My contributor’s copy of The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth
arrived today, and after about four failed attempts to get a decent picture of myself with the book, I caved to the obvious and shot it with the cat instead. Lorenzo appreciates a good alternate history, I imagine, given that he’s named for a Medici.
(Fanciful? Who, me?)
It’s an honor to be asked to play around with someone else’s universe, and a favor I hope to return to S.M. Stirling one day. I’m so pleased he trusted me with his world, letting me crayon-scrawl the Change all over the part of Northern Alberta that was my childhood stomping ground. I got to cover it with rodeo in-jokes and local history I learned in grade four and never thought to use, and even took a mild swipe at a certain ubiquitous Canadian coffee/donut franchise. It was a thrill to borrow the keys to the character of Huon Liu, whom I’ve always had a bit of a thing for.
Here’s the opening of my story, “Rate of Exchange.”
The totem marking the pass to the Fortress of Solitude was an enormous man with skin the color of cream, clad in blue and red and with a big “S” emblazoned on his chest.
If not for his size, Finch might have believed him real. The blue of his eyes blazed with lively intensity as they bored down into hers, and his cape rippled in the wind in a way that made him seem as athrum with life as any cub or grown adult. His jet-black hair was real–horse, perhaps?–braided in long strands, bound with beads and feathers. The illusion was so perfect she thought she saw him tilt a brow . . . but then her pinto danced sideways and she saw the old man on the platform, putting a finishing lick of red paint on one red boot.
This kickin’ anthology also has stories by Walter Jon Williams, Kier Salmon, Jane Lindskold, John Barnes and of course by the antho editor and creator of the Emberverse, the aforementioned S.M. Stirling. It’ll be available for sale this weekend. Go, buy, and enjoy!
If I squint as May wraps up, I can see it’s been an insanely productive month. I’ve edited several hundred pages of my current novel, while also writing 7,500 words of critique on student work for Novel Writing III
two weeks ago, another 5,500 this week for the same class, and doing a close edit of about 18K words worth of of student manuscripts. I’ve done a whack of coding on the classroom for my next UCLA Extension Writers’ Program
summer course, Creating Universes, Building Worlds
, begun some long-overdue work on my photo archive, pondered, developed and mostly scrapped an idea for a new novel, flirted with poetry and gone to Peterborough for a ChiSeries reading
, David Nickle, and Madeline Ashby. The reading was hosted by the marvelous Derek Newman-Stille
, and my first glimpse of Peterborough only made me want more. It’s nice to be exploring Ontario a bit, now that we’ve been here a couple years and are mostly over the transition.
The surges of student critique–three down, one to go!–tend to leave me cotton-headed for a couple days afterward, full of interesting ideas for about-how-to-write essays I can’t quite manage to compose. Instead, I muddle around like a goldfish throwing itself at the glass of its own bowl, trying to figure out why I can’t finish coherent sentences or complete much in the way of useful work. That’s been my state for a day or so now: trying to do some high-end thinking and finding myself, instead, working up feverish internal rants over how obviously I’m slacking. Intellectually, I know better, but sometimes the internal supervisor just won’t shut up.
A buddy posted about having the exact same problem today, on Facebook, and that helped a bit.
Tomorrow’s battle shall be to take a ridiculously long (43 page) Stormwrack chapter of incredible complexity and edit it into two easily followed not-so-convoluted pieces. To that lofty goal I shall probably add enormously surmountable tasks, like acquiring food, and vacuuming.
I am sitting in my office with Chinchilla stretched out across my lap, occupying the space atop my left hand, and so I am dictating this blog entry on my phone.
Fiction writing continues to be in revision/wrap-up mode: I have been rereading the last couple novels in the trilogy, just reacquainting myself with every little detail and thinking about where I might insert one more story element into the last book. I am simultaneously trying to trim a novelette down to 7500 words, the better to send it to a specific horror market. (160 words to go!)
Over at UCLA, Novel Writing II opens next week: I will have a dozen writers working on 50 pages apiece, for 10 weeks.
