Hugo 2018 Reading – January

I try to read the Writers of the Future anthology each year, since I am entering the contest every quarter. But I tend to wait to buy it until it goes on sale for only $.99 for the kindle version. Digging into that has made me feel really productive for my Hugo reading, but I read a decent number of stories (or at least more than I have been) even without that!

“Moonlight One” by Stephen Lawson
a novelette published in Writers of the Future vol 33

The concept is interesting – there’s been a murder on the moon, when there are only two people living there. But I did not like the execution. Most of the story is told from the point of view of a friend on earth, who couldn’t do any investigating on his own (he had to rely on the survivor on the moon to do it) and had no stakes in the game. And I didn’t find the answer of the conspiracy theory very believable either.


(5 stars) “The Armor Embrace” by Doug C. Souza
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

I loved the emotional pull to this story. A father-turned-mech-warrior goes to visit his daughter on her way home from school, and slowly comes to realize what has happened to himself. The emotions as the father tries to tell his daughter that everything’s ok when it really isn’t, it’s just beautiful.


“Envoy in the Ice” by Dustin Steinacker
a novelette published in Writers of the Future vol 33

This was an different alien encounter story, where the alien just sits and observes and receives gifts from diplomat. I wasn’t excited by it, though. I didn’t care what the mystery behind the envoy was, since I didn’t believe really that people or the world was at stake. And the viewpoint character didn’t care either until the diplomats weren’t returned. The characters were so powerless to do anything, so the plot was going to happen no matter what they did.


“Airswimming” by Aisha Phoenix
a short story published by Strange Horizons

The fantasy in this story is small, and doesn’t appear until a third of the way through the story. It was a very nice description of grief, and how accepting it is different for everybody. Definitely succeeded with its theme.


(5 stars ) “Angel of the Blockade” by Alex Wells
A novelette published by Tor.com

I loved this story. I loved how Nata’s blindness isn’t described explicitly. You get clues from the fact that there’s no visual description, from the implant giving her visual cues, such as where a drink is on the table, or that someone wants to shake hands. They even talk about curing, and how Nata doesn’t want a cure. I also loved how she’d altered her ship so that she could fly it. Then the smuggling plot that goes awry when the cargo decides it wants to go somewhere else. Very well done.

Trigger warning: f-word several times.


“Tears for Shülna” by Andrew L. Roberts
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

A selkie story where the selkie says good bye to the dying man that she loved. The description was decent, but I never connected with the characters. Though it was at a time of grief, nobody showed much emotion. Yes, there were tears, and talk about how selkies held all their feelings inside, but it just didn’t feel real to me.


“The Drake Equation” by C. L. Kagmi
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

Another alien contact story – following a common trope that aliens haven’t contacted us because humans are too violent. The method of contact was interesting. I didn’t like the hallucinatory way it happened though. Perhaps if the destruction of the ship was described first, and then introduced the beach, I might have had a better time accepting it, because then I’d be primed to think of it as an analog of heaven.


(5 star) “The Thirty-Seven Faces of Tokh-Bathon” by Effie Seiberg
a short story published by PodCastle

Chananthay is such a cute character. Always daydreaming as she works to clean the temple. And then I liked the evolution of the faces from the Knight and Knave fable, and discussion of truth as subjective. Very sweet plot of friends helping each other.


“Analog Signals” by Shawn Proctor
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

This story had an interesting concept about listening in on alternate universes. I was confused at the end though. I didn’t know if the “this reality” where things might work out was the one he was listening to, or the one he was living.


“Longing for Stars Once Lost” by A. Merc Rustad
a short story published by Lightspeed

This story with all its flashbacks out of order was hard for me to follow in audio. Even looking over it now, I’m not sure I can piece together what happened. I think my biggest problem for not caring enough to piece it together is I wasn’t sure how Kitshan was planning to achieve his desire – finding his ship again. Also, I missed the theme of the story – wanting to do good with your final act, even if it means your destruction.


“Acquisition” by Jake Marley
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

I did not like Barlow. I doubt he was supposed to be likable – he is practically kidnapping ghosts and selling them off. And then I didn’t understand the end, how he suddenly realized that Alyssa could help Karen. It was supposed to be Barlow’s redemption, I guess, but it didn’t work for me.


“Obsidian Spire” by Molly Elizabeth Atkins
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

As a sword and sorcery story, I really wanted to enjoy this story. However, there were points when Varga’s character fell flat. She wanted a guide, thinks “use your assets” yet doesn’t think that Fiske, when he shows up, can even serve as a guide (though he does, and very well). I also hadn’t seen her desire to be a hero, make a name for herself, so when the narrator mentioned it, it felt tacked on.

Refusing the Call v 1 is Done!

