Almost a month since the last post. Not sure how that happened. Might have to do with the fact that not a whole lot has been happening.
I’ve been working fairly diligently on my writing, at least. In September I finished three stories and submitted two (one of them going through my writing group first). One of those has already been rejected and submitted elsewhere. The third is now at the writing group, and depending on what they say I should be submitting it shortly thereafter.
Meanwhile, the second of the three made it to the second round of readings at Daily Science Fiction. They tell me that they eliminate about 90% of submissions in the first round, and about half that make it to the second round end up getting published. So, this story–a quickie called “Goldeneye”, about a mysterious vagrant–is currently first in the running to be my first sale. Not bad.
One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that I’m starting to build up an inventory of stories to sell. I finish one, I pick a market to send it to, they say no, I pick another one, repeat–and so I now have three stories going out to various publications, with more to come. So I’m having to come up with strategies for managing them. Currently I keep track with an Excel spreadsheet, but I may have to convert it to an actual database.
I’ve also been thinking about my strategy for getting published, specifically where I choose to send my stories. Right now my medium-term goal–after the short-term goal, which is to sell something, anything–is to get into SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, to take advantage of their forums and networking opportunities. So I’m only submitting to their qualifying markets right now. Once a story has exhausted those, I’ll look at other places, but I think it makes sense to submit first to my top choice–the most prestigious, highest-paying market–and gradually move down the list.
SFWA requires three short story sales, to qualifying markets, with total payments of at least $250. This is actually a rather easy hurdle, considering all the benefits; it’s just enough to prove that the writer is serious. For the benefits–particularly access to the discussion forums–it’s really not that much to ask. So we’ll see if I can actually get that far.
On Saturday, I participated in my first writing group. I had a general idea what to expect–people discussing each others’ work, and offering criticism and advice. But still, I was nervous, because it’s always scary to put new writing up in front of people who have no incentive to be gentle in their criticism.
Fortunately, it went well. It was a pretty small group: myself, a woman who’s self-published a number of novels, an engineer who’s been writing for two years, and a young woman who had nothing ready but still gave good advice. We traded ideas, talked about favorite authors that we thought would provide good examples, and got to know each other.
The work was interesting. My own piece, called “The Changing Room”–maybe you’ll see it someday–dealt with some fairly standard SF tropes, but they seemed to enjoy it, and they offered some good advice about how I could make it better with only minor changes. The other two stories were interesting as well, though the quality varied, and we had a lot to talk about.
Not a bad experience, and I’m looking forward to doing it again.
(Of course, that means I need to finish what I’m working on now…)
One more thing that’s happening this summer: I’ve started painting again.
Back in 2003, I started playing around with abstract painting (mostly in acrylic). I did probably 30 or so paintings, the majority over a short burst and then sporadically until early 2005. They weren’t great–at least, I don’t think so–but I had a lot of fun. But when my spouse and I moved in together, I quit because I didn’t have a space that worked for it.
But now, with lots of encouragement from her, I’m doing it again. And I have hopes that I’ll be a bit more serious about it this time. I’ve already completed my first; it started as some experiments to relearn technique, but I then decided to add a lot of black to “complete” it in a Clyfford Still kind of mode.
It’s called Glimpse. It’s not great, but it’s a start.
This summer, so far, has been quite restful in some respects and quite busy in others, all while being extremely unproductive in any of the ways I’d expected–but with some glimmers of interesting new directions. Is any of that even remotely clear?
For starters, I began my project to expand Labyrinths, and very quickly discovered that it was going to be FAR more difficult than I’d anticipated. I’m not sure why I thought that taking an existing work and then essentially doubling its length, filling in backstory and worldbuilding, adding more character development and conflict, all while trying to keep the whole mess consistent and coherent, would be any easier than simply writing something new. But as it turned out, my skills–and, more importantly, my patience–aren’t remotely up to the task. And I also discovered that that book isn’t where my head is at anymore; there are other things I’m more interested in.
