Hugo 2020 Reading – November

This month, instead of NaNoWriMo, I focused on doing writing exercises. I had meant to only take 20-30 minutes a day with them, but some took my entire writing time. It was quite instructive. I haven’t focused much on exercises before, because my writing time was so scarce, I thought I couldn’t afford to give time to a “warmup.” I don’t know when I would focus on exercises again, but it is definitely something I’ll consider in the future.

Anyway, here’s what I read this month.

Professor Strong and the Brass Boys” by Amal Singh
a short story published by Apex Magazine

The podcast of this story was worth listening to. They added music to the background, which complemented the story as the androids learned how to play instruments in pursuit of leisure. There were a few moments where I wasn’t sure if Professor Strong felt like a robot, and while I can believe a robot can learn to play violin faster than a human, I couldn’t suspend my disbelief that Professor Strong could immediately switch from guitar to violin with no practice. Yet, when we got to the end, I cared about rim, and I really felt the emotion as rhe set about defying the humans.


A Song for the Leadwood Tree” by Aimee Ogden
a short story published by Beneath Ceaseless Skies

I had a hard time paying attention to this story as I was listening. It could have been other distractions as well as listening to it in chunks. I missed the time transitions so was often confused when scenes were taking place. This is also a secondary world that doesn’t have any speculative elements except that it’s not on earth, which is not my favorite. The prose is beautifully written though, full of emotion.


Remember to Breathe” by Matt Dovey
a short story published by Cast of Wonders

The gay romance in this story is sweet. The post apocalyptic feel was well-done, too. I did feel like some of the character changes were a bit sudden, though ultimately believable.


“Dark Equations of the Heart” by David Cleden
a novelette published in Writers of the Future vol 35

I had a hard time suspending my disbelief that mathematical proofs could send people into ecstasy. I also am not fond of stories about addicts, so this story was not for me. I also didn’t like the treatment of Isobel, the one female, as she was victimized multiple times and really didn’t use agency. The prose itself was well written.


(5 stars) “This is Not My Adventure” by Karlo Yeager Rodríguez
a short story published by Uncanny

Several people were raving about this story on Twitter, so I decided to give it a try. It hit me so hard, I was crying, and I don’t cry easily. As someone who has struggled with depression, I found this depiction very true to life – the numbness, the lack of desire to do anything. And then to have the companions from a long ago Narnia-like adventure come and help, it was so sweet.

Hugo 2020 Reading – October

Besides the following short stories, this month I also read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern for book club. Funny thing is that I didn’t know it was fantasy when I started reading. I quite enjoyed it. Now I’ve got Phasma and Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson from the library to prepare for our trip to Galaxy’s Edge next year. These are actually the first Star Wars book I’ve read (my husband has read several) so I’m interested in seeing how much I enjoy them after all the “hit or miss” reviews I’ve heard for Star Wars books in general.

But now, the short fiction.

White Sand 3 by Brandon Sanderson and Rik Hoskin
A graphic story published by Dynamite Entertainment

Perhaps its because it’s been so long since I’ve read the previous volumes, but I wasn’t as drawn into this. Revelations didn’t have as much impact since I was thinking “who were you again?”

I think also that the visual aspect of the magic system doesn’t draw me in like the descriptions in Sanderson’s novels. I like to see the character’s thought process as they work out how to use the limitations to their advantage. So during the sandmaster duel, I couldn’t see how Kenton was able to outskill Drile.

This did explore interesting aspects of the world, and how being on a tidally locked planet would affect the people. It does wrap up the trilogy, while opening new doors to explore in the future.


Release from Service” by Rustin Lovewell
a novelette published in Writers of the Future vol 35

The only speculative element of this story is that it’s in a society with a different setup than on earth. No magic, and no special technology. There is a strict caste system, with one of the highest being assassins. It was an intriguing setup, but in the climax, things fell apart for me. We got revelations that there were plots within plots, and new characters were introduced and I felt a bit lost.


(5 stars) “Life Sentence” by Matthew Baker
a novelette published by Lightspeed

With my writing of “Immortal Judgment” I’ve been intrigued by how other authors have treated justice in speculative ways. I thought this treatment – where punishment was measured in memories erased, was quite innovative, and explored really well. Not only was there the effect it had on Wash and his family, but there was also exploration on nature vs nurture in how behavior is shaped by memories. I was disappointed at the end that I didn’t know for sure what Wash chose to do with the research, but the final sentences fit the theme better than cementing Wash’s decision.


