Monday, December 31, 2012

My 2013 Goals and a 2012 Goal Recap

I've previously blogged draft versions of my goals for 2013 and in the end, I've decided to make no real changes to the list. To have them in a nice, consolidated place I'm going to list them out here along with links to the original blog posts which covered each individual goal and the details behind them.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Editing for Kazka Press

Several of my first published short stories ran at Kazka Press as part of their monthly flash fiction contests and also as the first longer-form story they ran online. Earlier this year, I guest-edited the "Love Beyond Death" flash fiction contest for the site. I'm very pleased to announce that starting with the first of 2013 I will be editing their flash fiction contests every month. (If you'd like to read the full announcement, it's available here.)

I'm very excited about this opportunity and pleased that publisher L. Lambert Lawson felt that I would be a fitting person to continue the work he began with that portion of the site.

The two submission calls already announced for January and February submissions will be the first two I will be editing. Those are:

  • January: An Undelivered Valentine (submissions due 1/20/13)
  • February: Spring Training (submissions due 2/20/13)
So I'd encourage you to consider those themes and submit stories of 713-1000 words for consideration!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Story Sale: "Learning the Game" to Sidekicks!

A real quick note during my holiday hiatus. I'm pleased to announce that my short story "Learning the Game" has been accepted for Sidekicks!, an anthology of sidekick-themed stories edited by Sarah Hans for publisher Alliteration Ink. This book will be coming out in print and eBook in early 2013. I'll post more details as they become available.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Letting Go Of The Chain

"Will I give up the chain someday even while continuing a daily writing routine? I suppose it's possible. But I know that if I did give it up and then realized I was having trouble keeping to a routine, I'd want to return to using the chain to help myself get back into a groove.
In the end, the chain is just another tool to help you reach your goals. Like any tool, you can use it when it's helpful and leave it in its toolbox when it's not."
- A Time to Let Go of the Chain? (Chapter 11, Write Every Day)
I've been considering this for a while, off and on. But I've decided to make it official with the start of 2013. I'm no longer going to be formally maintaining a Daily Writing Chain.

Still Here...

Though pretty much completely out of it.

Five-sixths of my house has been struck by a hideous bug the past three days and I'm still feeling wiped out. I've gotten no writing done for the past two days and even being awake long enough to run my daughter (the one who DIDN'T get sick) to the orthodontist, run by the grocery store, answer a few emails and now type up this blog post has felt like a challenge.

The blog post which was going to run Monday will run later today or tomorrow (Thursday 12/20). Everybody else out there, stay well.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Links: December 16, 2012 Edition

I had let myself get horribly behind on short story submissions. This is normally something I'm very good about, however over the last couple of months in particular, as I got rejections I wasn't getting around to sending stories back out to another market. I've made a major push to that end this week and I'm basically caught up now. The only things not currently out the door are stories which I'm considering making revisions to before submitting them again. As of tonight I have 36 submissions out, five reprints and 31 originals. It feels good to be back to where I've got a lot of stories on on submission and I'm going to make a concerted effort to not fall behind again.

As a side note, with this week's efforts I've crossed the 300 mark for 2012 submissions. There was a point where I thought I might have 366, which would have been neat, but my slacking off in recent months ensured that wouldn't happen. Still, 300 submissions is a lot and I'm quite pleased with what I have accomplished.

Something in early 2013 I'll do a Year-in-Review for 2012 with all kinds of statistics. For now, though, let's move on to the writing-related links I've come across this week which I want to share:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

December Goals Progress and Holiday Hiatus

Usually, around the middle of the month I'll post an update on how my goals are going so far. After several months where things weren't going quite as smoothly, December has gotten off to a very solid start. Here's my goal progress so far:

1) Keep my Daily Writing Chain going. - No issues so far this month.
2) Write and submit four new stories. - My goal is to have a new story out the door every Friday in December. I have accomplished that for each of the first two weeks of the month. Two to go.
3) Revise and submit one story from my backlog. - This is not done yet, but I have an idea which story I might tackle first, so there's a bit of progress here.
4) Finalize my 2013 goals. - I finished up my "first draft" goals. Now I'm going to finalize the goals and put together the blog post on them.

At this point, I have no reason to think I won't go 4-for-4 here. There's always the chance of a challenging day or two for the Daily Writing Chain with the holidays, but I managed it last year and I'm optimistic that I'll do the same this year.

Speaking of the holidays, I tend to go on a blog hiatus around major holidays and this December will not be an exception. I'll have a post up on Monday the 17th, but I don't plan to do another post after that until Monday the 31st. As usual, there's nothing that says I won't decide to put up a bit of news or something else that strikes my fancy, but it's equally possible that there won't be any new posts from the 18th through the 30th.

Finally, I wanted to note that author and editor M. Bennardo put together a list of his favorite stories from 2012 which were not published in pro-rate-paying venues and he included my story "Twenty-Seven Rules for Coping" (originally published in Goldfish Grimm's Spicy Fiction Sushi and slated for Greek and French reprints) on the list.

Best wishes to all of my readers and friends as we head into the home stretch of 2012!

Monday, December 10, 2012

On Goals and Aspirations

I've written a lot about goals lately. Monthly goal wrap-ups, monthly goal declarations, drafts of goals for next year, and on and on.

Well, goal-setting and goal-achievement certainly has been one of the main themes on this blog throughout its existence, so I guess it's not a surprise that I've been talking about them a lot. And here I am, again, talking about goals. Though I plan to mostly talk about things which aren't goals: Aspirations.

An earlier blog post of mine talked about setting "SMART" goals. So, for example, I wouldn't have considered "Qualify for Active SFWA Membership in 2012" to have been a good "goal." Ultimately, whether I did so or not was something I couldn't directly control. I could influence it very heavily by working to improve my writing, submitting diligently, etc. But in the end, it was up to the editors of various markets to determine if that happened or not. (I'm still very excited, by the way, that it did...)

I refer to things like that -- which I would like to see happen but have incomplete influence over -- as "aspirations." I believe that it's very important to not mistake aspirations for goals. Doing so can lead to frustration and disappointment because you are making your satisfaction dependent on something which is outside your ability to control.

So that's why, as much as I'd love to see it happen, I won't create a 2013 goal for myself like "Sell a story to a major print SF publication." That's an aspiration because I can't make it happen. I can try very hard and do all the right things toward that wish, but once I've done that it will either happen or it won't. ("Sell a story to a major print SF publication" would also be a poorly-defined goal because it doesn't define "major." But I digress...)

Goals, for me, are the things by which I measure myself. But aspirations are what I dream about -- they are the things which I hope the goals drive me toward. And while my goals are things I talk about on a regular basis in public, my aspirations are the things I for the most part keep close to me, discussing them with relatively few people.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday Links: December 9, 2012 Edition

Earlier this week I discovered that my story released earlier this year by Daily Science Fiction ("Scraps") was reviewed very favorably by Diabolical Plots. In fact, "Scraps" was the only one out of the 20 or so stories published by DSF in October of this year which the Diabolical reviewers chose to grant "Recommended" status. While reviews are one of those things which writers can't control and have to learn to accept for what they are, I can't deny that it was pleasing to read such a favorable review.

