Archive for February, 2015

Ta Da Tuesday (and SFWA’s New Membership Guidelines)

I got an email this morning from D’vorah Lansky (who is a writing/marketing professional) talking about it being Ta Da Tuesday. The idea is that, instead of a To Do list, you make a Ta Da list and celebrate your recent accomplishments.

It’s a nice idea. I think too many of us get bogged down in things going wrong, or get depressed when it seems like we’re not making any progress.

So here’s three things I’ve accomplished lately:

  • I finished the first draft of my nonfic book, found betas, and sent it out to them.
  • I finished a scrapbook I had been working on for almost three years.
  • I got through the doom!chapter in my edit and am two or three hours of work away from being done, hooray!

Okay, now your turn. What are three things you’ve accomplished lately?

In other news, (and maybe you’ve already heard this) the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have announced that, starting March 1, they’re changing their guidelines to allow self and indie published authors membership.

The new guidelines won’t be up until March, but it seems like it will be based on how much money an author is making off of their stories, regardless of how they were published.

What do you think of this development, Squiders? Yay for recognizing new forms of publishing? Nay for focusing on monetary rewards instead of literary merit? Other opinions about SFWA in general?

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The Novella Hype

Last summer, Tor announced the creation of a new imprint dedicated to novellas. Last week they put out their list of inaugural titles, which seems to have caused a bit of a stir among the authors I talk to or follow.

(Some of the stories look pretty cool, so I’ll probably look into them. If I remember.)

It’s not the novellas themselves, nor the release titles. No one seems to have a problem with the idea of an imprint dedicated to novellas. In fact, most authors think it’s a pretty cool idea. The novella, as a prose length, has been notoriously hard to sell. Not long enough to be a novel, not short enough to be a short story, but somewhere in between, novellas have typically gone the way of a lot of not easily marketable genres or cross genres: ignored.

What this has done, however, is created a wave of people declaring that novellas are the new publishing norm, that people can’t sit still long enough to get through a full-length novel. And then, of course, you have the counterwave, declaring that those people are crazy and have no idea what they’re talking about.

Seeing how almost every new publishing trend seems to be hailed as the new norm, I admit I agree more with the latter camp.

I can’t help but think that it’s the same sort of thing as when someone rounds up quotes going back a thousand years or so about the state of technology, or how the newest generation is the worst, or how every story ever has been told and everything modern is a hack.

(Plus the continued popularity of the Game of Thrones books seems to directly counteract the original argument.)

The fact is that, through epublishing, it’s a lot easier to put out works that don’t fall into a traditional length. Authors may finally be able to let a story by the length it wants to be instead of bulking it up to reach novel lengths, or cutting things out to reach short story lengths.

But does that mean that people–readers and writers–are suddenly only going to write/read things that are novella length?

Of course not. Everyone has a reading comfort zone. (Mine used to include 1000+ page books, but has shrunk over the years to under 700 pages, barring exceptions.) No one is going to change theirs just because of a new imprint.

What do you think, Squiders? Are shorter books the wave of the future? Or is this just a nice alternative for both the people who write novella-length scfi/fantasy and the people who like to read it?

Speculative Fiction is a Product of its Time

If you remember, last year I acquired and read a short story collection of the best science fiction and fantasy stories from 1959. For those too lazy to click the link, I mentioned that I thought that most, if not all, of the stories included would never be published in today’s climate.

I’m currently most of the way through a volume of the best science fiction and fantasy stories from 2011. Earlier today (while building a snow dinosaur in the backyard) I was pondering the differences between the two collections. The current collection is much more what I would expect to find in a scifi/fantasy short story collection, and I’ve picked up a couple of authors to look more into based on their included stories.

But I think it’s wrong of me to say that the 2011 collection is better than the 1959 one. I think that it’s more of a generational thing, if you will.

Authors don’t write in a vacuum. They absorb the culture around them–pop culture, religion, politics, the concerns of the day. The more modern authors and I probably share a lot of the same influences, so these stories feel more natural to me.

On the other hand, the people in the ’50s had different worries. There was the constant threat of nuclear war, and they were still recovering from the horrors of WWII. It seemed perfectly plausible that an invading alien race could show up at any time.

Those worries have disappeared into climate change, terrorism, school shootings, and government oversight.

That doesn’t make our stories better–just reflective of the times we live in. If you handed the 2011 collection to someone from 1959, it’s entirely possible that they would think it was crap. They might think we take too long to get to the point of the story, that we rely too much on twist endings. They might wonder why we’ve already given up on space travel instead of being excited by the possibilities.

Any thoughts, Squiders? Do you agree that stories are a product of their time? Why or why not?

Reminder to BACK YOUR STUFF UP!

Don’t worry, Squiders, nothing got me. Well, nothing got my stuff.

