Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Yeah, that's right - preggers!  I realized that something was just not right when got the first kick a couple of weeks ago that told me a story idea was coming.  Usually I have a semi-solid idea for a story before I start writing, but not this time.  My hindbrain was telling me that there was a story waiting to be told, but I didn't know what to say, let along how to say it - more like not being able to articulate the vague feeling of a concept lacking concrete form struggling for life.

How do I deal with something I can't express, can't describe, can't turn from a feeling into something - anything concrete? It is so frustrating.  When I try to write it down the words don't fit, they lack energy, and refuse to hold my interest for more than a paragraph or two. Attempted outlines dissolve into mere lists, scenes are in disarray, characters unresolved at all levels and the environment, the world, the universe - unformed - NO! Unformable is more like it.  Damn, no matter how I try I can't seem to write my way out of the box, or even define the size and shape of the container much less its content.

So I blather on and one, writing this, thinking of that, wondering about one thing or another and all the while the untouched works lay there in the back of my head, glowering, demanding attention I cannot provide even as I know that  I have to get this idea, whatever it is, out of my subconscious and into the part of my brain that deals with story. Meanwhile, I struggle,writing other things to fill the time.

But the feeling persists, this vague menacing thing that haunts me through my days, that intimidates but never threatens. Can I terminate it or should I continue to struggle to give it birth?

Even the Nebula weekend failed to quell my unease and the promise of a collaboration merely pushed it further into the background, whispering promises of what might come after.

Ever "after."

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Nebula Time

For the past few days I've been in San Jose for the 48th Annual Nebula Awards, basking in the California sun and running into so many writers  I've known only by their work, as well as a lot of old friends.

 This year's crop of Nebula nominees clearly made the case that (a) SFWA is not an "old boys club" (b)printed magazines are on equal footing with the eMags, and (c) the choices are harder than ever.  Nevertheless we got a good mixture of old and new, fantasy, soft and hard SF - even among the awardees!

The Nebula weekend is always a fun event as the stars and even journeyman writers like me can mingle, discuss markets, drink, shoot the shit, drink, discuss the ideas that drive our genre to depths unobtainable anywhere else, and, oh yes, drink. The hospitality suite and bar is the most interesting hangout for the entire weekend.  It was also an opportunity to sit down with agents, editors, and publishers informally to talk about the direction and changes in the field, although this often ends up fretting over the role of ePublications and what they might do to the print field.

A lot of SFWA business is conducted when officers and Board members are finally able to come face to face with people they've only contacted electronically to discuss some function or other.  A full day is devoted to the official Board meeting that also helps orient the new officers into the organization.  A large catered business meeting was held for members during the day and, at night, the glitteratti flowed into the Nebula Award banquet for the presentation of the beautiful lucite trophies to the top vote getters in each award category: Novel, Novella, Novelette, and Short Story.

What becomes increasingly obvious to newcomers at the weekend is that nearly all of the attendees are fans of the genre and equally awestruck by each other.  One frequent occurence is having one writer approach another for an autograph only to be asked to reciprocate and each walking away thinking they were honored.

It is a wonderful affair.

Monday, May 13, 2013


There is a period known to all writers, a time fraught with peril, frustration, hope, and depression - the dreaded post-submission waiting period, during which one goes from the heights of elation to the depths of depression.  In between submission and response the disposition of your manuscript exists in a state of non-resolution, like the cat in the box.  Eventually, you debate whether the certainty of rejection will outweigh the uncertainty of acceptance?

After spending days, weeks, months, and sometimes years in crafting your piece to perfection, writing at the top of your ability, resolving all faults, smoothing the phrasing, and styling the piece to be more akin to prose poetry than rude narrative. Finally you do the last picky edit, package the result and send it forth to some faceless editor or worse, a poorly rewarded slush reader. Surely, you think, the recipient will be floored by your effort and eager to beg permission to publish it so the world may enjoy your delightful writing.

Days go by. Time enough for someone to have embraced it, you think.  But there is no word. Oh God, what if it got lost in the mail/queue?  Should you inquire? No, give them some more time.

But the days drag by and with each day's completion you think of more dire reasons why there has been no word. Perhaps it is being rejected, destined for the trash heap of literary failures. Maybe it has some fatal flaw - should you have read it one more time?  Yes, there were some things you should have thought of, things that occurred to you AFTER you sent it. Perhaps you should rework the draft one more time -  juice it up a little, play down this and promote that?

Eventually, the anticipation will end, as it must, when the box is opened.  

Friday, May 3, 2013


Enough of the gloom and doom already!  Lest anyone be mislead, my writing life is not one of constant concern, of worry, of wallowing in self pity, or abasing myself at the feet of pernicious editors (well, not ALWAYS!)  I can also experience moments of writing exhilaration.

What are these magic moments, you might ask?   Well, theres the jolt of pleasure that accompanies the arrival of a check, which is exceeded only by the first of many readings of the acceptance that preceded it.  Getting a request to contribute to an anthology is also nice but when they also want something "original" by a certain deadline it ranks lower on my happiness continuum.

I don't think anything can equal the sense of delight that comes from seeing my story in an actual magazine, nicely copy-edited and typeset, sitting on the news rack.  Even better is seeing my name on the fucking cover, for Gods's sake!  But NO: the best is having a cover painting done for my story - joy unbounded!

I think having someone (anyone?) speak to me at a convention about something I wrote is a thrill, especially when they aren't using four letter words and screaming.  Schmoozing with an editor goes high on the list of convention pleasures and is probably equal to chatting with my peers or even some up and coming writer in the green room or at the bar ( in case you hadn't noticed; writers always congregate at the bar.)

Someplace among my jubilation list is conveying the sense of a writers life to others; speaking about composing a short story for example.  It is always a thrill for me to talk about a story's scene construction, to discuss the tempo of revelation and pacing, to talk about technique and even occasionally conveying some of the brutal lessons learned. Yeah, and sometimes I might talk about trying to stretch beyond my usual range to convey something that has never been expressed before and how I deal with the disappointment when I usually fail to achieve that goal.

At the top of my list of writerly delights is that golden moment, that special tingle of absolute pleasure that comes from realizing that you have finally completed that line that closes the tale,  typed that final period, and finished a story to the best of your ability.

And that's why I keep writing.