Here are the writing-related links which I've come across this week which I wanted to share:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

2013 Goal #5: Attend Four Conventions (And a Non-Goal. No Word Count Goal for 2013)

I'm going to be working out my 2013 goals publicly here on my blog between now and the end of the year. Note that all of these posts will be considered "First Draft" goals, subject to being modified, enhanced, shrunk, contorted, folded, spindled, mutilated, or even out-and-out obliterated at my own future whim. These goals are also being presented simply in the order that I decide upon them. So Goal #1 isn't any more important than Goal #5 (or whatever). I probably will reorder the goals in order of importance when I go to wrap this all together in a final set of 2013 goals.
2013 Writing Goal #5: Attend Four Conventions

This is a rather straight-foward goal. I want to continue to work at meeting other writers and getting the benefits of going to conventions. The most difficult thing was deciding what number to place on this goal. On the one hand, there are three conventions locally (Marcon, Context, and -- if I include it -- Pulpfest). On the other hand, with a family, making time to go to these events can be a challenge.

Still, in the end, I decided that these are goals, not "must-do"s. I'd like to travel to at least one out-of-state convention again this coming year. So setting the goal at four feels right.

This may well end up being the last of my draft goals. One goal which I explicitly know I will NOT have for 2013 is a word count goal. This isn't because I missed (badly) on my 2012 word count goal. I have two main reasons.

1) It's a bit of an awkward goal to track. I had a spreadsheet which I was using to track it for the better part of 2012 before I realized I wasn't going to make my goal and that I didn't really need to know exactly how many words I'd written in 2012 anyway. Once I set up the spreadsheet it wasn't terribly hard, but it still meant a little bit of fiddling on a lot of days.

2) More importantly, I'm not trying to produce words. I'm trying to produce completed, out-the-door stories. I've put together multiple goals around story production, so I should be well covered in that regard. In theory could I write 4 7500 word novelettes and 32 100 word drabbles and meet my goal? Well... Yes. But it would be obvious to myself and everyone else that this was cheating and not really moving me forward. And if I was inclined to go that route, I doubt a word count goal would all of a sudden "shock" me out of such an approach.

I suspect there's a very good chance I'll end up writing 100,000 words in 2013. And I'll certainly have a good idea of my count of final draft words for 2013. But I won't be tracking every word day-by-day because it just doesn't seem like a productive activity for me at this time.

Monday, December 3, 2012

2013 Goal #4: Read 500 Short Stories

I'm going to be working out my 2013 goals publicly here on my blog over the next couple of months. Note that all of these posts will be considered "First Draft" goals, subject to being modified, enhanced, shrunk, contorted, folded, spindled, mutilated, or even out-and-out obliterated at my own future whim. These goals are also being presented simply in the order that I decide upon them. So Goal #1 isn't any more important than Goal #5 (or whatever). I probably will reorder the goals in order of importance when I go to wrap this all together in a final set of 2013 goals.
2013 Writing Goal #4: Read 500 Short Stories and Document What I've Read

As I've discussed in several recent blog posts, my focus as a writer is primary around short fiction (For the purposes of this goal I'm using "short stories" to cover everything shorter than a novel, from flash fiction to novellas.) One of the things which I can do to improve my abilities as a writer of short fiction is to be an avid reader of short fiction.

When I say that I'll document what I read, I pretty much just mean note what I read, who wrote it, and where I read it. I'll also make some kind of notation if it's a story which I want to keep track of for award nomination purposes. That will not be public documentation; just a spreadsheet or something like that which I keep for my own use.

I've occasionally set myself short fiction reading goals and there for a while I was doing a very good job of taking part in #storyeachnight on Twitter. (Exactly what it sounds like, read a story every day and tweet about it.) This goal is a bit more ambitious than a story a day; a little more than four stories every three days. But it's the sort of thing I shouldn't have any real difficulty with as long as I keep reading at a steady pace.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday Links: December 2, 2012

A new month, the last of 2012. I haven't met all of my goals for the year. Haven't even come close in fact. And yet, I've met many more of my writing aspirations in this year than I would have ever dreamed possible. Put simply, it's been a good year, and I'm hoping that 2013 will provide opportunities to build on what's happened during 2012.

Here are the writing-related links which I've come across this week which I wanted to share:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Twenty-Seven Rules for Coping" in French

After a kind of quiet several weeks, all of a sudden I've got lots of news to share. Fortunately, it's all good news!

On the heels of my two recent story sales I received word on Friday that my short story "Twenty-Seven Rules for Coping" will be translated into French and will appear in the yearly anthology Ténèbres. It will appear in the 2013 edition of the anthology, around the middle of next year. I'm very pleased to appear in this series of anthologies which has published such authors as Orson Scott Card, Jack Ketchum, Jason Sanford, Tobias S. Buckell, and Terry Dowling.

This also marks the second translation for "Twenty-Seven Rules for Coping." It is scheduled to appear in a Greek publication in the near future as well. While I read neither Greek nor French (the only language I have even a passable knowledge of is Spanish) I will enjoy seeing my words in these publications and knowing that more readers will have a chance to read them than would have otherwise done so.

If someone had told me that 2012 would have been as successful for me from a writing perspective as it has been, I would have called them wildly optimistic. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the year I've had.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

November Goal Wrap-Up

Toward the end of each month, I review how I did at meeting my goals for the month. November was not a shining example of goal-meeting for me. Here's how it played out.

1) Keep my Daily Writing Chain going. - Yes and no. I didn't announce any sort of hiatus for Philcon prior to heading to the convention and there was probably at least one day in there where I could have gotten writing done and wasn't actually at the convention and still didn't write. So I'm semi-considering the chain "broken" but I did write a big "PHILCON" across those days on my calendar so I guess I'm semi-not-considering it broken as well.
2) Write and submit one brand-new story. - Done.
3) Revise and submit one story from my backlog. - Done.
4) Finish a draft of my story for the Codex Novella contest. -Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. No. The good news: the contest doesn't end until December 10th. The bad news: at my current pace I'll be done by December 10th. 2013.
5) Enjoy myself at PhilCon. - Done.

You know, looking at it like this, it really doesn't look too bad. Only one true "swing-and-a-miss." But that was on in some ways the most substantial goal. However, I think the real reason I felt less-than-accomplished this month is because I didn't actually finish goals 2 and 3 until this evening. I spent pretty much all month with "Well, I enjoyed Philcon!" as my "What I unambiguously accomplished from my goals" list. And I think that led to my sense of being way off the mark.

Regardless, November is basically done and I'm moving on to December. I've got new goals for that month and I'm hoping to have a solid performance on them and pave the way for a great 2013.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Story Sale: "The Barber and the Count" to Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Some very good news in my inbox today. Beneath Ceaseless Skies has accepted my short story "The Barber and the Count" for future publication.

