Saturday, December 19, 2009

48 Days

The manuscript went out to my publisher yesterday. Thanks to nano and encouragement from my lovely wife, it went from blank page to submitted in 48 days.

As usual, the most annoying and aggravating part was taking the pictures. Anything I do alone can be pretty efficient. Efficiency seems to drop and flakiness increase each time another person or a piece of equipment, especially a camera, gets involved.

Thanks largely to Rick P. the efficiency problem was shot, staked through the heart and buried, decapitated at a crossroads with silver coins in the grave and rosemary and garlic in the mouth.

Take that, inefficiency!

48 days. Not bad. Especially since it is very likely to sell. "Meditations on Violence" was the publisher's best seller for 2008 and they probably wanted something to follow it with.

Hmmm. This was just one big brag. Book off here; C.S. sale there... very good time to be an INKer.

Friday, December 11, 2009

First Sale.

Okay, yes, it's true. I've made my first sale. I've been in touch with my editor and you can look for my story 'Ash' in a fall 2010 issue of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.

Thank you INK for being my first readers, critiquers, and pushers to keep sending it out, especially Kami whom I thought I heard once, over the phone, sharpening bamboo shoots in preparation for shoving under my nails if I didn't keep trying. Thank you, thank you.

Ah, the First Sale is sweet, like nectar of the gods.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Public Service Announcement

It's not my place to announce this, but since certain elements who shall not be named but whose initials are probably C.S. Cole is falling down on the job...

C.S. Cole sold a story to a well known and well respected Australian magazine. I thought that was an oxymoron, but I have been assured it is true and it is not necessary to hold said magazine upside down to read it.

This means that all active duty members of INK are professionally published. Statistically, this would imply that joining INK is a great way to get published. Hmmm. Plus the groupies.

Life is good.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Loving the Process

I'm a short story's length within the 50,000 word Nanowrimo goal. How long the book will turn out to be, I really have no clue. Normally I have all kinds of clue by the 40,000+ word mark. I think I'm about 2/3rds done, but depending on how the plot twists and turns, I might only be halfway, or I might be within 20,000 words of The End.

Nanoing this year has felt a little weird, but a good weird. I feel really free. I've accepted the idea that I have enough writing skills that I don't have to rewrite something to death. If I go back through, it'll be to clean up details, not to 'polish.'

If I think about it in terms of rice, I like brown rice way better than the super-polished stuff anyway. Wild rice is full of awesome too. Somewhere along the way I stopped learning and improving when I rewrote something and started making my writing worse. I've had this proved to me many times now. So, enough.

That gives me much more time to develop new work and play in new stories and revisit ideas that I loved but sadly polished into a little bead that had about as much life in it as expired corn starch. That allows me to move on to the next story, whether it's the next in a series or the next in a whole new universe. And if I want to enrich a story with details or something, I'll have more time to do that if I'm not obsessing on the line by line on an extensive polish.

It's made me a little more careful about how I write those words as they land on the page, but it hasn't slowed me down all that much. Again, I've got over 43,000 words on the 16th day of Nanowrimo, and I haven't been writing non-stop. We've done housework and gone to meetings and such. I've been living a pretty normal life. I've been sick too.

I can do this. I can be a full time writer with this process, and produce more good stuff that I've ever dreamed I could. Plus, I'm not going back and ruining what I do write. Bonus!

But I'll always need my critique group, I think. I need to keep a sharp eye on what I miss, and what doesn't work, especially if it's a pattern with me. I already know I could do a lot more with setting. So as I go forward, I'm going to keep hunting for those weaknesses, and I'll depend on the Lucky Labs and INKers to help me out (and keep me motivated too.)

Done and Not

By nano standards, the book is done. Broke the 50k mark yesterday. It's not actually done yet. I am not quite halfway through the last chapter. I think two days for that... then bibliography, acknowledgements, a table of contents. Possibly indexing. Go through looking for all the little places that say "XXX Research and cite XXX" (XXX makes a 'find' function very easy.)

Then the choice- send to first readers or directly to my editor. It's strong enough to go out, but I have some very fine first readers, subject matter experts who can add a lot in terms of insights and supporting anecdotes. Decisions, decisions.

Hats off to Nano and the INKers. It really got me off my ass for this project and potentially put me a year ahead on my goals.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Over 19K on the new book in the first six days and wrote a flash fiction piece last night. Things are rolling.

I don't usually write fiction. The non-fiction that I write is personal, exploratory and digging into things that are off the map for most people- 'Here be Dragons". Think Charles Darwin and "The Voyage of the Beagle."

In 19,000 words, in the rush to get the ideas onto paper the process has really streamlined. The book, "7" expands on one of the themes in "Meditation on Violence". I think it may make most of MoV and most of everything written on the subject of the genesis of violence obsolete. Connections and classifications are falling together in a way that I knew was missing form MoV. The process, the ability to see the connections at speed has been a gift of grace.

This may just be the first blush of passion. With a few weeks to re-read and consider I may find the holes, notice what is missing. But this second it looks good. Very good. That doesn't mean it will be a good book- "The Origin of Species" was quite a plow- but the idea seems critical and solid.

Yesterday I spoke at a local college for a Criminal Justice class- mostly on how to recognize and avoid when your ego was getting sucked into a Monkey Dance. The new material let me teach it with more depth and more utility than ever before.

This has the potential to be very, very good.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ready, Set, NaNoWriMo Begins.

4188 words this morning logged in beginning at the stroke of midnight. Naturally, as the past three years tradition holds, I can't log into the website to register anything and countless email requests for a new password has been sent. If this year is anything like last year, come day eleven, I'll get a flurry of email replies with countless password resets. Anything received earlier would just get lost in the typical NaNo server crash(es). So typical. So NaNo season!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Things Fall Apart...

