Cephalosomething

squid-earrings

Squid Earrings from BitsNBots on Etsy! I think they’re cute. Click the pic to go to the shop.

A short time ago, I looked at the entropy section of this site where I list the stories I’m working on. I was disturbed by the fact that there are several which are dear to me, but have been sitting on the shelf for too long.

I’m changing a few things with the new year, including making a plan to finish or at least move forward with them, starting with those I think are most marketable. Contrariwise, I’m starting by writing a story that is NOT one of these, but that is because I intend to enter the story into a contest for which one of the rules is that it can’t be part of something already published.

Meanwhile, I spent yesterday morning in the ER. I have a kidney infection, and am now resting up and taking my prescriptions according to the doc’s instructions. My antibiotic is cephlo-something, which makes me think of squid, but apparently it’s not related. Go figure.

As for my ROW80 update, my very simple goal of writing something six days a week and not stressing over exact wordcounts is going well. It’s what I need to do at this precise point in my career. A lot of it is by hand, which is freeing in many ways.

Have you ever picked up something that’s been on the shelf for a while? Did it change significantly for the wait?

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No Word Count

excerpt-airship-princessA new year and a new Round of Words in 80 Days!

I am trying something new this round. I’m working on a novel, and I’m writing it by hand.

Although I usually type my stories straight into MS Word, I have written several of the stories in The Cities of Luna in lab notebooks. They’re just the right size for a five to ten thousand word short. When I transcribe them, it automatically becomes revision one because I edit and revise as I transcribe.

This is the first time I’m doing it for a novel-length work. I expect it will take a half dozen notebooks. I average about 150 words per page, and there are a hundred pages in each.

When I first started posting with ROW80, I kept track of how many words I wrote in the blog, in my WIP, and whatever else I had going that week. It pleased my OCD to have this detailed information, but it was exhausting. I soon switched to simply reporting the wordcount in my WIP and just noting that I’d done a blog post or two.

Short stories don’t have chapter breaks. I know if I fill close to half the notebook, my story will be over five thousand words. I don’t need to know the exact wordcount until I transcribe it.

In the past few weeks, it’s bothered me that I don’t know my exact wordcount. I don’t know how many words I had when I sat down to write, and how many words I had when I stopped. I have no idea whether I’m ever reaching the magic rate of 1k/hr, and there’s no way to tell if I reach the ever-evasive 2k/hr.

Yet, this also means I can not obsess over my wordcount. I sit down with my notebook, either at home or while I’m out with the kids. (This is one big advantage of writing by hand.) I start writing, and I keep writing, only allowing myself brief internet checks on my cell phone to figure out something like the altitude of the Kármán line, (100 km, by the way) or to pick a character name. I’m finding myself getting more done, even though I can’t back that up with an actual wordcount.

So, for the ROW80 goals…

Write at least a page or two six days a week.

That simple. If I sit down to write a page, I usually write more. But I’m not keeping close track. Next round, I might go back to writing directly into MS Word. I will definitely have different goals then.

It will be the spring.

And…

THINGS

…are happening in the spring!

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And Now, For Something Completely Different…

space-foundation-globe-5x7Well, not completely different. But I am steering my career in the direction I want it to go, working on long-term goals.

I was honored to be selected as a semifinalist in the Futurescapes Writing Contest. I’m eagerly awaiting the announcement of the winner and finalists! The results of the contest could affect the twists and turns of my writing in the near future.

I’ve released twenty short stories in The Cities of Luna. This Spring I will release a collection that includes those and a few more in both print and electronic format. I am calling this first set The Mercury Collection. Eventually, I hope to put together Gemini and Apollo collections as well

Although I love putting out a fresh new story every month, there is going to be a break between collections. I will be putting my energy into getting The Mercury Collection ready, and working on novel-length stories for a while.

I will not be publishing any new stories in The Cities of Luna until I’m ready to start The Gemini Collection. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy the twenty stories that are available in e-format, and please check out The Mercury Collection this Spring!

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Princess

800px-johnglennThe loss of John Glenn earlier this month hit me hard. I set down my WIP and started a story based on how John always told his wife Annie “I’m just going down to the corner store for a pack of gum,” when he was leaving for a mission. She’d always reply “Don’t be long.” Their love story was truly one for the ages.

I didn’t get a story out in The Cities of Luna this month. It’s the first time in over a year that’s happened. I didn’t make any big apologies or explanations on social media. In fact, this is the only public mention I have made of it. It was more than my own feelings of grief over the loss of a true American hero; there were many factors involved. I should be back on schedule in January. I’m planning to do a print version of the collection too— more about that later.

