Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Hey, It's: a 2014 In Review Post

Ann and Jeff Vandermeer wear silly
hats to add some well needed levity
to week five of an intense, exhausting
Clarion experience
This year has been the weirdest since I began my writing journey.

It's been a massive success with a goal I didn't set and a massive failure against the goals I did set, all at the same time.

I wanted to better my story sales numbers. In 2013 I had eleven original stories published, three of which were my first ever pro sales. I thought if 2013 was any indication of momentum, I'd be well on my way.

This year I only had one original story published (way back in January), and one reprint. However, it was a reprint I was absolutely stoked to earn, because it was in a venue I've very much wanted to be in for many years (Heiresses of Russ).

If Clarion hadn't happened, 2014 would have been a disaster, I would have seriously been considering chucking in the towel, and wondering what the heck is wrong with my work.

But I'm not. Because Clarion CHANGED EVERYTHING.

It's five months on and I'm still capslocking about Clarion. It was honestly the best thing that ever happened to my career so far. Clarion introduced me to a bunch of incredible people who are now there for me until the end of my writing life, and gave me a huge boost to the next level of improving my game. I won't go into details - have a read back over my Clarion posts for all the deets.

The offshoot of Clarion is that I gained two very important groups of critical readers. I now have a core of beta readers from my Clarion class and a network of editors interested in my work, and a group of local writers who I meet with once a month to critique stories we're working on.

Hell Yeah, Heiresses of Russ 2014
with ME IN IT. I'm an heiress of one
of my writing heroes.
My local group - we call ourselves "CLAM" for in-joke reasons - is also a great cheerleading and social squad. I don't feel so alone in the writing world anymore, which can be a concern for writers like myself outside the hub and convention circuit. My local group is keeping me on track, and I'm very grateful for their energy and motivation. It's giving me the opportunity to keep using the critiquing skills I learned at Clarion and a better focus to my stories.

Rediscovering my energy post-Clarion has slowed down my production somewhat. I'm more intent on making things right before I send out a story. This has been a concern to me (see: OMG I've only had two stories published this year), but it's almost like rebooting or refocusing my career. Once things clarify, once I start making some bigger sales/impacts on the industry again, things will happen.

And I'm absolutely positive they will. I have my down moments and doubts, especially with rejections, but it's all part of the process. 2015 won't be the same as 2014 - nothing could ever replace the greatness of Clarion - but it will be DIFFERENT. I already have three original publications to look forward to - the first tomorrow! - I have many stories I'm working on, and I'm absolutely aiming to break into certain favoured venues and make more pro sales.

So come on 2015, whatcha got for me?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Narration: Podcastle "Burying The Coin" by Setsu Uzume

Ahh! I can't believe I forgot to put this up here when it went live!

Anywho, Podcastle requested my dulcet tones once more, and this was a fun read. Lots of juicy anti-imperialist steampunk to sink my teeth into.

So click on over to listen to Setsu Uzume's "Burying the Coin" at Podcastle. (47 minutes)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

SJV nomination time

Once more award season has rolled around!

2014 has been a reasonably quiet affair publication wise, so I will have at least one, hopefully two stories available for nomination.

The first is the short story "The Dragon in the Wardrobe", which appeared in Betwixt Magazine's January issue.

The second could be the novelette "Long's Confandabulous Carnival and Clockwork Circus, and Cats of Many Persuasions", which will be appearing in issue 61 of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. This issue is slated for release in December, so hopefully it will be out in time to make the December 31 cut-off for the SJVs at least.

For nomination guidelines for New Zealand's Sir Julius Vogel Awards, check out the SFFANZ website.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sale: "The Unofficial Guide to Travelling with Kin", Betwixt Magazine

I'm pleased to announce I've sold my second story to Betwixt Magazine.

"The Unofficial Guide to Travelling with Kin", a road trip story where the hitchhikers are more than meets the eye, will appear in the January 2015 issue of Betwixt Magazine.

Betwixt published "The Dragon in the Wardrobe" earlier this year.

Happy Cat is happy

Monday, October 6, 2014

My Clarion Class, Doing Things

My classmates from Clarion are a really interesting bunch, so I'm going to blather about them for a bit.

I can't wait to find out where all their careers are going, there is some truly prodigious talent amongst them all. Already four of them have been tapped to appear in Tor's short fiction pages next year (one of my bucket list places to be published), so I'm really excited for you to read some of their stories which were written at the workshop.

Here's Nino Cipri's online home, and a story they recently had published in Betwixt, "The Literal Forest". O hai, Betwixt homey! *fist bump*

Martin Cahill has been blogging about the Clarion experience, and is up to Week Four now. Also, have a read of his horror story "It Was Never The Fire" over at Nightmare magazine.

Vida Cruz has also blogged about Clarion, and you'll find here writerly, muse-filled home right here. She has lots of interesting things to say about international SFF.

Kayla Whaley has a run down of her Clarion experience (Much Karaoke. So Squee), and she was also recently interviewed about disability and diversity in YA.

Sarena Ulibarri has been busy since Clarion and has a few stories out or coming out soon. Her online home is here. Some stories of hers include "Half Life" at KYSO Flash, "It Pours" at The Café Irreal, and "The Bolt Tightener" at Lightspeed.

Haralambi Markov can be found in a variety of anthologies (and Tor!). Here is his online home, where he blogs reviews, musings, and things of writerly fascination, and try a taster of his weird style with "The Fungi That Talk Softly" from Electric Velocipede.

Marian Womack blogs here, with a keen interest in Spanish language SFF. Can't wait for more of her work to be read the world over!

Ryan Campbell has a book out called "God of Clay", and it's available here from Sofa Wolf Press.

A couple of classmates currently curating on tumblr, including their writerly stylings, are Ellie Rhymer and Kristen Roupenian.

That's 10 of the 17 people I'll shout to the skies about forever and a day, because a few of them have yet to create an online presence for their writing work, but I'll keep you up to date with their work as it happens.

Just remember, Clarion 2014: The Future of Speculative Fiction. Potential Hugo Award Winners. You heard it here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sale: "Daughters of Frankenstein"

Huzzah! I can finally talk about this one.

I've had to keep this under my hat since before going to Clarion, but here it is now. My River City story "The Long Trip Home", something I'm calling the "sequel-ish" to "Long's Confandabulous Circus" (Andromeda Spaceways, December 2014), will be published in the Lethe Press anthology "Daughters of Frankenstein: Lesbian Mad Scientists". The anthology is edited by Steve Berman and will be out June 2015.

Yes, this will be the second Lethe Press anthology I will have a story in. Much excitement ensues!