Elegy for a Slaughtered Swine” by Rafaela Ferraz
a short story published by Podcastle

I’m not a big fan of werewolf stories, or tragedies, and this was both. There is a rich dark tone to it, full of longing and guilt. Just wasn’t for me.


This is How” by Marie Brennan
a short story published by Strange Horizons

(Note: Can’t double check the link due to site outage, which also means I’m reviewing from memory instead of referring to the text to cement my first impressions)

The valravens were interesting creatures – shapeshifters that kill those it comes across. It’s told in a factual tone, which makes sense, because it’s hard to have sympathy for a killer, but it also meant I wasn’t as invested when it had remorse and tried to figure out how to change.


A Catalog of Storms” by Fran Wilde
a short story published by Uncanny

This story has some beautiful and almost whimsical descriptions of weather and storms. And through it all is a tale of grief, shown through the eyes of those left behind when sacrifices herself for the greater good. While I admire the craft of this story, it was too slow for my taste.


Heal Thyself” by Joshua Alexander
a short story published by The Arcanist

For some reason, I thought this was a zombie story when it started, so it took me a moment to reassert that thinking in my mind. It was a mostly believable post-apocalyptic story. I did wonder why Davis wasn’t put into quarantine when he arrived at the tower, and why Davis was the only one to not fall ill when exposed to the plague. At least only half guessed the ending.


(5 stars) “Brick-red Love” by Dawn Vogel
a short story published by The Arcanist

This portal story may fall into the category of “it’s been done before.” I did like that it wasn’t a portal to an alternate universe, but back home to family, and that her choice was between her parents & extended family and her fiancée. It felt real to me.


Vending Machine” by Jeff Gard
a short story published by The Arcanist

I’m not particularly fond of zombie stories as it is, and in this one, it was hard to see how far away the zombies were, or why they were so slow to come attack the kids. I was also confused about how the mom had died previously. It almost sounded like she also died in front of this same vending machine when they tried to get food. I also don’t like stories with characters who say “Kill me before I turn into a monster.”


Apologies for Any Inconvenience” by Jennifer Milne
a short story published by The Arcanist

From the beginning, I could guess how the narrator’s situation of accidentally being filed as dead was going to be rectified. Still, it was humorous, if a bit drawn out.

Guardian Spirits v 3 is Done!

When this story received a straight rejection, I was a little despondent. But when I sent it to critters, it was nice to see such a clear reason for it – things (especially the beginning) were too confusing. I backed up a bit at the beginning to set things up better, so it feels that issue has been solved.

I’m still not that happy with it. I love the theme of the story, but I need Aleron to be a more engaging character. I really do need to sit down and structure this story to hit the beats better, which will enhance Aleron’s inner/outer conflict. Right now, Verdell’s just too interesting of a character and takes over. 🙂

Stats:

  • Started: October 21
  • Finished October 23
  • 1,753 words (127% the size of v 2)

Immortal Judgment v 1 is Done!

I’m pretty pleased with this draft. Instead of cutting or combining anything, I ended up fleshing things out. Now it’s much stronger. It’s got better description, and stronger character moments.

I still have notes for several things I want to tweak before sending it to beta readers, but I don’t anticipate that taking too long. Some were new ideas that I got after I had passed that point in writing. Others were because I was taking too long to come up with a specific item or action, so I just noted it and moved on.

Stats:

  • Started September 23
  • Finished October 9
  • 4,196 words (135% size of v0)
  • 9 scenes (100% size of v0)
  • 6 research pages (new ones: Belgian palace, Belgian royalty)

Hugo 2020 Reading – September

Wow. Now that kids are back in school, my time has been freed up so much. Not only do I get uninterrupted time to write, I get uninterrupted time to listen to podcasts while I do chores. Plus my health has been improving, so I’ve been going through stories at a much faster pace. Here’s what I got to this month.