...the Center cannot hold.

I may have that backwards.  It's a wonderful poem, though.

Alright, INKERs, what's the deal?  No goals updated, no meetings planned... is this because I came back from Iraq and you no longer have the safety of keeping me at Skype distance?  I don't bite.  Much. Only Kami. Unless I can't create space any other way.  Or I want to see the looks on their faces when they realized the mistake in thinking they were fighting a civilized human being....

But I digress. Ahem. Nano is upon us. Who is in?  I'm not particularly interested, but I'll do 50000 words in 30 days if anyone cares to throw down the gauntlet.  To sweeten the deal, I'll even do fiction.

I think, IMHO, INK is and should be more than a critique group.  Critique groups are cheap (and easy and rarely more help than aggravation/drama).  INK should  be what writers need: part networking, part a good kick in the ass when people get lazy, and part professional advice.

Time to stand and deliver, me hearties.  The center canna' hold.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

INK news.

Welcoming back Kami from the 2-week Kris and Dean's Master's Writing Class. She's got lots of good info over at her blog at

Also in the news, allow me to introduce OryCon's Open Read & Critique (ORC) Coordinators for this year - Curtis Chen and DeeAnn Sole. I think the ORCs are in very good hands.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

We've got a winner! Friend of INK Ken Scholes' 200-word Writing Contest.

Cross-posted from CSCole's LiveJournal page:

Today, after battling with our broken washer yet again (it's a goner for certain now), I discovered something that has put definite Squee! back into my step.

I did well in Ken Scholes' 200 word "The Tim Machine" contest. The contest was judged by three distinguished writers: maryrobinette, princessalethea, and jaylake.

I was just mentioning, reminding, Steve that Ken's latest book, CANTICLE" was getting ready to make it's debut and it was the one book purchase budgeted for this fall/winter. One guess as to what one of the contest prizes was.

OMG with Raspberry sauce on the side! An ARC copy of CANTICLE! THANK YOU, KEN! THANK YOU JUDGES!

Trust me, much dancing will occur throughout the rest of the week. MUCH dancing.

Please stop by Ken's LJ post here to read most of the other stories entered. All are incredible. All made me wish I were a better writer. To be included in this group is every bit as exciting as winning. Bravo to all!

Ken asked on his LiveJournal page if I might post my story. You can read it HERE. Naturally, after rereading it for the first time in months, I see so many flaws in it, I want to tear my hair out. I guess I just might be starting to understand the point of rewrites after all.

(P.S. The opening line from my story was a prompt used during a writing exercise at a late spring INK meeting. Kami and Steve might recognize it from then. I'm never going to pass up using prompts for exercise again.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chick Lit, Dick Lit: Really Not So Different.

Chick Lit, a genre sub-set of young women's fictional literature, is a term that sets my teeth on edge. Though I have read and own enough chick lit to know what it is, I am most definitely not a fan. For the record, I never understood the popularity of "Sex and the City" or 'Sex in the City" or whatever that series/movie was called either; the TV equivalent to chick lit. Too much whining. Too much flip-flopping. No one knows what they want. Bores me to tears.

No, I lean more toward male-oriented fiction both in my writing and reading. Sometimes I enjoy the rare intelligent, strong fictional woman's story (TRULY intelligent and strong which is much, much harder to create than that would seem - it shouldn't be because the writer tells me that's what their female lead is [I've read way too much of that lately and am just as guilty of writing it myself]).

Lately I've begun to realize what I'm writing and reading are really just men's versions of chick lit, complete with all the whining, and after mentioning it to INK member Steve, he came up with the correct terminology for it - Dick Lit. Crude, yes, but right on the money.

Steve isn't a crude man but he's observant. He knows chick lit, has read it and understands it, and he knows all too well most of what I've written and the demographic to whom I direct most of my writing efforts toward. His term 'Dick Lit' nails it square. Though I have my doubts, I hope someday he gets credit for it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Submission Machine

I went on a total submission spree.  Now almost all my inventory is out, leaving the remaining few still at home whining about when it's going to be their turn.  I've got seven things out at the moment.  That's not bad for someone who doesn't usually write short stories, eh?  I've got three 'problem children' I'd like to tweak a bit before sending them out again and a few more that I'm not quite satisfied with enough to debut.  If I can get all of that done and away out the door, I think I'll have a non-zero chance of making a second sale.  

Not a shabby August so far, not at all.

I've upped my month goals because I finished them, and it's only the 6th.  I've got to have at least a shot at failure here!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Another nice rejection

I tell ya, all these kind and helpful rejections are neat, so it's hard to complain.  But three days in a row and one last week--woof!  Between stories I'm revising because I thought of something that might bring them up to the next level, and stories that just came back, half my inventory is at home right now, festering.

Stories fester when they're at home, you know.  They need a wild ride in the mail or through the phosphors and then they like to wait on desks or in editorial hard drives where they can chat with other manuscripts and drink too much and party.  Sometimes, when they've just come back, they're lively and have lots of things to say to the other stories who've been stuck at home, but they quickly grow morose.  Then the festering begins, usually with some discoloration, and then the smell.  If that doesn't get your attention, they can ooze like nobody's business.

