theferrett: (Meazel)

In a Swamp Thing comic, John Constantine was standing in the ruins of a flooded town, by a bus stop.  Several skeletons were piled next to the bus stop sign.  And he chuckled, took a drag on his cigarette, and said, “Don’t worry, three will all come along at once.”

As a teenager, I totally didn’t get that.  I read that panel over and over again, wondering why was he talking to the skeletons?  Did this somehow relate to the story?  Three of what? Three more bodies?  Three more cigarettes?

After an embarrassing forever that lasted for literally a decade, I eventually doped out that Constantine was just riffing on the old “You wait forever for a bus, and then three show up at once” gag.  I was not a bright kid.

Still, that’s writing for you; I’ve gone eight months without a single sale, and then they show up in clusters.  This is a particularly hot week, with three sales to mention, so let’s get moving!

Sale #1: “In Extremis,” To Space And Time
This is my flash-fiction zombie story, written from the perspective of a priest who’s trying desperately to make sense of a world gone mad with zombies.  An excerpt:

Napkins.  He was supposed to get napkins at Costco.  Instead, he’s grabbing the firearm from the Last Rites kit in his back seat, running down the freeway, towards the sound of screams.

Why do they always gawk?  Rush-hour commuters emerge from stopped cars, forcing him to dodge flung-open doors as soccer moms crane their necks to see what’s happening.  They know what’s happening.  They should be running.  It’s as though they want to watch him shoot a man.  Well, not a man, but the body of a man.

How is he going to get the napkins today?

The accident is bad.  A truck’s smashed into a now-upturned SUV, glass and plastic scattered all over the median, smoke and dirt still hanging in the air.  He checks for bodies on the ground, knowing they won’t stay there for long.  There are none.  But he hears the shear and creak as the truck driver pushes himself out of the crushed cab, tearing one arm off as he shoves off the crumpled door.  He’s wearing a stained Budweiser hat, knocked askew.  His teeth have been shattered to splinters from his face hitting the steering wheel, but that’ll just make it worse when he bites.

Father raises the gun, willing his trembling hands still….

I’m particularly happy to sell this one to Space and Time, as it’s a market I long tried to crack in my pre-Clarion days.  A little mark on the bucket list.

Sale #2: “Dead Merchandise,” to Kaleidotrope
This story’s particularly dear to my heart in many ways, as it was the first time a slush editor pulled me out at a convention to say, “Did you ever sell that story?  I loved that story.”  Well, I’m glad to tell Daniel that I did, because this tale tells what I think will happen once the singularity hits.  Hint: it’s not pretty.

The ad-faeries danced around Sheryl, flickering cartoon holograms with fluoride-white smiles.  They told her the gasoline that sloshed in the red plastic canister she held was high-octane, perfect for any vehicle, did she want to go for a drive?

She did not.  That gasoline was for burning.  Sheryl patted her pockets to make sure the matches were still there and kept moving forward, blinking away the videostreams.  Her legs ached.

She squinted past a flurry of hair-coloring ads (“Sheryl, wash your gray away today!”), scanning the neon-edged roads to find the breast-shaped marble dome of River Edge’s central collation unit.  River’s Edge had been a sleepy Midwestern town when she was a girl, a place just big enough for a diner and a department store.  Now River’s Edge had been given a mall-over like every other town – every wall lit up with billboards, colorful buildings topped with projectors to burn logos into the clouds.  She was grateful for the dark patches that marked where garish shop-fronts had been bombed into ash-streaked metal tangles.

The smoke gave her hope.  Others were trying to bring it all down – and if they were succeeding, maybe no one was left to stop her.

This one should be going up within the next month or two, so keep an eye peeled?  Oh, who are we kidding? I’ll tell you.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Around Day Four of the Viable Paradise workshop, I was told that there was some debate about me… or rather, one of my stories.  People who’d read my tale “Riding Atlas” claimed it was easily the creepiest thing being critiqued.  But people who’d read George Galuschak’s tale “Middle Aged Weirdo In A Cadillac” claimed no, George’s is fucked up, there can’t be anything nearly as bad as that.