I’ve been looking seriously at my various projects, the ones on the shelf and the ones I’m actively working on. I believe The Cities of Luna  has not yet found its audience, but it is a heartfelt endeavor that deserves a chance to be discovered. With the current tech moving steadfastly toward space, this has the possibility of being something big.

One short-term goal I have is to enter the Zebulon, an annual writing contest sponsored by Pikes Peak Writers, my local group. I had originally planned to use this year’s NaNoWriMo story, (I failed this year, only a few thousand words, but I still plan to finish it) but then I realized that one of the rules is that it can’t be related to anything already published, and it was the second story of Tumbleweed. The first story was serialized on the All For Science site. After giving it some thought, I decided to go with the same theme I used to enter the Futurescapes Writing Contest, in which I am one of ten semifinalists. I do relationships well, and that story centers on how family relationships are affected in the near future when the main character has a chance to go to space. In the short story With Her Blessing the MC is a man with three grown daughters. The new story, Twenty-First Century Airship Princess, is about a young married woman planning to start a family when the opportunity comes up for her to go to space. I’m hand-writing it, which I do sometimes for short stories, but this is the first time I’m going to do it for something novel-length.

And then Carrie Fisher died.

Whereas John Glenn began his heroic deeds before I was born, I was in Kindergarten when Star Wars, A New Hope came out. My hair was long enough to wind up into Princess Leah buns. I grew up geek, and Carrie Fisher continued to inspire not just that world, but she was also a vocal feminist and advocate of mental health. She also had an irreverent, wicked sense of humor that was often spot-on regarding the foibles of humanity.

excerpt-airship-princessThe main character in Twenty-First Century Airship Princess is named after Princess Leah, and she gets a lot of her chutzpah from Carrie Fisher. In the pages I’d already written before she was hospitalized, I’d already described her as spending her childhood cosplaying as the Star Wars princess, even taking a brief foray in the metal bikini in her college days. The term princess has been redefined, and that started with Princess Leah’s heroics in A New Hope.

Suddenly, what I’d started writing as an homage just felt…off. Everything felt off. She was only sixty; she shouldn’t have left us so soon. We still needed her. It didn’t feel right to be writing a character who had so much of Leah and Carrie in her…blatantly so.

I wanted to put the story down. I wanted to change it so it wasn’t so obviously a reference to her. But even in just a few pages, I’d already established a character I loved who embodied everything I liked best about the character and the woman. Rewriting it would have been much more than a simple tweak of name and quirks. I would lose my character.

So now I have new inspiration. I may be afraid, but I’m going to do it anyway. What’s important is not my fear, but the action I take. I don’t have to wait to be confident. I’ll just do it, and eventually the confidence will follow.carrie-fisher-meme

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Merry Christmas!

20161212_212356It’s time to slow down a bit and spend time with family.

Merry Christmas to all and a happy new year too!

I’ll see you in January.

 

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Semifinalist

futurescapes-semifinalistMany moons ago I saw a call for submissions for the Futurescapes Writing Contest. The theme Cities of Empowerment caught my attention because I have a deep love of architecture, and a degree in Architectural Engineering Technology. Reading the details, they were looking for writers to “Envision how a city, thirty years from now, can create a civic experience which virtually eliminates what today we consider “disabilities.”” My teenager has special needs, so I’ve put a lot of thought into how she will be able to participate in society when she grows up.

I just found out last night that I am one of ten semifinalists in the contest! I am so honored that my story received this recognition. It will be at least a few weeks before I find out whether I’m a finalist. Wish me luck!

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It Wouldn’t Be That Way

But first, a quick update:

Writing is happening, but it’s mostly finishing up The Flip of a Coin instead of working on The Turn of a Phrase, which is my NaNoWriMo project. I am not going to win NaNoWriMo this year, but I’m not going to look at it as a failure. I’m going to finish the novel over the next few months, then polish it and maybe enter it into the Zebulon next year.

SciFi Q of the Day 2014One thing that often surprises me when I post a SciFi Question of the Day is how many people claim “It wouldn’t be that way…” on something that is postulated. One example is when I talk about a space station, many people assume it will be government run, small, and lacking in resources. At the moment, that kinda describes the ISS. It’s run by a co-op of governments, it’s small, and the resources are precious. However, it won’t always be that way. We’re a long way off from something like Elysium or Babylon Five, but a large-ish station with a significant civilian population is almost within our grasp. Many of the folks who comment on the #SFQotD postulate their own circumstances when they answer a question. “Well, if it’s in orbit around Venus…” or “If we’re talking about something size of DS9 with artificial gravity…” and that leads to some fantastic discussions! But every once in a while someone pops in with a “But it can’t be that way…” backed up by the fact that, at the moment, we don’t have the tech to do the thing.

