Thursday, December 11, 2014

2014 Year in Review

So! I see that many of my fellow writer-types have put up these types of posts recently to document the stuff they wrote or published this year, and since I'm not going to have anything else published in 2014, I might as well do it too.

Surprisingly, 2014 was a less productive year writing-wise than 2013... or was it?? I certainly wrote fewer short stories this year: eight stories, most of them flash, compared to ten stories last year. (This does not count stories I've finished but that Rob hasn't looked at yet. I only count them when they get their first ride on the submission train. So I may have one or two stories still to go this year!)

HOWEVER, I also "finished" (because it's never done until it sees print, and sometimes not even then) my novel, a.k.a. Stupid Novel, a.k.a. that thing I'm always whining about at 1 a.m. PST on Twitter. I am tentatively querying agents, although I still have to finish my Kindle read-through.

And come on, I moved across the freaking country. Cut me some slack.

Publishing-wise, I really can't complain. I had eight stories published this year, which almost but not quite equals the number of stories I had published in all previous years combined. Did I mention I've been getting stories published since 2005? Yeah, quitting stole a few years from the middle there and I didn't know what I was doing for a lot of that time. But now I do, so here we are. I like all of my published stories (or at least I don't hate them, once they are published I don't really have strong feelings about my stories one way or another) but I might be proudest of "We Take the Long View" and "Useful Objects." The former because it's fucking weird as hell but Shimmer bought it anyway, the latter because Nick Mamatas called it "slacker SF" and that's as good a descriptor as any for the kind of thing I do.

Other metrics:

Total words written: I need to get better at tracking this next year, but if you count the entire novel since it was essentially a rewrite and you also count the part of the novel I rewrote and threw out and rewrote again, plus short stories, a bit over 100k words total.

Total cons attended: One. OryCon. Next year will be two for sure, maybe three if I do Norwescon. I miss doing a lot of cons but I like living in Portland more.

Total submitted stories including reprints: 94 and counting.

Total accepted stories including reprints: 11 (and counting?).

Next up: my 2014 non-writing year in review! It is a much more interesting story.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Return of the Return of Numbered List Posts

1. My PCC Community Education class Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy is now open for enrollment! If you're in Portland and looking for an introductory writing course geared to genre fiction, I hope you'll check it out.

2. This is a very good post on class and writing that I want to say more about, but in a separate post. While I'm completely on board with pushes for diversity in SF (or any other genre), you can't deny that economic class is the forgotten (or purposely skipped over) component of that intersectionality everyone likes to talk about. There's no "Poors Destroy Science Fiction!" Even Scalzi doesn't factor class into one's "difficulty setting" because it's not immutable, which isn't something I really agree with, but I don't want to get into SJ territory just about now. But yeah. That post. Read it.

Yes, I AM wearing cat socks and a cat-head hoodie.
3. Last weekend was OryCon and I had a lot of fun! I had a reading where I read to people I didn't even know and I was on a ton of panels. Maybe too many panels? It's also awesome to have a con that I can bike and take public transportation to. While I'm usually far more into the lit-only cons, and OryCon is a more general lit + media + costuming + filk con, it's still my local con now so I'm going to it for as long as Portland will have me.

4. While at OryCon I went to a number of great panels (that I wasn't on). One of the best was a panel about how to write faster. I am not a fast writer, at all. I mean, I've written a ton of short stories, but when it comes to long-form stuff I work at a snail's pace, probably because I don't like writing novels all that much. But I want to write them! Which means I need to write faster. I picked up a copy of Rachel Aaron's ebook 2k to 10k on a panel recommendation. It's really short, so I finished it in about an hour. A lot of the advice is geared toward plotters instead of pantsers (definition: a plotter is someone who charts out their novel in advance, a pantser is someone who just starts writing and lets stuff happen) and I am most definitely a pantser.

But if I want to write novels and especially series of novels (which isn't necessarily something I want to do... but I may anyway), I think I'm going to have to learn to plot. Just a little. Nothing super detailed, because honestly, that would take a LOT of the fun out of writing for me. However, while going through my final final yes it's final this time maybe novel revision, I did notice inconsistencies. A lot of inconsistencies. Some my beta readers (I love you both!) noticed, but some only I did. And you know, it would have been much better to figure all that out in advance before wasting a ton of words on it. Even just writing a sentence per chapter indicating the month and where I was in the plot would have kept certain things straight. So... I'm plotting my next long-form project (a novella) and seeing how that goes.

