In May, I:
- The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler (for the third time)
- More of Howard Waldrop’s Other Worlds, Better Lives and Charles Tan’s anthology Lauriat, though I didn’t finish either.
- the current issue of the SFWA Bulletin
- started “The Night Hours”, a Mythos noir piece set in Innsmouth, in 1939. (2600 words so far) Read an excerpt here.
- several blog posts, including:
- short stories for individual clients
- did a written interview with Charles Tan, where he asked about Fish for SF Signal (1400 words). Read it here.
- set up a Free Fiction page where you can find PDFs of my stories.
- got involved, again, in a controversy concerning the SFWA. I’m now assisting with (not on) an advisory committee on solutions. I can’t say more yet, but I do think they’re headed in the right direction.
- quit an editing job that wasn’t a good fit for me (they wanted me to do a lot of work for what amounted to less than $5 an hour, and no matter how much I need the money, I don’t have time for that).
Wrote 2,700 words of fiction, and about 8,000 of non-fiction. Edited and read much less than I would have liked. Spent most of my time this month on dealing with life stuff: financial, medical, child care, job hunting. Important, and ultimately getting better, but time-consuming. I don’t feel I’ve accomplished much during the last 4+ weeks, which is disappointing.
June will be better, though. I can feel it.
Advice for June:
Get out of the house. Write somewhere new. Library, coffee shop, park bench–as long as it isn’t where you normally write, give it a try. Changing our circumstances changes how we think, and putting yourself into a new place often puts you into a new mindset. I left the house a lot this past month. I walked several miles a week, spent time at a lake and at parks, wandered through our annual summer festival, and you know what? By the end of the month, I’d figured out what I wish I’d known at the beginning.
Looking for past stats? Read January, February, March, and April here.
If you’re stuck inside with not much to do, take a look at the stories, essays, and interviews that have interested me this week:
Shimmer interviews my friend A.C. Wise, whose story “Tasting of the Sea” appears in issue #16.
Rose Lemberg collected speculative fiction poetry recommendations from various editors – read the list here.
Geoff Ryman’s famously sad novel, Was, is now available as an ebook from Weightless Books (their page has excerpts from the book).
Avi Steinberg talks writing and the Gilbert v Roth argument:
That’s the kind of a person it takes to be a writer: someone who’s zealous and ready to argue, someone who has Philip Roth tell him, “It’s torture, don’t do it,” and replies, “You had me at ‘torture.’ ” You don’t enter into it because it’s a great lifestyle decision—it isn’t—you do it because, for whatever reason, you believe in it, and you believe in it because, for whatever reason, you need to believe in it.
Discover News says readers grasp digital media (aka ebooks) just as well as print.
Eddie Huang (author, chef, and tv personality) talks to NPR about Asian-American food, family, and masculinity. (podcast/interview)
NY Review of Books talks about Wes Anderson as a writer.
Stupefying Stories put together a free ebook of shorts by authors eligible for this year’s Campbell Award.
Wonderful Chet Baker documentary “Let’s Get Lost” now on YouTube.
My latest appearance on the SF Signal podcast is now up: “2013 SF/F/H Conventions We’re Anticipating“. I mainly talk about how great Readercon is.
Oh, and I shared the introduction from FISH over at Dagan Books.
I wish that I wrote every day. I’m working toward being organized and scheduled enough that I work – writing, editing, publishing – 30 hours a week. I admit, the last few months, there have been weeks when I didn’t work at all, or only a few hours. Things are better but I still have plenty of days where I spend an hour getting things done and that’s it. That’s not acceptable to me.
The one thing that I have going for me is that I don’t give up on wanting to be a writer, wanting to publish books. I have ideas and projects and people that I want to work with. I also have had a lot of personal drama, financial problems, raising a special needs child alone problems. Problems. Nothing that all of you haven’t had to deal with too. Life is just like that. It’s hard so that we grow and learn and, for writers, it’s hard so we actually have stories to tell. The Universe is such that we were allowed to be born, for which we should be grateful, and after which the Universe owes us nothing else. It’s up to us to keep moving forward.
But how? How do you pick yourself up when you’ve had a hard day? How do you keep writing, putting huge chunks of yourself down on paper, and do it well, while struggling not to spend the day in bed under the covers? I’ve had enough of those days lately, so here’s what I’ve been doing:
- If you have to quit, do it in small doses – Sometimes the struggle to keep it all together is so much harder than the things you’re trying to get done. If you’ve been working 60 hour weeks or dealing with family drama or been sick, the best thing to do might be to take a day off. Don’t try to write anything. Relax, decompress, take a nap, whatever makes you feel better. You deserve it. The important thing is to keep an eye on these “breaks”. Don’t do it two days in a row. Once you start saying, “I didn’t write yesterday but I don’t feel like it today so maybe tomorrow,” you’re slipping into the abyss of giving up completely.
- Get happy – put on some dancing music, go for a walk in the sunshine, eat a brownie. Do something that you know will make you feel better, and which has a short time investment. You don’t want to spend the day at the beach because then you’re not writing all day. But taking your dog for a run only eats up an hour of your time and still got you out of the house.
- Get organized – Jumping back into writing or editing, when you have a lot on your mind, can seem daunting. It might be better to “prime the pump” by getting yourself ready to write. Lead your brain down the path toward writing by cleaning your desk, writing a story to-do list, organizing your notes or your project white board. It helps you focus on writing-related activities and off your personal problems.
- Look at what’s nearly done – I tend to write several stories at once, jumping back and forth between them as the mood strikes me. One thing that I do when I haven’t written in a while is to figure out which story is the closest to being done. It’s often easier to sit down and bang out the last four hundred words on a story than it is to start something completely new. Plus you get the bonus of having finished something.
