My Story "Chicken Feet" Now Available

I’m pleased to announce that my story “Chicken Feet” is now available for your listening or reading pleasure through Wily Writers.

Wily Writers is a twice-monthly podcast series. Stories are speculative in nature, responding to monthly themes. I wrote “Chicken Feet” for their call for young adult post-apocalyptic tales back in October 2011. I actually wrote a story before this one, but realized I had a novel on my hands. I went back to the drawing board and wrote “Chicken Feet” and the other story has taken over is now my novel-length WIP.

Big thanks to Wily Writers editor Angel Leigh McCoy, guest editor Ripley Patton, and voice actor Leah Rivera for her audio performance of my story.

Wily Writers just started offering professional rates for stories in 2012. I’ve had a very positive experience working with them and would encourage you to take a look at the guidelines for their upcoming calls for the year.

Thanks!
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The Story behind the Story – Fat Girl in a Strange Land Edition

When I saw the call for the Fat Girl in a Strange Land anthology for Crossed Genres Publications, I knew I wanted to submit a story. When I see specific calls for anthologies or special issues of magazines, it can take me a while to warm up to the occasionally bizarre ideas editors are looking for. But not this time.

So the next question became, how to do this call justice? There were two required elements: a fat, female protagonist and some sort of journey to a strange land (however conceived). The fat part I had no problem with. Though I am not considered overweight myself, many members in my extended family have dealt with obesity and other weight-related issues. So my familiarity the situations they’ve faced along with my experiences with the societal pressures any woman feels, I felt reasonably confident I could create a fat character and treat her with respect.

The “strange land” part was trickier. What kind of story could I tell? It was going to be science fiction, I knew that much. Which means future. And when I think future, I honestly don’t think of fat. Because in the shiny future, we will have figured out all the nutritional and emotional and genetic triggers that make us fat and everyone will be healthy and beautiful and live forever… Well, at least I hope that’s how it goes. So the question then for me was why would people need to be fat the future? There had to be some benefit to being fat.

Fat is essentially stored energy. What if the people in my story needed an abundance of stored energy to do something? That became: what if they needed it for a mission they were going on? And of course, it had to be a mission to a “strange land.” A-ha. My character would be leading a terraforming mission to an icy, uninhabited planet, and the fat was necessary to not only keep her team warm but to also give them the energy they needed to work near constantly to keep the mission on schedule.

Now I had a story. The only problem was I didn’t know anything about terraforming. So I started with Wikipedia’s article on terraforming and worked my way out to other sources. I spent a lot of time learning about Mars since so many people, scientists and futurists alike, have thought about ways we could transform it into a planet that could support life. And the ideas to do so left me scratching my head. The best science-lite overview came from “How Terraforming Mars Will Work” at HowStuffWorks. Basically there are three methods:

  • Large orbital mirrors that will reflect sunlight and heat the Mars surface.
  • Smashing ammonia-heavy asteroids into the planet to raise the greenhouse gas level.
  • Greenhouse gas-producing factories to trap solar radiation.

The scope of the first two methods was so overwhelming, I was uncomfortable using them. How could I keep this a story about a small team of people when they are building these massive mirrors or flinging asteroids (!) into planets? Plus the level of technical and scientific details made me nervous since I definitely don’t have a degree in astrophysics. The third one was most plausible, but I kept thinking how all three of these methods relied on introducing energy to the planet either via the sun or through asteroidal impact, not using the planet itself as a source of energy. Why not heat the planet up from the inside out instead of outside in?

We all know about the power of greenhouse gasses. But even without our meddling, the earth would still produce CFCs and other gasses that heat up the atmosphere through natural processes like volcanic eruptions. And we get volcanoes and earthquakes along fault lines where tectonic plates rub up against one another.But although this is all well and fine for Earth, what about other planets? Did they have plate tectonics?

Turns out they do (Plate Tectonics Determine Life on Other Planets and Plate tectonics on a planet far, far away), which was enough evidence for me to make my story’s team terraform the planet by inducing seismicity, culminating in volcanic eruptions that would belch greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and ensure eventual warming of the planet. See Climatic Effects of Volcanic Eruptions and Volcanic Gasses and Their Effects for more info. Science in my Fiction also provides a nice overview of volcanoes, tectonics, and other geological considerations when writing about other planets, which would have been really handy if it came out before I submitted my story :). Oh, and how does one induce seismicity? That’s the easy part. Just look at fracking.

The result is my story “The Tradeoff” in the Fat Girl in a Strange Land anthology that releases this Friday, February 17th.

There’s currently a GoodReads giveaway if you are interested in getting your hands on a copy of the anthology.

And stay tuned for next week, when I bring you an interview with anthology editors Kay T. Holt and Bart R. Leib.

Happy writing!
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30 Seconds of Self-Promo

We interrupt our weekend radio silence for a special announcement. Ahem…

I just found out my drabble “Evolve” was accepted for publication by Luna Station Quarterly. It will appear in their drabble issue out on December 1st.

Luna Station Quarterly is a magazine focused on speculative fiction written by up and coming women authors. They have some amazing stories available, so check them out.

