Hugo 2019 Reading – December

I hit a bout of depression in December, which killed my desire to do anything. I did read a bunch of Fairy Tail manga which helped refill my creative well, but that doesn’t count for the Hugos. So most of this was read in the past week. Here’s what I got to.

(5 stars) “A Bond as Deep as Starlit Seas” by Sarah Grey
a short story published by Lightspeed

Though I haven’t studied computer science in ten years, I still appreciate when I come across a story with AI that feels like artificial intelligence instead of a human inside a computer. Though Cleo’s AI had emotions, it felt natural, like it came directly from the intuitive programming meant to give the captain optimum comfort. And it is natural that would form a bond between the two. I appreciated that. I liked the emotional wrangling, and the solution formed at the end.


(5 stars) Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
a novel published by Delacorte Press

Like “A Bond as Deep as Starlit Skies” I liked the AI in this book. And the hacking wasn’t handwavy “I suddenly have access to everything.” It gave enough details to know it was following the rules of security that we currently have. The characters were all delightful. Very distinct. Made us care when people died. I especially liked the examination of when it was worth it to eject, and when it was worth it to save the plane. I liked the twists and the battle tactics. Looking forward to the next in the series.


Sour Milk Girls” by Erin Roberts
a short story published by Clarkesworld

This felt like a raw look at the foster care system, and was an interesting examination of the effect memories of trauma has on people’s behavior. The metaphors gave it a real gritty feel. It’s not my favorite thing to read, but it was definitely intriguing.


The Things I Miss the Most” by Nisi Shawl
a short story published by Uncanny

I really appreciate this look at the side effects of a futuristic method to treat seizures. Stories about people with disabilities feel refreshing as they overcome challenges I am not familiar with. The description of interacting with an imaginary friend, complete with wonder about whether she interacted with the world or not, drew me in.


Court of Birth, Court of Strength” by Aliette de Bodard
a novelette published by Beneath Ceaseless Skies

I was put off this story at first, because I really didn’t like Asmodeus. By the end, my dislike had decreased, but I still wasn’t a fan. The prose was really beautiful. Even though I didn’t completely understand what was going on in this world, I was able to just let things go.

Goals for 2019

If I Perish, I Perish – Short Story
I’m planning on submitting this retelling of Esther for the 2019 Mormon Lit Blitz. Still needs some polishing before then, as I’ve only written a single draft so far.

Status: revising

Leo’s Human Diary – Novelette
After I’ve made this story as good as I can, I plan on publishing it on Fanfiction.net. May not get me any money, but maybe it will get me some fans.

Status: revising

Masculine Rescue – Short story
I wasn’t liking this story, so I quit working on the draft part way through. Maybe one day I’ll come back to it, but not now.

Status: retiring

Soulmates – Short story
I just got feedback from critters on this story. Some of that feedback triggered a bit of depression in myself. It just feels like I’ve been working on this story forever, and it isn’t there yet. But it has been improving. Hopefully this time I can get something publishable.

Status: revising

Drone of a Fal’Cie – short story
This story is currently in the critters queue awaiting criticism. It hasn’t gone through any beta readers, so even though it got flat out rejected from Writers of the Future, I’m looking forward to a rewrite.

Status: revising

Tattered Flower – Short story
This story is currently on submission, and I can’t think of anything more to do to improve it. Hopefully this year it finds a home.

Status: on submission

Refusing the Call – Short story
Like Tattered Flower, this story is also currently on submission, and I can’t think of anything more to do to improve it. It’s one I really want to find a home.

Status: on submission

Subverting the Prophecy Subversion – Short story
I wasn’t happy with the plot from this story, so I took the world and created “Refusing the Call”. I like that one much better. Maybe one day I’d come back to this plot, but not in the near future.

Status: retiring

After the Escape – Short Story
This story did well in Writers of the Future, but as I pondered changes, I started to feel uneasy about it. It’s a story about the culture clash a fantasy Japanese person would feel about going back to the country they were born in after being raised in fantasy Germany, and I don’t think I’m doing it with enough cultural sensitivity. Maybe someday I’ll figure out how to tell it.

Status: retiring

Meddling Gods – Novelette
This story has been rejected at pretty much all the markets that will take something this long and pay at least 1 cent per word. Time to trunk it.

Status: retiring

Unstop the Wind – Short story
This story has been rejected at pretty much every market I have on my list. It’s gotten great feedback, but I think it’s time to trunk it.

Status: retiring

Changestone – Short story
This story has been at its current market for almost 2 years now. It’s possible it could still be accepted, but if it isn’t, it’s getting trunked.

Status: on submission

Silent Scars – Novella
I have no plans or desire to work on this any time in the future.

