theferrett: (Meazel)

So as you’ll recall, I took a two-week break in the middle of the Clarion Blog-A-Thon to deal with my mother’s medical issues – but now I’m back, and I want your dollars!  But no worries, I give value for coin.  There are fabulous prizes for donation, and today is no different.

If you’ll recall, the previous prizes for donating $5 are:

Today’s prize involves another Clarion classmate of mine – the frock star Monica Byrne, who’s become an up-and-coming playwright.  Her most recent play, “What Every Girl Must Know,” is a fascinating feminist play about four girls in the 1914 reform school, living out fantasy lives of freedom as they read smuggled pamphlets of sexual education.  (It’s worth noting that at the time, people were locked up for passing out information on birth control – because simply the idea that birth could be controlled was crazy dangerous.)  The play was well-reviewed – but here!  Look at the trailer video for it!

If this all sounds very interesting – and it should – Monica has graciously agreed to provide a signed copy of her play, as well as a one-off poster she’ll have printed especially for you!  Donate $5 and get into our raffle of many, many prizes to come.

The reason she’s willing to donate prizes is because, like me, Monica’s writing was helped tremendously by going to the Clarion Writers’ Workshop.  We critiqued each other, we savaged each other’s stories, we agonized over what this week’s tale would be, we analyzed how to make things better… and by the time we were done, we were stronger writers.  Monica’s already planning her next play, and she’s asking for information about how athletes have sex inside the village at the Olympic games.  Personally, I can’t wait.

Plus, if you donate $10, you’ll gain entry into the super-secret Clarion Echo community, where I am plotting my next novel.  Later today, I’ll be rewriting my first chapter, with an eye towards actually generating character conflict and getting past the first act.  I hope to have the whole thing plotted in the next three weeks, and the feedback in the community has been phenomenal, so please – donate if you can.  Every bit helps.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

“All lives are stories, and all may be told this way: someone is loved, then someone is dead. Only the writing between varies.”

The Clarion Blog-A-Thon is well underway, with a sketch of the plot already outlined in the Clarion Echo community.  But enough of my writing!  Today involves the first raffle of fabulous prizes!

And the first prize is something awesome that my Clarion classmates Kat Howard and Megan Kurashige are in the process of making.  Because Clarion is the kind of workshop that encourages imaginations to bloom, and I am so fucking proud of my friends creating this awesome project that I want to burst.

To understand how wondrous this all if, you must understand that Megan was famed in our Clarion class for not just her inexplicably charming writings, but her extreme bendiness – as a dancer, you’d find her curled up in a couch like a folded doll, her limbs in inexplicable positions.  Whereas Kat, who wrote these classically-infused reimaginations of things, could be found out on the veranda in her pure white fencing outfit, stabbing stucco walls with a well-worn rapier time and time again.

Witness!  A Thousand Natural Shocks!  The combination of fencing and dance!

To find that they have joined up to create a dance recital based on fencing is, I assure you, remarkably exciting.  They’ve been working on it for a year.  And they have a Kickstarter project to help fund their performances out in San Francisco, which I assure you will be awesome, because I know both of their work intimately.  Their Kickstarter has neat prizes, including hand-written stories and artistic postcards, and I think you should all check it out.

But for today’s Clarion Blog-A-Thon, they have generously donated the book of their dance.  Which is to say that in the creation of their tale, they will create a book stuffed full of photographs and other neatnesses outlining how they made it.  And once that book is printed, every dancer in this company will sign it to you, expressing their good wishes and the joy of making art.

So you should look at their Kickstarter and see if you want any of the prizes there.  And if you want the extra-special prize, donate to today’s Clarion fund.  You’ll get a shot at their book, as well as yet-to-be-announced prizes from such awesome writers as Neil Gaiman, Cat Valente, Mary Robinette Kowal, and many many others.

Since I have so many prizes coming, here’s the way the raffle is going to work: a $5 donation gets you a ticket into the raffle.  (And $10 gets you two entries, and $15 gets you three, and so forth.)  When the Blog-A-Thon is done, I’ll draw someone’s name from the pool, and they get first choice of all the twelve-plus prizes we’ll have!  Then I’ll draw another name, and they’ll get second choice, and so on.  This will mean it’ll take a while for all the prizes to be distributed, but it’s fair.

The only exemption from this: critiques.  If you’ve paid $25 for a critique, you get one raffle entry.  Because I’m going to do $20 of work for you.  (And there are three slots left in the blog-a-thon critique slots, so lemme know!)