Refusing the Call Banner copy
This is a story that snuck up on me. After writing the Prophecy Subversion story, I was thinking about other characters in that world, and one character really started to demand her own story. You see, she has schizophrenia. And if there ever was a reason to refuse the call to be a hero, a disability like that would be a good one. Yet in stories, we rarely see a hero refuse the call because they feel inadequate.

I like how the story is shaping up. I plan on having it critiqued at the Futurescapes workshop in April, but first I’m going to fill out a few details that I rushed through in drafting, and send it to beta readers.

Statistics:

  • 827 words
  • 1 scene
  • 2 characters
  • Started January 18
  • Finished January 19

Hugo 2018 Reading – December

Several people have been sharing their favorite stories of the year on twitter, and I’ve actually been following the links and reading them. So I have several stories to share this month. Yay!

The Worshipful Society of Glovers” by Mary Robinette Kowal
a novelette published by Uncanny

This story has really beautiful description, and an interesting magic system – where brownies and humans work together to make gloves that give magical effects. All Vaughn wants is some gloves to help his sister with her seizures, and his character change in pursuit of those gloves is heart wrenching.


(5 stars) “Your Mama’s Adventures in Parenting” by Mary Robinette Kowal
a short story published by Shimmer

I want more stories like this one – that extols the work that mothers do. That’s really why I put this one at five stars, rather than because of craft. It is still fun, alternating between the fantastic and the mundane, and there’s puns and references to Star Wars and Peter Pan. I especially liked the twist on time travel on the end.


Henosis” by N. K. Jemisin
a short story published by Uncanny

A 2,000 word story, told in 6 chapters, all out of order. If I had been reading it, I might have been tempted to skip and read it in order. It’s an interesting look at fans and awards and how perspectives can get really messed up. So it’s a good thing I was forced to listen to it in audio, because the out of order arrangement adds to the message.


Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand” by Fran Wilde
a short story published by Uncanny

I’m not a huge fan of horror, and this story definitely had a horror streak to it. This also was in second person, and it really fits, as the whole story is basically a narration to you. Really creepy details, given by a narrator that you come to realize hates you.


(5 stars) Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
a novel published by Tor

This behemoth of a novel had me reading far more than was healthy for me. I’m still trying to recover the sleep I lost to it. I love the magic system, the complications, the characters. Shallan’s character was the one that was the hardest for me to understand, but she still felt real. I’m really looking forward to learning more about Renarin’s abilities. We don’t get into them too much in this book, because it was one of the climactic twists, but we better learn in future books in the series. I also liked the philosophical considerations about slavery, and ethics of defending your homeland when you were the invaders initially. Thoroughly enjoyed.


Exhaling Memories” by M. K. Hutchins
a short story published by Aliterate

This was an interesting look at the downside of eternal life. In this world, your mind has a finite storage for memories, so people take them out of their mind to store for later. The ramifications on how that changes you as a person was really interesting.


It Happened To Me: My Doppleganger Stole My Credit Card Info, and then My Life” by Nino Cipri
a short story published by Fireside

A cute story about your invisible friend turning out to be real, and is in fact your doppleganger, and the two wanting to switch places. The longing for friendship felt real. Characters well done.

Goals for 2018

So, time to take stock of where my stories are so I can plan for the next year.

Subverting the Prophecy Subversion – Short Story

This story needs a lot of fleshing out. I have some ideas to expand it into a novel, but for now, I want to do a stand alone short story. I might keep it to flash. We’ll just see what the story requires.

Status: revising

After the Escape – Novelette

My recent revisions pushed this story from short story to novelette. I’m really happy with where it is now, and am keeping my hopes up as I send it out into the markets (though under a different name)

Status: on submission

Tattered Flower – Short Story

I’ve sent this story out to a few places. While Writers of the Future outright rejected it (not surprising, since its flash), it got nice feedback from Fantasy & Science Fiction and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. I’m going to incorporate that before sending it out again.

Status: revising

Soulmates – Short Story

Like “Tattered Flower”, this story has also been sent out to a few places and gotten some good feedback from Beneath Ceaseless Skies. I will be incorporating that before sending it out again.

Status: revising

Whirlwind – Poem

I wrote this because I had an idea I wanted to tell. I’m not very good at poetry, and don’t really know where to send it, so I’m going to trunk it.

Status: retiring

Meddling Gods – Novelette

This story has gotten the best feedback I’ve ever gotten in my rejections. Since I’m not sure how to fix its deficiencies, I’m just going to keep submitting it until I run out of markets or it sells.

Status: on submission

Unstop the Wind – Short Story

This story has also gotten some good feedback. Like “Meddling Gods”, I’m not sure how to fix its deficiencies, or if it would be worth it since I’ve already sent it to most of the markets on my list. I have a small break where I might take a look at revision, but more likely I’ll just keep sending it.

Status: on submission.

Changestone – Short Story

This story is currently at a magazine that takes over a year to get back to writers, so I’m just being patient with it a little while longer.

