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!

You Should Read: M. Rickert (various stories)

It’s worth repeating: I love having friends who read because they introduce me to wonderful new writers, all of the time. Today’s great author is M. Rickert, suggested to me by the same person who gave me J.G. Ballard and Kelly Link and Ted Chiang and others. I read four of her stories, and here’s what I thought:

“Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment: One Daughter’s Personal Account,” Fantasy & Science Fiction, Oct/Nov 2008: The pure and beautiful devotion of a young woman to an ideal that just happens to want her mother dead. The girl, the narrator, speaking to us as if revealing her thoughts to a journal she suspects will someday be read, tells us about just one aspect of her life: the executions of women who had abortions at some point in the past. By describing how this one part of society affects every part of her life, the story of a future America gone mad unfolds. Simply, easily, as if it is fact, as if it is true, and we can’t do anything now but watch it happen. Continue reading

Podcast: Reading “Monsters, Monsters, Everywhere”

If you read my most recent publication over at Crossed Genres magazine (link goes to story), and wondered how it would sound if I read it aloud, or if you’re looking for a 20 minute distraction from your daily commute, I’ve recorded a quick version of “Monsters, Monsters, Everywhere” in .mp3. Listen to it now or download it for later, and please feel free to leave comments.

“Monsters, Monsters, Everywhere” .mp3

Thanks to the editors at Crossed Genres for letting me post this here.

A Story and Two Podcasts (online now)

Right now you can find me in a few different places:

Monsters, Monsters, Everywhere” is now available to read (free!) online at Crossed Genres in Issue #34 (MONSTERS), out October 1, 2011.

And SF Signal has graciously let me take part in their last two podcasts:

SF Signal #82, Science Fiction Movies, with Lisa Paitz Spindler, Scott Cupp, Derek Johnson, Jessica Strider, and Patrick Hester.  (posted Oct 3, 2011)

SF Signal #80, Near-Future Science Fiction, with Jeff Patterson, Fred Kiesche, John Stevens and Patrick Hester (posted Sep 26, 2011)

I won’t be on the SF Signal podcasts every week but I should be in one or two a month for the foreseeable future, and thanks for listening!

New Sale! Details and an Update

I am thrilled to announce that my most recent sale is to Crossed Genres magazine. My story, “Monsters, Monsters, Everywhere”, was written specifically for their upcoming monster-themed issue, so it’s great that they liked it enough to accept it. I don’t often write stories to meet a certain themed magazine issue or anthology, and Crossed Genres is a market I’d been hoping to get into since I met the editors at Readercon this year. In addition to having beautiful covers, the magazine has also featured writers I admire, like Don Pizarro, Wendy Wagner, Barbara Krasnof and Camille Alexa, to name a few (links go to their CG stories online).

Maybe the next time Crossed Genres has a reading, I’ll get to be a part of it.

The issue comes out October 1, 2011, and I’ll post links once it’s available to purchase.

Also, my story “Call Center Blues”, sold in July to Daily Science Fiction, is tentatively slated to be published the first week of November.

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

Free Fiction Online From My Favorite Writers

While I am getting caught up with some writing and editing projects of my own, I wanted to direct you to some fundamental reading you may have missed. List is in alphabetical order by author’s last name:

Camille Alexa‘s “Shades of White and Road“, Fantasy Magazine, April 2009

Cate Gardner‘s “And, The Bride Wore Ashes“, Phantasmacore, March 2011

Claude Lalumière‘s “Spiderkid“, Reflection’s Edge, February 2007 (also in Objects of Worship)

Kelly Link‘s “Swans“, Fantasy Magazine, July 2011, and “Valley of the Girls” Subterranean Press Summer 2011

Ken Liu‘s “Ad BlockKasma Science Fiction, March 2011

Don Pizarro‘s “Combat Stress Reaction,” Crossed Genres, June 2010

K. V. Taylor‘s “Green” in Reflection’s Edge, Dec 2008

In addition, Small Beer Press has a whole page of free fiction available to download here. (Including The Baum Plan For Financial Independence, a wonderful collection by John Kessel!)

Remember, if you like an author’s work, go out and read more of it! Recommend it to your friends, buy their novels/magazines/collections, or mention how much you liked something you’d read the next time you see the author at a convention. We want to know when our work has an impact, and we appreciate every minute you spend reading our words.

