Both Present and Coming Soon

Both Present and Coming Soon is one way to describe Beneath Ceaseless Skies Special Double Issue #250, in that part of the issue went live on April 26th, containing stories by K.J. Parker and Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam. Part 2 will go live on May 3rd (Thursday) with the balance of the issue, which is “Silence in Blue Glass” by Margaret Ronald (you gotta love that title) and “An Account of the Madness of the Magistrate, Chengdhu Village,” which is the longest title I’ve ever used for any story, so unlikely anyone will remember it. Just remember this coming Thursday. The link is up there.

This is the third story in the adventures of Jing, Mei Li, and Pan Bao, which officially makes it a series, by my definition, though I’m at the point of wondering where it’s going to go, as in remain short stories or eventually morphing into novels, the way Yamada did. Plus I’m wondering just how long I really should spend in 5th C BC Warring States Period of what will eventually become China. There are other things I need to write and only so many usable hours in the day. Not to mention we’ve started yet another major DIY renovation project with its own demands.

I’ll sort it out, which is just another way of saying it isn’t sorted at all, yet.

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DIY and Way

The taxes are done, which is probably my biggest accomplishment for the week, aside from taking advantage of spring to start demo on the F.R.O.G. (that’s Free Room Over Garage, or at least that’s what the real estate lady said when we bought the place). It was an apartment at one time, then a sort-of workshop, with some really crappy bench tops and shelves that all had to come out, plus a rotted floor (because the back section of the space is a former kitchen with a wooden floor over concrete, which naturally wicked up water and rotted).

When it’s all done it should make a nice treatment/meditation space for First Reader. It’s the last(?) of the renovation projects we had in mind for our interior spaces. Over the years I’ve learned a lot more about DIY than I ever wanted to, but needs as needs must, or something like that, and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more doing this one. Which, if I’m really lucky, I’ll never have to use again, since we’re not planning on moving once we get this one how we like it.

Barring alarums and excursions, “An Account of the Madness of the Magistrate, Chengdhu Village,” the third in my Daoist series should be out in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #250, in the latter half of this month. On a parenthetical note, this will be, officially, at ten words, the longest title I’ve ever used, beating out “On the Road to the Hell of Hungry Ghosts” by one word, and both “Idle Conversation at the End of the World” and “Golden Bell, Seven, and the Marquis of Zeng” by two.

Any change to the schedule, I’ll be sure to note it here.

Process

I’m a little tardy with this today, but at least I have a good excuse—I was working through the editor’s notes on “An Account of the Madness of the Magistrate, Chengdhu Village.” Did anyone out there think the job was done once the story was written? Heh. Quite often, that’s the easy part. Then there’s marketing, deciding where you’d like a story to be published—and no, the answer is NOT “anywhere that will take it.” You have to be picky about those things, even from the beginning. If your first venue turns you down, then you consider where next, but only then. If you believe in your work, you want a showcase, not just a venue.

Then, if you’re lucky enough to get the story placed where you want it, odds are more than likely there will be galleys, probably electronic these days, and it’s time to revise the story again, this time taking into account where an editor thinks it can be improved. You can agree or not—it’s your story—but be very clear on what you’ll accept and what you won’t, and keep your ego out of it. The goal on both sides is to make the story the best it can possibly be, and there WILL be things you missed, points in the story where you didn’t consider all the implications of your text. Keep an open mind, but fight—politely—for your vision. A good editor will not try to turn the story into something you didn’t intend. She is your ally, not the enemy.

And, when all that is done and out of the way, comes the waiting. Again, though this time it’s for the story to be published. As with submissions, the time passes easier when you don’t have your eggs in that one basket. Write the next one.

Time to take my own advice.

Brevity is the Soul of Something

Ah, winter in New York State. Two whole degrees this morning, a heating pipe coupling keeps coming un-coupled, and the plumber can’t get here until tomorrow. Last week when the temperature hit fifty-three degrees only to fall quickly, it left a quarter-inch sheet of ice under the snow. Can’t open our back gate, can’t get into the shed, and have to get to the mailbox through the garage. Really good for sledding, though. Our neighbors have been having a blast.

I’ve sold the third story in my Daoist series, working—and probably final—title is “An Account of the Madness of the Magistrate, Chengdhu Village.” It should be up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies sometime this year and of course I’ll post updates as they occur.

Confession time: I’ve never been a huge fan of flash fiction. I always considered it something between a parlor trick and Short Attention Span Theater. Since I’ve joined the local writers’ group, however, I’ve come to appreciate the form a bit more, as we have to write one every week. It does require focus to distill any decent story down to 500 words or so and still have a decent story, with a beginning, middle, and end. It’s also good editing practice, as I tend to go over and have to whittle down the word count without losing the narrative. It’s never going to be my favorite form, but at least I can see the virtues in it now.

Speaking of which, I have one due on Wednesday. Better get cracking.

Reviews and Whatnot

Quick Sip Reviews takes a look at Beneath Ceaseless Skies #235.  Aside from the fact that they liked the stories, it’s nice to find a review site doing short fiction reviews. You don’t see that much anymore. Novel reviews are easy to find by contrast, and part of the reason for that is there is so much short fiction it’s hard to keep track of even for dedicated fans. Novels are a little more manageable, though in sheer numbers they’re not too far behind. Even so, it’s easier to specialize in one facet of our fractured genre at novel length and keep a handle on things that way: Space Opera, Mannered Fantasy, Alternate History, Historical Fantasy, Hard SF, whatever.

Short fiction is a little harder to categorize, at least at first glance, and you sometimes can’t be certain how to pigeonhole something until you’ve read it, and sometimes even then. It sounds rather crass and limiting, to “pigeonhole” like that. It sounds limiting—and it is–but how else to break down the avalanche of material into manageable chunks? Once upon a time it was easier, there wasn’t so much and everything in genre was either sf or fantasy, and a reader/reviewer usually preferred one or the other. Now I don’t know how anyone could hope to keep up.

There are still some places where short fiction is reviewed regularly. Locus does a decent job, and has top notch reviewers. Locus was and is the trade magazine for the sf/fantasy field and it’s in any practitioner’s best interest to keep on top of what’s going on, yet I have to confess I recently let my subscription lapse after (mumble) years. Why? I’m still trying to figure that one out myself. I think it has something to do with how I’m seeing myself in relation to the genre, and considering things that I once thought were true which now I know aren’t. Pretty vague, I know, but right now it’s the best I can do. I’d still recommend it to anyone with an interest in what’s going on in sf/fantasy. No one place covers the field better or more completely.

 

Standard Reminder: Since I’m now on a weekly schedule with the Story Time page, on Wednesday the 11th of October “The Trickster’s Wife” will be replaced by something else. Read it while it’s there.