I loved the Steampunkish idea in The Phantom that advanced communication would take place using a system of vacuum tubes threading throughout the city. They didn’t postulate today’s electronic communication. In any good Science Fiction, there are very few things that can be dismissed as “That couldn’t happen…” when talking about advances in technology. We never know when science will take a strange turn and open up new possibilities we never imagined!

As a SciFi author, it is my job to explore the what ifs in our existence. Although the 20th century prophets did predict many of the advances in science and tech we enjoy today, their intention was not to accurately foresee the future, but to postulate what could be. I want to postulate as widely as possible. That’s partly why The Cities of Luna is about not one  city, but many, and Tumbleweed is a conglomeration of modules. They all have quirks. Many of them have aspects that make some people say “But it wouldn’t be that way!”

You know… it could.

taco-promo

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Screaming Into the Void

turn-cover-creditsMy NaNoWriMo word count is 2,234. That used to be my daily average, but that’s all I wrote for that story in the first half of the month.

I’m not giving up.

In past years I’ve been better prepared and had greater resources than I do now. I also have other writing commitments now, namely the monthly short story for The Cities of Luna and the weekly chapters for The Flip of a Coin. Now, all those are in the same universe, which makes my life somewhat simpler, but still they are all different storylines, and my OCD brain dislikes jumping from one storyline to another. This NaNo has been an exercise in doing that, and although it’s been difficult, it hasn’t been impossible. Still, I prefer to have just one story to concentrate on at a time. And to eat dinner out every other night. And have someone else vacuum and do the dishes. And…

Well, I ask too much. For now. Perhaps, in future years, I’ll be able to luxuriate in those little things that make life and writing so much easier.

Now, the Shouting Into the Void part…

On the blog, I can see how many views and visitors I get even if they never leave a comment. On Amazon and Smashwords, I can see how many stories I’ve sold. (Still a very low number every month.) The serial I put up on the All For Science site is more difficult to judge because although I’m a contributor, it’s not my blog. Gee, it would be nice if I got little messages from random strangers reading the story telling me how much they like it, but that’s highly unrealistic. Even if there are a handful of people who feel that way, they probably won’t send me fan mail.

I feel like I’m shouting into the void. I release my stories, but only with minimal promo, which means they get lost in the avalanche of other stories available for readers to enjoy. I firmly believe that the series can find its audience, but it simply hasn’t happened yet. I want to put the energy it deserves into promo, and give the series its best chance of success.

That won’t happen until after Christmas. I had originally hoped to have a collection of The Cities of Luna available for this holiday season, but I realized months ago that it was an unrealistic timeline. I plan to do a kickstarter in early 2017 and have the print version of the collection ready for Spacefest in the spring.

My ROW80 goals are always NaNocentric in the fourth round. This week, I haven’t made the goals. I’m hoping to turn that around, though, and even if I don’t get caught up, I want to feel like I’m back on the wagon.

And maybe, just maybe, next year’s NaNoWriMo can be one where I’m well prepared ahead of time and can enjoy all the extra little supports like going out to eat and having someone else do the housework.

Maybe.

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Luxury of the Mind

Grumpa, Grandma, and the family from 2010

Grumpa, Grandma, and the family from 2010

A few years ago, NaNoWriMo was complicated by an emergency trip from Vermont to North Carolina because my father was going to have yet another heart surgery, and we were afraid he wasn’t going to pull through. (He did, thankfully, and is still a grumpy old man today.) I still won that year, reaching the 50k goal in spite of the interruption in regular life.

In hindsight, those two weeks might have been more helpful than disturbing. Yes, my life was upturned, but because I had to make the trip, I also had to make arrangements for a lot of other things in my life. Hubby shortened his work hours and our babysitter stepped up her time to take care of the kids. I was staying with my old friends Dan and Geri (Geri is my BFF and she often edits for me. Dan is one of my favorite consultants for everything sciency. See the dedication below) so I wasn’t cooking or taking care of kids or any of a million other things. I was driving between Dan and Geri’s house and my parents’ place and the hospital, but I had the luxury of knowing that, for better or worse, things back home were being taken care of. My brain could be occupied with my father’s problems, and that also left room for my NaNo novel. I did a lot of writing sitting in the quiet family area near his hospital room.

