Archive for category Short Stories

Bad-Ass!

BAF-ItsElemental_lgI’ve been beating around the bush with my recent short story sale. I like to make sure everything is nice and official before giving details about the whens and wheres. However, there’s now a live table of contents, so it’s pretty damn official at this point.

I’m going to be in the upcoming Bad-Ass Faeries 4: It’s Elemental.

This is the latest in the award-winning anthology series, and I’m excited to be part of it. More so that I’m in it with one of my best friends and writing cohort NR Brown. There will be an official launch of the anthology at this year’s Balticon with the full and proper launch date currently scheduled for some time in September.

For those unfamiliar with the series, it delivers exactly what the title promises. Each story focuses on a different faerie, and their general ass-kicking ways. This fourth edition is broken into the elements of Earth, Air, Water, Fire, and Spirit.

To go briefly behind the scenes of the anthology, each element was judged separately. My story, The Face of the Serpent, is among the Fire Element stories. NR Brown’s is among the Water. That means we weren’t in direct competition, which was a comfort, because her story is damn good.

I’ll be talking about the anthology more, worry not. I’m just excited I can get out these initial details.

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Goodreads Giveaway

Last week in my State of the Writer post, I said that the anthology The Old Weird South, featuring my story “The South, Rise Again,” would be out soon. In a couple of days. Well…it came out that afternoon, which was a fantastic bit of news. It marks my third short story out this year, which is a pretty damn good year since my previous record high was zero short stories published in a calendar year. I focused the main announcement on Unleaded, as another Unleaded contributor is in the anthology, and over on Twitter where things move fast and furious. So this is the official announcement here, on Writerly Words, with two extra bits of news.

Extra bit of news one: The publishers have announced a Goodreads giveaway, offering ten copies of the anthology up for grabs! Head on over to the anthology’s page on Goodreads between now and December 19th and look for the “Enter to win” button. You have to be a Goodreads member to enter, but seriously, aren’t you already? If not, this is a good opportunity to join. Then go ahead and add me as a friend on the site. I’ve been meaning to expand my list of Goodreads friends, and if you’re reading this blog, you totally count.

Extra bit of new two: As part of the advertising for the book, there isn’t just a Goodreads giveaway, but two of the stories are available, in their entirety, free online. Which excites me more because my story is one of the two available. So if you’d like to read “The South, Rise Again,” you can do so over on the anthology’s website. You can also check out Megan Engelhardt’s “A True Story about the Devil and Jaime’s Shoes,” a story in the style of early twentieth century southern folk stories.

If you want a copy of the anthology and don’t win the giveaway, or don’t want to wait for the giveaway, The Old Weird South is available in print at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or digitally from Smashwords, the Kindle store, and should eventually be available from the Nook and iBook stores. The website for the anthology also says “or your favorite local bookstore.” So tell you what, if you see it on the shelf, snap a picture with your smart phone and send it to me on Twitter and I’ll…do something that wouldn’t legally make this a contest. I don’t know what yet.

And if you want to check out my two other 2012 publications, look for Steam Works from Hydra Publications or The Memory Eater, now just $0.99 on Kindle.

Phew, I always feel a little dirty after one of these advertising posts. Look for me tomorrow on Unleaded talking about generation ship tropes and not about where and how you can buy books with my name in them.

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State of the Writer: November 2012

Picture released under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported by Wikipedian Someone35.

What do you mean it’s the second?

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack. Last night started a new phase for Nickajack that will see my wife and I find a half hour, even if it’s in two fifteen minute chunks, to read at least one scene of Nickajack out loud a night. It’s a great way to hear the adjectives, the filtering, and the misworded dialogue. The intent is to fix these on the fly and to identify spots where props appear or disappear, character motivations aren’t as strong as they could be, and other plot weaknesses that we can then go back and fix up. This is the novel moving forward in a substantive way for the first time since the birth of our daughter, and it feels good to be back into it. If we push hard and have a good product on our hands, we hope to be ready for the first round of alpha readers by January. No later than March is my hope.

