Writer Wednesday: A.C. Wise

A.C. Wise was born and raised in Montreal, and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with a spouse, a stripey cat, a spotty cat, and a very short dog. Her fiction has appeared, or is forthcoming, in publications such as Clarkesworld, Apex, Lightspeed,and The Best Horror of the Year Volume 4, among others. In addition to her fiction, she co-edits The Journal of Unlikely Entomology(www.grumpsjournal.com), an online publication of fiction and art generally dedicated to all things multi-legged and creepy-crawly. You can find her online at www.acwise.net, and on twitter as @ac_wise.

1.    What is your favorite of your published works, and why?

Well… My favorite work is usually the one I haven’t written yet, but is currently setting my brain on fire. Or the one I’m deep in the middle of, slinging words hither and thither like an irresponsible maniac. Among the works actually published, I find it harder to choose. There are pieces I think I like, but haven’t read in a while, so it may just be a factor of looking back with rose-colored glasses. With the more recent works, I have a certain fondness for ‘Final Girl Theory’ and ‘Venice Burning’. That said, as a general rule, I try to avoid re-reading my stories once they’ve been published.

2.    You started publishing your work in 2004. Has the state of the publishing industry changed since then? Anything you prefer about being a writing now? Anything you miss?

I think online publications have gained more respectability since I started publishing. They were already well on their way with publications like Strange Horizons, Abyss & Apex, and ChiZine (know as Chiaroscuro back then), but I think the advent ofClarkesworld, Tor.com, Lightspeed, and its predecessor Fantasy Magazine, really tipped the balance in making online publications widely acceptable and desirable. In addition to the rise of online publications, I think the widespread acceptance of electronic submissions is more prevalent these days, which is definitely an improvement. In terms of things I’ll miss… I’ll always lament the loss of Story House Coffee. Not only did they print my first-ever professionally published story, but they printed it on a freakin’ coffee can label. Coffee! Fiction! It’s so many things I love all in one place. What more could a person want?

3.    What market would you most like to be published in, and why? What do you think has kept you from breaking in there so far?

I’ve been lucky enough to have my work published in the majority of publications I admire – Strange Horizons, ChiZine, Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine, and (forthcoming) Lightspeed, among others. Something I aspire to is being invited to contribute to an original anthology edited by Ellen Datlow. I adore her work; it was, and continues to be, a major inspiration and influence on my writing. I distinctly remember an ‘ah-ha’ moment reading the fairy tale anthologies (Black Thorn, White Rose; Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears, etc.), which she edited with Terri Windling, where I thought: Yes. This is what I want to do with my life. I want to write stories like these.

 4.    You often talk about your super adorable corgi. What other people, creatures, or activities help keep you relatively sane in a field known for breaking aspiring writers?

My cats ‘help’ in their own way. Mostly by insisting my lap is the absolute best place in the world to be as soon as I settle down to write, which means the laptop needs to be shoved out of the way, and chin scritches need to be administered NOW, or else. In the realm of things that are actually helpful, my family has always been incredibly supportive of my writing, which definitely helps, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet other writers along the way who help keep me sane(ish). Or, who are at least willing to listen to me rant and moan when sanity abandons me for warmer climes.

5.    In your, well, let’s call it “free time” you also co-edit the Journal of Unlikely Entomology. How did that project come together? 

The short answer is: It started as a joke, which rapidly turned into, ‘Hey, we could actually make something of this.’ The longer answer requires finding me or my co-editor at a con and buying us a drink. (No, I’m not trying to scam free drinks, how dare you suggest such a thing!) In all seriousness, even though it did start as a joke, I take my role as co-editor of the Journal of Unlikely Entomology very seriously. It’s also given me a whole new appreciation for the multi-legged critters that share our world. In a way, bugs are much like zombies, the ultimate blank-slate monster. It’s the story the author tells around theme that counts and one can tell some incredible stories around bugs. There’s an amazing wealth of symbolism and mythology to do with bugs. We get the question ‘why bugs?’ a lot, but, really…why not bugs?

6.    How does being an editor affect your writing?

Heh. It makes me more conscious of time management, for one thing. It also gives me a new appreciation of the submission process. I’m far more patient with response times than I used to be. It also helps me take rejections less personally. Ultimately, I hope it’s allowing me to build better instincts, and helping me avoid clichés, slow openings, and all the other things that annoy me when I encounter them in the slush pile.

