sale

Update – Sales, Award Nominations, Car Wrecks, and Massive Debt

First, the good news. I’ve sold two stories this week:

  • “How To Recover a Relative Lost During Transmatter Shipping, In Five Easy Steps” to The Journal of Unlikely Cartography (Unlikely Stories #9), due out June 2014
  • “Image Du Monde: Myrrour of the worldes” to The Starry Wisdom Library anthology from PS Publishing (Britain), September 2014

“Five Easy Steps” is a short story I started last year (I excerpted my work in progress here). The editors didn’t quite love the unreliable narrator as much as I did, but liked the story enough to send me a rewrite request. My policy on those is always “Yes, thank you for giving me the opportunity”, so I thought on it for a few days, came up with a framework that left my original story mostly intact but gave some of the perspective the editors were looking for, and resubmitted it. They bought it! It’s my first appearance in Unlikely Stories, and I’m sharing the ToC with a bunch of authors I like and respect.

“Image du Monde” was a commission – the editor had heard of my work from someone else, and contacted me through my website. It’s a flash piece written in the style of a catalog entry, mixing my background in books at art objects with obscure history and Lovecraft. I was happy to do it, and the editor called the finished piece “fantastic!” which is always great to hear.

Note to editors: I’m always open to commissioned work. Fiction or non-fiction (editor Nick Mamatas wrote about me getting involved with his essay anthology here). Please contact me with proposals and information.

Also, the SHE WALKS IN SHADOWS project got funded, so I’ll be writing a story about Anna Tilton (“The Shadow Over Innsmouth”). The story is due at the end of the year, and the anthology will be out in 2015.

Seems I’ve been suggested for the “Best Fan Writer” Hugo award. This isn’t a nomination, and I’m not going to be nominated (my personal vote is for Natalie Luhrs) but in the process I was asked for some examples of my writing on genre, fandom, and writing. If you’re new to my work, start here:

wreck

The bad news…

Monday morning, I totaled my car in an accident. It wasn’t my fault – I slid down a hill due to ice, the other driver was speeding and couldn’t stop in time. The police declared it an unfortunate accident, one of three in the same spot within a few minutes, and no one was ticketed. (They did warn the other guy about “speed under conditions”.) I ended up with bruises, trouble breathing for a few days (hit the steering wheel/airbag), and a minuscule fracture in one of the little bones of my hand.

hand

Colorful!

It’s been pointed out to me that I should be grateful to be alive, and I really am. At the time, I was shook up and didn’t put the pieces together – the front of my car was mangled even though I was only going 20 mph, the impact was so bad my airbag deployed and my rear window was popped out of the frame, and the other driver couldn’t fully stop until he was a block away. When I started going down the hill to the intersection, I’d applied the brakes – and nothing happened. I stood on the brakes, saw the other guy coming, hit the horn (how my hand ended up between me and the steering wheel), and none of it helped. Standing on the side of the road, couldn’t stop crying, the smell of gunpowder on my clothes from the airbag, I kept thinking about how I’d done everything I could, even veered to the left at the last moment to make sure I hit the guy’s back end instead of his passenger, and none of it mattered.

Except, maybe it did. If I entered the intersection two seconds earlier, maybe one, he’d have hit my driver’s side door going 50. Instead, we all walked away.

The really bad news…

I’ve got $1000 in deductibles (medical and auto) to pay. I’ve got the difference between my car’s value according to the insurance and what’s left on the loan. Since I’d just traded in my old car on a 2014 three months ago, that’s a couple of thousand (I’ll know the exact amount next week). I missed a day of work at my office job, and because I needed to come home and rest every night, I’ve lost at least one editing job, maybe two. I’m still recovering, still depressed about all of this, going to sleep at 8 or 9 pm every night, and I haven’t got the energy to check my email. It took me four days to put this post together.

I have to find a way to get the money to pay off the bills and loan, just so I can break even. Then I have to get another car, because where I live, I can’t not have one. There’s a bus that would get me to work and back (three buses, technically, but I don’t mind that) but none that go anywhere near my son’s afterschool program. The trip planner program actually recommends taking a bus from work and then walking a mile through the woods. Pick him up, walk another mile with the child on a road with no sidewalks, catch another bus, transfer, and walk another 1/4 mile home. I could do that most nights, depending on the weather, but my son can’t.

I’ve worked so hard the last few years, building myself up to a place where my bills were paid, I had a car, Dagan Books projects were getting paid off and Lakeside Circus wrapped its first issue. I was sharing a 1 bdr apartment with my son to save money and working two jobs but I was getting there. Even the new car was because I was getting my life together – my old one had a loan with a higher interest rate, I couldn’t refi it, but I could trade it in for its full value, get a new car with a lower rate loan, and keep paying the same amount each month so I’d pay my principle off faster. Every bit of spare cash I’ve had in the last few months, I paid toward my car. Being responsible.

