Hugo 2020 Reading – May

My writing this last month focused on getting an essay and short story ready for the Mormon Lit Blitz. Neither was fantasy, which is why I did not post about finishing drafts here. I feel more confident with the essay than the story, even though I haven’t written essays since college. So we’ll see how they do.

I do have some big news though – “Tattered Flower” sold to The Arcanist and will likely be published July 12. Hooray! I’ll get an author commentary up that day, and create free e-books soon after.

But now, the stuff I’ve read:

Cold Iron Comfort” by Hayley Stone
a short story published by Apex

I’m not a fan of gritty stories like this one, even though I know the subject matter of escaping abuse matters to some people. I did like the fae aspects, and how the trans experience changed things. The details really felt grounded, and the ending satisfied.


Adrianna in Pomegranate” by Samantha Mills
a short story published by Beneath Ceaseless Skies

I like stories that get into nitty gritty of how magic works, and this one did that – showing how materials and tools would affect the writing magic. I was put off at first by the unconventional structure of the story, but it does fit the story well. I wonder if it would have worked better if I had read it instead of listening to it. As it was, it was a bit hard to keep track of the characters until I was half-way through. I did feel touched at the ending though.


“The First Warden” by Kai Wolden
a novelette published in Writers of the Future volume 35

I was thrown out of this story at the beginning. Shae saves Noch because he perceives that Noch would live. But there’s no consideration of the fact that Noch could still infect others with the plague. No quarantine is mentioned, and people who want to stay away from him are disregarded as superstitious. That would make sense after a certain time, but not right away. It was also hard to feel for Shae when his conflict with the council was largely kept nebulous.


(5 stars) “Why I Spared the One Brave Soul Between Me and My Undead Army” by Setsu Uzume
a short story published by Cast of Wonders

This story is absolutely my jam – a fantasy battle between good and evil. I didn’t expect to get so invested in an anti-hero, but though thoroughly evil, Layla had a good sense of honor, a dash of humor, keen intellect, and cool shadow powers. And Regan was awesome in their relentlessness in their pursuit of justice. The story definitely promises a beautiful showdown between the two sometime in the future.


“The Damned Voyage” by John Haas
a novelette published in Writers of the Future volume 35

I have never been interested in Cthulu stories, so this story wasn’t for me. My biggest complaints are in terms of details. I kept wondering what ethnicity the thieves were that Doctor Shaw was pursuing – Indian or English. Also, at one point, he looks around the room, says all is in order, but no mention has been given to what he did with the clothes he took out of the trunk and strew across the bed, or the blood that should be all over the floor from the man he killed. Doctor Shaw was an interesting character at least, and I liked Stephen’s ghost, though he was in the story too briefly.

Hugo 2020 Reading – April

It’s only been a couple weeks since my last roundup, so I haven’t had time to finish any of my story podcasts yet. So the stories I read for this month were all picked from different markets that I’ve submitted to at some point to help me see what they are looking for. I am disappointed that I still haven’t found any stories that I love yet. I’ll just have to keep reading.

Bedtime Snacks for Baby” by Catherine George
a short story published by Flash Fiction Online

As a mom, I loved that the conflict of this story was feeding a baby. The linguavore was an interesting idea. It had good conflict, and a bittersweet resolution. It just wasn’t deep enough to get five stars from me. Probably a fault of the short form.


Why Aren’t Millennials Continuing Worship of the Elder Dark?” by Matt Dovey
a short story published by Diabolical Press

I am not familiar with Lovecraftian horror, so I’m sure a lot of understanding sailed right past me as I read this. Like Dovey, I’m tired of the “Millennials are killing x industry” articles, so I was glad to see this parody. I did feel like it dragged on too long, though.


The Book” by S.E. Reid
a short story published by Mysterion

I’m not a fan of horror, so this slow, creepy tale wasn’t to my usual taste. However, I did enjoy the fact that the conflict of this story was more about the ghosts within Monty than the ghosts within the haunted house. I also liked that it was a tale in a setting I don’t see often – African Americans on a road trip in the 1950s through segregation and Jim Crow.