7. What are currently writing on? 

Theoretically, I’m working on a novel. (Ha!) It’s based on my short story ‘The Thief of Precious Things’, which appeared in Ekaterina Sedia’s Bewere the Night anthology. At any given time, I also have a handful of story stories brewing. And there’s always editing to keep my busy.

Thanks for stopping by! Looking for other Writer Wednesday interviews? Click on the links to read more about Ken Liu, Claude Lalumière, and Mercedes M. Yardley.

Writer Wednesday: Mercedes M. Yardley talks Beautiful Sorrows

There is a place where sorrows pile up like snow and rest in your hair like cherry blossoms. Boys have wings, monsters fall in love, women fade into nothingness, and the bones of small children snap like twigs. Darkness will surely devour you–but it will be exquisitely lovely while doing so.

Mercedes M. Yardley’s Beautiful Sorrows is an ephemeral collection encompassing twenty-seven short tales full of devastation, death, longing, and the shining ribbon of hope that binds them all together.

I was pleased to get a chance to interview my friend Mercedes M. Yardley about her new collection, Beautiful Sorrows. She kindly answered a few lingering questions I had about Las Vegas, writing horror, and vegan cooking:

1. How has living in Las Vegas affected the kind of stories you want to tell?

MMY: Vegas helped introduce me to a different dark side of humanity than I saw in my home town. Of course we had a lot of the same issues there, but everything was on such a personal level. If somebody was hurt or arrested or killed, it affected the entire area. It’s much more nameless here in Vegas. Sometimes I feel like I’m practically stepping over dead bodies on my way to the grocery store. It makes me want to explore the more anonymous, detached aspect of horror.

2. What’s the most beautiful thing about writing horror?

MMY: I think the beauty is in the fact that horror is universal. We all experience fear. We’re all afraid of something. Maybe it’s ghosts, or monsters or men. We’re afraid of losing our children or being brutally rejected. There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t feel fear. You can’t say that about empathy or love. Our vulnerability makes us similar, and that is beautiful.

3. What was the easiest part of writing the stories in this collection? What was the hardest?

MMY: The easiest part was the writing. Writing is such a joy. The hardest part was the writing. Writing can be such a struggle. Some stories came very easily. “Edibility” and most of “Stars” just flowed. But “Black Mary”, which I think is one of the strongest stories in the collection, was certainly difficult for me. It was originally published in Robert Duperre’s The Gate 2, and I think I may have apologized when I turned it in. I’m very proud of the story now, but it took a bit of a toll on me. The same with “The Quiet Places Where Your Body Grows”, which is another favorite.

4. You’ve often talked about being a very visually oriented person. Do you see the imagery in your head before it gets written into your stories, or do you have to imagine what your stories would look like after you’ve constructed the plot?

MMY: Usually I sit and write without any idea of the plot, or maybe just a starting idea. “A girl is destined to be murdered” was the idea for one novel, and I uncovered the rest of the story chapter by chapter as I wrote it. Then I can imagine it. My current WIP, though, came as a very clear image. I was listening to Placebo’s “Follow the Cops Back Home” while driving, and I saw this scene where two weary people, a man and a woman, were having a conversation in the middle of a country lane. Whatever it was about, it was broken. Finished. Whatever happened was more than they could bear. Then they slowly started walking back home. The entire novel sprang from that idea. In fact, Azhar from “The Quiet Places Where Your Body Grows” may be the man in this scenerio. I’m not sure yet.

5. How do you find time to write between raising three children, taking care of the house, being active in your community and church, and – one assumes – occasionally sleeping?

MMY: Sleeping is the first thing to go. Absolutely. It difficult to find the time, and right now I’m busier than I’ve ever been in my life. I want to sleep, and I want to laze around and watch TV. But do I want it more than writing? Would it fulfill me more as a person to get a few more episodes of D. Gray-man in there? It’s about priorities. My family is absolutely a priority. My faith is absolutely a priority. Writing is a priority, and my husband is great to watch the kids and let me write. Some of the other stuff can fall. I take turns. Today the house sparkles and I got some great writing related projects finished, but I haven’t started dinner yet. And most likely won’t. Peanut butter was created for a reason.