Now I have debt, no car, and no idea what to do next.

At least saying all of this makes it so it’s not something I’m worrying over and focusing on; what I need is a plan, hope. The possibility of getting back on track again. I’ll be okay once I know how to make everything okay. Hard work doesn’t scare me. Not knowing does.

#SFWAPro

A Sale, A Review, and A Problematic Story

First, the good:

This week, I sold two SF haiku to Scifaikuest for their August 2014 print issue, and a new review of my latest publication said:

“CL3ANS3 is a beautiful story” and ”Cuinn’s voice and the picture she was able to weave inside my mind was absolutely amazing, her prose was top-notch.” Yay!

The not so good:

A few months ago I shared the opening of a story I was writing, “The Night Hours“. It’s got lots to love: 1930s Innsmouth, a non-white hero navigating a Mythos noir mashup, a strong female character, and more. I thought it would be the start to a series of these stories, maybe even a collection. I researched, wrote, rewrote, finished the story and -

I’ve become hesitant do anything with it. In writing about a main character not normally seen in this type of fiction (Lovecraft’s work was notoriously white-washed, and I’ve been pushing back against that for years) I started from a place of appreciation but ended up wondering if it’ll be read as appropriation. Why? Because too often, white authors will write about non-white characters – usually Asian – to add an exotic flavor to their fiction. Exotic because they assume we’ll read the inclusion of this “other” character as unusual, strange, mysterious, and even sexy – but definitely not normal, average, typical, day to day, or white. And flavor because often these characters are described as food, with “chocolate”, “mocha”, or “cinnamon” skin, and they’re sprinkled into the story for the characteristics the author assumes their race implies, in the same way that a dinner of dim sum and fried rice would be mentioned – because hey! that’s weird food – but when a character eats cereal for breakfast it’s left out.

I wrote that character because I wanted to see something in fiction that I don’t often see – a strong, non-white, lead character doing all of the typical noir things, including getting the girl. I picked a Filipino man as the lead because I felt I knew enough to have a good sense of the character without having to guess at anything. I didn’t want to risk getting it wrong, and if I’d written about a native of the Sudan, for example, I would be inventing instead of relaying. He is like any other guy, white or not, because the real life Filipino men he’s inspired by (not based on any one but an amalgamation of several I’m close to) are the same as white men, which is to say, they’re normal and unique and typical, depending on the moment, just like everyone else. This isn’t a revelation to me and it certainly shouldn’t be to you.

But while a lot of the readers on this story loved it, I noticed an odd split: all of the non-white readers adored it, while some (not all) of the white readers thought it wasn’t believable. I was told that this story would only sell to “certain” markets. One person even asked why the MC had to be a Filipino when I’d “obviously” written a white man and then changed his appearance. I’m already aware of the fine line between celebrating and othering, when it comes to writing about people and places you’re not legitimately a part of, and these crit notes were making me nervous. There’s a lot of non-white authors who’d say that you shouldn’t even try to write non-white characters if you happen to be white, because it’s not your story to tell.

I respect that point of view and I at least agree with part of it – you shouldn’t tell someone else’s story without drawing on your own experiences in some way. But I disagree with the implication that only people of a certain race, color, background, sex, gender, identity expression, neighborhood, and so on should write about characters with those qualities. We should all write everyone, and we should all be careful to write real people with whom we can relate, instead of using a character’s external appearance or birthplace as shorthand.

I want this story out in the world because I think it’s entertaining, well-researched and well-written. I also very much want it out in the world because the idea that [insert any non-white person here] can only be admirable, strong, manly, sexy, or brilliant if we first write a white version and then paint ‘em a different color is something I don’t ever want to hear again. We make SFF a more diverse place by including more diverse characters, regardless of the author. But if readers look at this story and think I’m exaggerating someone’s abilities to make a point, and so use it as proof they’re right to assume non-white peoples are less than in some way – I’m failing my friends and people I love by contributing to that. That’s not fair to them.

The fact that I’ve had to say “non-white” and “white” several times in this post isn’t fair to them either, by the way. We are all so much more complex than a simple “this/that” division could ever express. Do you really want to be “just a white guy”, a stereotype, a bad guy in a certain kind of films? Neither do I.

I don’t have a good answer to this problem yet, and so I’ve got the story tucked away in a file until I decide what to do with it.