Aaron also gives the advice to put your book onto a Kindle so you can read it like a reader would. It's the simplest idea that I've never even considered doing. I've read through the novel several times of course, but on Word, where I can make changes (and did). On a Kindle you can't make changes to the text, just jot things down on a pad. Brilliant! This is something I will do for sure after completing the final-really-maybe version of the book. (Well, I'm going to sit on it for a few months first, because of The Clarity of Distance.)

5. Speaking of ebooks, here's one you can buy. See how smooth that was? I am a marketing genius.

6. If you're into flash fiction, there's a new site called QuarterReads where you can buy forty hand-selected short stories for only $10! I have a page on there, and a few of those stories aren't available anywhere on the Web (and won't be), so QR is your best bet for reading them if you don't want to pick up their respective anthologies. Or you can read other people's stories too! It's only the price of two hypothetical fancy lattes that people who are not me drink every single day.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Take My Class!

Do you live in Portland? Do you want to learn more about the craft of speculative fiction: how to work from a prompt, how to bring together ideas and characters and plot into a cohesive whole, how to critique both published and peer work, how to submit your own stories for publication? And do you want to take this class with... me?? Well, now you can! This coming semester I'll be teaching a four-week workshop at Portland Community College. Here are the details:

Title: Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy
Dates: January 24 through February 14, 2015 (Saturday)
Time: 10:00 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Cascade Campus in North Portland, 705 N. Killingsworth St.
Cost: $55

The class will be largely focused on flash due to the short time frame, but it's truly open to any speculative genre. There will be lots of in-class writing and critique time. For more information, go to the PCC Community Education site (the class will be listed on November 10), email me, or reply to this post.

In other news, this weekend is OryCon, i.e. the only convention I'll be going to this year. I'm really looking forward to it! Come join all the people on the West Coast who couldn't afford to travel to the World Fantasy Convention this year. We have food carts, that's all I'm sayin'.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Anachronisms Aren't Just for Historicals

So as I've mentioned a time or thirty-seven, I'm working on a novel. I've been intermittently (usually very intermittently) working on this novel since 2005. And I've run into a curious problem: for a novel set in the present day, which isn't even really about technology, it's absolutely littered with anachronisms.

I'm an old Millennial (or perhaps Xennial... nah, that's dumb). DVDs didn't hit the scene until I was in high school. While the Internet certainly existed prior to 1997, I didn't know about it, and I didn't actually "buckle my seat belt and take a wild trip on the Information Superhighway" until the following year. I grew up in a small town in the Rust Belt which put me about three years behind the coastal elites when it came to cutting-edge technology.

My novel, likewise, takes place in a small town in the Rust Belt, present day. My character is only a few years younger than I was when I wrote the book. A lot of it is based on real life, okay? And even in 2005, there were still a lot of college students who didn't own cell phones. Most nineteen-year-olds still knew what a VHS tape was. The Internet was certainly more of a thing than it was when I was nineteen, but we didn't carry it in our pockets. Not in the Pittsburgh area, anyway. Social media was, uh, LiveJournal and Friendster. Texts cost a quarter to send so nobody did. It was a simpler time.

No Millennial can parse this image.

The novel is still set in the present day, except it's the present day of 2014, not the present day of 2005. Nine years shouldn't make that much of a difference, right? WRONG. It changes everything! I had to rewrite several sections of the book to allow for a cell phone, because even in a crappy Rust Belt small town, even a working-class nineteen-year-old will always have one, and it's going to have a data plan. The character has likely used the Internet her entire life, instead of it being introduced to her around age thirteen or so. Due to other factors, the main character cannot be aged up. Solution: many more references to cell phones (up from zero), some indication of the existence of social media, and a global find-and-replace on every instance of the word "tape." (It's been replaced with "synergy." People connect pieces of paper together with Scotch synergy.)

But even when I modernized a lot of the technology, there were still some anachronistic idioms that needed excising, which I didn't even see because again, I'm too goddamn old. Like describing the main character's vision as being like a videocassette that's been taped over too many times. Someone born in 1981 (or even 1986, which could roughly be construed as her original birth year) knows exactly what this means. Someone born in 1995? Not so much. And I actually had to research what bands "the kids" consider cool now, instead of allowing her to listen to the same music I did/do listen to.

