Friday, December 30, 2011

My 2011

First, the personal stuff: My dog of thirteen years died at the beginning of the year, which made me miserable for longer than I could have imagined. The Boy graduated from high school and started college, so that was awesome. No, Elke, he's still not ready to be called The Man yet. I gave many driving lessons to my daughter. I appeared on the SFF Audio podcast for the first time (touting Grant Morrison's incredible Supergods), read some awesome books and saw Cirque du Soleil for the first time (a birthday gift for the girl).

On the writerly front, I had an awesome start to the year with the publication of my story, Beauty Belongs to the Flowers at Tor.com. I followed that up in April with my story, Steve Sepp, Tasty! Tasty! in Nature. I donated The Girl with the Halo to a fundraiser for my pals at Chizine (Sorry, that one's no longer up), had my story, Losing Touch, published in Polluto #8, and Electric Ladyland published in StarShipSofa Stories Vol. 3. Accepted, but not yet published, is my story The Empire State Building Strikes Back!, to The Dunesteef podcast.

With the sales of Beauty and Steve Sepp, my second and third pro sales, I was able to join SFWA as an active member, which felt fantastic. It's a great club in which to be.

It was a startlingly small output of short stories for me this year. Only five! Worst year in a long, long time. Oh, Matty, you're not going to reach one-thousand that way. I am, however, full of excuses. I was working on longer things. In the spring I got about 24,000 words into a novel that was put on hold because I got wild with Beware the Hairy Mango and pulled off MuchoMangoMayo, thirty-one new episodes in the thirty-one days of May. I'm happy to say that it was such a success I'll be doing it again in 2012. Then I put the novel on hold again to work on a novella. I did a couple of short stories, then decided to turn the novella into a novel because I had a lot more to say on the subject. I'm deep into that one now and hope to have it done by June. That first novel I mentioned will get done eventually.

Only 51 submissions this year, but the paucity of stories produced helps explain that.

Having said all this, my word output has skyrocketed this year. In years past, 1,000 words was a good week, no matter what I wanted, tried or hoped for. I started cranking that up in a big way in the spring and for the last three months or so, I've averaged about 8,000 words a week.

I didn't want to mention specific goals on this blog last year, so there's nothing to comment on except that I went in a different direction than I expected to with the longer works.

As for 2012, the first five months of next year will be consumed by the novel and the Mango. After that. I need to hustle out lots of short stories. I'm hoping that my increased word counts will help me gain a lot of ground there. Okay, so officially, I'm shooting for the completion of a novel, fifty-three episodes of Beware the Hairy Mango, thirty new short stories and two hundred submissions.

It's a good thing I have no life.

I hope all of you reading this had a great 2011 and will have an even greater 2012. Let's hit it!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Novella To Novel (In Progress)

So I wrote a novella over the summer that I liked so much, I decided to turn it into a novel. The novella was about 20,000 words long and the novel is currently about 65,000 words long. Here I'll tell you what the process has been like so far. This may sound like a very weird way to write a novel, but everyone does it differently.

I took about a two month break between projects and while I was bubbling with ideas at the beginning of those two months, I was unfortunately a little dry when it came time to start the novel. I had a couple of ideas I knew I wanted to explore and wrote them down, then I mostly just wrote whatever came into my head about some political and technological ideas I decided to throw in.

It was going a bit slower than I wanted it to, so I whipped out my secret weapon. My secret weapon is a reader of this blog to whom I give my personal deadlines. I realized months ago that I'm pretty good at meeting deadlines for other people, but can't meet my own. So I give this person my deadlines, and I work a lot harder to meet them. I had set a deadline of 100,000 words by the end of the year, but nothing any more specific. I realized I was falling behind quickly, so I made smaller goals with weekly deadlines. 7,000 words a week. Then things started moving.

Next some scenes started to gel so I wrote those. Now, for the most part, I wrote each of these chunks down after the body of the original story, in no particular order and whether or not they made perfect sense in relation to the rest of the story.

When I ran out of ideas, I read through the original story once more and added stuff, bits of dialogue and details, which led to more ideas for chunks of stuff to be added to the big mess at the end of the file. I was shooting for 100,000 words for the first draft but petered out at 65,000 words using this process. No sweat. This meant, for me, that it was time to move onto the second draft.

Some writers overwrite for their first draft and spend subsequent drafts cutting stuff out. Others underwrite and add. I'm one of those. So in preparation for the second draft, I picked up each one of those homeless chunks of text that came after the story and dropped it roughly where it fit in the story chronologically. I made new chapters for them if they were needed. Now, as I've said, they might not make perfect sense with the rest of the story, but that's going to be fixed later.

Once the chunks were distributed, I renumbered my chapters (I ended up adding sixteen chapters) and sketched an outline. I never begin with an outline. I write chunks, assemble them and then write the outline. The outline is just a list of chapter numbers, each with a one sentence description of what happens in the chapter. This way I can see the entire novel on a page or so. A handy reference.

The step I'm in now is to read through the story I've got, make little changes and write notes for bigger changes. After that, I'll make those changes and then see what's missing, what still needs to be written.

That's all I've got for now. There will be more than that, but I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. This novel will be the first one I've ever finished. The process I've described here, though, is the same sort of thing I use for my short stories. I start with unconnected scenes and fix it up later. Best writing advice I ever got? It was from my guitarist friend, Chris Simmonds, when we were teenagers:

Write what you've got.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Electric Ladyland

My latest story, "Electric Ladyland," is in StarShipSofa Stories, Vol. 3, out today! You can buy copies in multiple formats here: http://www.starshipsofa.com/stories-volume-3/buy-the-book/

Electric Ladyland happened when I thought, "What would happen if I brought the style of The Fiction Crawler and Beware the Hairy Mango to a seriousish science fiction story?" If you like those, you'll like this. For those of you scoring at home, Electric Ladyland is story number 129 of The One-Thousand.

If you don't like this, you still get lots of great stories by people like Haldeman, Swanwick, Brin, Castro, Valente and more as consolation. I've seen the book, it's full of great stuff!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Equations of Life

Samuil Petrovich is a street smart Russian mathematical genius with an ugly past living in London twenty years after Armageddon (What I believe was a terrorist-initiated world-wide nuclear attack), who inadvertently gets caught in the middle of a war between Japanese and Russian mobsters. He even less advertently seems to kick off a new end of the world scenario brought to reality by something called the New Machine Jihad. His closest ally as hell and shrapnel rain down on all sides? A combat-trained amazonian nun in body armor.

I dare you not to read that.

I rarely pick up books these days without recommendations or at least knowing something about them, but I picked up Simon Morden's Equations of Life based solely on the back cover copy (so kudos to whoever wrote that). Even so, I expected to be disappointed because I'm a fussy reader and start a hell of a lot more books than I finish.

However, I could tell in the first chapter that I might be pleasantly surprised. Although the story opens in a near future slum that William Gibson would be comfortable writing about, Morden's writing is cool in a way that's different from the dense Gibsonian stuff that I love and am used to. I don't know exactly what he's doing but it feels fresh and I sure needed some fresh. There were one or two small slowdowns along the way, but otherwise the characters and action carried me to the end and a good conclusion that also leads into the next two books, Theories of Flight and Degrees of Freedom, which I now own and look forward to reading

These books all came out within three months of each other this year, which surprised me. I thought that maybe they'd been released more slowly in the UK and then brought out all at once here, but I don't think that's the case. This is a good thing, because as soon as you finish one, you can grab the next.