Check out the description for "Daughter's of Frankenstein" at the link, and the ToC below.

Introduction by Steve Berman
"Infusion of Waking Dreams" by Aynjel Kaye
"Doubt the Sun" by Faith Mudge
"Meddling Kids" by Tracy Canfield
"Eldritch Brown Houses" by Claire Humphrey
"The Moorehead Maze Experiment" by Tim Lieder
"The Eggshell Curtain" by Romie Stott
“Poor Girl” by Traci Castleberry
“Bank Job Blues” by Melissa Scott
“The Long Trip Home” by A.J. Fitzwater
“Imaginary Beauties: A Lurid Melodrama” by Gemma Files
“The Riveter” by Sean Eads
“A Shallow Grave of Orange Peel and Eggshells” by Thoraiya Dyer
“Alraune” by Orrin Grey
“Preserving the Integrity of the Feminine Mystique” by Christine Morgan
“Hypatia and Her Sisters” by Amy Griswold
“The Lady of the House of Mirrors” by Rafaela F. Ferraz
“The Ice Weasels of Trebizond” by Mr and Mrs Brenchley
“Love in the Time of Markov Processes” by Megan Arkenberg

Monday, August 11, 2014

Heiresses of Russ 2014: The Year's Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction, now available!

As a nice welcome back present, Heiresses of Russ 2014 has gone live a few days early!

This anthology collects 18 lesbian short speculative stories together from the previous year. Released by Lethe Press, it is now available in paperback and Kindle form at Amazon, in epub format at Smashwords, and direct from the source itself on the Lethe Press website.

Edited by Steve Berman and Melissa Scott (of "Shadow Man" fame), you'll find stories by the likes of Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Tansy Raynor Roberts, Cat Rambo, Tori Truslow, Kenneth Schneyer, and yours truly.

I'm honoured to be in such incredible company in this anthology, especially next to two of my favourite stories from 2013, "Vector" (Sriduangkaew) and "Boats in Shadows, Crossing" (Truslow). It's also a huge privilege to be in an anthology series I hold in high esteem, with the name of one of my all-time writing heroines attached.


Cover of Heiresses of Russ 2014,
featuring a woman wearing a classic golden age spacesuit with bubble helmet


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Clarion Week Six

Sigh.

It's done.

I've tried to start this post many times in the last week, in my head and on screen, but my brain just kept scuttling away like the Nopetopus.


Okay, let's try this again. Clarion is over. I need to document the last week, but it's a whole mess of "gah!" and then "nnngh" and "feelz".

A Vida Cruz Original: Tik, The Burping Chameleon,
doodled on her critique of my last Clarion story
By the last Sunday, I was feeling pretty mopey and trying not to do any sort of counting down, but failing badly. I turned in my final story on the Sunday, and in some ways it was a relief (it was my longest piece of the workshop) and in some ways very sad (I would never have to produce under pressure quite like that ever again). All I had left to do for the week was get through my final workshop of my fifth story (feelz of different sortz, because in my exhausted, emotional state I didn't think the story was up to the standard I usually hold myself to), and finish critiquing the stories for the rest of the week. It was easy and hard at the same time - no more writing, but once I put that last story down, once I gave my final critique, there was no going back.

Ann Vandermeer put it very succinctly: "Clarion might change your life, but it's not going to be the best thing you ever do." I feel that's a great way to look at it. I didn't want to go home and think that was all she wrote, Clarion was my best work. Far from it actually - sure, my work got better in just a few short weeksand I wrote some of the best stuff I've ever done, but it was only first drafts. I have discovered that writing is definitely a skill that can be learned - I must never stop writing, never stop improving. And the thing is, I can see the only way is up from here.

Ann also warned us not to try to recreate the Clarion experience in output, work environment, or in another workshop or convention. There is NOTHING like Clarion except Clarion. It is an intense, selfish, stimulating, non-realistic (and I say that in the most loving of tones) environment. Nowhere else ever again am I going to sit in a circle with 17 other writers and a tutor (or two) and scrape the hell out of my words. Nowhere else ever again am I going to eat, sleep, breathe writing and the industry for such a length of time.

Ann and Jeff Vandermeer were fantastic tutors - it's hard to begin to say how incredible they have been to us all, and will continue to be, without falling into cliché superlatives. They've been supportive and realistic - praising our work, and yet somehow able to deliver a critique on the bad bits without flaying the soul. They were a powerhouse of stories - hilarious and striking anecdotes that always had some lesson embedded about the business, and how to conduct oneself as an author. And they are an endless well of industry information and networking advice - it's quite surreal and intensely validating to have people so heart-warmingly invested in my future. I hope I can do good by their good name. They've sent me home with a plan.

14 of 18 from the class with Ann Vandermeer (far left, back)
on the La Jolla cliffs, final night
Timeliney things: Tuesday night we had a taco dinner at the pub which gave us the chance to meet two other Clarionites of years past who awarded our classmate Amin with a gift as part of his Octavia Butler scholarship, as well as various local authors and people invested in keeping Clarion going as an entity. Thank you to all who have their hearts in Clarion - you make a big difference in our lives, and I'm so happy to join you in that investment now!

Tuesday night continued into a raucous final Karaoke session, despite work needing to be done (bah, critiques! We'd learned how to listen to singing and read at the same time by this stage!). And of course, the final song was Bohemian Rhapsody. What workshop full of nutty artists would be complete without a group rendition of the BEST SONG EVA?

Wednesday night was the final author event at Mysterious Galaxy, where Jeff read from and spoke about his Southern Reach trilogy (spoiler: I got to fondle and doodle all over the ARC of the third and as yet to be released book "Acceptance"). And since we were all at the desperation stage when it came to the campus cafeteria food, we all went out for a really good Chinese meal before hand.

Thursday afternoon I joined a group for a walk down to the beach, because for someone who had just spent six weeks by the ocean I'd not put my feet in the water! It was a lovely walk down the hill, and very pleasant on the beach, but getting back up the hill was a bit of a mission. I forgot to take water with me, and didn't realize the temperature had hit the 30s. By the time I got to the top of the hill I apparently didn't look so good. I'd come pretty close to heat stroke. Thank goodness for cold showers.

Friday afternoon after our final workshop (*sniffles*), a group of us went to see "Guardians of the Galaxy", and then for the rest of the night it was beer, pizza, and desperately trying to stave off the inevitable - going to bed and admitting it was all over. I stayed up far later than I should have, but it was worth it for the laughs we got from Martin Cahill's imitations of us all (apparently I sigh a lot)and Manish "MC Lovecraft" Melwani's beat poet reading of his stream-of-conscious eldritch flash piece (seriously, some editor, somewhere, publish that thing - it's fantastic!).