Status: retiring

Lightning Born – Novel
I have been feeling like my grasp on the world is not very good at all. Maybe one day I’ll come back to this novel. I do love the magic system in it. But not right now.

Status: retiring

I feel sad to be abandoning so many stories. Also, the rejections got to me this year. Which is part of why I wanted to work on “Leo’s Human Diary” – it’s a purely for me project so I can refill my well. Since I don’t have as many stories ready for submission right now, I don’t know how many rejections I want to try for this year. So I think I’ll skip that goal this year. Similarly, I’m going to skip my goal of submitting every quarter to Writers of the Future.

Now this does free me up to try NaNoWriMo in 2019. I was actually tempted to this year, but decided not to. Good thing, because I was pretty stressed that month. But starting this fall, all my kids will be in school full day. And I’ve started working on a novel idea. November is hard for me, so maybe I won’t try for the full 50,000. But it would be fun to get something started!

So to sum up, in 2019 I want to:

  • Revise “If I Perish, I Perish”
  • Revise & publish “Leo’s Human Diary”
  • Revise “Soulmates”
  • Revise “Drone of a Fal’Cie”
  • Write timetravel/shapeshifter novel

Accomplishments of 2018

This month I’ve felt really depressed about my goals. But when I look at last year’s resolutions and accomplishments, it’s not been as bad as I thought.

What I Did That I Planned

  • Revise “Tattered Flower”
  • Revise “Soulmates”
  • New story for Mormon Lit Blitz – “All Worthy Men”
  • Get a 30 day streak on 4theWords.

What I Didn’t Do That I Planned

  • Revise “Subverting the Prophecy Subversion”
  • Revise “Lightning Born” – did start brainstorming changes
  • 2 more stories for Writers of the Future (max 1 revised story) – I submitted 3 out of 4 quarters this year.
  • 35 rejections or pro publication – received 32 rejections, no pro publication

What I Did Instead

  • Wrote 3 drafts of “Refusing the Call”
  • Wrote 1 draft of “If I Perish, I Perish”
  • Revised “Unstop the Wind”
  • Started draft of “Masculine Rescue”
  • Wrote 1 draft of “Leo’s Human Diary”

Leo’s Human Diary v 0 is Done!

Back in high school, I wrote fanfic for Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z. Then I started writing original fiction, and thought I’d never go back.

This summer, I decided to start watching Fairy Tail. My cousins were posting and liking memes about it, and I thought the chick in armor looked pretty awesome. She was, but the character I fell for was Loke. This caught me completely by surprise. I hate womanizers. But his tragic backstory sent me back through past episodes, examining his character to the point that I started to contemplate fanfiction, and it wouldn’t be satisfied with just an outline.

I didn’t want to write it, because I knew it wouldn’t ever earn me any money. But that need to tell the story was still there. So I decided to treat it like a writing exercise. I went into it with two goals. One – give Loke an “I’m a Fairy Tail wizard” moment. These are very emotional points in the anime, and I wanted to see if I could recreate it. Two – unfridge Aries. Ok, she didn’t actually die, but it bothered me that all of Loke’s sympathy was bought by Aries’s suffering. So I wanted her to have some agency, even though her role couldn’t be seen in the foreground.

I haven’t hit the intensity of the first goal as well as I’d like, so I am going to do another rewrite before asking for beta readers.

Stats:

  • Started: October 24
  • Finished: December 29
  • 8,856 words
  • 3 parts
  • 15 scenes
  • 44 pictures of manga for research
  • 20 entries in excel timeline

Hugo 2019 Reading – November

November was a bit of a whirlwind for me. Beyond holidays and life, I did another draft of Soulmates, though I never blogged about it. Waiting for some feedback from beta readers before submitting it again. And I’ve been reading/watching Fairy Tail. Became a bit obsessed with it, actually, to the point I’m actually writing fanfiction for the first time in 15 years. Before talking about that though, here are the stories I read this month:

Waves of Influence” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires
a short story published by Clarkesworld

Halfway through, this story had a plot twist that took it to a surprising, yet inevitable ending, and in doing so made an interesting commentary on people who seek fame through social media. For some reason, I never felt attached to the character, probably because I didn’t understand her motivation of becoming someone else to get her sister’s attention.


Monologue by an unnamed mage, recorded at the brink of the end” by Cassandra Khaw
a short story published by Uncanny

This story is very poetic. I do prefer my prose plain, so I didn’t get as much out of this story, but I can appreciate the beautiful turns of phrase and the emotion behind it.