So, that project has fallen by the wayside, and I think it may have been more-or-less permanently abandoned. I’m filing away the printed copy with all my notes, in case I want to have another go at it in the future. But I really want to move on to something new. I have a couple of stories that I’ve been meaning to submit, I have plenty of other short-story ideas to work on, and I’ve outlined what I think will end up being a long, complex mainstream novel (of which more later). So there’s plenty to work on.
Oh, and I also got a new movie review published. So there’s that.
In the meantime, I’ve been trying to enjoy my summer. And last week we had the first of two vacations, which went extremely well. We went north to the area around Redding, and visited Lassen Volcanic National Park, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, and McArthur-Burney Falls State Park, along with the Sundial Bridge and a whole lot of other little places. Great, great fun, even if most of it was during a heat wave (111 degrees Fahrenheit during the long, uphill hike to Whiskeytown Falls!).
We saw four waterfalls–Whiskeytown, Brandy Creek, Crystal Creek, and McArthur-Burney–and a bunch of geothermal areas and other geological sites (Bumpass Hell and the Subway Cave lava tube being the standouts). Lots of hiking and lots of swimming; in fact, we found the absolutely perfect swimming hole, and no, I won’t tell you where it is.
This is Whiskeytown Falls. That pool is a very nice place to swim, but it’s not the perfect one. :-)
And I also got to revise my opinion somewhat of Redding and the whole northeast part of California. Yes, the place is deeply conservative. (Guys, do you really need so many anti-Obama signs by the freeway?) And yes, things were a little weird in the tiny little town where we stayed. But we managed to find some really interesting cultural and historical stuff; the whole history around Lassen Peak, and its last big eruption in 1915 are fascinating.
Really, the trip deserves a much longer post all by itself. But I’ve been dawdling, and now we’re getting ready for our second summer trip, to Santa Cruz (our first time back since my mother-in-law died two and a half years ago). And I’ve got literally hundreds of photos that I haven’t sorted through yet. So this is what you get.
So, yeah, despite not getting a lot of work done, this summer is going well so far. And there are some hopes for the remaining three weeks before I go back to work.
I finally applied for a passport this week. My sweetie got hers a few months ago, so it was time I got one too.
No immediate plans for any traveling, but we’re thinking about it; among other things, a trip to Mexico is a possibility for early next year. And it’s just good to have one handy. You never know when you might have a chance to fly to London on a moment’s notice.
Anyway, here’s the photo I got. I honestly thought I was smiling.
David Byrne once wrote–in the liner notes for True Stories, IIRC–that driver’s license and passport photos are what people really look like. Make of that what you will.
As advertised, my job came to an end on Friday, and I’m still feeling about as ambivalent as I did when I last wrote about it.
It’s been a weird week, as last weeks usually are. I managed to get most of my work done the week before, so I went in thinking that things would be quiet. That turned out not to be the case; the moment I sat down on Monday, I had an emergency that took a couple of days to deal with. Fortunately, I was finally able to clear that up–at least to the point where I felt okay with leaving it behind.
And so my last day was spent wrapping things up and trying to be nice to myself. I dutifully ate a couple of donuts from the box that my coworkers got me; had my usual payday lunch of pizza; and went home a half-hour early (hat-tip to the department secretary). And so now i get to think about what comes next.
Have you ever noticed that no matter how much notice you get of a big change, it doesn’t seem real until the day it happens? No matter how much you prepare, psychologically or materially, it still seems like a bit of a shock when the change finally takes place. That’s how I’ve been this weekend. I’ve mostly spent it relaxing and clearing mind-space for what’s coming up.
My biggest challenge during these next seven weeks is going to be holding off boredom, and the despair that follows with it. Fortunately, I have projects that I’ll be working on, mostly writing-related, as well as some job-hunting. So, with some work, I should be able to stay productive over the summer.
But still, it’s scary. Transitions always are. We’ll see where it goes.
In the meantime, I’m not quite done with my weekend yet, so I’m going back to it. The real fun–the Labyrinths expansion–begins tomorrow.