Status: on submission

Drifting in the Wind – Short Story

The more I thought about this story, the more I was at a loss for how to go about rewriting it. Nobody seemed interested in the plot, so it would take a complete re-haul. While I love the world it’s in, I couldn’t come up with a good plot. So I’m trunking it for now.

Status: retiring

Silent Scars – Novella

I like the story, but the sequel novel “Lightning Born” needs more work before I go back to this.

Status: on hiatus

Lightning Born – Novel

Thanks to the push from 4theWords, I actually started prep work on the next draft. Currently, I’m outlining so I can easily see the story. Then I can make high-level changes, which will include more of Stala’s viewpoint, changes in the villain’s motivation, and more. This will remain a lower priority until I win Writers of the Future or have 3 shorts accepted by professional markets.

Status: revising

So, to sum up, in 2018 I want to:

  • Revise “Subverting the Prophecy Subversion”
  • Revise “Tattered Flower”
  • Revise “Soulmates”
  • Revise “Lightning Born”

And add to that:

  • New story for Mormon Lit Blitz – currently planning an alternate history story where there was never a ban on blacks getting the priesthood
  • 2 more stories for Writers of the Future (max 1 revised story)
  • 35 rejections or pro publication
  • Get a 30 day streak on 4theWords.

Accomplishments of 2017

Another year done. Let’s see how I measured up to the goals I set at the beginning of the year.

What I Did That I Planned

  • 1 Draft “Meddling Gods” – No major draft really, but did 5 minor drafts, focusing on a different element each time.
  • Publish “The Legacy Left Behind” as an e-book
  • new story for Mormon Lit Blitz – “Daughters of Ishmael” which is now available as an e-book
  • 2 new stories (or 1 revised story and 1 new story) for Writers of the Future (deadlines September 30 and December 31) – The two new stories are “Soulmates” and “Tattered Flower”.
  • 25 rejections or pro publication – Hit 33 rejections, no pro publication.

What I Didn’t Do That I Planned

  • 1 draft “Drifting in the Wind” – decided to trunk this story instead
  • 1 draft “Lightning Born” – Didn’t work on a draft, but I actually started some prep work for the next draft.

What I Did Instead

  • Rewrite of “After the Escape”
  • New story “Subverting the Prophecy Subversion”
  • Wrote poem “Whirlwind”

I’m surprised at how much of my actual goals that I accomplished. I guess I always think that there’s more I abandoned to chase something shiny, but that only happened once, and Lightning Born was always a stretch goal. All in all, a good year.

Subverting the Prophecy Subversion v 1 is Done!

This story was written only because of the push 4theWords gave me to get words on the page. Since I couldn’t get more words from After the Escape, I decided to do some brainstorming, and wrote down a bit that has been kicking around in my brain about the Evil Overlord killing the prophesied hero before he can rise to power. I liked it so much, I developed it into a flash fiction. And then I liked it so much, I’m starting to develop a novel that will follow the person to take up the mantle of hero.

I’m still not satisfied with the flash version. It doesn’t have a satisfying ending to it. And the hero’s characterization needs some work to make him interesting. But it has potential. And if it doesn’t make it on its own, it will make a good first chapter. 🙂

Statistics:

  • 488 words
  • 1 scene
  • 3 characters

Hugo 2018 Reading – November

Last month I read a bunch of flash fiction. I have some ideas for flash stories, so I want to study what works in that form. Yes, I’ve done well in the Mormon Lit Blitz with those stories, but I’d like to go pro with them too. So here’s what I got around to.

Emergency Scenarios” by Kelly M. Sandoval
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

This story made me laugh. Trisha runs emergency scenarios to asking out her crush, and asks for the worst case scenario, which is everybody dies in a fire. Great characterization in such a short space.

This is also the first story I’ve read with the pronoun ze. I want to learn more about gender non-binary individuals, so I was glad to read it.


The In Between Place” by Kat Day
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

I actually critiqued this story on critters a few months ago. I remembered being really confused by the draft. I wasn’t confused this time, but I can’t put my finger on exactly what changed to bring that about without looking at the two drafts side by side. The descriptions are definitely better, and nice.

It is a bit abstract, which isn’t my taste. I like my art to be definite.


In Spring, the Dawn. In Summer, the Night” by Aidan Doyle
a short story published by PodCastle

The fantasy element of this story didn’t come until the end of the story, so I didn’t have as much interest. Also, while PodCastle called it flash, it really is more than 3,000 words long. The prose is very poetic, fitting since it is about a battle poet. The battle of wits was interesting, though unfortunately a lot went over my head. The culture was portrayed very nicely though.


Winter Witch” by Matt Dovey
a short story published by PodCastle

This year, my niece was stillborn. So this story hit a chord in me. The conclusion was unexpected, but sweet. It is full of inner description which gives the winter witch a wonderful voice.

