As noted earlier, John C. Bodin and I are excited to announce that we’ll be releasing “Three Days in May,” an anthology of science fiction related to the Indianapolis 500. We expect to see it drop on or about May 11th, which just so happens to be the day the Indianapolis Motor Speedway opens for practice. Wonders be, eh?
As promised, here’s the cover we’re planning, as well as a little blurb about the works themselves:
Strap yourself into the cockpit and follow along as John C. Bodin and Ron Collins take you on three laps around the Indy 500′s past and future.
Speeding — Famous chronumentary director Connor Singh and his best friend Li-liang Novikoff will go to any length necessary to capture the dramatic secrets of one of the most horrific accidents in Indy history, as they return to 1964 to record the events that lead up to the crash that took the lives of Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald.
Oh-oh! — It’s 1969 and a shape shifting race of aliens from Tau Ceti are out to rig the most wagered upon event in the known universe. It’s up to an undercover vice cop from outta this world to stake out the Snake Pit, find a way to stop them, and avoid the fickle fate of bad fortune himself.
The Day the Track Stood Still — Drivers have always had special relationships with their cars, but in the future this may go a little further than Buddy might have expected. He’s about to find out how far he can stretch his relationship when the B’rada come to town with big plans to win the 500, and with it take home something bigger than the Borg-Warner trophy.
Apr 19, 2013 Short Stories
After my last post, the cherry comes on top with news that a publication to be named later has interest in publishing a short story of mine titled “Out of the Fire.” Working through the details of the contract now, and will provide more detail when the time is perhaps a bit more appropriate. Definitely good news, though. [grin]
It was a big basketball weekend, of course. My Cardinals of Louisville are riding high, and seem to be a reasonable favorite to win it all. Lots of good teams out there, though, far too much competition left to get particularly cocky.
Myke Cole, a writing acquaintance of mine who I recently met in person for the first time, tweeted yesterday that “Writing short stories because you want to be a novelist is like practicing to ride a motorcycle because you want to drive a car.”
Given that there exist many very fine race drivers throughout history who learned their race craft on motorcycles before moving to automobile racing (can you say world champion John Surtees, among many others?), and given the fact that for many, many years a gajillion novelists in our speculative field of Fantasy and Science Fiction got their starts writing short stories, I have to admit I found Myke’s commentary a bit too restrictive. Myke and I bandied about conversation on his FB page, and then let it die. As I said there, we would agree, I think (I hope?), about more than we disagree. Myke is a completely Grade A guy, and I admire the heck out of him for many reasons. Realize, too, that at the end of the day, though I’ve written several novel-length works, Myke is successfully publishing them. In that light, I am a short story guy. So take my thoughts with big grains of thought-salt.
And my thoughts here are that–especially for new writers–the most important thing is to learn how to actually write as rapidly as possible. And I think you learn to write by writing things that get you excited. For some folks writing novels is what gets them excited–they can deal with the time investment required to complete one on spec and move on. But a vast majority of new writers I run into don’t have that psychology. They want a sense of having completed something … and in most cases that’s an important aspect of the learning curve. For them, short stories work as their proving grounds just fine. For them, the act of writing short stories provides them the ability to rapidly try out new and different forms of storytelling–fiddle with plot points, and with structure, and characterization and dialect and whatever. Writing short stories gives new writers a place to practice basic prose craft, and work out how to make the flow of information in their work happen well for them.
Of course, plotting a novel is different than plotting a short story. The pacing is different. The short story is more precise–more focused. But ultimately, I think a novel has many short stories in it. A good one, anyway. I think every major secondary character in a good novel has his or her own storyline, and that storyline is essentially a short story in itself–the telling of which is spread out over the entirety of the book. So it seems to me that the act of writing short stories can’t possibly do anything but augment a new writer’s ability to write a good novel.
Perhaps I’m just making that up. I don’t know.
I’m a short story guy, you see?
So, while I agree totally with Myke that novelists can learn to be novelists by writing novels (and that perhaps that’s even the best way), I think there is no reason you can’t include writing short stories on your list of activities that will help you become a novelist, just like riding a motorcycle over a road course is a helluva good way to learn the racing line (which is paramount to being a great race car driver).
That’s my .02, anyway.