This is good news for a whole host of reasons. First off, Beneath Ceaseless Skies! This is a very exciting market to be appearing in. Second of all, I really like this story. (Okay, I know... I like almost all of my stories. But this would be among my favorites if someone forced me to rank my stories.) Third, there's a little backstory to this story. My wife occasionally cuts my hair and one night this summer she was doing just that. As I was sitting there, relaxing, the idea for this story came to me. As soon as the haircut was complete I hurried to the computer and wrote up its first draft. Fourth, this sale is my third qualifying sale for full Active membership into SFWA. Which means that not only will I be able to nominate for the Nebulas, but I'll be able to vote on them as well.

I feel very fortunate to have had such a phenomenal year with writing. I've had about 25 short story sales including the three SFWA-qualifying sales and several others at professional rates. I'm getting to do something I love and having some measure of success at it. What could be better?

Finally, thanks to Brenda Stokes Barron and Alex Shvartsman for critiquing "The Barber and the Count" and helping me make it better!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Story Sale: "In the Paint" to Arcane II

My flash horror story "In the Paint" has been accepted by the Arcane II anthology. I'm always fond of being able to tell a little interesting "story-behind-the-story" and this is one of mine which was inspired, in a way, by one of my children.

Our living room, before it was recently repainted, had a pattern of markings on one wall which looked like a scary face to one of our sons. His repeated insistence that it was a monster led me to dream up this story.

Arcane II will have both an electronic edition and a print edition. I'm pleased that my little collection of physical books and magazines with my stories in them will have a new addition early next year.

My Goals for December

As I do every month, I'm documenting my goals for the month of December here. Thursday I'll review my progress for November. As I mentioned yesterday, it's not going to be the most impressive set of results.

But for today, I'm looking forward. My December goals are:

1) Keep my Daily Writing Chain going. - This goal shows up every month.
2) Write and submit four new stories. - I'm doing a mini-Write 1/Sub 1 weekly like I did last December. My goal will be to have a new story out the door every Friday in December.
3) Revise and submit one story from my backlog. - Still chipping away at the backlog.
4) Finalize my 2013 goals. - Rather straightforward.

You'll notice this is a very pared-down goal list compared to some from prior months. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the main one is that since I've been struggling a bit to reach some of my goals, I want to make sure that I'm focusing on the things which are of the highest priority to me. Right now, my writing identity (both in terms of how I believe other writers/readers see me and my own internal writing identity) is that of a short fiction writer, mostly in the science fiction and fantasy genres. All of the goals above either help me reinforce that identity or relate to defining future goals, which makes them valuable in my mind.

I'm hoping that I can have a solid 4-for-4 performance on these goals. While I'm perfectly fine with not reaching all of my goals every month and with giving myself some slack, I think it's time to rein things in a bit and go for a clear "win" of a month.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Links: November 25, 2012 Edition

I'll be posting my December goal list tomorrow and November goal results Thursday. The results aren't going to look terribly impressive, I'm afraid as November has not been the most productive month for me.  Being out of town for nearly an entire week did more to disrupt my schedule than I had realized it would. Couple that with a major holiday and some other family members traveling during the month and I've struggled to get as much done as I would like. But as I've commented before, a bad month or two here or there isn't going to be a huge obstacle in the grand scheme of things for a potentially decades-long writing "career."

On the plus side, I feel very good about the time I spent at Philcon and visiting writing friends before and after the convention. I also feel good about the fact that I've been able to pick back up with writing even after having taken some days explicitly away from doing actual writing. Having not taken a single day away from writing for over a year, I had a bit of (perhaps irrational) concern that I would have trouble getting back into a routine. So far, so good.

Only a couple of links for this holiday week along with a link to my own one blog post from this week:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Award Season Begins

There are two major groups of awards in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres: the Hugos and the Nebulas. The Hugos are given out every year at Worldcon (in late-Summer) and voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Society (or, put more in other words, by people who are either attendees or supporting members of that Worldcon). The Nebulas are voted on by Active members of the Science Fiction Writers of America and given out at a SFWA banquet in mid-Spring.

I don't know if I'll be attending Worldcon this coming year and I'm unlikely to buy a supporting membership to vote on the Hugos. Since I'm not currently an Active member of SFWA (having only two of the three required qualifying sales of short fiction) I don't know if I'll be voting on the Nebulas or not.

What I can definitely do for this years awards, as an Associate member of SFWA, is submit nominations for the Nebulas. I am actively interested in reading short fiction which qualifies for nomination for the 2012 Nebula Awards. If you would like to propose titles which I should look into reading between now and when nominations close, please feel free to put them in a comment below. Depending on how many suggestions I get, I may or may not get to read absolutely all of them. Short stories and novelettes will be more likely to get my time than novellas. If the story was published in a free-to-read manner online, providing the address of the story will definitely make it easier for me to access the story and make me happy. I will be maintaining a page listing stories I found notable as I go through my reading.

Finally, there is a single story of my own which I would like to point readers toward as they consider their nominations for Short Story awards. "Scraps" was published in October at Daily Science Fiction. It is both my personal favorite of my short stories and the one which has received the most praise from others.
"Kelly signs for possession of the fireproof box and wonders what her mother had felt the need to protect. No jewelry, that all would have been hocked years ago--cigarette money. Back when they still talked, Kelly always told her mom the cigarettes would kill her.

She hadn't imagined it happening so suddenly.

She is tired from the overnight drive and stares at the only legacy left to her. Of course there's no key. It seems a perfect coda to her mother's life, until the helpful officer tells her how easy it is to pop the lock.

She thanks him and leaves the station, carrying what had been transformed from a little mystery into something mundane. Just another problem with a half-assed solution."
Those are the opening four paragraphs of Scraps. It is relatively-short, approximately 1600 words, so I hope you will consider going to Daily Science Fiction and reading the rest, whether you are reading for short story nominations for awards or not. Thank you!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Links: November 18, 2012 Edition

Sixty percent of the way through November and Thanksgiving is just days away. Since I just took a blogging hiatus in the past ten days for Philcon, I'm not going to take an extended hiatus for Thanksgiving. However, I will forgo a post on Thanksgiving itself. So, the only post between this one and next week's Sunday Links will be one on Monday.

While plenty of writers are deep into writing a first draft of a novel for NaNoWriMo, I'm tentatively re-exploring last year's NaNo project, both by re-reading it myself and getting feedback from a reader. This is both exciting ("Yay! It's no longer just sitting gathering electronic dust on my hard drive!") and a bit daunting ("Ugh! It's kind of a mess with little bits and pieces hanging off here and there which need either fully integrated or lopped off."). I think the only way it's going to turn into something truly readable is for me to re-outline it. Large chunks will end up getting completely rewritten, I'm sure. On the bright side, as I was reading it there were moments here and there where I thought to myself: "Hey, that works rather well!" So, even though it was written by someone newly back to writing who had never written a novel before, there's that, I suppose.

If you're doing NaNo this year, I hope that you're enjoying yourself. I'm glad I'm not doing it again this year, but I think I may plan on having a novel-length project ready to tackle during November 2013.

