Writing Update – April 2022

I haven’t quite finished another book in time to get a review up today, so I’m going to give an update on the status of my writing instead.

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For last week, I made steady progress on my current novel, East of the Sun, finishing about 2500 words. This is a hard science fiction novel set on a space station orbiting Enceladus. Here is the current blurb I’m using for the book and you can see some artwork I created that I felt captured the feel of a possible cover.

After her laboratory is destroyed and her career is threatened, a damaged scientist must investigate a new life form that has infiltrated Etna Station; but when crew members begin vanishing and life support fails, she must put her past aside and embrace a new existence if there is hope for any of them to survive.

I’m experimenting with using the Save the Cat! technique for novel writing that I found in the book Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. I have a lot of the plot outlined but I have to fill in many of the details as I go.

When writers talk about their technique for writing, we usually break it into two subcategories: plotters and pantsers. Plotters are writers who map out most of the book ahead of time and then write off of extensive outlines. Pantsers are writers who fly the the seat of their pants. These writers come up with a story idea and/or character and then just write to see where it takes them.

I am some awkward hybrid of both types of writers. This makes learning the process of how to create a coherent plot an exercise in frustration and a lot of rewriting.

I have a couple of short stories making the rounds at markets. I need to find some time to rewrite or revise some of my other short fiction because I don’t have enough ready to submit to magazines. Before I do that, I want to gain more momentum on East of the Sun though.

For the writers out there, are you a plotter or a plantser? Let me know in the comments above.

SFWA Changes Membership Requirements

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I wanted to write about this change because I only happened to discover it when one friend made brief mention of it on Facebook and I thought other writers might not be aware of it. In any case, SFWA is the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the professional organization for fiction writers in these genres. For many aspiring writers, membership is an early career goal. Former requirements for full membership were either publication of one novel or two short stories in approved “pro-level” markets.

With changes in publishing models, the requirements for SFWA membership have changed a few times in recent years. This latest update changes the requirements for both full membership and associate membership to be based around a writer’s total income from their writing, setting the bar for full membership at $1000 and associate membership at $100.

You can find the full details at the SFWA site here.

With this change, I was eligible to join. So as of last week, I’m an associate member of SFWA! You can find the benefits of membership listed here. I’ve been browsing the forums and have already received an issue of the newsletter.

If I want to upgrade to full membership I’ll have to publish additional short stories or a novel. But that has always been the goal, memberships and associations aside.

Who else is new member of SFWA? Let me know in the comments above.

March Reading and Writing Updates

Wow! Somehow it got to be March already! And of course I’m behind schedule from where I wanted to be on my reading, but I’m not surprised, given that I set a bit of an unrealistic goal.

Looking back at February, here is how it went: I managed to finish Magical Midlife Madness by K. F. Breene (review here) and All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai (review here). I just finished Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert this past weekend (technically in March) and I have a review coming up on that book later this week. With some work-related projects and other obligations, I got bogged down and didn’t get through all the other books I wanted to.

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The other books I’m currently reading are The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan and Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. With a long drive this weekend, I’m making solid progress on Harrow the Ninth because I’m listening to that as an audiobook. I also pulled out The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett (my physical non-e-book read) after I finished Magical Midlife Madness, but then decided I needed to catch up on The Dragon Reborn before starting it.

I haven’t given any writing updates recently. I hardly made any progress in February, but I’m expecting that to improve in March. Current projects include the first draft of a hard sci-fi stand alone novel with a working title of East of the Sun, continued work on a stand along sword and sorcery novel called Daughter of the Sun, and a rewrite of a short story involving dream magic. I don’t know why both novel projects involve the sun, but I think East of the Sun will get renamed at some point.

Also, if you haven’t seen it already, Brandon Sanderson sort of shamed all writers out there in regards to productivity last week. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out his video here. So clearly I need to up my writing game.

Are you reading as much as you had hoped this year? Are you a writer? Tell me about your projects in the comments above.

New Short Fiction Available!

I’ve been a bit overwhelmed lately with work and have been neglecting my blog here, but I wanted to announce here that I have a new short fiction story out now.

My story is called I’m Not a Superhero and is included in the Tales From Vigilante City anthology from Bloat Games.

