The Story Behind The Story: Forge and Fledge

Yesterday, the Runaway issue of Crossed Genres Magazine went live, which includes stories by Rachael Acks, Angela Rega, and yours truly!

cg-logo

If you haven’t yet, you should go read “Forge and Fledge,” a young adult science fiction story about an orphan of Titan desperate to escape life on a hydrocarbon mining rig. No worries, I’ll wait.

I’m so thankful to publishers Kay T. Holt and Bart Leib, as well as editor Kelly Jennings, for selecting my story for inclusion in the issue. Recently, Crossed Genres became a SFWA-qualifying market, and they are running a Kickstarter to keep publishing diverse stories and paying pro rates. If you love speculative fiction that bucks the norm, consider subscribing to the magazine and/or donating to the campaign.

Story spoilers follow:

A while back, I started researching Titan, a moon of Saturn, thinking it would be a great story setting. Originally, I wanted to use it for a novel, but the unique characteristics of Titan, that it’s mostly ice and covered in hydrocarbons, made it difficult to write the story I had already plotted out in my head. I eventually turned to Mars and wrote my novel, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking about Titan.

It’s considered a candidate for human colonization, but there are a lot of technical hurdles to overcome, not least of which is just getting there. Subzero temperatures, a thick atmosphere that exerts a pressure one and a half times that of Earth, and a gravity that’s slightly less that of the Moon’s. But it has plenty of water, nitrogen, and methane, so, as long as you get the engineering right, people could theoretically live there. (This is essentially the TL;DR version of the Wikipedia article: Colonization of Titan.)

And what would be the attraction to colonizing Titan? Why the hydrocarbons, of course (or perhaps the water depending on which post-apocalyptic future scenario you subscribe to). But even if it were possible, I couldn’t see people jumping up and down to live on a frozen iceball. Hence the corporate mining facility and the penal labor force in my story. And my main character Zhen wants nothing more than to get away by any means possible.

Remember the low grav and high atmospheric pressure? Well, it’s been theorized that humans could strap on wings and fly on Titan so long as they didn’t freeze to death first. In fact, this concept was recently featured on io9—propulsion is still an issue, but Zhen’s dive off the rig’s platform, where it hovers over Titan’s surface, would hopefully provide enough momentum for flight. At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

patentedFlyingApparatus

Image courtesy of stans_pat_pix of Flickr

 As to submission stats, I only sent this to three markets and lucked out on the third one. I’m so happy it found a home. I hope you enjoy it as well!

 

 

The End of the Year as We Know It

And I feel fine.

I feel totally fine with saying goodbye to 2013.

It’s been a year of transition for me. I went into it with a lot of momentum—finishing and polishing another novel, writing four short stories, one anthology sale, two workshops, a Worldcon, a new crit group, and making handful of new writing friends. In fact, all told, that’s just the first half of 2013.

The rest of this year, I’ve been sidelined dealing with a family member’s illness. Productivity came to a screeching halt, writing time evaporated, and all that momentum has turned into regret at what-could-have-beens.

So yeah. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out, 2013. I’ve got my eye on the horizon and what 2014 will bring. It’s going to be good. I can feel it.

Image by Amodiovalerio Verde of Flickr

What to expect next January? Well, more natterings on about my writing process, some subtle changes to the blog, maybe even some good news. A girl can hope!

In the meantime, whatever you celebrate, have a wonderful next few weeks and a happy New Year!

A Time for Thanks

Regardless of what you believe or how you choose to celebrate, taking a moment once a year to take stock and say thanks is a wonderful thing. And after spending the last few months caring for a sick family member, it’s a good time for me to reflect on the wonderful things in my life.
I’m thankful for…
1) All the projects I’ve been able to draft, revise, and complete (in some cases all three!) especially since my writing time of late has been drastically reduced. I’ve started or completed five short stories, and tinkered with a few more that haven’t found homes. My short stories routinely make it to the second round at markets, which has built up my confidence in my work even though it doesn’t always translate into sales.
2) The fact my story “Resonance” found a home in The Future Embodied anthology. Should be out sometime next year, and I can’t wait!
3) My growing community of writers. I went to Worldcon this year and was thrilled to catch up with some of my friends from Taos Toolbox and meet new ones. I also just got back from Paradise Icon, a neo-pro writing workshop in Cedar Rapids (which you can read more about here), where I met more talented writers. The workshop was a great break from my caregiving obligations and provided me with some much-needed inspiration. If you are looking to expand your own community of writers, applications to the 2014 Taos Toolbox workshop open December 1st.
4) That my latest novel project will be in this year’s Baker’s Dozen Auction on the Miss Snark’s First Victim’s blog. Cross your fingers for me and see if you can guess which entry is mine!
5) My husband for supporting me in everything I do.
What are you thankful for this year? Happy Thanksgiving!