New Sale! (Now with added details)

I’m pleased to announce I’ve sold my story, “Call Center Blues” to DAILY SCIENCE FICTION. It’s going through the editing process now and I’ll post a link once it’s live on the site. This is the sale I was so very excited about last week. At 8 cents per word, this is my first pro-rate sale, and it’s in science fiction to boot! Though I don’t want to give too much away, I will say that this story comes directly from my current day job, working in a tech support call center. While dealing with customers who don’t actually want the features they’ve ordered is part of my daily routine, I wondered what would happen if the unwanted feature was me, or someone just like me. “Call Center Blues” evolved from there.

Thank you for all of your support.

New Sale! Shh!

I’ve gotten word today that I’ve sold a new flash fiction piece to a very respected, pro-rate market. I can’t jump around and squee about it nearly as much as I’d like until the contracts are signed and I’ve been told it’s ok, but you can bet I’m jumping and squeeing quietly over here.

All right. Probably not that quietly.

But, I’m so pleased! Details happily announced as soon as I can.

Recent Publications and Submissions

My writing life has turned around in the last few weeks, and for you, an update:

I’ve had two stories accepted for publication. “Annabelle Tree”, 2500 words, is now available as part of the Southern Fried Weirdness: Reconstruction charity anthology (all proceeds benefiting the American Red Cross for the victims of recent tornadoes). It’s the story of a young girl, and who’s most important to you when the storms come.

When she was twelve, Annabelle’s Momma was pregnant again.

She’d known something was wrong from the way her Momma had been crying for a few months, in between getting the flu a whole bunch of times, and Daddy took more shifts at the plant and in between sat down by the creek bed, not even pretending to fish. The cool water flowing over his submerged six-pack kept the bottles cold, and it was hard to hear Momma yelling from all the way up at the house. Annabelle didn’t mind her Daddy sharing her hideaway spot, nestled into the curve of her tree, and he didn’t mind her being there either, mostly since he didn’t notice. She read her books, borrowed from the middle school library, and he drank his beer, and the tree’s thick branches moved a little in the breeze.

“Your hair’s turning green,” Jerrod Miller had told her at recess, one day in October. “Is that for Halloween?”

“It is not,” she said back, and walked away from him. But she went straight to the girl’s bathroom, and ignoring the heavy sighs and pouty faces of the girls putting on their makeup at the far end of the row of mirrors, Annabelle pulled a strands of her normally light brown hair and held them up to the light. It wasn’t much, but Jerrod was right – mixed in with all the brown were bits of green.

“You’re a freak, you know that?” one of the girls said.

“Yes, I know,” Annabelle replied, and left.

Now available for the low price of $2.99 through Amazon and Smashwords (Says the editor: “This collection of poetry and short fiction features 46 pieces from 40 different contributing authors.”)

The other sale was to an upcoming anthology of flash fiction about monsters, and my story is the tale of a fish man, told jointly from the perspective of both the creature and the scientists cutting into him:

Though it has a mouth and front facing eyes, it does not appear to breathe air, and instead has several gills hidden under heavy scales on its neck which are easy to miss. Kudos to Johnson for noticing them, or the thing might have drowned before we got its head and neck into a bucket of water.

I was born there, where the river flows into the deep lake. I have traveled upriver to mate, have seen water muddied by great hippos and in places a river lowered by heat and summer sun. I have crawled along the nearly empty river bed, me, who was born in a place so deep no light can penetrate it! I have seen all manner of fish and monsters and men. Everything has a place in the world, everything fits into each other and makes sense, except the men.

They shipped it to us in a crate filled with salt water and ice. Like a lobster, it became sluggish in water, almost paralyzed. Could it have other crustaceous qualities? Regardless, keeping the lab near-freezing was a stroke of genius on Kitteredge’s part, since it means we can open the creature up without having to euthanize it first. The boys are anxious to see its innards while the creature’s blood and bile systems are still active.

– “On the Methods of Preserving and Dissecting Icthyo Sapiens”

I’ll post a link to where than can be bought once I’ve got it.

I also have several shorts in the process of being finished, revised, or submitted. This week’s writing project has been to finish up my submission for Machine of Death 2. I wrote it, liked it, thought it came in at the low end of their suggested word count but still within the guidelines. Then I ignored it for a few days, dealt with day job and other life issues, and came back to find that now I think it needs to be longer. I’ve been working on getting that finished so I can get it out to my beta reader for this project.

That’s my writing news, and hopefully soon there’ll be more.