Taggood things

May 17, 2016

You know, I started out writing something much longer and more complicated, but the truth is that those of you reading here, by and large, have been here for the long haul. You were around to read about the start of Blue Riley, and about what happened when her story sold. You may very well have been one of folks who responded to my request for help with details around Wyoming in winter or the wonders of I-90. You’re the people who know about Wren, and about how I vanish into my head every spring, and how much I like turtles.

So I don’t need to tell you all those things again. It’s simpler to say this: once upon a time there was a girl who loved words more than anything, and she made a deal with sadness once and gave up all her words to try to stave off change and loss, and then she realized that didn’t work, and she took her words back again. If there is a piece of me in Blue, it is that piece that puzzles over how the words fit together, and what it means to write something, and to say it out loud, in front of people.

But the thing about books is that once they are out in the world, they become about the readers far more than the writers. If the world of a book being read could be seen from afar, I suspect it would look much like a jigsaw puzzle being fit together. Every individual reader a piece; their own lives, their own stories, shaping the part they create. It becomes so much more than a book, so much more than words on a page made by one person alone somewhere. In reading we are alone, but we are also together in a truly incredible way.

All of which is a long way to get to the point: DEVIL AND THE BLUEBIRD is out in the world today. Thank you for being part of the journey.

Final cover

More housekeeping

Guildtop

Lovely, isn’t she? A 1968 Guild, used to woo me many years ago, and still full of music. She’s the inspiration behind Blue Riley’s guitar companion as Blue travels the country in search of her sister.

It’s been a busy week for Devil And The Bluebird. On Monday, the first trade review came through: a starred review from Publishers Weekly. That was followed by a Kirkus review today, also starred. Rather heady stuff.

My attempt at celebration this weekend involved, as is so often the case, a husband with pneumonia AND a reaction to his antibiotics, an attempt at buying myself a cake (because baking my own cake seemed so everyday) that ended with congratulations written in the brownest of brown frostings, and watching movies with the kids. It is an odd but charmed life, is it not?

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.

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.

Thoughts while washing the floor

A brief thought on this lovely sunny day. I am grateful, endlessly so, to the writers who have poured themselves into the stories I have loved. Those who helped me understand what mattered to me, whose characters remind me to be braver than I think I am, or kinder, or truer. Those who have showed me something unexpected about the world, or who have shown me that I’m not alone in what I think or feel or experience, or made me happy for the time I was lost in their world. Those who make me think I’ve set my own writing bar way too low and challenge me to be more as a writer.

Writers, please write. I’m counting on you.

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.)

Bits and pieces on a Sunday morning

Mike Dariano is the kind soul that tweeted to me about the notable stories list with The King’s Huntsman on it last week. He runs a blog where writers and other interesting people (are there actually uninteresting people?) list their three favorite things to read, watch, and use. It’s a fun space to browse, and full of good ideas. I encourage people to check it out.

If my gentle encouragement is not reason enough to click on the link, my own list of threes will be there on October 4. Yes, another exciting chance to travel the blogosphere with me, completely free of charge and without any danger. I’ll slap up a reminder up on the 4th, just in case anyone neglects to mark it in their datebook. In the meantime, do consider stopping in and exploring some of the other entries.

In related travel news, I’m actually going someplace this fall! Someplace out of state, out of New England even! I’ll be traveling in Virginia and D.C., and returning home via Gettysburg. Some Civil War exploration, some visiting friends, some museum stuff, and a wedding. Okay, maybe the wedding should come first on that list. The thing about great little brothers is that you can’t help but be happy when they are, like on their wedding day.

Life is good.

Finally!

I’ve heard the wood frogs calling! Not, perhaps, the most beautiful of the songs of spring, but one I cherish nonetheless. I may still have snow in the backyard (lots) and may have worn mittens to an outdoors potluck last night, but there are wood frogs calling from the beaver pond, so spring is officially here!

Comfort writing

There’s something to be said for comfort writing.

(Psst. I’ll have you know that that first line, and these as well, I typed without looking at the keyboard.

Wait! That might be more impressive if I tell you something else first. Once upon a time, long long ago, I took a typing class in high school. The old fashioned kind of typing class, on electric typewriters. We were tested for speed on the first day of class and the last. The first day I managed a mighty seventeen words a minute. On the last, a somewhat less than stellar thirteen.

Yes, I was typing more slowly by the end of the class than I was at the beginning. We’ll ignore the fact that neither number held much promise for my future as a typist.

Anyway, when I started writing after my hiatus, I was a four finger typist and I watched the keyboard. Four years later, I don’t look. Only it’s a little like learning to ride a bicycle. If I remind myself that I’m not looking, I lose my balance and type something like absuhnc kenruhvj aseinincf kiawhid, which is very rarely what I’m trying to say.)

So, comfort writing. I still haven’t figured out this whole publication thing. I understand the “writing is communication” piece, and I’ve learned to be a brave writer and send things out, and I do my part to continue to grow. But the Infernal Editor still owns prime real estate in my brain, and the publishing part of writing can serve as a reminder of that fact. When things are going smoothly, I can ignore her. Other times, when I’m clever, I can type around her.

Sometimes, though, she just dances on my bones.

That’s where comfort writing comes in. Ninety-seven percent of her power comes from the threat that other people will see what I write. Take that piece away and she’s got no leverage.

This is what I do. I go back to the beginning, back when my writing was more or less a private fortress, with a moat, and crocodiles, and a dragon, just for good measure. I write because it makes me happier, and nicer, and gives me something to do with my fidgety fingers and even more fidgety mind. Lately I’ve written about what it means to be a Mender when to mend is to cause pain; about what the Undertakers do for a planet; about the sometimes nonexistent space between magic and science, and what happens when neither works for a dying girl; and about a man who falls in love with a grizzly when his plane crashes into the mountains. Next up, I think, is a girl stowaway who gambles with the god of the ocean to save her only friend.

It’s comfort writing. It’s mine. I don’t have to do anything with it unless I choose to, and I can change my mind at any time. It’s an exercise in writing what I love, rather than what I think I should write. It’s better than mashed potatoes.

And I’m doing it without looking at the keyboard.

(Mostly.)

Snow Sunday

Hey! It snowed! A lot!

It’s lovely snow–light, drifting, easy to shovel (although the sheer volume is daunting). Aside from packing into the vent pipe on the roof, necessitating a climb up there to open it up again, it caused absolutely no trouble at Chez Mason-Black. There was a travel ban for the state for twenty-four hours or so, but not being someone drawn to driving around in snowstorms, I didn’t find that a hardship. Our kindhearted neighbor came with his tractor yesterday after the snow let up and dug out our driveway, so all in all, we led a rather charmed storm existence.

This morning it’s 5 degrees out, and the sun is shining brightly, and I’m thinking about joining the cats in a cozy spot in the sun and working on Crossroads. I have most of it plotted out in my head. I’m sadly lacking a lot of travel experience though, and that’s hanging me up a bit. What I need is a grant to travel across the U.S. by car. What I think I’ll get are a lot more books out of the library. I may need to storm ahead and fill in some details in edits. I have a head full of characters that really need to come out.

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