The ultimate plan is two rounds of external readers, the first likely drawn from those who have seen the novel as we’ve crafted it, and the second drawn from those who have no knowledge of the plot or the twists. Each will be followed by a round of editing based on comments. After both rounds are done, then we’ll be querying this bad boy. We likely wouldn’t have made the 2012 query goal even if we hadn’t had a kid, even if we did work straight through, but I’m still glad I set the goal so high. Occasionally you need something completely out of your grasp to keep you jumping.

If you fall into either of the camps that we’re looking to draw readers from, keep an eye out. I’m not looking for volunteers yet, but I will be soon.

In other writing news, I’ve accepted final edits of my story for Old Weird South, and the publisher is hoping that the anthology is out by December 1. I know that dates like this frequently slide, we’ll see about when it will actually come out. If it does hit that date, or up to 30 days later, that will be three short stories published in 2012. Which is awesome. I’ll need to get my ass in gear if I want to match or top that in 2013, and set my sights on some professional rate sales.

State of the author’s beer. Man…I’ve got to bottle that stuff. It’s okay to hang out in the fermenter, but yeah, I’ve got to get that bottled. Maybe that’s a this weekend thing.

State of the author’s bees. They survived the storm in one piece, and now we’re focusing on winterizing them. This means keeping them fed with sugar syrup and pollen so they have reserves to make it through the hard months ahead. That’ll probably be its own post in the next month or two.

State of the author’s baby. Eight weeks old now and super cute. She should start “hatching” over the next few weeks, but she already looks at us and smiles. This is all part of the process by which she’ll learn what is and isn’t a face, and what is and isn’t a person. So while she smiles at us, she’ll also smile at the cats, the wall, and random spots in the middle distance. Still, any smiling is smiling, and it’s awesome to see.

This month is Nanowrimo. The editing I mentioned above is my primary project, but I think I’m going to pick two other goals.

  • Redraft Vampire of Mars
  • Finish draft of Antioch, 1098

That’ll be a great start if I am going to try to top this year’s three published stories. Jen Brinn, sage leader of the Cat Vacuuming Society, always cautions to not make sales a goal since they’re beyond the writer’s control…but it would still be nice to at least match this year’s output.

If you’re doing Nanowrimo, best of luck with your projects!

Update: Earlier version of this post stated my baby was eight months not eight weeks old. They grow up fast, but not that fast.

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State of the Writer: October 2012

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack.

I’m starting with those words only because I promised, at the beginning of the year, that I would start every State of the Writer post this year with those words, to remind me that was my goal for the year. At this point it’s now the second of October, and we’re not even to beta readers, so I can say it will not happen. Does that make me regret the goal? Not in the least. It’s been a fire under my ass all year to keep working on the novel. But…life gets in the way sometimes.

I didn’t write this blog post yesterday. I had the Add New Post page open, ready to go, but I didn’t write it. Because I knew what it would say. That’s cheating. The entire reason I started these monthly posts back in February 2011 was to not only trumpet my accomplishments, but to keep myself honest as a writer. During September of 2012 my only writerly activity was to accept the edits on my story for the upcoming Old Weird South anthology. For which I was immediately paid, making this simultaneous one of my least and most productive months ever as a writer, depending on the criterion you want to use.

Writing with a baby has proven to be difficult. It’s hard to write when you’re not getting as much sleep (though I’m getting less not sleep than my wife, who is busy being the awesomest mom ever, sorry my mom). I was going to kick back into writing yesterday, but we had an opportunity for a date night with my wife to have sushi and go see a movie. When you’ve got a baby, those are the nights you cannot pass up, no matter how much you want to get back into writing. We saw Looper, and last night is one of the few nights I don’t regret not writing in the last month. Tonight, it’s back to the grind. My goals at first are going to be modest. 500 words of writing or 30 minutes of editing. Every week night. Morning writing has ended for now, it may return with the new year as I learn what my new morning schedule is. It may not if the new schedule will not accommodate it. If it doesn’t, I will find another 15 minute chunk of time daily that is exclusively for first drafting. One of my first goals will be prepping Vampires of Mars for circulation among some pro-rate markets. I hope to have it out to the first stop (wherever that ends up being) by the end of the week.