Vigilante City is the setting for the SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City RPG and these stories all fit in with that setting, full of superheroes and villains. Pick up a copy and let me know what you think.

You can get a pdf here.

New York Comic-Con 2018

 

I’m finally recovered from my days spent attending New York Comic-Con this year, so I thought I’d write a quick recap.

Unlike last year, I only had tickets for Friday and Sunday, and ended up working on Saturday, so I missed a couple of panels and guests that I would have liked to see. I still had a great time with just two days!

Exploring on Friday

So for Friday, I only had two panels that I was interested in, and those were both late in the day. My train getting in to the city was delayed, but I wasn’t in a hurry. When I did get over to the Javits Center, I headed to the show floor first to scope out the book publishers. That didn’t take me long because they’re in the same general area every year. I found out who was going to be signing books and made decisions about which ones I’d be back for.

Then I explored the floor in a random pattern. Much of what is on display at Comic-Con is the same from year to year. In the past I had methodically walked up and down every aisle. This time, I just went in whatever direction interested me. I looked at some graphic novels from Stephen King (Gunslinger), Game of Thrones collectibles, superhero art work, porg toys, and some fun socks. In the end, I only bought three more of The Walking Dead collections on that round through the hall.

Crowd

Next up was a visit to Artist’s Alley. This location shifted again this year, and was in a much better place than last year: on the lowest level where they formerly had autographs and photo ops. This space allowed wider aisles to accommodate the crowds. I wandered through half of the aisles, met up with a friend, and then bought another comic I had had my eye on.

I headed out for a quick lunch, and for Friday, at least, the lines weren’t bad at all in the cafeteria. I even found a seat with a table! After that, I bounced back and forth between book signings, wandering, and people watching.

DragonballZ

The first book I picked up at a signing was Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel, which is the first in a series. Second for the day was The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, also the first in a series. I made a pretty good circuit through the show floor in between these signings, and then headed to my first panel.

Day 1 of Panels

Art & Arcana: The Visual History of Dungeons & Dragons sounded interesting, but it was held in a small room where I couldn’t get a seat near the front. This was a promotion for an upcoming book, but I couldn’t see most of what they had on screen, so I was disappointed.

I ended up in another panel because I was in line early for A Discovery of Witches. This one was for Tell Me a Story, a new television show coming out soon on CBS All Access. This show takes three classic fairy tales and uses the ideas in those to weave a story set in our era in New York City. The panel consisted of a viewing of a short clip from the show, then a discussion with the cast. From the little that they were willing to reveal, this fairy tale won’t have a happy ending.

TellMeAStory

The next panel for me was for A Discovery of Witches. This is the name of the first book in the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, and also a new television series. I’ve read the first book in the series and enjoyed it, but haven’t had time to get to the rest of it. Nevertheless, I’ve had my eye on the show since I first heard about it.

This panel was a viewing of the first episode of the show, followed by a brief question and answer session with the author. I liked the characters in the show and the details of the book instantly started to come back to me as I watched. It was a little slow to get started, but I was interested enough in the series that I wanted more. The series has already premiered in the UK, and will be available in the U.S. in January on both Sundance Now and Shudder.

Day 2 – More Panels and Shopping

I made it back to the Javits Center on Sunday for the rest of my Comic-Con excursion. I planned on two panels and a bit more shopping. I looked at book signings again, but no one that I was interested in had a signing at a time I was available.

Spidey

My day started out with more time in Artist’s Alley. Then I met a friend for a photo op before heading to my first panel: America’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers. This panel was intended to feature this year’s volume of the America’s Best series for speculative fiction. Guest authors on the panel included Carmen Maria Machado, Charlie Jane Anders, and Maria Dahvana Headley. Guest editor N. K. Jemisin and series editor John Joseph Adams rounded out the group.

Moderator Matt Kressel led the panel in a discussion of the process of choosing the stories for the anthology, the specific stories by the authors in attendance, and general questions about writing. I haven’t been reading many short stories lately, but I may need to check out this book.

The last panel that I attended was the Science or Fiction panel. This was advertised as a discussion of sci-fi movies, focusing on which aspects were science-based, and which were pure fiction. The guests on the panel included the members of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast, as well as Bill Nye (the Science Guy).