For now, here are this week's writing-related links as well as a link to my own blog post from this week:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Philcon Trip Report

Early, early, early last Thursday I left home on the start of five VERY full days of travel and socializing. I drove to Pittsburgh and then took Amtrak to New York City where I met up with Alex Shvartsman. Alex was a great host and guide to restaurants in South Brooklyn where we ate twice with fellow writer Anatoly Belilovsky.

Friday we headed off to Philadelphia for Philcon and we were there through Sunday. Then it was back to Brooklyn for the evening and a reverse trip via Subway, Amtrak, and car to Columbus on Monday. As I write this, it's very early on Thursday and I still feel like I'm recovering a bit from the trip.

Monday, November 5, 2012

2013 Goal #3: Complete Four Novelettes or Novellas

I'm going to be working out my 2013 goals publicly here on my blog over the next couple of months. Note that all of these posts will be considered "First Draft" goals, subject to being modified, enhanced, shrunk, contorted, folded, spindled, mutilated, or even out-and-out obliterated at my own future whim. These goals are also being presented simply in the order that I decide upon them. So Goal #1 isn't any more important than Goal #5 (or whatever). I probably will reorder the goals in order of importance when I go to wrap this all together in a final set of 2013 goals.
2013 Writing Goal #3: Write and Submit At Least Four Novelettes or Novellas to Pro-Rate Publications 

I mentioned in an earlier goal post that I wanted to find a way to encourage myself to stretch out more into the longer forms of short fiction. This is the goal I have decided upon toward that end. Let’s look at each piece of the goal:

  • Write and Submit - That means new stories, not taking the few stories of this length I already have and gussying them up.
  • At Least Four - One per calendar quarter; both an eminently-reasonable pace and one that will, if met, give me a nice chunk of longer stories to get out on submission.
  • Novelettes or Novellas - Speaks for itself.
  • to Pro-Rate Publications - I added this because I want to push myself to write strong, general-interest stories at this length. What I don’t want to do is look for, say, token-paying anthologies looking for stories of this length and target them specifically. On the one hand, that might give me a better chance of making a sale, but on the other hand, if I’m going to start working in these longer forms more I want to aim high right off the bat. That will involve working with other writers on critiques, etc.

Though it might not seem like it, I expect this to be a fairly challenging goal for myself to meet. I could, of course, meet it by just churning out something mediocre and sending it out the door but I have no intention of using a cheat like that to meet this goal. After all, I'd only be cheating myself!

Why do I think this will be difficult? There are two main reasons: One, I don't have much experience plotting for these story lengths and, two, I don't have much experience revising them either. Both of those will make this a more difficult goal boat in terms of doing the actual work and in getting into the right mental state for it. I know that this is something I can do; but it will definitely force me outside of my 1,000-5,000 word comfort zone.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Links: November 4, 2012 Edition

I hope that people who are doing NaNoWriMo this year are off to a good start. Even if you're not, don't fret too much; there's a lot of November left to write in and it's not too hard to catch up from a few slow days.

Meanwhile, a quick blogging update. I'll be attending Philcon next weekend (If you're there, please feel free to say "hello"!) so I'm going to take a short blogging hiatus. I'll have a post on Monday 11/5 but then won't run anything scheduled again until Thursday 11/15. I'll most likely put up a trip report from Philcon sometime before the 15th and I'll also report on any interesting news, but otherwise things will be quiet around the blog during that week and a half.

Below are this week's writing-related links as well as links to my own blog posts from this week.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

2013 Goal #2: Submit 36 Short Works for the First Time

I'm going to be working out my 2013 goals publicly here on my blog over the next couple of months. Note that all of these posts will be considered "First Draft" goals, subject to being modified, enhanced, shrunk, contorted, folded, spindled, mutilated, or even out-and-out obliterated at my own future whim. These goals are also being presented simply in the order that I decide upon them. So Goal #1 isn't any more important than Goal #5 (or whatever). I probably will reorder the goals in order of importance when I go to wrap this all together in a final set of 2013 goals.
2013 Writing Goal #2: Submit 36 Short Works for the First Time

As I've talked about in an earlier post, short fiction is my favorite thing to write. It's also what I've put the most energy so far into developing a certain level of proficiency with.

To continue driving myself forward with development as a short fiction writer, one of my goals for 2012 will be to submit 36 short works (anything from short-shorts to novellas) during the year. This works out nicely to three a month or, if you want to think of it differently, about one every 10 days.

I resisted going with a goal of 52 (which would be a true Write 1/Sub 1 pace) because one of the other goals I'm going to have for this year -- which I haven't quite formulated yet -- will involve working at stretching out into longer short stories, novelettes, and novellas. I've done very little work so far at those lengths and would like to develop more comfort with them. I realize that, in a way, this may seem to contradict what I had said earlier. But, at least from a marketing perspective in the traditional publishing world, there is a fairly clear dividing line between novels and Everything Shorter Than Novels. And I expect the vast majority of my stories will still be firmly in the Short Story length, but in an attempt to try to help give myself a bit more time for each story, I'm going with the slightly-less-ambitious 36 story goal.

Notice also that I mentioned submitting the stories. That means if I write a story and then don't polish it and get it out the door, it doesn't count. On the flip side, if I'm able to take a story which I wrote this year (or even last year) and haven't previously gotten out the door and make it submission-worthy, then that story would count for this metric.

I expect to have more goals specifically around short fiction but I am still working on formulating those. And this one, I suspect, will end up being the Big Goal for the year. Because for now I consider myself to be a short fiction writer and this goal drives me to write and submit short fiction. Convenient, isn't that?

As far as how I will approach this goal, I don't expect it to involve any real new routines. I've worked at this pace since I started writing again in mid-2011 and, if anything, I might have more time for fiction writing if I pare back my blog time. So, this goal might not be a huge stretch for me, but at the same time it would also represent a significant amount of productivity, assuming I do indeed meet the goal.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Two Recent Sales: Deep Cuts and Kwik Krimes

With contracts signed and such, I have two new sales to report, both to anthologies.

My horror story "Awaiting the Captain's Ghost" will be appearing in the Deep Cuts anthology. I'm excited about this for any number of reasons. First off, I really like how this story turned out and I'm glad others will have the chance to read it. Secondly, this is a print (and ebook) anthology, so I'll be able to add to my little shelf of print publications. Third, without getting into anything that might be vaguely spoilerish, this story is part of a thematically-linked set of stories I've been working on in the past year. It's the first of those to have sold. Finally, it's a pro-rate sale, which is always really cool.

The other sale is a reprint sale. "Present Company", which ran earlier this year at Every Day Fiction, will be appearing in an anthology of flash fiction mysteries. The collection, titled Kwik Krimes, is being edited by noted mystery editor Otto Penzler. Again, this was exciting for me for a whole bunch of reasons. I've read many a Penzler-edited or published book and having him choose one of my stories for selection in this anthology was a major thrill. I've also always been a real fan of collections of short-short/flash stories like Microcosmic Tales and 100 Hair-Raising Little Horror Stories (to name two which are sitting right here on my bookshelf). Appearing in a similar volume will be really neat. I say "similar volume", but I believe this will be eBook only. Still, having the chance to be part of this anthology really made me happy.