So, in these face-offs, people were forced to read both of our tales.  (I think George won – though you can view his for yourself, as his got published shortly afterwards in Strange Horizons.) And lo, it was agreed that we were both pretty goddamned creepy dudes.

“Riding Atlas,” however, was an odd tale – some of my teachers at the workshop claimed it wasn’t even a story.  Which has an element of truth; “Riding Atlas” is more about an experience, and I worried it’d never find a good home, because it’s just so oddball.  Fortunately, Three-Lobed Burning Eye (which had previously published my hero-of-a-failed-prophecy flash fiction piece “Dead Prophecies“) specializes in oddball stories, and will be publishing my bizarre blood-sharing story.

Want a taste?

They were naked, now, on a dirty mattress.

“Neither of you have eaten or drunk anything for twenty-four hours?” Ryan asked, hauling equipment into the room: sloshing plastic buckets, packs of hypodermic needles, coils of tubing, straps.  “And no drugs in your system?  This is a pure trip.  Just two bloods commingling.  Any impurities stop Atlas from getting inside you.”

Stewart didn’t answer.  He was too distracted by all the naked couples.  The attic’s flooring was covered with bodies, lying belly to swollen belly on bedbug-blackened boxsprings.  Their arms were thrust out above their heads, ears resting on their biceps; they clasped hands like lovers, their circulatory systems knitted into a single bloodstream…

I’ll letcha know when it goes up, of course, but today I’m happy.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I’m pretty weird about announcing sales; everyone else yells out their triumph when they get the email.  Me?  Paranoid, I wait for the contract.  But I’m going to try to change things up.

The first sale is an extremely happy one, as it’s a very special story about a mother trying to deal with the ramification of Cthulhu.  “Shadow Transit” is the first (and only) tale I’ve ever written that inspired a fellow workshop writer to pen a story in the same universe, with the same characters.  (And I sincerely hope George sells that story somewhere!  He did a great job!)

“Shadow Transit” bounced around for a while, getting wonderful feedback from editors who rejected it because it’s a weirdie tale – too horror-tinged for science fiction mags, too science-fictiony for the straight horror tales.  People seemed to like it (and I even got a few rewrite requests), but it never seemed to land.  Fortunately, Buzzy Mag - an up-and-coming professional zine who’s already published some great writers – has taken it.  Now, my Delta Green-inspired story about a mother trying to care for her insane child will find a home.  And I’m happy.  Even if my lead characters aren’t.

The second sale is “Shoebox Heaven,” which is a story that’s gotten some bizarre reactions.  I’ve had slush readers come up to me at cons and ask, “Hey, did you ever sell that story about the boy flying to heaven to find his dead cat?”  Not once, but twice.  Even if the editors didn’t buy it, clearly “Shoebox Heaven” made an impression.  And I actually did sell it once, to an anthology that dicked me around for a year and ultimately collapsed.  Fortunately, even though I have yet to get the contract, I trust Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine - you may remember them for publishing my time travel story “The Backdated Romance” – and they have taken it! So yay!  You will eventually get to read the tale of the kid who flies to meet some very angry angels.


Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Whenever I saw the Oscar losers saying “It’s an honor to be nominated,” I always envisioned gritted teeth and gut-roiling fury.  I mean, you just had your chance at the brass ring, and you came that close!  How could you be cheerful?

Yet I was grinning like a damn fool when I lost to Geoff Ryman.  As were all the other losers I talked to.  We had our pins, and our certificates, and our name immortalized in history, and the experience of being catapulted onto a much larger stage.

Who the hell could be upset?  There’s now one word that’s guaranteed to be in our obituary, and that word is “Nebula.”  We’ve made it.

It’s cool.

And it’s a weird bond; I spent the weekend hanging with my fellow nominees Jake Kerr, Rachel Swirsky, Katherine Sparrow, and Geoff Ryman – and there wasn’t an ounce of competition in there. It felt like an odd sort of club, one that contained only six people in the whole world, a once-in-a-lifetime bond: 2012 Novelette Nebula Nominee.  No one else will ever know what this is like.  We did lunch, we chatted in bars, we appeared on panels, we discussed our chances, and not once was there a bit of snark or anger.