To sum up:

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Hey, guys!  The Clarion Blog-A-Thon starts today – and with it, my attempt to outline my novel live, in a members-only community, as an advanced seminar in plotting, theme, and character!  A $10 donation and an email to theferrett@theferrett.com with your LJ name will get you access – and also help one of the greatest writing workshops in history.

How good is Clarion?  In twenty pre-Clarion years, I had three sales.  In three post-Clarion years, I had twenty sales.  That’s how much you learn.  And the Clarion Echo, where I’m doing all of this plotting, is designed to be a little taste of Clarion.  I’m certainly teaching you everything I learned.  So I’ll ask you to donate, both for a good cause and some entertaining tutorials.

So what am I writing today?  It’s an essay on what benchmarks make for a good scene, and it starts like this:

To plot this novel during the Blog-a-Thon, I’m going to have to break everything down into scenes. That’s tricky for me, because I’m an exploratory writer — I usually don’t know what’s going to happen until the words hit the page.

Now, in a lot of cases, I get to a point where I don’t know what’s going to happen next. That’s when my writing theory skills come in handy.

See, all that writing advice you’ve ever gotten? You never need it when a story is working. You only need to reach into that bag of tricks when a scene’s falling flat, or an ending is nowhere in sight, or when that character is relentlessly limp.

Now, for me, when I hit that terrifying blank page, I fall on my old standbys for What To Do When You Don’t Know What Happens Next. Neil Gaiman told me that every story is really about what a character needs — and so I think, “What life lesson could this character use most in this moment, and how can I teach it to her?” James Patrick Kelly taught me that if I couldn’t figure out what happened next, come up with ten terrible endings and think about why they’re terrible… And lo, elucidating the reasons I hate this awful, cheesy, and obvious ending makes me realize what I want to have happen. And I have my own custom advice, which is, “If you were the GM in a game, how would you plot this?”

All utterly unneeded when things are going well. But when instinct fails, theory’s what gets you back on track.

So for me, in unfamiliar territory, I thought about what would make a good scene for this novel, so I’d have a clear-cut set of tests to apply during plotting.  I read probably four or five books dealing with novel-writing and outlining, to try to devise a set of “acid tests” to see if something was up to snuff.  Which is important in novels; a short story is usually about one or two ideas, and if your writing is compelling or your ideas dazzling, you can kind of tapdance around that rotten hole in the stage.  But for novels, you need to have an underlying structure that works… and without actually writing the scene, something I’ve always done before, I need something else as a sanity check for this novel.

Note those words: for this novel. I’m writing what hopefully will be a very cinematic, simple script — other novels may have different scene requirements. For example, some novels may need breather scenes where the character sits back and thinks. That’s not the effect I’m going for here, so I’m going to try not to have those.

So what will my sanity checks for this novel, as we plot it out together, you and I?  I made a list.  And that list contains both generically good scene advice, and advice specific for this novel….

The rest of the entry can be found here, but you can only read it if you donate.  It’s $10.  That’s not a huge amount, it will get you entry to fabulous prizes from twelve amazing authors, and I’ll consider it a personal favor.  So why not donate?

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So starting Friday, I’m blogging for the Clarion Write-A-Thon.  And I’ve got a problem I’m hoping maybe one of you can help with.

Because I was pretty sure that I couldn’t put in my usual herculean effort this year, I asked a bunch of my writer-pals to help me out by donating stuff.  And in many cases, they gave me what you’d expect – signed books and posters!  Which is wonderful.  Anyone can get a signed book, and even if it’s not the author of your choice, well, you’ve still got a book to read.

Four authors, however, have donated unique gifts.  A hand-written letter to you from the lead character of their series.  A hand-written postcard to you from a famous author.  A medal of bravery from the government of the series he’s writing in.  And a free medical consultation from a certified nurse for the story of your choice, explaining in great detail all of the things you got wrong.

Those are cool items, but they’re unique.  And if you don’t want them, you might find them useless.  So a pure raffle isn’t going to work well at getting these items in the hands of the people who’d most appreciate them.

The simple solution is to have a per-author raffle – Donate $5 for Author X, and you can win that specific prize!  But that seems dickish.  There’s a lot of strapped people for whom $5 is a lot of money, and I don’t want to make this into a cash war.  Plus, going back week after week to say, “Here’s another fabulous prize!  GIVE ME MORE MONEY NOW!” will just engender feelings that I’m an adbot.  Ick.

Conversely, an auction might raise more funds – but again, it sort of leaves the cash-strapped on the sidelines, which sucks.  Somewhere, there’s a huge fan of Author X who’s going to be thrilled to get this thing, and I want some random element that rewards people who donate more, but doesn’t obliterate the chances of the Ramen-noodle-eatin’ folk who are donating to their limit.

To make things even more complicated, there’s already a donation prize of joining the Clarion Echo Secret Society if you donate $10, and $25 gets you a short story critique from a Nebula award-nominated schmuck.  So some people are already getting schwag.

So is there a solution?  How can I efficiently distribute these Very Special Prizes so they have a chance of finding a good home?  I’m open to all ideas, even if they make it a bureaucratic nightmare for me.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I can’t believe that I forgot to announce who actually won the prizes, but that’s my Etch-A-Sketch brain for you.  So let me announce.

The winner of the Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli poster is Jeremy Wiggins.  Which is good, because he’s a die-hard comics nerd.

The winner of the Catherynne M. Valente jewelry-and-signed-book is Kate Parkinson.

Next year: I’ve gotta get even more prizes for y’all, since the two don’t seem like nearly enough.  Even so, we raised $1,850 for Clarion, so thanks so much to everyone!

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Today’s the last day of the Blog-A-Thon, and I’ll be posting the climactic chapter of my novel-in-progress today for all you lovely $10 donators.  If you want to win prizes by Neil Gaiman and Catherynne M. Valente, today’s your last chance to donate!

But wait.  You don’t like my prizes?  Why not check out Victoria Griesdoorn, who’s also got some amazing prizes, also for the lowly donation of $5?  She’s got a lot of prizes from stellar authors like Ellen Datlow, Ellen Kushner, Scott Edelman, writer-blogger-he-man Chuck Wendig, and more  – and more impressively, she has five copies of Scrivener, the writers’ word processor of choice, ready to go!

She’s done a hell of a lot of work, and she wants to get to $1k in donations.  Check out what she has – it’s a hell of a lot of work she’s done, getting them all in line – and if you like it, donate.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Between my bees and my writing and my Blog-A-Thonning, I am absolutely swamped today.  I was hoping to dash off a quick entry on Why Science Fiction Is Harder To Read Than Fantasy, inspired by some early critique on The Novel of Doom, my early reaction to China Mieville’s Embassytown, and the three attempts it took me before I could get through the first four chapters of Dune, but…. it shall have to wait.

However, as the Clarion Blog-A-Thon ends tomorrow, I’d like to remind you about it.  I got about $200 in donations yesterday (thanks in part to the new fabulous prize offered up by Ms. Valente), but that still leaves me with about $300 to go to get to my donation goal of $2,000 – which is about what it takes to send a single person to Clarion.  I now have six professional sales under my belt, a status I could have only dreamed of four years ago – really, Clarion changed my life in a lot of ways, showing me that really, hard work can turn a fairly average fiction writer into someone publishable.

I want others to continue to have that experience.

So if you can, please donate.  There are prizes from Neil Gaiman and Catherynne M. Valente, and access to a novel-in-progress.  You will be doing a good thing, and I’m doing what I can to make it worth your while.  Even a couple of bucks will help.

Thanks so much, either way.  I know the journal tends to become the Blog-A-Thon Central during these six weeks; I appreciate your patience and care.  But, you know, it’s even better if you donate!

In a non-Clarion brief note, holy shit is the soundtrack to Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson a work of brilliance.  President Andrew Jackson re-envisioned as an emo rock star, with all the soap opera bits taken straight from real life?  I can’t stop listening to this damn thing.  Highly recommended.

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

The Clarion Blog-A-Thon ends this Sunday, and thus far I have raised $1,500 for the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop.  I would really like to get to $2,000 before the week is over.

Catherynne M. Valente jewelry!But I’ve already got a fabulous signed limited edition Neil Gaiman print to offer, as well as sneak peeks at my (now-completed) dystopian science-fiction novel – what else can I offer to inspire you to donate?

How about fabulous hand-made jewelry from World Fantasy Award-nominated and New York Times bestselling author Catherynne M. Valente?

And not just any jewelry, mind you; themed jewelry. Choose a book of Cat’s – any book, from the YA goodness of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland to the Russian WWII action of Deathless to the sexy map-making of Palimpsest to the old post-modern fairytaleism of The Orphan’s Tales.  Or heck, even choose a short story!  No matter what it is, she will create a necklace based on that work, just for you.  (You’ll also receive a signed copy of the work in question, you lucky dog.)

How do you get in on this action? Simple. Just donate at least $5 to the Clarion foundation. At the end of it, I’ll choose one lucky winner from the folks who’ve donated, and they will get the necklace.

