Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Year in Review

Soon after the turn of the year, as in other years, I've updated my archive files, cleaned out the messes I've created, and looked at the various pieces I've worked on during the past year.  I've been doing this assessment since I started writing again in 1991, partly to see how far I've come and partly to torture myself with the realization that I could have done much better and causes me to reassess what I am doing.

During the last year I managed to get several short stories and another novel sold. I also made progress in getting some more work done on the remaining three. These seem to remain around 98% completed due to continual rethinking and rewriting. I am anticipating the publication of another collection of short stories published in the last decade in January and another novel in May.

The number of pieces I count in a given year is the gross number of files, so novels get the same weight as novellas, novelettes, short stories and articles.  I do not count the number of multiple drafts, edits, and crap I threw away in frustration at my fickle muse.  Some of my friends obsessively count and report their word production and suggest that I really ought to keep track of total words written (drafts, sketches, edits,etc ) instead of a simple file count, but even for me the resulting number would be too horrifyingly large with ratios of written words to words sold at  millions to one.

The chart at right shows the arc - the blue line representing the cumulative number of files worked on and the red the cumulative number of stories sold year by year (I don't count sales of reprints,audio productions, or donated stories.)  The total number of unique sales is 126 (nine in 2016) and the cumulative number of files is just  520. This makes my "lifetime" sales average remains at 24%. The green line is the ratio of sales to files each year, which declines as the number of works increases.

The chart shows the ups and downs of my working/writing career. Strangely, the years I had problems with my day job turned out to be the most productive for writing.  In my peak years I sold almost as many as I wrote, the bad news being that I didn't write very much in those years.  The chart also shows the decline of the novella markets, which was my first love, and which I continue to pursue against all reason.  It was only after I'd relearned how to write short, that my sales increased. Periods spent attempting novels also meant a lower production count, much to my regret.

So, looking back on 2016 I have to say I've not done badly.


Saturday, December 10, 2016


Another morning and another struggle to craft words from dreams and refine them to story.  Doing this has become more difficult than it was in the past, and I wonder if that struggle indicates a more serious concern.  Is my difficulty a momentary lapse, a way my brain is recovering from the overproduction of the last year or is it a further manifestation of the ADD that has afflicted me my entire life?

Years ago I could polish off a 5k story in a weekend plus two or three days of editing before submitting. As I shifted into novelettes and novellas writing a complete story turned into a months-long process. When the market for novellas dwindled I attempted to learn to write short once more only to find it more difficult because I had become used to having the freedom of more involved plots and descriptive material. It took a few years but I did find my way back.

But I discovered that the story ideas didn't fly as they once did.  I told myself it was because I now had higher standards that required more thoughtful approaches, but that was self delusion.  Perhaps it was a function of having drained my creative pool, being distracted by work, or simply illness - a cold, a headache, or an upset stomach.  But those were transitory and could not explain why the blank white screen remained so difficult to fill with words, words, words.

I noticed long ago that short story writers tend to have a limited literary life, appearing less frequently as they shifted into producing or writing novels or quitting entirely.  Is this happening to me?  Could I be descending into the ephemeral hole of forgotten writers, a fading phantasm of what I aspired to become? Or, most worrisome of all, is this an early warning of a declining mind, dementia, or, worst of all for a writer, the early signs of Alzheimers?  The only bright spot in those horrid possibilities is that at some point I will be able to read my own work for the first time.  But putting that aside, I continue to struggle to write words that the tide will soon wash away.

Maybe it's time to write something humorous...?


Saturday, December 3, 2016

On Again, Off Again

I just saw ARRIVAL  and was very impressed with how the producers captured the ambiguity and circularity of the original short story.  Most intriguing of all was the declaration that language is what we use to "think" and that, without words, we cannot "talk" to ourselves or reason.

This was much on my mind as I returned to UN#3 and got perhaps a page done before telling myself that I needed to rethink my premise on the recent short story (SS#14) and perhaps veer off onto a different track.  No sooner had I thought that than my mind switched over to writing a new scene that had little to do with the original concept except for the heroine and the planet.  A thousand words later and a little voice in my head said "Stop procrastinating and get back to work!"

So I jumped back to UN#3 and tried, really tried, to concentrate on the scene under development but could not withstand the nagging idea that SS#14 really needed even more work.  Actually, SS#14's voice was merely the loudest voice of a number of unfinished pieces (SS#1-14) needing attention and even of fainter voices of the muse provocatively suggesting new story ideas but never their resolution.

Others have writers block while I have to deal with a plethora of random ideas that threaten to overwhelm my best efforts to escape the cycle of my ADD. I fervently wish that if I had the talent to concentrate and do justice to the stories these voices suggest but my published attempts fall far short of my desire and mostly become pedestrian trivia to be read and sooner forgotten.

So I talk to myself, using words, the only tool at my disposal.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Sidetracked (Again)

Did I mention that I was am somewhat ADD?  The other day I got a comp copy of an anthology I contributed to a while back - all short stories (yummy!)  I thought I'd take a short break (no pun intended) and read a few.   While reading a few, I got an idea, quickly sketched out a rough scope, and puy it aside to work on later, after I finished working on UN#3*.

My muse, fickle bitch that she is, insisted, when I next sat down at the word lathe, that maybe I should flesh out that rough scope a bit more, which meant that I had to posit a character or two, some setting description, and maybe what the starship should look like, which little detail I'd forgotten to mention in the draft scope.

