Monday, April 29, 2013

Things I've Written and Edited

Here's a list of non-blog things I've written and where you can find them.

My Original Speculative Fiction Anthologies

My Fiction

  • "An Assessment of the Incident at Camp Righteous", in Space Grunts: Full-Throttle Space Tales #3, edited by Dayton Ward: Science Fiction. During a militaristic theocracy's invasion of an alien planet full of harsh conditions, a young soldier tries to fulfill his mission while his mind deteriorates.
  • "The Emperor Everlasting", in Steampunk World, edited by Sarah Hans. An alternate history story in which the Incas were much more successful in the world than they were in the actual past you may have learned about. Intrigue unfolds as a royal Deviser is thwarted in her every effort to complete the most important job in her nation's history. Features battle llamas!
  • "Quintuple-A", in Sidekicks!, edited by Sarah Hans. Science Fiction, Humor. A low-budget academy that trains sidekicks for superheroes is suddenly up for review, and Daltona Doyle has just one day to prepare an athletics-challenged student for testing.
  • "Running in Wonderland", in Space Tramps: Full-Throttle Space Tales #5, edited by Jennifer Brozek. Science Fiction. An unwanted homeless woman with medical problems, and no money, has 24 hours to get in and out of a space station full of trouble that's her best option for finding a permanent place to live.
  • "Three Transformations", in The Crimson Pact: Volume Two, edited by Paul Genesse. Horror. The owner of a no-kill animal shelter has her worldview and self-image broken all at once when she must cope with an intruder and an invading demon.
  • "Tipping Point", in Ghost in the Cogs, edited by Scott Gable and C. Dombrowski

My Non-Fiction


Disclosure of Material Connection: I am the author of these stories and articles, so purchasing some of the books listed above will result in me getting a tiny bit of money. They're not affiliate links, though! Use your best judgment. :)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

How Being Social Helps Me as a Writer and Editor



However! There's a social element that has been helping to get my work published, and it's gotten me a job as an anthology editor, and I'm going to talk about that.

In a widely used and respected personality test (free to take here), I come out as an ENFJ (Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging), which clearly affects the way that I work. I'm not even the biggest extravert in the world, especially not relative to the general pool of Americans, but relative to groups of mostly-introverted writers, I end up looking super-social. This explains the number of people I'm connected with on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. I just love 'em. Bring on the people!

This might seem a little frivolous, but consider what it's brought me:

  • I was invited to submit a story for an anthology, when I had never been published before, on the basis of a five-minute conversation that wasn't even about writing, because I introduced myself to an author on a convention panel and complimented the awesome title of his book, and gave him my card. He put me on an invitation list. I wrote and submitted a story, and it became my first published story.
  • I was asked to write a book review for a magazine, which was later published in that magazine, because I spent four hours working at a convention party (and I also received an awesome t-shirt for that).
  • I became a slush reader for Clarkesworld Magazine partially because of a recommendation from an editor I had met at a convention, and the slush reading experience improved me as a writer and also gave me the experience to become a short-story editor.
  • I have evaluated a novel manuscript for an agent I know in the UK, because of work that I did for him on a book he was writing when I met him, which was before he even became an agent.
  • I was asked to contribute an interview for Writers Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy during a ten-minute conversation at a convention, which led me to interview my favorite author, Tim Powers (who, by the way, I had already met at a convention).
  • I've been invited to submit stories for six other anthologies as a result of meeting editors and a publisher at conventions, and three of those were accepted for the books. One of the ones that wasn't accepted for its anthology went on to make me a semi-finalist in the Writers of the Future Contest. I would not have written any of these stories, or my first published one, without the guidelines given to me for the anthologies.
  • Knowing that publisher I met made it easy to apply knowledge gained from an editor I had met, and turn my anthology proposal into a real project. All of the authors who have submitted stories for What Fates Impose are people I've met, or I've interacted with online, or have been recommended to me by people I've met.
  • Okay? So in every case listed above, I actually did the work. I wrote the stories and the review, set up and conducted the interview, read the slush, and volunteered my time and effort to help people in a variety of ways. But none of those opportunities would have been there for me if I hadn't shown up at conventions, introduced myself to people, genuinely liked those people, and continued to pay attention to what they were doing online even when I couldn't see them in person. I was doing these things before anything of mine was published, and I'll continue to do them because I would definitely do the same things just for fun, even if I didn't expect to get anything else back from it at all. But the honest truth is that I have the start of a career because of being friendly and interested in people.

