It’s 2018 and awards season has already begun. Nebula nominations are open. Hugo nominations are just around the corner. That means it’s time for me to take a critical look at what I’m most proud of from 2017 and what I’d like to highlight for your nomination consideration.
“To Lose the Stars” in The Jim Baen Memorial Award: The First Decade anthology.
I am super proud of this near future SF story. The anthology editor posted the story in the SFWA forums. It is also available for those who would like to read it for awards consideration. Just contact me.
New Podcast / Fancast (Hugos) / Podcast Series
Five Minute Stories podcast by Jennifer Brozek (author/reader) and Jeff Brozek (post production).
This was my first time at creating an SFF anthology podcast series. I worked with the Husband on it. We’ve produced and released all 26 episodes. I’m stupidly proud of this project. My favorite episodes of the series are: Train to Topeka, Elevator of the Damned, Responsible, Questions, and Two Letters.
Blogging / Best Related Work (Hugos)
Author Etiquette blog series by Jennifer Brozek and Sarah Craft.
This monthly series has been going on for three years now and I think there’s some really good stuff in it. We’ve put together a series of articles to help authors across the spectrum navigate some of the trickier social customs and courtesies of the publishing arena. Sarah’s post.
(Edit: Shifted Author Etiquette series from "Fan Writer" category to "Best Related Work" category based on advice given.)
Like most authors, looking back at what I did during the year is a good way to convince myself that I’m not just spinning my wheels and that I really am still headed ‘towards the mountain.’ This is also why I keep track of my daily activities in my private Freelancer Summary document. It allows me to see what I’m doing and when. I think I did pretty good in 2017.
Short stories submitted
• 6 short story acceptances
• 5 short story rejections
• 1 short story outstanding
• 8 new short stories written
• 1 new novel written
• 26 episode podcast produced (with the Husband)
• 12 Author Etiquette blogs produced (with Sarah Craft)
• 5 mini fiction collections and 1 “stealth” fiction collection released
(Not as much as I wanted but I did have two bathrooms renovated in the middle of it all that mucked with my productivity.)
Edited for others
• 3 novellas edited
• 6 EGM Speculate! stories edited
• 9 BattleTech/Shadowrun novels proofed for ebook editions
• 15 events (readings, conventions, signings) attended
• 2 writing groups joined (Wit’n’Word [social writing], TBD Writing [critique group])
• 3 novel contracts
• 1 novella contract
(Due between now and the end of 2019 = about 300,000 publishable words.)
It’s nice to look at the quantified amount produced and be pleased with what you see. Supposedly, 2018 is going to be a slower, longer set of projects with only one novel, one novella, one anthology, and one short story currently on the docket. We all know this will change. Also, I already have seven confirmed events and four not yet confirmed, but planned for, events.
Then again, I’ve gotten good at producing while traveling. It’s taken me a bit to learn the skill. Now, I think it’s just a survival reflex. If I don’t write, the words will eat me.
Note: I’m leaving out all of the personal blogs, SFWA meetings (when I was a Director), looped edits/revisions, kickstarters participated in, weekly phone calls to various publishing folk, and the myriad of other freelance details.
The Husband and I take a lot of road trips. Some of you have asked about the car games we play, for they are many and varied. I probably should’ve posted this earlier in the holiday season, but better late than never.
License Plate Anagram Game
Object: Make an anagram out of every letter on a license plate.
• License plates only.
• Moving cars only.
• The more interesting the word, the better the bragging right.
• Single word score: Use all the letters but out of order. License: BGG-123, “Garbage”
• Double word score: Use all the letters in order by not next to each other. License: TXS-554, “Taxes” or “Texas” or “Taxidermies”
• Triple word score: Use all the letters in order and concurrent. License: STL-826, “Costly” “Castle”
Level: Simple to Moderate (gets progressively harder).
Object: Look for the alphabet in order.
• License plates take priority, but signs and other writing on vehicles count.
• No more than one letter per discreet object. (“Alphabet” on a sign only counts for “a” and not “b”).
• Can use a particular type of sign once (IE: Exit sign can be used for E, X, I, and T once.)
• License plates are always allowed.
Scoring: How many iterations of the alphabet can you get through before the end of the trip?
State License Plate Game
Occurrence: A rare game to play unless we are on a long road trip. Usually begins when someone sees Maine, Florida, Alaska, or Hawaii.