Three hours later I'd written a fairly good description of the ship, its drive (and principles thereof), and its necessary limitations.  But, along the way I realized that the characters needed more fleshing out and....

Well, it's week later and I now have seven scenes drafted, rough sketches (ideas, really) of the others, a general idea of how to arrange all of them to tell a decent story and, oh  yeah IMHO, a killer opening! Still not certain of what the protagonists might do or say, but that gets written as needed and when the scene requires without a lot of writerly forethought. Should be done in another week - it's only a 5,000 word story, or maybe a bit more or less, let's say 7,500 to be safe and then I can get back to UN#3, or maybe #4.

Unless something else derails my best intentions.......


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Meanwhile, Back in the Wordsmithing Shack

After a political event that threw all thoughts of plot and characters, much less setting our the window, I am now once more back at work pounding words into place so that they resemble something others might want to read. I apologize to those of you who want to continue to concentrate on politics but good words, well-expressed are more important.

To continue, I am back working  on Incomplete Novel #2 which stands at a staggering sixty thousand words, plus another five thousand in outline form in the last five years.  Right now the plot more resembles a tangle of yarn than a clean line of progression.  Originally I set out to write a story with multiple POV's, shifting from one to another as major events transpired. Somewhere around milepost 35k a major branch occurred which forced me into adjusting the remaining outline,  Then, at 50k there was another, but lesser divergence which is now causing me to readjust the objective once more. Each one of these branches opened new vistas to be explored, introduced new characters, and revealed more crap, all of which interfered with my best intentions.

As if those side shows weren't enough, I seem to have had a population control problem.  There are now nine principle actors, at least thirty supporting characters, and more than a dozen plot lines that should hopefully begin to converge around the 90k mark (I hope) which means I'll have little space left for resolving the plot lines stemming from Divergences #1 and #2 (Sequel?) Every time I sit down to write another scene, yet another character pops up, demanding his or her few steps across the stage.  Maybe I should stop naming these pesky intruders or giving them thoughts, actions, and personalities? But no, that would take the fun out of it. Undaunted, I struggle onward in my usual state of perplexity wondering where all this stuff is coming from and why me, a short story writer, ever thought I could write a freaking novel this long and complex.

Maybe I should be working on Incomplete Novels #3 or #4 or, better yet, work on another (required) short story for an upcoming anthology?


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Set Theory

The analyses about the election show a House divided as well as an unbalanced Senate.  This sets the stage for more divisive interference with the wishes of the opposite party, largely for political dominance reasons rather than what might be good for the country.

Clearly, the Republicans hold a majority, but not one sufficient to guarantee dominance over the Democrats, but I wonder if those political labels really mean anything in today's fractured world.  What would, for example, the congressional balance look like if you separated members into liberal/progressive vs conservative/reactionary camps?  What about gradations of left- or right-ness with the moderates occupying the broad center?  What about social conservatives vs liberal ones?Or even (shudder) coastal vs interior?

There are many variations of separation, but what if, among them we could find a grouping that maps a way that members can bridge the apparent political gaps that has brought the meaningful management of our country to a virtual halt and cooperate?  What if there is a grouping that makes an end run around party rules, gotcha politics, and concerns about the next election cycle?

Wouldn't that be nice?


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Winter is Coming

The forest is alive with color as the year marches inevitably toward dark winter.  The leaf fall has not yet begun, although the poplars and maples are sending out a few scouts to scatter over the dying lawns and gardens.  The Hostas have yellowed, as  have some of the ferns and the annuals  have stopped producing colorful blooms before they too decay into mush following a frost.

The bird feeder is attracting much attention and our three tier fountain nearby provides water and baths to the chickadees, cardinals, sparrows, two kinds of finches, and an occasional Blue Jay, which seem the size of pterodactyls in comparison.  Mostly the smaller birds are courteous about drinking or bathing, lining up along the nearby branches for their turn in the upper bowl.  The two lower basins are fed by water overflowing from the top bowl and are seldom, if ever, used.  Perhaps the rush of water intimidates the smaller ones, although it is hard to believe that anything could intimidate the feisty chickadees. It was all very civilized and fun to watch.

That is, until a pair of robins showed up.  Now, these birds are three times the size of everything except the Blue Jays and aggressive as hell.  They tend to dominate the fountain even when they are neither drinking or bathing. Sometimes they simply stand in the water and peck an any bird that comes near, giving way only to the squirrel or chipmunk that frequent the place for a drink or two after a busy morning scavenging black sunflower seeds the birds have dropped.

Then, one day there were suddenly four robins, followed by six more and, this morning, over a dozen.  They are a nasty bunch, pecking at one another, squabbling continuously, and fighting for dominance over each of the fountain basins.   They have no problem standing under the waterfalls or crapping all over the surrounding landscape, like a ravaging biker gang sans leather jackets and tattoos.

But, when the brisk winds of winter blow the robins and some of the others away, those that cannot stand the reality the cold weather brings, I will drain the fountain, clean the accumulated detritus, put out the seed and suet for the winter birds, and sequester myself for winter writing when there is little else to amuse me.

And now I have to get back to some serious writing.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Three Hundred and Counting

This is my 301st post since I started blogging six years ago.  I have been trying to maintain a weekly schedule, as I've explained on several occasions, but occasionally have fallen off the wagon.  Much of what I have written concerns writerly pain; the worry that the muse won't return, that I are writing crap (usually half way through my second editing pass), that no one understands how difficult it is to write, the joy of acceptance and the agony of rejections, and the continuing battle with the muse - an unforgiving bitch who demands endless rewrites and corrections.