- Write something else – I feel strongly that part of what keeps my readers interested even when I don’t have new fiction out is the content I produce for my blog, and other websites like SF Signal and Functional Nerds. A big part of my push to get my life back together has been to commit to getting my non-fiction blog writing back on track. When I don’t want to work on anything else, I can still usually think of a blog post. Talking here, about writing, movies, or anything else, is easier because it’s really just me talking to you. I do want to sound literate and I do edit a little, but for the most part I turn on my computer and let the words come out. When I’m done, I’ve accomplished something, I’ve connected with the world, I’ve got another 1000 words out in public. Writing doesn’t always have to be hard. Make sure that you’re writing about something related to your work though, because that will help train you to be thinking about writing, and putting words on the page in relation to your writing. You can talk about your favorite story, do a book review, or rant about how much you hate the ampersand.* Do a guest post somewhere (you probably know other writers who’d be happy to have you create some content for their site, just ask).
- Do your research – It’s ok to not write if you’re doing the work that will prep you for writing. And let’s face it – we all have days where we want to lie back and let someone else talk to us. Don’t feel like doing anything but watching TV? Fine, you can do that today. As long as you’re watching documentaries about the evolution of tigers for that big felines in space story you’ve wanted to write. Spend it online, reading about the Ottoman empire for that historical you’ve been outlining. Or you can listen to a podcast about how story structure. As long as you’re learning something you need to know in order to write well, you’re not wasting your time.
- Read the greats – I was stuck for a voice on a recent short story until I read Ray Vukcevich’s collection, BOARDING INSTRUCTIONS. Even though my story doesn’t read like any of his, “listening” (in my head) to someone else’s voice helped me find my own. Read a new hit, or an old classic, and you may find a story idea that you hadn’t thought of, or see someone else’s answer to a plot problem you’ve struggled with. Reading, for me, always feels like recharging, and I like being able to say, “Well I didn’t write today, but I read the book that won the Hugo last year.” That’s accomplishing something. Plus you can write a book review of it when you’re done.
- This, Then That – make a deal with yourself. First you’re going to make the bed, then you’re going to open a new Word document, write your name at the top, and save it to your desktop. Next, you’re going to wash the dishes, and then you’re going to write two paragraphs on whatever comes out your brain. Keep doing that throughout the day and as long as you follow each non-writing task with a burst of writing, your list of things you have to do before you can write (we all have them) will diminish and your word count will go up.
- Track your hours – Tape a piece of paper to your wall and write down what you spent your writing time on, and how much of it there was. You may find you’re working more than you thought! Or you may see that you’re writing less than you imagined, which could help motivate you to work harder. At least you’ll know for sure.
- Don’t stop yourself – The first few things that you write when you’ve been away from your desk may feel clunky and wrong and bad. You may want to give up again. That’s more about getting used to using that part of your brain again than it is about your actual skill as a writer. Don’t give up! Remember the power of editing. You can fix almost anything, but you can’t edit a blank page.
I’m not where I want to be yet but doing these things is moving me in the direction.
* Note: I love the ampersand.
I read some of the books from my November 2011 list, I got rid of a few I knew I wasn’t that interested in, and I gave a handful of titles away to people who really wanted them. Of course, since I then had room on my bookshelves …
The following list is broken up into a few categories, and the ones with an * after them are the books I’ve started but never completely finished. As of now, here’s what I have left to read:
Fiction, Short Story Collections:
- The Best of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, ed. by Kelly Link & Gaven Grant *
- Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits & Other Curious Things, Cate Gardner
- My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, ed. Kate Bernheimer *
- The Complete Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle (facsimile of the original 24 stories from THE STRAND MAGAZINE)
- The Book of Cthulhu, ed. by Ross E. Lockhart (one story, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Flash Frame”, first appeared in Cthulhurotica, which I edited) *
- The Living Dead, ed. John Joseph Adams *
- The Mammoth Book of Zombie Comics, ed. David Kendall *
- Evolve, ed. Nancy Kilpatrick
- Other Worlds, Better Lives, Howard Waldrop
- Pretty Monsters, Kelly Link *
- The New Weird, Ann & Jeff Vandermeer *
- Year’s Best SF 15, ed. Hartwell and Cramer *
- Brave New Worlds, ed. John Joseph Adams *
- Shock Totem #2 (2010)
- The Past Through Tomorrow, Heinlein *
- Push of the Sky, Camille Alexa *
- Tales of Ten Worlds, Arthur C. Clarke
- Again, Dangerous Visions, ed. Harlan Ellison
- The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
- The Decameron, Boccaccio
- Stories From the Twilight Zone, Rod Serling
As you can see, I tend to read collections a bit at a time and then move on to something else. Continue reading
Yesterday afternoon I saw a post by Small Beer Press (on Facebook) mentioning that Kelly Link would be reading at a bookstore in Brooklyn and right about there I decided that I wanted to go – no, NEEDED to go – and then suddenly had to figure out how I was going to do that.
I currently live in New Jersey, towards the middle, next to Trenton, which is just over the river from Philadelphia. The bookstore is in New York, the city (and the state) making it a whole other state away from me.
The problem is, though, that I had to go. Not only was it Kelly Link, whose work I adore, but Tin House and Electric Literature (warning, current cover art – posted on their home page – is NSFW), both great markets that are nearly impossible to get into, and it was a chance to adventure into Brooklyn, where I’d never been. It was also possible, thanks to a combination of trains and subway rides, and since I’m due to leave NJ for upstate NY in a few months (where there are no trains) it was a trip I won’t always be able to make. This particular event would never actually happen again. Add to that my feeling that as writers we’re not just supposed to write but also to read, to listen, and to learn from the writers we admire. To not attend these kinds of events is to sit alone in our apartments, only learning from ourselves. Continue reading