And then after valiantly trying not to cry, and failing, it was time to go.

Thank you 17 amazing people who are the future of speculative fiction. Look for these names: Amin Chehelnabi, Ellie Rhymer, Haralambi Markov, Kayla Whaley, Kiik Araki-Kawaguchi, Kristen Roupenian, Leena Likitalo, Manish Melwani, Marian Womack, Martin Cahill, Nino Cipri, Noah Keller, Ryan Campbell, Sarena Ulibarri, Tamara Vardomskaya, Vida Cruz, Zachary Lisabeth.  Thank you six incredible tutors - Greg Frost, Geoff Ryman, Catherynne Valente, Nora Jemisin, Ann Vandermeer, and Jeff Vandermeer. Thank you Laura Martin, Shelley Streeby, and everyone behind the scenes who make Clarion possible.

Thank you San Diego. You've been a wonderful audience.

My Clarion Statistics (excluding words that were written and edited out)
Week 2: "Blue Skies" 3000 words
Week 3: "An Atlas in Sgraffito Style" 3700 words
Week 4: "Embedded" 4700 words
Week 5: "Gravity Well" 900 words
Week 6: "The Price of Bone and Breath" 7200 words
Final Word Count: 19 500

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Clarion Week Five

Everything's a bit of a blur right now.


The lovely Hawaiian shirt given to
me by Clarion class of 2009 as part
of the Leonard Pung scholarship
Parts of my brain had turned to mush by week five, and in an effort to make the final weeks a bit easier (hahahaha), I made a decision: I was going to write two stories at once. Stupid? Inspired? Probably both.

Unfortunately, as I tend to do, I went too hard too early, and I feel I produced my best works in weeks two and three. So not only am I suffering from exhaustion, my stories are suffering too. I need distance. Probably a few weeks off from writing and fresh eyes will help me reassess what I see as my "failure" of the workshop. It's probably not a failure at all...and really, we came here to fail hard, try something different, surprise ourselves, and race into the cushioning wall of our classmate's critiques at a hundred miles an hour. Failure is okay.

Ann and Jeff Vandermeer are the tutors tasked with easing our poor, gibbering souls back into the real world, while at the same time expecting us to produce great works of art. They're with us for week five and six, and they've been giving us excellent lectures and advice on the publishing world (plus some hairy stories!). As always, what happens in Fight Club, stays in Fight Club.

Ann and Jeff have been so kind and accommodating. Some of us have joked that Ann is the "mom" of genre publishing - she's always there to listen, and has great advice for us all. She even offered me the services of a hitman when I described some of the bad writing advice (ie: you suck) I received when I was younger. It was funny yet emotionally validating at the same time to see someone so invested in my success ("I think of all the stories we missed from you in that time!" she said).

On the Wednesday, Shauna Roberts of the Clarion class of 2009 came to visit, as she has a special gift to present to me. As part of my scholarship, the class likes to give the recipient an Hawaiian shirt in honour of Leonard's memory, and I got a really beautiful shirt. Just the type I like to wear. Thanks class of 2009, you're all awesome, and your investment in my future means the absolute world to me. There may have been a few misty eyes involved, I can't quite say.

Thursday was Let's Practise Being Growed Up Writers Day. As the first day of Comic Con (AHMAHGAHDCOMICCON) in San Diego, Ann and Jeff were working panels and signings, but took the time to take us all out to lunch with some authors. We met Lev Grossman and Charles Yu, as well as Charles' publicist Josie, who "speed dated" with us all to get an idea of our experience at Clarion, and expectations of the business. Charles even let our table practise our 30-second elevator pitches, so that was a lot of fun. Thanks Charles! You were awesome.

And then...there was Saturday.

SCIENCEBROS: I met Phil Plait at Comic Con
AHHHHMAHHHHGAHHHHHD COMIC COOOOOOOOOHHHHHNNN.

I was really tired all week and found it hard to get motivated to make proper plans for Comic Con, other than "going" and "Night Vale show" (because: NIGHT VALE). I ended up spending most of my day with Nino Cipri which was SO MUCH FUN. We had such an epic day getting lost, finding each other again, meeting awesome queer comic publishers, wandering around the floor, doing random stuff. My BEST moment of Comic Con was bumping into the "Bad Astronomer" Phil Plait and getting a selfie together: SCIENCEBROS, ACTIVATE! My worst moment was finding out the Avengers cast had appeared on the con floor after I had left to sit in on the John Barrowman panel, coz I thought 'Hey, they're too cool for school, they won't appear amongst the pleebs' LITTLE DID I KNOW. [Insert prolific cursing here]. According to Martin Cahill, Chris Hemsworth has "perfect eyebrows". Really Marty? His EYEBROWS?

And let's not forget what a highlight the Welcome to Night Vale/Thrilling Adventure Hour crossover show was. It was funny, and sweet, and such a thrill to see the voice actors performing live. They have quite the presence behind a live microphone, especially Cecil Baldwin and Dylan Marron. ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD. There are no dumb questions, just dumb realities.

To top it off, Nino and I had a hilari-tragic getting home story, which involved being stuffed into the San Diego Green Line trolley like sardines, catching the last bus to La Jolla which ended service halfway there, then having to negotiate a cab the rest of the way, which we shared with a UCSD acting student who had been working the Walking Dead walk-through exhibit at Comic Con. I was halfway between terrified exhaustion and hysteria at 1am.

I should stop capslocking on, because there's still a few more days to go...

I don't wanna go home.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Clarion Week Four

This week is brought to you by the letter E (for exhaustion), the number oh my god I don't know how many stories I've critiqued now, and ends with gumbo and water fight instigated by Nora Jemisin.


Nora Jemisin and I hanging out
I'm late with this update, I know, but the weekend of week four I crashed big time. I was really feeling that bone deep tiredness . I'd gone hard core on my story for the week and I was running out of juice. I decided by the Thursday to take it a bit easier and planned and started on a flash piece for week 5 and my longer final submission for the workshop. Yes, it sounds like an oxymoron that I would take it easier working on TWO stories at the same time, but I have a lot more time to get things sorted, where a lot more = a couple more days (eons, in Clarion Time). That's one of the funny things about Clarion - time goes all wonky. You can write a first draft in just a few days (or hours, as some students can attest to), and I'm so tired (in a good way) and fully immersed the first couple of weeks are a little blurry. I don't want to forget any of this. Come on brain, make those rainbow connections!

Working with Nora Jemisin was A-MAZE-ING. When she arrived, it was immediately bribery with desserts - she'd brought with her on the flight real New York cannoli! Oh my, to die for. She was also very game for Karaoke at our somewhat regular Tuesday session at the campus pub.