October hasn't been the most productive month for me in terms of word-count, but it's been a good month overall between what I have gotten done writing-wise, these two sales, and the great reaction I received to the stories of mine which were published early in the month. If every writing month was as good as this one, I would have no complaints at all.

Monday, October 29, 2012

October Goal Wrap-Up and November Goals Defined

Each month I go through a goal setting and measuring process. Today I'm looking back at how I did in October and looking forward to November.

First,the October results:

1) Keep my Daily Writing Chain going. - Barring something unusual happening in the next few days, done.
2) Write and submit one brand-new story. - Done. And it's already been rejected from its first market, too. Yay?
3) Revise and submit one pending story each week. - Two and a half for four. I'm tempted to call it three for four, but the third story didn't get out the door all the way yet. A fellow writer agreed to give it one final look-over before I submit it for the first time and what I got accomplished last weekend was "just" getting it to that stage. However -- and perhaps her opinion on the story will lead me to rethink this opinion -- I feel very good about the changes I made and suspect it will only need minor further tweaks.
4) Submit a story for the Codex Halloween contest. - Done.
5) On 10/31 have two non-time-sensitive blog posts written and ready to post on a day when I'm not otherwise able to post something "new." - Didn't happen. I'm semi-abandoning this goal in general for the moment. As part of my early-2013 goal to reformulate my blog strategy, I'll probably revisit how I go about stockpiling blog post "inventory" for busy times.
6) Read thirty short stories. - Nope. #storyeachnight totally fell off my radar around mid-month and I also got pulled into reading a novel.

Another decent but not outstanding month. Still, put enough decent months together in a row and you'll have quite a lot accomplished.

Now for my November goals:

1) Keep my Daily Writing Chain going. - Standing goal.
2) Write and submit one brand-new story. - Another standing goal as part of my Write 1/Sub 1 monthly commitment.
3) Revise and submit one story from my backlog. - I'm going to chip away at that backlog until it's all gone, one way or another!
4) Finish a draft of my story for the Codex Novella contest. - The goal is to write 20,000 or more words. If I do so successfully, it will be the second-longest piece of fiction I've written. I wish I had a better sense of whether the idea I have for my story will carry the weight of that many words but based on similar stories from within the genre, I think there's a decent chance it will. Either way, I hope to have fun with it.
5) Enjoy myself at PhilCon. - One of my goals for this year was to go to one or more genre conventions. I went to Pulpfest back in August and then attended Context in September. Next month will be my final 2012 convention - PhilCon in Philadelphia. I'm very excited about the trip and the opportunity to meet some more of the writer friends I've made online.

I hope that October has been a good month for my fellow writers and that November will be excellent as well!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday Links: October 28, 2012 Edition

A surprising warm spell passed through here earlier this week but is well and truly gone now. There are hints that snow might show its face in the upcoming few days. I think it's safe to say that we're now well in the grip of Autumn here in Ohio with Winter not too far behind.

Monday will be my last blog post for October, so it will include my wrap-up of results on my October goals as well as a look-ahead to November. Thursday will most likely bring the second of my 2013 goal planning posts.

Below are this week's writing-related links as well as links to my own blog posts from this week.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How Do Writers Measure Success?

I've had what feels like an insanely successful year in a lot of ways. I've sold more than 20 stories this year, I've gotten very nice feedback on some of the stories which have been published, I've made it 2/3 of the way to full SFWA membership, etc.

However, there are still lots and lots (and lots) of milestones which I haven't even come particularly close to reaching. So, looked at against the backdrop of those other milestones, it would be easy for me to say (were I so inclined) "Well, I really haven't accomplished much yet." And, looking at it purely objectively, there's truth to that. If I stopped writing today and published nothing besides what's already in the pipeline then twenty years from now I'd almost certainly have left functionally no mark on the word of speculative fiction literature.

So how do I look at this? Have I had wild success or am I still down on the lower rungs?

Monday, October 22, 2012

2013 Goal #1: Reformulate My Blog Strategy

I believe in goals. In fact, I think that's probably the overarching theme of everything I've written about on this blog over the past 14 months. Even more so than writing every day since that, itself, is an ongoing goal of mine renewed every morning.

I wrote recently about how my 2012 goals ended up not looking a whole lot like where I'm ending up and why I'm basically okay with that. I realize there's a chance that might happen again in 2013. After all, I'm still very much in a neophyte stage of working toward being a professional (in at least some senses of the term) writer. Just like I discovered this year that some of the things I had believed to be true in late 2011 weren't necessarily so, I suspect there's a fair chance I'll see that again in 2013. If I'm still singing the same "Gosh, I don't really know what I want to do writing-wise yet" song and dance in five years or so, consider yourself to have permission to tell me to focus.

I'm going to be working out my 2013 goals publicly here on my blog over the next couple of months. Note that all of these posts will be considered "First Draft" goals, subject to being modified, enhanced, shrunk, contorted, folded, spindled, mutilated, or even out-and-out obliterated at my own future whim.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Links: October 21st, 2012 Edition

Are we really two-thirds of the way through October? Apparently we must be, but how that happened, I certainly couldn't tell you!

If you're gearing up for NaNoWriMo, you might like to look through my posts related to that topic before the first of the month rolls around. I don't plan to do NaNo this year, though I am planning on tackling a novella-length project during the month of November if all goes well.

Below are this week's writing-related links as well as links to my own blog posts from this week.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Five Writing Prompts to Die For: Guest Post by Kathryn Jones

We're down to two weeks until All Hallows' Eve and All Saints' Day, so with thoughts of the turning of the year and spirits and such on peoples' minds, it seems an apt time for a list of writing prompts tuned to the season.

Kathryn Jones, author of the new mystery "Scrambled" is here to provide us just such a list. Thanks, Kathryn!

Five Writing Prompts to Die For
Kathryn Jones

If you're feeling near death when it comes to starting that new writing project, never fear, a writing prompt might just be your answer to new life--maybe even the next best-selling novel.

And why not?

Many writing prompts have delivered a short story, a novel, even some poetry. And I love that I can move through what moments before seemed like a fortress.