Object: Look for every state license plates in the country.
Rules: Any order. Parking lots are fair game.
Alphabet License Plate Anagram Game
Occurrence: Long, multi-day trips only.
Object: Make an anagram out of every letter on a license plate. Alphabetic. Begins with the letter sought.
• License plates only unless there have been no cars for more than 3 minutes.
• No more than one letter per discreet license. (“JBA-222” only counts for “a” and not “b”).
• Word must begin with the letter sought for.
• Single word score: Use all the letters but out of order. Looking for “G.” License: GGB-123, “Garbage”
• Double word score: Use all the letters in order by not next to each other. Looking for “T.” License: TXS-554, “Taxes” or “Texas” or “Taxidermies”
• Triple word score: Use all the letters in order and concurrent. Looking for “S.” License: STE-826, “Steady” “Stenosis”
Perched Birds of Prey Spotting
Occurrence: Long trips and random.
Object: See a perched bird of prey.
Rules: Bird of prey. Must be perched. Only one person in the car needs to see it, but better if more than one does.
Scoring: See the bird and note it. Smile at the good omen.
All twenty-six episodes of Five Minutes Stories is now up on the Apocalypse Ink Productions website. As a first podcast, I think it’s pretty good. I don’t hate my voice, the Husband did an amazing job on the post production, and one of my favorite podcasters, Alasdair Stuart, gave it a good review. I even have other podcasters who want me to work with them. I’m thrilled by this.
A couple of my favorite episodes of the series are: Train to Topeka, Elevator of the Damned, Responsible, Questions, and Two Letters. It’s not just the stories themselves, it’s the reaction I’ve received from listeners. I love it when I take someone’s breath away with a story.
Will I do this again? Absolutely. Now that I have some experience under my belt, I want to write an original podcast fiction serial. I even know what the basic story is about. I've got the beginning and the end plotted. I still have to figure out how I get from A-to-Z. Podcasting is a completely different type of storytelling, but it is also one of the oldest: the oral storytelling tradition. Now for computers.
I love the fact that, ten years in, I'm still learning new ways to get my stories out. It was a great experience to produce Five Minute Stories as a practice run. I'm glad I finally jumped on the bandwagon. I look forward to what I work on next.
This past weekend I was at Anglicon for the first time with Books & Chains. It was also my birthday weekend. Sometimes, you just gotta work on your birthday. I did have a good time. Sold lots. Got to meet up with old friends and pet celebrity corgies while they slobbered all over my hands. But now, I'm exhausted. So, here's a Bubble & Squeek for you.
Article: I got a shout out in this article: 5 Literary Agents Discuss the Horror Genre. Thank you Lane Heymont.
Release: The Jim Baen Memorial Award: The First Decade anthology has been released. This has my story “To Lose the Stars” in it!
Release: Pathways – All New Stories of Valdemar anthology has been released. This one has my story “Reborn” in it. This is a sequel to my story “Written in the Wind.”
Review: A nice review of The Jim Baen Memorial Award: The First Decade anthology with a shout out to my story.
I will be at Anglicon this coming weekend as a panelist and with Books & Chains. If I'm not at the Dealer's table, this is where I am.
Black Mirror: Too Much or Just Enough - Cascade 2, 2pm
The Best British Shows You're Not Watching - Cascade 2, 4pm
Sherlock Holmes in Every Incarnation - Olympic 2 - Saturday, 3pm
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Clara? - Cascade 2 - Sunday, 3pm
Both Raven and I will have mystery boxes to sell at the convention (perfect for that hard to buy for person in your life) as well as books and candles. Elise, of course, will have her fabulous chainmail.
Come by, say hello, get a book signed, and buy a gift for yourself or that someone special. Hope to see you there!
Happy book day to Benjanun Sridaungkaew! In this Tell Me, she talks about the agony and ecstasy of the rewrite and how important a lesson it was to her.
Winterglass is my second novella, and prior to it I was mostly a writer of short fiction. I feel I’ve learned a lot more from writing it than my first long-form work: to wit, because Winterglass required a monstrously extensive rewrite.