And I recommend you do so.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guest Post: Bryan Thomas Schmidt


Hey, folks! For today's post, I'm turning the blog over to my friend and writer Bryan Thomas Schmidt. I like his philosophy of storytelling and he's going to share it with you here. Bryan's got a new novel out called The Worker Prince. Check it out! You can learn about all things Bryan at http://bryanthomasschmidt.net/

MY APPROACH TO STORYTELLING
by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Matt, thanks for the invitation to visit your blog. What I decided to blog about is my approach to storytelling. I know you’d commented that you were impressed with what I said about that on the Adventures In SF Publishing podcast. And I do think it’s an important yet very personal thing for each writer as an individual, how they approach story. So that’s definitely a great thing to share more about.

I like old fashioned stories with larger-than-life heroes. Not that they can’t have flaws. They have to have flaws or there can be no arc and nothing to overcome. They have to have flaws because how else can readers identify with them? So I don’t mean larger-than-life and perfect but, rather, larger-than-life in that they are people who rise above the capacity of normal man much easier than most of us and face danger and difficulties with a bravery most would struggle to muster.

Part of this is my Star Wars influence, because Star Wars IV: A New Hope was my childhood introduction to storytelling, and Luke, Han, Leia—are all larger-than-life characters in big ways. Yet all of them have flaws. Luke’s ego and innocence are flaws for him that get him into trouble. Han’s flaws are more obvious: cocky, carefree, selfishness and pushing the edge of the law are examples. Leia is flawed in being also prideful but at the same time very much used to being bossy. Just examples. Each has more flaws but you get the idea. Still the way they rise above their flaws makes us love them.

So my stories do tend to have those kinds of heroes.

I also believe storytelling has one primary goal: to entertain. Oh yes, stories can make you think about life and issues. Especially science fiction which is tailor made for helping us examine ourselves from new perspectives. But no amount of research, exposition, preaching, etc. replaces good clean plotting, characterization and heart. Tom Clancy is a talented writer. He came out huge with bestseller after bestseller. But he loved his research. Tom Clancy would spend pages just describing a weapon or vehicle. It was boring. It was annoying. It wasn’t important. So I’d skip those pages and go on with the story. It is challenging to keep exposition to a minimum. I have had to work hard on that. In fact, I probably do it better in The Returning, Book 2 of the Saga of Davi Rhii than I did in The Worker Prince, Book 1 which just came out. But ultimately exposition is dry and unemotional. As a consequence, while the reader may have a momentary “Oh cool” reaction to some few sentences, for the most part, exposition leaves them little to connect with and quickly to boredom.

So my approach is to try and focus not on a lot of detailed description as much as the emotional touches. And I also have great faith in my readers. So many people over write. Some do it because their prose is so beautiful. They can probably get away with it. I’m still learning my craft, so I can’t afford that luxury. And I believe if you give enough hints, the readers use their own imagination to fill in the gaps. They engage with the story and in doing so, making stronger attachments to it. We all love a story that makes us feel and think and laugh. We love to run the gamut of emotions because the story is so good we can’t help it. It makes it memorable and far more real to us. I love those kinds of stories, too.

I am very careful that what I include is done in a way to aide the story, not hurt it. For example, I have Christianity as a world building element in the saga, but it’s not preacher or proselytizing. It’s just there and explained briefly and in the Christian character’s lifestyles and they move on. There’s no room for preaching religion, politics, or environmentalism or anything else in good storytelling because show don’t tell is so core to engaging readers. And those things are preachy. Instead you have to show. You can demonstrate the effects of a bad environment or a religion or a political view. But it had better be done in context of the story or readers will see right through it and they won’t like that at all.

The goal in telling the story should be to connect with readers emotionally first then mentally. Stimulate their emotions and creative thinking so that they engage fully and completely and lose themselves in it. When they finish, they should feel like it was great escape from the everyday world. If you do that, whether your story is serious or comedic, romantic or tragic, readers will love you for it.

The last element I want to talk about is questions. For me, a core part of storytelling is a series of questions. As I write I keep track of the questions asked and when I answer them. Some are left hanging to build tension and engage the reader. For example, when Davi’s parents send him to the stars as a baby, it’s emotional and breaks their hearts. Will they ever see him again or know what happened? That question carries us through several chapters before we get answers. When Davi meets Tela, his love interest, they clash. He’s crazy for her but she seems to dislike him. Will he win her over? That carries us through a while, too.

It may seem simple, but it’s not because knowing what to ask, when and when to answer is how you create tension and pace that engages readers, holds their interest, and keeps them turning pages. And in the case of a trilogy like mine, some questions don’t get answered until the later books. But in any case, when done well, these questions and answers will keep readers satisfied that the story is going somewhere. If you let all questions hang unanswered for too long, they get bored and feel manipulated and may even wonder if anything is every going to happen. On the other hand, answering them too soon can totally remove all the momentum and tension driving your story. So it’s a delicate balance and takes practice and careful thought, although it can become more instinctual over time.

The three elements of larger-than-life but flawed heroes, tight prose avoiding heavy preaching or descriptions and questions asked and answered are core to my storytelling approach. Of course there are other elements as well, but those are key for me and I hope they’re helpful to other writers out there.

The Worker Prince by Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Oct. 4, 2011, Diminished Media Group, tradepaperback, $14.95.


Synopsis: What if everything you thought you knew about yourself and the world turned out to be wrong? For Davi Rhii, Prince of the Boralian people, that nightmare has become a reality. Freshly graduated from the prestigious Borali Military Academy, now he’s discovered he was secretly adopted and born a worker. Ancient enemies of the Boralians, enslaved now for generations, the workers of Vertullis live lives harder than Davi had ever imagined. To make matters worse, Davi’s discovered that the High Lord Councilor of the Alliance, his uncle Xalivar, is responsible for years of abuse and suppression against the workers Davi now knows as his own people.



His quest to rediscover himself brings him into conflict with Xalivar and his friends and family, calling into question his cultural values and assumptions, and putting in jeopardy all he’s worked for his whole life. Davi’s never felt more confused and alone. Will he stand and watch the workers face continued mistreatment or turn his back on his loved ones and fight for what’s right? Whatever he decides is sure to change his life forever.





Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the newly released space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, interviewing people like Mike Resnick, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Kevin J. Anderson and A.C. Crispin. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

StarShipSofa 208

This week StarShipSofa presents StarShipSofa no. 208. Blast off!

StarShipSofa No 208 Joe Haldeman


Coming Up

Interview: Tobias Buckell
Fact: Film Talk by Dennis Lane
Main Fiction: Never Blood Enough by Joe Haldeman
Fact: Mini Meta StarShipSofa’s Monthly eMagazine (Poll) by Tony C Smith
Fact: Poetry Planet by Diane Severson
Narrator: Simon Hildebrandt

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Supakitch And Koralie

Somebody tweeted about this a day or two ago and I'm sorry to say I don't remember who. This is definitely one you want to watch full screen.

http://youtu.be/SDdUxdxVTH0

Sunday, October 09, 2011

God's War


If you're looking for a good read, I highly recommend Kameron Hurley's God's War. Hurley's heroine, Nyx, is one of the most bad-ass characters I've seen in a while. She's a bounty hunter on a world where two Islamic countries are in the middle of a three hundred year old war. Nyx has a handful of employees and other than that it seems everyone else wants her dead or at least severely beaten on a regular basis.

There are magicians and shape-shifters, though this is science fiction rather than fantasy novel. Having said that, what happens to the shape-shifters mass when changing form isn't explained and so it seems pretty magical. The magicians are mighty handy surgeons who have organ and limb transplants down to a ho-hum. And there's this thing with bugs. There are bugs and bugs and bugs everywhere and they're used for all manor of useful things, many of which - like powering semi-organic vehicles - happen without my understanding, but my understanding isn't necessary to a great story. All this weirdness just makes for lots of cool.

It's a very brutal world and Nyx is on the receiving end of much of that brutality. Her ability to get back up even when her body, her team and her circumstances are falling into shit goes beyond making her an interesting character and actually inspires me. If you like Batman or Conan, but wish they had a little more depth and humanity, Nyx is your lady.

Check it out and if you like it, the sequel, Infidel, will be out in mere days. I'll definitely be picking it up. You can get both books through Kameron Hurley's website.

Princess Bride Reunion

Via Neatorama. If my Facebook friends can't see the vid, just come here: http://theonethousand.blogspot.com/2011/10/princess-bride-reunion.html


video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Friday, October 07, 2011

How to Eat Your Apple

Welcome to new follower, Joseph Patrick Pascale!

Via Cartoon Brew: How to Eat Your Apple by Erick Oh. I dig it because there's a lot of stuff going on here.

http://vimeo.com/29081666

How to eat your Apple from Erick Oh on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Sandhill Cranes

Welcome to new follower kaylaDawn!





A couple of sandhill cranes for you. I give my daughter driving lessons on weekends and a couple of weeks ago she was learning how to park at a local school parking lot. That's where we spotted these guys. The area is crawling with them. Best shot I could get as they insisted on staying in the shade. They even looked like they were trying to sit on this bench and take it easy.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Losing Touch in Polluto 8

My latest published story, Losing Touch (Number 27 of The One-Thousand), appears in Polluto no. 8 which you can purchase here: http://www.polluto.com/subscribe.html

I usually don't warn people, but I will this time, since you're shelling out ten pounds, there's some dark shit in this story and it may not be your kinda thing. If it is your kinda thing, you should definitely get a copy because dark shit seems to be what Polluto thrives on. I'm very pleased that Polluto published this one because it had become what I like to call my cursed story. Again and again I would get no response from editors on this one, not even a rejection, even after query letters were sent and at least one magazine went out of business while this story was with them.

The story takes place in a future where humanity is part of a large galactic society with lots of different alien races. One day the aliens all freak out about what they call The Great Catastrophe and take the hell off without explanation. Years later, our hero, Agent Kip Dyre, gets word that an alien might have been found on a new human colony. He's got to find it and learn just what the heck The Great Catastrophe is before humanity falls victim to it.

Buy it, read it, enjoy.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

135

Just finished story 135 of the One-Thousand and sent it off into the world. I'm quite happy with it.

And thanks, Em!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

SFFaudio, Supergods And Me

I make a guest appearance on the latest SFFaudio podcast, talking about a book (or more precisely audiobook) that I absolutely love, Grant Morrison's Supergods. Check it out: http://www.sffaudio.com/?p=31986

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Flapper Was Leaking

The following story does not involve a urologist. It does, however involve a toilet.

I got hit with a water bill that was about fifty bucks more than usual and went to City Hall to check it out. They said I used ten-thousand gallons of water last month. I said that's crazy (that sounds like a whole swimming pool to me) and asked for someone to recheck my meter. Still waiting on that. The lady I spoke to said I might want to check for leaks.

I've known about a trickle in my toilet tank for a long time. It trickles from the tank into the bowl. But it seemed pretty innocuous. Yesterday I checked the meter several times and did some math. I'm letting over six-thousand gallons of water a month go down my toilet when I'm not using it! Holy cow!

I immediately went to Home Depot and replaced the flapper in the toilet tank. A six dollar solution. I'm horrified that I wasted so much water. Everybody, check your flappers. The strange thing is, I've known about the leak for a long time and yet my bill only went up last month. What's that about?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Vitamin D!

Firstly, congratulations to this year's Hugo winners!

Secondly, I've been tired since I hit puberty and it took many years for me to start believing that I wasn't just a lazy bastard, but something was physically wrong with me. I never knew what, though. I asked a doctor about it a few years back and she ordered lots of blood tests. With the results, she thought it might have something to do with my low testosterone levels (sorry ladies). She prescribed a patch which made me even more tired than usual. I quit about a week and a half into it when I realized I was sleeping through my entire vacation.

As I've stated, being back on the diet means no caffeine, which in turn means I'm dragging ass, even yesterday afternoon after sleeping nearly ten hours. I was complaining about this to some folks at work when one of our assistant managers said she and her son had the same problem and their doctor said it was a vitamin D deficiency. A bit of vitamin D straightened them out. At this point, I'm willing to try anything, so at lunch time I shot across the street to the supplement place and got some D. The difference is pretty amazing. I'm awake and alert! Even today with only four hours of sleep (due to work and watching Hugos and helping daughter with essays that she had all summer to do) I felt sharp for most of the day.

This could be the answer to a lot of my problems. I hope it doesn't wear off! if it continues it is certainly life changing and, damn, I wish I'd known about it twenty-five years ago.

P.S. I do drink milk and get a bit of Florida sun, but apparently that doesn't cut it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Conan

Saw the new Conan today. It was a good try, but not quite Conany enough for me. I don't feel like I wasted my money though. It wasn't as good as the first film but way the hell better then the second. Also, it was pretty gorey.

The former wife points out that Conan's childhood in this new movie is much more in line with Howard's character than the first one. She prefers this one to the original because of that and because it has a lot more action. She agrees that this one was way the hell better than the second.

At any rate, if you're a Conan fan, you're probably going to check it out anyway, so really, the only advice we can give to anyone is (even though we both liked Grace Jones), if you haven't seen the second one, don't ever do so.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

CNR

I'm all sleepy, what with no caffeine and getting up early for days. I'm getting no writing done. I'm just throwing a video that I dig on here for tonight. Enjoy.

http://youtu.be/xLnapb-30hA

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sawgrass Mills 1

I took my daughter to see Cirque du Soleil (Alegria) a few weeks back for her birthday and decided to show her Sawgrass Mills, a huge-ass outlet mall in Sunrise, Florida (west of Ft. Lauderdale). Here's the floor plan. My daughter hadn't been there since she was two years old. I took a bunch of pics because I'm a hick who doesn't get out much but I keep putting off posting them because there are too many to mess with at once. So I'll just show two or three at a time.

How could I possibly pass up a picture of a store with a name like this?



Here are a couple of pics from a candy store whose name I forget and can't find on that shitty floor plan above. I didn't quite capture the entire store.




Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Let's Try This Again

Welcome, new follower, Snard! (and I've been calling him Mike all this time)

With the terrible news that science fiction author Colin Harvey died of a stroke yesterday and the scale telling me that I've regained twenty of the thirty-five pounds that I lost last year, I have decided to get healthier once more. I originally lost the weight to prevent my own stroke. My blood pressure, among other things, was way too high. After I lost the weight, I had the misfortune of having my doctor tell me that I was in good shape. That's when I began to slide.

Part of the slide was anticipated. I looked at my writing goals at the beginning of this year and realized I would lose ground if I was going to get things done. While I'm losing the weight, you see, I forgo caffeine, take in less calories and exercise and so I'm tired as hell. I have a different situation this year though. For one and two, I've discovered the power of freewriting and the kanban board. The other thing is last year I was taking care of my old and sick dog. She took a lot of time and woke me up multiple times each night. So, who knows, I may be able to get back into the slightly less lumpy shape I was in and also get some writing and podcasting done.

Sure hope so.

Monday, August 15, 2011

134, Mango And The Wisdom Of Rest

Hooray! Story 134 of The One-Thousand is finally out the door! That's the novella and it took two months. That only makes three stories for the year so far, which is stinky-pie, but I hope to concentrate more on short stories for the rest of the year, only giving the novel in progress about a page a day.

The latest episode of Beware the Hairy Mango has popped into existence and is eagerly awaiting your aural perusal. Easy as Cake! Listen here: http://bewarethehairymango.com/episode-84-easy-as-cake/

The original plan at this point was to write for a couple of hours even if was just freewriting, but I only slept about three hours last night and even getting an hour and a half more after work, I'm not at my best. Not that I couldn't do it, but since I have to get up in five hours, it's wiser to rest and be better for tomorrow. I always wanted to be one of those good people who wrote every day (fiction, I mean), but now I understand with work, family and life, it's okay to sacrifice a couple of days a week to the betterment of the other five. let me stop now before I spend more time not sleeping. Bye!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mates of State

Mates of State turned out to be the soundtrack for the writing of my novella. I eventually added some Zero 7 and Sade, but Mates of State was at the heart of it. It got to the point that when I heard their song, Now, it would put me right into the world I was writing about. That's a powerful thing when you have to produce words. I can't find a decent video for Now, so here's what might be my second favorite song from Mates of State, My Only Offer. Maybe you'll dig it.

http://youtu.be/TeVfiJ-ea6Y

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Done-ish

The Done-ish Horror!

My novella is done and I was about to send it out when I remembered that I told my beta-readers they had until the 15th to get back to me with any issues, so I figured I'd better wait. At least out of courtesy, because I received loads of great feedback from people who got back to me early. Of course, if one of my procrastinators points out a new and important problem, I'll be very happy that I didn't ship the thing out just yet.

I've spent most of the last eight hours fooling with the thing and now I think it's time to get out of the house.

Later!

Friday, August 12, 2011

I Suck At Blogging

I'm saying it for my sake because you already know. It's exactly like alcoholism. EXACTLY!

Anyway, I'm starting to burn out on the social networks, and I really should be here more. I'm not going to say I'll try to do better, because I've lied to you enough in the past. I've broken too many promises. I'm exactly like a deadbeat dad.

Right now, I'm working on finishing up the fifth draft of my novella. This is the draft where I try to fix the things that my beta readers complained about where I can see that they might have a point. There are plenty of things I don't agree with and you don't want to try to please everybody, or else you get a shitty story. I don't like shitty stories.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Horse & Sunshine

Now that my title has lured in all my druggie pals, look at my swell pictures! I love this horse. It stands near the Fort Pierce library, so I see it every month or so (The daughter and I do regular rounds of six or seven county libraries), except at Christmas when they surround it with a huge fake tree. I'm pissed that there's no plaque or sign with the artist's name or title of the work.





Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Our Story So Far

Holy crap! I haven't posted here in a month and a half! If anybody's still out there to read this, my apologies.

I've haven't had anything to add to The One-Thousand (that's the list of stories, not this blog) because I've been working on big projects. I wrote over 23,000 words of a new novel and then put that aside while I started a novella for The Galaxy Project.

I often write bits and pieces of a story at first and then add to it so it gets larger with subsequent drafts. Others write long and then cut. When I reached about 8,000 words on the novella, I suddenly felt like my skeleton was in place and declared the beginning of the second draft. I just topped 14,000 words yesterday and I'm now declaring the beginning of the third draft. I'm going to read the whole thing through tonight (for the first time, really) and make notes about what still needs to be added. I make notes in ALL CAPS because this is one thing that transfers from file type to file type. I also want to brainstorm a few different endings and see which I like best. I have an ending now, and although it's nice, I don't think it's going to stick with anyone after they're done reading.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

You've Got To Hide Your Love Away

I'm not making any kind of juicy confession, that's just the name of the song. I was sure I posted this here before, but I can't find it. Don't look at this as one scene of a rancid film. Look at it as a music video. In that sense I think it's gorgeous. I love the look, the set, the clothing (I'd say costumes, but when this was filmed, they weren't costumes, they were clothes), the whole nine. Kudos to director Richard Lester. And it's a great song too.



http://youtu.be/jz7IjXu0DfQ

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Boy Graduates!

The Boy, also known as Ian Alexander Sanborn Smith, graduated from Treasure Coast High School tonight. Yay! Looking at his grades a couple of months back, I wasn't sure if he was going to be able to pull it off, but he did lots of make-up work in the last few weeks of school, and here we are. 


The ceremony was held in the Adams Ranch Equestrian Arena. This made me hope that all the graduates would come barreling in on horses. No frickin' dice. Speaking of barrels, the blue one in the foreground is for garbage, not rodeo clowns.
Here are the graduates in the school colors, the boys in black, girls in gold. As you can see, we were in the nosebleed seats.
Here's The Boy with me. He looks like he stepped out of a Superman film.

Here's the blurry Boy with his sister. His mother was on his right but she demanded that she not be blogged

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Everything's Coming Up Stones

Which are much more dependable and durable than roses. I'm talking about friend-of-blog (sounds like something the Hulk would say. Blog Smash!) Grant Stone, who had one hell of a month and I'm here to pass along the fruits of his hard work, to your good fortune.

I already told you about his story at Strange Horizons, Young Love on the Run from the Federal Alien Administration New Mexico Division (1984) and I just told you again.

Plus, issue #2 of his awesome fanzine, b0t, came out. You can download it as well as #1 here: http://b0tzine.com/

And then after that, his steampunky story, A Ruby in Rain appeared in audio at The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. Listen here, you! http://www.ministryofpeculiaroccurrences.com/2011/05/17/tales-from-the-archives-six/

What's more, Grant's story, When Her Wings, is part of the Tales for Canterbury anthology to help New Zealand earthquake relief efforts along with stories by heavy hitters like Neil Gaiman, Gwyneth Jones, Jay Lake, Jeff VanderMeer and Sean Williams. But of course, you'll want it for Grant. Buy that (cheap) here: http://randomstatic.net/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1_10&products_id=51

By this point I feel like I'm writing hearts all over my notebook with Grant's name in them. But wait, there's more! Can you believe it?

On top of all that, Grant's story, Wood, has been chosen to appear in the first volume of The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror! No link yet, but when there is one, you'll see it on this blog.

Shit, man, you knocked it out of the park with this month. Here's wishing you scads more like this one!

And if you guys, hadn't figured it out yet, this is a writer you'll want to follow. Say, "Hi," here: http://d1sc0r0b0t.blogspot.com/

Monday, May 30, 2011

Singed

No, that's not the past tense of sing. I'm feeling a little worn out, but not burnt out, just singed. I've got one more episode of Beware the Hairy Mango to do for MuchoMangoMayo and though it's mostly written, it's going to get finished tomorrow as I'm running on about three and a half hours sleep. I'll do it better in the morning. It's been a rough month, but I enjoyed the work. I'm pretty sure I'm taking May 31st off, then I'll jump back into writing fiction June 1st. That's going to be a weird shifting of gears.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Tale of New Hope City

A Tale of New Hope City is the first story I ever got paid for. I sold it to Dave Felts for issue 4 of his magazine Maelstrom Speculative Fiction back in September of 1999. (Dave now runs SFReader.com, which you may enjoy) I'm re-publishing the story here because you currently can't find it anywhere else, and who knows? You might dig it. I just figured out how to do the jump thing on my posts so you don't have to scroll through the whole story to see what the post before this one was. I'll run the story behind the story in a few days. Remind me if I forget. Have fun!


A TALE OF NEW HOPE CITY
by Matthew Sanborn Smith


Dev's song rains down on me in the cold twilight of New Hope City while the roofrunners untint their optical flaps. For the first time today the City of Brass can be viewed by the naked eye without nerve damage. Dev's a friend of mine, a scanner who spends his evenings deprived of four senses at the base of one of New Hope's catch towers, smelling the molecules that float through its thirty story filters. The Citymind determines what his data indicates, prioritizes responses and alerts the proper servants. Dev sings low priorities to me, what the Aesthetic Guard passes over. I only act on vandalism and disfigurement. I'm a free-lance street-sweeper without compensation. I don't need it; I'm Latimer Vul.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

MuchoMangoMayo

I can't believe I haven't talked this up over here, but I'm kind of dumb. I've got a big event happening over at my podcast, Beware the Hairy Mango called MuchoMangoMayo. Normally you're lucky to get one episode a month from me, but for MuchoMangoMayo I'm doing a new episode every single day in the month of May. If you like things that don't make sense, but not more than five minutes worth at a time, this is the show for you. Go listen!

http://bewarethehairymango.com/

Monday, May 09, 2011

Young Love on the Run from the Federal Alien Administration New Mexico Division (1984)

I'm in the middle of scheduling a new Mango post, but I have to drop that and everything else for the moment, because I just discovered that friend of mine and The One-Thousand, Grant Stone, has a new story up at Strange Horizons! Whoo! If you don't know science fiction, let me just say that Strange Horizons is, in my opinion, the best online text science fiction magazine there is. Of all my Fiction Crawler recommendations, I've chosen more stories from Strange Horizons than any other source. That's an awesome win for him.

Go read it and be entertained! http://www.strangehorizons.com/2011/20110509/younglove-f.shtml

Sunday, May 08, 2011

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

On May 8th, 1991 I sent out my first story submission to a magazine. Because I don't remember when I started the story, I mark the beginning of my writing career from that date. The story was called Lives and Times and is number 1 of The One-Thousand. It wasn't a very good story, though I don't think it was horrible. It felt, even as I wrote it, like something written in the 1950s, an eccentric scientist tests out his theories on memory on his best friend who's got Alzheimer's with some unpleasant results. I still like the science fiction idea behind it. Our scientist takes the idea of seeing your life flash before your eyes and decides all the brain's neurons must be firing at once during a moment of intense stress. He figures out a way to make it happen without the stressful event.

Besides being my first submission, the story was important to me because it was the longest thing I had ever written to that point and the first longer work I had ever finished. I sent it to Amazing Stories. It had been my dream for years to be published by Amazing Stories, the oldest science fiction mag at that time. I didn't get published by Amazing Stories, even after six more tries. In fact, an assistant editor there used to eviscerate my work. Most rejections are simple form letters. If someone takes the time to tell you how bad your story is, well, that's a fresh new circle of Hell. At least I got those rejections out of the way at the very beginning.

I just became eligible to join the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and joined a couple of weeks ago. That marks the twenty year trip rather nicely, though I would have been horrified when I started if I had known it would take so long. A lot of people could have done what I've done in eight years or even less. I had life to deal with, like everyone else, but also, I wasn't the hardest worker. The one good example I have to offer from this journey is persistence. Say whatever else you will about me, a whole hell of a lot of people would have quit before that twenty year mark, especially with the many hundreds of rejections I received.

I'd like to think I have an iron will, but anyone who knows me (and I'm one of those people) knows that the strength of my will is equal to that of an over-boiled noodle. The truth is I quit loads of times over those twenty years. And every time I jumped back in a day or a week later. I didn't really have a choice in the matter. This is what I do and I'd do it no matter what. It feels really good that some other people are now able to dig what I'm doing too.

Given what I've said, I guess I don't have any inspirational advice. I'm not going to bother saying follow your dreams or stick with it, because you're already struggling to do the thing you feel you must do. You have been for years. If it's not in you to do a thing, you only have to quit it once. If you really love it, you'll quit it a thousand times.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Forty-Two

I turn forty-two today. I mention this not for birthday wishes and gifts (although I won't turn my nose up at those things) but because I had to change my age at the top of the blog and am reminded once more of how far behind I am in my goal. As ever, I'm not worried. Once I get all my Mangoes done for MuchoMangoMayo, I'll be throwing myself back into the story writing. As I mentioned in a previous post, the writing is coming more easily than ever. I'm completely confident that I can spin out all the first drafts I need to meet my goal. I'm not so sure I can spin out all the final drafts I need, but if I thought this would be a walk in the park, I wouldn't even be interested in it, would I?

And Happy Easter, if that's your thing!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Steve Sepp, Tasty! Tasty!

My latest story, Steve Sepp, Tasty! Tasty! is up at Nature.com. Here:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v472/n7342/full/472254a.html

It's number 128 of The One-Thousand. If you live near an exceptional newsstand, you may able to score a paper version of it in the April 14th issue of Nature.

If you enjoy it, tell your friends. Or your enemies, I don't care.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Getting My Shit Together

When the wife split, I remember saying to a friend a couple of months later that I couldn't even conceive of dating again until I got my shit together. My life was just beyond my control, as it always had been. You name it, it was going badly. I figured, though, that I could get things on track given a couple of years.

More than two years later (about six months ago), I resigned myself to the fact that I would never, ever get my shit together. I wasn't any closer than I had ever been and saw no way to suddenly turn it around. I was fucked and that was life.

In the last few weeks, two ridiculously simple things have convinced me that I have finally begun to get my shit together.

Numero Uno: The kanban board. The what now? Well, the mighty and much celebrated (by me, at least. The rest of you will catch on eventually) Grant Stone told me he was doing this personal kanban board thing. I googled it, saw a bunch of post-it notes on a white board, and figured I knew what that was about. I forgot about it. Then he mentioned it again and sent me a link to a site which explained it. Just go look:

http://www.personalkanban.com/pk/personal-kanban-101/


Watch the slideshow at the bottom of that post. Then read this page:

http://www.personalkanban.com/pk/primers/building-your-first-personal-kanban/

And that's it. That's all the knowledge you need. Go get your supplies, get it going, you're golden. I even went cheap, tacking up poster boards instead of a white board. I noticed the transformation in my life within two days. A ton of psychic weight had been lifted off of me. I wrote down every little nagging job that came to me and stuck it on the wall. At a glance, everything that used to be bouncing around in my head, waiting to be forgotten until it was too late, was now up on the board. All I had to do was turn my head. It gave me an organizational tool that was easily available. Before that I had been using a to-do list in Google Docs, which is a pain in the ass to pull up if you don't have your computer on and a pain when you want to change around priorities. It just sucked. Now I'm all color-coded and shit. There are my priorities, there is what I've done, there is my entire back burner from which I can move whatever has to be moved to the front.

Awesome.

Numero Two-o: Freewriting. So that was going swell, but I was running into some writing issues. I have a lot of writing to do, like eight-hundred and sixty-seven more stories (you may have heard of this), plus thirty-one episodes of Beware the Hairy Mango for all you greedies in the month of May. I don't have time to not write. But I wasn't writing. I don't really get writer's block. Not really. What I get is writer's avoidance and I'll bet that's what most writers get when they think about writer's block. It's where you find everything and anything to do that is not writing. Hanging with the family, watching movies, going for walks. Hell, getting things done on the kanban board. And yeah, you can put your writing on the kanban board, but writer's avoidance is so powerful, it can overcome the kanban and everything else on the planet. After a few days, I was getting seriously itchy. Five days into it, I started wondering what it would take to make me get into writing again. I mean excited. I thought back to the Beats. Now those mo-fos were excited about writing. I wanted it to feel cool for me like it did for them, but I wasn't sure how. A couple more days of deep thought and it broke.

Freewriting. That was it. A silly little technique I had learned nearly twenty years ago. It was cool, it was totally Beat and, if nothing else, it would definitely get me writing again. If anyone out there doesn't know what it is, I'll explain it. But if you can get hold of a copy of one of the three holy writing books, If You Can Talk, You Can Write, then do so. Joel Saltzman lays freewriting out, baby.

Here's how it works. Figure out how long you want to write or how many pages you want to write. Sit down and start writing whatever comes into your head, as if you were just talking to someone at a party (a drunk would talk a lot more, I imagine) or just talking to yourself, but on paper or on screen. Talk about the color of the walls or how you'd rather be drinking at a real party right now or how much longer you have until you're done or the price of china for tea. You keep writing, you don't pause, until you've hit your time or page limit.

I usually give myself ten pages. Here's how it went that first day. I was tired. I DID NOT want to screw around with this stuff. I kept telling myself to drop this crap and go to sleep. I wrote all of that down. Then I got really angry and let out my frustration. I hadn't written in a week and here I was, wasting my bloody time on gibberish and clock watching. I had some real shit to write. But I made myself keep going, because I knew if I gave in to that train of thought, I wasn't really going to write good stuff, I was going to go to sleep, or screw around and write a couple of sentences and quit. And then go to sleep.

Here's what's happening at the beginning of freewriting: You're priming the pump. When you have to get an old pump going again, you have to pour water into it because it can't pump air. When you start freewriting, you're pouring words through your fingers in order to get words to keep coming through from your head. You get started and pretty soon it's like you've lubricated some old machinery. It starts working like a dream.

Here's what else you're doing: You're flushing out all of that shit that's been clogging the line for however long you've been avoiding the keyboard. You can write about all of your distractions, frustrations, problems, everything that's been weighing on your mind and once it's out, it's out, sister.

Three pages into this exercise, I found I was finally starting to loosen up, I started writing down positive things because I'd run out of stuff to complain about. My language began to get crazier and ideas started to flow. At that point I wrote about enjoying the process I was experiencing and decided that my tenth page would actually be a page of a first draft that I hadn't touched for a few weeks. And let me tell you, when I hit that page of something-I-hope-to-someday-get-published, it just flowed, man. I accidentally went over my limit. And I completely forgot that all I wanted to do at the beginning of the exercise was go to sleep. This was victory on every mental front.

I got caught up in the job and very little sleep and productivity for a few days, but then I was able to catch up and I jumped back into the writing. I decided to make the writing part of my life the priority, because I sort of have to. If there's work in the morning, I'll work first, because I'm not one of those people who can get up at three in the morning and function, but other than work, eating and bathroom breaks, the writing gets done first. Before the tasks and the fun and the family. I completely understand that this may not be possible to swing for many of you. You don't have to do it my way. I'm just telling you what's working for me.

Now that I've done it for quite a few days, I realize that I only need to freewrite for about two pages before I'm ready to hit whatever else I need to do, but I still shoot for ten pages. This means that I'm writing about 2,500 words a day. In my long history of writing, 250 words has usually been a good day. Or at least one that I'm not embarrassed about. And to be honest, there were a hell of a lot more days of zero words than of 250 words. That's why I've been writing for twenty years but am just now starting to make some progress. Even with the silly blathering, I'm getting eight pages a day of good first draft done. I've stumbled into beginning a novel that I'm pretty excited about. I just threw down another 1,500 words for this post. And I seriously look forward to writing every day.

I think I'm finally beginning to get my shit together.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Help Another Brother Out

My twitter friend, and maybe yours, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, is in a bit a financial bind at the moment. You may follow him on twitter already at http://twitter.com/BryanThomasS, or you may have seen his twitter interviews there at http://twitter.com/sffwrtcht, where, every week, he interviews some very big names in the science fiction and fantasy field.

Bryan is looking for work at the moment and things have just about reached their limit. You can help and get a science fiction book for yourself in the process. Buy his book, The North Star Serial, Part 1 right here:

http://www.bryanthomasschmidt.net/bibliography.html

It's less than 10 bucks, even after shipping and tax. You'll get science fiction, you'll be helping writer through a rough patch and he'll be able to keep conducting those great interviews.

Update: Bryan says he's autographing every one of these mamma-jammas for ya!

You can help even more by telling others about this. Direct them to his site or to this one, spread the word through twitter, Facebook or on your blog. Or open your window and shout.

Thank you, everyone, for helping!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Electric Ladyland

I'm very pleased to announce that my never before published story, Electric Ladyland, will be in StarShipSofa Stories, Volume 3 coming out later this year. If you've seen previous volumes in the series, you know that they're full of fantastic stories from great writers and sales of the books help support the Hugo-winning StarShipSofa podcast. I'll let you know when it's available.

Electric Ladyland is number 129 of The One-Thousand. Without giving anything in the story away I can tell you it's crazy fun. I took five wildly unrelated ideas and squished them into a science fiction story of a few thousand words. Then I twisted the narrator's voice into the type you find in my Fiction Crawler segments and Beware the Hairy Mango podcast. If you're reading this, you'll dig it.

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Girl With the Halo

My latest story, The Girl with the Halo, is available for your reading pleasure! This is story number 117 of The One-Thousand, for those keeping track. It's part of a Chiaroscuro Mega-Issue celebrating the relaunch of their website.

Read it here: http://www2.chizine.com/the_girl_with_the_halo.htm

and check out the rest of the first wave of stories here: http://www2.chizine.com/volume_47.htm

Enjoy!

133 And Other Things

I just finished story 133 and kicked its ass out into the cold, cruel world.

Today I saw a pdf of my story, "Steve Sepp, Tasty! Tasty!" as it should appear in Nature and it looks cool. I hope it won't be too much longer before you can see the story as well.

Productive day today. Finished off three Mangoes for my big podcasting blowout in May, MuchoMangoMayo during which you'll get one new episode of Beware the Hairy Mango each and every day of the month.

I added just a little bit to a first draft I'm working on, and of course, finished that story I mentioned at the top.

Also, I got my washing machine working again by opening it up and fucking with things I didn't understand. I don't know what I did, but I'm calling it a win.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Stories

I've got a new and tiny, one story Fiction Crawler on this week's StarShipSofa, in which I try to convince any of you who are eligible to nominate stories for the Hugos, to read Blood, Blood by Abbey Mei Otis, in my opinion, the best story of 2010. Listen here, about 49:00 in and click the links to the story at the bottom of that post, or below: http://www.starshipsofa.com/blog/2011/03/16/starshipsofa-no-180-nebula-nominated-christopher-kastensmidt/

Blood, Blood Part 1: http://www.strangehorizons.com/2010/20101115/blood-f.shtml
Blood, Blood Part 2: http://www.strangehorizons.com/2010/20101122/blood-f.shtml

Please read this excellent story and consider nominating it. There's only a little over a week left!

In other news, I'll have a piece of brand new flash fiction appearing at Chizine for their big-ass site re-launch in April! I'll remind you and link to it, when the time comes.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thank You, Anonymous Friend!


Some wonderful one of you who doesn't want his or her identity to be revealed (even to me), has covered the fee for me for StarShipSofa's Online Writer's Workshop which I mentioned here a few days ago (You still have about a day and a half to sign up)! All I can say is:

THANK YOU!

I appreciate it greatly and would give you a big smooch if I knew who you were. Maybe that's why you don't want me to know! To sit at the virtual feet of Michael Swanwick, Sheila Williams and the gang as they dispense their wisdom for an hour or two is a fantastic opportunity. I'll pay your generosity forward in the future!

Who was that masked stranger?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

132

Story 132 is done and out the door. Jesus, it's been three months since my last one!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

StarShipSofa Online Writers Workshop

Welcome to new followers, Munsi and CynCB!

You've got one week left to sign up for the StarShipSofa Online Writers Workshop. http://writers-workshop.eventbrite.com It's a couple hours of advice and answers from some big names in the science fiction and fantasy field (including one of my favorite authors). And a week after the workshop, participants get a video download of the whole thing so they can return to those words of wisdom again and again. Here's a little rundown of the agenda and presenters:The Beginning - Gregory Frost
  • Plot Tricks from the Dark Side - James Patrick Kelly
  • How To Fix Your Story After It's Written and You Discover That It Doesn't Work - Michael Swanwick
  • Why Writing Groups - Mercurio D. Rivera
  • What An Editor Wants - Sheila Williams
  • Question And Answers - All
You can get all the details and sign up here: http://writers-workshop.eventbrite.com

Friday, February 25, 2011

Helping Christchurch

As of this writing, the numbers I'm seeing on the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand are 113 dead and hundreds still missing. If you want to lend a hand, here's the website for the Red Cross http://www.redcross.org.nz/ . Make a donation, help some folks out.

Also, If you're a geek and want something cool in exchange for your donation, check this out: Drive Thru RPG is offering up something like 41 role playing pdf files for just $20.00 to help out the Red Cross. Grant Stone tweeted last night that they've raised $10,000 so far. If you're interested, go here: http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_info.php?products_id=88713&it=1&SRC=Newsletter

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Guilty Pleasure

I was invited to participate in the latest Mind Meld over at SF Signal this past week. The topic was guilty SF pleasures. You can read about mine and others here: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2011/02/mind-meld-favorite-guilty-sff-pleasures/.

I'll you a hint about mine: Starts with an "S."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Story Behind Beauty Belongs To The Flowers


As you may have read here yesterday, my story, Beauty Belongs to the Flowers is up at Tor.com. Today's post is about the making of the story. You should read the story before reading this post. You can read it here: http://www.tor.com/stories/2011/01/beauty-belongs-to-the-flowers

How it started: I never cared for anime, though everyone else in the family was a fan, so I would often catch bits and pieces of shows, which I then decided were crap. Then I saw a bit of FLCL (Fooly Cooly) and loved the manga-in-the-anime scenes. I could never catch the whole show, but liked what I saw. Finally, Adult Swim ran the lot of them together and I TIVOed it, watched the whole thing at once and absolutely loved it. To this day, it's the only anime I love.

Long time readers know that I used to write a piece of flash fiction each day and post it at this blog. After I had watched FLCL, I decided to write my story for the day. I was inspired, especially by the pent up frustration of a couple of the characters in the show. Not just the sexual frustration, but the frustration of unrequited love. Naota was surrounded by older girls that seemed to love him in one way or another. He seemed oblivious to their feelings, yet at the same time he seemed to need them terribly. Mamimi sent me over the edge. There was so much yearning in that girl, I wanted to capture her trying not to overflow, the way she hugged Naota when she couldn't help herself anymore.

I went for a drive with these thoughts in my head and began to compose my story. I put Miho at the beginning of the scene at the high road party with the storm going on. All I had was Miho, the spacescrapers and the weather. I stopped the car at a Wal-Mart in the next town and began to lay the story down in the parking lot on my Alphasmart. I had the party, the need for Ichiro and the trip to Tanaka-san's restaurant before I ran out of steam. Then I got a call from the then-wife. When she discovered I was at Wal-Mart she asked me to pick up something inside. While I was in there, I checked out the Deli, wondering what future food service might be like in relation to Tanaka-san's establishment. I envisioned the food injector and very quickly saw to what use Miho would put the machine. Bang. I had my story.

But . . .

I thought, "This is too good a story for the smelly old blog [sorry, smelly old blog]. I need to develop this and send it to an editor." So I fleshed it out a bit and sent it to some friends, all women, because it happened to turn out that way at the time. They all found it interesting, but they didn't buy the romance. They hardly knew these people, after all, and found no reason to care about them. My friend, Nan, also a writer, said I had developed the city as if it were a character, but I needed to develop Miho as much as I had Nagasaki. So, that's where the flashbacks came in. I figured I'd tell the story of Miho's and Ichiro's relationship in a series of flashbacks within the story. I fiddled with this thing for months, seeking feedback. "Is it done yet? How 'bout now?"