(5 stars) “The Thing About Ghost Stories” by Naomi Kritzer
a novelette published by Uncanny

I love the emotion Kritzer is able to put into her stories. This one, about the connection the narrator had with her mother and the struggle of dealing with Alzheimer’s and death was really sweet. And its an interesting juxtaposition with the narrator’s own skepticism of ghost stories that have a beginning, middle, and end. It surprised me, made me laugh. Really good story.


Care” by Michael W Cho
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

I don’t particularly care for this kind of story, where we don’t get the full details of the situation until the end. I didn’t really buy that Makato was feeling love at the end either. I didn’t understand who he was supposed to love or why. I guess its supposed to be Care, but she was so clinical, that it felt like she was caring for him because it was her job, not because she loved him first.


Rotkäppchen” by Emily McCosh
a short story published by Shimmer

This story is full of great sensory detail and a mournful mood. It’s an interesting twist to the Red Riding Hood story, about Little Red when she’s now a grandma, passing the legacy to her granddaughter, and the wolves aren’t evil. Personally, I didn’t care for the wolf’s obfuscation, but to each his own.

Hugo 2019 Reading – October

It’s been a busy month. At least I have settled in to my writing schedule pretty nicely. I’m only writing 3 days a week, but I’m getting more total done than before, and I feel more relaxed about getting my chores done on the off days. Since its hard to break 1,000 words a day, I’m not doing NaNo, even if I was at a point where I was drafting more instead of editing. Perhaps next year when all my kids are at school full time I’ll get around to it. In the meantime, here’s what I read.

If Only Kissing Made it So” by Jason Kimble
a short story published by Cast of Wonders

The characterization of this first kiss story was good. I could really feel Martin’s desire and confusion over everything. The time travel bit was neat too, and it resolved paradoxes by making each day have to match up with what happened originally.


(5 stars) “Shod in Memories” by M.K. Hutchins
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

I enjoy fairy tale retellings, and this was no exception. I especially loved how Ella expressed disappointment that the prince didn’t recognize her the next day after dancing at the ball, and that the prince wasn’t in love after just one night. He went around the kingdom looking for her just because he wanted to ask her about her shoe. Very cute story.


“This Isn’t a Home, It’s a Wilderness” by Holly Lyn Walrath
a short story published by Flame Tree Press

This story will be on the Flame Tree Press website next month, so no link yet. I had a hard time getting into the story. It definitely feels like a metaphor for all the ills that went into colonizing here on Earth. So it was hard to care about any of the humans who traveled to this alien planet.


Fitting In” by Max Gladstone
a novelette by Tor.com

Though I enjoy the Wild Cards universe, I found myself falling asleep while reading this, as I’ve not been sleeping well lately. So, the inability to pay attention spoiled my enjoyment of the story a bit. I do like the struggle to do good in mundane ways (as a guidance counselor at a middle school) as well as fantastic (busting a group of thugs that want to force a bakery to sell to them). Jan was hilarious.


The Multiverse of Michael Merriweather” by Stephen S. Power
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

This story felt like a series of vignettes than a real story. I do like alternate futures, but I felt a bit let down at the ending when we learned why someone was seeing all these different futures. I couldn’t see what had changed.


(5 stars) “STET” by Sarah Gailey
a short story published by Fireside Magazine

The desktop version of this story clues you in right away that this story is told in the footnotes and editorial notes and not the textbook text that is presented first in the mobile version. Since I first read this on my phone, I was a bit confused at first, and almost didn’t go read all the footnotes. I’m glad I did. It’s a haunting look at the ethics of training AI, and expectations on dealing with grief. And I thought the unusual form was great.

Hugo 2019 Reading – September

School has started. Schedules are adjusting. And in the middle of it all, I went on the WXR18 cruise. It’s all been good, though my short fiction listening has put on the back burner. I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things this month. Nothing stood out to me, but it was all decent.

Ghost of the Pepper” by M.K. Hutchins
a short story published by Flash Fiction Online

An interesting allegory about peppers holding the sorrows of the dead, and how it’s better to share grief than try to process it all by yourself.


When You’re Ready” by M. Ian Bell
a short story published by Apex

An interesting look at how choices and environment shape a person’s life, including how tough times are necessary. It’s also a look at second chances, repairing lost relationships. I did have a hard time following the story though. Not sure if that’s due to listening or not though. There were two separate stories to follow that came together at the end.


Penitents” by Rich Larson
a short story published by Beneath Ceaseless Skies

A post-apocalyptic story. It was hard for me to understand the punishment of the cubes on the people. I guess they wanted the people to suffer, but it seemed pointless. Especially when it was the sin of the parents that destroyed the world. That did seem to be the emotion that Larson was going for though, because the end hints at hope of it ending. The depiction of the characters from separate worlds was well contrasted.