This sounds more like a horrendous mistake than a learning experience, but with short stories, if I wrong-foot or make false starts (sometimes the entire story being a false start) it’s easy to scrap it all and start over from scratch: there’s a disposability to short story ideas, and you can run away from ones that went sour or fizzled out. While you can still do that with longer works, and sometimes it’s absolutely the right course of action, there’s a good deal more investment, and this novella happens to be the longest work I’ve published so far. It doesn’t help that my false start was so extensive that there was no way to neatly restart from the midpoint, or the two-third, or anything like that. There were entire subplots that have been in the book since the first few chapters. At that point, with my usual mindset with short fiction, it was super tempting to just dump the entire completed manuscript and try again with a completely different idea. This was infuriating, given that I went into writing this expecting it to be simple and essentially write itself.
But I was rather fond of the characters, and felt the core premise had some legs. “The Snow Queen” is a fairytale I don’t see retold much, and not retold the way I had in mind. I decided it was worth the time. First I had to identify what’d gone wrong, and I realized that I had an entire point of view—a blonde foreigner named Idrun struggling against her society’s patriarchal standards—that just didn’t work: she took up close to a third of the book (!) and did... nothing. She interacted with one of the other POVs, but not in any meaningful way. She didn’t affect the other subplots and certainly not the main plot. She was soft and boring and a dead weight. She had to go.
Once I axed her, something magical happened: the revision clicked, the focus on the novella’s two protagonists—the duelist Nuawa and the general Lussadh—was a lot sharper, their relationship more intense. The manuscript grew longer, but it was all meat and muscle. The rewrite took just a couple weeks for a novella that had, prior to that, taken me four agonizing months. I learned to balance confidence in my ideas and my craft, and the awareness to identify my own weaknesses.
Winterglass now more deftly fits its description (a post-colonial, lesbian retelling of “The Snow Queen”), and is far tighter than its first draft ever was. The journey was arduous, but I’m more than pleased with the result.
Benjanun Sriduangkaew writes love letters to strange cities, beautiful bugs, and the future. Her work has appeared on Tor.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, Apex Magazine, and year’s best collections. She has been shortlisted for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and her debut novella Scale-Bright has been nominated for the British SF Association Award.
This is a story of persistence. Kristi DeMeester is an author after my own heart.
In late 2007, I decided I wanted a Masters degree in something I was actually interested in. Thankfully, my alma mater offered exactly that: a Masters in Professional Writing. I signed up for the GRE—bombing the math portion—filled out the applications, and found two people who were actually willing to write letters of recommendation. That next August, I was back on campus and exhausted. I was working full time, taking classes at night, and somehow still completing all of the required coursework.
I learned a lot about craft in my program but mostly spent the next year and a half learning how shitty my poor attempts at story were and that writing was work. All of those romantic visions I’d had of rain-dappled mornings seated in a beautiful office with a perfect cup of coffee at my side, my body still lithe as it was when I was twenty, quickly vanished in late night, bleary-eyed stare sessions at my laptop while I stuffed onion rings in my face.
In December of 2009, I marched across the stage in the same slacks I’d been teaching in all day, and then promptly did nothing with my writing. For all of the workshops I’d sat through and all of the reading I’d done about “showing instead of telling” or “scene rather than summary,” I realized I knew almost nothing about publishing or how to, you know, see my work in magazines.
For the next year, I kept writing stories. They were bad, and I knew it. I got a copy of Publisher’s Marketplace. I researched online. I found the forums at Absolute Write, which lead me to Duotrope, which lead me to markets where I could send my stories. In the fall of 2010, I sent off my first story. It was rejected from every single market. I kept writing. I sent off three more stories. They too were rejected. I found the magazine Shock Totem, and started participating in their monthly flash fiction contests. I never won or placed. I kept writing. I sent off two more stories. And then, it happened. A very small literary magazine accepted a flash piece, so I kept writing. I kept submitting.
After four years of constant submission and writing new stories and some acceptances but lots of rejections, I had a massive number of stories that had died a quiet death in a special folder on my laptop. They’re still there for those moments I need to laugh at myself. But there were other stories. Stories I was incredibly proud of. Stories that other people seemed to like as well. And so I started playing with what I had. Which stories did I truly love? How could they fit together? Slowly but surely, I started seeing themes emerge. Motherhood. The monstrousness of earth. How lovely some things can seem to be until you peer beneath the surface. And then Everything That’s Underneath was born.