It's easier to avoid the whole festering thing and keep them in circulation.  Everyone's happier that way.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another one for the collection

I have a new rejection slip today, a coveted signed and personalized rejection slip on white paper from a market well known for it's half-page "blue rejection slips of death."  As an avid collector of rejections, it's always fun to get a new kind, especially a hard-to-procure sort.  BTW, those blue form rejections are a neat collector's item in and of themselves, since they're the only ones on colored paper I get.  I've heard a rumor about one for a poetry market that has a poem and is quite lovely to look at.  If I wrote poetry I would totally submit to that market to get one (assuming that I didn't make the cut and get a sale.  Hmm, would I then be so bold as to request that they send me a form rejection with my contract so that I can have a copy?  Hee--I'd love to have those kinds of problems.)  

Anyway, now I have to get these stories back out.  Rejection slips come in waves, I've noticed, so after having nothing to do but write for a long period, I suddenly have to start shoveling things out the door before they pile up.  My marketing muscles atrophy between waves, I suspect, because I don't have a deep enough portfolio of fiction.  That'll change as I write more short stories, but it won't change fast.  Although I think I've improved my craft in the short story department, I'm still a novelist at heart, therefore I spend most of my writing time on novels.  Eventually I may have enough short stories in final form that I'll be sending stuff out all the time.  Hmm.  That may not necessarily be a good thing.

It's hot hot hot today, a good day to stay home and write, especially if you have AC or a nice basement office.  (Mmmm, basement ....)  But first (I guess, *pout*) I will see about sending my stories back out into the world.  Stay cool today, INKers and Friends of INK.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Catching their attention

I got a nice rejection today.  Part of it said: 
The story caught our attention but after consideration we’ve decided it’s not a piece
we can use.
Not too shabby, I say.  

My distractions are piling up, but writing is still happening.  I've been mainly editing novels and frowning at my legless story.  It'll all come together.  The part that's sticky right now is that I've got all of four days to send out an agent query or I'll have failed my goals for the month.  Ackity ack acka ack.  I always procrastinate with those things.  But I haven't been idle.  I've been reading Query Shark, and thinking about what the strongest thread in my novel is so that I don't muddy the synopsis with dumb stuff.  You know, the stuff that everyone, especially me, feels is so critical to the story but everyone with a few synapses firing in their brains and a somewhat-accurate memory of what the novel is about knows is just window dressing?  That stuff, the stuff I want to leave out.  If only it was color coded or something.  

Anyway, I'll get it done soon.  I'd better, or I'll owe the group a buck at a time I really ought to be saving my bucks.  Four days may seem like a lot of time, but it really isn't, especially since I want to try a fresh take on that synopsis.  It's not quite right as it stands.  I can do better.  I will, and I must do better.  

Gee, I haven't even got to the hard part yet, you know, the part where the book is out and I'm trying to build interest while still working on other books.  This is the easy part, y'know, even though it drags on and on.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Write What You Know...

... but maybe not the way you know it.

 "Write what you know" is an adage for both fiction and non-fiction writers, but there is another side to it. When you really know something, especially something that is based on precise, immediate action in very tense situations a lot of 'what you know' has to be forced down to a subconscious level.  It develops a psychological shorthand.  Things that are esoteric to outsiders are too obvious to be worth mentioning to insiders.
That's the thing- if you are writing for outsiders it is all about the things that aren't worth mentioning to insiders.  There are things that I have forgotten how I learned.  That's a problem with 'write what you know'.

The critiques are trickling in from the first readers, and they are doing exactly what I need. 

My first readers are pointing out the jargon, the places where I skipped steps in explanation (remember your algebra teacher in high school saying "show your work" and you only cared that the answer was right?).  A few places where there is some darkness behind what I have left out or masked with some grim humor that won't play... because the lessons are in the dark things that I don't want to say, the things that pro to pro would be considered seeking validation or attention.  Professional to outsider the dynamic is different and there's not a lot of experience here. Which is why there is a market for this book.

I'm actually starting to get very excited about the re-write.  But it will wait until I can synthesize all the critiques.

Thanks, readers. 

Saturday, July 11, 2009

First Draft

Smoking a nargilah with orange tobacco as the sun set over the Pir Magroon mountains, I finished the first draft of "A Citizen's Guide to Police Use of Force".  It is a good day.  A fine Islay scotch, Ardbeg or perhaps Smokehead would make it better but, alas, I am not in the place for that.

The manuscript is done- for now.  Not yet dead with a stake through its heart and buried at the crossroads, but for now, she is no longer a threat to the poor villagers.  I have contacted the First Readers, that secret cabal of SMEs (Subject Matter Experts), professionals, writers and concerned citizens who will show me the flaws.  Some will brave the challenge, some will come up with whiny little excuses about not having time- such is the way of all quests.

It's a pretty good feeling.  And fellow INKers- you're drafted.  We don't accept no stinking excuses from our own!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Next INK - July 17th.

Next INK meeting is coming up, July 17th to be precise, at the usual summer venue in Vancouver. Deadline for critique material is one week beforehand. That means today, up until midnight, stuff for critique will be accepted. So far (10 a.m. Friday July 10th), there is nothing on tap to critique.

Don't you just hate it when time sneaks up on you?

At the last INK meeting, writer Mark Jones pulled off what I personally felt was missing in my own writing life -- Talking with excitement on the Joys of Submitting Stories. Thank you Mark! I don't know what exactly you said but it got me up off my butt and I've submitted three stories in the past week. Still looking for a market for a fourth but I'm confident that I'll regain my, um, confidence in that regard.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fever Blabber

The bombs bursting in the air must have inspired a dark streak in me.  I wrote and shipped off a flash tonight.  Again, it's another one of those will or won't work situations that I don't think I ought to be wasting critique group time with.  Yea or nay can come from an editor.