Nora and I had a lot to talk about because some of our interests align - she's smart, savvy, politically astute, and a straight talker. She gave a lot of really interesting talks on the nuts and bolts of the publishing industry, as well as writing the other, and we had a great discussion about Wiscon. It's very strange (and gratifying) for one of your writing heroes to say "I expect to be competing with you on the awards ballots in a few years time!"

One of my enduring memories of the week will be Nora finishing up her final talk, and releasing us to the wilds of the weekend...by donning sunglasses Ah-nold style and proclaiming we had sixty seconds to grab our (water pistol) weapon, and find a hiding spot. The Great Waterblaster Fight of Clarion 2014 was on! It was a great way to let off steam after a particularly difficult week of intense  discussions and people reaching their energy limits. I came to understand the Week Four Syndrome is totally a thing, and should not be ignored. Nora was the perfect tutor for the week as she gently guided us through some rough patches as well as talking honestly about the politics of the publishing industry.

Haralambi Markov and I drinking mimosas at
11am on Pride day in Hillcrest, looking spunky
Saturday was PRIDE DAY! A group of us headed down to Hillcrest for the San Diego Pride parade. It was awesome to see the suburb zhooshed up for the celebrations, and so many smiling faces. I would have liked to stay for the entire weekend of events, coz the bars were pumping even at 11am, but there was a lot of work waiting for us back at campus, and I'd only put enough energy in reserve for a few hours of partying. Still, I got to don my new bow tie, and looked especially dapper for the day.

Saturday night Nora cooked us all a fantastic pot of gumbo, and just as we were serving dinner the Vandermeers arrived. Ann and Jeff are our tutors for weeks five and six, and they were all greeted by a rowdy bunch stuffing their faces with chicken and Andouille sausage! Welcome to the madhouse!

Sunday morning rolled around far too quickly, and we were repeating that emotional farewell for another tutor. How did we get here? This is not my beautiful life...

Thanks Nora - your inspiration will sit close to my ears and heart for a very long time.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Clarion Week Three

Cat Valente and me, just hanging out,
like cool people do...
Can someone pass me an adjective or three to describe the week I've just had? I've run out.

Week Three with Catherynne Valente. Wow. I am exhausted and thrilled and inspired and emotionally drained (there, I found a few adjectives). On the Scale of Incredible Experiences, it's rating right up there.

I had the best day of my Clarion experience so far, and I also had my worst day. Yup, all in the same week with Cat.

Cat was...well, one can never reveal the personalized wisdom that comes from being in the orbit of a White Witch (a phrase I learned from another of my heroes). Cat gave me things that will stay in my heart forever, and will keep me going in the harder days of my writing journey. Those days will never be darker, because after this week I can see that The Way only goes up from here.

There was a different dynamic to the week again, and one conversation about craft, or the politics of the personal and publishing flowed into one another. We did Karaoke. She told us ghost stories. She taught us how to put on a professional face in panels. She told us to be the best of our selves that we can be. She sat with us into the small hours, held our hands, treated our hearts in that gently rough way only the honest can, and was an absolute freaking delight. I could listen to her talk for hours (and I did).

My best day was when she delved into a deep critique of one of my stories. I've never felt so on the right path in my life than on that day.

The very next day I cried in class. It was a mixture of emotional and physical exhaustion, and tough subject matter. I'm not ashamed. It happens with every class we've been told, everyone hits the wall, and I was just the first to do so in view of 17 other people and a tutor I hugely respect. Yay me *pathetic fist twirl*.

I had good people bundle me up and give me hugs and cups of tea and really good conversations about the subject once we sorted ourselves out. A few of us chilled later that day having a laugh over an Avengers rewatch (so much fun). It's to be expected - Clarion is a trial by fire, and we're hugely invested in doing right by our work and each other. We're building the core of a peer group that will sustain us for the rest of our careers. I would trust any of these people, even 3 weeks in, to beta read honestly for me once I go home.


Cat presents the plotstrich to us,
Lion King Style
Career. It's a word I've been able to say honestly and out loud to myself this past week. A writing career. I will have, I have, a writing career. It's a weird and empowering feeling.

Saturday was one of those crazy days I could only dream of having (and I've yet to have more, with 3 weeks to go!). In the morning, Cat cooked us brunch of a scrambled ostrich egg she had been gifted - it was called the "plotstrich", a wonderful metaphor I'm sure I'll figure out once my brain comes down to earth. Then she signed one of my favourite books of all time with a personalized epigraph. Then a group of us went walking around downtown San Diego through the Gaslamp District and Seaport Village - it was a beautiful day around beautiful buildings, and I invested in some very dapper hats and a bow tie. Then we all went to the cinema to see the most talked about movie "Snowpiercer". THEN we came back to meet up with Nora Jemisin who had just arrived, performed a reading ritual beneath the supermoon, and talked MORE into the wee smalls with Cat because she was leaving early the next day.

*deep breath*

Oh yes, and the week with Nora begins now.

Bye Cat, and thanks. It was out of this world and into the many others we love to inhabit.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Clarion Week Two

The entrance to the Giesel Library at UCSD
There are many things Clarion is teaching me. One of them is exhaustion limits.

When I read up about other's students experiences of Clarion, a common theme was exhaustion. While I didn't think they were exaggerating, I thought I was well acquainted with stress limits.

How very wrong was I.

Week two was "get your ass into gear" week, presided over by Geoff Ryman. Geoff was a firm task master: we'd have workshop in the morning, writing and critiquing in the afternoon, an early evening lecture, and more of that writing and critiquing in the evening. Thousands of words to read and write, with cogitation aplenty. A lot of people started hitting the wall - late nights, missed meals, and our first sickie of the bunch. Brains were turning to mush. The zombie hoard was closing in.

Thursday and Friday were especially difficult days for me. I hadn't paced myself well in the first week, going hard out to be The Cool Chick From Outer Space instead of the slightly dorky aunty who never really knows what to say in any given situation. I was running on fumes and 6 hours sleep a night. I was heading for a crash if I didn't budget my mental energy right.

So I've set myself a regime. I must have everything finished by 11pm every night, a certain word count every day, and get at least seven hours sleep, eight is preferable. Dang, is turning out a story a week a challenge for this perfectionist, but it's certainly oiling the creative gears. I've already finished two stories, have outlines for two more, and I just need inspiration for my fifth (five is all I will manage within the six weeks here). I'm trying to pick a theme or style challenge for every story. I'm not here to sit quietly in my comfort zone - I came here to get good.