Writing the stories in this collection was a lesson in writing as terrible effort. That for every minute I was flying along, high on what I imagined was my own brilliance, there were a thousand other moments of staggering, crushing doubt and fear and belief I was wasting my time. But night after night, I put my ass in the chair because I’d made a deal with myself. Those moments that were good were worth all of the other moments that came between. And the only way to have a body of work was to keep going, to keep writing, and to trust that the years in between would lead to better and better work. Everything That’s Underneath includes the stories I’m most proud of from the beginning of my career. Since then, there have been many more nights sitting down with my laptop and tapping at the keys until I have a story. Or a novel.
And I’ll keep going.
Kristi DeMeester is the author of Beneath, a novel published by Word Horde. Her short fiction has been reprinted or appeared in Ellen Datlow's The Best Horror of the Year Volume 9, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volumes 1 and 3, in addition to publications such as Black Static, Apex, and several others. In her spare time, she alternates between telling people how to pronounce her last name and how to spell her first. This is her first short fiction collection.
This weekend is OryCon. I will be there as a dealer and as a panelist. Below is my schedule. If I’m not in a panel, I’m probably at my dealer’s table. Come on by to see me. I'll have my "stealth book" with me. :)
Friday, 17 Nov 2017
4pm: GM School
A primer on how to run a game for those who are interested, and even those who have never done it. How to keep your players involved & interested in coming back. What campaign to pick for your players.
5pm: Writing and Art for the RPG Industry
A how-to workshop on what it is like to work for the RPG industry.
Saturday, 18 Nov 2017
10am: I Quit My Job to Be a Writer! WHAT HAVE I DONE?
How do you stay focused when you're all by yourself and the realities of making a living via the written word come flooding in? Find techniques for forcing yourself to get words written and plots plotted, with time to get dressed and leave the house.
1:30pm: Reading with Jennifer Brozek
I will be reading from NEVER LET ME SLEEP and from FIVE MINUTE STORIES.
Sunday, 19 Nov 2017
11am: Pamper Your Muse
How to get your creative mind to talk to you. How writing prompts, mind maps, creative dates with yourself, tarot and storytelling cards can help you tap the muse.
While I am not an official participant of the Cedar Hills Crossing Powell’s Sci-Fi Authorfest 11, I will be there with Josh Vogt who is an official participant.
Happy Book Release day to Mario Acevedo and Hex Publishers!
Over at Hex Publishers, our favorite stories are those when things go bad. And bad in a big way.
In my critique group, one that I share with Josh Viola, we are a macabre, sadistic bunch. There’s seldom a story that we read where one of us doesn’t chime in with, “You know what would make this plot more interesting? If the mother takes an ax to her daughter-in-law.” And that story is supposed to be a romantic comedy. Our conversations draw upon what we’ve gleaned from coroners and medical examiners. We routinely rehash crime-scene investigations from Forensic Files. Blood spatter analysis is a favorite topic of conversation. While we love debating the dramatic potential of poisons, shivs, arson, and my favorite—suicide by autoerotic asphyxiation—what really gets us going is a discussion about the why. For example, at what point in a business relation does an executive decide that the only way to proceed forward is to murder his partner? Or that the best way to get rid of a romantic rival is by running her over with a Buick? Or when a husband decides he’s had enough of his wife and after offing her, buries her corpse in the basement and rents a steam cleaner to tidy up the house? Edger Allen Poe would not have raised an eyebrow to any of these criminal shenanigans.
For me, this where a story gets the most interesting, at the point when things go bad in a big way. One of the most compelling plot devices is irony, or to be more direct about it: the power of unintended consequences. We love the grist that backfires, or the finely tuned homicide that in itself becomes the trap. We writers give our characters only enough relief to give them hope and then plunge their heads back underwater. Few things turn the screws of a narrative like a good double-cross.
We preach love one another but lock our doors at night. Yet, if we are murdered, it will be most likely by someone from within our household. Till death do us part and allow me to accelerate the process. We pray for peace and a better world but revel in the vicarious thrill of violence because it lets us indulge in the mayhem from a safe distance.
Which gets to a deeper question: what is the human compulsion to do wrong? One of my go-to Scriptures is Job 5:7 Man was born to trouble just as surely as sparks fly upward. Would any of us be surprised that should we come back in a thousand years, people will still be leaving bloody handprints at the scenes of robbery, betrayal, and murder? And those tragedies will remain our favorite stories.
Mario Acevedo is the co-editor of Blood Business, Crime Stories from this World and Beyond, the forthcoming anthology from Hex Publishers (November 10, 2017), Josh Viola, Chief Editor and Publisher.