I'm feverish and snurky.  Stupid cold.  My kids are all better, but I'm just starting to get really sick with the being tired all the time and cough and sneezing and ongoing drainage.  I fell asleep on top of my covers in my clothes last night, woke up at 5am feeling like hash browns that had fallen onto a burner that had just been switched off.  I ended up going back to bed a few hours later, and didn't wake up until 2pm.  Feels like my whole day was wasted, and yet, writing happened.

In marketing news, Brain Harvest is putting on a little contest.  Check out the specs at the Brain Harvest Mega Challenge page.  Jeff VanderMeer will be the guest judge.  It doesn't get much more awesome than that, and yet, there's the possibility of winning a hand-knitted mustache in addition to the cash and accolades.  I'd like to see some INKers and Friends of INK use this contest as an excuse for writing a story based on a prompt (or several prompts.)  Who will take the challenge?  Kami wants to know.  The contest runs from July 15-August 31, so there's plenty of time and therefore no excuses.  Embrace (or eat) the Nike ad.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Flash Bang

Last night I got the most hilarious, inspiring rejection evah.  The awesomeness cannot be described without going into long descriptions of the story combined with evasive language in relation to the contents of the letter.  Alas, I don't think it would be a good idea to post the rejection here even though it probably wouldn't cause problems in the highly unlikely event that this got back to the editor.  But I think the greeting says it all.  Not hi, not dear ms, but argh!  Complete with exclamation point.  

I love my job.  Heh.

Near misses, no matter how kewl or how close, are still misses, so the little flash got sent out again to an actual print magazine.  I had a wonderful, grinchy idea in regard to this story, so if it misses again, I may have to do evil unto it.  I like the story the way it is, so I'm reluctant to play with it, but at the same time I think the idea is sound, so another rejection will be my excuse to open up that file and open up new scenes.  Sadly, once that happens, it will never be a flash again.    

Friday, June 26, 2009

Kami's State of the Writing

Lately I've been having trouble with ideas.  Oh, I have lots of ideas.  I even have some frozen embryonic stories that I can take out and ... okay, ew factor just set in.

But lately I've been dissatisfied with my ideas in general.  I don't want just any story idea.  I want one with that special something, you know?  It doesn't have to be unique, or pretty, or smart.  It does have to resonate.  I have to feel it in my guts, get that special tingly thrill, and when I work on it, have unnoticed hours go by before I look up from the page.  

Long walks and hot baths are in order.  In the meantime, I've got my novels.  I can live there happily for a very long time.  Still, it would be nice to have a short story come grab me by the throat before Tuesday's write-in with my writing pals.  I'll be looking at contests, prompts and anthologies in an attempt to spark something in time for that.  If none of that does the trick, I'll just have to work with what I've got.  

I want to produce, which means that I must produce.  Letting vague feelings of dissatisfaction get in the way of writing might lead to a habit of waiting until I 'feel right' to write, which might eventually grow into full-blown short story block.  I love writing shorts, and I don't want to go a really long time without writing one.  It's incredibly satisfying to write something and have it done in a month (sometimes even in a day!) and a great way to break a pattern of rhythm in a rut that can sometimes form when I'm working on novels, or worse, a single novel, every day all day.  As fun as it is to be immersed in a novel, there's a constant danger of complacency.  When I'm complacent, I'm more forgiving and apt to overlook things.  It's much more fun to work on a short story for a while and come back to the novel than to do the only other thing I've found to break the highway hypnosis, and that's to work from the back of the book forward.  I can do it, but I'm not real fond of it.

So that's where I'm at with writing these days.  That and trying to ditch this cold.  Oh, and I have a couple of short stories that are 'overdue.'  I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

June INK

INK tonight in Vancouver! Lovely summer weather, homemade pizza (sorry Rory!), old and new friends, and critiques. Can life get any better?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Go J.D. Salinger!

Snagged from Gurnery Journey, a blog focused on art written by the wonderful creator of Dinotopia.

Want to write a derivative work?  Seriously, think twice.  Do your own stuff.  Someone writing under the pseudonym J.D. California wrote a sequel to "Catcher in the Rye," perhaps not knowing that J.D. Salinger not only is alive and kicking, but litigious.  So now there's a lawsuit.  Even if J.D. Salinger wasn't so inclined, really, do you want to hazard the chance of something like this happening to you?

I wonder if pseudo-California has ever heard of the term fanfic.

Maybe you're lucky enough that you feel your heart and soul is inspired by a work that happens to be in the public domain.  Good.  And yet, wouldn't it be better to rename the characters, twist the setting in a direction that resonates with your plot (or do some research and deepen the setting in a way the original author didn't explore) and let the characters grow with the challenges you place before them ... in short, writing an original work inspired by the book?  You'll have something that's completely your own, and by the time you finish revising and restructuring and hammering out the details of your world, I doubt anyone will recognize what you've done.  Plus, people may notice the tone or themes or characterization and nicely note that the work "is reminiscent of the works of J.D. Salinger, but with a present-day edge informed by the politics of 21st century Sweden."

I wish Mr. Salinger well.  

Now I'm curious to see how the whole Potato Day (Stephanie Meyer fanfic Fail that I won't link to so that it reduces traffic) thing is doing.  Hmm ... looks like she altered her page to be in EspaƱol.  Does she think this will save her?  I thought she would fade away after being met with lawyerly threats, but it seems she persists.  I think she wants to get sued for $100,000 and spend time in jail.  Weee!  She's got to be one of those people who believe that if nothing bad has happened yet, it won't.  Wow.  The fail, it burns!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Beneath Ceaseless Skies

My short fantasy, "Thistles and Barley," is up on Beneath Ceaseless Skies #18 (June 2009.)  I'm very pleased to be in the same issue as Renee Stern, a Seattle-ish author and member of the very kewl Fairwood Writers.  

