Tagdaily science fiction

There’s always a nuclear bomb at the end

You know about singing in the shower? Writing for yourself is kind of like that. You may not do more than whisper Mary Had A Little Lamb when you’re singing in public, but you’re ready to belt out arias once the hot water arrives. Off key and words jumbled–it doesn’t matter because you’re doing it for your own pleasure.

Which is kind of where this story comes from. When I say I like to write for myself sometimes, I really mean it. Most of that play (not work) stays hidden. This one didn’t because it was so much fun to read aloud (which I did, to anyone who would listen). When a bit of writing enjoys its life that much, it seems a pity to force it to stay home.

That’s one version of TAaNBatE’s (even the acronym is long) origin. Another is that I love movies almost as much as I love books. I really do, even the bad ones. But in the past year, I’ve been viewing many of them through the eyes of my daughter, who wants to see women and girls not just in the action, but leading it. Women who can not only change a flat, but rebuild an engine with their own tool kit.

The truth is that most of the movies she sees don’t live up to her imagination. Maybe none. The dissonance between what she believes herself capable of and what pop culture insists is her role is painful to me.

So, the fuller answer to where this particular story came from is that after a steady diet of superhero movies this spring, after regular conversations with the kids about what trends we saw repeated in them, on an afternoon when I was bored and itchy to write, I wrote. I wrote it for myself, and for my daughter. There was pleasure in the structure, frustration in the words.

If you’re not subscribed to Daily Science Fiction (quick, easy, free, comes right to your inbox every weekday…why not sign up?), you can find TAaNBatE on their front page this weekend. After that, I’ll add a direct link on my Short Fiction page.

Saturday afternoon, November 22, 2014

First, a gripe.

This is how writing a blog post works in my house:

1. Turn on the computer.
2. Wait five to ten minutes for it to rouse from its unearthly slumber.
3. Connect to internet. (Note: this used to be fun to listen to, up until the speakers died. Now it’s simply a lot of waiting.)
4. Load blog.
5. Load page to make new post.
6. Reload page after it loads as a blank page.
7. Reload page, after it times out while loading.
8. Reload page, after it loads as a mostly blank page.
9. Page loaded after only fifteen minutes of trying!
10. Take deep breath and remind self that there are still many hours left to Saturday afternoon.

Massachusetts, right? I mean, it’s not like we’re not known for our industry, our technology, our education. If I say I’m from Massachusetts, first thing anyone thinks is “poor thing, bet she’s still years and years away from having high speed internet access.” At this point, it’s pretty clear that we’ll be getting rid of dial-up right around the time that other folks are jacking directly into their computers through their artfully designed arm ports.

Anyway, while it is still cold enough to make me cry, there’s blue sky outside. I’ve made a giant box of papers to be sorted into half a giant box and a bag of paper recycling, which deserves a cheer or two. I convinced the cat not to eat a large feather, I convinced the dog to go back to sleep, and I’ll be making cauliflower cheese soup for dinner later. It’s really not a bad day.

And writing? I think I mentioned that I was resculpting The Lost, did I not? I am, and it’s kind of a terrifying, glorious project. It’s not just the how and why aspects of it. It’s examining who I was as a writer in 2008, when I finished the first copy, and who I am now. Crazy stuff, trust me.

People don’t tend to admit that writing is partly about falling totally and inappropriately in love with something that works for no one but yourself. It just is, like loving pumpkin cheesecake so much that some part of you would happily hide it away and pretend you didn’t have it, just so you didn’t have to share. The trick is understanding at what point it becomes unhealthy, as a person, as a writer. Yes, it hurts to peel things apart and rewrite them sometimes, but if your goal is to communicate with at least some of the world, it can be a necessary thing.

It makes my heart ache a bit, though, when I hear writers talk about how their first works were terrible. The Lost was written in multiple tenses, in first person and third, had maybe the worst death scene ever written, and it was perfect for what it was–me learning to tell a story. The second version was better, and the third, and the sequel had some awesome and some not-awesome, and I love them all, and am happy to say that they were exactly what they needed to be, even though they were not what they needed to be to be published.

This is the thing I always tell the kids I work with (and anyone else that will listen): What you are doing when you sit down to draft a story is weaving a bolt of cloth. Not a suit, not a dress, not a tent. Just the cloth. Once you have that cloth, then you can figure out what to do with it. In the meantime, love what you’re doing.