So, after this morning’s work episode 5, Lords of Existence, is “in the can.” This means, to me anyway, that the creation of story is now done and it’s moving into the steps more closely aligned with production rather than deep story telling. I personally include some beta reading in this production phase, but that’s just me. It rings in at about 25,400 words by the trusty Microsoft counter, and brings our hero to a new understanding of both himself and the world at large. I’m quite enjoying it.
We now move to episode 6, which I’ve laid out previously but which will need a bit of tweaking based on a small turn that rose itself up in episode five. That happens, you know. And mostly it’s pretty good when it does–though a bit annoying with the rewrites it causes.
My intention is to get either seven or eight episodes complete prior to moving into the release phase–which could, of course, go a few different directions. More coming on that in the future.
I’m pleased to announce that Kerrie Hughes has accepted “Guardians of Chicago” for publication in her anthology Hex and the City. As I noted in an earlier post, this story drew good attention at the workshop I attended. I’m quite pleased.
And the fun doesn’t stop there …
I’m also pleased to have received a note from Trevor Quachri at Analog, noting that he’s accepting both “Bugs” and “Following Jules” for publication in his magazine.
More news on all fronts whenever it becomes available.
Fingers crossed, and all that, but 2013 has been a pretty good year so far.
So the “80s Song Story” turned out to be 3,000 words, rather than 2,500. Who can estimate, eh?
This is relevant to a conversation Brigid (my daughter) and I had yesterday. She’s working on a short story as a partial break from her book, and I asked her to guess how long it would be–realizing my mistake as soon as I said it. Stories wind up being what they need to be, or else they just aren’t much of a story–and until that first draft is done and analyzed, you just never know.
Tomorrow I’ll go through the whole thing again and we’ll see what I think of it. My working title is “Unfolding the Multi-Cloud.” It might stick, or it might not.
Any way it ends, it’s been a fun little three-day foray into story.
This is apparently the time of picking up “old” pieces and working on them. If you’re following me semi-closely, you’ll know that the past two weeks have been spent developing “Primes” a 9,000 word story that grew out of three sentences I had written back in 2005 and that I found laying around untouched since.
Yesterday I spent about an hour re-arranging stuff, and came upon another brief, untitled piece that I had written for Brigid probably fifteen years ago. I picked it up today, and have worked it into what I think is a really nice little 800+ word bit that I’ve titled “Hazel and the Monsters.”
I feel in ways that I’m riding on a new wave of insight. I’m not sure how else to describe it, but that’s what it feels like. Or, that I’m developing greater insight into story as I work on pieces. A lot of it, I think, is due to some work Mike Resnick did with me last month on my story “Teammates” (the acceptance of which by Galaxy’s Edge is now complete!). He really stretched me. He showed me how lazy I had become, and it’s paying off now. At least it’s paying off in the sense that I’m absolutely loving the act of working on these stories–pushing myself more deeply into the characters and their actions and into word choices that can wear multiple hats and language that just sounds right as it rolls off the tongue.
Will this wave result in commercial success?
One always assumes so, but that’s just because writers must always make such assumptions. The honest answer is that I obviously hope it does, but I have no idea if it will. But just as honestly, in the end it doesn’t matter, because writing while I’m in this kind of a zone is really something special.
Today I read a short story that really bugged me. I won’t mention titles or names of writers for several reasons, not the least of which is that I could be wrong–or, better said, what I think might not be what you think. You might love this piece I’m going to talk about. And, in fact, I loved it … all the way until I didn’t. I’m not here to run down a story, though, but instead to talk about the way it influenced me, the way I thought about it, and the steps I took in the end to come to grips with my thoughts. Suffice to say that the story is a short story (since that’s what I’m reading these days), written in a voice that’s attractive, with a conflict that’s built up in a really nice but languid pace that had me well set-up for … well … set up for something. But then it pulled its punch. It stepped back and instead of addressing the problems it posed, it merely faded away into an ending that had perhaps some symbolism in it, but left me completely robbed.
Note to self: Do Not Upset Readers.
Maybe I’m focused on this because I’ve recently been working with someone on a short story of mine, and in the process I’ve had to dig down pretty deeply into my understanding of story. My own ending wasn’t up to snuff. Maybe I’m focused on it because I’m working my way through another one of my own stories that has a tone to its voice, and I’m working diligently to address the focal purpose of it at the end, too. I dunno. All I can say for sure is that I was reading this story at lunch today and when I got to the end I became upset. It was a great learning moment.