I've also dipped in other areas of momentary concern and not connected to writing at all.  These were thankfully few and probably reveled much about my political and cultural leanings.  So be it: I write these posts for my own pleasure and if others manage to extract a bit of Schadenfreude then I am happy.

So, how do I embark on this next phase of postings?  The answer is probably that I will stumble along as I have in the past, bitching about the unwillingness of words to assemble themselves as I wish or the vagaries of magazine editors, and concern that somehow I am out of whatever loop others participate in.*  The latter is hard when the majority of my time is either spent trying to have a life, staring at a keyboard for hours, volunteering for SFWA, or making occasional forays into intimidating conventions filled with scary people who expect me to entertain them.  Better to have the internet as my barrier and companion.

Don't expect any revelations, wisdom, or anything  other than what I have been providing for the past three plus years.  Stay seated in the back of the boat as I continue to pole upstream against the current as I bitch about the water flowing past too swiftly.  

*Yeah, grammer is another problem


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How to Recognize a Predator

1.  No eyewitnesses.  Privacy is an absolute requirement!  Eyewitness testimony can destroy the predator's credibility when they try to exercise rule 4 (see below).

2. Destruction of any evidence!  Facts have the uncomfortable habit of turning up when the predator least expects them.  They must be very careful to leave no sign of their actions. 

3.  Imbalance of power.  Effective predation requires that the recipient be fully aware of the consequences of resistance.  Unless there is an imbalance of power there is no telling what sorts of  baseless allegations the victim might make. Money may also be used, providing the (alleged) victim signs a legal agreement to remain silent.

4.  Deny deny, deny.  If the predator is careful to say it never happened, then what recourse does the recipient of their alleged attentions claim? When the predator has prestige, wealth, or position their powerful voice can overwhelm any feeble claims.  The predator often falls back on their charm or sterling reputation when pressed.

5. Cast aspersions on the accuser.  The predator's most effective defense is to raise doubts about an accusers honesty, motives, and/or life style, especially if they can suggest that something about these is "just not right." It does not matter if that something is relevant or not. Predators often suggest whatever ulterior motives they can imagine and proclaim them repeatedly and loudly.

6. Litigate. This is the atomic bomb of a predator's defense. Threatened legal action, whose defense would bankrupt the accuser, often works and, if that fails, they can follow through with the legal action and protract it to the limits of the accuser's financial resources.


Friday, October 14, 2016

Just Words

"It's just words," the Donald said, dismissing the power that "just words" have played in history.  The Magna Carta was just words, as were the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. "Just words" have the power to strengthen hearts, change minds, and open eyes to social and political injustice.  "Just words" have moved nations, crystalized political parties, and shamed demagogues, and exposed criminals. They have also been used to curtail criticism, stifle opposition, and promulgate damaging falsehoods.

But words have also been used to gladden souls through soaring literary prose that removes  us from the daily fray. Words have revealed the best and worst of humanity, showing its failures and foibles in dramatic, comedic, and tragic form. "Just words" have presented us with aspirational hope as well as forced us to face gritty reality. They've opened the mind's eyes to awesome vistas and the mind itself to brave, as well as horrifying, concepts.

"Just words" are all we have to convey our thoughts and feelings to one another, for none of us can  discern their unspoken thoughts or emotions and must rely upon words, words, and words using the imperfect tool of language. Words have the power to convey love and hate, happiness and sorrow, compassion and indifference. "Just words" can also expose who we really are.

There are no such things as "Just words."


Friday, October 7, 2016

Complaints from the Word Lathe

I've been receiving a succession of good news lately the best of which is that NON-PARALLEL UNIVERSES, a collection of my twenty favorite published stories from the last ten years (as of 2015) will shortly be available. With five other accepted stories in the pipeline everyone should see a lot of Bud Sparhawk fiction during the next six months.

Meanwhile, back on the forge where I am hammering on one of the unfinished novels, work is apace.  In the last week I've managed to bring its length to a mere 115,000 words, down from 150,000.
Such a severe reduction has not been trifling.  I had to cut one subplot, combine conversations, and compress twenty-seven chapters into nineteen somewhat longer ones ( the 20th chapter remains to be written.)  The sequence of events had to be reordered, and some characters were replaced, their actions and dialogue performed by others.  There are still, by my reckoning, a potential twenty to twenty-five thousand words to be trimmed. Whether this requires eliminating yet another subplot, silencing a particularly garrulous principal, or further trimming descriptive world building material of little consequence to the main plot remains to be determined.

There's a certain amount of  pain when cutting huge swathes of words, words that expressed ideas that were almost immediately reconsidered for better phrasing, a more precise word, or a complete reordering of sentence sequence.  None of these were trivial or random narrative, but instead were  the result of hours of  hard work and often anguish.  To cut them meant erasing hours or days of effort and forever dooming them to oblivion. It is not easy, especially when I am coming from the short story perspective where every fucking word has a huge impact and economy of phrasing is paramount.  Perhaps some novelists edit with ease, but such is not the case for me, alas.

The upshot is that NaNoWriMo is upon me and, rather than type another fifty thousand stream-of-concious, unedited, and poorly considered words, I will endeavor to use that time to torture this novel into final form.

Then all I have to do is find a market.