Also, my short story “The Tradeoff” will be appearing in the Fat Girl in a Strange Land Anthology from Crossed Genres Publications in February 2012. The pretty cover is below.

For your further edification, there’s a great post by a fellow author at Following the Lede on why this anthology is so important.

Happy weekend!

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The Story behind the Story – Eclectic Flash Edition (part 2)

The Story behind the Story is a blog post series where I share the behind the scenes info for each story I’ve had published.

Last time, I talked about my story Summer in Exile, published in the September 2011 issue of Eclectic Flash. Well, I am fortunate enough to also have another story in the issue—Elegy, my first published speculative story, which is also available online.

Elegy explores the use of implants – think wireless devices linked to your brain – in a religious context. Implants are something that both my speculative fiction WIPs deal with in some way, but I never looked at them through a religious lens. Then on one March 2010 evening, my prompt-based writing group chose to do a writing exercise on religion, and I thought aha! here’s my chance.

I then took my draft, polished it up, and shared it with my now-defunct writing group at the time. Every one liked it, but they wanted more. I’ve talked before about how my writing friends sometimes think my short stories are really novels in disguise, and feedback suggested Elegy was the same.

Later that summer, a different writing friend was visiting me and I was lamenting how people kept telling me to expand this story and how I didn’t want to. He told me, “You are the author. It’s your story. You know best.”

In subsequent months, I tried expanding the story, but nothing seemed to work. I remembered my friend’s advice and focused all my energy on revising that original scene that got me excited about the story in the first place and made it shine.

I started submitting the story in Spring of 2011. On May 3rd 2011, I sent the piece off to Eclectic Flash, and it was accepted the same day as Summer in Exile.

The Numbers:

First Draft – 326 words
Final Draft – 878 words
Days from Idea to Acceptance – 420
Rejections – 2 form
7-day acceptance

The Lessons:

Know what advice to accept and what to reject – This kind of thing can only come with time and experience, but remember that not all feedback you get on a story will necessarily help make it stronger.

Remember that YOU are the author of your work – Sometimes determining the size or focus of a story is as simple as deciding what story you want to write, and then concentrating on every aspect of craft to get it there. Simple, yes, but not always in practice.

No revising or redrafting is ever wasted work – I wrote a couple thousand words trying to expand Elegy, and then threw those scenes out when I decided they weren’t working and that the heart of the story I wanted to tell was in that initial draft. But I wouldn’t have come to that realization if I hadn’t taken the time to try to expand the story in the first place.

Happy writing!
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The Story behind the Story – Eclectic Flash Edition (part 1)

This post is the first in a new, irregular series where I talk about the path to publication for each story I’ve had accepted.

Thanks to the response I got from my post Pen Names and Other Problems, I’ve decided to go ahead and share my writing credits. I haven’t officially linked my name to this blog, but baby steps. We’ll see how it goes.

Anyway.

My story Summer in Exile was published in the September 2011 issue of Eclectic Flash, which is now available online.

I first drafted the piece at my prompt-focused writing group way back in late November 2009. The particular prompt had each of us select a phrase from a book that we would then later incorporate into our story. The phrases were as follows:

  • A. S. Byatt’s Little Black Book – “whistled oddly in her petrifying larynx”
  • Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima – “his big horse eyes looked up at me nervously”
  • Margaret Atwood’s Dancing Girls and Other Stories – “what the bloody hell was he doing on top of that sixty foot tree”
  • Mary Doria Russell’s Children of God – “Sometimes if he kept still people would go away.”
  • Wallace Stegner’s Collected Short Stories – “Shame made him turn over and lie face down”

I was pretty happy with how my story came out and decided to tinker with it a bit before sharing it with my now-defunct crit group. The other members were positive about the piece, and their only suggestion was to try to incorporate some backstory to make the character more real. But after a few attempts, I felt I was changing the heart of the story too much, reverted back to the original version, then went ahead and submitted it to a few markets starting in Fall 2010.

Rejections.

One market was kind enough to offer me some personalized feedback and again pointed out the issue of character. By now, some time had passed and I reworked the piece again, trying to flesh out the main protagonist. I shared the story at a local open mic night, tinkered some more, and finally found a good balance between character and story.

On May 3rd 2011, I sent the piece off to Eclectic Flash, and it was accepted.

The Numbers:

1st Draft: 441 words
Final Draft: 692 words
Days from Idea to Acceptance: 520
Rejections: 4 form, 1 personal
7-day Acceptance

The Lessons:

Get other people’s eyes on your stuff – My critique group at the time was able to pinpoint what I needed to do to take my story to the next level, even though I was unable to execute their suggestions to my satisfaction.

Stories take time to get right – I am convinced the iterative process of revising, submitting, revising, submitting is what led me to the version of the story that was published. This means waiting for each market to get back to you before submitting it somewhere else. I was/am too new a writer to think I’ll get my story right the first time, so trial and error was a great way for me to learn and grow my craft.

Don’t expect overnight success – 520 days. Enough said.

Intrepid readers will note that I have another story in the September 2011 issue of Eclectic Flash, but I’ll talk about that piece in another post.

In the meantime, happy writing!
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