Monday, July 30, 2018

Stories Like White Elephants

I recently finished reading Starlings, a collection of short stories and poetry from award-winning author Jo Walton, along with the classic short story "The Hills Like White Elephants" and an award-nominated story "Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand." All this has me thinking about the two different types of short stories: those that make their subject obvious and those that "talk around it" or force the reader to infer the true subject of the story. My short stories tend to follow the formula "put a man in a tree, throw rocks at him, and get him out of the tree." They're plot-driven, and I want to make sure the reader understands what's happening.

However, many of the works I mentioned above obscure their meaning, with the quintessential example being "The Hills Like White Elephants." The couple in the story discuss the operation the woman is supposed to have, but no one mentions that it's supposed to be an abortion. Only by analyzing the symbols in the story does it start to make sense. I knew beforehand what the underlying theme of "Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand," and while I could see how some parts of the story fit the theme, many other parts didn't make sense to me. If you look at the reviews of these stories on Goodreads, many other readers didn't understand them either. Maybe it's the fact that these stories require so much analysis that makes them literary and award-winning.

What type of story do you prefer? If you read any of the works I mentioned, what did you think of them? Feel free to share in the comments.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Business and Joy of Writing

It seems like the last few Worldcons have been problematic. This year, the programming committee refused to put Hugo nominees on panels because they would be "completely unfamiliar to attendees." (Keep in mind that Worldcon supporters and attendees vote on the Hugos.) They also misgendered one of the Hugo finalists by rewriting eir's bio, used a photo that was only available on a personal Facebook page, and assigned panels away from the people who suggested them. You can read about the snafu here. Worldcon is going to redo programming, but I've heard bad reactions to this situation from some of my Facebook writer friends. (I personally learned about this situation when a midlist writer I know posted that she hadn't been assigned to any panels.)

I haven't been to Worldcon since it was in Chicago, and I wasn't planning to attend this year either. The reason I'm blogging about it is because a second writer friend posted that after hearing about the programming mess, he didn't want to write. (It wasn't clear if this was a temporary or permanent feeling.) I wish now I'd commented on his post when I first saw it, as I've been thinking about it. For traditional writers especially, conventions are a place to do business, and writers at all levels have to evaluate whether attending a con makes financial sense for them with travel, lodging, and other expenses. Being on panels at conventions helps justify the expenses, since panels allow writers to connect with readers. If your business is directly affected by problems like those at Worldcon, it's understandable that you might be distracted by the issues. But if you're not attending Worldcon (I don't know for certain, but I don't think this person planned to go), then you need to mentally set it aside to focus on your own work. Writing full-time is a job like any other, and it's going to have its ups and downs. But writing each project is also a journey, one that you should pursue for the joy of it. If you let the business ruin the joy, then is writing still worth doing? I think that's a question all writers have to ask themselves no matter where they are in their careers or how they publish.

How do you handle the roller coaster emotions of writing? Are you able to keep writing business from interfering with your writing progress? Feel free to share your advice in the comments.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Amazon Prime Video Recommendations

Although I've used Amazon Prime Video before, this weekend I discovered that they have the entire series of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which I started watching in college. I plan to work my way through the series again, starting at the beginning. It'll give me something to do while I crochet. I also plan to watch the original Star Trek series, and I've tried some of the Amazon original historical series. Do you have any recommendations? It doesn't have to be science fiction or history. Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Solar Unicorn Stitching

I've finally started a site for my crochet and sewing projects. So far, it's only a Facebook page called Solar Unicorn Stitching. (It ties in with Solar Unicorn Publishing, which is how I publish my books.) Thanks to Maria Zannini for designing the logo to the left. There's not much else on the page at the moment, as I need to get some good pictures of my crochet projects. I plan to build it up over time. In the meantime, here's a picture of my latest project: a blue stegosaurus. I crocheted most of it while we were driving last week; now I just need to sew everything together.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Indianapolis Trip 2018: As Told by Stan, Rex, and Oscar

Rex: We're back! In case you've forgotten who we are--

Stan: How is that possible?

Rex: I'm Rex the brachiosaurus, this is Oscar the orca, and the loudmouth is Stan the T-Rex.

Stan: Hey!

Oscar: We're here to tell you about the trip our family took last week to Indianapolis, Indiana.

Stan: It was a short trip because Dad had to work Monday, and Mom had to work on Friday, but it was still a lot of fun.

Rex: Thanks again to Dad's cousin Alvin for letting us stay with him!

Oscar: I knew this town really liked whales when I saw this mural.

Rex: After a late lunch, we walked along the canal to see a memorial. The humans got wet, but at least we stayed dry.

Stan: Get to the good part, guys!

Rex: The highlight of the trip was The Children's Museum of Indianapolis. They have brachiosaurses peeking in!

Stan: Even better, I got to meet the T-Rex I was named for! He didn't say much to me, but I think he was impressed.

Oscar: I was more impressed that we got to visit the paleo lab.

Stan: Don't forget how we became terracotta warriors! And the street named for T-Rexes!

Rex: Hey, Oscar, don't you still owe us a root beer for that fight in the Coliseum?

Stan: Well, I'm still waiting for Stan to pour us tea.

Stan: No fair picking on the short-armed guy!

Oscar: Um, Rex, change the subject....

Rex: Unfortunately, the humans didn't take us for a paddleboat trip. They were worried we might get wet.

Oscar: I would have been just fine in salt water, but no, it was fresh water.

Stan: They also went to the Eiteljorg Museum and the Indiana War Memorial Museum without us.

Rex: And the kid went to a coin shop too.

Stan: You don't think he'd sell us, do you?

Oscar: Don't worry, Stan. Mom won't let him.

Rex: So, if you like dinosaurs and orcas, Indianapolis is your kind of town.

Oscar: See you soon!

Stan: Rahhhhrrrr!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Favorite Amigurumi?

My family and I are taking a brief trip. I'll be back by Friday and will tell you more about it next week. In the meantime, I thought I'd take a quick poll: what types of amigurumi, or crocheted characters, would appeal to you? Here are a few options:

A. Characters from popular culture (Star Wars, Marvel, etc.)
B. Dinosaurs
C. Other animals
D. Characters from literature

Of course, if you're not interested in amigurumi, that's OK too. However, since I'm going to be a vendor at a local comic-con in late September, I plan to build up some amigurumi stock and sell them along with my books. I know the Porg are popular with Star Wars fans, but I'm trying to gauge what the general public would be interested in. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, July 09, 2018

She Has Her Mother's Laugh

One of the books I finished reading last week (just in time for my semiannual reading update) was She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversion, and Potential of Heredity by Carl Zimmer. This is an interesting discussion that doesn't just consider the scientific aspects of heredity, but also the social implications. There are a couple of chapters that talk about the early 20th century effort to end feeblemindedness by sterilization and how family histories (which later turned out to be not accurate) contributed to this effort. There are discussions about diseases where heredity is fairly easy to trace and other topics such as the inheritance of height, which is affected by many genes. Although we normally think of inheritance as passing strictly from parent to child, there are also other ways where people can be mosaics, with different genes in different gene lines, and even instances of people obtaining genes from siblings while they were in the womb. Those cases might be potential inspiration for science fiction stories. Culture is also part of our inheritance, so there was a section devoted to that. Finally, the closing chapters considered the future of inheritance. It's a long book, but worth the read.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

IWSG: The Ultimate Writing Goal

Normally, the Insecure Writer's Support Group posts on the first Wednesday of the month, but since the Fourth of July is tomorrow, we're blogging a day early. To learn more about the IWSG, please visit the website or Facebook page. You can also follow them on Twitter. (@TheIWSG).

Our hosts for July are Nicki Elson, Juneta Key, Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne. Our question for this month is What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

I've always wanted two things from my writing: to find the people who "get" me, and to make a living from it. Sure, I admit I've fantasized about winning major awards and being Guest of Honor at a convention, but these two things matter the most to me. When I first started writing, traditional publishing was the only way to get anywhere in the field, but now there are multiple ways and formats to put your work in front of readers. Being an indie writer (though technically I'm more of a hybrid author) may make some goals (like prestigious awards) harder to achieve, but in the long run, it may be easier to earn more from my work if I control the rights. I do realize by this point that neither ultimate goal is easy to reach, but that's what makes them ultimate goals. The way to achieve them is to chart a path of smaller, easier goals that you can work on. Even if I never make it to my final goal, I'll still be farther than when I started.

Another type of ultimate goal is to finish a series. Although I've finished the Season Avatars series, I still want to write a spin-off series following my Avatars and their descendants. I know where I want that series to conclude; it's a matter of figuring out how to get to that point.

What are your writing goals? How do you plan to achieve them? Feel free to share in the comments.

I'm taking tomorrow off from blogging, so Happy 4th of July to my fellow Americans, and see you Friday!

Monday, July 02, 2018

Mid-Year Goal Review

Normally at the beginning of July, I post my semi-annual review of the books I've read so far this year. This year, I plan to talk about some of my other goals as well.

I'm writing this Sunday morning; as of now, I've read 75 books since January. I plan to finish at least one more book before this post goes live (I have to finish the book, since it's due today.) Although the number is a little lower than I'd like, I have read a couple of long books recently. One of my goals this year is to read at least ten books on writing/marketing fiction. I've read four so far, so I need to step it up a little. The genre breakdown is shown below:

Fantasy: 24
Science Fiction: 13
Other (mostly mystery): 4
Non-Fiction: 21

Instead of recommending some of these books, I'm going to talk about some of my other goals:

My main writing goal for 2018 is to finish Dryads to Discover, the first book in an urban fantasy trilogy. I'm only about 26,000 words in. It's been slow going, partly because I'm still feeling out the plot and characters and partly because I keep getting distracted by other projects. I'd like to finish the rough draft this year, even if it takes me longer to publish it. I have looked briefly at one of my abandoned stories that I'd like to publish, but I'm not sure yet how I want to revise it. In the meantime, I have ideas for two completely different series in new genres for me. I'll probably develop one in tandem with Dryads and table the other for now. At least I've met my short story goal for the year. I've sent out four short stories to various markets. One was accepted, one rejected, and two are pending.

I'm not sure if I'm going to make my original publishing goals for Dryads to Discover and my abandoned short story, but I'd rather wait until they're ready. Despite paid ads and Instafreebie promotions, my sales (not giveaways) are lower than my goal for the year. Hopefully some of my short stories will help with that, along with a planned Comic-Con appearance at my local library in September.

My crafting has been more successful than I anticipated. I originally planned to crochet ten characters this year, but I easily met that goal in January. They've proven to be popular, and I've also started sewing lanyards. (I plan to bring my crocheted characters and lanyards to the Comic-Con in addition to my books.) I still have to sew the "Santa Jawa" robes for a parade in late November, and I'm making another Jawa robe and hood to replace my current ones, which are getting a little worn. Ideally, I'd like to get my generic Jedi costume approved before Star Wars Celebration in Chicago next April.

You may be wondering where I get the time to do all of this. Trust me, I wonder the same thing. It's a matter of juggling priorities, avoiding time-wasters like TV, Facebook, and games (though I struggle more with the latter two than I do with TV), and letting other things slide. That said, hopefully at some point I'll manage a garage sale this summer. Time to see where I can squeeze that in....

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