I met Renee at CascadiaCon, the same event where I met Jay Lake for the first time.  Quibblers may say something about 'met for the first time' as being redundant, but at conventions, people meet over and over again until finally they actually recognize each other.  For quite a few years I played a fun game with one wonderful author in particular, where I would introduce myself to him and, without any cues like "we met at OryCon," see if he recognized me at all--didn't have to be my name.  A double-take, "didn't I see you somewhere before?" or even a ruffled brow would have counted, at which point I would 'fess up.  He was particularly bad with names and faces, and so I was able to enjoy meeting him as if for the first time for quite a few years before he did finally recognize me.

But I digress.  Renee has been very kind to me.  She works hard to create opportunities for new writers to meet other writers and workshop their manuscripts.  If you're planning to go a Seattle convention, be sure to look for the opportunities Fairwood Writers creates.  Remember, deadlines for things like writers workshops come long before the convention begins, so don't dilly-dally before searching for information about writer-oriented events.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is a free magazine.  If you like reading fantasy shorts, please subscribe, and spread the word.  It's getting good reviews.  By the way, there's a review of each issue in the Internet Review of Science Fiction by Lois Tilton in her short fiction review column.  It appears that next month (July 2009) it'll be my turn.  Gulp.  If Ms. Tilton's tastes align with your own, the column could be a great resource as a what-to-read guide.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Craft, She is Huge!

I sent out four new submissions recently, and I'm looking at sending out my very first non-fiction proposals.  I also went to the Lucky Labs meeting yesterday (it seems like forever since I've been!) and had a pint.

I felt like the meeting went well, but then I didn't get my story piled on.  It can get tough when there's a consensus, and the consensus is, 'this didn't work for me,' followed by an explanation of everything that went wrong.

Which brings me to abandonment.  The thing about writing is, like every other skill, it requires practice.  That includes practice of every aspect of writing.  I'm sure I'll miss some, but these are basic areas of writing that need lots of practice:

* Spelling and grammar
* Starting a project effectively
* Finishing a first draft
* Managing a first edit
* Receiving/understanding feedback
* Employing feedback
* Deep revision (where no element is held sacred)
* Polishing (also known as line editing)
* Tightening, or loosening (most people need to tighten)
* Establishing voice for a piece
* Establishing authorial style
* Character development
* Enrichment of setting
* Developing a satisfactory middle (muddle)
* Creating a satisfying ending
* Creating scenes with character and plot archs
* Transitioning
* Research/life experience development
* Learning about tropes, cliche's, and norms for a given genre
* Developing a narrative flow or rhythm
* Nurturing a critical eye for your own prose
* Nurturing an analytical eye when reading in your genre
* Nurturing and honoring the creation process

These are all difficult skills.  None of them are straightforward.  For example, spelling and grammar.  You'd think that would be straightforward, but it's not.  The rules are made to be broken, but they have to be broken in a way that makes reading more, not less, of a pleasure.  What about nurturing and honoring the creation process?   That's just care and feeding of the muse, right?  Not really.  Honoring includes respecting your own writing time--daily writing.  Nurturing means you have to learn how to create, and then practice creating.  Learn about outlines, try different brainstorming techniques, take lots of baths or showers (there's something about hot water and creativity--I'm not the only one who's noticed this!)

Lots of people come out of high school thinking they can write.  On the one hand, yes they can.  On another ... there's a whole lot more to learn out there, way more than even four years of dedicated college can teach you.  The good news is that you can sell your experiments when you reach a certain stage of writing, and that certain stage might be right out of high school.  The other good news is, writing never gets boring if you're a writer at heart.  There's always something more to learn.  There's always another hill to climb.

Which wraps back around to abandonment.  You might think that a story that was (almost) universally tromped ought to just be put out of its misery.  That depends.  Has the author learned everything s/he can from the work?  In this case I think the answer is clearly no.  I felt that this author hadn't learned how to fix problem manuscripts yet.  He hadn't learned how to take and consolidate the feedback, use that to re-examine the manuscript with his own critical eye (the feedback is, after all, a set of observations and suggestions, not a job order) and, if he couldn't figure out how to fix it on his own, start reading and researching like crazy in an effort to find out how other authors have solved those problems.  

Think about it.  If a story doesn't work and you abandon it every time, yes, you might eventually learn what does work when you line up all the stories you've written that receive positive feedback and write stories just like that every time.  But there's a danger of pigeonholing yourself.  Maybe all your successful stories are about a young female abuse victim who gets the upper hand over her former abuser and is instrumental in sending him to jail forever.  Some writers make a good wage repeating the same sort of story over and over again.  I'm not going to denigrate that.  But if you can't find that niche and make a career out of that, you'll be a one hit wonder.  If that's your goal, great.  But if you really want to learn the craft, you have to learn as many items on this list as you can, and some things that are not on this list.

I invite INKers and Friends of INK to think, and even blog about, some of these elements of writing.  Each one deserves a post all by its lonely.  Or, just file it away, and get to writing.  We're wasting daylight, people!

[This article is also posted on the INK faq]

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Work Around

Got stuck the other night. There is a chapter that I know needs to be in the book but unlike the rest I don't have any personal experience in it.  The rest of the book covers some relatively rare, relatively extreme experience but this...

So I was whining about it in an e-mail to a friend... and the whine included exactly how I need to write it.  What I have seen, what it can mean, how it occurs and how it can appear.