    Coming soon: How I Learned to Be Social Despite Having Introverted Parents

    Thursday, April 18, 2013

    Why "Maybe" Is Way Harder than "Yes" or "No"

    I'm making decisions for What Fates Impose.

    I know what I hoped to get when I wrote the guidelines. I feel pretty good about the guidelines I wrote, given the stories I've received in response to them. However, for every anthology there are stories that must be rejected early on, because although they may be good in themselves, they may not be right for the book. It's sad to reject them, but it's also easy, because they just don't fit in with what I'm trying to do.

    The stories that do fit are also easy to identify. A few come in that are close to perfect, both in style and content, and there are others that are close enough to be tweaked into shape with only a few changes. Everybody's happy about those. YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE HOW GOOD SOME OF THESE STORIES ARE. You know, if you read the anthology when it comes out, which I hope you will.

    I'm here to tell you about the problem of the "maybe" pile.

    If my reaction to a story is to think "maybe," then the author has gotten some things right. Completely broken stories are easy to dismiss. But there are so many possible combinations of right and wrong in a maybe. I could like the premise, but not the way it's written. I could like the character, but not the plot. I could like most of the story, but be confused about the timeline because of its structure. There could be too much backstory. There could be a vague ending, or an unsatisfying ending, or unclear motivations that make me wonder why a character does something. The story could have a good series of events that are summarized instead of being shown in scenes, or too much dialogue and not enough description, or too many similes and adjectives cluttering it up. There is an endless parade of possible unfortunate combinations, but if I'm thinking "maybe," there's something desirable enough about the story that I want to figure out a way that it could be fixed, if possible.

    Then I have to answer some questions for myself. How much space do I have left in the anthology? How much time do I have to work out suggestions for story solutions? How much of a change would be too much to ask for a given story? How committed am I to including this one? Is the premise different enough from any other story I have that I really want to do whatever it will take to get changes made in it? Are the changes I'm considering consistent with what the author seems to be trying to accomplish with this story?

    That last question is important to me. When I write stories and then receive critiques about them, I don't mind constructive criticism that will help me turn the story into what I want it to be. But it always makes me feel a bit sick to get suggestions that would turn the story into something completely different than what I wanted it to be, because then I wonder if I've messed up so badly that the reader can't see where I was trying to go. As an editor, is it better to pass on a story or to ask the author to turn it into what I want? That depends on how much of a change I'd be asking for. I have the right to want what I want for my book, but it might not always be the best thing for someone's story to be forced in that direction.

    This maybe business can be agonizing. It's part of the job, though, and I'll keep at it until the job's done.

    Tuesday, April 16, 2013

    Five Important Reasons to Worry about Divination

    For crucial safety reasons, here are some things you need to know about the practice and perils of predicting the future, and what seeking foreknowledge of future events might mean for you.

    1. Deceit sleeps with greed. When choosing an augur, prognosticator, oracle, or prophet, remember that for every human need there is a scam artist to profit from it. Consider this before placing your hopes and fears in the hands of that palm-reader who arrived in town with the carnival. How much would you pay to know the future? Everybody knows that there's money to be made here.

    2. A prophecy never lies; it is only its meaning which deceives. Do you know the motivations of that helpful person offering you a vision of your future? What if he has his own agenda? What if he's steering your life in order to get revenge, prestige, or who knows what else? Or suppose he's being completely honest: what if you misunderstand what he tells you?

    3. You often meet your fate on the road you take to avoid it. Positive fortunes are nice, and many people get them in their readings. What about those not-so-nice predictions? Can you change things and avoid the fate that's seen for you? Classic tales of divination show the hapless fortune-seeker running from her fate, only to bring it closer with every change she tries to make.

    4. Your dearest wish will come true. Suppose you have a goal. You're working your way toward it and you seem to be making progress. Then the fortune-teller says you'll get it. Then what? Must you continue working, or do you stop and wait for it to arrive? Does it somehow seem less enticing once the uncertainty is gone? Maybe now you'd rather have something else.