In line with Halloween, you'll want to try the following five writing prompts--whether you're writing a mystery, a horror novel or the next romance. Here they are in no particular order.
  1. Grab a flashlight and take a short walk around your neighborhood. You don't need to walk alone, but make sure your buddy is the type that can enjoy his/her surroundings silently. Then, when you return home, record your feelings. This exercise is great when you also are focused on remembering the five senses: sight, touch, sound, smell and taste.
  2. Make a visit to a cemetery and record some of the names you see on the tombstones. Based on what is written on the gravestone, create a character. Not everything on the tombstone is birth and death related. Maybe you see that someone was "a little angel" and that triggers a particular character trait. Maybe just the name of the person on the gravestone is enough. 
  3. Dress up in Halloween attire and go out to eat. The dress up prompt works best when you don't hit the restaurant on Halloween but a night leading up to it. All those who join you must dress up, too. Observe how you are treated. Take special notice of stares and laughter. Take notes of what you hear and feel.
  4. Choose your favorite Halloween story and randomly point to various words. Once you've gathered 10, begin a new story using those words.
  5. Travel back in time. Recall a time when you were fearful and write about it. The experience could be anything--from someone following you in their car, to a death of a loved one. Just let fear be your guide.
As a writer, writers' block can be moved quickly and easily with writing prompts. Hopefully, the ones above have assisted you in getting out of the grave.

Monday, October 15, 2012

October 2012 Mid-Month Goal Check

As I typically do around the middle of each month, I'm devoting today's blog post to a status check on my writing goals for this month. Here's how things are coming along.

1) Keep my Daily Writing Chain going. - This is coming along just fine.

2) Write and submit one brand-new story. - I've started a new story but have a fair amount more work to get done on it for it to be submission-ready.

3) Revise and submit one pending story each week. - One for two. The first weekend was mostly devoted to getting the story for the Codex Halloween contest completed but I got a story revised and out the door this past weekend. I want to make a concerted effort at meeting this goal the other two weekends.

4) Submit a story for the Codex Halloween contest. - Done. Yay!

5) On 10/31 have two non-time-sensitive blog posts written and ready to post on a day when I'm not otherwise able to post something "new." - No progress on this. It's a low-priority goal, but still I should be trying to move forward on it all the same.

6) Read thirty short stories. - I'm on target for this goal.

So, in brief, I'd say that I feel good about how the month is going so far but there's also a lot of work yet to be done. I'm going to go get to some of that work right now!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Links: October 14, 2012 Edition

A calmer week on the writing front. I had one piece of good news that isn't public yet but I hope to be able to announce it before the end of the month.

Tomorrow I'll look at how I'm doing in terms of making progress toward my October goals. For now, though, on to this week's links!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My Favorite Authorial Decision

Since today is the release day for "Scraps" on the web and since it contains one of my personal favorite writing "choices" I thought I would blog about that today. Since the discussion could be vaguely spoiler-y, I'll put it all below the jump.

"Scraps" Available on DSF Website

My story "Scraps" which was emailed to Daily Science Fiction subscribers last week is now available to be read for free on their website. If you're not used to reading stories on that site, please note that to see the whole story, you'll have to click the "Display Entire Story" button. There's also a "show author story comments" if you want to read my notes relating to this story.

Monday, October 8, 2012

What Will My Writing Goals Look Like for 2013?

I nudged past 100,000 words of fiction written for 2012 a few days ago which is both really, really cool and also got me to thinking about what my goals will look like for next year.

Writing-wise, I'm in a very different place now than I was a year ago. This time last year I was only a couple of months into my return to writing. I was having fun, at least most of the time. I really didn't have any specific plan of attack, which makes sense given that I spontaneously started writing again, rather than having done so by design.

My goals for the year 2012 were shaped very much by what I did in those last few months of 2011. Two of my goals were based around NaNoWriMo (revising last year's novel and writing one this year) and a third was based on a word-count goal which I've since learned would be really hard to maintain while writing mostly short stories. (I'd aimed for 250,000 words. Realistically, I'll probably end at about half of that.)

I don't necessarily see myself putting more energy into novels in the near future. I'm much more comfortable with the short story form than I am with the novel form and short stories are what I've put my energy into developing a certain level of competence with over the past fourteen or so months. But not pursuing novels both opens up some opportunities (I can play around with a lot more story ideas per year.) and also closes some off. (It's next to impossible to make anything even close to "a living" with short fiction.)

I've thought a lot about that trade-off this year and, for now at least, it's one I'm comfortable making. If I thought that switching to novels would make it likely that I could write full-time, that would be one thing. But the level of success that would require is significant enough that I'm not interested in chasing that dream right now.

Before too long I'll start working on defining my goals for 2013. When I do, I'll think back on this past year and look to write the goals in such a way that they keep me on the path I've been on this year, working at writing short fiction regularly and trying to do what I can to improve my writing. It may not be a path to fame and fortune, but it's one I've enjoyed all the same.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday Links: October 7, 2012 Edition

Well, I said it would be a busy week, and indeed it was.

It's also been a very good week. I met one of my goals for the month by getting a story into the Codex Halloween contest before the deadline. I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't make time to do a second draft; I think the story has some major flaws as-is. But I wanted to be a part of the contest and I did achieve that.

I also had four stories release this week. I'm particularly pleased by the reactions to "Scraps" (at Daily Science Fiction, will be on the web next week) and "ReFormed" (at Buzzy Mag). I feel like those are among two of my best stories so far and the reaction to them has been in line with those feelings. I was a bit worried that they would show up and vanish without a trace. I'm very pleased that this didn't happen.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Story Publication: "ReFormed" at Buzzy Mag

"Marshall churned away on an elliptical machine at his gym. His attention wandered from the news during a commercial and he noticed a woman running on a treadmill across the room. He only saw her in profile, but she looked like Carol. Not Carol right before she died, lying in a hospital bed. Carol when they first met, several years ago. Carol when she said 'Yes' to his proposal and accepted the ring he offered."
- From "ReFormed"
My science fiction story about a man who finds a woman who has the same face as his dead fiancee is live today on Buzzy Mag. "ReFormed" is one of my favorites of my stories.

I need to give special thanks here to Brenda Stokes Barron. She read several versions of this story and kept encouraging me to make it a fuller story as I took it through revisions. I'm sure it's a much better story than it would have been without her help.

This is, as far as I know, the last story I'll have published for a little while. I'm sure you'll all be glad for the break. :)

If you read this story, I hope that you enjoy it!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Story Publication: "Other Kinds" in Issue #3 of Nine

The third issue of new speculative fiction electronic magazine Nine is online now. My story "Other Kinds" appears in this issue. I've mentioned before that I like crime and mystery fiction and this story is a blend of a crime story with a dark fantasy.

I have both of the first two issues of Nine and have enjoyed the stories I've read from them. The issue is $5; if you happen to read this issue, I hope that you enjoy "Other Kinds."

Being Smart About My Writing Goals

If you follow my blog posts about my goals, you might have noticed that September was not my best month. I met some of my goals but whiffed badly on some others.

While I'm somewhat disappointed with my September results, I don't necessarily mind the idea that I'm not always going to hit 100% of my goals. I want to have goals that are aggressive enough that I'm accomplishing a lot rather than "just" meeting goals.

"Scraps" Emailed By Daily Science Fiction Today

My short story "Scraps" is the emailed story today from Daily Science Fiction. If you don't get those emails, you'll be able to read the story next Thursday on their website. I'll provide a link then.

If you do get the emails, please note that a sentence fragment slipped into the emailed version of the story right at the beginning. Please disregard that. The editors have said that the version which goes on the web will have this error corrected.