One night I was thinking about Spider-Man 2 and how great it was. I actually didn't give much of a damn about the Doc Ock part of the storyline. What hooked me in a big way was Peter Parker's story. Those writers (Michael Chabon, among them) made that poor bastard's life hell and made me realize that this was what made fiction great. Make your main character miserable. That's when I knew I was sending Miho's pop to the hospital and all those chunks went in. It finally began to come together.

I sent it out and tinkered and talked to people. For some reason, among my friends, women seemed to like it and men didn't so much. Across the board. I got a little bit of encouraging feedback. I got a lot of people telling me the story took way too long for not much payoff. I felt those people missed the point. I think they were looking for the big science fiction gimmick, while I just wanted to capture a certain feeling, that teenage demoralization and heartbreak and inner burning that lasts forever, wherever you go and whatever you try to do to take your mind off of it. I'm proud of the story and I hope other people like it as much as I do.

I named Miho after Miho Hatori (straight out of purgatory!), lead singer of Cibo Matto. Miho has a gorgeous voice and is a beautiful woman and I can't tell you how many times the kids and I have listened to Stereotype-A. Tanaka-san was named after Tiger Tanaka from You Only Live Twice. I love Bond films and always liked the name. Tomi was named after a childhood friend's mom, Tomiko Gonzales, a wonderful woman who knew how to lay out a spread at the dinner table and was the first Japanese person I knew.

I chose Nagasaki because I thought Tokyo was overused in Japanese science fiction and I wanted to write a futuristic Japanese story that wasn't cyberpunk. Tokyo equals cyberpunk in my mind. The biker boys were my nod to Akira. The idea of the ephemeral nature of beauty was totally ripped off from James Clavell's Shogun. That's right.

Now for the acknowledgement part of our program. First and foremost, my big thanks to Liz Gorinsky, the editor at Tor.com who saw something similar to what I saw in the story and made it possible for me to share it with everyone else. She also improved it through piles of good suggestions and her mad punctuation skills.

Thanks to my very first readers, the above mentioned Nan Mick (And thank you, Nan for convincing me to trash that original, awful last line) as well as a whole pile of Smiths who aren't related to me: Danielle, Zack, Rani and Dana. It was the feedback from the ladies that really shaped the story. Many thanks to Zack's friend Collin Rand, who had lived for a while in Japan and whom I questioned relentlessly on Japanese social customs on a long trip back from a movie theater one night long ago.

My dear friend and resident Japanophile, Mike Ramshaw, who passed away last year, helped a bunch, with everything from research to editing, loaning me videos and marking the shit out of my manuscript with his red pen. Wonderful, intelligent and a man who cut to the heart of things. There will never be another like him.

Big thanks to Inkpunk John Remy, Jack Haringa and Paul Berger, all one-time residents of Nagasaki or its outlying burbs, who looked over my story and called out all the bullshit. If you see any bullshit in the story, that's where I wouldn't smarten up and listen to them.

Thanks to Irene Gallo and all the awesome folk of Tor.com and thanks to Yuko Shimizu, the remarkable woman who created the art for the story, which you can also see at the top of this post. When Liz sent me the art last week, my excitement squirted out of me. To imagine that something I created could inspire such gorgeous work from such a wonderful artist filled me with happy.

If you guys have any questions, ask them here in the comments. But if you have comments, I'd rather you wrote them on the story's post, so Tor can hear you.

That's all I've got to say. Go outside and play, it's nice outside.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Beauty Belongs to the Flowers

Hey! My story, Beauty Belongs to the Flowers is over at Tor.com! http://www.tor.com/stories/2011/01/beauty-belongs-to-the-flowers Gorgeous art by Yuko Shimizu! Give it a look-see, why doncha? I'll be posting the story behind the story sometime in the next day or two, so check back. I hope you enjoy!

The Latest Sofa

StarShipSofa No 173 Mary Rosenblum

Short Story: Momentum by Damien G Walter

Fact: Everything by Morgan Saletta

Main Fiction: Jumpers by Mary Rosenblum

Fact: Science News by J.J. Campanella

Serial: Escape From Kathmandu Pt3 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Cover Art: Hamilcar Pereira

Narrators: Victoria Kelly, Randal Schwartz

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hear The Old Weird Masters

As you know, I'm a lover of audio fiction and I've recently made a couple of discoveries featuring two of the legends of Weird Tales from the 1920s and '30s.

The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast (http://hppodcraft.com/) is an awesome way to be introduced to or to revisit the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Each episode explores one of the old man's stories and they do so in chronological order, so you can pick up a collection and read along with them. Chad Fifer and Chris Lackey discuss the tales with intelligence and great senses of humor with plenty of excerpts thrown in. I'm only three shows in and I know I'll be downloading all of them soon.

The SFFaudio podcast #79 (http://www.sffaudio.com/?p=24487) gives us a free reading of the entirety of Robert E. Howard's Conan adventure, Queen of the Black Coast, read by Gary Kobler. This is a great story which I've read a few times and am listening to now. I don't normally reread or re-listen to anything, but great stylists like William Gibson, Ray Bradbury and Robert E. Howard always bring me back to the table.

Both of these podcasts give the listener a taste of the old masters at work. If you've never tried them or if you have and you love them, then check these out.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The 45th Mango

The new episode of Beware the Hairy Mango is live! More Than a Muffin! Check it out here:
http://bewarethehairymango.com/episode-45-more-than-a-muffin/

I know what you're saying. You're saying, "Wait, you were just crying about your dog, now you're cracking jokes? What an asshole!" Well, maybe so, but perhaps you'll enjoy the show anyway.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Dog Days Are Over

Sorry for neglecting you, little blog.

My dog died about a week and a half ago. She was old and sick, arthritis, kidney and liver problems. She was improving on meds, but on her last Friday night she was acting really weird. She wouldn't eat or drink, and for over a year she'd been drinking and pissing constantly. At about quarter to two Saturday morning she was breathing hard, so I called the 24-hour vet one town up. I was going to bring her in, either to fix her up, or put her out of her misery. By the time I hung up the phone, she was dying.

When I was a kid, I'd be upset for a couple of hours when I lost a dog and then pretty much forget about it. I never missed a dog after that. This one was different. I never had a dog last so long; I never had an old dog before. My dogs would get hit by cars, or run away, or I'd have to give them away for one reason or another.

Because she was sick and I live alone most of the time, I had rearranged my life around her. The day she died, I kept doing things as if she was there. When I went out, I closed my bedroom door before realizing I didn't need to. No one was going to go in there and tear up my room when I was gone. I didn't need to brace myself for her when I came home. I didn't need to get back home at a certain time to take care of her. No bowls to fill, no piss to clean up, no pills to hide in food. I could leave the front door open if I wanted. I wasn't woken up three to five times a night to let her drink and pee. I didn't have to set aside a portion of my food for her, didn't have to do lots of little things that had become second nature to me. In the space of a few horrible minutes my whole life had changed.

I had been telling people for a while that my life would improve when the dog died. That's not to say I didn't love the dog. That was just fact. When she was around, it was unusual for me to sleep for more than two hours straight. I couldn't concentrate on a project for more than an hour or so because she would need something. So, I'm suddenly liberated, but the length and the depth of the sadness that I feel astonishes me.