(I met other nominee Charlie Jane Anders briefly after the ceremony, who seemed absolutely wonderful, but alas we got no time to hang and chill.  I hope to rectify this at a future event.)

I felt blessed to be in the company of such beautiful people.  I’d have been happy for any of them to have won.  And the man I was rooting the most for, my wonderful and compassionate
Clarion teacher Geoff Ryman, who had me sobbing on the airplane on the way to Clarion because his book Was is one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever read?  Well, he won.  And when he walked back to his seat, I leapt out of mine to shake his hand and grin and pump the fist for him.  Because if there’s a man who possesses a cool grace and an ability to write straight to the vulnerable centers of the heart, it’s Geoff.

The weekend itself was a helter-skelter of events, and I’ll probably be posting anecdotes for the rest of the week, but here’s the ones I remember in a sleepy Monday muddle.

This Is The Panel That Never Ends…. It Just Goes On And On, My Friends….
Yes, there’s the irony of a panel on pacing going forty minutes overtime.  But there was no panel following us – and when you have such a fascinating topic as “How to get the rhythm of a story right,” and such fascinating panelists as Tom Crosshill, Rachel Swirsky, and Nancy Fulda (Nebula nominees all!), moderated by the vivacious radio host and Big Damn Author Ellen Kushner, you get a ton of feedback.

This panel was so good the audience didn’t leave.  It was like Writing 301, a bunch of advanced techniques we all used to figure out how to get the pacing of a story right – and our approaches were all so different, there was a lot of varying discussion as to how to nail it.  So we talked, and talked, and when at 2:15 we finally called the panel to a halt, half the audience walked up and kept the ball rolling.  Rachel Swirsky had to leave, but thankfully noted childrens’ author R.J. Anderson took her place, and next thing you know we had a long discussion on how to handle critiques.

It was really amazing.  My friend Ruby took a video of the “official” panel on her smartphone, and I hope it’s usable.  I’d love for you to see it.

Meet My Signing Buddy, Franny
The author signing was a first for me, since as an author of short stories I’ve never had anything I could expect anyone to sign.  You can buy books in the dealers’ room…. but if you want me to sign your copy of Asimov’s, you need to remember to bring it with you.  And frankly, I’m not that big.

But thankfully, Nancy Fulda created a Nebula Awards Weekend book with one of my stories in it, and so people could buy a book to sign.  So I sat at a small table.

Next to me was someone I didn’t know, so we introduced ourselves, and it was a woman called Franny Billingsley – who was remarkably fun to talk to!  She was a children’s author but it was her first sci-fi con, so I explained what this “Clarion workshop” was and she told me about what YA conventions were like, and it was a remarkably warm way of passing the time.

Even better, since I knew more people here, when they came to see me, I could go, “And do you know Franny?” and then all of us got into a discussion together.  So by the time I went to wander the floor and get my book signed, I left a merry discussion of writers.

Which was oddly convivial.  For now and forevermore, Franny will be my book-signing buddy, the two of us at the table as readers sporadically came up, book in hand, to ask for signatures.

And only later did I discover that Franny was so modest she didn’t even note that she was up, you know, for the National Book Award.

What a wonderful person.

The Night Before
There was a Nebula nominees reception the night before, where we were to be honored.  I didn’t quite know what that meant, but hey!  This would only happen once.  So I went.

What they didn’t tell us (which was a shame, because several of the nominees – including Charlie Jane – had wandered off) was that the reception was where John Scalzi would present you with your official Nebula nominee certificate and your pin, and then you’d be taken off for photos.

That’s when it became real.

Up until then, a part of my mind had been going, “Oh, no, this will be a mistake, they’ll probably take it away from you.”  But as I walked up to the podium and Scalzi handed me the blue folder with the silver stars, I opened it up and saw my name.  This was no dream.  This was my life, my blessed life.

I couldn’t stop smiling.