Friday, September 30, 2016

Reflections on My Writing Life

It's been quite a while since I consistently posted on this blog, a habit that I need to resume if only to maintain my sanity.

When I first started to write this screed my intent was to write a post per week as an exercise in writing something other than SF.   I kept that promise for nearly three hundred posts before I fell off the wagon, so to speak.  Personal reasons, depression on the sad state of lucrative (ha!) short fiction sales, and being busy, busy, busy with SFWA and family business.  I won't bore you with details.

A lot has happened since the last post:  I've sold six pieces that will appear in the next nine months ( I have no control over publication schedules) in anthologies and magazines.  There's also my novel SHATTERED DREAMS coming out in May 2017, and hopefully a collection of previously published shorts sometime in 2017.  As of this moment four short stories are sitting on editors' desks and another half dozen are in messy, somewhat finished short story drafts.  Then there's the three almost completed novels that loom like patient, intimidating vultures waiting to steal even more time from my short fiction struggles.

I am back working on the picaresque novel I started writing in 1988 and have been haphazardly and periodically revising ever since. I will finish soon, I tell my muse as I work on revision number forty-something to get the word count back down from 150K words to a more reasonable length.  Maybe in the process of editing I might be able to figure out what the final chapter of this monster should say.  Until last week I thought the conclusion  might require another 20-30K words, but with a clever rearrangement, brutal editing, and incorporating advice from my beta readers, I'm trying to fit it into a smaller compass.

But then, isn't that what writing is all about?


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.

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.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


This year, at Balticon, I will conduct a three hour session on the art, techniques, and missteps of story telling as part of a BSFS experiment in bringing attendees together with "renowned SFF professionals who are highly regarded for their skills and mentoring" in a fantastic series of  writing seminars.  Here is the quote from their web page:
"The emphasis will not be upon line edits and mechanics, but the guts of story itself. The total duration is 3-3.5 hours, where the first hour is a round-robin general discussion, primarily about “problems with your project.”  The second hour includes a catered working lunch that is open to general conversation with the pro, and the last hour-plus is a one-at-a-time Q&A session where each attendee can ask questions specific to their project/concerns.  Those who wish private sessions must wait for the end slots.
"Select a seminar that is addressing what you want to work on. Bring two primary “problems with your fiction” to the seminar. The pro will guide the group through a discussion of those challenges, and you’ll be surprised how many of your fellow group-members come with identical or overlapping challenges. This means there’s no “waiting your turn.” The seminar engages you immediately, both personally and as part of a group discussion. Troubleshooting the challenges is the focus of the conversation which is both led and moderated by the pro. Everyone is helping everyone else succeed, and there’s no direct comparison of writing, so writers at a variety of skill levels will find it useful."
My slot is from 10 am to ~1:15 pm, Friday, Mary 27, 2016, in Parlor 6036.   Other sessions will be held by Michael Swanwick, Charles Gannon, Jody Lynn Nye, Fran Wilde, Jo Walton, Tom Doyle, and Sarah Pinsker.
I will try not to  embarrass myself too much.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

On the Road

Instead of continuing to blather endlessly about my self-referential angst I am going on the road to seek enlightenment and inspiration,  starting with RavenCon in Williamsburg, VA where I am on a few panels, will talk about SFWA, and do a reading* as well as talk to all my old friends and new.  Then we'll take a short trip to Albermarle to visit family, returning home for a day before going to Huddleston VA for my baby brother's wedding, after which we return home to our pissed-off cats for a day or two before heading to Chicago IL for five days at the Nebula Weekend and Awards.  A week after returning I'll be at BaltiCon in Baltimore MD to participate in writers seminars and panels and, a month later at ReaderCon in Boston MA, to work on the Fiscal Year close, speak at panels, and try to talk to everyone attending.  A few weeks later I'll be going to Confluence in Pittsburgh PA, **and finally CapClave in Gaithersburg MD.  By God and all that's holy, if I can't get an idea from all that I  need to hang up my scribbling hobby for good.

Needless to say, my posts to this blog might be few and far between in the next few  months.

*Out loud, of course

** Late addition: WORLDCON, 
how the hell could I forget  
Worldcon in Kansas City!


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Unrequited Love

I've written a lot of short stories and even managed to sell some. I've also abandoned stories that just didn't feel right for any market or because I just got tired of dealing with them.  My hard drive is littered with these latter fragmentary attempts.  They reside nestled among the layers of early drafts of their better brothers and sisters. There are even, down there among the buried dead, abandoned, and rejected, stories that I love beyond all measure, stories that excited my emotions, or which satisfied some literary need.  Well written (IMHO) for the most part but sadly unable to find a market.

What is one to do with the stories that receive rejection upon rejection despite the massive effort it took to craft them?  I could follow the advice of my peers and keep sending them around until the electrons wear off or some hapless editor decides to take it, if only to prevent seeing it again and again. On the other hand I could put it on the web to see what happens, but my past experiences with web publishing have come to naught.

So, do I keep sending it out to the same editors or submit to some unsuspecting innocent who might, just might, have the discerning taste to appreciate the craftsmanship or just embrace the point of the story? These are the questions that haunt my dreams and, when those visitations become unbearable,  I select one and submit, fearing further disappointment.   Is it stupid to believe in and love a piece so much despite the rejection of every editor?  Must I resign myself and think only of how great these will look in my post-mortem collections?