I have the best possible excuse in the world for not writing, not just a baby, but a fantastic baby. Going forward, I will likely refer to her as Little Bird in this blog and on Twitter, following the habits of Tee Morris, Chuck Wendig, and others of not referring to their children by name online. It’s ultimately up to her to craft an identity connect with her name on the internet, which she won’t be doing for a good long while (more on that later in the week, likely). I’d been planning to give her an online nickname for awhile. Little Bird is one my wife started using, and I rather liked.

State of the Authors Beer: Hoping to bottle π Stout this weekend, especially since I promised some bottles to coworkers yesterday.

State of the Authors Bees: It’s been a rough summer for nectar in Northern Virginia, not just for my bees but across the region. That’s probably why my one hive was robbed. To prepare the bees for winter, we are feeding them 2-to-1 sugar syrup so we’ll hopefully not lose both hives our first year.

October also features Capclave, which I’m still determining how I’ll approach, and Flashathon, which I’m doing a poor job talking about.

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What I’m Not Doing

Haven’t posted as much lately as usual, and this one is only a quick one to update what I’m certainly not up to. I an unquestionably not writing a story about mermaid hunters on the moon one tweet at a time with Unleaded co-host Day Al-Mohamed. Because that’s entirely too silly of a concept to even consider. And if I were, it certainly wouldn’t start here and go on for over a dozen tweets now. And I especially won’t be collecting them into a post when it gets too awkward to continue on Twitter and try to keep the story going in replies.

Just so you know.

None of that is happening.

Anything you see that suggests otherwise is likely just a delusion.

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State of the Writer: July 2012

Right now the state of the writer is just glad to be in the air conditioning. More about that tomorrow. Ahem.

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack.  We’re now halfway through 2012. The current project involves revisiting the first few chapters and making them mesh with the tone and voices of the end of the book, which we like better. Then we need to go back and change one character from a nurse to an anti-technology reactionary and slip her into a few more scenes. Remove a MacGuffin we weren’t using. Little things like that. After those two fixes, we will consider the book a first draft and ready for beta readers.

Then we’ll take a month away from it. No getting around that step, it’s a vitally important one, even if it’s going to happen later than expected.

At this point, I’m not going to kick myself if I don’t have a query letter away by December 31. That’s not to say I’m giving up on the goal, I’m still pushing forward as hard as I can, but this is the first time I’ve really revised a novel. Top-down, end-to-end, major updates and changes, rewriting entire chapters sort of revising. So I didn’t know how long to give it. Plus, the whole having a baby thing is changing things. My wife/coauthor was pregnant when we set the goal, but neither of us knew it yet. I suspect if the goal does slip, it will by at most a quarter.

We’re also starting to talk about books two and three, and what things might happen in them. Working titles: Mogollon and Columbia. That’s all you’re getting for now.

In other writing, I’ve continued to work on my novella Ghosts of Venus, I’m most of the way through a short story that will be heading off to an anthology as soon as I have power back, and I wrote another of the background flash pieces for the Nickajack universe. Actually, there was a point this month that I was working on a flash piece while taking a break from the short story that I’m writing as a break from my novella that I’m writing as a break from my novel. While I find Russian nesting dolls charming, I’ve got to stop doing things like that. It’s nice to know I can multitask, especially as my wife has her changes to work on Nickajack, but multitasking only really counts if I finish things.

Morning writing has been a major boon. It’s a project I started after the Memorial Day holiday, and during the month of June I totaled 7642 words written between 7:15am and 7:30am.  That’s over 7500 words that I might not have otherwise written. If you want to know more about the project, I introduced it here, then talked about the power of doing a little bit of work everyday here.  With 21 weekdays in June, that meant an average of 364 words a day, which compounds out to nearly 95k words if I managed to do that every weekday for a year.