Putting myself into the writer’s shoes, I think that what happened was that that writer didn’t want to truly hurt a character. The writer put his characters through pain, but not more than they could bear. But the story required one to break, and I think the writer just couldn’t do it. So they settled. Everyone lived a pat life at the end, though not as happy as one might have wanted. I, on the other hand, walked away empty.
But the truly happy instant came a few minutes later when I asked myself what I would do to fix it. That led me to another series of questions about the story itself, and what I thought the most compelling themes might be. And then I looked at how I would deal with the theme based on how the plot might change. I found myself becoming excited by the story, felling really close to the characters. It was one of the more fun ten minutes I had all day, really.
So this evening I’m thinking about that, and I’m absorbing the fundamental lesson under it all, which I take to be: Dig deep, address the most compelling issues you raise in an active fashion, and have fun with the characters.
I am happy to announce the release of Five Magics a new collection of my fantasy short stories in multiple e-versions:
The collection includes five previously published stories. I don’t write that much fantasy in short form these days, but, as you’ll learn below, they are some of my favorite stories.
The table of contents is:
A Gathering of Bones
Ties That Bind
The Family Tree
The Time of Leaving
To kick it off here, I thought I would post my introduction. So, here it is:
If I am allowed to enjoy my own work to some humble degree, the stories in this collection are some of my favorites. Having grown up reading Moorcock, Tolkien, and Leiber, fantasy has always been a guilty pleasure. The magic inherent in the genre holds an allure for me, a heady sense of expression bound in performance art. Each time the wizard stands to cast a spell, he is creating something unique, something only that mage could possibly create. In a way, each casting is then a test of the wizard’s mettle. These mages and their spells are little metaphors of life that way. Each casting is its own adventure, full of inconsistencies and leading to its own joys and troubles, just as each day in our lives brings its own problems and surprises.
Thinking about it this way makes me want to live each day as if it is a magic spell, which I guess is a pretty good thing in itself.
Anyway, all of this is to say that I am, and by this time probably always will be, a fan of mages, magic, and barbaric swordsfolk of all kinds. I remember Elric, and Gandalf, and Fafhrd before there was ever the visual aid of today’s movies that are so beautiful, but that also strip one of the ability to imagine things for themselves. Movies are like magic spells, after all, just as are books, and short stories. Perhaps that’s why I like these stories in particular. Perhaps I think of them as my own little spells, eh? And if these five magics are spells, then that would make me . . .
Let’s not take this too far.
I hope you enjoy these stories, though. I’ve cast them the best I know how.
Dec 6, 2012 Short Stories
I’m terribly excited to note that Elemental Magic, an anthology edited by Mercedes Lackey, has been released–including my story “The Collector.” It’s available at this link in both Kindle and print versions. I’ll see about getting alternate links up for other versions in the next day or two.
The anthology consists of nineteen stories in Ms. Lackey’s world of pre-1920, which was an interesting time period to work in. I selected a moment in history, and explored how it might have gone a different way. In addition, since Misty has used the series to retell fairy tales, I chose a fairly obscure fairy tale to reconfigure–the first time I’ve undertaken this kind of an effort. Again, much fun.
Hope you all like it.
You may think this isn’t saying much, but this is my very favorite story written about a guy who cleans portable toilets. It’s up on Kris Rusch’s page for free until next Monday.
I’m not joking about enjoying it. It’s a good enough story just as it is, but I fell for it because I enjoyed having an author make me care about a toilet cleaner, which made me think about my own preconceived biases.
So, I’m finally getting around to reading “The Count of Monte Cristo,” which is a long damned book. Maybe three weeks in, and I’m about 10% done. Of course, I’m a grazing reader–and I read a lot of things all at once. For example, over these three weeks I’ve also read ten or twelve short stories and several longer articles. And I’ve spent time listening to podcasts, which in the old days would be akin to reading, eh? I do the best I can while working and writing and doing all the other things it takes to move about in the life I’m leading.
So I suppose I’m like pretty much everyone else, really.
We absorb things so differently today. I mean, it feels quaint to think of taking a whole vacation day to just sit on the couch and read. I used to do that. I think I read “Ender’s Game” that way. And several of Moorcock’s Elric works. And … well, a lot of things. But I can’t remember the last time I just sat down for a day and did nothing but read.
I’m not saying this is good or bad. I’m just saying it’s different.
And who knows, maybe it’s just me.