“Untrained Luck” by Elise Stephens
a novelette published by Writers of the Future 35

This story had some good descriptions and an interesting world. However, I could see the plot twist coming from the first introduction, which sapped some of the tension. Also, the big negotiation conflict had so many proper names and points of contention that I got a bit lost.


The Duel at Maria’s Pizza and Roast Beef” by William Delman
a short story published by The Arcanist

This story about Norse heroes in modern time sounds like it would be the kind of story I like. However, the writing felt too sterile for me to connect to the characters. Lot of action, but no emotional connection. It almost felt like it was in the middle of a serial story, but there was no indication where previous stories would be.

Fallen Star v 1 is Done!

Leo's Human Diary banner copy.jpg

“Leo’s Human Diary” has a new title – “Fallen Star”. I actually finished this draft a couple weeks ago, but had too much going on to post about it.

This draft went through some big changes – namely over doubling in size. Most of this is because in v 0, I decided to just skim the descriptions of scenes that took place in canon. But in v 1, I had the tension building to Loke’s first confrontation with Karen, and it just didn’t feel right to let that tension fizzle out by skimming that confrontation. So, I treated the in canon scenes as a writing exercise – I got the exact dialogue from the anime/manga (whichever translation I liked better), described the movements and positioning as exact as I could, and tried to recreate the same emotions without the help of pictures/music. I think it worked in some places, though I’m sure could still be punched up. It has helped me to see the pitfalls of relying on dialogue too much in my original writing.

The story is now available on my google drive for an open beta. No previous knowledge of Fairy Tail required. I am looking for comments on what is Awesome, Boring, Confusing, or Don’t Believe. You’ll notice I’ve already made some notes on things that I need to address, so don’t worry about telling me that its not perfect. I don’t know when I want to get back to editing this story, as I have other things to work on, but the itch is definitely still there.

Stats:

  • Started January 18
  • Finished March 27
  • 19,540 words (220% the size of v 0)
  • 15 scenes (100% the size of v 0)

Hugo 2020 Reading – January – March

First off, I’m excited to see the finalists for the 2019 Hugos. Looks like a great list, especially since there was stuff I loved on it. Some stuff I’ve missed, though. I’ll have to add it to my long reading pile. Right now I’m reading the longlist from the 2015 Hugos. I’ve finished all the Fairy Tail manga, and now I’m rereading the Fruits Basket manga, with the remake of the anime. I’m amazed at how much character nuances I’m catching this time. Hopefully it means that I can create better characters. In the meantime, here’s what I read published this year.

The King’s Mirror” by M. K. Hutchins
a short story published by Strange Horizons

I liked this take on what to do with visions of the future that you can’t change. The pacing to me felt slow, because it was all about character introspection, when I prefer action. Still, I enjoy M. K. Hutchins’ Meso-American settings, fresh and detailed.


The Willows” by Delilah S. Dawson 
a novelette published by Uncanny

Horror is not my cup of tea, and I prefer my speculative elements more upfront than sneaky, so I am not the ideal audience for this story. Still, I can appreciate the evocative details and atmosphere.


How to Move Spheres and Influence People” by Marko Kloos
a novelette published by Tor.com

I love superhero origin stories. And this one was fun. I loved T.K.’s glee at discovering her powers, and her horror when she realizes she can kill someone with them. I also loved that she was disabled. I want more disabled heroes, so I was a bit sad that there wasn’t more details about that. Though I do understand that she wasn’t really in many situations where it mattered that her left arm was paralyzed.


How to Say I Love You with Wikipedia” by Beth Goder
a short story published by Fireside Magazine

This story was cute, a computer trying so hard to show its humans that it loves them, but lacking the understanding to communicate it in a way that they see. I did have a little hard time believing that Sarah could change the stationary computer into a rover in just a little time while everyone is preparing to leave Mars, but it wasn’t a huge detractor to the story.