But wait!  There’s more!  I realize that not everyone who’s donated will have a need for jewelry, and this gift is sufficiently special that I want the person who gets it to want it with all their heart.  So if the first “winner” of the prize turns out not to want a necklace, I will instead purchase for them one Catherynne M. Valente book of their choosing, so they may catch the wave of Valente-inspired goodness.  (I’ll be doing this out of my own pocket, so to save my bucks I’ll say that I’ll do this up to four times.  Not that I think I’ll get to four times.)

If you’d like to see what kind of jewelry Cat makes, you can check out this lovely Sherlock Holmes-themed piece she made for my wife, or this other necklace she made as a gift.

So what does being in the Blog-A-Thon get you?  Let’s reiterate:

  • A $5 donation will get you entry to a raffle, for both Cat’s jewelry and this limited-edition Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli print (worth $100) are the prizes.
  • A $10 donation will get you access to the [info]clarion_echo community, where I am currently live-blogging the writing of my dystopian YA novel where an orphaned child is growing up in a world where science has solved this whole “death.” (I do a fuller job selling the novel here.) I’m not just blogging the chapters I’m writing – I’m dissecting each chapter as I write it, in an attempt to give you some of what a professional writer sees when he’s looking at his own first draft.
  • A $25 donation given in time will give you the remaining story critique, where I will professionally crit your short story, assuming you want one. I’m kindly brutal. Or perhaps brutally kind.
  • A $100 donation will get you something absolutely crazy, albeit not during the Blog-A-Thon: when the novel is done, I’ll write a story according to a prompt you give me. You will not own the story – your idea + my sweat makes it mine – and I can’t promise timeliness or publication, but anyone who donates $100 can provide an idea and see how it sparks in the hands of someone else.

To help, just click this link and donate. (If you want in to the [info]clarion_echo, send the receipt for the donation to theferrett@theferrett.com, along with your LJ user name – and I’ll make you a member of this friends-only community. (I think I’m caught up, so if I haven’t added you, please contact me and accept my apologies.)  And remember, I’d love to get to $2,000 at the end, so even if you don’t want all of these lovely prizes… I’d still appreciate your help.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

In case you hadn’t heard: on Sunday, I finished the first draft of my first post-Clarion novel.  This took me nine months of effort to write, and I was surprisingly drained afterwards.  It was like I’d birthed a baby.  A really ugly baby.

(Unlike babies, thankfully, I can do a lot of plastic surgery on this one until he’s beautiful.  I’m never a first-draft kinda guy.  Though don’t get me wrong, the novel is readable, and entertaining, even in this nascent and flawed form.)

This is both good news and bad news for the Clarion Blog-A-Thon.  It’s good news because, if you’ll recall, a $10 donation will get you access to the full first draft of the novel, posted a chapter a day, complete with commentary on what works and what needs to be fixed and why.  I’d already posted 23 chapters (along with almost 20,000 words on various essays on the techniques I use in the novel), but I was concerned that I might get to the end of the Blog-A-Thon and go, “Sorry, couldn’t find an ending for you, just pretend it’s like The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”

No!  The ending’s there, and it largely works!  This is a joy.

The bad news is that the Blog-A-Thon is over this week, and LJ being fucked for a week means that I’m very behind on chapters.  So now I’m posting two, three chapters a day in order to finish it all up in time! So what I have is a completed novel that will be published to a select group of people this week – won’t you be one of them?  I know the economy sucks, but it’s for a good cause, and the beta version of the novel (plus mega-doses of writer advice!) is worth at least $10.

In other news, my divorce-through-a-magic-portal story “A Window, Clear As A Mirror” got a “Recommended” review from Rich Horton over at Locus this month!  This is my first “Recommended” review from them ever; they’re pretty hard to get.  Rich said this:

The 13th outing for Shimmer includes a very nice offering from Ferrett Steinmetz, ‘‘A Window, Clear as a Mirror’’, in which a man loses his wife to a portal to the Sunlit Lands, and finds himself in an odd way – first through a relationship with a refugee from those lands, and then by traveling there to find his wife. I suppose one might call it bittersweet, though that’s not quite right: resignedly true, I suppose.

If you’ll recall, this is my favorite story that I’ve ever written – and my money-back guarantee is still open on it.  If you buy it from Shimmer (the .PDF version’s a mere $4), and you don’t like it, I’ll refund your money, no questions asked.   I really love this story, and if you’ve liked any of my other stories, I think you’ll really dig this one.

And finally, my story “My Father’s Wounds” is due out in Beneath Ceaseless Skies next week – and it turns out it’s getting the full podcast treatment as well!  So I’m totally psyched.  I love hearing competent people read my stuff.  (I’m still learning how to read competently.  It takes a long while.)

 

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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