State of the Author’s Beer: Had intended to brew this month for the first time in a while, but then Austin Homebrew started a state-by-state sale on their website, so I’m waiting for Virginia’s sale date to buy…which is July 26th. So hopefully brewing first weekend in August. I did finally track down the boysenberries I needed. Only had to buy an 8-pack from Amazon.

State of the Author’s Bees: Got my first sting this weekend, learned that I’m not deathly allergic. Also learned that stings on the cartilage of the ear hurt like a bastard. More on that when I talk about the storm.

This week on the blog: The DC storm and my next Ace Double review.  See you then.

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Unrelated Weekend Things

Thing the first: We are now officially beekeepers.  Saturday afternoon my wife and I picked up our nuc from one of our fellow members of the Beekeepers Association of Northern Virginia.  The bees were just chilling in the dining room when we showed up, well secured in their cardboard travel case and humming away like mad.  There are few things that make me a safer driver than having a hatchback full of bees, apparently.  The buzzing was always just a little louder than the radio, especially when a stop or turn made their little cardboard box slide around.

It was raining when we got home, so we immediately broke my first and most sacrosanct rule of beekeeping: no bees in the house.  The cats were exceedingly concerned about the box, I suspect the sound of the bees humming sounded different to their ears.  I picked up our younger, stupider cat and let him have a good look from about five feet away.  He wanted no closer than that, tensing as I held him and scampering off when I let him down.  The rain tapered off, so we took the opportunity to suit up and get the bees into their new hive.  This meant doing things faster than intended, so we didn’t have time to identify the queen, even though she has a little yellow dot on her back.  We’ll need to go in again by next weekend anyway, we’ll get another chance then.

We were told to expect productive and gentle bees.  True to form, they only buzzed around us curiously while we assembled the hive, and by yesterday were already coming back to the hive with huge saddlebags of pollen, even with a patty of artificial pollen sitting right in their hive.  We did come across one bee who was a little braver than her sisters.  This is the bee that will hover right at eye level with us, really staring us down and just daring us to come in closer to the hive.  We’ve long planned to name one bee “That Bee” who we could blame any problems in the hive on.  I think we’ve officially found That Bee.

It’s unusual to harvest from a hive in its first summer, but this colony apparently produced around 100 pounds of honey last year, so it’s not out of the question that we might, might, get a taste of some honey in late August.  Of course by then I’ll be beekeeping solo for a few weeks, so we might just let them keep all the honey this year so they have more than enough to overwinter with.

I have some photos, but I’m having a hard time wrangling them at the moment.  I’ll update this post later in the evening and send a ping on Twitter when it happens.

Thing the second: Late yesterday I got word of a short story sale to an upcoming anthology.  I’m never sure if I’m supposed to share details of just which anthology, so I’m going to hold off until I see something official on their website or get a green light on email.  I will say I’m one of two Unleaded contributors on the author’s list, which is awesome.  Because of that, it’ll probably be over there not over here that I give more details, when they exist to give.  This is my third sale since getting serious about submissions, which is fantastic.  Means I need to write more short stories so I can have more rotating through markets.  If you’re a fellow Cat Vacuumer, yes, it was that story.

Speaking of anthologies, we are in the last week of the Kickstarter for The Memory Eater, and what was once moving fast and furious is now stalled out just shy of 80%.  It’s not too late to get in and preorder a copy.  I’ve seen Kickstarters pull in impressive last week numbers, but there’s certainly no room for complacency.  If you’re still considering, time is running low.  If you are already in, please consider giving us a signal boost on Twitter.  Doing so can even earn you free reward-tier prizes, check out the contest here.  Our deadline for funding is Saturday morning at 7:55am eastern time.