The Catfish” by Earnest Nadim
a short story published by The Arcanist

This was a cute story about an orc online dating a hag, who each thought the other was an elf. It was a bit predictable. My biggest complaint though, was the callousness of Ziv and Sleepy. There was no reason given for why the orc needed to die except for the fact that he was an orc.


How the Trick is Done” by A.C. Wise
a short story published by Uncanny

This was an interesting story – about the nameless magician who manipulates love triangles for his gain, and how those he manipulates got revenge on him. It’s a dark tale, with shifting times and points of view, but never confusing. The only reason I didn’t give it five stars is because horror isn’t my jam, but I do appreciate the artistry in this story.


N-coin” by Tobias S. Buckell
a short story published by Apex Magazine

Content warning: suicidal ideation

This story had an intriguing idea – cryptocurrency as a way for blacks to receive reparations. I didn’t understand how the cryptocurrency worked, but it was hard for me to feel sorry for the guy when it looked like he bought into what looked like a scam. Telling it by a guy on the verge of jumping off a building made me a bit squeamish as well.


When Sirens Sing of Roses and of Delegated Power” by Nin Harris
a short story published by Beneath Ceaseless Skies

I chose this story because I was working on “The Mermaid’s Voice” at the time. This has a lot of beautiful imagery, though the pace felt slow at times. Especially for a magical heist gone wrong. It wasn’t so much about outwitting, as it was coming to understanding, which is ok. I just wanted more heistiness though.


Blame it on the Bees” by Rachel Menard
a short story published by Cast of Wonders

This story was full of emotion as Dee deals with the death of her lover. The speculative element didn’t come up until half-way through the story, which is why it’s not a five star, but it was fun when it did appear.


The Second Nanny” by Djuna
a novelette published by Clarkesworld

As I was listening to this story, I felt lost in who each scene was focusing on and keeping straight if we were in flashback or not. I would probably have handled it better if I were reading. It was an interesting far-future world, with an intriguing problem & solution. I just wish I was engaged enough to feel the full impact.

The Mermaid’s Voice v 2 is Done!

I think this story is the one of mine that has gotten the most positive response from Critters yet. Yet, I still found plenty of things to improve – points to clarify, details to add.

Now I’m feeling really good about it as I send it off on submission. My goal was to keep it under 500 words so it would do well at Daily Science Fiction, and I’ve done that. Now to see if the editors like it.

Stats:

  • Started September 19
  • Finished September 20
  • 496 words (162% v 1)

Immortal Judgment v 0 is Done!

While I was trying to get up the motivation to edit “Drones of a Fal’Cie” after finishing v1 of “The Mermaid’s Voice” someone posted a question on a writer’s group on Facebook that prompted me to share an idea I had for a brand new story. I looked at how excited I was for this new story, and how I was dithering on DOAF because I hadn’t really planned how to fix the ending, and decided it was time to switch.

“Immortal Judgment” is a very meaty story. It’s also one that could go very wrong. For starters, it’s got a very diverse cast of characters, requiring me to use the skills I learned in the “Writing the Other” class. And as these characters interact with bias in the judicial system, and power structures, there’s a lot of issues. I’m hoping to avoid landmines, but I’ll have to wait for beta reads to see how well I did.

In the meantime, I have a lot of fleshing out to do. I didn’t describe things as well as they needed. And I need to decide if there are scenes that I want to combine, as they’re really short.

Stats:

  • Started August 28
  • Finished September 12
  • 3,088 words
  • 9 scenes
  • 7 named characters
  • 4 research pages (starvation, Vietnamese clothing, dual wielding, and pink lakes)

Hugo 2020 Reading – August

August was pretty much a lost cause for writing. I changed meds again, wiping me out on the weekends, and sapping my energy on the weekdays. It didn’t help that I’ve been avoiding “Drones of a Fal’Cie” because I never came up with a fix for the many concerns people had about the ending. But I have two shiny new stories to work on, so that’s fun.

As for reading, I’ve been reading some non-fiction for book club – Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King which have both been fascinating reads. Here’s the fiction I got to.

“Are You the Life of the Party?” by Mica Scotti Kole
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 35

This sci-fi story turned into horror at the end, so not my usual interest. I still felt a bit confused at the end about what the prank was that led to Eddie’s state of mind. I did like that it upended the trope that if a scientific experiment goes wrong, the scientist should be executed, when any regular scientist would want to study those results and figure out why.