I hope that you enjoy the story if you read it, or that you've already enjoyed it if you're coming here after having read it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

October Goals

September was not my best month for meeting my writing goals. One nice thing about having monthly goals, though, is that every month is a chance to start anew.

With that in mind, here are my goals for the month of October.

1) Keep my Daily Writing Chain going. - It's now 13 months long and growing. Even on days when things have been rough for one reason or another, I've kept it going. I feel good about that, but it's also an ongoing thing. So, as always, it's my top goal for the month.

2) Write and submit one brand-new story. - This is my regular month Write 1/Sub 1 goal. Though I didn't have it listed as a specific goal for September, I did accomplish it with my submission to Malfeasance Occasional.

3) Revise and submit one pending story each week. - For these purposes I'm viewing weeks as being Monday to Sunday, so my goal will be to get a story out the door no later than this coming Sunday and then to do the same thing each week. If I meet this goal fully, I'll get four stories out the door from my "backlog." Last month I had aimed to revise six stories and got exactly zero done. I think that goal felt "too big" especially once I got behind on things. This new goal gives me a chance to succeed (or fail) every week, which I think should help me avoid another goose egg at the very least.

4) Submit a story for the Codex Halloween contest. - This, combined with goal #3, means that I need to get a fair amount of writing time in this week since the Halloween contest closes Sunday morning.

5) On 10/31 have two non-time-sensitive blog posts written and ready to post on a day when I'm not otherwise able to post something "new." - I'd had this goal on my lists earlier this year and was doing okay with it for a while. However, I've gotten out of the habit. Since keeping to my regular blogging schedule is something I value, I want to get back to having a bit of a reserve.

6) Read thirty short stories. - Whether I do that specifically by keeping up with #storyeachnight (essentially) every night or otherwise. Reading regularly is helpful to my development as a writer, and as such it makes sense to list it explicitly as a goal.

"Out with the Crowd" Live at Interstellar Fiction

My baseball science fiction short story "Out with the Crowd" is live today at Interstellar Fiction. It's a very timely publication, with the Major League Baseball playoffs starting later this week.

I don't tend to write a lot of "hard" science fiction, but that's an apt descriptor for this story. Its basis is the very real biomechanical principles which state that pitchers are bumping right up against the limits of what the human arm can do in terms of speed on their pitches. While average speed has increased over time and there is some dispute about the reliability of various types of speed guns for measuring the speed of pitches, there has simply not been a dramatic increase in the top speed pitchers have reached in the past 50 years. (One list of "fastest pitches" is at this link.)

The reason that this record isn't constantly falling as other sports-related records (such as the sprint times in track and field, marathon times, swimming times, etc.) is because the human arm just can't throw a baseball any harder than it already is. As the article notes:
"Shoulder rotation in baseball pitching is the fastest motion of any joint in any athlete," Fleisig says; moving faster than hip joints in sprinters or shoulders in elite tennis players.
My story starts from that science and wonders what would happen if something gave batters -- who are currently limited by their ability to process information about the incoming pitch and react to it -- an insurmountable edge against pitchers.

I hope you enjoy reading this story.

Kazka Press October Issue Live

The October, 2012 Issue of Kazka Press is live. This issue includes the six flash fiction stories on the theme of "Love Beyond Death" which I selected for them as Guest Editor. There's also a longer story by Ada Hoffman titled "Sage and Coco." There are PDF and EPUB versions of the issue, if you prefer to read that way.

The six stories I chose were:
I hope that you enjoy reading these stories.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Links: September 30, 2012

The calm before the storm...

I have three stories coming out later this week. Web-based stories at Interstellar Fiction and Buzzy Mag and the email pre-release of my story at Daily Science Fiction. (The latter will go live on their website next week.)

There's also the October issue of Kazka Press going live on Monday; the stories I selected as guest editor for their flash fiction contest will all be up on that day.

So I'm going to be blogging and tweeting quite a bit about these stories as they come out this week. I hope that you enjoy any which you end up reading.

Before I get to this week's links, here's a quick rundown of my writing goal progress for the month. I don't have my October goals fleshed out yet. I'll aim to have those up soon, quite possibly Monday.

1) Keep my Daily Writing Chain going. - Done.
2) Decide on and publish revisions to my blogging schedule once my hiatus is complete. - Done.
3) Submit at least six of my previously-completed stories for the first time. - Didn't happen. I'm somewhat disappointed about my lack of progress on this one.
4) Write a story and submit it to Criminal Element. - Done.
5) Write the first draft of my story for the Codex Halloween contest. - This didn't end up happening. It's going to be a close thing at this point to see if I get something submitted.
6) Get a revised version of my novelette out to beta readers. - Done.

I'm calling this "fair." I did get some good work done this month but I've also let some things slip and for one of them (the Codex contest) I'm running out of time.

But that's the month that's passed. For now, let's move on to this week's writing-related links; I hope that some of them are useful to you.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Brief Context Convention Report

One of the science fiction conventions here in Central Ohio is Context, now in its 25th year. I'd been to the convention once or twice in its early years and then once as a bookseller about five to seven years ago. But I hadn't gone as a non-dealer attendee to this (or any science fiction convention) in about 20 years. The only cons I'd been to in that time were a few Pulpfests and many Cinevents. And while those are fun, they're both very different from SF cons.

Being that the convention is local, it was very easy for me to get there (with, of course, the assistance of my wife in terms of kid-wrangling for the day). Being that it's local, it was also "easy" for me to decide that going for a single day, today, made more sense than signing up for the whole weekend.

So how was it? In brief, I had a great time. I got to meet people I'd only conversed with online and also got to meet some people I didn't know at all before today. There were also several local writers (mostly from the Writeshop Writing Workshop) who I'd already met so there were some familiar faces, too.

I attended quite a few panels, had lunch with Nicole Cushing and Brady Allen, saw the interview with Fantasy Guest of Honor Alex Bledsoe and listened to multiple readings. I came home with only one new physical book but with lots of new reading recommendations.

I would write more about the convention but I'm completely beat at this point and my brain is only capable of vague, mushy thoughts right now. But I will say that I'm very much looking forward to the next convention I attend. (Barring anything unforseen, that will be Philcon in November.)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Five Things I Learned Reading Slush

Driving home tonight, something occurred to me. I won't necessarily be reading any slush anytime in the near future. After several months reading for Unidentified Funny Objects followed immediately by three-plus weeks of reading for Kazka Press, this was sort of a surprising revelation. And, to be honest, a bit of a relief.

I don't begrudge either of those publications any of the time I spent on them. I hope that the comments I provided Alex Shvartsman for UFO were helpful in production its Table of Contents. And I also hope that people enjoy reading the stories which I (Alone. Eep.) selected for the Flash Fiction portion of the October Kazka Press issue. I enjoyed working with Alex and L. Lambert Lawson and both were excellent experiences.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Two Tidbits

Tidbit #1: I have a guest blog post up today on Nicole Cushing's blog about #storyeachnight. Stop over there if you'd like to read about what short fiction means to me and what I feel like I've gotten out of #storyeachnight. There are also posts about #storyeachnight by Victoria Hooper and Nicole herself on the occasion of having completed one year of reading a story each night.