I wish I knew.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Working the Seam

Coal deposits exist far below ground and require considerable effort to extract.  Finding where to dig often means exploring unremarkable territory before finding where coal is located.  Mining then begins only after a tunnel has been dug/drilled through layers of accumulated rock and shale to reach the seam. The danger of exploration is that you may not be able to find a productive seam and must move on to try again, and again, again, again......

Such has been my painful experience for weeks now.  My seam of creativity appeared to have petered out, producing few new ideas that could be extracted from the empty mine. To find a new seam of ideas I have wandered afar, virtually tunneling in my files and through the deposits of previous ideas, discovering dangerous shales of discarded drafts, or only the wet sand of weak plots.  In my metaphoric search for renewal I cursed the empty page, the failed outlines, the truncated attempts to spark fire before the idea fizzled out barely a parragraph out of the gate.*

Then something marvelous happened as I paged through the failed stories, the piles of rejected attempts, and the rough drafts that never matured into a salable form. In a sense I was seeking placer coal, the remnants of mining that did not produce sufficient output for the effort involved. It was my last recourse as a desperate writer; to self plagiarize my younger, brasher, and smarter self.  I threw pride aside and shamelessly exposed material that lay dormant for years.

Among the dreck I found a few things whose problems were obvious to my more practiced eye, some that lacked only a bit of spit and polish to be renewed, and others that, while not worth pillaging, nevertheless contained concepts I'd never expanded upon.  In the end I had a wheelbarrow of things that might prove useful in overcoming my block.  Perhaps some newer ideas will come of the exercise.

At least I'm writing again.

*At this point I ran out of analogies, similes, and metaphors.


Friday, April 8, 2016

What do you do when the lights go out?

Week four or five of the dreaded block during which I've started at least a dozen stories and abandoned them within the first thousand words.  Some fell by the wayside because the initial idea didn't pan out, others because the absurdity of the motivation got to me, and even more were killed for my lack of interest in pushing the story any further.  I haven't finished a story for nearly a month and even editing unpublished material has no appeal.

Where once my active imagination rested, there is now an empty seat.  I remember feeling a rush of excitement at the start of a piece, hardly able to type fast enough to pour out the story.  I recall thinking ahead and laying out a strategy for completion, lacking only the exact wording of the denouement.  At night my mind would come up with the next story, the next chapter, the next bit of business and in the morning I could hardly wait to type and capture it all.

Now, I face the empty screen with trepidation; fearing that I will be unable to craft the words that launch the tale, frozen with fear that whatever I do will be trash.*  Why won't the words come? What happened that turned off my story-telling spigot?  Why, Holy Heinlein, have you deserted me?

 But no answer comes as the question echoes through my empty cranium, not once encountering a single useful thought that I might turn to advantage.  Outlines don't help and pantsing for the sake of pantsing produces reams meaningless words.  I can still peal out the words, but telling a story isn't just command of the language; it's a matter of imparting meaning, emotion, and a sense of direction and all are sadly lacking.

I have four conventions coming up at which I will be the poor son-of-a-bitch waxing passionately at the bar about writer's block instead of the scoffing listener absolutely positive that such a thing will never happen to him. I

t's a bitter pill to swallow.

* As different from what I usually write, that is.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Writer's Block

It happens, so others tell me unconvincingly, at a bar at some con or other.  Then they relate their harrowing tale of being unable to write, lacking ideas, failing to craft a first line, or think of a gripping ending for whatever nascent tale they insist they are unable to write.

To all of these I've given an incredulous ear, doubting that any pro writer would ever fail to come up with an idea for a story, that they would not be able to craft concrete reality from the fluff of dreams and hone it to their liking. I likened their talk of blocks and mental fatigue to a form of bragging; something to disarm the claims of successes of whomever they are addressing.  I had never lacked for a story idea, a hook, a perfect ending line, an engaging plot, or interesting characters.

Such was my foolish belief for too many blessed years.

That is, until the dreaded block finally struck.  It's just exhaustion, I told myself after a year of intense work on three (3!) novels and eight or nine short stories, some of which actually sold.  Maybe it's just burnout, I imagined.  Give your mind a rest, I said and started delving into the backlog of books-to-be-read on my shelf and Kindle, blazing through the Nebula list and then the Kindle's, occasionally opening an actual book for the novelty of turning pages.  Three weeks of that and I felt ready to face the deadly blank screen once again.

But what to write?  My fingers hesitated over the keyboard, unable to decide which one to press.  Is it fear that I could not possibly equal the writing skills of those I'd just read.  No way I could craft such engaging plots.  Nor could I expect to breathe life into my characters in such an elegant way.  My basic writing style has been plodding, not soaring to elegant heights of description.  The best I can do is write more or less transparent sentences that have little complexity or nuance.  Accepting my limitations I applied myself to the task of pressing that first key that would open the door to my story.

Only I had no idea of how to start, or even what my subject would be.  Am I destined to become one of those writers who complains about writer's block at bars?

I hope not.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Reach vs Grasp

I've always yearned to write a significant story, one that elicits tears and deep felt emotion, perhaps something of significant social value or a mind-blowing revelation. I occasionally find such short stories, always written by others.  When I do run across such I  tell myself that I could have done better and then tear the tale apart to find out how in holy hell the author managed to cast his/her spell on me. Was it their word choice, their phrasing, or the underlying structure of the tale (i.e. plot+sequence?)  Was it the conceptual framework that held me in thrall or was it the gripping introduction or later development that made the telling magical?  I often go through this sort of analysis as a learning experience, not intending possible plagiarism.*

But when I intend to write something with serious heft using that knowledge something always goes awry.  Somewhere along the way, I find myself making some humorous aside, or giving the hapless protagonist a self-critical observation then, in the blink of an eye, the tale is turned into something less than originally intended, even when the result is publishable.  I seem to be my own worse enemy, self-sabotaging my initial dramatic narrative. This usually casts me into such depths of despair that I end up writing humor.