At this rate I’ll finish “The Count…” sometime after Christmas. I wonder how it will hold up. Will I lose things? Probably, especially since the style of storytelling is so different these days from when Dumas wrote it. Of course, it was originally published in serial form, so maybe this will be the “right way” to read it.
Regardless, I find it’s enjoyable so far. I guess that’s a good part of why it’s a classic, eh?
I also think I’ve finished another very short story titled “The Lunar Council Cares.” Just thought I would throw that in for posterity’s sake. Wouldn’t want anyone to think I was a total slacker.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” I said to Lisa. “For maybe the first time I’ve been saved by a copy editor who wasn’t you.”
This drew her attention. Lisa is, you see, a remarkable copy editor, having made her living doing that for a number of years before turning to the darkside of Corporate America like me. She also has a rule that I am not allowed to send something out the door that she hasn’t seen.
“Tell me more.”
So I told her about the remarkable Robin Carson, one of the editors at OnSpec who found in my “Operation Hercules” manuscript a major, major error that for some incredibly strange reason I did not see myself. No, I won’t say what it was. That would miss the point, now, wouldn’t it? But suffice to say we’re not talking about a typo. It was a factual error. Robin caught it, researched it, and provided me a great reply that helped me go fix it. Now no one will ever know the error I made, unless I talk about it in public, which I probably will sometime because, well, because that’s just me. I tend to be fairly transparent about these things in the end.
But I digress.
“That’s not something I would have caught,” Lisa said when I described the issue. “Because I know you and I would have trusted you to get that right. If it were someone else I would have done just what he did.” If I needed any more proof that he had done good, that would have been it. To me, a testimonial from Lisa is golden.
Robin also made several polite suggestions for a word choice here and there–a majority of which I took, and he provided a comment about the base story structure that for a moment I thought was more than a bit cheeky. But five minutes and a dose of humility later I saw it for what it was–a really insightful perspective on how stories work, or at least where this one was a little weak. I mean, it would have been fine, really. Most copy editors would probably have just let it go. But Robin took his time to “get it” and then took his time to find professional words that would catch my thoughts in the right way.
Copy editors are your friends, and a great copy editor is something special. I know this because,as I said, I’ve lived with one for a considerable chunk of my life. Unfortunately, they rarely get any good press. It’s a thankless job, afterall. Literally the only time a copy editor is noted is when something went awry–and even then it’s sometimes not their fault, they just get left holding the bag.
So here’s my attempt to even the score in the harsh world out there.
Thanks, Robin. Great job.
It looks like the heat wave is breaking a bit. Only supposed to get to 87 today by the paper. I actually went outside to work in the yard for a half-hour yesterday. Sweated like a pig.
The great news today is that Mercedes Lackey and John Helfers have accepted my short story “The Collector” for Ms. Lackey’s Elemental Masters Anthology. This was an interesting one to write, and I’m both happy it was accepted and really interested to see how it will be received. It’s the second “alternate history with a twist” story of my so-called career–”Operation Hercules” being the first.
Interestingly enough this news comes on the heels of receiving the copy edited manuscript of “Operation Hercules,” which will be published in an up-coming issue of OnSpec.
Maybe I need to do more of these, eh?
Kris Rusch has a practice of putting up a free story every week, something she calls “Free Fiction Monday.” It’s always something interesting, because, well, because she’s a heckuva writer. She puts up science fiction, and fantasy, and romance. Short stories, and novel snippets. Whatever.
There’s only a few days left on this one, but I strongly recommend this week’s story, Burial Detail. It appears in Realms of Fantasy back in 2000, but I had missed it. Definite keeper. Kris Rusch is always good but I think she transcends herself quite often, and for me this is one of those times. If I can be a little pretentious, this is a real piece of art.
I read it at lunch today, and I was thinking about it hard much of my walk back to work.
In celebration of finishing my latest story, I thought I might give something away. So here it is–a free story from my past. In this case it’s “A Matter of Pride,” which appeared some time back in Analog. It will be here for free for the next week.
While I’m on a linky role, I suppose I should remind all that my one Amazon reviewer (what a lonely guy, eh?) had these wonderful things to say about Picasso’s Cat & Other Stories.
I’m so pleased to report that my short story, “Deca-Dad” made Tangent Online’s 2010 Recommended Reading List.
So, today I’m moving onward with a new short story tentatively titled “Walking the Line.” It’s almost fully formed now. Just looking for that last little thing that moves it from being interesting to really good. You know what I mean, right? That thing you can’t describe, but is certainly real, and that thing you know as soon as you feel it.