My first critique went well, and I was uplifted by the feedback from my classmates and tutor. Being minutely dissected is an uncomfortable but also enlightening experience. I thought I wouldn't survive the gauntlet, but then I took my fear by the hand and said "nope, buddy, we're doing this together". Of course, that fear will change from week to week under the gaze of a new tutor. Who knows how the other tutors will flay my soul?

Cat Valente, Geoff Ryman, and various Clarionites
Come Friday afternoon, everyone was pretty much toast, and we lowered the cone of silence until darkness fell and the vampires came out. It was July the 4th after all. What? You think we got the public holiday off? No way. There were still workshops and word counts to be achieved! But after dark fireworks were observed, a few (well, more than a few) beverages were consumed, and much bloviating ensued. To entertain a group of writers: just add water. And corn chips. And a dash of salsa.

Saturday, much regret was entertained in the Pickled vicinity. I had been considering going into the city to check out the shopping, but a quiet day of plugging away at the word count (and pain killers) ensued. I'd also volunteered to help welcome our next tutor Catherynne Valente into the fold [Insert gif of nervous pacing]. There was a really cool chilli making party, and more bloviating, then we were back to having to say goodbye once more to our tutor and then all of a sudden Geoff was gone.

My Clarion Motto: Eat, sleep, rave, repeat. Or it could be: There's a story in that. Both work.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Clarion Week One

Everything hurts. Mostly my feet and my brains. But it's a good hurt.

Nothing can really prepare you for Clarion. You can read All Of The Blogposts, talk to All Of The People, but in the end it's a massive push off the high tower into the deep end.

And we're making a splash, surfacing, dog paddling in gasping circles...


Weirdos Of the Future, 2014
On Sunday June 22, I was picked up in Los Angeles by class mate Ryan Campbell, with shotgun rider Haralambi Markov. Much squeeing ensued. Here were these people I'd only had in text and photos for months, flesh realized! Much enthusing ensued as we trundled down the highway to San Diego. Freaking Caly-forn-ay-yay. I was feeling a little overwhelmed.

That feeling was about to intensify. By 7.30pm, I was fed, watered, had made my bed, exploded my bag all over my room, and was facing off with seventeen people I was getting to know all over again, and tutor Gregory Frost. Many great things were said, and even only 7 days later they're a little bit hazy. But the gist of it was: water wings off, kiddies, you're in the grown up pool now.

There's a lot of walking to do. UCSD campus is big, and our apartments, cafeteria, and class room are very spread out. But La Jolla is beautiful, has it's own micro climate, and the Pacific Ocean is right at our back door.

Monday and Tuesday work wise, in hindsight, were a breeze. Lectures in the morning, writing in the afternoon, Party All The Time in the pee-em. Monday was inaugural Beers On The Roof (a past time now curtailed by a perturbed security guard). Tuesday was Karaoke at the campus dive pub (holy sheet, I haven't sung Meat Loaf in years, plus there's nothing quite like Greg Frost singing "Walk The Line" in the style of Porky Pig). I was thinking: if this is life for the next 6 weeks, this is pretty damn fine.

Ha, I say to you. HA! Cool Uncle Greg had us fooled. FOOLED I TELL YOU.

Wednesday was when the first stories rolled in, and the critiquing began. Suddenly it was lectures, writing, AND reading and marking up 3-4 stories a day. Still, there was much fun to be had at the Mysterious Galaxy reading by Greg on the Wednesday (wonderful bookshop, fantastic staff who treated us like royalty), and critiquing was still a novelty come Thursday. Friday we celebrated an epic session of critiquing with a walk to the nearby cliffs, and gentrified imbibing of a few beverages (until 12.30am, because, yanno, gotta celebrate that tutor that's just held our hands through our first week and made us feel like we've all already won the Hugo).

Saturday? The BEST MEXICAN EVER in Old Town San Diego, with touristy bits, superb shopping, and ice cream.

Geoffrey Ryman arrived, Greg made us sound like godlings (Best Class Ever might have been bandied about), and the game shifted. New style, new work. Much thinking. OW.


Nino Cipri and myself looking SPLENDID 
at the Geisel Library Steampunk Tea
Sunday? An emotional send off for Greg, with group hugs (I didn't cry. Read: I TOTALLY DID). Getting to know Geoff. A cool Steampunk themed event at the library where I got my first ever straw moustache. And now, holy cow I'm tired. But I've got through my workload, though my word count has suffered from brain mush.

This is all very time-liney, you say. What about Great Things That Have Been Said? The Amazing Things All Learning Up In Your Brain? Well, I'm sorry, I'm reliably informed I'd have to kill you if I told you. That's between me and 18 other people. But I can tell you this: I have never felt like a REAL writer, someone with talent people really believe in, until this moment. We do nothing but eat, sleep, rave, repeat craft. People laugh at my jokes. They take what I think on crafty things seriously. People smile, and laugh, and tell me great things are due. And we laugh some more.

I'm ALIVE.

Pickle Brain, OUT.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Heiresses of Russ 2014

I've arrived in Los Angeles, and I've barely been here 12 hours and I've got great news to share.

Actually, this is news I've been sitting on for a few weeks, but I'm super stoked to finally be able to let it out.

My story "Blood, Stone, Water" has been chosen for Heiresses of Russ 2014, published by Lethe Press. Heiresses of Russ is an annual reprint anthology of the best lesbian speculative short fiction from the previous year, and this year's edition is edited by Lethe publisher Steve Berman and Melissa Scott.

"Blood, Stone, Water" was originally published by Beneath Ceaseless Skies in April last year.

I'm so happy about this because when I first started writing I made myself a list of Bucket List venues I wanted to see my work appear in, and Lethe Press anthologies was one of them, especially Heiresses of Russ (it is named in honour of one of my favourite authors of all time).

Steve posted the below ToC on Facebook, and the order may not be set in stone yet, but these are the stories picked for Heiresses of Russ 2014. I'm honoured to be sharing a ToC with Benjanun Sriduangkaew's "Vector", and Tori Truslow's "Boat in Shadows, Crossing", two of my favourite stories from last year.

Heiresses of Russ 2014 Table of Contents

Introduction by Melissa Scott
"The Gold Mask’s Menagerie" by Chanté McCoy
"Counting Down the Seconds" by Lexy Wealleans (her first story!)
"Love Over Glass, Skin Under Glass" by Penny Stirling
"Hungry" by Robert E. Stutts
"Liquid Loyalty" by Redfern Jon Barrett
"Her Infinite Variety" by Sacchi Green
"The Coffinmaker’s Love" by Alberto Yáñez
"Terminal City" by Zoë Blade
"The Bride in Furs" by Layla Lawlor
"Your Figure Will Assume Beautiful Outlines" by Claire Humphrey
"Blood, Stone, Water" by  AJ Fitzwater
"Vector" by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
"Of Selkies, Disco Balls, and Anna Plane" by Cat Rambo
"Selected Program Notes from the Retrospective Exhibition of Theresa Rosenberg Latimer" by  Kenneth Schneyer
"Difference of Opinion" by Meda Kahn
"Boat in Shadows, Crossing" by Tori Truslow
"The Raven and Her Victory" by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Packing

I'm about to set out on an adventure, and my bag is only 3/4 full. What have I forgotten?