The Night Of
So for the Nebulas, I had to dress up.  And my lovely wife Gini helped me into my monkey suit:

Me at Nebulas!

Note the Nebula pin – which is a lot thinner and more losable than I’d have thought – and my Star Wars tie.  I kept telling people all evening that it was my TIE fighter.

Nobody laughed.

My wife, however, looked fucking stellar.  She kept joking that her job at the Nebulas was to be my arm candy, and oh boy was she:

My Nebula arm candy, Gini.

When I got there, I was happily surprised to see Neil Gaiman, who was a last-minute addition.  And Neil, who’d been with me during my reformatary stages at Clarion, drew me into a warm hug that went on for longer than I thought and said, “Bubbeleh!”  He’s surprisingly, endearingly, proud of me.

When he said “Bubbeleh,” it felt like I was being welcomed to the next level.  That all of this hard work I’ve put into writing – the hours wandering in the garden figuring out the next scene, the endless rejections, the workshops and cons I travelled to – had finally paid off.  And that was a lovely thing to see.

Some pros told me, serenely, “You’ll be back.”  I don’t share their confidence.  For me, I struck lightning once.  But the fact that I made it once is enough, and that won’t stop me.  Because you know what real writing fucking is?

Jon Walter Williams held a three-hour intensive lecture on plotting and structure.  And when I looked around the room of twenty people, at least four of us had been nominated for a Nebula.  Here we were, being given one of the biggest honors in the field… and all of us had said, “No, there’s so much more work to do.”

That’s how you get to a Nebula.  I got here.  You can, too.  Because Neil told me, “You just need to write.”  And that’s what I did.

Now you.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

In a rare example of “One shot, one kill,” after boarding a plane and listening to the pre-flight announcement that cheerfully listed every terrible thing that could happen to us, I mused on how much worse a pre-space-flight announcement would be. By the end of the flight, I had a 650-word story, and within 30 days I had a sale to Daily Science Fiction.

I’m particularly pleased to be in DSF, because they’re one of the better things to happen to speculative short fiction in a while; a place that buys 260 stories a year and has a nice fat mailing list full of SF fans is a win-win on every side.  I’m not quite sure how they’re making money, but I want them to stay in business forever.

…well, actually I might have an idea on how they’re making buck.  Though I am being paid at my highest-ever per-word rate ever, a scant 641 words means that I am making $51.28 off of this sale. Flash fiction is a joy to read, but it ain’t gonna pay the bills, which means they can keep expenses down.  And provide lots of eyeballs to look at some nice flashfic.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

There is a certain satisfaction that comes from selling the unsalable story.  Which is to say that when you write a 7,000-word erotica story dealing with the BDSM relationship between a girl and a brain in a jar, you’re pretty sure you’re not going to find a home for it.

(The brain is the Dom.)

…damn if I didn’t, though.  “Rooms Formed of Neurons and Sex” just sold to GUD Magazine, which also published my girl-in-a-junkyard story “In The Garden of Rust and Salt.”  This puts GUD on my happy-list ratio of 100% submissions-to-acceptances, along with Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  (You don’t want to know what my Asimov’s ratio is, and my batting average with many other major markets is zero, just for perspective.)

The title may change, as they’re wondering whether it’s fitting, but the opening line won’t:

“The greatest tragedy of Lydia’s life was when she broke her boyfriend during sex.  Admittedly, he was a brain in a jar, but she’d been trying to make do….”

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

I am thrilled to announce the sale of “Devour” to the premier science fiction podcaster, Escape Pod.

“Devour” is the tale of an elderly gay married couple who are infected by a long-forgotten military bio-weapon – faithful and generous readers may remember me live-blogging a revision of this story during last year’s Clarion Echo effort, and I think it’s one of my most powerful stories ever.  (It’s based on watching my mother try to cope with my stepfather’s failing struggle with Lou Gehrig’s disease, and the love that emanated from them before Bruce finally passed on.)

Escape Pod always does good productions, so I can’t wait to see this one go live!  Plus, it’s paid at professional rates because Escape Pod is just that good.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.


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