Wednesday, January 29, 2020

How Many Drafts?

Last week, I talked a little bit about a problem I was having with a short story. I think I've got some new ideas for it, though it will change the theme of the story a little from what I'd originally planned. I started making some of the changes, but I have to finish revising the entire story before I can decide if it works.

I plan to submit this story to an anthology, though I don't want to go into details at this point. The submission period closes next month, though. I wrote the first draft of this story in October, but I've held onto it because it didn't feel to me like it was ready. This will be the third or fourth version of this story, so I thought it might be interesting to ask other writers how many drafts they typically do of a story. For novels, I'd say I go through at least three or four drafts (rough draft, read on Kindle and make big changes draft, possibly another draft before preparing a paper proof, final version) though the revisions become fewer and less extensive with each pass. Many indie writers might consider this slow, but as a panster, I need to write the first draft to figure out the story. I will say I feel like I'm going through fewer drafts now than when I first started writing, so I consider that progress.

How many drafts do you usually need for a story? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Books or Reading--Which is More Important?

I'm working on a science fiction short story that's got me frustrated. It's set in a future where the vast majority of people rely on a computer-brain interface and network to accomplish daily tasks, including reading. A few people who are unable to obtain the implant can read independently, and this skill is treated as something worth preserving. I'm trying to decide how (or if) to recruit more people to carry on this skill. If they do, is it more important for them to decipher words on their own, or is it the fact that they're taking in stories through words (when most stories are told in visual media) that is worth preserving? I'd appreciate your thoughts on this matter.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Interview with Across the Universe Editor Randee Dawn

Today I have an interview with Randee Dawn, a member of Broad Universe and the editor of Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles. The book is available on Amazon and Barnes&Noble. Across the Universe will also be available for sale at the Broad Universe and Fantastic Books tables at Arisia in Boston, from January 17-20. Randee will be appearing on several panels during the yearly convention, and her schedule can be found here: For more about Randee, visit her website, Facebook page, Twitter, or Instagram.

Sorcerers, superheroes, and zombies.

Out of work, out of luck, out of practice.

Gods, clods, or four simple lads.

Here are the Beatles as you've never known them before: singing for their supper, singing for their souls, and singing to save the world.

Join 25 remarkable authors as they take you Across the Universe.

Featuring the stories of: Spider Robinson, Gregory Benford, David Gerrold, Allen M. Steele, Pat Cadigan, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Jody Lynn Nye, Gregory Frost, Cat Rambo, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Gail Z. Martin, Bev Vincent, Brenda W. Clough, Alan Goldsher, Gordon Linzner, Beth W. Patterson, Christian H. Smith, Sally Wiener Grotta, Kenneth Schneyer, Charles Barouch, Carol Gyzander, Patrick Barb, R. Jean Mathieu, Eric Avedissian, and Matthew F. Amati.

Here are some of the questions I had for Randee:
Please tell us about yourself.

I'm an author and entertainment journalist based in Brooklyn. My fiction veers wildly around the road like a dog driving a minivan, and can be either icky horror or (hopefully) funny fantasy, and everything in-between. I write what I'd like to read, which may explain a lot. As for the journalism, I write about movies, TV, music and (occasionally) books for the LA Times, Variety, and Emmy magazine primarily; I've been doing that work since I was in college, and I find it fulfilling – but not nearly as much as being a fiction author.

Please tell us about your latest work.

In early December 2019 I published my first anthology (co-edited with Michael A. Ventrella), Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles, a speculative fiction collection of tales using the Fab Four as inspiration to tell bigger-picture stories. Fiction-wise, I have a funny fantasy about mythical creatures running a soap opera starring humans called Tune in Tomorrow and am rewriting a draft of my near-future-ecological-disaster-noirish-mystery novel, A Different Light (working title).

What drew you to writing?

Just having stories to tell, I guess. Not everyone finds a creative outlet, and maybe not everybody just spontaneously makes up stories, but I don't know how to do it otherwise. I've always just loved sitting down with characters in my head and finding a way to translate them onto the page – and I've been doing that since elementary school.

Do you have any writing habits, such as writing in a certain location or time of day?

I'm fortunate to work from home as a freelancer. I have a set contract job that takes up my early afternoon, so I get up early and try to write from 7-9am every morning. In the evenings after dinner, while my teacher husband grades papers, I sit down again from 7-9. Not every day is as successful, but I think I get at least 1-2 hours a day to myself.

How do you get the inspiration for your stories?

My husband likes to say, "No one is safe around a writer." Which is to say: from everywhere and everything. Having a bit of a framework helps – last October I wrote 100 word drabbles every day of the month, which gave me a length and a topic – but after that it's up to the subconscious to push my buttons until something comes out.

Of all the stories you’ve written, which one is your favorite and why?

This may sound twee, but my favorite story is always the one I'm still working on. After they've flown the nest and been published, I love them from afar. That said, my first sale, "Home for the Holidays," was one of those magic stories: Two drafts, a sale to a podcast, printed in an anthology and my own short story collection, and a perennial favorite to read.

How did you come up with the idea for an alternative Beatles anthology?

It was one of those great moments of sychronicity. I'd been thinking about it for a couple of years, but not sure how to do it – I'd never edited an anthology – or whether it would be prohibitive for copyright reasons. So I went to my friend Ian Randal Strock, who runs the indie press Fantastic Books, and pitched the idea of stories based around Beatle songs – not using lyrics, per se, but let's hear more about, say, Lucy who lives in the sky with her jewels. He was interested, but I was intimidated and didn't immediately pursue. Meanwhile, another author, Michael A. Ventrella, who'd just finished the Release the Virgins anthology on Fantastic Books, came to Ian with a very similar idea. He put us together at World Fantasy in Baltimore at the end of 2018, and we agreed to work on it together.

What is it about the Beatles, as individuals and a group, that makes them suitable for alternative stories?

The Beatles are in the water. They're part of the shape of our lives, whether we're fans or not. For about 60 years now, their story, their songs, their lives and their music has become part of the fabric of the way we live. And as part of our dreamscapes, they're both people who actually lived – and also archetypes. Like different angles of a mirror, they reflect ourselves back to us, which makes them perfect to tell stories of other worlds, and other ways of thinking.

Have you met any of the Beatles or been to any of their solo concerts? If not, is there a particular song or album of theirs that has had a significant impact on your life? 

Truth: I was not a big Beatles fan growing up. I tend to rebel against anything that the Whole World seems to embrace as The Greatest Thing Ever. (It took me a long time to care about Bruce Springsteen, for example.) But as I noted earlier, they're in the air, impossible to ignore. Over the years, I learned to appreciate what they'd accomplished, and even love lots of their songs. I think Paul's music – solo and for the band – was my gateway drug when I was younger; the goofiness and earnest pop he created was so easy to like. As I've gotten older, John and George's more complicated emotional and musical landscape has had different appeal. So they've grown on me, organically. But I never came to this as the No. 1 Beatles Fan Ever Ever Ever. I don't think I could single out one particular song or album as being most important – but my husband (a major Beatles/George fan) and I did enter our wedding reception to "All You Need Is Love." As for meeting them or going to their concerts: No, and no. The closest I've come to meeting a Beatle is when I interviewed Sean Lennon on the phone probably 20 years ago.


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