(I do, however, have an issue where, if I forget to uncheck the graphics driver update before my computer runs the updates, the new driver eats my display set-up. I have a lovely dual display which I HIGHLY recommend to everyone, because it’s excellent for editing, writing (and checking research at the same time), doing two things at once (always), etc. For some reason the update not only won’t let me do my double monitors, but it also won’t let the remaining monitor use any logical resolutions so everything looks stretched and that really bothers me. And I forgot yesterday so I spent an hour this morning doing a system restore and am now grumpy and may go eat chocolate even though that’s a bad idea.)

Oh! And because I’m remembering, TDP videocast tonight at 7 PM ET with the lovely crew of Full Coverage Writers! Go like the Turtleduck Press facebook page so you can get more info and the videocast link when it becomes available. Tonight we’ll be talking about the wide selection of TDP books and individual authors’ processes and so forth.

ANYWAY. Back up your stuff! This is your reminder if you haven’t done it recently. And I do mean everybody: writers, artists, college students, even you–your pictures, anything sentimental you want to look back on in future years. And make sure your computer is set up to do a system restore after it updates, so you can fix anything wonky that might occur.

Believe me, the omnipresence of the Internet and the Cloud and whatnot can make it seem like you’ll never lose anything ever, but you never know when your power will cut out, your Internet connection will drop, your computer will implode with little to no warning, or someone will hack your account.

Back it up. It hurts no one.

Share any particularly disastrous stories of not backing up in the comments. Also, if anyone knows how I can delete this stupid graphics update from the list (I’m using Windows 7) so that I can stop wasting my time, you will be my favorite person.

Videocast tonight!

Using Your Phone as a Notebook

First of all, though, I’ve been remiss on telling you guys about stuff.

  • I have a new free short story, called Band of Turquoise, up at Turtleduck Press. Go read it! (It’s nice and short.)
  • SF Signal featured Band of Turquoise in its round up of free stories, which is pretty dang cool.
  • And I totally spaced on telling you guys, but me and the entire Turtleduck Press gang were interviewed by Full Coverage Writers on their videocast last night. You can find that video here. (There are squid. Just saying.)
  • On a similar note, we’ll be on FCWriter’s videocast again next week. I’ll hopefully remember to remind you guys about that in a timely fashion.

Now, on to the show.

A common writing tip is to carry a notebook with you at all times. A little one, pocket-sized or so, and a pen or similar writing utensil. That way, when you have an idea, whether it’s a new story, an idea to help you break writer’s block, or just something that may prove useful later, you can whip out your notebook, jot it down, and save it for later use.

In practice, I find this problematic. I don’t carry a purse, and women’s pockets are tiny and mostly decorative, which makes notebook/pen combos difficult to stow. Also, tiny notebooks tend to wander off when you most need them, so the result is that I have half a dozen tiny notebooks, two of which I can find at any given time and none of which have more than a few pages used.

I’ve found it’s much more useful to use my phone as a tiny notebook. I already have my phone with me most of the time, and there’s a tiny of apps you can put notes in, many of which are backed up elsewhere on the cloud so you can access them from your computer or from a new phone should something happen to the old one (unlike a tiny notebook of mine which suffered a traumatic and fatal incident with tea).

Here’s a sampling of apps that can be used for this purpose:

  • Google Drive
  • EverNote
  • Google Keep
  • OneNote

No doubt there are others, but these are the ones people I know use. Personally, I mainly use Google Keep. I find the Drive phone apps non-intuitive, and I haven’t managed to get my act together enough to check out the various Notes.

How about you, Squiders? Leave a comment about your note-taking method of choice and what, if any, justification you have for making said choice.

The “Logic” of Fairy Tales

The other night, my husband was reading the small, mobile one Rapunzel. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, a pregnant woman craves the lettuce in the witch’s garden next door, and the witch says she can have it if the witch can have the child once it’s born. (And then there’s long hair and towers and “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair” and all that.)

Me> Why would anyone agree to that?
Husband> Do you mind?

But, honestly, why would you agree to that? The story says they’d been trying to have a child forever, so why would they give it up for some pregnancy cravings?

There’s other bits of the story that I have issues with. Rapunzel is just one of the fairy tales we’ve gotten for the small, mobile one, and reading them often reminds me that fairy tales seem to come with a healthy amount of ignoring common sense and logic for the sense of telling a tale or teaching a moral.

But, as Genevieve Cogman points out over at the Tor blog, while fairy tales are often passed off as tales of morality, unless you meet certain requirements, you’re pretty much screwed. You have to be the youngest, or have a certain set of virtues, or possess certain protective charms.

I think this may be why reworking fairy tales has become so popular. Because fairy tales don’t make sense, because characters make plot decisions that have no basis in logic or even emotion, because the villains have no motivation besides being wicked. And that makes us curious. Why, after threatening to kill the miller’s daughter in Rumpelstiltskin, does the king decide to marry her? Why the reliance on “love at first sight”? Why does the wolf go through the charade of being Grandma in Little Red Riding Hood? (What is a “riding hood” and why wear it for a walk?)

(I actually explored the Rumpelstiltskin question in one of the first anthologies I ever did.)

What do you think, Squiders? What’s your favorite example of fairy tale unlogic? Also, share your favorite redone fairy tale in the comments.