Why does my reach for meaningful stories always exceed my grasp?  Why do I always trip shy of the finish line or worse, find myself diverted onto a different path than I mapped, and finding my story expressing a different purpose than intended?  Those pieces that do evoke some emotion occur almost by accident instead of being deliberately planned; sudden scenes that arise from my muddled unconscious without forethought.  Is it a failure of resolve, a willingness to dissemble, or simply a lack of talent?

What am I doing wrong?
*but I have to admit I am sorely tempted at times.


Saturday, March 19, 2016


The writing urge is enticing, enthralling, and at times frightening.  You might begin on impulse, trying to relieve an itch with the point of a Number 2 yellow pencil and a pad of lined paper.  It's not too hard, you imagine and, eventually, if you keep at it, both your writing skills and tools become more sophisticated. You are amazed at how a brilliant idea or sudden insight becomes a reality as the words flow and, sometimes, publication might follow.

So you do it some more.

A second appearance in a publication ignites your imagination and more ambitious stories quickly follow, some good and most otherwise, but  you persist. To ensure more publication of your works  your occasional writing spurts mutate into a practice of setting aside certain days or hours to write.  Soon that bit of set-aside writing time becomes a habit and one that is rigorously followed else you might fall into the chasm of failure.  Any missed writing session makes you feel uncomfortable, perhaps egging you on to extend the time a bit to make up for the loss. One must suffer for their art, after all.

At some point your habitual writing session becomes an obsession, so much so that you experience physical pain should you miss a personal deadline or fail to conceive and execute a decent story.  Your physical pain makes you question whether your obsession  is due to your need for the endorphin rush of creativity.  You ask yourself if your once benign writing urge become an addiction?

Of course not, you answer.  You can certainly put down the virtual pencil, stop thinking of imaginary worlds and situations, and even reacquaint yourself to your loved ones that is, if they will still have you. It is so simple to simply stop.

But can you? Can you ever walk away from the joyful creative aspect of writing? Can you ever return to the colorless life of mundane concerns when a universe of imaginative worlds beacons?

Can you NOT write?


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Economics 101

Why, dear God, did I ever aspire to write?  It makes no economic sense to put years or a lifetime into composing a novel with no expectation of the effort producing a decent return on investment.  Neither is it smart to write short stories on spec.  Word rates are slightly better for short story writers but only marginally so. In both cases one invests hours of creative time isolated from friends and family, from activities that might provide more pleasure and richer rewards, pouring out your soul for a pittance.  You'd make more money slinging burgers or joining the pizza delivery rodeo.  The advantage of these latter endevours is that you might eat better while enjoying a greater income level.

But earning money isn't your objective, is it?  No indeed; you aspire to greater heights to prove your superiority over lesser mortals for you alone have the gift of crafting the precise word, the most effective phrase, the most convincing paragraph, and the most compelling tale....on the fiftieth or one hundredth revision.  True, your odds of producing a better story than the proverbial million monkeys are better, but those monkeys don't have to edit their words or deal with editors, publishers, critics, and deadlines. Again, they probably eat better.

If  you look at the effort on the basis of an hourly rate you quickly realize that you make far less than the minimum wage and barely enough to buy extra fries for the sumptuous meal you have to celebrate a successful sale. I'm not saying that lightning doesn't occasionally strike and a precious few rake in the rewards that brings, but for the large majority of us who strive in the darkness of our rooms with only the cats for company that wondrous flash will never brighten the stygian darkness of our wallet.

There is absolutely no sense to being a speculative writer of fiction; casting  your bread upon the wicked waters of editorial whimsey, hovering over the mail in hopes that your submission has met someone's approval, and basking in the ephemeral glow of holding the stage when it is published.  But that glow fades when the next issue comes out and everybody forgets your story and worse, your name.  It's a fool's game and one few writers have a chance to win.

But that doesn't mean we can't play, does it?


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Time Slips

Time.  When you are setting out there is seemingly endless time to write, at least until life intervenes, and things like school, love, marriage, children, mortgages, and housing come about.  Then there is that JOB, the great time-sucking machine that drains your energy even as it nourishes you and yours.

But still you preserve a small sanctuary, a fragment of time where there is nothing but you, your muse, and a blank sheet of paper*  onto which you will pour your soul. But the kids need attention, your spouse needs food in the house, and you've got to have some social life, don't you? Time begins to slip through your fingers.

First you skip an hour of writing, then it's an evening, a weekend, or vacation time. Little by little your sanctuary of writing time is eroded.  When you do manage to wrest some time for the muse you suddenly find that she has abandoned you, fled to visit some hack with no talent who will probably get a fucking Nebula or Hugo for their illiterate work. So you stare at the blank sheet of paper* and wait for the words to come, the inspiration to lift you to rapturous realms of poesy, to set  your fingers dancing on the keys.

Uncertainty starts as a small worry: what if you no longer have the spark that set your feet on the climb to greatness. What if you have already used up what little talent you might have had? What if the family, job, and friends have drained you of all your creative energy?