In amongst my packing lists and dying my hair, a recurring thought keeps popping up: I don't want to forget any of this. I'm a shocker at journaling or keeping a diary, it's never come naturally to me. But the next two months are too big to rely on my memory and photos alone. There's not just a lot of Writerly Things to take in, but there'll be Comic Con and Pride and lots of exploring and lots of good times with people and wonderful tutors (OMG, I'm gonna be working with Nora Jemisin and Catherynne Valente)...

*mental gasp*

So I've decided I'm going to try and blog as much as I can while I'm away at Clarion. Hopefully I'll put something down at least once a week. I'll be Twittering and Facebooking too, so if you want to catch up on my day to day, come on over to those places.

I'm so looking forward to meeting everyone in my class. We've been chatting for the last couple of months, but really getting to know them is going to be fun, and a big ask (yay, my social anxieties! I will hug you and squeeze you and call you George). I've been bunked in with Harry Markov (who I've known for a couple of years now so it's gonna be major squee when we finally meet up), Ryan Campbell (my limo driver and turning into organizer extraordinaire), and Vida Cruz (Lego Lokis untie!).

So here I go, about to hop the long haul to Los Angeles. Wish me plenty of sleep. And if not enough sleep, plenty of laughs.

Lego Loki prepares for the long haul to LA
"There will be Bohemian Rhapsody. Oh yes, there will."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Four Weeks vs Nine Months

The strange dichotomy in Pickled Land continues.

I haven't blogged much lately because there is simply no news to share.

It's four weeks to the day (!) that I leave for Los Angeles, and prep for Clarion is pretty much sorted, all that boring behind the scenes stuff. Flights booked, paperwork done, fees and monetary requirements sorted, bag mentally packed, Disneyland anticipated. I've done a reading regimen of the tutors work, and I'm currently only reading short stories to get my mind in the right head space. I'm not trying to super analyse anything, just reading randomly across many venues and anthologies of current work, and trying to read as diversely as possible.

As far as writing work goes, I've been picking away slowly at things, but despite the HUGE ego boost getting accepted to Clarion has provided, there's an inverse effect happening at the same time where my ego has taken a huge hit...because I haven't made a new sale in nine months. I'm not kidding. It's just been rejection after rejection since August last year, with only a couple of releases, and considering the momentum I had in 2013, I have to admit it feels pretty terrible. I'm sitting on a couple of "hopefuls" (still waiting to hear back, or in second step of a process), and I keep getting really good rejections, but I'm still teetering on that ledge of almost but not quite.

*falls to knees* What am I doing wrooo-ooo-oooong? Why does nobody love mee-eeee-eee? *sob*

If I didn't have the huge anticipation of Clarion to keep me afloat, I think I'd be pretty upset by now. I went the first ten months of 2010 (my first year of seriously trying to get published) without a sale, and I was feeling the mortal coil then. So right now, my days are this weird cat-on-buttered-toast flip of yay!boo. It is affecting my work. I've started many stories, and I'm not truly happy with any of them, because they have to be better than last year's work. I'm just not feeling it. It's incredibly frustrating. I know I can be better. Where is that click?

It also hasn't helped that the last six weeks I've been dealing with a complication from my operation in February. It has been dealt with (I had to have another minor emergency operation), and I'm healing up fine, but I've spent at least a good month worried that the problem could go to the extreme of the complication (full omg life changing surgery), and it would stop me from travelling overseas. That stress has curbed my attention span and affected my writing output too. I've been trying really hard, but there have been days I've skipped writing, and it's put me backwards in output.

I also haven't blogged about industry things,  because I've been saving all my energy and teaspoons for my writing the last six months. Maybe this will change once I'm fully 100% and Clarion has reinvigorated my writing bones.

Hopefully I'll have some great news to share soon.

We can't stop here. This is bat country.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Thank You, Leonard Pung

The last few weeks of Clarion prep have been a roller coaster of emotion, activity, and non-activity. It's gone from everything happening all at once - get those fees paid! books those flights! - to hurry up and wait.

But after a few false starts - panic about my visa, changing flights - things are starting to come together, and the whole process is turning away from the surreal. It helps that the majority of the class have found each other online (Twitter Stalkers Anonymous), and we're now settling into a cheerful group conversation about plans and self-imposed reading assignments and signal boosting the heck out of fundraisers for those still in the process of getting their fees together.

I've also gained more followers and kind words of the writer kind in the last few weeks which is certainly blush making. Thanks everyone for paying a bit of attention to little ol' me from this little ol' country at the bottom of the world. I hope I can live up to your expectations.

A big boost towards getting me to Clarion was the scholarship I was awarded, reducing my fee total by about 30%. I received the Leonard Pung Memorial Scholarship, which prompted me too look up the author on whose good name I am in part attending.

This scholarship is awarded to a student attending Clarion over the age of 40. Yes, I turn 40 next month. I might not look it, and I like to pretend I'm younger than I really am because I started this journey so late, but there it is. I'm facing down the big Four-Oh. I've achieved one thing on my "Things To Do Before I'm 40" list - achieve a pro-paying publication - but since it slips in with a couple months leeway, I think I can tick Clarion off that list too.

Leonard Pung, from what I've been able to glean, was a late starter to this Skiffy Life too. He attended Clarion in 2009, and was just starting to negotiate his way through the publishing landscape when he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012. His death was a shock to his writing community, as it seemed he had every chance to recover after treatment.

Here are some tributes to Mr Pung, by Ken Schneyer (who was very kind to befriend me on Facebook), Nicole M Taylor, Richard Crawford, and Liz Argall.

The Clarion class of 2009 created the memorial scholarship in Mr Pung's name so that future late starters to SFF writing can realize their dreams. I'm honoured that I can carry on holding the line for the late bloomers in his name.

So, thanks class of 2009, donors, Clarion Foundation, anyone else involved in the scholarship...and Leonard. I'm going to make every effort to enjoy my time in San Diego, and make use of every morsel I glean from the workshop, whether it's good times with new friends or tearing my hair out at constructive writing criticism. I'm only as young as I feel. And I feel 100 feet tall and 21 years wide.