Two final notes. One, my last story for the year, There’s Always A Nuclear Bomb At The End, will be in Daily Science Fiction this Friday. More about it then.

And two, if you haven’t already read Ursula Le Guin’s speech from the National Book Awards, please do. Better yet, watch it. I would, but, you know, dial-up.

New stories to come

I haven’t been sending many stories out lately.

Okay, that’s much too vague. Shall I be honest? I’ve only submitted two stories anywhere this year. In my defense, I’ve been writing a lot. It’s my submissions that have been lacking. Let’s go one step further back. I’ve been writing a lot in terms of novel-length fiction. So, I do have short stories that languish, unfinished or unsent, but it’s not as though I have closets full of them.

Not that I’m defensive or anything. I just wouldn’t want anyone to think I’m a slacker.

Anyway, the point of all this is that I’m pleased to announce that both of the aforementioned stories have found homes. On the same day! “Testimony” will be published by Fireside. “There’s Always a Nuclear Bomb in the End” will appear in Daily Science Fiction. Publication dates to be announced.

I’m very excited! About both of them! “There’s Always a Nuclear Bomb…” came from a steady diet of superhero movies, is about as close to flash as I get, and was written and sent out on the same day. “Testimony” had been kicking around in various forms for a year or so before I finally did it justice and pushed it out the door. Writing is like that. No magic formula, just a lot of chaos and occasional magic.

I promise I’ll say more about them once we reach publication. For now, just know they’re on their way.

Mid-January hiatus

I’m preoccupied.

It’s my excuse for not being around more. Some of my preoccupation is great (writing classes for kids–yay! Fun!). Some is not. Either way, the great triage center of life has dictated that this blog is less urgent than a few other matters at the present time. I’m sorry about that. Blogging is certainly more fun than some of these other things.

In the meantime, for those of you who are not Daily Science Fiction subscribers, “Slumber is now available online. Here, as a matter of fact. For free. As opposed to the subscription price, which is, well, nothing.

(Sorry, had to add that. I’m very pro-DSF.)

I’ll return soon.

Slumber

I’m posting this early because I won’t be around in the morning, and I’m taking care not to include any spoilers. Not that I tend to write shocking surprise endings, but someone told me last year that they wished I hadn’t told them anything about this story before they had read it.

So, what can I say about “Slumber” that isn’t too much? First, that you’ll only get to read it on the 10th if you’re subscribed to Daily Science Fiction. If you’re not, you’ll have to wait until the 17th, when you can find it at DSF’s website.

What else? While looking over the galley earlier this week, I thought a lot about where stories come from, and how they translate to readers. “Slumber” arises from any number of places–family mythology, my own interests as a reader, a fleeting image. Things get stuck in my head and churn around there until they cohere into something solid.

Those things, they’re important to me, but once the story goes public, they vanish. The story becomes something else, filtered through the brains of others. Sometimes that something else amazes me. Sometimes it puzzles me. Mostly it’s a strange process, this handing off of story to the world at large.

All of which says nothing about this story, does it? I’m talking around the point. For me, “Slumber” is about relationships, about their seasons, about what it means to wake up and be able to say “you stayed.” It’s not beauty, it’s not wit–it’s seeing beneath the skin of someone, and, just as much, beneath your own. It’s the things you relinquish and the things you gain in staying. It’s very much about the darkness I’ve passed through, and what it means to have someone waiting on the other side.

I think that’s enough of non-spoilers and non-answers. Have a spectacular weekend!

Slumber update

That title is rather misleading. While I’d love to tell you how well I’ve been sleeping, it passes into the realm of things that really aren’t all that interesting to anyone at all. Not to even me.

(For anyone for whom that’s not the case: my sleep has been fine. Thanks for caring!)

I’m actually talking about “Slumber,” which now has a publication date at Daily Science Fiction. My first story to be published in over a year! From a statistical standpoint, 2013 was a banner year for acceptances. A whopping thirty-three percent of my submissions sold. Of course, that becomes far less impressive when I admit that I made just three short story submissions. Not exactly stellar effort on my part. As I explained here, I ran away and hid from publishing for a bit.