Stats: Submissions, Rejections, Acceptances, and Notes from my writing career to date

My amazing writer’s group* has been comparing the number of rejections we’ve all had in the last few years. Rejections are a measure of success because they mean you’ve been submitting your work, giving it a chance to be sold. Other folks in the group have 200, 300+ rejections, which means they’re submitting over a hundred times a year.

I haven’t submitted 100 stories in my lifetime.

I went over my notes from 2010 to now, and compiled my stats:

I have submitted 37 pieces (1 essay, 1 poem, and 35 fiction submissions) so far.

Sold/placed 24, had 13 rejections.

The rejections represent 9 pieces I haven’t yet been able to place (including a couple that I’ve trunked now). Of these, two ended up in my collection, so I’ve sold them that way, but they weren’t accepted by someone else.

4 personal rejections, 5 form, 3 maybe-form rejections, one “market closed while my piece was on sub”.

Of the sales, one was a reprint, a couple were micro-fiction, one was a pro-rate story (“Call Center Blues” to DSF)**, one was non-speculative noir. Three were for invite-only anthologies, and one of those was the essay. Less than 1/2 of the paying sales were for flash, which surprised me; I always thought of myself as more successful with flash, and it’s true that I’ve sold nearly all of it that I’ve written, but I’ve made more sales overall of longer pieces (for $) which means I must be writing more short stories than I thought.

This doesn’t count all of the non-paying non-fiction work I’ve done: guest essays, podcasts, blog posts, and my columns for Functional Nerds and SF Signal. Those weren’t things that were really going to be rejected, and other than building my resume/fan base, they don’t help my fiction career.

On the upside, my acceptance rate is pretty high, but that’s because I carefully research my markets, very selectively submit, and haven’t been subbing to many pro-markets. I didn’t aim low but I didn’t aim too high, either. I’ve started to change that this year, with my first submission of the year to Clarkesworld Magazine (and my first rejection, from them, 48 hours later).

As I get more out, I know my enviable ratio is going to drop like a stone. That’s the price of moving forward, and I’m willing to pay it if it means a more successful 2014.

* which includes Julie Day, Michael J. DeLucaAdam MillsDon PizarroAngela Still, and Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam. Aren’t I lucky?

**  which made me eligible for the Campbell in 2012 and 2013, but I never felt I’d sold enough to warrant publicizing myself as such, and I’ve now expired out.

Pay what You Want Ebook Bundle: Women and Other Constructs (32 hour sale)

Part of my goal in self-publishing my short fiction collection, Women and Other Constructs, was to gather information about what sells, at what price, and so on. Already I’ve learned to offer PDFs of the book, and I’ve created an online shop to make buying easier… so, let’s try an experiment:

WomencoverebookSMALL

From now until 12 am, EST, July 5th, I’m running a sale. You can buy the ebook bundle of my book–which includes ePub, mobi, and PDF–and you can decide how much to pay for it. When you’re ready to check out, the screen suggests $3.99 (what I think it’s worth) but you can change that to any number you like. More than $3.99? Sure. Less? Okay.

Nothing at all? That’s fine, too. If you think it’s worth nothing, read it for free.

But hurry… time is running out. You’ve got less than 32 hours now.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE EBOOK BUNDLE

#SFWApro

A Podcast, Some Advice, and a Story (new places to find me online)

I’m going to skip my usual “things I did last month” roundup because I’ve actually talked about most of them (sick, Readercon, IN SITU, temp job, etc). I’m hard at work getting FISH finished up, and  other Dagan Books business like con planning, advertising, hiring, accounting and so on. It’s quickly becoming an actual 40-hour a week job (the weeks I can keep it to only 40 hours) and perhaps in another year or so it will start doing nifty things like paying me.

We’re not there yet. In the meantime I’ve done a couple of non-Dagan Books things I’d like to share:

  • Last week I was on an episode of the Hugo award nominated podcast at SF Signal, “Readercon, Harassment and Making Positive Changes” with Stina Leicht, Mur Lafferty, Jaym Gates and Patrick Hester. It’s not the only podcast to have covered the topic or even the recent incident at Readercon, but it’s part of the ongoing conversation. I think we said some good things. You can listen to it here: Episode 143
  • My most recent Tech Nerd column is up at Functional Nerds: “Ten FREE Apps That Make My iPhone a Mobile Office
  • Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance” was published by Red Penny Papers in their Summer 2012 issue. Click on the link to read it for free.
  • “No Hand to Turn the Key” (my clockwork erotica/librarian story) sold to the STEAMPUNK CTHULHU anthology forthcoming from Chaosium. I’ll post more details once I have them, but for now, check out the cover by Daniele Serra: