The Mermaid’s Voice v 3 is Done!

After receiving a round of rejections, I decided to set this story on the backburner for awhile. After thinking on it for awhile, I decided that the weakness lay in the narration. It was a vague letter, with no salutation, and often no sense that the mermaid was talking to anyone in particular.

So in this draft, I rehauled the entire thing, and doubled down on it being epistolary. As the mermaid recounts events, she passes judgment on her younger self. The result is a more emotional story.

Now I need to polish it up, and then I’ll send it back out.

Stats:

  • Started June 18
  • Finished June 19
  • 485 words (97.8% of v 2)

Hugo 2021 Reading – May

I have some exciting news – “Portal Friends” is a finalist in the Mormon Lit Blitz, and will be published on June 16. I hope you all enjoy it.

Other than that, not much has changed since last week. There’s three more weeks of school, and I haven’t been as excited for that since I was a student. I have never had a desire to homeschool, and that’s even more cemented now.

Now, to what I’ve read:

(5 stars) “This is How the Rain Falls” by M.K. Hutchins
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

I have a soft spot for stories about people who have endured trauma and are left vulnerable. This story expressed that PTSD in a beautiful figurative way. The metaphors were vivid. The lead in to the punch at the end was well done.


Second Chances in the West” by D. Roe Shocky
a short story published by The Arcanist

This was a fun story. A Groundhog’s Day-like tale that took an unexpected twist. The ending did leave a sour taste in my mouth, since I don’t like endings like that, but I can see it was the ending it needed to be.


A Being Together Amongst Strangers” by Arkady Martine
a short story published by Uncanny

I must have missed a lot of subtext when I listened to this story. I don’t know if its because I listened to it in chunks, or because I’ve never lived anywhere near New York City. The conflict resolution tech was interesting. I certainly didn’t see how it would come into effect at the climax.


Berlin is Never Berlin” by Marko Kloos
a novelette published by Tor.com

This was a fun Wild Cards story. I liked Khan’s character. He had a fun attitude as he deals with annoyances. And then in a fight he was really capable, even if he lost the first one. The action was tense. Nice way to pass an hour or so.


An Explorer’s Cartography of Already Settled Lands” by Fran Wilde
a short story published by Tor.com

I am literally minded, and never got the hang of symbolism in English class. So I feel like I missed a lot in this very figurative story. But I can still appreciate the beauty of the language used. I also liked its themes of risks and mistakes, of observing vs participating. I wouldn’t mind studying it further.

Immortal Judgment v 3 is Done!

I decided to change POV in this draft from 3rd person to 1st person. I did this to bring in a bit of a hint of an untrustworthy narrator, but also to make the second to last scene flow a lot smoother. I like how it ended up.

As I was working on this draft, I’ve been watching the classes available from the Storymakers conference, and getting ideas on how to further edit this story. There is one part in particular that I’ve been feeling had a weak bridge between the first half and the second half, and during one of those classes, it suddenly clicked what I was missing there. I also want to work more on strengthening the queen’s character arc and theme of the story.

Once that’s all done, I’ll send this out for another round of beta readers, to see if I’ve added in any new confusions. I’d been debating on whether or not to do that, but the amount of changes I’m making says this is the right call.

Stats:

  • Started March 19
  • Finished May 29
  • 6,938 words (118% of v 2)
  • 9 scenes (all the same from v 2)

Hugo Reading 2021 – April

Though I haven’t posted here, I’ve been able to find a writing time that works for me – in the morning before kids get up. I’ve been locking my door to enforce me being left alone until 7am, and with that, I’ve gotten my MLB entry ready for submission. I’ve also been attending an online writing workshop and an online writing conference, and am excited to put the tools I’m learning to use.

But first, what I’ve been reading:

Mandorla” by Cooper Shrivastava
a short story published by Clarkesworld

This is an allegory of different perspectives and climate change. It’s a slow story, and the topic isn’t one I’m particularly interested in. The prose has a rich quality to it as it describes seasons that come and go.


Tend to Me” by Kristina Ten
a short story published by Lightspeed

This was a fun story that twisted in ways I didn’t expect. It seems like turning into a cactus would present more problems than the story covered, but those that did come up were interesting.


White Noon” by Aidan Doyle
a short story published by PodCastle

The setting was fun in this story – a Nordic Western. (Though in my head, I was picturing Alaska more than Norway). The voice added a great charm, which the podcast narrator did a great job bringing out. I liked that the story was about a woman who wanted a quiet life, against the ideals of her sisters. I did wonder if Elin shouldn’t have more reaction to killing a man, since her weapon had only a one time use, but it worked.


(5 stars) “The Longest Season in the Garden of the Tea-Fish” by Jo Miles
a short story published by Strange Horizons

I really felt pulled into this story, and not just because it parallels self-isolation. The world of these tree-people who depend on tea-fish to live was richly described, as was the danger from nearly all the tea-fish dying in an accident. I did wonder why Elja didn’t wake one other person to help her after the first year when some fish survived, though definitely not enough to revive the whole people, but I suppose it would have been too much heartache to not wake up her daughter, and her daughter had asked to be the last woken due to causing the accident. Great emotion.


Advice for Newbies at WoodCon” by Dan McMinn
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

I thought this story was going to be about a fantasy con, with magical wood working, so I was disappointed to see that this was really a parody of advice given to writers for writing conferences. I did find the final bit of advice funny, as various woodworkers gave advice on which specific wood to use for something as unassuming as a napkin holder.

Always Changing v 0 is Done!

I’ve wanted to do a portal fantasy for the Mormon Lit Blitz for a long time, and I finally figured out how to do it! I’ve been looking forward to writing this story for months, and I’m happy with the shape of the story so far. Though it took me several days, it actually only took 2 writing sessions to get this done. (Stupid upheaved schedule due to entire family self-isolating)

There are still a lot of things to refine. There are three characters that need actual names. I also need to weave in the central theme/problem better so the ending has a better impact.

Stats:

  • Started: March 31
  • Finished: April 10
  • 752 words
  • 2 scenes

Hugo Reading 2021 – January – March

So, how is everyone doing with quarantine? Here in the Seattle area, everyone in my family has been home since March 5, and attempts at distance learning have really wrecked my writing schedule. I’m still trying to figure everything out 5 weeks later.

In other news, I am excited to study the finalists for this year’s Hugos. I’ve read a couple of stories before, and the reason they didn’t make the top of my list was due to taste. I could still recognize the art that went into them. I’ve got novelettes and short stories downloaded and I’m ready to mark them up to glean insights from them all.

But for now, here’s what I’ve read so far this year.

The Case of the Somewhat Mythic Sword” by Garth Nix
a short story published by Tor.com

I enjoyed Nix’s Sabriel trilogy, and so decided to try out this story when browsing Tor.com. The omniscient POV always takes me awhile to get used to, but I found the ideas intriguing. A cousin of Sherlock Holmes investigates arcane mysteries. He’s cursed, so an “almost doctor” woman accompanies him to keep the curse in check. It’s a glimpse into a much bigger world and problems that extend beyond what are presented here. It was a fun read, but I wasn’t completely satisfied by it because I wanted more.


The Visitor: Kill or Cure” by Mark Lawrence
a novelette published by Tor.com

I’ve enjoyed the Wild Cards universe, which is why I chose to read this story. It took until the second scene for me to get pulled into the story. The powers and characters were intriguing, as were their interactions. It does have the disabled protagonist has powers that make up for her disabilities trope, but its the character traits she’s gained through her disability that help her save the day. All in all, not particularly deep, but a fun read.


These Wondrous Sweets” by Tony Pi
a novelette published by Beneath Ceaseless Skies

This is the third story in a series, and the second one I’ve read. I enjoyed the East Asian world. I loved listening to Ao Tienwei figure out how to work around the limitations of his magic in order to solve the problems of how to help the Pale Tigress. It’s one of my favorite flavors of fantasy. The prose doesn’t draw attention to itself – it just focuses on telling the reader the story. It felt like there could have been more there, but it was still a good story.


The Hammer-Royal Ten Step Model for Making the Superhero A List” by Jason Kimble
a short story published by Cast of Wonders

I did not expect this story to take the turn it did, though the foreshadowing was all there. Surprising, but inevitable. It was a good look at the backstories of superheroes and villains and what really sets them apart. Kimble nailed the voice of a teenage superhero-wannabe, and Hoe did a great job bringing it to life in the podcast. The form didn’t allow for really immersive scenes, but it was fine.