Eel Soup” by Marge Simon
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

The speculative element here is extremely light. The details of the story drew me in, but the ending left me unsatisfied. I don’t believe cures work so fast, though for this story constraint, it kind of has to.

Guardian Spirit v 2 is Done!

My beta readers did not find the ending of last draft as satisfying as I did, and looking it over, they were right. My first attempt at fixing it didn’t work either. So I was ready to shelve this story for a bit when the answer came to me. Now I feel much better about it.

I do still worry that this story is too short for all the things I’m trying to explore. It still has a LOT of characters for this short of the story. I hope I did a better job of introducing them this time around.

I’m going to spend the next week polishing, and then I’m going to send it off to WOTF.

Stats:

  • Started: March 20
  • Finished: March 25
  • 1380 words (102% of v1)

Guardian Spirits v 1 is Done!

I have a new laptop! Everything’s set up on it, and I’ve gotten back in the writing groove.

Most of my work this draft went into developing the POV character. I actually didn’t do any work with MICE, but I did come up with a satisfying ending.

The story still feels like it needs a good polish. I’m starting to notice that my sentences feel stale. I’m not sure how to fix that. I’m not very practiced at editing on that level, but I’ll give it a shot. In the meantime, I’m sending it out to beta readers to see if there’s anything I’ve left out explaining.

Stats:

  • Started: March 4
  • Finished: March 11
  • 1,356 words (133% v 0)
  • 1 scene

Hugo 2019 Reading – February

This month has been a crazy one. We got way more snow than we normally do in Seattle, leading to the kids not having a full day of school for three weeks. And I dumped a water bottle on my laptop, so I was busy trying to recover from that. I did finish Writers of the Future volume 34, so here’s what I thought of that.

“The Face in the Box” by Janey Bell
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 34

This story had an interesting concept – most farmland is on floating islands in the sky run by organic AI, one of which goes rogue. My main problem with this story is that it didn’t feel finished. Yes, Cara recovers the AI she brought down, but I didn’t know what that meant for her going forward – if she was going to become friends with it, or just ignore it.


“Flee, My Pretty One” by Eneasz Brodski
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 34

I don’t care for the aesthetic of gritty tales like this. It had an interesting theme exploring the hypocrisy of using the tools of the corrupt regime against itself, and an interesting disabled protagonist, but it didn’t work for me.


(5 stars) “Illusion” by Jody Lynn Nye
a novelette published in Writers of the Future vol 34

This is the type of story that I love to read. All about cleverly outwitting the enemy that is superior in strength to you. The illusions were clever, and Angelo was a human character, who had to face breaking the previous illusions he had made with his ruler.


“A Bitter Thing” by N.R.M. Roshak
a novelette published in Writers of the Future vol 34

I like the alienness of the extraterrestrials in this story, and how that was the heart of the conflict between Ami and her alien boyfriend Teese, how she kept misunderstanding what he was trying to tell her. The story just wasn’t my cup of tea.


(5 stars) “Miss Smokey” by Diana Hart
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 34

I’ve read several “magic is restricted” stories, and they never seemed to ring true. It did here. Part of that stems from the fact that the conflict wasn’t about breaking out of the unfair laws – it was on how to find purpose in life and still achieve goals in the face of unchangeable circumstances.

Plus the description of dealing with kids on field trips was excellent. Delightful concept to have a shapeshifter pretend to be Smokey the Bear to tell the kids how to prevent forest fires.


“All Light and Darkness” by Amy Henrie Gillett
a novelette published in Writers of the Future vol 34

My main problem with this story was that I didn’t feel grounded in the characters. In the beginning, I didn’t have a clear grasp on what his goals were. Even if he didn’t know where he was going, I would have liked a better grasp on what he was running from and why he was supposed to be repulsive. Yes, it was revealed later on, but it meant the stakes at the beginning weren’t clear, so I wasn’t invested.

Guardian Spirit v 0 is Done!