Temptation” by Karuna Riazi
a short story published by Podcastle

I must have missed things in this story when I was listening to it, because I became confused as to what had happened to Kayla. I did like the Islamic folklore and the approach of fasting to refuse enchanted food that would entrap you. It had tantalizing descriptions of said food, as well as the memory of food.


The Weather Dancer” by Aisha Phoenix
a short story published by Strange Horizons

The fantastical element is more subtle in this story. It’s a slow, gentle story, about death and mourning. Lots of emotion. Just not what I look for from the stories I choose.


A Prophecy Fulfilled” by Stephen Charles Curro
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

I could see the twist coming as I read this story, but it was still a fun read. I did find the sign of the comet and the sign of the bruised forest confusing. The former, because I thought the red streak was the Winged Terror itself, and not just a sign, and the bruised forest because I didn’t think a disease would spread that fast. Still I had fun reading it.


(5 stars) “Loneliness in Transit, Sixty Light Years from Earth” by Kurt Hunt
a short story published by Flash Fiction Online

I’m a sucker for parent-child stories, so this one pulled me in right away, even though the parent was an artificial intelligence of a ship, and the child was a construct incubating a new start for humanity. Starting colonization of a new planet is common, but this take on it felt really fresh. I also loved the image of a zombie space-bat.

The Mermaid’s Voice v 1 is Done

In May, I was inspired by all the MerMay pictures artists posted to come up with a mermaid story. I came up with one, put it in my idea dump file, and forgot about it.

Fast forward to this month. I’m changing meds again, which threw me off my writing groove. It could also be an excuse for not wanting to get towards writing the hard climax of Drones of a Fal’Cie, but I digress. I was also realizing that I probably wasn’t going to get DOAF done in time to submit to Writers of the Future for this quarter, and then I remembered this mermaid idea, and figured I could polish up a flash fiction in time.

And so The Mermaid’s Voice v0 was written on Monday, and v1 was written on Tuesday. I’m surprised with how short it is, but feel like it still tells a full story. I’m going to send it off to critters, and then get it ready for submission.

Stats:

  • Started August 20, 3:47 pm
  • Finished August 20, 4:21 pm
  • 306 words (173% v0)

Hugo 2020 Reading – July

With a family reunion in the middle of July, and then spending my writing time promoting “Tattered Flower” and creating e-books, I feel like my goals have gone completely askew. Ah well. Even if I don’t get a rhythm together for August, I’ll have September with three kids in school to focus on my writing and reading.

Tattered Flower by Annaliese Lemmon
a short story published by The Arcanist

My story came out this month! Of course I enjoyed reading it. 🙂


The Staircase to the Moon” by M. K. Hutchins
a short story published by Fireside Magazine

This was an interesting look at the evolution of civilization through the eyes of the goddess that cares for them. I especially liked the theme of sacrifice and legacy, and wanted to spend more time on that than a flash piece allowed.


(5 stars) “Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler” by Wulf Moon
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 35

When I realized that this story was about a girl who uses a robot dog to breathe who lives on the moon, I was sold. I love stories about people with disabilities. The voice of the character was great. The conflict was personal, and the resolution sweet.


(5 stars) “Lost Robot” by Dean Wesley Smith
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 35

I liked this story for how fun it was. Sky’s extraordinary abilities are revealed to the reader a piece at a time, in a matter-of-fact way, which is a technique I hadn’t seen before. My only complaint is that the conflict was fairly easily overcome, though I suppose the catharsis comes from the characters finding peace, rather than overcoming something huge.


#Blessed” by Wendy Nikel
a short story published by The Arcanist

This was a sweet story about a mommy blogger and perception vs reality. I had two main complaints with this story. 1st, it’s set 10 years or so in the future, and didn’t have much of a speculative element to it. 2nd, I’ve seen articles examining this aspect of life, so it didn’t seem to add much.


The Apprentice” by Wayne Martin
a short story published by The Arcanist

Wayne was actually one of my beta readers for “Tattered Flower” so it’s funny that our stories were published a week apart by the same magazine. This was a cute story of a wizard and his apprentice. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t get 5 stars because it felt like standard fantasy fare instead of anything special. I wasn’t surprised at the twist.