I think I just whined my way out of a problem. That's kind of cool.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Professional Editing

This seems obvious to me, but I haven't heard anyone talking about it at conventions or read it online from someone who is an authority until now at the Query Shark blog.  There are all manners of writers, agents and editors in the world, so the usual caveats apply, but this makes sense to me:

I really don't like to hear that your book has been professionally edited.  For me, it's not the persuasive piece of information you think it is.  You think it says "my book is polished and ready to go."
What I infer is "your book was polished by someone else and god help us when we get to the edit letter from the editor, and you don't know how to do this stuff"
Freelance editors tell you a book needs to be edited before agents will look at it.  What they are doing is selling their services.  Only one of my clients employed an editor and that was for non-fiction.
All my novelists write, revise, and edit their own books.

I've seen professional editing work out for people.  The way I've seen it work is via a teacher-student relationship with easy access to those services (aka not so many clients that the freelance editor doesn't have time for your project) and with money available to go over the work again if necessary.  

Ideally the freelance editor should include notes on (generally) what was done and why.  Even better is if there's an ongoing discussion so that the writer learns how to do the editing themselves.  Then, if there's a sale and a call for further editing (and I can almost guarantee there will be a call for more editing in the case of a novel!) the writer has access to this same freelance editor (for stylistic continuity since that style in part is what sold the book--see how this becomes really important to have and be able to afford an ongoing relationship?) and they can work together (the freelance editor continuing to teach as they go) to get those changes sent back promptly to the purchasing editor.  

Being on deadline in this situation would be incredibly stressful for me.  I would be at the mercy of the freelance editor's schedule.  Ack, I say, ack!

But wait, there's more.  This freelance editor/writer relationship isn't a trivial thing.  The freelance editor needs to have some sort of motivation to teach the writer to not need them anymore.  So in comes the deeper reason for why I feel it's ideal to hire a writing teacher who does editing on the side--because the reputation for the teaching services will help bring new clients in the form of students, counter-balancing the fact that eventually the freelance editor's services won't be needed anymore if s/he is doing their teaching job right.  If there's no motivation to teach clients to fly, there's every reason for a freelance editor to keep clients dependent.

I don't think it's wise to become dependent on a freelance editor unless you're the sort of person who relies on a kind of ghost-writer relationship in the first place: basically your primary marketing angle is that you're a celebrity or expert and the writing is just a means of delivering something of interest to an existing audience.  That's why the mention of the non-fiction sale makes so much sense to me.  If you're a novelist, it really is best to learn the craft.  If you have the money, get lots of quality instruction and make that the priority over freelance editing.  With high-quality instruction you can accelerate the learning process all writers go through, and maybe even avoid some classic writing errors in the process.  

Don't expect that if you get a freelance editor to do a once-over that suddenly your manuscript will be sellable, and even if it is, that the sale is followed by a happily ever after.  It can turn out to be just the opposite.  If you get a multi-book deal, only of which the first book has been written, and you leaned heavily on professional editing, you can expect that part of your advance will be spent on purchasing ongoing services.  Considering the cost per page of editing and the state of advances, this may eat your entire advance.

Not the way I would hope to spend an advance, should I be offered one.  But that just may be me.

Friday, April 3, 2009

State of the Writing

I got a form rejection today, so that means sending out a story today.  I also finished the first draft of a story a couple days ago.  Writing the first drafts has been easy for me lately.  Finding time to edit has been less easy.  I've also been feeling voice-poor lately.  Not sure if that's rational, but something to keep an eye on.  There's a lot of flat writing out there, mainly because people don't let the character emote naturally.  

Once again art and writing parallel.  Gotta relax and not be so tight with that narrative.  Controlling too much kills the kewl.

I'm looking forward to the INK meeting tonight!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Big thanks for Kami on the help last night. I've been toying with a character idea, a very strong, very unique (I think) individual.  I was driving myself nuts trying to figure out the right POV, because the meat of this was the slow reveal of what and how the character came to be.

Kami, in her writerly wisdom, pointed out that it depended on the story.  What was the plot? Bingo.  Character studies are not stories.  Vignettes are vignettes.  The POV is to tell a story, not to revel in the POV. And whining is not character development (inside joke).

So, I have the character cold and some details about the world.  Now I just need to choose a story to tell.

Thanks, K.

Monday, March 16, 2009

They Come Like Schools of Jellyfish

What is it with rejections?  They seem to come in clusters.

Two rejections drifted in today, both of them really neat with long, graceful tentacles and phosphorescent parts.  I got a lovely signed rejection from F&SF's assistant editor (who I will not name in case this might generate unwelcome mail disguised as rewrite requests) and a highly praising, makes-me-blush kind of rejection from one of Brain Harvest's editors.  I know, it would be far more interesting if I threw a tantrum instead of looking at these as something positive and noteworthy.  I guess I'll just have to be boring, because I feel like I'm doing well, and I'm not inspired to say anything bad about these rejections.  If anything, I want to thank the editors for taking the time to respond promptly and with encouragement.

I found a brief blog entry here with some fascinating comments.  Keep reading!  There are guest appearances in the comments that you won't want to miss.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

First batch of first quarter Honorable Mentions for Writers of the Future are up:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Thanks, Kami, for arranging access.
The other INKers know me, so this is for the hordes of INK fans  (The Inklings, unofficial sex motto: "Come get an INKling"):
I'm the author of "Meditations on Violence", which has been getting pretty good reviews on Amazon and was in its second or third printing last I checked.  I've done a chapter in "The Way to Black Belt" two in "Fighter's Fact Book 2: Street Fighting Essentials" and wrote the sarcastic introduction (Marc "Animal" MacYoung wrote the sensitive introduction) to the soon to be released "Little Black Book of Violence".