Almost two weeks ago, I dumped my water bottle on my laptop. It rose from its watery grave long enough for me to back everything up before dying completely. So, while I wait for a replacement, I started a new story that’s been kicking around in my head.

I couldn’t come up with a good ending that wraps everything up, so I kind of just left it there. I think part of the problem with that is I didn’t have a good grasp on the character of the POV person. I’ll also set the story beats against the MICE quotient to tell me what would be a satisfying ending. Add in all the description I have to add as well, and this story is going to grow.

I bet I could get this story into good enough shape to submit to WOTF this quarter. I hadn’t expected submit this quarter, with my focus on my fanfiction.

Stats:

  • Started February 27, 9:30 am
  • Finished February 27. 12:30 pm
  • 1019 words
  • 7 named characters (5 of which speak)

Hugo 2019 Reading – January

This month I had a medication change that really did a number on the amount of energy I have to do tasks. While this enforced rest has been bad at getting stuff done, it has given me time to do a lot of reading.

(5 stars) The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
a novel published by Tor Books

This novel was a delight to read. I love the idea of the space race getting kicked off early, and all the details that went into that. I loved all the worldbuilding that went into how the ’50s would have been different if a meteorite hit Chesapeake Bay. I loved how brilliant Elma was, her southern charm, her Jewishness, and also how she had to battle anxiety. I want more spouses like her loving, supportive, and equally smart/capable husband. Highly recommended.


“Turnabout” by Erik Bundy
a short story published in Writers of the Future volume 34

I liked the twist on the genie tale. However, I had no sympathy for the main character. You tell me that his girl left him, I’ll assume it was probably for a good reason. He kindof, sorta redeemed himself at the end, but he still felt selfish and unrealistic (where did all his money to travel come from?)


“A Smokeless and Scorching Fire” by Erin Cairns
a short story published in Writers of the Future volume 34

I’m not a real fan of accidental marriage stories, which this one was. It had an interesting world. While the main character was interestingly conflicted about how to deal with the opinions and desires that should have been conditioned out of him, he felt rather ho-hum to me.


“The Howler on the Sales Floor” by Jonathan Ficke
a short story published in Writers of the Future volume 34

This story was amusing about a devil in a corporate office (“NOT EVEN THE CHAOS LORDS OF THE MAELSTROM USE MICROSOFT WORD. WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS PLACE?”). Unfortunately, that was overshadowed by the feeling that HR did not take the health of Nya’s co-workers seriously, as the consequences for driving someone mad was to just attend sensitivity training.


“The Minarets of An-Zabat” by Jeremy TeGrotenhuis
a novelette published in Writers of the Future volume 34

This story had some great descriptive language. However, the plot felt predictable, so I wasn’t really drawn into it. And it felt like the romance between Nayeni and Atar was rushed.


(5 stars) “Odd and Ugly” by Vida Cruz
a novelette published in Writers of the Future volume 34

I love fairy tale retellings, so this retelling of Beauty and the Beast was right up my alley. I loved that there was no Stockholm Syndrome at work here. Maria goes to work for the kapre of her own free will. And I loved the Filipino setting. It’s something I’ve not seen much of before, and it felt so well drawn.


“Mara’s Shadow” by Darci Stone
a novelette published in Writers of the Future volume 34

This story had an intriguing parasite – a moth that reproduces by inserting its genetic code into its host and then emerging some 5 generations later. The terror was visceral. My main problem is that the solution was supposed to be satisfactory, but it was still going to leave a lot of people dead because it was too late for them to get vaccinated. But there’s no thought given to them.


“What Lies Beneath” by Cole Hehr
a short story published in Writers of the Future volume 34

This story had an interesting character – an immortal warrior that feels regret over the murders committed to achieve his revenge. I felt confused by the beginning though. Why would Magrius threaten to kill the narrator if he wanted to petition for help? Also, while the narrator was clever in freeing Amandros, it felt cheap for him to break the oath that he had just made.

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.