I had seen Bill Nye last year, so I wasn’t desperate to get into this panel to see him specifically, but I was interested in the subject. Apparently everyone else also was, and it was a packed room. I was one of the last people to make it in!

Delorean

It turns out that the podcast regularly discusses science in popular media, and they rate movies on a system based around the film Prometheus. While many people liked this movie, I thought that it was so bad that I couldn’t even finish watching it. I agreed wholeheartedly with their system of ratings.

Several movies were mentioned in this panel: Gravity, The Martian, 2001, Interstellar, Armageddon, Star Wars, and Arrival. After the panel, I was able to pick up a copy of the panel’s new book, and had it autographed by all of them.

Overall, I felt like I was able to see most of Comic-Con this year, even though I only had tickets for two days. It helped that I was already familiar with how the even was run. I didn’t take as many cosplay photos this year, and I probably bought more books than I needed. But I’ll be back again next time.

Resuming a Blog

Well, I’ve been away from the world of writing, reviewing, and blogging for some time, and I’m hoping to be able to return to that now. I had been spending most of my time over the last 2 years completing a process to become board certified as a Canine/Feline specialist. I took my exams this past week in San Antonio and I’ll find out whether I passed in about 45 days.

alamo

My last post here mentioned my application to NASA’s astronaut program. While I did make it as far as the highly-qualified group, I don’t know that I’m going to get an interview. It looks like the last few weeks of interviews are filling up, and no one from the astronaut office has called me (yet).

I have started participating in triathlons just in time to improve my cardio for my first year fencing in the Veteran’s age category. I have been looking forward to the Veteran’s age group for a long time, and my first national-level competition will be in Richmond in December, although I’m hoping to sneak in a local tournament before that. I plan to do more triathlons also, but not until the spring. Despite the rumors, I have no immediate plans to do anything near Ironman length!

As far as my fiction goes, the greatest problem I have right now is figuring out which project to pick up first. Should I revise the two short stories that I absolutely love, but no one has yet wanted to publish? Perhaps I should pick up an old rough draft and finish that (there is one in particular that keeps calling to me). Or do I plunge right back into a novel? And which one – space opera, epic fantasy, or alternate history?


Random updates:

Reading now: Contact by Carl Sagan

Writing now: just blog posts

Workout focus: running – I have a 10 mile race in 2 weeks

Eating: unhealthy as I’m traveling this week

Looking for a Few Reviewers

Is anyone out there interested in becoming a book reviewer? I’m looking for a handful of new reviewers over at Book Spot Central for genre novels. The site covers mainly fantasy and science fiction, but books with some mystery or romance elements are fine. You can also review graphic novels.

Benefits include the ability to get a Net Galley account where you can find e-book advance review copies of the latest books. If you may be interested, fill out the form below explaining why you want to write book reviews and a link to anything similar that you’ve written (or paste it into the other box if it isn’t available online).

New Fantasy Short Fiction

I have a new short story that just came out at the end of October! It takes place in one of my favorite settings, the City in the Tower. A mysterious Master rules over the population while an ancient battle rages in the snow fields outside. Seretia is a windsinger, a practice forbidden in the City, but one that is valuable to the Master. When faced with a crippling decision, she has no alternative but to seek out the truth behind the Master’s war.

Find Winter Into Spring in the October 2014 issue of Outposts of Beyond from Alban Lake Publishing.

Outposts-of-Beyond-October-2014-200x300

Asymmetry in Fencing

With the fencing season in full swing, I thought it would be a good time to return to the topic here. Today I’m going to point out how strange fencers’ bodies are, how that may lead to injuries, and how it may influence any fictional fencers you are writing about.

For a beginner, fencing presents some unique challenges that can be encountered before one even picks up a blade. The en garde stance, the movements forward and back, and the lunges are not a movement that most people would encounter in day-to-day life. Compare this to a sport such as soccer, where anyone can start play on a basic level because you already know how to run. There are certainly rules to learn and techniques to practice, but even a newbie can run across the field. Many beginning fencers that I have watched over the years have a lingering level of awkwardness that will persist for a month, six months, even longer, depending on their development.