Review: 4theWords

My current boss on the main quest

My current boss on the main quest

For the last month, I’ve been trying out the site 4thewords.com. It is a site that gamifies writing. You fight monsters, complete quests, and level up based on how many words you write. The monsters are defeated by writing a certain number of words in a time limit. There are a wide variety of monsters, ranging from 100 words to above 1,000, depending on if you want to sprint, or are looking for a longer writing session. Quests vary from fighting monsters for various drops, writing a certain number of days in a row, and fighting bosses.

Before I started using this site, I had been writing mainly one day a week. With the quests motivating me, I’ve managed to get something written most days of the week. A lot of my words have been journaling, or copying over emails, but I have still been more productive than before. Good thing they keep everything I write private, unless I want to publish it. But I don’t plan on putting my finished stories up for awhile.

One thing I really like about their word counter is that deleted words still count. I’m constantly deleting the previous sentence because I thought of a better way to reword it. Also it works for editing. I do my editing in scrivener and then copy over the previous text. The program is smart enough to take the diff and count the words that have been added to the scene in the new copy.

A NaNoWriMo monster for the daily average wordcount

A NaNoWriMo monster for the daily average wordcount

There is a NaNoWriMo event going on now, with special monsters and collectibles. Because they have been trying out some new features, there have been some bugs that the programmers have needed to work out. But they are pretty responsive, and keep everybody informed. Some of the gameplay isn’t intuitive, but there are forums where I’ve been able to get my questions answered just by reading around.

This site makes money on a subscription basis. Everyone gets 1 month free trial. After that, a month costs $3-$4 depending on how much you buy in bulk. You can get a free month for referring a friend. My referral code is RPFFF07932 and if you wish to friend me, my username is Reigheena. I’ve just paid to continue, and I’d love to see you there!

Hugo 2018 Reading – October

I’ve gotten into the swing of things with school starting this month. But I’ve gotten really far behind on my podcasts. So I spend a lot of time listening to Writing Excuses to catch up. I’m glad that I still managed to get my short stories in for the month. I actually liked them all. Just not quite enough to give any five stars.

Rain Ship” by Chi Hui
a novelette published by Clarkesworld

This story had an interesting world – rat-like aliens called Rudera are excavating spaceships left behind by “ancient [spacefaring] humans” which are now extinct. I also liked how the author used footnotes to explain the different customs the Rudera have so that the normal narrative could still flow seamlessly. It had mercenaries, pirates, backstabbing, making for an action-packed plot. I’m not sure why I didn’t completely connect with it. Maybe its how detached Jin was. It fits her, though.


The Lies I’ve Told to Keep You Safe” by Matt Dovey
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

This story packs quite a punch in a short space. The lies tell the story of the progression of an alien invasion of earth, and also indirectly comment on how short-term assuagement of these kinds of lies may not be best in the long run. There’s nothing really wrong with this story. I just wanted more from it, but for the form its in, it did a good job.


James, in the Golden Sunlight of the Hereafter” by Adam-Troy Castro
a short story published by Lightspeed

This story had some great description to it. It’s not how I believe in heaven and hell, so I had to set those aside for this story. It made me think about what paradise really means, and had a nice take. I felt like the pacing was a little slow than I prefer, which is why I didn’t give it a 5.


Bonsai” by Shaenon K. Garrity
a short story published by PodCastle

It took me awhile to realize that this story is told in second person. It works though, to give that feeling of detachment that comes with shock when you’ve received news of cancer while still feeling connected to the character. The treatment for cancer was quite innovative – grow a plant inside you that will feed on the tumor. It has a good callback to Greek myths. This is the story I’m most tempted to give 5 stars to. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as the others I’ve given 5 stars. Maybe because I was wondering for awhile when the speculative element was going to come in.

Goal for 25 Rejections Reached!

I hit my goal to receive 25 rejections this year. Sadly, I didn’t come close to the other condition of my goal – getting professional publication. Oh well. There are still 2 months and 10 days left, so who knows?

Last year, I got 26 rejections, 5 of which were personal. (I count personal as anything that is above and beyond a regular rejection. So honorable mention in Writers of the Future counts, but the personal comments from Fantasy & Science Fiction and Beneath Ceaseless Skies don’t) So far this year, I’ve received 6 personals, which makes me quite happy, since some of these were at markets I hadn’t received a personal before.

I currently have 4 outstanding submissions, 3 of which I expect to hear back from before the end of the year. I also expect to send this latest rejected story back out, once I’ve decided on the best place. Maybe I’ll hit 30 rejections by new year’s. Just have to wait and see.

Stats:

  • 8 stories, 1 poem (128% of 2016)
  • 18 markets (85% of 2016)
  • 6 personal rejections (120% of 2016)
  • 1 acceptance (50% of 2016)