I finished reading Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies on the weekend,and the history book of the moment is A.N. Wilson’s The Victorians. The next novel I will read is for a review, so you’ll hear about it when I’m done.
And television this winter is currently taking the form of re-watching the Laurie/Fry Jeeves and Wooster, watching Marvel’s Agent Carter, and slipping in the occasional episode of Community.
I have not been out to take pictures in a couple weeks, but yesterday on my way to get my glasses adjusted I did get a great look at what was almost certainly a peregrine falcon, fluffed up against the cold as it sat on a branch on D’Arcy Street. I will spare you all the pixelated phone shots. It was, however, miraculous.
cover and illustrations by Charles Vess
My short story “The Dream Eaters” is featured this week on the Far-Fetched Fables podcast. This is a fairy story I wrote for Ellen Datlow and Sharyn November a number of years ago, for The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm. It takes place in Kasqueam, the fairy city that overlays and underlies Vancouver, and makes faekind out to be quite the predatory species.
Here’s the opening:
Mo Cottonsmith had just turned sixteen when she started Lopside Fashions, with cash she stole from a neighborhood fizz dealer. The money wasn’t enough to sustain a business, but Mo counted on getting lucky. She believed in making her own luck, too: thanks to a roving copcam, her first creation just happened to debut on all the morning news shows.
The dress was daffodil yellow with simulated dewdrops on the bodice and a chainmail hoop skirt. Mo’s pal Juanita Jones was modeling, and the footage showed her fighting off a couple of deviants.
Voice-over artist Heidi Hotz Nourse does a great job with the story; I hope you enjoy it, and the other piece in the issue, a short story called “The Flying Woman,” by Meghan McCarron.
illustration by Richard Andersen
I am underslept this morning, and thus in no fit state to write intelligently about writing technique or craft, so instead, some bits and pieces of news:
As some of you may have seen on Facebook, I have sold a third Gale story to Stacy Hill at Tor.com. It’s called “The Glass Galago,” and it is next in the sequence that begins with “Among the Silvering Herd” and moves on to ““The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti”.”
I saw all three instalments of the Hobbit this weekend, and I find I don’t have much to say about it. It went down better, in some ways, because I had just rewatched the extended Lord of the Rings. Of course, it also suffered in comparison, especially since both the storytelling and characterization were so much weaker. Bilbo’s play with the Arkenstone was brilliant, and nicely executed. But the Bilbo/Thurin relationship never gelled for me. The actors and direction were a bit too wooden, and as a result the emotional beats were as often miss as hit.
On the small screen and only two episodes in, I am very much enjoying Marvel’s Agent Carter.
It’s gray outside as I write this, and dense-grained snowflakes are falling swiftly from above, their descent lines barely aslant, as if there’s no breeze at all. It was chilly and windy all weekend, but I still found it more invigorating than miserable. As long as the snow itself isn’t wet, the rest seems quite bearable.
I am not someone who sets of a lot of New Year’s resolutions, but I do think of myself as having a sort of writer’s fiscal year, and I do set out goals in January. The biggies for this year are the actual work of getting A Daughter of No Nation ready for its November release, getting the third book in the trilogy (tentatively titled The Nature of A Pirate) well on its way, and finishing up or marketing some short fiction projects I finished last year. Finally, there’s a medium sized teaching-related project – basically, all of my virtual classroom materials for UCLA need sprucing up. The trio of critique posts, the first of which sang the praises of Die Hard was part of this last project.
This is plenty. It means 2015 will be a year of revision, research, and planning of future projects.
I’m sure to write some new stuff, especially since generally speaking I can’t help myself. But this isn’t likely to be one of those years where I write two new novels from scratch. (Though I do already have some stretch goals, and I find it hard to refuse anthology invitations from my friends, and I always enjoy doing NanowriMo when the conditions are right…)
What about all of you? Do you make artistic slash business plans at this time of year, for any or all of your endeavors?