Category: Writing

A few thoughts about peoplewatching

Thank you for the book suggestions! I appreciate them all. As luck would have it, I’m not picking out books today, but I’m thinking of them as I write. Thinking of them a lot because I’m spending the afternoon in a library. Not mine, not the one of old chairs and old wooden bookcases and books I held as a child, but that’s okay. This one is also full of books, which really is the important part, is it not?

The thing about libraries is that they are quiet and full of books, but they’re also full of people, which makes it hard for me to work. People are rather fascinating, and sometimes hard to ignore, unless, of course, they’re members of my family, in which case I can tune them out like turning down the volume on a radio. Which isn’t, perhaps, something I should admit in public.

But about all those other people…the thing about them is that even when they are quiet, they are expressive. Even when they are still and intent and completely wrapped up in matters of consequence, they give parts of themselves away. Tapping, frowning, smiling, biting on nails (or fingers, apparently), how they sit (legs crossed, feet flat on the floor, chair legs pushed up a little…), how often and when they glance out the window…the list is endless. Our stories trickle out of us everywhere, in so many ways.

If you were watching me, for example, you would notice that I keep rubbing the inside of my ring finger with my thumb. If you were Sherlock Holmes, you might conclude that I’d recently been divorced, or was carrying on a torrid affair with someone who thought me unmarried.

The true, and more prosaic, explanation, is that I made pizza dough this morning in order to let it do a slow rise in the fridge, and I took my wedding band off and set it on top of the baking powder tin so that I wouldn’t get it covered with dough. Significantly less thrilling, but there you have it.

If you write, or daydream, all these little things–motion, emotion, dress, location, scent, habit–all these things are tiny little doorways that you can’t help but want to enter. Does the scowling woman scowl because she is unhappy, or because she is unfriendly, or does her mouth like to go that way and she would smile, fully, warmly, if I were to speak to her? Does the man rubbing his beard find it itchy, and wish that the weather would warm up so he could shave it off without fear of a chilly chin, or did his father have a big beard, and he used to rub it when he was small and frightened in the night, and touching his own beard takes him back to that place of feeling safe and loved?

It is rather distracting. It’s exactly why I don’t tend to write in public spaces–too rich, too full, too hard to stick to my own little universe. This is the sort of thing that happens when I do. There must be a solution, somewhere. Blinders, possibly? Portable cubicles? Aversion therapy?

Let me know if you find an answer. I’ll be your first customer.

Help–need books

I’m trapped in the house with feverish people. Feverish is better than the other possibilities. Zombies, for example. Or vampires. Or exceptionally grumpy folks.

Still, time is ticking by slowly. Lots of napping, lots of quiet. And me, stuck without anything good to read.

That’s not totally true. I have lots of good books here, but nothing new. It used to be that I’d reread Stephen King’s The Stand whenever I was sick, and then watch The Thing. I found it comforting (I’m not dying of an lethal virus! I don’t have aliens eating their way out of me!).

Ever since the great book purge we undertook a few years ago, I haven’t been able to find The Stand. It’s also not really what I’m in the mood for. Jon just finished reading a book about the influenza epidemic of 1918. Nope, that one’s not right either. No flu for now.

Help me out. Tell me what you’re reading, what you’ve read, what you love so much you almost want to tattoo it on your wrist. I’m making a library list, and I could use some suggestions.

Welcome, Spring

And a fine Equinox to you all.

Today started out with sleet on the roads and ice on the trees. It’s ending with blue sky, and temps in the forties, and rivers running down the hill. In New England, winter and spring can share a day like that. I’m following their lead and working on balance today. A dozen things I’d like to be doing, a dozen things I should be doing, and this little sliver of time in which to do them.

I could, for example, clean cobwebs from corners, or I could figure out what to make for two different potlucks in the next week, or I could research public transportation in Syracuse.

Or I could watch a documentary about kids playing chess while knitting myself a hat with yarn I picked out today (multitasking–has to be good, right?), and then stay up late finishing the book I’m reading. Is there really any question as to which is the right choice?

No, there isn’t, is there?

Looking through the gates

I’ve admitted more than once that I really love books. Physical copies of books–faded print, broken spines, dogears and all. I get the good things about e-readers, but I’m hard copy all the way.

There’s a part of this that’s neither aesthetic nor financial. I spend a lot of time writing on a computer. I edit my own work on a computer. I occasionally edit work for other writers on a computer. For me, an electronic screen equals work, not pleasure.

This year, for the first time ever, I haven’t been able to read a book I would very much like to read because its print version is both expensive and not available any of the places I hoard gift certificates from. It’s unlikely to show up at a library. I could get it easily as an e-book, but I don’t want to do so. I want the feel of it in my hands–more so because the the author writes in a rich, sensual style, and I want those words to have physical weight.

It’s an odd experience. Books have always felt like the one garden that’s remained ungated in my life. Technically, it’s not true. Publishing has always been a system that limits the work reaching the hands of readers. E-books and the rise of self-publishing have broadened the possibilities, not narrowed them.

It doesn’t change the fact that I felt actual loss over the idea that I would not hold this particular book in my hands. More than that, it reminded me that my life as a reader has boundaries, whether I wish it to or not. While I can celebrate the potential inherent in the coming electronic age, I can also mourn aspects of the change.

