Progress report: taking deep lungfuls of air

I cut back on the blogging while I buried myself into working on the outline for PS-1 (my last update was on 2/6, wow).

The back pain is mostly gone from my spill on 1/22, though some activity still occasionally inflames it. One month, wow. I can sit, stand, work at the computer, and do my daily walk into town to run errands again. I’m still… gun-shy about any ice and take extra wide detours to avoid and get really nervous around it. It’s an oddly purely physiological response. The fall and three weeks of back pain are so seared into my body that the first walk into town I kept flinching whenever I saw ice. I’m not mentally freaked, but there’s just an autonomous, muscle memory there that my body has that’s similar to seeing a glowing red pot (don’t touch!). More walks are fixing that, but it was interesting to see that my lower, lizard brain has picked up that aversion on such a fundamental level.

So I’m about two weeks behind, but now that I’m back to normal, am enjoying catching up on work. Blogging took a hit, as it doesn’t put food directly on the table!

The outline for PS-1 is 17,000 words. For what will likely be a 55,000 word novel. The interested parties are reading the outline, and notes are being exchanged. I expect to start writing the first chapter Monday, March 3rd.

On twitter I talked a great deal about the craziness of a 17,000 word outline for a 55,000 word book. But, over time, I’ve come to outline more and more obsessively before writing. It has really helped me, and has made the writing process more and more enjoyable on a daily basis. I might have to storify that whole exchange and post it up here.

With my editor reading over PS-1, I now have the time to finish my last pre-PS-1 project. I owe one last short story to an anthology. I need to finish it by this weekend.

After that, I will be passing on any new short fiction projects until after all the work on PS-1, the books I owe Tor, and all other extant projects are turned in. I can’t handle the pressure of any new obligations when my plate is so full, sadly. It means things are good for me.

It sucks to say no. I had to turn down another project that looked really cool recently, so it’s on my mind. I spent most of my life working so hard to get to this point. And suddenly, people approach me and ask for stories. I’ve sold 55 of them, to date. And now I have to say no. And that’s an odd complication I didn’t expect about success (what bit of I have managed to carve out for myself).

Steve Jobs said success is as much about what you say ‘no’ to. And I found out that, although I’m extraordinarily proud of the 55 short story sales, I need to take care of the novels and extreme debt-paying project I’ve embarked on this last couple years. That will put me in much better stead to play with short fiction down the road.

THE END IS NIGH to feature a short story of mine

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I have a short story that will be appearing in the anthology THE END IS NIGH, edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey. Deets:

“Famine. Death. War. Pestilence. These are the harbingers of the biblical apocalypse, of the End of the World. In science fiction, the end is triggered by less figurative means: nuclear holocaust, biological warfare/pandemic, ecological disaster, or cosmological cataclysm.

But before any catastrophe, there are people who see it coming. During, there are heroes who fight against it. And after, there are the survivors who persevere and try to rebuild.

THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH will tell their stories.

Edited by acclaimed anthologist John Joseph Adams and bestselling author Hugh Howey, THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH is a series of three anthologies of apocalyptic fiction. THE END IS NIGH focuses on life before the apocalypse. THE END IS NOW turns its attention to life during the apocalypse. And THE END HAS COME focuses on life after the apocalypse.”

(Via VOL. 1: THE END IS NIGH : The Apocalypse Triptych.)

If you click through, you can see the whole table of contents. Looks like a dynamite line up of authors that I’m lucky to share the pages with.

System Reset is short story of mine about what happens when fundamentalist geeks take their code metaphors a bit too far. If you follow the tag on the blog post for System Reset you can see I was working on this piece back in January.

THE END IS NIGH is coming out this March.

Progress report: day six (frozen edition)

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It’s cold out there. Dipped below 0 as I got up and settled into my office and took the above picture. Lots of frost on the window. Got freelancing done (it’s CES week, putting in some extra afternoon hours, worked on some eBook stuff) and worked on the short story Code some more in the later afternoon.