Lunging fencer. (c) Sylvain Sechet, reposted under Creative Commons license

Lunging fencer. (c) Sylvain Sechet, reposted under Creative Commons license

Fencing is also asymmetrical. It might be fun to swing one sword in each hand, but for now that isn’t in the rules for the sport. This will lead to more muscle development in the dominant arm, although fencers don’t typically grow “big” arms from their sport. The weapons are all lightweight, but the repetition will eventually lead to some disparity between your limbs.

This asymmetry extends well beyond the weapon arm. All that footwork practice builds muscle in the quads, hamstrings, gluteals, calves… really the entire lower body. Most fencers will find that as their footwork improves, their front leg grows larger than their rear one. Even the muscle on the front of my right shin is larger than that on the left. If you are writing about a character who is new to fencing, that person will be SORE when they are learning the footwork. I remember feeling this mostly in the quads. Nowadays, if I return to practice after a break, I will feel it more in my hamstrings and gluteals.

In my own experience, I have found that I can lunge all day with my right leg forward. After so many years, it feels like a natural movement to me. However, switch to the left and I nearly fall over if I try to lunge with any sudden force. (I also run into walls at home, though.) Switching from the use of your dominant hand to the opposite one will also require that your footwork reverses itself. This is more challenging than it sounds.

A few years ago, I strained a muscle in my side. I stood in front of a mirror and tried to figure out what exactly I had done. I raised my shoulder, poked at my ribs, and in the process, I discovered that I had weird muscles on one side of my body that weren’t present on the other side! Okay, that’s not completely accurate. The muscles existed on both sides, but on my right side (I’m right-handed), they were more developed, and thus more visible because of the nature of my fencing movements. Fencing requires a lot of strength and coordination in the core muscles – the abs and back. The legs propel a fencer, but the core muscles allow the fencer to remain upright and coordinated when changing the direction of movement suddenly.

Even more experienced fencers may struggle with long hours of footwork practice. That lunge is never quite good enough, and there are patterns of footwork that must be repeated in practice so that they become second nature in a bout. Most fencers would rather fence practice bouts than drill footwork, but good footwork translates to good distance, which is critical to putting all your skills together to score the touch. For more about the importance of distance, read my earlier post here.

Graphic by Jen Christiansen, Illustrations by MCKIBILLO; Source: Lars Engebretsen, University of Oslo

Graphic by Jen Christiansen, Illustrations by MCKIBILLO; Source: Lars Engebretsen, University of Oslo

In terms of injuries, fencers will be more likely to have bruises on the side that faces their opponent. For example, a right-handed fencer will tend to get more bruises on the front of the right leg, the right elbow (ow!), and the right shoulder. I have over-exerted myself and developed a minor strain in my right hamstring more times than I can count. I have jammed my toe into the front of my shoe on my front foot and had my toe nail fall off months later (also multiple times). I’ve had tendinitis in the elbow of my weapon-arm. I’ve had blisters on my right hand and thumb (and not my left). I don’t know that anyone has studied the incidence of front-leg versus rear-leg injuries when looking at more serious incidents. I have torn ligaments in both ankles. Overall, fencing is still an extremely safe sport. For those interested though, I go into more detail about other types of injuries here.

Has anyone seen a truly ambidextrous fencer? I have, and there are rules about how often you can change which hand you use. What other sports share the same type of asymmetry? Does anyone else have any experiences or injuries that might be related to this asymmetry?


New Fiction (mine, yay!)

I had mentioned before that I have a new story coming out soon. Well, that is now available in Space and Time Magazine. The story is “A Big Stabbity Bang” which is about a high school student, her physics homework, and a ninja problem, all told in an unconventional style. There’s a NINJA! You can pick up a copy over at Weightless Books.

In other news, I just had another story accepted for publication. “Winter Into Spring” will appear in the October 2014 issue of Outposts of Beyond. This is a fantasy tale set in the City in the Tower, where magic is carried in a song and an eternal war rages outside. This is a story that I wrote a looong time ago, and I’m looking forward to seeing it in print.

If you happen to review any of the issues containing one of my stories, please let me know and I’ll try to link to it or repost your review here.

Now I have to get back to some writing…

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