Other years I won simply because I put my all into it. A couple of times I did a lot of prep work ahead of time, such as finding character inspirations, outlining (loosely) and making crock-pot dinners ahead of time that I could freeze. For the most part, I was able to leave my OCD brain in novel-mode and put everything else in my life into background mode. Yes, I had kids and other life-stuff to juggle, but my brain was mostly on  NaNoWriMo. I had the luxury of the mind that my basic needs were met and I could concentrate on what I chose.

This year is different. Besides the election, which has been stressful for the entire country, I have more than the usual difficult life issues going on right now. I’m also juggling other writing commitments, namely putting out a new story in The Cities of Luna every month and a new chapter in Tumbleweed every week. Ideally, I would have prepped not just this month’s story (Space Hipster) but the next one or two ahead of time. Unfortunately, the cushion I keep in my work schedule has been eaten up by the transition from Vermont to Colorado and the unexpected difficulties that came with it.

My ROW80 goals are somewhat on track because I’ve done SOME writing almost every single day. But it’s not always on my NaNo Novel, and it’s usually far less than the daily quota I need. My total word count is barely over 2k, and we’re more than a week in. 2k should be my daily count, not weekly.

I have faith that I can catch up. I’m improving every day, in spite of setbacks that inevitably happen with life in general. It just means that it is a lot more work, exponentially more work, than it has been in the past.

20-taco-tuesday-bannerMeanwhile, although I don’t have Space Hipster ready yet and it needs to go up next week, I did publish a short-short called Taco Tuesday. It’s about a BMX star filming a commercial on the Moon. It’s free on Smashwords, and hopefully will soon be free on Amazon and other sites.

19-the-squirrels-are-back-in-the-attic-bannerFrom THE SQUIRRELS ARE BACK IN THE ATTIC

For Geri. BFF, editor extraordinaire, listener of late-night rants, braider of hair and the scariest manic-chipmunk lady you never, ever want to cross.

Thank you for being there for me every single time I need you, and for occasionally lending me your husband’s brain.

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Taco Tuesday

20-taco-tuesday-bannerSome of my best stories start with a title. R.J. Blain once dared me to write a story titled Faceplanting is Always an Option (we were talking about NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago) and more recently the line  The Squirrels Are Back in the Attic from a television commercial inspired another story.

Taco Tuesday had to be a story. I mulled it over for a long time before writing it, including the concept of the Tako Taco, which is a play on the Japanese word for octopus. In the story, I refer to it as “Cthulhu on a Hardshell.”

Eventually, it developed into Eddie’s story, a BMX star who is a spokesperson for a major taco chain. Eddie is amped up to film a commercial on the moon. His sponsor has designed an entire ad campaign around him riding his BMX bike in and out of some giant craters. The low gravity allows him to do some pretty terrific stunts, but sticking the landing isn’t as easy as one might think.

Here’s a excerpt:

Eddie had toured three continents and dozens of cities in his career. Each had a distinct flavor, from ancient Samarkand’s exotic spices to modern Detroit’s subtle flair. In the two weeks he’d spent on Luna, shooting commercials and making appearances with his BMX crew he’d visited eight cities, each of which was as different from each other as they were from the cities of Earth.

Nothing compared to Sparta. For one thing, there was a taco truck on every corner. Eddie suspected that might be partly on his account, or rather for his sponsor’s ad campaign, which featured his face plastered across the sides of the trucks as well as billboards, park benches, and both inside and outside the trains of the truba.

“Good thing you like tacos, eh?” said Cameron, Eddie’s agent, manager, and best friend.

Eddie took the paper-wrapped taco Cameron handed him and opened it carefully. “This isn’t a tako taco, is it?” He poked at the contents of the soft tortilla, trying to uncover what might be hidden inside.

“No octopus,” Cameron said. “Oh, and the powers that be have decided they’re not going to make you pretend to eat it. They’re going to play up the ‘everything but the tentacles’ angle and make a big joke about how people who like a little Cthulhu on the hardshell are even more badass than you are.”

It’s no accident that this story came out on election day. There is a slight nod in the plot to the idea of moving to the moon, as many people may wish they could do after the 2016 election. (As I’m writing this, the presidential race is still very close and I have NO idea who will win.)

Please enjoy the story and share the link. As you can see by Mousie Maud on the cover (the mouse with the SHORT SHORT! sign) this is a shorter story, less than five thousand words, and it’s free. (Apologies…some markets like Amazon take a few days to make it free but you can get it on Smashwords.) And if you like this one, please check out the other stories in The Cities of Luna!

20-taco-tuesday

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