It's going to be wonderful and stressful and tearful and utterly grand.

Here is a video of Leonard reading from one of his stories in early 2012:


Monday, April 7, 2014

99% Blorp, 1% Squidge

The last few weeks have been...weird.

Ever since I found out I was going to San Diego my planning and writing has changed, and not always in a good way. I think I squeed so hard I popped something mentally: HOLY SHIT, says she, THIS IS FOR REALSIES. Time to go hard, or go home.

Initiate Sequence: MEEP.

So now everything I've been writing, or attempted to start, since the start of the year has looked like utter shyte. I can't finish a damn thing, and I am in no way satisfied with anything. Wurdz: how do I do them? Dude, says my bloorped out brain, you're making a step towards The Byg Tymes, you think you can hang with the cool crowd? Hahahahahah.

Yeah, thanks brain.

It hasn't helped that I haven't made a sale since August last year. That's over seven months now. I feel time ticking down, a Big Number Birthday is coming, and I'm supposed to be more All Of The Output and Famouser than this. Do editors hate seeing me on the slush pile all the time? Who have I secretly pissed off with my rampant wombat Godzilla slippers of stompiness? Am I suddenly plunging some unknown depths of suckage? Is it really just stupid dumb luck that I haven't found the right wall for my current manuscripts to stick against? Look at all those OTHER cool kids who are making sales and taking names and putting my output to utter shame.

Yeah, THANKS BRAIN. You're NOT HELPING.

Meanwhile, in the red corner of Pummelling the Author's Brain into Scary Super Mush, we have my Clarion prep. I must read ALL THE THINGS by my instructors. I must absorb ALL THE ADVICE from previous attendees. I must devise ALL THE QUESTIONS any intelligent looking student should ask. I must remember HOW TO BE EDUMACATING even though I haven't stepped in a classroom in over 15 years. I must pretend I'm GOOD AT TEH CRITIQUING. I must remember HOW TO ADULT IN ADULT COMPANY and not fall on my squirrel-chattering face (erm, too late). I have to book flights, and holiday thingees, and sort visa stuff, and oh my god you're mentally packing already and how many pairs of underwear do I really need for almost 2 months away from home, and my cat is going to HATE ME when I get home.

I'm a growed up. I can do these things.

Hahahahahaha.

Shut up, brain.

But as much as it's scaring the ever loving crud out of me...

Here is the mountain. I'm jumping off anyway.

Screaming all the way down, half terrified, half ecstatic. And hoping at least for some sort of soft landing.

Hang in there brain, we can do this.

HALP


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Level Up

I said at the start of 2014 that this year is going to be better than the last.

Congratulations Author. Choose your armour and your allies, and head out into yon Mists Of Orsumness. You have levelled up.

I have been accepted into this year's class for Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop at University of San Diego.

One moment please:



This is life changing stuff. I am going to the US for six incredible weeks of being tutored by some of the best in the industry. Catherynne Valente. NK Jemisin. Jeff Vandermeer. Ann Vandermeer. Gregory Frost. Geoff Ryman.

I've had to sit on this news for three weeks - which is why my blogging has been so quiet because aaaargh no words! - and it's been so hard not being able to share my elation with everyone until now. Every morning I've woken up and  thought to myself "Holy carp, I'm going to be taught by two of my favourite living authors!"  I'm already practising my Proper and Intent Writer Face (Rah-rah-rah-rah Writer Face...she got it like nobody), because it just won't do to be caught staring starry-eyed. Somebody said to me the other day "You're going to be making friends with your heroines" and I just lost it all over again. I know it seems strange to be wigging out, but when you live so far away from everyone and everything, a New Zealander often comes to terms with never being able to fully appreciate the physicality of travelling and meeting and being in person with people you respect and admire and need to impress.

I know I talk a lot about being excited for my Writerly Ups, but this is beyond being excited. This is where it all changes. This is where writing becomes srs bzns. This will be the biggest level up in my professional development. I'm going on a long, cool trip (the longest I've ever been away from New Zealand). I'm going to be picking the brains of the people who are really switched on in genre publishing. I'm going to be making friends, connections, and networks who are going to sustain me for the rest of my professional life.

And speaking of friends, I'm not going into this alone. Harry Markov, who I met online last year in that nebulous way I can't recall (I think I liked a review or article he wrote and we clicked on Twitter from there), has also been accepted and he promises to "braid my hair" and such!

We get to live on campus! We eat at a college cafeteria! Drinking bad beer at a college bar! Walking on the beach! Comic Con! Yeah, I know, it sounds like an idealized version of the American college experience, as seen on TV, like Buffy, or Mean Girls. I'll just try to remember to wear pink on Wednesdays and not fall into trash cans. And carry a stake on me at all times.

Get in loser, we're going shopping with the Scooby Gang.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Free Fiction: "Mid-Life Crisis"

I have discovered that Flash Me Magazine, the venue that published my second story "Mid-Life Crisis" in December 2010 is no longer available online, hence my story is no longer in the archives. This is a pity, as I don't have electronic proof of the publication.

As the story is well out of contract, I am making it available here for people to read. It is a flash piece, companion to "The Ten Thousand Steps", from Expanded Horizons November 2011.

Enjoy!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sad Face

It's been a sad face couple of weeks in Pickles Land, so here's a quick run down.

  • I had a minor operation which has inconvenienced me for a week. I was really sore and tired (still am a bit), and unable to sit up at my computer for any length of time, so I didn't get any writing done. I had planned on this, so it was nice to check out from life for a few days. All is fine, the procedure went well, and I'm healing to plan.

  • The "Angels and Automatons" New Zealand gold mining steampunk Kickstarter that Steam Press were running did not reach its funding goal. We just didn't get the social media reach, or capture the imagination, or there were other genre Kickstarters that got a lot of attention...or any number of other things. Whatever the case, it's sad, but it happens. So, my "girl disguised as boy in the mine fields" story is getting shelved, and we'll move on. It would have been fun challenge. Maybe some other time.

  • I had little energy to do wordage about the latest bruha within SFWA conversational areas re: diversity in genre, and a lot of good people have had plenty to say about it, so I'll just sit here and massage my temples and keep writing what I write, again, as it passes by. One good takeaway from this latest bruha, as with the last, is that I'm getting the sense that SFWA is changing with the times, and the problems are only coming from a vocal minority. There is a place for us all in there, and a place for what we want to write, we just have to keep pushing and prodding and holding steady.

  • Still no word on Clarion. But that's not so much sad face as quiet anticipation.

So, we is plodding on, wordwards ho.