I’ve really gotten into the characters and think I have a nice little odd couple going. Had to delete some exposition, but it’s saved in a file. So it doesn’t add to my word count just yet, but it will help me get a jump on tomorrow as I turn it into argument, character reveals, and so forth. Sometimes you have to write stuff down awkwardly to see what it looks like and know where it goes.

Today’s progress was 943 words that I like (close to final polish) and a total of 2,919 on the story Code that I’m writing. Six days of writing in a row chained together.

The story was planned to be 3,000 words, but I think I have another 1,500 on deck still. And I’ll have to get them all tomorrow. So it’ll be a crunch time kinda day. But I’m averaging 566 words a day, even with the 22 word day yesterday, which if I consistently do every day will lead to a solid year (200K of words). Of course, six days does not a sample make, I’ll have a better idea come the end of the month of how I’m doing.

I did go for a walk today. Once around the block in -10 degree weather. It’s now -14 (windchill -40). I was toying with going out tonight just to see what it was like at -14, which is even lower, but opted out. Will get a taste of it when I let dogs out at midnight anyway. One day of walking chained together.

My office space heater has been running all day to keep my office comfortable.

This is roughly how I’m feeling about the weather:

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As of night, the insides of my windows are frosted with a layer of ice that is similar in thickness to what I’m used to finding on a car windshield after a night of rain and freezing temps.

Ice has also crept around my front door lock:Photo

Stay warm everyone!

Progress report: day five (a day late)

A slow Sunday spent with the family yesterday. I fell asleep after dinner, though, and woke up with a start sometime after midnight. Contemplated my daily walk, but with the temps dropping and snow plows slamming about I decided to stay in. So did I break my unchained days of walking. In retrospect I should have gone downstairs to the recumbent bike, but as I said, I was really fuzzy-headed.

I took a while for my brain to boot up. But I was really, really determined to have unchained days of writing, and didn’t want to go right back to bed. I spent an hour on the work in progress, Code, and got the amazing total of *drumroll* 22 words. After that hour I determined I was fuzzy enough that further effort may just devolve into words that were in theory written, but in practice going to need rewriting. I ended up spending the next hour looking at land for sale in areas of the country that interest me and then going to bed.

Five days in a row of writing every day, no matter what. Three hundred and sixty to go.

Progress report: day three

The blank page is always tough, isn’t it? Late last night, way too late last night, I finished up the rewrite of the short story David Klecha and I are putting together. Today I needed to start another one I owe, while also getting further along in the work on the pseudonymous novel. From now on I’ll call PS Book One. Because I struggle to spell pseudonymous. It just took me five tries. And that’s with the help of spellcheck.

An editor asked for this story. I’m in an amazing place in my career where people ask me to write them things, and now I often have to say no because I can barely fit everything into my schedule. Hah! May you get what you wish for, right?

I’ve had four, or five months, to think about this story (which will be in an anthology with a theme, broadly), and I haven’t had any luck coming up with an idea. I told a fellow scribbler via a text “I think I may have to get on TV Tropes and start clicking around the subject theme to see if anything leaps out at me to play with.”

I’m trying to write every day, and this project has a pressing deadline, and the PS Book One project really needs 100% of my attention shortly, so it was time to put on my big boy pants, right?

So earlier this afternoon I sat down in my office with a full pad of yellow stickies and a pen. Started writing down riffs, themes, ideas, characters based on the subject. After half an hour free-forming, a vague idea from a couple ideas returned to my head. I used Freitag’s old pyramid and the law of threes to build a test outline, and a basic try/fail sequence.

With a very rough skeleton in front of me in handwriting, scattered on yellow stickies, I began to get more flashes of ways to connect the parts up, and suddenly I had an opening scene with the characters hashing out their issues forming up. And then I had an ending suggest itself, so that got tentatively penciled in. Knowing the emotional note, I could sketch in some more.

I set out to write two 300 word sections. So I can knock off for the evening now and go for my daily walk. I’ll need to really bundle up, it’s 0 degrees out, negative I-don’t-fucking-know-what with wind chill. I imagine the walk will help jog out some more stuff. Like a better title (it’s simply

Yesterday was my 35th birthday, and I sort of mark 15 as being the age I really got serious about writing. That means I’ve been doing this for 20 years now.