So my publishing credits are all nonfiction, which is fine with me.  I actually have a problem reading most fiction because it sucks.  I have serious problems with plots that hinge on character stupidity to work; evil bad guys described by an author who wouldn't know evil (the extreme, like Saddam or Pol Pot who did things that would shock Steven King nor the mundane, like the local man who wouldn't let the neighbor molest his daughter because that was his right as the father and he didn't share); that don't understand anything about physical conflict...  I summed up genre fiction at a convention once, "It's like most of the authors have never been in a fight and only had sex- with a partner- once."  

The few fiction authors I do like have been there, done that and either write close to the bone or laugh about the unlaughable.

Non-writing stuff: Martial arts since 1981. Started working Corrections in 1991 and during that time taught officers, led a tactical team, was point man for mental health issues, worked and played with Search and Rescue and spent a lot of time with hard core criminals. Then I got bored and went to a certain dry and sandy country. Though in the mountains on the North, where I am, it has rained almost every day for two weeks.

INK blogs are more about the writing process than what I share on my personal blog. That sounds good.

Carole, Steve, Kami- thanks for the welcome. I'll try not to make anybody cry.

State of the Submissions

I have stuff out to the following places:  Wet Ink, Writers of the Future, Brain Harvest, F&SF, and Byzarium.   Oddly, four of the five are flash fiction subs, and the fifth is one of my shorter short stories, though not quite a flash.  Considering that flash is the form I find the most difficult to write, this is rather kewl and strange and funny.  It also means that I really need to work on those longer length short stories, and I really need to get some agent subs out there.  Right now I have no queries out.  None.  

After an edit I sent out a short, the one that INK looked at recently, to Lucky Labs.  Now C.S. can, if she likes, pick apart my editing style.  

I keep meaning to work on T.E.P. (aka the weird bird story) but it's a daunting project. I didn't mean for it to have parallel plots of equal weight that dovetail at the end into a (not quite there) uneasy ending.  It's so much easier to edit on Masks or one of the other novels.  That's telling to my level of (un)skill with short stories--I can dive into a novel and play for hours and the time seems to zip by, but when I approach a short story I feel like I'm handling a cactus and I don't have gloves on.  The minutes crawl by.  The only thing that's easy about editing a short story is that I can scan through the thing in just a few minutes and get a good sense of the overall pace.  That's a handy thing to be able to do.  I suppose it would be possible to do with a novel, skimming over the chapters almost as fast as a flip book, relying on intimate memory to get a sense of the overall feel.  It's something that would require practice, I think, and it wouldn't take a trivial amount of time.

I've mailed my deposit for Dean Smith's Master's Class coming up this fall.  Amazing how not that long ago it seemed that the class had been put off until the distant future, a future that now appears to be racing up on me.  I've started reading the required books for the class.  The first one is a pleasant surprise--definitely not one I would have picked up on my own.  I'm glad Dean recommended that we start with ones we're least likely to read.

So that's the state of Kami's writing.  I hope we'll meet this Friday on schedule.  See some or none of you then!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

INK member update

INK congratulates past member Cheri on a recent rewrite of her first novel and wishes her good fortune in her writing and editing future.

Great work Cheri!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Welcome to Rory!

I'd like to welcome INK's newest member, Rory Miller, author of "Meditations on Violence."  He endured our application process and emerged victorious.  About now he's probably wondering what he's gotten himself into.

Congratulations, Rory!  And congratulations to INK for gaining such a valuable member.

Stay tuned; INK is on the move.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

INK at RadCon 5A.

INK attended RadCon 5A in Pasco, Washington last weekend and it was a blast! I'm sure a picture exists somewhere that proves it but we're still looking. So much happened. So much to reflect upon. So much that could be forgotten, and may well want to be forgotten. Gosh but that convention is fun! Please visit Kami's blog for the very best of con activity. She can say it better than anyone.

RadCon debrief and regress will occur this coming Friday at the 6 p.m. INK meeting in Vancouver.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Projects update + vague stress stuff

Worked on Masks today.  I'm delving into the section that needs the most manipulation, so it's going to be scary going.  But fun.  I think there's something compelling about fresh writing.  That raw energy (if carefully harnessed) makes the situations more vibrant, especially if the changes being made aren't a noun here and a verb there, but more in the direction of plumping up the action or depth of emotion.  

It's particularly rewarding to start working on the islands section 'fresh.'  On previous edits I worked from beginning to end fairly non-stop.  So by the time I got to the island, I was already fatigued from the long editing sessions.  I'm not fatigued this time.  

I also sent off a short story to be critiqued by INK.  Depending on what they say, I'll make some changes, polish it up, and probably bounce it off of the Lucky Labs before shipping it out.  It may be one of those stories that either works or doesn't, though.  There are certainly going to be rough spots in the prose and I probably didn't go far enough with the environmental descriptions, and that's fine.  What won't be fine is if the story isn't effective.  It's short and a buttony kind of subject and if I didn't do a good job of addressing it, it may just have to be tossed.  There's no aspect of the story I can 'save' if the heart of it doesn't work.

That's a different kind of story for me.  I'm not sure if it's because I picked a controversial subject or the fact that it's very bare bones--two scenes, short on the word count, and a simple conflict.  I won't go into what I think is its main weak point.  I'll let my readers get back to me on it.  But I'm curious to see if we see the story the same way.

Radcon is coming up.  Are we ready?  I'm not sure I am.  Physically, yeah I am.  I'll have clothes, supplies, and sometime in the next three days I'm going to take the kids to shopping with me for party supplies and groceries to sustain them through the weekend.  Emotionally?  I'm a bit of a mess, and that's not going to go away.  I'm sure I can maintain, but actually enjoy the con?  That'll be a stretch.  I anticipate lots of phone calls home, and reaching out on Skype to my DH so that my family can reassure me that everything is going to be okay.