Disconnect” by Fran Wilde
a novelette published by Uncanny

It was hard for me to suspend my disbelief for Izze’s condition. Part of it is the idea that her body parts went all the way to different galaxies, which seems really hard to find. Part of it is her saying that joints went missing. I understand bones leaving – but what constitutes the joint? Both bones that meet? The muscles & tendons that move it? Conversely, I had no problem suspending my disbelief of the anti-aging Severin.

I did like the depiction of Izze’s struggles. And how at the end, she turned her disability into a positive, almost like X-Men. Also, this time, I actually felt fear of “the scientists are going to study me!” It’s a fear that happens so often in mutant stories that didn’t seem founded that I’ve started to roll my eyes when I hear it. This story grounded me well, from the lack of answers from previous studies, to the harm that Severin was going through.


Ruby, Singing” by Fran Wilde
a short story published by Beneath Ceaseless Skies

This story is very poetic, in the prose, as well as the lyrics that run throughout. A lot of details that suddenly gain more meaning when you understand what’s going on. It ends in a beautiful tragedy, which are the kinds of stories I don’t normally read.

Drones of a Fal’Cie v 2 is Done!

Drones of a Fal'Cie cover copyI was running up right against the deadline for this one. And then I was so relieved to get it done, I forgot to blog about it. That ending has been hard to nail down. I restructured it AGAIN, cut some characters, put them in somewhere else, and most importantly, focused on the relationship of the mother and daughter. I feel good about what I ended up with, but don’t expect it to do well in the contest as nobody else has read any of it. I’m just glad I hit deadline.

Stats:

  • Started September 6
  • Finished September 29
  • 6,782 words (137% of v1)
  • 3 scenes (100% of v1)

 

Hugo 2019 Reading – August

I only ended up listening to one story this month. It’s been hard to motivate myself to hand-wash dishes, which is when I listen to podcasts. We’ve had a busy time, with classes and visiting. Now that school’s starting, (with three kid-free mornings a week!) I’m looking forward to getting lots of writing done. In the meantime, here’s what I read.

After the First Comes the Last” by Holly Lyn Walrath
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

This was a poignant story about how selfishness and lots of power in youth evolved into thoughts bigger than self but running low on power later on. Speaks to truth in life, and very feminist as well.


Glass in Frozen Time” by M. K. Hutchins
a short story published by Diabolical Plots

I love superhero stories and stories about family. So I loved that this put the two together. What was unique was that it was about a family after a mission had gone badly, and denying the PTSD that went along with that. My only complaint was the daughter’s actions at the end didn’t quite seem realistic. Then again, I’ve never been around little kids that have had to take the adult role.


Red Lizard Brigade” by Sam J. Miller
a short story published by Uncanny

I feel like I would have understood this story better if I had read it. The story segments first go backwards in time, and then forwards again, and that’s something I couldn’t quite keep straight in audio. The setup for this world is cool – opening a portal to prehistoric times to get dinosaurs to train for warfare. I’d be interested in reading other stories from this issue.


(5 stars) “Field Biology of the Wee Fairies” by Naomi Kritzer
a short story published by Apex Magazine

This story really spoke to me. Amelia is a lot like me – someone who was more interested in school than in being pretty. I loved how she dealt with the expectations of catching a fairy in order to get pretty, and that the other pretty girls were also interested in science as well. A nice piece of wish fulfillment.


(5 stars) “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by Tina Connolly
a novelette published by Tor.com

I love magical foods, and I really liked how this one used memories to tell messages and bring down the Tyrant King. The flashbacks were full of emotion, the intrigue intense. And the end was surprising, yet inevitable. Very well done.

Drones of a Fal’Cie v 1 is Done!

Drones of a Fal'Cie cover copy

This draft took a lot longer than I thought it would. The ending was hard for me to set up. I ended up having to throw away 500 words (an entire day’s work) because I’d gone down the wrong path. Because of the difficulty, I was having a hard time motivating myself to write until I started rewarding myself with multi-pulls from Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia for every 1,000 words or so. (I’m still using 4thewords, but the quests there have turned into grinding, which doesn’t excite me. Also, the monsters don’t seem to fit as well with my writing routine. Maybe when school starts and I have more uninterrupted time, it will be better.)

I am quite happy with the structure of what I ended up with. There’s still a lot to flesh out. I also worry about some things being confusing, but I don’t have much time for critique if I’m going to get this ready to be submitted by the end of September.

Stats:

  • Started July 20
  • Finished August 16
  • 1,406 words brainstorming changes
  • 4,949 words (150% of v 0)
  • 3 scenes (60% of v 0)