    5. When fate throws its dagger, you may catch it by the blade or by the handle. How will you meet your fate? With grace or with awkwardness, joy or terror, acceptance or rejection? This is something to think about when you decide whether you really want to know what fate has planned for you.

    Friday, April 12, 2013

    Corrections and Friday Reads

    Good Friday! This will be a brief post, but I will fill it with links to make it worth your time.

    First, a correction: I know I said in my upcoming schedule that I would be going to Odyssey Con this weekend, but I'm not going to be there due to a need to reallocate my time. I'll miss going, but nobody would want me coughing in the con's airspace, anyway. This recent respiratory ailment has been way too tenacious.

    And now for the fun stuff. Books! On Twitter there's a tradition of posting #fridayreads, and I'm bringing it to my blog. I'm currently reading Paper Cities, edited by Ekaterina Sedia (whose website is beautiful. Click!). I have a thing about fantasy set in cities, but not necessarily always the Urban Fantasy category as we know it today with the vampires and the werewolves, so what I am saying is that this anthology is very good for me, so far. I'm not even halfway through it, but I want to recommend three outstanding stories: "The Bumblety's Marble," by Cat Rambo, "Promises: A Tale of the City Imperishable," by Jay Lake, and my favorite so far, "Ghost Market," by Greg van Eekhout. The book is worth its cover price for just these three stories, as far as I'm concerned, but I'm looking forward to reading the rest, because there are amazing writers all over the table of contents.

    The other book I just started to read is Flash Fiction: 72 Very Short Stories, edited by James Thomas, Denise Thomas, and Tom Hazuka. I have to admit that I've never paid much attention to flash fiction before, but recently I've read several excellent stories under 1,000 words long, and I've become nearly what one might call "obsessed" with the category. I've developed the ambition to write some, which by all accounts is not easy to do, especially when you're writing a genre story that might need a few words to go toward how the story world is fantastical or science-fictional.

    That's it for now. I hope you have whatever kind of weekend you want to have!

    Coming soon: Five Important Reasons to Worry about Divination


    Tuesday, April 9, 2013

    How Choosing Anthology Stories Is, and Is Not, Like Making a Mix Tape

    The idea for this post came from the awesome Ferrett Steinmetz, who told me he thought choosing stories for an anthology was like making a mix tape. So here's what I think of that.

    There are different kinds of anthologies. Reprint anthologies are made up of stories that have been published before in other places. The editor picks a theme and chooses stories to fit that theme. Making a reprint anthology is very much like making a mix tape. When I make a mix tape, I'm usually making it for someone else, to combine songs I like in a way that I hope they'll enjoy, that might create a different effect from listening to the songs as part of their albums of origin. I might include more obscure songs so that I can be a showoff about the range of my musical interests, while bringing some more popular songs to keep the mix accessible. Likewise, with a reprint anthology you look at stories that have already been chosen for publication in various places, and evaluate how well they would fit into the effect you're trying to achieve. You can select from a huge range of stories, published over a long period of time, and this gives you the opportunity to use stories written by Big Names with Big Followings, although many people will have already read at least some of those.

    Then you have original anthologies, for which writers are asked to submit previously-unpublished stories to fit a theme, and that means they may be writing new stories specifically in the hope of having work published in that anthology. This process is a little bit like making a mix tape, but it's a lot more like commissioning musicians to write songs for a new album. It's about bringing something new into the world. There's collaboration involved. The editor needs to be able to write effective guidelines that will get writers to understand what kind of stories she wants, and for that to happen, she needs to have a clear idea of what she wants in the first place.

    Deciding who to ask to submit a story is complicated. Do you ask everybody, making it an open call for submissions and posting about it all over the place, to bring in lots of potential material and maybe some surprising gems in the form of a huge slush pile to read through? Or do you think about which writers are already doing the kind of work you like, and invite a select list? Because that way you minimize the work and maximize the likelihood of getting the kind of stories you want, but you don't give anyone new any opportunities and you don't get major surprises. It's in your best interest to ask some well-known authors to submit stories, but they're the ones most likely to be busy or to not need to be in your little anthology because their collection of every story they ever wrote is coming out next month. But if you're paying attention, maybe you can interest some emerging writers who have been steadily writing new, awesome work and getting new, awesome fans eager to see what they'll write next.