Over the years these doubts pile up as you struggle to eke out writing time - a paragraph here, a line there, an idea for a complete scene, or even GASP a novel!  You begin to think that it is a senseless venture, this writing urge, this pathetic attempt to talk to the universe and explain some aspect of the messy lives we all live.  Nevertheless, you keep on as best you can and even if you never achieve the heights you desired you will know that you have done your very best.

That's all a writer can hope for.

*This is a metaphor for computer, for God's sake!


Thursday, February 25, 2016


Let's be honest: The world doesn't really give a damn about your writing or how much effort went into your latest attempt at literacy.  Let's face it, there are dozens of better writers, better stylists, better plotters, and better salesmen than you. There is no way your attempts are going to measure up to the standards of the published stories you've read.  Worse, compared to any random selections you choose to read, the pathetic scribblings of  your drafts are downright embarrassing. Your words choices unsuitability are only matched by your inadequate plotting and the cardboard characters who lack any resemblance to a real person.  You realize sooner or later that you don't have Imposter Syndrome but that you are an imposter!

It's enough to make you think about quitting.

Only you can't.  Some demon has cursed you with literary ambitions far beyond your abilities and talent.  Words tumble out in an endless, unsaleable stream, a river, a flood and nothing seems to work for you.  No matter how hard you try success seems ever beyond the pale of possibility.  You feel like Sisyphus, eternally pushing a mass of manuscript up editorial hills only to fall to the bottom where you must do it again and again. You once again vow to quit.

Then you keep doing it.

If you keep at it you might get a modicum of encouragement; perhaps a note from an editor, praise from one of your peers, or even a kind word from one of the pros you've met.  On the face of it these small graces do little save to bolster your unjustified feelings of worth.  Some day, these tiny graces seem to say, you will earn the acclaim you so richly deserve.  You will get the rewards visited upon you for your work.  You will get fan mail.  You might even get mentioned in a trade publication.

Just don't count on it.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Bud's Year in Review

Once again, as in other Januaries, I've updated my archive files, cleaned out the messes I've created, and looked at the various pieces I'd been working on in 2015.  I've been doing this assessment since I started writing again in 1991, partly to see how far I've come and partly to torture myself with the realization that I could have done so much better.  Sometimes this review causes me to reassess what I am doing and change my writing objectives.  This past year I've published one novel, completed another (currently in peer review) and continuing to work on whatever crosses my ADD-afflicted mind.

The number of pieces I count in any given year is the gross number of files, so novels get the same weight as novellas, novelettes, short stories, and articles.  I do not count the number of multiple drafts, edits, and crap I deleted or threw away in frustration at my fickle muse.  Neither do I count the number of multiple drafts to reach the final version of a story. Some of my friends suggest I should keep track of total words or megabytes instead of my simple file count, but to me the resulting number would be too horrifyingly large with ratios of written words to words sold at millions to one, e.g. I do a LOT of drafts!

Writing 1990-2015
The chart at the right shows the arc - the blue representing the cumulative number of files worked on and the red line shows the cumulative number of files sold year by year (not included in the count are sales of reprints, audio productions, or donated stories.)  The green line is the ratio of sales to work each year, which disappointingly declines as the number of files increases.  The lesson I take for this annual compilation of misery it that I have to kiss a lot of frogs, among other things, to make a sale

The chart shows the  ups and downs of my working/writing career.  Strangely, the years I had problems with my day job turned out to be the most productive for writing.  In my peak years I sold almost as many as I wrote, the bad news being that I didn't write all that much  in those years.  Post-retirement periods have been spent attempting to finish novels (I worked on four in 2015) which also meant a lower overall production count, much to my regret.

So, looking back on 2015 I have to say that I've not done badly.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Thoughts on a Snowy Afternoon (that I forgot to post)

As I sit here blizzard assaults the house, burying everything in a blanket of soft, powdery snow.  After an unusually warm December it appears that my old adversary, winter has arrived.

Back in early December, having put the final touches on my "first" draft of a novel twenty- two years in development and sending it to a few peer readers I thought there might be a better way to build a novel.  Instead of  merely bumbling along, making shit up as the plot develops, as I have always done, why not pay more attention to the plot and background BEFORE the first word is written.

OK, so everybody outlines and I am just coming late to the party so kick me.  I haven't done this before, choosing in my short stories to focus on the proximate issue and then beating the hell out of it.  This time I decided to handle things scientifically.  The concept was already in my head, else I wouldn't even have made the decision to try, so all I had to do was lay out how my protagonist & associates get from the here of the beginning to the there of of the ending.

No problem.

First I needed to paint with a broad brush the primary arc of the novel and spread it over about twenty chapters or so.  That done I proceeded to draw a temporal map of when and where events take place.  This set the stage for sketching in the minor arcs - those interplays of characters that will pull the reader along-- and identifying where they should break away from the main plot line and what actions they would invove.  That was followed by having a casting call for a brace of characters; names, their positions, relations to each other and the principle characters, and their desired personalities, etc.

 Then the hard work began, positing the things that would turn this into a science fiction story - world building in other words.

By the third week of January I had a seven page outline that sketched out each scene of each chapter with a word or phrase just as the massive storm was arriving.  Time, I said, to begin to see if this was a better way to go rather than struggling along the swamps and deserts of Plotland .

So I began to write and was amazed at how easily the words flow when you know so much of the world and all within it.  Four days after beginning I had four chapters, about 16,000 words in hand and had not had to go back and cancel half a line or clear up an inconsistency.  This was a revelation for me.

