Writer Wednesday: Fran Wilde

Photo courtesy of A. E. Bogdan

Fran Wilde is a writer and technology consultant hard at work on her third novel. You can read her short stories online at Nature Magazine and Daily Science Fiction She can tie various sailing knots, set gemstones and program digital minions. She blogs at franwilde.wordpress.com.

1. You have two novels completed and two more in progress. Tell us about them.

Moonmaker is adult science fiction. It’s my first novel, and I’ve recently received some fantastic feedback on it. The story is pretty ambitious, given that I’d never written a novel before. I am lucky to have people who believe in it, since the process of finishing a novel and getting it out there is so complex. Moonmaker combines game building and programming with a bunch of things I didn’t know much about until I dove into the research. A friend was kind enough to loan me an astrophysicist at one point (he’s awesome), so I had some great insights when it came to moons and orbits. I did a very light query on the book last fall, but have decided to take it back into editing. A few spin-off short stories are in process too.

The second novel, Bone Arrow, is my baby right now. It’s young adult fantasy, with a lot of low-tech engineering. I was a house writer for university engineering programs for a long time, and my first job was proofreading engineering articles. The tech behind bridges and towers and a few other things got stuck in my head, I guess. But that’s just setting, and offstage background. The characters in Bone Arrow — they ran away with the book. I had all these plans for what was supposed to happen, and… yeah. They had other plans. I loved watching the story unfurl. I love hearing reactions from people who have read it.

One thing I should say is that my friends from Viable Paradise who have urged me on while writing this book, and who are a really incredibly generous source of support, even while deep in their own work, have been there from the start on this. I’m very grateful for them. In addition, I took Bone Arrow with me to Taos Toolbox last summer. After an all-night plot-breaking session with my roommate and several amazing upcoming writers and friends, I’d grown a whole new grasp on how to plot story. Bone Arrow and the stories that come after are much stronger for these experiences.

The third novel is set in the same world as Bone Arrow, and the fourth is a distant-future offshoot of Moonmaker.

2. What short fiction publication are you most proud of, and why?

All of them, for different reasons. If you press me, I’d say, so far, the 2012 Nature story, “Without.” It’s short, but there’s a lot in it. I’m proud of it mostly because the story wasn’t working, even after a critique. Then I quit taking one character’s side over the other and let both characters have completely valid points, as they saw it. Then it worked. That was an important lesson.

3. You’ve interviewed an impressive collection of genre authors for your “Cooking the Books” project. Where did you get the idea to talk about writing by talking about food?

I’m having a ridiculously fun time with Cooking the Books. I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement along the way, especially from author A.C. Wise and all the writers who have agreed to be interviewed so far.

Back in a previous life, I interviewed a lot of people for work. I missed doing it. When I started the column, it felt a bit more risky: this time I was interviewing people not for a client, or a journal, but because I really cared about the answers, for me. It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

The whole thing started at Viable Paradise. Steven Gould (who not only has a new book out, Impulse, but is running for SFWA president – go check him out!) and I were talking about a recipe I had in the back pages of a foreign service cookbook. The recipe was for “Elephant Stew.” (the book also had “Stuffed Camel” and something for cobra.). The first direction is “Cut elephant into bite-sized pieces.” Steven Gould said “That sounds like a recipe for a novel.” I asked him if he’d say that in print, and we were off to the races. Shortly after, Elizabeth Bear and Gregory Frost agreed to interviews – and then people began suggesting others who might like to participate as well. I had a lot of fun interviewing more of the Viable Paradise faculty last fall: author James D. Macdonald, Macallister Stone (of Absolute Write), Bart, and author Steven Brust. The December interview with Aliette de Bodard was just amazing, and the upcoming interviews — well, they’re going to be awesome.

I’d love to have a dinner party with the recipes. Except for the marmot. And Joe Haldeman’s foxhole pizza. Also, we’d need more beverage recipes to pull off a good party. I’m also dreaming up ways to do a Cooking the Books game show at a convention.

4. Which fictional recipe would you most like to try?

Oh gosh. All of them? I love new tastes. I might skip the alien food from Neal Stephenson’s Anathem.

I’m a little limited by food allergies in real life, so that’s probably why I like fictional food so much.

The best source for someone who makes fictional recipes come to life is Chelsea over at Food Thru the Pages and the folks at Fictional Food. Not only are the recipes fantastic, the photography is gorgeous.

5. You attended Viable Paradise in 2011. Now that you’ve had a year to process that experience, what stands out in your memory as the best moment of the workshop? Continue reading

Writer Wednesday: E.C. Myers

Photo courtesy of S. Kuzma Photography

Photo courtesy of S. Kuzma Photography

E.C. Myers is the author of two YA speculative fiction novels – Fair Coin & Quantum Coin – out now from Pyr. When he isn’t writing, he reads, plays video games, watches films, sleeps as little as possible, and spends far too much time on the internet. Luckily, he let me steal him away to answer a few questions …

1. You’re a prolific reviewer of television, film and video games. One of your current projects is The Viewscreen, where you’re rewatching every episode of Star Trek TNG. How does that kind of writing fit in with the rest of your writing career?