Even though I updated the tech, I'm still not so sure I did a bang-up job of modernizing this novel. As an example, the main character is rather withdrawn and sullen for much of the book, but she never loses herself in the black hole of the Internet*, which is totally something I would have done as a withdrawn sullen older teen. She goes on walks or bike rides instead. Do teens do this now? I'm not sure they do, but she still does, because it's more interesting to take a character on a stroll than to say "well, she was depressed so she just read Tumblr for four hours." There isn't a sense of "constant connection" and most of the conversations still take place face-to-face. I did briefly consider setting the novel in the early aughts or even backtracking to the nineties, but that seemed like even more work and there was no good reason to set it in what is now the past.

So glad this rewrite is almost behind me. I'm also pretty sure that I don't want to write any more novels set in the current era whose characters are so much younger than me. But that's okay. The world still needs books with characters in their thirties, or books that take place in completely fabricated worlds, right?

*Speaking of black holes, there's a TV Tropes page for this phenomenon: Unintentional Period Piece. You have been warned!

Monday, October 27, 2014

My OryCon Schedule

I have an interview up at the Weightless Books blog, talking about Portland, the Codex Writers Group, how boring novels are to write, and more. Check it out!

Also, I'll be at OryCon two weekends from now, November 7-9 and will be on a mess of panels. Here's my schedule:


1:00 - 1:30PM:  Erica Satifka Reading - Erica Satifka reads from her own works. (Eek!)

2:00 - 3:00PM: Woman in the Fridge - You need to give your hero a reason to do something. Quick! Kill his girlfriend and have him discover her stuffed in the fridge! Come have a respectful discussion on avoiding misogynist tropes in your fiction. MeiLin Miranda, Erik Wecks, Sheila Simonson, Diana Francis (M), Erica L. Satifka

3:00 - 4:00PM: Green Tree, Blue Tree, Purple Tree - What are some exotic ideas that could actually work based on current knowledge? Erica L. Satifka, Richard A. Lovett, Jessica F. Hebert, Daniel H. Wilson (M)

4:00 - 5:00PM: Workshop: Story Outline in an Hour - Bring something to write on and write with. You'll have an outline (or a good start) to a story by the end of this panel. Bonus--this would be a great head start to that creative writing class homework you're ignoring over the weekend. Erica L. Satifka, Frog Jones (M), Jason Andrew

5:00 - 6:00PM: Getting Your First Professional Sale - An author can struggle for months or years before achieving their first success, but even after writing their opus, they can be tripped up by a process which is both entirely new to them and yet critical to their success. This panel describes what an author may experience as they revel in their first success. Shawna Reppert (M), Annie Bellet, Erica L. Satifka, Kristin Landon, Devon Monk


10:00 - 11:00AM: What I Wish I Would Have Known: Pitfalls for New Writers - All the things writers should know going in, from craft to scams, and what our panelists wish they'd known. Erica L. Satifka, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Dean Wells, John Hedtke, Mike Moscoe

1:00 - 2:00PM: Backstory: Too Much, Too Little, Just Right - What to use, what to lose. Writing the details without having to explain every last one. G. David Nordley, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, John C. Bunnell (M), Erica L. Satifka, Matthew Hughes

3:00 - 4:00PM: Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading - Join members of Broad Universe--an organization dedicated to women in genre fiction--for a whole bunch of really short readings crammed into one hour. MeiLin Miranda, Shawna Reppert, Erica L. Satifka, Susan R. Matthews


10:00 - 11:00AM: Organizing a Successful Critique Group - A good critique group can make or break a writer. Different types of critique groups, the lifespan of a group, ground rules, ideal numbers, etc. Clayton Callahan, Erica L. Satifka (M), Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Edd Vick

1:00 - 2:00PM: Fiction in a Flash - Short fiction for a world of compressed time--flash and tweetable micro-fiction. Common pitfalls, quirks, problems and teh awesome inherent in the very short form. Jennifer Linnaea, Jason Andrew, Esther Jones, Erica L. Satifka (M)

Whew! Anyway, it's at the DoubleTree Hotel right next to the Lloyd Center in beautiful Portland, Oregon. Come check it out, and make sure to stop in the mall to visit the Suncoast Video.