Sunday, February 24, 2013

This Week, I Have Been Mostly...

READING: The Harlequin by Laurell K Hamilton. I can't seem to quit this series, although I'm not entirely sure why. Possibly it's two parts nostalgia, one part car-crash voyeurism and one part instruction of the 'what not to do' variety. This one has Edward, which is always good value, and it also has more talking than sex, which hasn't been the case for a while. I just wish so much of the talking wasn't slut-shaming.

Short Stories: 69-80 of 500. Faves this week:

The Wanderers, by Bonnie Jo Shufflebeam at Clarkesworld 
The voice is wonderful, with just the right amount of 'offness' to be credible and intriguing without becoming incomprehensible. There's a dark sense of glee in the narrator's anticipation of violence, and an unexpected pathos when it doesn't pan out--like a little boy crying because the flies he was going to pull the wings off are already dead.

I Heard You Got a Cat, I Heart You Named Him Charles by M. Bennardo at Daily Science Fiction.
A perfect flash, with so much story told in so few words.  Plus, this is creepy with a capital CREEP.

WRITING: A 4k contemporary fantasy about a goddess who goes for life coaching.

  • Django Unchained, which I thought was tremendous: some absolutely wonderful performances. 
  • The first Black Mirror, 'Be Right Back'. The central idea was almost identical to that used in Caprica, but--possibly because this was so much more 'right around the corner'-- it was far, far creepier here. I spent most of it cowering, yelling 'haven't you ever seen any piece of science fiction EVER? This stuff Does Not End Well.' The actual ending, although still very unsettling, came as kind of a relief. 
  • The Losers, which was a very generic action film but really made me miss John Winchester. 

  • When you hear a cover version of a song before the original, do you tend to prefer the cover?
  • What percentage, roughly, of the stories in any given issue of a magazine would you buy for your own, if you had one?

BEING GRATEFUL FOR: the fact that beginners can benefit from the wisdom of those who came before us, like this by Helena Bell on cover letters. Gotta love the Internet!

PUBLISHING: What Doesn't Kill You, a 4,500 dark fantasy from Transient Tales Vol 1, as a standalone e-short. It's great that we can now release stories individually, like singles, as a taster. Gotta love the Internet part 2! (Link goes to Smashwords: Amazon in progress)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

This Week, I Have Been Mostly...

READING: Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut. I found this easy to appreciate and admire, but a little less easy to love.

Short stories:  63 - 68 of 500. Faves this week both come from Daily Science Fiction:

The Needs of Hollow Men by K A Rundell: I love empath stories, and this is a good one. Excellent internal descriptions and an unexpectedly sweet finish.

For the People by Ronald D Ferguson: If you can buy the premise (and in the increasingly-virtual world, it gets easier each day) this is a satisfying story.

WRITING: a 3.5k cannibal horror story, plus 2k of a lightly-comic superhero story.

WATCHING: The Following, with Kevin Back and James Purefoy. Some of my top narrative kinks are charismatic sociopaths, manipulative puppetmasters, broken obsessives and people who go to insane lengths. This show was MADE for me. Also Rizzoli and Isles, which I love more and more each ep. It's so nice to see a female bromance (is there a word for this?) for a change.

LISTENING TO: Battle Born, by The Killers. Great album, IMO their best since Hot Fuss.

SHOPPING FOR: my holiday: Muse, The Killers, Slipknot and Rammstein t-shirts. Roll on New York!

WORRYING ABOUT: having a money spider lay eggs in my brain after I tried to lift it out of my hair and accidentally snorted it up my nose instead.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

This Week, I Have Been Mostly...

READING: Locke & Key Vol 4, Keys to the Kingdom by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. Love, love LOVE this series. Fantastic artwork, brilliant story. Wonderful sense of menace throughout. Highly recommended.

Short stories: 51 - 62 of 500. Favourite this week was
Zebulon Vance Sings the Alphabet Songs of Love, by Merrie Haskell at Apex
Sweet robot love story in an interesting setting. How can you not love a character called Robot!Ophelia?

WRITING: A 2.5k horror-y, slipstream-y story with an unreliable, secretive narrator. Could be too oblique? We'll see.

WATCHING: 'Ricochet,' Dude, that was not a good film. Julie Benz and Gary Cole are always good value, but that was the only upside. Normally this kind of twisty-suspense story relies a lot on misdirection, but this was so badly put together that I had no idea where it was trying to direct me in the first place. Out of many, many issues, what bugged me the most was (!!SPOILER WARNING!!) that when Elise fakes her own death, a body is fished out of the river wearing her dress, and identified as her. And this poor woman, who was presumably murdered to make this possible (unless Elise keeps a stash of dead clones on ice, in case they come in handy?) is never mentioned again, by anybody--not even the supposed-good-guy cops. I just kept thinking, doesn't anyone care about her? Was she just the wrong lookalike in the wrong place? Maybe there's a companion-piece story in there, telling her side.

QUOTING: Dean Wesley Smith: 'The truth is that the best way to sell books is to write a lot, work on learning how to be a better storyteller constantly, get your work in front of editors, readers or both, and plan for the long haul.' You can't argue with that.

TAKING: Dean Wesley Smith's advice to Think Like A Publisher and set my production schedule & deadlines for the rest of the year. Publisher-Me is happy. Writer-Me is gibbering in terror. If I'd known I was going to be such a hard-ass boss, I might  have re-thought this gig.

LISTENING TO: my favourite TV theme music, from Romanzo Criminale - you can hear it from 3.30 to 6.00 on  this clip

WISHING: that this was real. If someone could just nip through a wormhole into the parallel universe where it exists and pick me up the boxset, that'd be awesome. Ta.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

This Week, I Have Been Mostly

READING: Double Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. Privilege subtext, where the reader knows more than the character, is a great storytelling technique, but it's slightly overdone here -- rather than me feel superior and creating tension, it made Dex come across as a little obtuse. But that said, I do love this series and it's fun to see characters, such as Doakes, that aren't in the TV show any more.

Short stories: up to 50 of 500. Faves include:

Child-Empress of Mars by Theodora Goss reprinted at Lightspeed
I've never read the 'Mars adventure' stories that this is riffing off (note to self: you should rectify that) but it was still interesting to see this kind of thing done from the aliens' perspective, and I liked the themes of performance and storytelling. The world-building initially seemed random and overwhelming, but quickly became charming.

Dysphonia in D Minor by Damien Walters Grintalis at Strange Horizons
Sweetly melancholy story of love and destruction, using an interesting song-creates-buildings metaphor as backdrop. It's a shame we don't find out more about Lucia's motivations, but it's still an effective story.

WRITING: a short SF tale set on a red planet and featuring the theme of 'wherever you go, there you are'. Which is not necessarily a good thing.

WATCHING: Utopia, on Channel 4. Only seen the pilot, but what a pilot it was. Interesting, diverse characters, an involved plot, great bad guys and a nightmarish, creepy vibe. Definitely coming back for more.

LEARNING: how to create epub and mobi files by hand, without using conversion software. It takes a while to get your head round it, and it's fiddly, but once you've got the basic structure (and templates) down, it's not that hard. And you know you're getting nice, clean, stable ebooks that a) do what you want them to do and b) are easily updated with new links etc. It takes time, but it's worth it. Which leads on to:

PUBLISHING: Transient Tales Volumes 1 and 2 - 20k collections of short SF, fantasy & horror stories.

Volume 1: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Smashwords / Kobo

Volume 2: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Smashwords

FINDING USEFUL: The Submission Grinder by Diabolical Plots. I always kept my subs on a spreadsheet (because, spreadsheets!) so I didn't feel the loss of Duotrope that much, but I did miss that sense of being in a Rejections Submissions Gang. It's nice to see all the reports coming in -- makes it feel that much less lonely.

WORKING WITH:  the Vampires Tarot of the Eternal Night, which gives surprisingly upbeat, positive, self-help style readings. It creates a bit of cognitive dissonance to get a 'Woo, yeah, you can do it!' pep talk from vampires, but I like it.