Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Relief at Last

For months I complained to my writers group (among others) bemoaning the unresponsiveness of editors and the dearth of ideas tickling my few remaining brain cells.  There was a vast swathe of not- exactly-writers-block so much as an inability to scribble more than a half coherent sentence much less an entire paragraph of an SF story.  I was willing but the ideas were not forthcoming and the gloom was deepening.  I had ten pieces in circulation and there was no word, not a peep from any editor.  This is it, I told myself, as I prepared to whimper off the field sans bang.

Then I suddenly and miraculously received four (4) acceptances in the same day!  A novella, a novelette, and two short stories.  Glory rained down from the heavens, angel voices rose in the background and happiness descended on the good.  Did I mention the (much amended) book contract being signed the same week? My virtual cup overflowed! I felt so validated that the two (2) rejections that followed did not disappoint but were submitted to other editors on my list.

After a brief celebration I realized that I now had only a few stories in the pipeline and had to get busy. It was as if the floodgates had opened and ideas, plots, situations, and stories began churning once more.  I resumed work on a novelette I had abandoned, penned another short story, sent it off, and then began another small piece.   Pop, pop, pop - off they flew, one after another to roost gods know where. My inventory of stories is building once more!  

Strange what a little encouragement will do.


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


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?


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?


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.


Monday, June 6, 2016


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.