Humble Pie

With the exception of certain universal life experiences, no other process has been quite as humbling as learning how to write well.

Knowledge is proud that it knows so much; wisdom is humble that it knows no more. William Cowper

For one thing, everyone thinks they’re an expert on writing, by virtue of the high literacy rates in our society and the sophisticated narratives that populate our entertainment, our news, even our interactions with one another. Add to this the critique process that is often necessary to strengthen a writer’s craft and their work—a necessary evil but one that often shakes the resolve of many beginning writers (as well as those at every stage of their career).

Image courtesy of Jaypeg on Flickr

Criticism can be brutal, confusing, and sometimes even helpful, but I believe only a humble writer can learn something from it. You have to be open to the process, and that means you need to set your ego aside.

Then there’s the whole rejection thing, and how you’ll probably accumulate dozens or more rejections for every acceptance you get.

Success is not a good teacher, failure makes you humble. Shahrukh Khan

I’ve wrestled before with the idea of the arrogant writer, and still believe that writers are guided by the hope that our words have meaning rather than the expectation that they do simply because they’ve been recorded.

I’ve never had a humble opinion. If you’ve got an opinion, why be humble about it? Joan Baez

After all, our first amendment right to write is a privilege not every one in this world enjoys. To have the time to indulge in writing is another privilege not everyone has.

I know that writing has humbled me. Not only in what I do and do not know, but also in the knowledge that the odds are so very great. Each and every time someone further along in their career takes a moment to reach out to me, I am humbled.

Am I alone in feeling this way? What is it about writing that has made you humble?

Best Laid Plans

Writing is a slow process. From idea to draft, from early drafts to later drafts, from query to agent, from contract to publication. That doesn’t mean things can’t move faster, just that they so often don’t.
Patience is a quality you need to cultivate if you are going to survive this field. I understand all this—even if I don’t like it. One thing I like to do is make plans to distract myself from the futility of waiting (I’m type A all the way).

Regardless of whether you’re a plotter or a pantster, I think being able to plan is a crucial act of writing, even if it’s the just-in-time variety pantsters employ. We have to be able to hold large amounts of information in our heads and then turn that information into something that’s not only literate but adheres to a recognizable structure. This ability is explored in part by Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographerby Peter Turch—a book that’s geared more to thinking about writing than actual writing, if you know what I mean, though in this case that’s not a dig.
Planning, making mental maps, using words to formalize what has only been nebulous or intangible thought… these kinds of activities take a lot of time, and can be the very means to work through the periods of waiting that always seem to crop up.
These activities for me often include:
–Planning out my next project
–Determining what I need to do on the blog
–Prioritizing story drafts across projects, critiquing for my writing groups and CPs, and research time
I also create contingency plans in my head.
Sometimes I create contingencies when I’m plotting out a novel and need my research to corroborate the action. I want X to happen in my story, but if the research doesn’t support X, I’ll need to go with Y. Or Z. Or maybe X will work but another set of conditions need to be considered. By planning out what needs to happen, and what alternatives could also work, I’m able to work through tricky plot issues and stay on target with my story.
Or in the case of submitting, say I have a handful of short stories under consideration at markets. However, most markets have no simultaneous or multiple submissions policies in place. Because of this, I have to consider what is the best order to submit them. Usually factoring in some combination of
1. Impact (higher tier/exposure over lesser markets)
2. Response time (quicker over slower)
3. Fit (always hard to judge)
4. Deadlines
For example, let’s say the average response time at a market is a week. And there’s a deadline for stories with a theme similar to my story coming up in two weeks. I would probably submit my story to the market with the 1-week deadline, under the assumption that if it gets selected (great), but more realistically I might get some feedback that would help me to submit to the themed market in time.
I’ve also created contingency plans in my head for what happens if something big and exciting happens. What then? I don’t recommend this last one. For starters, I can make a gazillion plans and all that mental effort goes out the door with one rejection. Sure, a contingency plan will kick in then, and I’ll remain optimistic for another few weeks and then… Well, you can see how this cycle could last forever.
So planning can range from the highly useful (as in the case of story plotting and time management) to busy work (micromanaging story submission orders) to entirely unnecessary (winning the publishing lottery).
But writers write. And in the case of this writer, I plan as well.
Happy writing (and planning)!

var gaJsHost = ((“https:” == document.location.protocol) ? “https://ssl.” : “http://www.”); document.write(unescape(“%3Cscript src='” + gaJsHost + “google-analytics.com/ga.js’ type=’text/javascript’%3E%3C/script%3E”)); try { var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker(“UA-15029142-1”); pageTracker._trackPageview(); } catch(err) {}