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State of the Author: May 2012

Hermes and Maia

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack.  Big progress in April: the rough draft is complete!  It came in at 90,054 words, right at the lower end of my target range for the novel.  This is just the first step, but it’s a big first step, as the entire novel exists as a full length narrative.  The next step is turning it into a first draft.  Especially for something as long as a novel, I consider the rough and first drafts as two different creatures.  The rough draft is the first version of the story that takes the plot from beginning to end with no holes in the middle.  The first draft is the first draft we’re willing to let others see as a completed project.  There are three major steps between here and there:

  1. My wife and coauthor is taking three weeks to punch up Act Three with more description, as there were points in the narrative where I was concentrating more on getting to the end than stopping to smell the roses.  Or to look at, feel, taste, or listen to the roses either.  It’s largely about dividing the labor to play into our strengths.
  2. Rewrite chapter one to fit the theme and conclusion of the novel.  We want to make sure we’ve got good bookends after all.
  3. Redefine a character.  She was: a nurse.  She will be: a Luddite-style reactionary.  As she exists now, the first half of her appearances she’s the one, the second half (after we decided to change her character, and knew the new version would have a far different plot interaction) she’s the other.  So we need to make sure to unify her purposes.

Can we get this all done in May?  Maybe.  May-be.  See what I…nevermind.  Actually, probably not, but I’ll be thrilled if we get the first two steps done, and get the third done by mid-June.  Then we’ll actually consider something that’s altogether new and scary to me: alpha readers.  I’ve never had an entire novel beta read as a single unit.

This also means I’m going to be more hands-off than hands-on for the next two or three months.  Which is fair and I knew would be part of the process of coauthoring.  It makes me twitch a little, but I’m hoping to use that nervous energy to get a few other projects done.  So with that in mind…

Looking forward to May.  Yesterday was day one of the first hands-off period.  I’ve got four projects lined up, though I’m not sure what order they’ll get done in, and which will get pushed back to the month long alpha reader hands-off period.

  1. Find the next destination for Vampire of Mars and kick it out the door.  This one languished awhile before getting an entirely tacit rejection, which was harsh.  My first choice of markets is currently closed, so this will include some research and not just polishing.
  2. Finish the series of eight Nickajack side stories.  I’ve written the first three, my wife wrote the last one, so there’s four in the middle to fill in.  500-1000 words each.
  3. Create a novella-length outline for Ghosts of Venus.  I think it can take it, and I’ve got some ideas for potentially tripling the length.
  4. Create a novella-length outline for Unnamed North Carolina Time Travel War Story.  Plus…come up with a better title.  This is the story that had its origins in my accidental world building, though I may not use quite the same time period.

Novella-length stories will be an experiment for me, which is part of why I’d like to give them a try.  I’ve seen the market for them re-open lately (though largely through self publication) and I think the two stories I have in mind can support longer narratives but not novel length adventures.  I’ve also been considering them thanks to dipping my toes into one of the stronger novella markets of the 1960s, those Ace Doubles I’ve been snatching up (11 more inbound from an eBay auction, though one’s a duplicate).  If I like them, I might bundle them together and slap on this little logo that I made in a moment of insanity when things such as self-publishing something in the style of an Ace Double sounds like a good idea.

State of the Kickstarter.  I’ll be honest, we’re in the doldrums right now.  I don’t want to get pessimistic, but I’m certainly not as optimistic as I was when I suggested throwing some stretch goals into the mix.  I’m still excited about the project.  If you haven’t read the sample, give it a shot.  If you haven’t pre-ordered, please consider doing so.  We’ve got ten days left as of this writing, and still 30% of the project left to fund.  We’re exactly on pace, but that leaves us no margin for error.  I’ll put together a full postmortem, for better or worse, in two weeks when everything is done.

UPDATE: Since writing this earlier today, the Kickstarter is having a great day.  If you’re reading this and you’ve supported us, either today or in the past, I owe you a massive thanks.  We’ve still got a ways to go, but I’m a hell of a lot more optimistic at 3pm than I was at 9am.

State of the Writer’s Bees.  The first nuc arrives this weekend.  Expect a post about them next week.

Everyone have a productive month, and we’ll meet back here in 31 days to say what we’ve all done.

