about the exploitation of the natural world, about the ruthlessness of the past, and about a man involved in the drug trade in Colombia and the trajectory of his life. I have no idea yet if it’s any good. But I hope it is.

Here’s a bit of it:

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Not One of Us #45: out now (so you should get it)

So the release of the 45th issue of Not One of Us came and went back in April when I was buried under mounds of academic work, and as a result I never did anything for it. However, the acquisition of a new microphone has prompted me to record a snippet of the story I have in that issue, “Dead Man Watching”, and here it is. I like reading aloud, so I may do more of this kind of thing.

If you like what you hear here, I encourage you–strongly–to check out the entire issue. There’s some fantastic fiction and poetry contained therein, not even counting my piece.

Muse Monday: The Narrows

Yes, more blah. This is apparently how we roll these days.

Just these days–my writing is cyclical, and I get the sense that this is true for a lot of people. Not cyclical in the sense of it happening at all but cyclical in the sense of how easy it is–or is not–and how smoothly it flows. When it’s an up cycle, turns of phrase and metaphors and plot twists leap off my fingertips, and all of it works great. Feels great. When it’s a down cycle, the words come, but it takes some doing. And they feel clunky and tinny. They may not actually be clunky and tinny; I’ve learned that I shouldn’t trust myself when I get like this. Just put the head down and keep plodding along, donkey-like.

Sometimes this is a bigger problem than others. It tends to be less of a problem when I’m working on something long, where the plot ends up being ultimately more important than the style. But in short stories, I find that there’s much less differentiation between the two. Good writing is good writing, period, and it all does the same job. When I’m writing a short piece, the style and the feel of the prose often drive things along just as much as the events of the story itself; I think my most successful short stories also contain my best prose. So when the words clunk in a short piece, everything is harder.

I’ve currently set aside the Mars novel in order to give a short piece a chance; it’s been bugging me for a while and something told me that it was time to let it out to breathe and unfurl its wings. But as Princess Irulan says, beginnings are very delicate times, and this particular story is heavy on the style, almost to the point of edging into prose-poetry. I’ve written pieces like that before, but I write prose much better than poetry most of the time (oh, the things that high school teaches you), and just now the words aren’t coming very easily.

Or so it seems to me. It’s entirely possible that what I have is at least passable, and maybe even good. But I’m not currently in a position to say. In the meantime I’m keeping my head down, plodding along, trying to feel the words as they come. In this–and in many other aspects–I think that writing requires a tremendous amount of faith. It’s fundamentally an irrational thing, this idea that even when it feels bad it might be good, or at least salvageable. Even when things become agonizing, there’s the hope that faith kept will eventually be faith rewarded.

What about you? What keeps you going? What do you need to push through the tight and difficult narrows of your own word-streams, or of the stream of anything else you’re trying to do?

WIP Wednesday: SF novel, “Hadeva”

 

So this is the second of my new twice-weekly posting schedule. This is the fun WIP part. On Monday I posted a fairly whiny piece on writing novel drafts and why they suck and I hate them a lot–the reason for this being that I’m currently in the sticky, gooey middle of the first draft of a novel, and it’s sucking and I’m hating it a lot. However, I know myself well enough to know that I shouldn’t trust my own take on things at this point in the process, so I’m going to choose to believe that the novel isn’t actually as bad as all that and post a short bit of it here.

The basic premise of the thing was inspired by a friend, who said that she wished that someone would write something about early Mars back when it was losing the remnants of its atmosphere and making the transition to the cold, (apparently) dead thing that it is today. I immediately thought “hey, I could do that,” and stupidly set out to try to do so. The result has–so far–been sort of like The Martian Chronicles by way of The Road, a story of the last survivors of a colonization attempt by an alien species, an attempt that, predictably, went horribly awry. The last generation of survivors–most of them, anyway–carry no clear memory of their homeworld, or of how they lived before their colony disintegrated into infighting and starvation. What they do carry are “ghosts”, the fragmentary memories and personalities of the people they have killed and eaten in a highly complex cannibalistic ritual referred to as “communion”. My idea is that this ritual arose as a way to combat the combined losses of culture, community, resources, and meaningful ties to the past. It does interesting things to the meaning of death on this version of Mars (called “Hadeva” by its inhabitants)–anyone may be killed and eaten at any time, for any reason, and people have very little cause to trust one another, though small isolated settlements still exist. But by the same token, slaughter and consumption are deeply meaningful, even respectful, and communities share their dead together. When someone is attacked and killed, they often take comfort in the fact that their killer will commune them and carry their memory. To die uneaten is the worst possible fate.

But not everyone practices communion. And while most have forgotten the stars from which they came, there are a few who still remember–and mean to return there. When Durja, my protagonist, stumbles upon a communication in the belongings of someone she’s killed and communed, it plants the idea of escape from the dying Hadeva in her mind, and pushes her across Mars’s freezing desert toward more danger than she ever imagined, and a choice more terrible than she ever dared to contemplate.

Anyway. Blurby blurbage. Here’s a bit. Rough, bear in mind.

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The life cycle of a first draft (novel edition)

So I’ve decided that I do actually want to start using this thing for semi-regular postings that aren’t “Hey, I sold a thing!” or “Hey, you should buy this thing what I wrote!” That’s important content and it’s going to continue (sorry), but after reading some advice on blogging in the current issue of the SFWA Bulletin, I think I want to try something I did a while back and institute a schedule for posting things. To that end, I want to introduce two new features:

Muse Mondays. These will be posts–really, deposits of neurosis–driven by whatever I happen to be currently working on. Thoughts I’m having about the process, how I feel like it’s going–or not going–and anything else that strikes my fancy and that is writerly in some fashion.

WIP Wednesdays. (Yes, I like alliteration. Deal.) These will be posts that feature actual snippets of whatever I happen to be currently working on. Probably whatever I was crying about on Monday, which will give you a great opportunity to see what I’m actually dealing with in terms of Things That Make Me Hurt.

Yeah, it’s… it’s been that kind of a workday so far. Which is what I’m going to talk about today.

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Sailing on the Faceboat

As part of an ongoing attempt to whore myself better, I have made a Facebook page.

I’m still figuring out what I can actually do with it, but I’m hoping to make real use of it. I’ve gotten my blog posts to show up there, at least. I think. This is the test of that, so… yeah, we’ll see. Anyway, hi. Like me plz. I mean, if you like me actually for real. If you don’t, please disregard.

Quick update – a sale and some other assorted stuff

After a couple of years of trying, I’ve finally sold a story–“Chinvat”, a ghost story inspired by an odd confluence of real events and Zoroastrian mythology–to Shimmer. So I’m really excited about that. I’m not sure yet which issue it’s going to appear in–I mean, I assume the next one but I’m not positive–but I’ll post more news when I have some. I’ll also have a bit more to say about how the story came to be; it’s a story whose inspirations are, I think, even more interesting than the story itself.

Aside from that, life goes on much as usual. I’ve got departmental funding for the summer in the name of getting a couple of articles edited and sent off for review, and I’m using that breathing space to also get some work done on the novel draft I’ve been plugging away at. I’m posting a lot more day to day in my Dreamwidth/Livejournal and reserving this space more for especially pertinent news and especially pertinent essays, but I’m always happy to see people over in either of those two places.

Wiscon was amazing. Thanks so much to all the delightful people who made it so. I can’t wait to see you next year.