Hopefully that will be changing in 2014, beginning with “Slumber”, which will be appearing in Daily Science Fiction on January 10, for those of you who are subscribers. For those of you who aren’t–and shall I remind you it’s free, and fun, and, yes, entirely free–it will be available on their website beginning January 17.

ETA: And this is my 200th blog post! Cosmic Driftwood is positively bubbly with warm gushy feelings today! (At least as warm and gushy as it ever manages to get.)

Story sale update

As promised, the details of my recent sale. “Slumber” will be published by Daily Science Fiction. Yay! When? Not sure, but I’ll tell you when I know. I’d forgotten how fun it is to add new things to the Forthcoming list on the Short Fiction page.

For those of you who don’t have DSF goodness appearing in your inboxes, consider signing up here. It costs exactly nothing, and gives you nothing but a steady supply of free speculative fiction. Go ahead! It won’t hurt, I promise!

As for “Slumber” and what it’s about, well, I can’t really say. People, things, mountains, woods. Jam. You know…stuff.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Kickstarter for Daily Science Fiction

Daily Science Fiction ranks pretty high on my list of places to send stories. They did, after all, publish my first story. First story ever, anywhere. I’d had my name on agricultural newsletters full of details of insect outbreaks, and on some painfully dry research papers, but never fiction. And firsts, as we all know, are memorable. I’m not sure there will ever be anything in publishing quite as sweet as that very first yes.

Since then, they’ve published another of my stories, one that I love. More important than what they’ve done for me personally, is what they’ve done for short speculative fiction as a whole. By publishing five stories a week, at professional rates, they’ve opened doors for many fledgling writers trying to find a way onto the publication highway, while also supporting more established writers.

And for the past two years, they’ve done it all for free. Free access to archived stories on the website, free subscription to receive daily stories via email. Free chances to read work by writers you have and haven’t heard of before, stories that you might never have thought to try otherwise.

DSF is currently running a Kickstarter to raise money for the next six months of stories. If you like speculative fiction, or short stories, or creative ventures, or even my writing, consider chipping in a little something. If nothing else, you’ll continue to have access to all DSF offers, and gain a little good karma along the way. If you’re a writer, and you’re up for a larger donation, a number of DSF contributors have volunteered story critiques as a reward. Including me, so if having my roundabout thoughts scribbled all over your short story sounds like a good time, head on over and donate.

This life

I have two or three things that I’ve been trying to pull together into coherent posts, but life continues to get in the way. This week has been tied up with, among other things, getting to the point of saying goodbye to our sick kitty, only to discover that she’s not quite ready to go. It’s been a rollercoaster of the worst kind, though I have to admit that at one point I couldn’t stop thinking of the bit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and “Not dead yet!” If you haven’t seen it, I’m afraid I’m totally incapable of explaining it right now. In any case, Lazarus Kitty is here for a bit longer, apparently.

“This Place From Which All Roads Go” is now available at Daily Science Fiction. I have to say that I really didn’t know how it would be received, and it’s been wonderful to hear some positive things about it. Thanks!

This is one of those weeks where I would love to hear some good things, writing or otherwise. I am feeling very grateful today for a warm house, and for the way the hemlock boughs my daughter hung outside my window swing in the breeze. I’m feeling good about the new stories I’ve been working on.

Tell me, what’s keeping you going these days?

This Place From Which All Roads Go

Once upon a time I said this was one of my more autobiographical stories. Yes, I am a magical farmer.

Erm, no.

It’s not autobiographical in any clear sense. Writers put themselves into their words in ways that feel painfully obvious to them, and absolutely invisible to readers. It’s one of the tricky things about learning to be published.

But I can give you this. The reservoir I live next to is seventeen miles long. The cellar holes which are so charming now are the remains of people’s lives. It’s hard to walk the dirt roads there without thinking of what vanished beneath the water. Of what continues to vanish beneath the water, the world over.

It is not one of my more optimistic stories, but sometimes life isn’t about optimism. Sometimes it’s about surviving.

ETA: I’m not including a link because the story went out to Daily Science Fiction’s email subscribers today. If you’re not a subscriber, consider signing up. Free speculative fiction every weekday is a wonderful thing.

This story will be available on the website one week from today. I’ll add a link once it’s up.

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