This is a good time for me to be writing on stuff that has nothing to do with my concerns for the immediate future.  If I could do something about my circumstances besides applying bandaids, I would totally focus on that, but all I can do besides first aid is to worry, and that does absolutely no good.  A little escapism into my writing may be just what I need right now.  Speaking of which, I should get back to that now.  Don't worry!  This too shall pass.  If anything I hope it passes slowly, so I can adapt and adjust and do whatever I can.  When things zip by, well, all you can do is hang on tight.  

Friday, February 6, 2009

Just a Quick Link

Jay Lake linked to an excellent blog post on writing, jealousy and the process of becoming an author.  A must-read for INKers and Friends of INK!

I'm in doubt mode with my novel right now, so I'm focusing on a couple of short stories.  I finished one last night.  I'm not sure it'll hold up in the light of day, but I'm excited about the concept.  The other one is still stuck in psychic car chase mode.  Not sure if I'll be editing the one I'm excited about or writing more first draft on the psychic car chase.  Maybe both.  And who knows?  I may break out of my sad kitty face and work on the novel after all.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Rejection Appreciation.

I just received a second rejection of the year. Another personalized one that I very much appreciated. Thank you editor!

Nope, still not considering this 'rejection.'

Gearing up for RadCon. Got all your ducks in a row yet?

Friday, January 30, 2009

INK meeting.

INK meeting tonight, the last one before RadCon5 A! Panel reviews, upcoming workshops, treasury audit, new name, info packet progress, perhaps even time for Writers Round Table. If not, Scrabble is always good for the wordiness of a writer's soul.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Year's Firsts.

WooHoo! First rejection of the year! But it was a nice, personalized one from F&SF. So wrong to call this 'rejection." Off to send that story elsewhere.

Are your stories out looking for a home? If so, congrats to you! If not, why not??

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

INK Makes John W. Campbell Pin donation.

We are proud to announce that an INK donation to the John W. Campbell Pin has been made. More information on the John W. Campbell Awards can be found here.

"As regular convention attendees will know, nominees for the Hugo Awards, World Fantasy Awards and Nebula Awards have long been given lapel pins to recognize their nominations. No such pin existed for the John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Jay Lake, a past winner for the award, has been working with Dell Magazines, the Campbell Award’s sponsor, to produce such a pin, and the design was unveiled today [editor note: August 8, 2008] at a panel at Worldcon (also attended by Stan Schmidt on behalf of Dell Magazines). The pin takes the form of a star made of five pen nibs pointing outwards. Pins are being presented to this year’s nominees, and to all past nominees and winners."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

INK meeting a success

We had a lot of bureaucratic stuff to do, and we got most of it completed.  Yay!  Dues are back in force after a short hiatus, we have some updates, some goals, some definitions, and we're exploring a change in web presence.  We'll keep y'all posted.

We've decided to donate part of our funds to a literary charitable cause.  Hopefully we didn't miss some sort of deadline.  Even if we did, I like the idea of paying our dues back into the writing community, so we'll find another one we're excited about if the one we chose doesn't pan out.

I paid a penalty for not making one of my December goals.  D'oh!  I knew that skimping out on editing Masks would bite me on the butt.  That'll learn me.

Good observations at Flights of Fantasy on some of the strange attitudes that appear with the sense of entitlement some authors have in regard to being published.  It got me thinking, so I blogged about an additional thought on that subject.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Free Financial Book

Yay! It's free it's free it's free it's free it's free!  I've enjoyed Suze Orman's books and radio shows and all that over the years.  Don't miss this chance to get a free .pdf of Suze Orman's 2009 Action Plan, available on Oprah's website.  It won't be available forever, though.  I believe it's only going to be available there until the 15th.  Don't wait!

Because we don't want to be starving artists.  That's just so cliche'!

See some of you at the INK meeting tonight.  I hope the Friends of INK have gotten a great start to the writing year, and wish you the best luck, focus and skill for 2009.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

INK meeting tomorrow!

There's an INK meeting tomorrow at the sekrit cat cave!  I can't wait!  There's lots to talk about.  Conventions, regress reports, dues, goals, events, and the ever-popular socializing and yammering about our projects.

Also, don't forget the Washougal writing meeting is on the 24rth, and Radcon is coming up fast.

See y'all soon!

Monday, January 5, 2009

And a writing goal in a pear tree

I am so looking forward to the New Year.  Yeah, yeah, live all year round, don't wait until January to make goals.  Gotcha.  Me and teh INKers have been making goals all year, thank you very much, and even meeting some.  But there is something special about January, besides it's ability to make me grind my teeth each time I write 2008, have to change it to 2009 and initial it.  Laugh if you want, but I do get caught up in the energy of all those resolutions being made at once, and it's fun to ride the energy wave, even if it washes out for most folks in February.

I was inspired enough even to make a deadline at the last minute, the WotF deadline Dec. 31st.  I made it extra hard for them to give me squat, since it was the wrong length, wrong voice, wrong everything for this particular contest, but you know, the dumbest thing that writers do is reject their own material.  It's genre.  It's within the listed word count.  It qualifies in every way.  I may not be playing the contest smart, but I'm playing, and I'll let the judges decide how ridiculous I was to try with this one.

In the meantime I'm working on yet another short, a non-fiction project, and a novel in a pear tree.  Oops, wrong season for that sort of thing.  Sorry!  My goal this year--let not my publishing credit be a fluke!  Into the breach once more, my friends!  A writing career awaits!