We shall see what obtains when I reach the dreaded 50k mark, which should be mid February and have completed the "first" draft by April, unless I have to take a break to produce a short story or throw something at an anthology.

Or find that this process is no easier than anything else.



Recently I've been rereading In Search of Wonder, the collection of Damon Knight's essays on the state of the field of Science Fiction/Fantasy since the early 1950's.

The book is a pleasure to read both as a tutorial on plotting, characterization, and structure as well as a stroll down memory lane.  December 1950 was the year I first picked up a copy of  Astounding Science Fiction and thus began my sad descent into this special olympics of literature.

It is fascinating to read Damon's take on the "new" writers of the fifties and sixties and their works; books that I read when they first appeared and some of which are now honored volumes of the canon. Even more interesting are the criticisms heaped upon the first appearance of volumes such a Player Piano, The Stars My Destination, and collections of Vance, Clarke, and too many others. He is particularly cutting with regards to van Vogt, although he savaged others just as cruelly.

Knight also describes the bumbling mistakes the writers of that time were making, itemizes their shortfalls, successes, their styles and affectations. Included throughout are asides about writers, the community in which they worked, and the changes overtaking the field.  In one section he speaks of the decline in writing by the new crowd and how, were it to go on, the excellent writers would become crowded out by less capable writers and consequently would have no place to sell their works.

Little has changed in the intervening years, I'm afraid.

The subtext that grabbed me was discovering that the giants of the field were at one time as insecure, naive, and struggling as me. Discovering that their failures of plot, characterization, and structure traced my own and that their working methods were as different from each other as mine are from yours.

What I've discovered is that struggling with the form is ever with us and trying to win that struggle is what moves our genre forward.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Science Fiction

Back when I was a tad (actually a bit older than that) I dreamed of the wonders the sunny future might bring. Visions of flights to distant planets, being driven by robotic chauffeurs, and able to watch things from afar.  I dreamed of colossal cities and fantastic machines that would make work unnecessary. In my adolescent mind the future would be filled with wonders beyond my imagining.  Much of the fiction I devoured hungrily reenforced these dreams.  How could I doubt the parade of progress when the evidence was all around me - television, and in color yet, as one example.

I still cling to those boyhood dreams and am really disturbed by the attitude that things are going to hell in hand-basket, or whatever your metaphor of choice might be. The plethora of dystopias that grace the bookshelves, the focus of politicians harping on the worst of our civilization, and the negative blathering of biased and self-serving commentators would have us believe that we are not living in the best of times, but in the worst.

Today I may not have the ubiquitous flying car (given the way people drive I should add "Thank God") nor do I have the magic food pills.  Neither are there human-form robots to do my bidding and we have certainly not yet achieved the vision of a space hotel as set forth in Clarke/Kubrick's "2001." It seems that the most expansive of my visions still remain beyond our reach.

But today I have solar panels on my roof to satisfy my energy needs and a tiny robot that cleans the cat hair and other detritus of living, I have a television that is not only in color, but provides nearly photographic quality images.  I carry my phone, camera, mailbox and a hundred other tools of daily life in my shirt pocket. I carry under my arm a computer so I need not miss an opportunity to write, communicate, or play a game.  I communicate occasionally (all right, too damn much) through the amazing wonder of a world-spanning Internet, and can have my heart's desire almost instantly with only a credit charge. I carry a hundred unread books in my side pocket - a hundred fucking books!

Overhead we have a manned international space station and a million satellites that assure we will never get lost, be unwatched, or surprised by blizzards, hurricanes, or even picnic spoiling rain.  Our advanced ships explore the surface of other planets while other probe the atmospheres of distant world. Our eyes can now gaze upon stars at the beginning of time and, given the state of biological sciences, we are actually living like the protagonist in Fred Pohl's "Day Million."

And we aren't even halfway to that number.


Monday, January 11, 2016

World Building

There's always a great feeling when the latest is sent forth to find a comfortable niche, hopefully with someone who will pay. Such was the case this morning as I sent off a long-developing novelette to an editor whose name shall not be mentioned.  Just as well; I was suffering from learning that there will be further delay in publishing one of the recently accepted.  The placement never seems real to me until I see it in print elsewhere than my own devices.

So, now that's done I can get back to world building, further enhancing an existing sketchy outline to make it  more fully realized.  I am doing this by building a scaffold for the novel (yes, another start on a novel) and seeing what the world will require of them as they boldly struggle for coherence.
I started with names, unusual name but based on other cultures than my own.  That led to family structures, customs, and a variety of cultural considerations, such as oaths and obligations. All of this was great fun before I started putting the pieces on the chessboard.

Characters always need to be grounded with a sense of place and places need to be named. Further, since I intend this to be a picaresque tale, the distances between those names and what lay between them required further thought. This led to the making of maps and considerations of boundaries, which brought thoughts of politics and governance, and mountains, streams and rivers, seas and deserts.  Rivalries might take place, as to loss and reconciliation. Love might play a part, as would conflict.  Emotions?  Do I need an emotional map as well? How do I chart the ups and downs, paced them to provide heights and depths, humor and pathos as the tale progresses?

Oh wait, I've wandered into the morass of the plot swamps, where I will no doubt thrash about for a while before I get down to actually writing the damn thing.

Yes, I will write, but first I need to make a few more adjustments to the world.