Monday, August 22, 2016

Post - MidAmeriCon

Monday morning was a big let down despite the cool temperatures and clear skies.  The reason was that I did not awaken to find myself in KC and a block away from MidAmeriCon for one more day.

The Con was wonderful.  I got to meet old friends and new, fellow writers, editors, publishers, booksellers and jewelers, and so many wonderfully praising fans (yes, I do have fans!)  I could hardly   move between sessions, which was often a half mile rush, without running into someone who I knew or who knew me. The schedule was daunting due to the SFWA Board meeting - a full day of intense and sometimes fractious discussion - and a two hour SFWA Business meeting squeezed between panels at opposite ends of the convention center.  I wonder why the WorldCon people can't find a circular center where one could minimize run distances? My full schedule made this as great an exercise as was LonCon where the distances and confusion reigned as exhausting.  But I survived and have some wonderful memories, especially of dear FRED who greeted me in the exhibition/dealers'/gamers space in the vast upper level.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

MidAmeriCon

I hear the drumbeats of WorldCon in the distance approaching closer by the day.  I have my days carefully plotted, a time for each panel where I am participating, schedules for the SFWA Board and Business meetings, and panels I want to attend.  Yes, lunchtimes will be a challenge, dinners less so, and evenings will no doubt be spent socializing with other writers.  That leaves about forty hours I'll probably piss away with sleep, bathing, and wandering around in the dazed confusion of TOO MUCH and TOO MANY CHOICES, not to mention spontaneous hallway minicons, autographing, random encounters, and - OMG, I forgot that terrible time-sucking dealer's room visits!

Where's my time-stretcher when I need it?

That said, here is my schedule:

8/18  9:00 - 5:00     SFWA Board Meeting
8/19  1:00 - 2:00     Finance Panel
8/20   10:00 -11:00 SIGMA Panel
8/20   11:00 - 2:00  SFWA Business Meeting
8/20  3:00 - 4:00     Group Reading
8/20  4:00 - 5:00     Aging in SF Panel



Sunday, July 3, 2016

Status Report

 After enduring a long dry period of writer's block I've once more become engaged with the craft, but slowly.  This comes just in time for ReaderCon in Boston where I will no doubt be roundly criticized for not my lack of production.

 Worse, I am finally seeing publication and realizing how far behind I've gotten.
  • Earlier this year my blue collar space story "Highjack" appeared in Trajectories.
  • "Haunted" the complex novella Cat Rambo and I struggled over has appeared in Apex & Abyss
  • I've also been promised an October release of my tale of cybernetic love "Turtle and Bird" in Men and Machine
  • Several reprints of my Analog SF/F are also pending publication. 
  • I remain hopeful that the one novel in review finally finds acceptance but have yet to interest anyone in my most recent one.
  • And who knows what acceptances I might receive on something among the ten pieces I  have in circulation (or of the six WIP) between now and September, which is the latest date that might see a 2016 publication.
Yet, with all this activity I am still reluctant to complete the almost finished stories that clutter my desktop and haunt my dreams.

Is this what recovering from writer's block feels like?



#SFWApro

Monday, June 20, 2016

Story Structure's Underpinnings?

Last week I talked about the hoary three-part structure of a story and my inability to find an alternative one.  This led me to wonder what, if anything, lies below that three-part structure besides the normal and boring words, sentences, paragraphs, etc.  To be clear I want to know exactly what constitutes a story?

Stupid question, no?  Everybody knows what a story is.  It's something that has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Along the voyage we encounter plot, characters, scenery and summary activities that involve all of these as a grouping of scenes or acts. Are these just convenient tokens we use to mark time as the story is told?  If we strip all of those away do we still have a story.

Is there a foundation that supports the tale that is apart from these tokens??  Can Story be a thing independent of its content or form?  Do we have some innate mental model that allows us to separate a story from a shopping list?

Perhaps if I can get closer to an answer to that question I will be able to find that alternative pattern?



#SFWApro

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Alternative Story Structures

I keep coming back to the issue of structure of a story and pondering alternatives to the three-part/act design.

For those of you who do not know what I am talking about here is a simple explanation:
Structure is the way the story is presented to the reader.  It is NOT the plot, the time-sequence, or the style.  It IS the way the events logically proceed, regardless of the physical or chronological arrangement presented.  All stories, plays, and movies are structured in three acts/parts; try-fail, try-fail, try-epiphany/denouement. The plot contained within this structure might be the hero's journey, a romantic adventure, or simply a puzzle piece.  The story might wander all over creation (if it's a novel), or jump back and forth chronologically.  You can even start telling the story with the epiphany and work backwards. I've done all of these and, regardless of how I write them, there's always a three-part structure underlying the story.

I wonder if the three-part structure has something to do with our mental makeup; an inherent part of human thinking processes. Perhaps this has to do with the way we experience time as a sequence of events and have a bias toward chronological order.   Or the tripartite story might have something to do with impatience - any  number of try-fail beyond three becomes boring and suspense prolonged too long bores us. Or maybe three acts are the most we can hold in our head at a time without confusion.  The three partness of story telling certainly has been with us since the dawn of recorded  history and I'm sure our simian ancestors  used it to spin campfire tales.

Given the above, is there possibly another STRUCTURE that would facilitate story telling? If so, I certainly want to hear about it.



#SFWApro

Monday, June 6, 2016

Renewal

For the last few months I've been in a funk with writers block, unable to craft a decent line. Perhaps it was because I overdid it in the preceding six months - finished one novel, made some progress on another, and submitted two novellas, a novelette, and a couple of short pieces. I am going to see six stories published this year, but those were last years products so that didn't help lift me out of my malaise.

Along came BaltiCon 50 and I was asked to conduct a writing seminar* which turned out to have two students.  We had a great conversation about writing during which I think I imparted some insights based on my own experience and that I'd received from others.  Either that or I scared the desire to write short fiction out of them.  Nevertheless, it was refreshing to feel their enthusiasm.

Twenty-some GOH from previous BaltiCons were there, some of whom I managed to chat with briefly. I also sat on panels with other writers, had a few at the bar with SF friends, and had a number of interesting and challenging conversations with other professional writers who graced me with their presence.  I even got some queries that might prove interesting down the line.  I also signed books.

I returned home exhausted and had a day of rest. On the third day I arose from my bed, rushed to my computer and blocked out two stories while doing research on a third. The words began to flow once more and for the first time in months I feel invigorated about this miserable business of writing spec fiction.

I think it's a result of the contact high I got from sitting in the Green Room.

*For free, after all this is a con.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

USB Philosphy

We've all done it: tried to insert that USB cord into that USB slot of our equipment and found that it is upside down or sideways from connecting.  Fifty percent of the time you get it wrong and have to flip the connector.  FIFTY PERCENT!  Half of the time  you get it wrong.

Writing is like that.  You start out with a good idea and then find that it isn't.  But after investing time and energy into it so far you are damned if you are going to quit. Perhaps you flip the concept, alter the protagonist, change villein to hero, go from medieval fantasy to star-spanning quests, or replace the McGuffin with another thing. Every time you do this you get another set of choices.  Do that enough and you might end up with a finished piece.  It might be good or bad, but it is finished.  

But then, spec writing is always a chancy thing just like inserting the connector properly on the first attempt.

Sorry this is so short but I've a writing seminar to conduct in the morning at Balticon.

http://balticon.org/wp50/aboutbalticon/bsfs-sponsored-awards/#Seminars