I can haz sick day?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

No News Is...No News

It's been a very quiet start to the year here in Pickled Land. There's not been much news to report other than mostly head down, bum up trying to keep efficient and on target with my word counts each week. I'm mostly succeeding, though I'm still suffering from a lot of Magpie Brain. Trying to turn that into a good thing: at least the inspiration is flowing.

The one thing on the agenda I was looking forward to was the release of my alt-history steampunk novella "Long's Confandabulous Circus" in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. This was originally slated for April, but I have been advised the issue is being pushed back to later in the year, possibly August. So, a bit of a delay on sharing one of my favourite worlds to date, but at least it's still on track.

Being asked to contribute to Angels and Automatons was lovely. If we can get this anthology off the ground, it will be pro-rates. I'm really enthusiastic about the project, I think it has a really unique New Zealand perspective to add to the steampunk genre. We've got just on two weeks to go with the Kickstarter, but there's still a lot of money to be raised. We're currently sitting around the $1400 mark, but the funding level is $10 000. We need to get the word out there. I fully believe in organic signal boosting rather than bugging this or that author/celeb to give it a boost, so keep talking it up.

Things I've been working on: I have been working on a "sequel" to "Long's Confandabulous Circus" with an eye to a particular themed venue; I've been reading a lot of comics/been comics universe influenced lately, and I've been playing with some ideas along those lines ie: flipping tropes around in my usual fashion.

But as per usual in writerly land, there's a lot of boring slog going on in the background just getting those words down. Not very glamourous, I know.

This works for now...next time, chocolate pleeze


Monday, January 27, 2014

"Angels and Automatons": New Zealand Steampunk Anthology Kickstarter

Take a New Zealand genre publisher with a growing reputation for awesome books, add a fictional New Zealand West Coast gold mining town in the 1860s, then add a liberal sprinkling of steampunk, and you have "Angels and Automatons", a shared world steampunk anthology.

Stephen Minchin, a Sir Julius Vogel winner, of Steam Press has kindly asked me to write a story for "Angels and Automatons", and I'm all in because it sounds like a heck of a lot of fun. Steam Press are the publisher of "Mansfield With Monsters" by Debbie and Matt Cowens and "The Wind City" by Summer Wigmore among others, garnering glowing reviews.

To get this anthology up and running, Minchin is running a Kickstarter to fund the anthology at pro rates. There are some sweet rewards available, including ebook and paperback versions of the book, books from the Steam Press catalog, short story and novel critiques, and one near to my heart...a tuckerization! That's right, if you pledge $100 under my name I'll immortalize you into my A&A story. There's only one available under my name,  but Tuckerization is available with some of the other authors too.

So if steampunk is your thing, why not give New Zealand authors take on the genre a helping hand by pledging and/or spreading the word. For more information on the anthology - and Minchin has really gone all out with the back story and historical context - click through to the Kickstarter, read all about it, and watch the video.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Silly Rabbit

I've been reading "Dragonwriter: A Tribute to Anne McCaffrey" lately. I received the book as a Christmas present along with the accompanying artwork by Michael Whelan. It's a heartfelt glimpse into the life of one of my favourite authors.

"Dragonwriter", signed by artist
Michael Whelan
It's been teaching me a little more about McCaffrey, often many things I did not know because I moved on from the fandom quite early in my 20s. But from the perspective as a writer, one of the things that did not surprise me was her dedication to working with up-and-coming authors.

I knew she had worked with Writers of the Future, and had taken it close to my heart that in the year I'd turned my hand (and first ever science fiction story) to entering, she had been a judge and would have read my story. That was enough for me to know, and I lived on that buzz for a very long time.

While reading Dragonwriter, I came across a discussion of her work with young authors, WotF, and her writer friends in association with these things, including Algis Budrys. After reading this particular essay, I decided to pull out the paperwork from my WotF entry for nostalgia's sake. I have a certificate from that year - 1999 - as I got a highly commended (though I'm not sure how because now I look back at the story its a little twee), and letters from the judging committee. Looking back over them was a revelation about my growing ability...because it was there.

Now here's where it gets really stupid. I was so focused on the idea that Anne had read my story (and that I hadn't won...hey, I was young and really egotistical) that I really hadn't soaked in the feedback letter that came with my certificate .

It was a personal letter from Algis Budrys, with compliments on my writing, suggestions on how to fix the story, and the desire to see more of my work in the competition.

Can you believe this? I've had this correspondence for fifteen years now. I must have glimpsed over the letters (I do this with rejections, thinking that if I read it quick enough it won't hurt) and simply filed it away without thought. I didn't even register the name signed at the bottom of the letter.

Certificate from Writers of the Future,
Honourable Mention, 4th quarter, 1999
I feel really foolish and ungrateful. Budrys died back in 2008, and I didn't get the chance to thank him for his kind words, even if it had just been a short letter or email.

I realize I did this at the time because I was going through a massive crisis of confidence. I quit writing not long after that - not because of the rejection, but because I got Fake Geek Girl'd out (a story for another time).

I've had a letter telling me I'm good from one of the greats for all this time, and I didn't realize it until now. It's weird and gratifying at the same time. I'll make it up to Budrys soon, and read some of his work.

Those 11 years in between made me a different writer. But silly rabbit. You were better than you thought to begin with.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Five Questions: "The Dragon in the Wardrobe", Betwixt Magazine, January 2014

It's time to open the lid on the candy box just a little, and let out my narrator PT so we can talk about another of my stories, this time "The Dragon in the Wardrobe" in Betwixt Magazine Issue 2.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

"The Dragon in the Wardrobe", Betwixt Magazine, January 2014

New year, new story!

I present to you my first story release for 2014, my tribute to Anne McCaffrey - "The Dragon in the Wardrobe" now live at Betwixt Magazine. Here's a small excerpt to get you going:
Eight-year-old Ani sits at the desk shaping Gareth out of red play dough. It’s not the real, store-bought dough, a school treat smooth and fine and warm beneath her searching fingers. She does not create fat plaited hair like other girls have done, imitated with sideways smirks at her thick woollen bunch. No, this dough is cobbled together from flour, water, and salt, splotched with Nika’s limited pantry of colours.

Dough Gareth is red, like the tips of her fingers, which she licks small bites of dough from, a substitute for the always-empty biscuit tin. Ani is displeased with the inadequate, crumbling representation of her dragon that does nothing to show his grandeur, but Nika smiles regardless.

Nika smiles less when fourteen-year-old Ani is still drawing Gareth, but that might not be her daughter’s or the dragon’s fault. Red is not the colour of proper dreams.
If you like this story, or any of the others in Issue 2 of Betwixt, you can buy the magazine or donate through their Paypal links.

Dragons give good chin scratchies