    Once the submissions come in, the editor needs to be able to evaluate them on an individual basis for: 1) how well they suit the anthology's theme, 2) how well they work as stories, and 3) if they're not quite right in either of the above areas, whether or not they can be edited into becoming right, and whether or not the amount of editing necessary will be worth the effort. It's possible that a story that doesn't work for this anthology might be perfect for another one, or might sell somewhere else without much editing.

    There are decisions to be made about how well the stories will work together. Maybe some of them are too similar to each other. Maybe one is great, but so different from the others that it wouldn't make sense to keep it. Then there's the order of the stories to decide. Given the way they all go together, which one is the strongest candidate to go first? Which one will be best to finish off the book and leave the final impression? (These are considerations in a reprint anthology, too).

    Another way is to combine both types and create a book with some original stories and some reprints. This may be the strongest option if you prefer the original type, combining the unknowns of novelty with the flexibility to fill gaps with known authors' work. If you don't receive enough of the kind of stories you were hoping for, you can go shopping in the store of magazines, collections, and other anthologies to find already-polished stories that have been tested and reviewed. Or if you're starting from the reprint plan, you might want to tempt readers with a few stories that have never appeared anywhere else.

    In conclusion, what I'm doing with What Fates Impose--an original anthology of fantasy stories about divination, which may include a few reprints--is bigger and messier than making a mix tape, but it gives me the chance to contribute more and make more decisions than a reprint anthology would, and I love it.

    Thursday, April 4, 2013

    What Fates Impose: Inside the Anthology

    When I was on Twitter yesterday, I mentioned that I'd like to tell people about the anthology-editing process, but I wasn't sure what or how much to say about it. It would not be right to discuss details about the stories for a variety of reasons, but I think it would be good for me—and possibly for other people—if I wrote down some of what goes on behind the Veil of Editing.

    My friend Beth had a few good questions about it, so I'm going to answer those in this post:

    "What has been the greatest delight so far? The biggest surprise? The hardest part?'

    The greatest delight so far has been receiving and reading submissions. I came up with the idea for What Fates Impose, an anthology of original stories about divination, more than a year ago. I found a publisher who was interested in the idea last September. We had to work out the details of how we were going to do the project, and then I had to get authors to agree to write stories for it, and give them enough time to write. THAT'S A LOT OF WAITING. But when I finally started to get the stories, it was like presents arriving in my email, because look: I love to read. How much of a buzz do you suppose it is to have an idea of what kind of stories I'd like to read, and then be able to simultaneously support good writers and be the instigator of a bunch of stories like that being written? BIG BUZZ. Delightful!

    The biggest surprise has been seeing how each of these writers work when handed a request to submit a story on a theme. Some of them communicate with me a lot, respond to email quickly, and ask a lot of questions to clarify what I'm looking for. Others are quieter, thinking things over for themselves. Some are super enthusiastic about an idea and agree to try it immediately. Others take a while to think about it before even deciding whether they want to try, and give me a more reserved answer about being willing to see what they can come up with. Maybe they'd all respond differently if given a different topic, or maybe this is their style all the time. I'll see about that over a variety of projects, because I already want to do this again. It's also a semi-surprise, every time, to see how each person chooses to approach the theme. I have an idea of what they're like as people, and in many cases I've seen some of what they've written before, but I get a different idea of the way they think when I see where they go within the guidelines I've sent them.

    The hardest part is knowing for a fact that I can't accept all of the stories. I don't want to reject anybody's work! But I have to if I want to make the book I'm trying to make. There's only so much room, and some stories match what I want better than others, and that's the way the process goes. I'm also going to have to articulate what kind of changes I'd like to see in some of the stories, and get satisfactory changes back, before I accept them. That's work for me and for the writer, and I don't know how people will react to my comments on their stories. I want to make this as easy as possible for everyone, but I also want the stories to be the best they can be for the book.

    I like it, though. This is the most satisfying work I've ever done. It suits me so well!

    Coming soon: How Choosing Anthology Stories Is, and Is Not, Like Making a Mix Tape

    (People under a certain age: replace "Mix Tape" with "Playlist.")