Sometimes I worry that writing for The Viewscreen or even my own blog might be too much of a distraction from my fiction career. It may not make the most sense to devote so much of my limited writing time to work that doesn’t pay, but economics aside, I do think it’s valuable. Writing regularly—any kind of writing—helps me grow as a writer, and the regular deadlines are powerful motivation to sit down at the keyboard and work fast. I love stories in all their forms, especially in television and film, and these re-watches are opportunities to examine fiction critically and think about what makes it brilliant, a spectacular failure, or an interesting effort that just falls short of success. I also think it’s important to be able to write many different things, just as it’s important to read widely, and one day perhaps I will be able to support myself from a variety of freelancing projects like these. It’s also a lot of fun, and I enjoy discussing Star Trek with the smart, engaged community at The Viewscreen.

2. You have a wife, a day job, friends, pets, and hobbies – and you still wrote four novels and several short stories. How do you find the time?

I steal the time wherever I can get it: by falling hopelessly behind on my favorite TV shows while dodging spoilers on the internet, watching the stacks of unplayed video games and unread books grow, getting by on four or five hours of sleep a night so I can stay up late and wake up early, writing during my lunch breaks, and unfortunately giving up too many hours I could be spending with family and friends. I don’t feel like I’ve been as productive as I used to be, so I’m experimenting with new writing routines to counterbalance all the recent changes in my life. The changes are all good ones, but they’re also challenges when you’ve become accustomed to working a certain way. I think if something’s important enough to you, you make the time for it no matter what else you have going on.

3. You’re a member of the writing group Altered Fluid. How did you get involved with the group, and how has that influenced you as a writer?

One of the founding members of Altered Fluid, Kris Dikeman, was one of my classmates at Clarion West in 2005. When we both returned home to New York City after the workshop, she graciously introduced me to the group and sponsored me for membership. I went through their rigorous screening process and happily was accepted. Second to Clarion West, Altered Fluid has probably improved my writing the most. Everyone in the group is deeply committed to the craft of writing and has diverse strengths, areas of expertise, and perspectives. The constant demand for new short stories to critique made me more prolific, and it’s very helpful to not only receive critiques from such smart, experienced writers, but to think critically about each others’ stories and hear everyone else’s reactions and suggestions on every piece. I also appreciate what supportive, fun friends they’ve become—we keep each other informed about story markets, share publishing news and advice, help each other with various projects, and we even go on writing dates and retreats together.

4. What short fiction publication are you most proud of, and why?

Every one of them is a victory, but I’m especially proud of “All the Lonely People”, which appeared in Shimmer issue #13 in April 2011. I think it’s one of my best published pieces, but it took a long time for it to find the perfect home; Shimmer is one of my favorite fiction magazines, and I had been trying to break into the market for years, with several close calls. I also had the privilege of reading that story at the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series, which was definitely a highlight of my career so far.

5. You’ve published two YA novels, Fair Coin and Quantum Coin, and have two others you’re revising. What stage of the novel/publishing process do you enjoy the most?

Naturally I am particularly thrilled by the part that puts my books in the hands of readers! But as far as the writing process goes, it’s a toss-up between writing a first draft, when there’s still so much potential, and revision, when the book is creeping closer to what I want it to be. I like revision when I know what to fix and how to fix it. Continue reading

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

What Else Working Writers Do (Besides Write)

It’s been about a year since I decided to be a writer again*. Over the last year I’ve settled into a comfortable balance between my writing life and everything else, and developed habits that have taken me from obscurity to someone who’s appeared on guest blogs and podcasts, gotten good reviews, made friends with writers and artists that I respect, attended conventions, had a pro-level sale, been accepted into the SFWA (didn’t I mention that? Yes, that was my good news this week), and edited a few books. Oh, and built a tiny but respectable little publishing company. In a year.

But it hasn’t been easy, or simple. I spend between 40 and 60 hours a week working on my writing (and, along with that, the editing and publishing that goes into Dagan Books). I spend about 10 hours a week actually putting words on paper. The rest of my time is taken up by all of the little, largely unseen, tasks that make up the life of a working writer:

  • I read every day. I don’t just read books and magazines, and in fact don’t read them as often as I’d like. I do read them when I can, but a lot of my reading is through the (growing) list of authors I subscribe to on my Google Reader. Through them I am introduced to new writers, new books, movies, and music. I am told where to find a recording of Leonard Nimoy reading Israeli author Etgar Keret. I get reminders about upcoming readings, author events, and conventions, some of which I can make it to. When I can’t, I can find a recap of what happened so at least I know what I missed. I get introduced to film criticism as expressed by The Incredible Hulk, whose breakdown of structure and plot should be required reading for new writers. I read what NPR and The Paris Review have to say about books making the NY Times Bestseller list, and what indie book bloggers say about books I’d never have heard of otherwise. I get to be part of a world-wide conversation on what fiction is today, and what it should be, and that informs how I see my own writing. It has changed how I write, for the better.
  • I also read slush for Dagan Books. In fact, I read every bit of it. 200 fish-themed stories for our latest anthology? I read them all. And for each of the two books before that. I read the novel queries too. From these I learn how many terrible ways there are to pitch your novel, and the few good ways. I learn which opening paragraphs sound less impressive each time you read a new author do the same thing, and which sentences always work, every time. I see authors who come across as arrogant, nervous, self-doubting, clueless, and worse, and I remind myself not to make those same mistakes. Every day, I read all of these things, and my writing improves before it even hits the page. Continue reading