Wow.

So the blank page, I was going to say this:

It’s still scary. When I created that Scrivener document and wrote down a working title I sat back and thought I should check twitter. Or call a friend. Or go look in the fridge (no story plot in there, just calories you don’t need). Anything but… blank white screen.

Twenty years, and I still feel like someone standing in front of a crowd who has forgotten their lines.

But here’s what twenty years gave me: the knowledge that it always feels like this.

There’s the fear you’ll suck, or won’t have anything to say, or anything meaningful. I worry that the writers in the anthology will be better than me. Or that I’ll fubar the story.

So let’s admit it, all that’s possible. Hell, probable. I’ve fought my way up from a dyslexic, ADD nobody punk kid struggling from a faraway place. The very fact I might be in an anthology at all… shit, that’s it’s own thing.

And the other thing is that… a shitty existing story is vastly superior to the most brilliant, society-changing, award-winning, bejeweled, sparkly story that never gets written.

At some point I have to have something to hand in. And the worst case is: the editor says no. That’s it. That’s the worst that can happen. What if that happens? I rewrite the story, I let it sit. Maybe it goes somewhere else? And even if it doesn’t go anywhere else, then maybe I learned something about how not to write from it.

I snuck in 1,200 words.

Not shabby.

Tomorrow is Christmas with Emily’s family, might be harder to get words in. But I’m going to try to keep the chain unbroken. Wish me luck.

And now, for my unbroken chain of days going for a walk. I’m off to find my boots, gloves, jacket, breathing mask, extra hoodie…

Photo on 1 3 14 at 5 47 PM

New story to be published in Dead Man’s Hand

John Joseph Adams has edited a new anthology of ‘weird western’ stories for Titan Books. It’s been under wraps for a long time, but the cover was just revealed and the table of contents announced.

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I’ve always enjoyed writing stories for John, it’s always a pleasure, but Sundown is very dear to my heart.

Short film adaptation of my story All Her Children Fought to show at the Belfast Film Festival

The Snugboro Films adaptation of my short story All Her Children Fought will be shown at the Belfast Film Festival along with 12 other short films, picked to be shown out of some 300 or so odd entries.

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This was pretty cool news to start my day with…

[Snugboro Films official post]

New Short Story Published At Subterranean Online: The Seafarer

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I have a new short story (well, a novelette to be more precise) up at Subterranean in the Spring 2013 issue, The Seafarer. It’s a new story set in The Alchemist and The Executioness universe. You can read the whole thing for free at the link.

Along with The Executioness, there is also The Fall of Alacan here, which makes for a triptych of stories set in that world.

My story The Fall of Alacan, now live at Subterranean Magazine

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I mentioned working last month on a longer story called FofA. The real title is The Fall of Alacan, and it’s a prequel to the events of The Alchemist and The Executioness, the two novellas that Paolo Bacigalupi and I wrote (and that Paolo is up for a Nebula for!). It’s now live in the Spring issue of Subterranean Magazine.

Bill had asked if I would be interested in penning a story that gave everyone who hadn’t been able to order the beautiful print editions (or listened to the audio edition) a taste of the world. Since Bill pays very well, and more importantly, he pays his writers very promptly, I spent a good chunk of last month working on The Fall of Alacan and re immersing myself in that world.

A lot of you have asked about more stories set there, and I’m glad my first real attempt to write Fantasy seems to be something readers have enjoyed, so I hope you all enjoy this further taste.

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Sale: The Universe Reef to Nature magazine

I’m totally chuffed to report that my short story THE UNIVERSE REEF will be out in Nature Magazine in its very cool Futures series (short SF stories that appear on the last page). I was honored to have a story back in 2005 (Toy Planes) in Nature, and now I’m going to be back again!

As someone who follows what scientists are up to, it’s really amazing to me that my work will be in a magazine as awesome as Nature.