Gender and Other Faulty Software” by John Wiswell
a short story published by Fireside

This was a cute little story. It did start off with a bit of a headscratcher (how little does he have to do to reclaim 81 ships in 4 weeks? I guess that’s 8.27 hours per ship if he works 24/7, but still…) But I thought the ship’s protests over being assigned male by the OS were cute.


Little Free Library” by Naomi Kritzer
a short story published by Tor.com

Kritzer has become one of my favorite short story writers. I love her domestic science fiction. Like her other stories, this one is rich in detail and character. It doesn’t explore deep emotion – it’s a more whimsical story. What if a little free library was a portal to another world? A nice light read.

Hugo 2020 Reading – February

It’s been an eventful month. A Disney World trip, my washing machine broke, and now, the coronavirus is throwing things into chaos. The hospital where the Washington deaths occurred is the hospital I go to, so if a quarantine hits, I’m going to be right in the middle of it. Kids are home today while teachers are trained on how to do remote teaching. It almost feels like I’m in a science fiction story. Enough about that though. Here’s the stories I read this month.

Telecorp” by Kelly Kurtzhals Geiger
a short story published by The Arcanist

I had a hard time grasping the world in this story. The company’s practices didn’t make sense. Seeing what kind of corporate jobs would be given to telepaths and seers was interesting, though.


“Dirt Road Magic” by Carrie Callahan
a short story published in Writers of the Future volume 35

I’m not a fan of gritty stories, but I did like how this one compared magic and addiction. I also liked how Jake’s relationship with magic evolved over the course of the story.


“A Certain Slant of Light” by Preston Dennett
a short story published in Writers of the Future volume 35

I could see the twist on this story coming from the beginning. The characters’ reactions didn’t make much sense to me, either. Would Walter have been as pushy if Caleb had been visiting a grave instead of a time bubble? And then the security didn’t make sense. First off, it felt jarring when it was introduced, as I had been imagining the bubble without it for quite a while. Then they increased it, which sounds like its going to be an obstacle for Caleb. But when he goes through, it’s super easy, barely an inconvenience. The tone of the story is pretty good at least.


The Fifth Day” by Tochi Onyebuchi
a short story published by Uncanny

I don’t really care for stories that are set outside of time and space, like this was. It did do a great job of hitting me with emotions at the third day. I feel like I would have understood this story better if I was reading it, as the audio did not delineate the sections with I, II, etc. I also really enjoyed listening to the author interview at the end of the podcast, where Onyebuchi explains how his experience with bipolar II inspired various choices in the story.


(5 stars) “Beyond the El” by John Chu
a short story published by Tor.com

I like food stories, and this one about food crafting was interesting and well described. Although that was really more set-dressing to the main conflict of Connor and his sister. The pain of the abuse and the grief was really well done.

Hugo 2020 Reading – January

I did not realize that the rules for nominating Hugos has changed. Instead of a Worldcon membership allowing you to nominate for three years (the year before, that year, and the year after) it now only allows you to nominate for two years (that year and the year after). So, I will not be able to submit my picks for this year. Ah well. I’m still going to be writing these posts to help me study how I can break into these markets though. 🙂

Fairy Tail: 100 Years Quest volumes 1 & 2 by Hiro Mashima and Atsuo Ueda
2 graphic stories published by Kodansha Comics

Fairy Tail has meant a lot to me in the last year and a half since I was introduced to it. The characters really pulled me through some tough times. So of course I grabbed the continuing series when I saw the original author still had a hand in crafting the story. These volumes were fun, though not spectacular. A lot of swimsuit fanservice (for fans other than me). I did wonder at Gemini suddenly gaining new powers. But I rode with it, because the magic in Fairy Tail has generally not made a whole lot of sense. We meet interesting new characters, and I am interested in seeing where the story goes.


Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson
a novel published by Century

My husband has a rule of thumb when it comes to Star Wars books – if it takes place in multiple locations, it’s good. If it takes place on only one, it doesn’t measure up. Besides initial setup chapters, this novel only takes place in one location. But I expected that going in, and I found it good pulpy fun. As Vi goes through town, some interactions definitely felt like they existed to showcase stores that existed in Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyworld/Disneyland. Still, I really cared about the characters. I appreciated that even with medpacks, trauma from injuries lasted beyond the initial impact. I also liked that stormtrooper armor in this book actually worked and the characters had to keep that in mind during fights *cough*UnlikeEpisodeIX*cough*. Overall, a decent romp, and I’m looking forward to my next trip to Disneyworld.


The Terrible Oath” by Ashok K. Banker
a novelette published by Lightspeed

I did not care for the plot archetype of this story – king meets girl, falls instantly in love, then goes to great lengths to obtain permission to wed her. I don’t like falling in love at first sight. I didn’t feel like the girl Jilana had much agency, though the story said she did. And I felt like the price her father asked for was stupidly high. I did appreciate everyone’s reaction when Vrath offers the asked for price, so at least it ended on a good note.


I am Fire; I am Tears” by Wendy Nikel
a short story published by PodCastle

This story seems to be inspired by the fairy tale Tatterhood as far as there are twin sisters, one ugly and the other beautiful, born because the queen couldn’t help herself from taking a second bite of the flower. But there the similarities end as these sisters have a very different story to tell. It still has a fairy tale tone, and I enjoyed the surprises as Dania reaches out and Ulykke changes. I didn’t give it five stars only because I didn’t become completely immersed in the story. Part of that could be due to fragmented listening to the podcast. I still recommend it if fairy tale stories is your thing.


And Now His Lordship is Laughing” by Shiv Ramdas
a short story published by Strange Horizons

Unlike Anaea Lay, I don’t enjoy revenge stories. I did appreciate the immersion of this story. Though I am half-British, I appreciate seeing the harmful consequences of the British Empire. And I can appreciate how well laid the revenge was so the British officers were hoisted by their own petards.

Immortal Judgment v 2 is Done!

This draft involved tossing half the story and rebuilding it from scratch. The scenes I had before did not build much tension at all. My antagonist mostly faded into the background, and the climax was too much of a robotic logical battle.

And then halfway through this draft, I unearthed a new theme for the story – logic vs emotions. So I need to go back and reinforce that theme in the beginning of the story. Once I’ve done that, and filled out the scenes that I skimped on, I’ll send it back out to beta readers to find out how well I did in addressing the problems they found.

Stats:

  • Started December 4, 2019
  • Finished January 16, 2020
  • 5,844 words (139% of v1)
  • 9 scenes (100% of v1. 4 deleted from v1)

Hugo 2020 Reading – December

I hardly got any writing done last month, due to all the chaos around the holidays. I did get some new books, a couple of which I review below. The rest are added to my large to-read pile. I think I need to start making a “read 20 minutes every day” goal or something so I can actually make a dent in it.

Said of Angels” by Eric Del Carlo
a novelette published by Clarkesworld

I like the idea of exploring religion and prophecy that spans across galaxies. However, I found this story too slow and philosophical for my taste.


“Yellow Submarine” by Rebecca Moesta
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 35

The underwater world was whimsical. However, I found it hard to connect to either main character. I have never had any interest in cars, so André’s insistence on a nice looking submarine didn’t click. And his mom’s letting him have so much control over negotiation seemed odd. And the prose felt dry – serviceable, but not compelling.


“An Itch” by Christopher Baker
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 35

I liked looking at how magic ripped this family apart. The final scene felt off to me, though. The scene preceding felt like an ending on its own, and the prose switched from past tense to present. And it seemed to wrap things up without Claire having done anything.


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

I stayed up until 1am reading this book. Since my health dictates that I value my sleep, that REALLY speaks to how much this book sucked me in. I love the characters. I love the humor. The tension was great. I did feel like the setup of the plot was a bit too coincidental, but watching Spensa handle the challenges before her was quite satisfying.


(5 stars) The Order of the Stick: Utterly Dwarfed by Rich Burlew
a graphic story published by Giant in the Playground

As I’d read almost all of these comics online, I didn’t expect to get as drawn into the dead-tree version as I did. I loved the new art upgrade. The story became more epic as the gods intervened more directly in debating the fate of the world. I loved the twists. I loved meeting Durkon’s family. As a writer, I found the commentary about how Burlew planned the story fascinating. Very enjoyable.