6. You recently started cooking more vegan meals around the house. What’s your favorite recipe?

I’ll tell you if you share some more of yours! And thanks for the ones you’ve given me! I have two favorites that we use quite a bit, and what’s even more convenient is that they’re on the internet. The first is this delicious pineapple quinoa cashew stir fry from Veganomicon. (http://www.food.com/recipe/Pineapple-Cashew-Quinoa-Stir-Fry-309239) It’s absolutely delicious. My other favorite is the Barley Bean Bowl from the Skinny B*tch cookbook. (http://gazingin.com/2010/12/06/barley-and-red-beans/) It’s so refreshing.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mercedes.murdockyardley

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mercedesmy

Mercedes’ blog: www.mercedesyardley.com

BEAUTIFUL SORROWS is available on Amazon and at the Shock Totem store at www.shocktotem.com

Talking About “Call Center Blues” (publication, dissection, and interview)

You can read my most recent publication,“Call Center Blues,” free, online, at Daily Science Fiction. Once you’ve read it, go take a look at Micheal Haynes’ “Short Story Dissection“, where he takes apart my tale and looks its pieces.

Afterwards, you can go here to read his interview with me about the story. Still have questions? Leave me a comment and I’m happy to answer them.

Thanks for reading!

Writer Wednesday: 10 Questions with Ken Liu

I’ve realized that I know some awesomely brilliant writers. Whether just starting to make a name for themselves or authors who’ve been working in this field for decades, they have insights into writing that I may never have gotten to myself, and I wanted to know more. I wanted their secrets, their advice, the gleaming nuggets of wisdom plucked from their brains. So, I asked a few questions (10, to be precise), and these wonderful people answered. I’ve decided to share these interviews with you because I learned something about writing and you might too.

First up is science fiction author, program, and tax lawyer (yes, really), Ken Liu:

1. You were a programmer before you were a lawyer, and now in addition to that job you’ve added husband, father, and writer. How has your writing changed as you’ve acquired these new experiences? Can you see the effect of your life on your work over time, or has your style remained constant?

I think the experiences of a writer can’t help but show up in his fiction—mutated, transformed, sublimated, disguised—but they’ll be there. You write about what’s on your mind. I thought much more about parenthood after my daughter was born, and the theme of parenthood became much more prominent in my stories. My ideas about the law shifted after studying it and practicing it for a while, and that change is reflected in my stories as well.

I hope that just as we grow more interesting and wiser over time—a notion that some would question—we also become better writers. So I’d like to think that my writing has improved over the years as I’ve learned more about the world and myself. But some things have stayed constant over the years. There’s a certain lens that I view the world through which leaves its mark on everything I write. I have a hard time articulating exactly what that mark is, but even my earliest stories have the same “flavor” as my latest ones.

2. Because you have less time to devote to writing than perhaps someone who writes full-time, do you have to make choices about which ideas you’re going to work on? If so, how do you decide which stories to breath life into?

When I sit down to draft or edit, it takes a while to get the work-in-progress back into my head before I can be productive. Because of this cost for context switching and the many demands and interruptions imposed by the non-writing life, I usually avoid ideas that have a tendency to sprawl all over the place. But some big ideas just refuse to let me go. I’ve been collaborating with my wife on a novel, and now I’m thinking of starting another one by myself. I need to develop processes that will allow me to work on a big idea through short sessions spread out over a long period of time.

3. What was the first story you ever sold, and how would you have written if differently if you had to do it again tomorrow?

The very first story that I sold, “Carthaginian Rose,” was bought in 2002 by Empire of Dreams and Miracles: The Phobos Science Fiction Anthology (v. 1), edited by Orson Scott Card and Keith Olexa. I still like that story, and if I were to do it again today, I think the main thing I would change is the drafting process. Back then, I wrote extremely slowly (it took me more than half a year to finish a first draft for a short story), and I didn’t understand how to work with critiques—I had a hard time telling apart comments that I needed to think about and comments that I needed to ignore. Writing faster and getting better at making use of feedback are two skills I’ve improved since then. Continue reading