Yeah. That thing.
I’m excited to report that Analog has published my novelette “Ellipses…” in their May issue. Yes, I know it’s only February. Such is the strangeness of their publishing cycle. It’s a fun story for me to see make print. Hope you chase down a copy.
If you do, feel free to let me know what you think.
Jan 17, 2011 Short Stories
Google Alerts brings me the following link, which includes a nice and very well considered review of one of my older stories.
Turns out this guy is going back and reading every issue of Dragon Magazine ever printed. At least that’s the plan. There’s a guy after my own heart. [grin]
I was listening to a Scientific American podcast the other day while at the health club, and they ran a story about Alaskan dogs that were part of the Iditarod. Among the facts that the story gave was that these dogs burn an incredible number of calories while participating in this race, some ridiculous number like 12,000 calories a day. I mean, yikes. Totally awesome when you think about it, especially given the relative size of these animals.
Humans should get along on a couple thousand a day, for example.
These dogs, it seems, can also modify their systems to begin to dram energy from those calories directly from the bloodstream rather than letting it go through the liver first. Pretty danged fascinating, eh?
Anyway, the story got me to thinking about what would happen if humans used genetic material from a dog, which then got me to remembering a story I had written some time back. It was sitting firmly in my trunk, but I dug it out and looked it over. It is a story that uses the idea of building humans with genetic code from a specific animal in order to make use of its genetic processes.
I’m not in the habit of doing this because most, if not all, stories I put in my trunk are put in there for some very good reasons. This one, though, I decided I liked. And quite honestly, I’m a better writer now than I was when I first wrote it. I could see lots of big issues. But I’ve spent the last two days cutting it up and doing it over again.
And, of course I’m pretty happy with it. It’s always good to have a new story to put in the post.
Still, I don’t think I’ll be trunk diving anytime in the near future. Too scary as a rule. [grin]
I’ve got another recommendation–this time it’s not SF at all. I stumbled upon PRI’s Selected Shorts podcast, which is a show that features various people reading short stories of some note to a live audience. Often I like the stories, sometimes I don’t.
In this case, I quite enjoyed “Best Western“, a short story by Anne de Marcken (read by Laura Esterman). It’s the second story in this podcast. The first is good story–Rebecca Curtis’s “Twenty Grand” as read by Jane Curtain. But “Best Western,” in my opinion truly shines.
Weekends are the bestest.
And this weekend has been made just that much better now because I see that Picasso’s Cat & Other Stories is now available for pre-order at The Merry Blacksmith Press. You can order via Paypal, or contact the publisher at email@example.com.
Being new to this marketing thing, I think this is where I’m supposed to say it makes a great gift, right? Or am I supposed to say it gets great gas mileage? How about “order now and get a free set of Ginsu knives!” (Actually, that last is a lie…I don’t think you get any knives, no matter when you order–bummer, I know).
Perhaps it’s better if I stick to writing the stories, eh?
The tentative title to the collection is Picasso’s Cat and Other Stories. It’s soon to be winging it’s way the the Merry Blacksmit Press for them to do their magic. I’m pleased to confirm that Mike Resnick graciously agreed to write an introduction.
The TOC lines up like this right now:
The Disappearance of Josie Andrew – Writers of the Future (1998)
Just Business – Analog (2003)
The Test of Time – Return of the Dinosaurs (1995)
Stealing the Sun – Analog (1999)
The Taranth Stone – Analog (2000)
Parchment in Glass – Analog (2002)
Barnstorming – The Leading Edge (2001)
G-bomb – Men Writing SF as Women (2003)
Echoes in a Shattering Silence – Artemis (2001)
A Matter of Pride – Analog (2000)
Learning the Language – Land/Space: An Anthology of Prairie Fiction (2003)
The Vacation – Future Wars (2003)
Out of the Blue – Writers of the Future (1999)
1 is True – Asimov’s SF (2006)
Picasso’s Cat – Nature (2006)
It’s been a heck of a lot of fun to work on putting this together. Hope a few folks enjoy reading it.
I’m terribly excited to note that I’ve agreed in principle with The Merry Blacksmith Press to publish a collection of my short stories. I’ll be working to create the lineup here in the next few days, and I expect a title will shortly follow. I will, of course, post more as progress is made.