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State of the Writer: March 2012

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack.  February started with 57k words in the manuscript and ended with 65k words.  Yeah, 8000 words over an entire month isn’t the kind of pace I’d hoped for, but that saw the end of Act 2 and then a stop-work order until we can get the entirety of Act 3 outlined.  It’s a more holistic approach to outlining than we’ve done in past acts, because the third act is rather more important and we needed to have a strong feel on our end point.  Currently we’ve got 11 chapters outlined for the act, it’ll probably top out at 13-15, then we’ll get down into outlining scenes and I can start writing again.  I’m seriously chomping at the bit to write the denouement of the book, but that’s my dessert.  I must keep in mind the musical question: How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?

Another part of the slow-down was a short story I wanted to throw together for an anthology that closed its doors yesterday.  Got the concept two weeks ago, so that meant for a short turnaround.  Been awhile since I’ve sent off a short story, and I did so with less trepidation than usual.  Not sure if this is confidence in the story or confidence in myself.  It does feel better to write an introductory bio that includes actual published real-book credits.  Anthology in question promises all responses by the first of April, so by next months State of the Writer I should have news.

In my State of the Writer for February I talked about how we were heading into the shortest, coldest month of the year.  How’d that work out for everyone?  I don’t know if our February here in the DC area was the warmest on record, but it’s certainly the warmest I can remember, even when compared to Februarys spent further south.  Which, after the last two winters, was a nice change of pace.  What wasn’t so nice was all the pollen and mold the warmer weather kept floating through the air and into my nose, leaving me more useless than usual most of the month.  That was another part of the slowdown on Nickajack in the first half of February.

On my reading goals for the year, I assigned myself to read three Steampunk novels to see what others are doing with long fiction in the genre.  I finished up Boneshaker last night, which I have mixed feelings about.  This isn’t a book review blog, or I’d go in a little more depth.  To keep it short, I thought the book had one too many things going on.  Specifically the one thing too many was the zombies.  I was interested in the plot about the destruction of Seattle, a boy trying to learn about his father, a mother trying to save her son, and a shadowy figure ruling a lawless wreck of a city.  Each of those plots would have had a little more time to shine if the constant threat of zombies wasn’t lurking around like…well, like a pack of zombies.  That said, I know they’re working on a movie, and I suspect that a lot of what I wasn’t fond of in the book will actually make it a better movie.

Next book on the pile is Spring Heeled Jack, though I might take a break from my assigned reading as I still haven’t gotten to Snuff yet.

Looking ahead to March.  Outline, outline, outline.  Write, write, write.  Thus is the life of a novelist.  I’m hoping we can get our outline done by the 9th, and if we do I might still get the first draft of Act 3 finished by the end of the month.  Probably looking at 25-35k words based on how long chapters have been to date, which will bring the whole first draft in at 90-100k words, perfectly on target.

Then we’ll step away for a few weeks.

Then we’ll edit.

Oh joy.

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Exciting News!

Checking my Twitter feed after work on Wednesday I landed on some news.  Wasn’t the way I expected to find out, but I’m excited to say that the Steam Works anthology is now available on Amazon for purchase.  This marks my print debut, and I share the pages with Mae Empson, Sevan Taylor, Tim Ford, Patricia Puckett, Helen Branch, J. M. Mendur, AD Spencer, and R. M. Anton (man, I should turn those all into links).  My story in the anthology is The Rustler, a short I’ve had bouncing around in various formats for a few years and I was thrilled to find a home for.  It’s been a long time coming, I’ve been talking about this anthology since my sale last January, but publishing is often a slow process.

Check it out for just $11.99 from Amazon.

As long as I’m spreading news and turning this into an addendum to my State of the Writer, I’ve also received news that my other upcoming publication, Memory Eaters, is nearing the end of the layout process.  It’s still looking for the right publisher, but the editor has been very optimistic about its chances, and with layout nearing completion, I’m hoping that’s one less step between being picked up by a publisher and ending up in your greedy hands.  So keep watching this space, and I’ll give what updates I can, when I can.

Edit: Oh, and, um, you may notice on Amazon that I’m credited as DL Thurstan instead of DL Thurston.  That’s my own damn fault.  Lesson learned: when reviewing proofs, don’t just look at your story, also look at the copyright page to make sure your name is spelled correctly there.  Sigh.  Ignoble start to my career as a published author, but I’ll know to look next time.

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