Greetings from the last days of snow

Did you miss me?

Hopefully not. Hopefully, your life has been so unbearably rich and full that you haven’t had even a minute in which to think, oh, that blogger, the driftwood one, where has she gone?

If that’s not the case, if you’ve been checking your email every day, hoping for my return, I apologize. But don’t tell me. Make me believe you haven’t noticed I’ve been missing.

I should be back to my usual erratic schedule. There is sun now, and less snow than there was, and the chickadees have started their hey, come here often call in place of their it’s winter and yet I’m still cheerful call, so I have to assume spring is near. The kids and I had a snowball fight the other day with bare hands and wet snow, which tells me I also forgive winter and will be ready to see her once she comes round again.

But for now I have no interest in thinking about anything but the possibility of open windows and warm breezes in the near future. Is it warm where you are? Have you, by any chance, seen grass? There will be no green around my house for some time still. I’m trying to appreciate the moon on the snow instead. A night hike might be the perfect thing to do.

Tell me something about how your winter has been. Unless, of course, you’ve been enjoying some other season, in which case you should work on making me jealous. Trust me, it won’t be hard.

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.


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!

The reading room

My library is now open!

Sort of.

In the next few minutes I’ll be sending out the password to those of you who have already contacted me. If you haven’t and you’d like access, just let me know. I’m happy to email it (or DM on Twitter, if that’s more your thing: @CosDrift). Once you have it, click on the link to The Reading Room at the top of the blog screen, give the password, and read the instructions there.

The point of providing these stories here, essentially a collection of my first year of publications (2011-2012) is not to discourage anyone from reading them at their original homes. In fact, if you choose to read here and like something, please click on the link to the publisher and go read more stories from other writers! If you like the other stories, then subscribe, or donate, or just tell the writers that you appreciate what they’ve written, or the editors that you like their choices.

There are very few rules for The Reading Room. The main one: please don’t hand out the password to others. If you know a blog follower who wants access, have them contact me.

Actually, that may be the only rule, aside from obvious ones, like don’t take the stories and publish them yourselves, in which case you’re clearly in dire straits and maybe you should contact me so that we can figure out a better source of income for you. The comments are open–I’m happy to answer story-specific questions there.

Oh, the one piece missing from the collection is Phoenix, for the simple reason that Phoenix is an e-book and the rights remain with Musa. If you’d like to read it, you’ll have to buy it.


Farewell, 2013

It’s the time of year everyone writes up nifty little summaries of all the awesome stuff they’ve published and done and been over the past year. It’s the kind of post I’ve been considering not doing at all, at least not this year.

It’s not that 2013 has been crushingly bad. Plenty of good things have happened. They’re just not really the bloggable kinds of things, at least not on this blog, at least not by me. I’ve sold one story, published nothing, worked on writing mostly in a quiet and private way.

There are writers who write their entire lives in solitude. There are, I believe, stories of breathtaking beauty that make it onto the page and no further, relegated to notebooks in a closet somewhere. There are poems that force their way from head to hand and stop, a conversation ended as soon as it began. Even among writers who publish, there will always be stories that cut to close, that feel too true, that wander too far from what their writer believes of themself, eventually joining their brethren in the great unpublished story of the world.

I believe in those stories just as much as I believe in the ones that are sent forth over and over until they find a public home. I write them. Sometimes I change my mind and send them out. Sometimes it takes years to make that choice. The Lost was one of those stories. I have others as well. 2013 was a year for tending them. 2014 may be a year for sending some out.

This year has also been one of novels. Revisions, drafts, research…I’ve been working the long game. It takes a different mindset, a different set of writerly muscles for me, and I’ve needed to retrain myself. Time has been short, and I like to sprint through things, and it’s been frustrating to have to adhere to a schedule.

The one new thing about working on novels has been the addition of my agent to the mix. Alice has been wonderful to work with–she’s smart, understands what I’m trying to do, makes excellent suggestions, provides thoughtful support, and is both fun and genuinely nice. People choose agents for all sorts of reasons. I went with my gut and I’ve been so glad I did.

So, on the eve of 2014, I think I’m going to add a secret room here at Cosmic Driftwood, because who doesn’t love secret rooms? The rights on all my published stories have reverted to me. Some writers are very successful bundling previously published stories into collections and self-publishing them. I’m not one of those writers. Instead, I’m going to gather the stories all into the secret room and make them available to blog followers looking for entertainment on some snowy afternoon. My own little library, because in my world, a lending library of one’s own is supremely cool.

Most of these stories are already available for free online, complete with nice formatting and surrounded by lots of other great stories to read. (A complete list of my published work can be found here, for those of you who haven’t discovered the links at the top of the page.) A few of them aren’t–Abyss and Apex has a nominal fee for access to their archives, and The Sun still sells hard hard copies of the issue my story was in.

But for anyone who just wants to read the stories without pretty formatting, and without having to wander the online wilds, I will build you a library. I’ll post once it’s ready. If you’re a blog follower and you want access, just contact me. I’ll give you the password. Tea and cookies will be encouraged in my library, as will talking.

That’s all I have to say about 2013, I think. I hope the coming year is generous to you, filled with both the necessary and, occasionally, the frivolous.

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.)