Tidbit #2: It's here!

The page from The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes
on which my story begins.
Today's mail brought my contributor's copy of The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes. This is the first honest-to-goodness book that my fiction has ever appeared in. Something to hang on to, indeed!

Free eBooks! (Mine and Other Folks')

You may have seen the little badge on the right hand side of my blog the past few weeks advertising the Codex Writers Promo today and tomorrow.

What this consists of is a total of 12 Kindle eBooks which will be available completely free of charge from the 26th at 3:00 AM EDT until the 28th at 3:00 AM EDT. One of these is my short story "Gravity's Pull." The others are short stories, collections, and novels from other writers who are part of the Codex Writers' Group. Codex is specifically oriented toward "neo-pro" speculative fiction writers, those who have had some professional sales but are still early in their writing careers. (If that description fits you -- if you have one or more SFWA-qualifying sales or have attended one of the major workshops such as Clarion -- it's worth applying to join Codex. If you have any questions about this, let me know.)

The easiest way to snag all of these freebies is to go to this handy Amazon list of all 12 titles. You could also go to a site where each of the titles is described in greater detail.

I hope that you find some things you really enjoy reading from these free eBooks!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Three-Quarter Mark September #writemotivation Checkin

A quick check-in with my Monday #writemotivation status. Technically this is the last one for September, but there's still a decent amount of month left.

By the way, it looks like next week I'm going to have a ton of cool things to share with everyone. Not only will the issue of Kazka-Press I'm guest-editing the flash fiction for come out, but it looks like I may have as many as three stories of my own releasing next week. I'll post links as I have them.

While my monthly goals aren't going fabulous (more on that below), I am going to meet one of my goals for the year this weekend by attending the local science fiction convention Context. I'm only planning to be there Saturday, but that looks to be by far the busiest day. If you're going to be there and want to say "Hi", let me know! I am also planning to be at Philcon later this year.

Now, as far as this month's goals have gone...

1) Keep my Daily Writing Chain going. - Doing just fine here.
2) Decide on and publish revisions to my blogging schedule once my hiatus is complete. - Done.
3) Submit at least six of my previously-completed stories for the first time. - I'm officially bailing on this goal for the month, in favor of trying to accomplish goals 4 and 5.
4) Write a story and submit it to Criminal Element. - I have a first draft and someone who's agreed to critique the story for me. Now I need to get a second draft done (tonight, most likely), send it to the critiquer, and then work with their feedback. I might not make 9/30, depending on the speed of my crit partner and how long it takes me to work with their changes. But I feel much better about this goal than before.
5) Write the first draft of my story for the Codex Halloween contest. - No new progress here. I may be able to get this done later this week.
6) Get a revised version of my novelette out to beta readers. - This is done and I've also received feedback from one reader. The other reader will likely have feedback to me within a few days.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Links: September 23, 2012 Edition

Kind of a quiet week on the writing front. I've spent a fair amount of time reading stories for the Kazka Press 713 Flash Fiction Contest and will be making my final selections there in the very near future.

Speaking of final selections, the Unidentified Funny Objects anthology table of contents has been announced in the past several days. Lots of good stories in it; if you didn't pre-order during the Kickstarter, there will be opportunities to buy it later this year.

Here are this week's writing-related links; I hope that some of them are useful to you.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Short Story Publication: "Consequences" at Fiction and Verse

My short-short crime story "Consequences" has been published today by Fiction and Verse.

I've mentioned before that Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine runs a monthly fiction contest for 250-word stories which I've entered quite a few times. It's fun, but they only print one story a month and presumably get dozens of entries. And while I've gotten an honorable mention more than half of the times I've entered, there aren't a ton of markets looking for 250-word crime stories. As a result, "Consequences" is the first of these to see print. I hope that you enjoy reading it if you stop over by their site to check it out.

Writerly Growing Pains

A recurring theme of quite a few of my recent goal-check posts has been that things haven't been going as well as I would have liked. There are, I think, multiple reasons for that. One is that I'm trying to adjust to some new routines in my personal life, particularly since we now have one fewer person around the house on a regular basis who is able to help it with transportation and some other things that need to get accomplished. There are also some things I need to get caught up on even from earlier this year when a whole bunch of family issues occurred at once; things I was able to put off then need to be revisited now.

But there are other things, too. Things that are writing-related and that I need to be the one to work on fixing. One was putting more time into blogging than I felt I could afford; I've already made progress on that by decreasing the frequency of posting on the Write Every Day blog. I'm still struggling some with cycling back to revisions on previously-finished work. For the most part, my NaNoWriMo project from last year aside, this isn't something I'd had a major issue with before this summer. Part of this I attribute to trying to get a new handle on my own level of writing competency and what I consider to be a "good" story for me to have written. But even that feels like an excuse sometimes.

I'm going to keep moving forward and keep setting goals for myself. But for a few months, I might dial down their ambitiousness a bit, in the hopes of having a few "wins" to record. The meta-goal, then, would be to turn things back up toward the start of 2013.

I also need to make some hard choices about the "writing-ish" things I choose to take on. Most of those I don't really regret, but it's impossible to argue that they haven't taken up a lot of time. I need to make sure that when I'm committing my writing time to something that it's something I really want to be doing.

I suspect this is the sort of "growing pains" lots of writers go through over time, but it doesn't necessarily make it any more fun.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday #writemotivation Goal-Check

September is a #writemotivation month so with it being Monday, that makes it time for goal-check! This is also about the time I usually do a check at how I'm proceeding towards my goals for the month, with it being mid-month.

I'll put the gory details below, but I'll cut right to the chase. My progress stinks. Stinks, stinks, stinks.

There are a variety of reasons for this but mostly it boils down to having underestimated the amount of work I needed to do for several writing-related tasks which weren't on my list below combined with worse-than-usual time management on my part. There are other factors, too, but those are the two biggies.

So, what I need to do is make better choices going forward. I've made a bit of progress there. As much as I enjoy the weekly Liberty Hall flash fiction contest I skipped it this past weekend and I think I'll probably skip it again this coming weekend unless I've made miraculous progress on the goals which aren't going well for the month. 

1) Keep my Daily Writing Chain going. - No issues so far. A lot of my writing time in the past week has been critique work for various groups I'm a part of. This is all good work to be doing, but between not using my time efficiently and having that work, it means my own productivity hasn't been what I would have liked it to be.
2) Decide on and publish revisions to my blogging schedule once my hiatus is complete. - Done.
3) Submit at least six of my previously-completed stories for the first time. - I haven't made any progress on this at all. In a way, this is one I'm really frustrated about because it means I don't have new stories going out the door. On the other hand, this is one where there's no time element except what I choose to impose upon myself. Which brings me to...
4) Write a story and submit it to Criminal Element. - As I mentioned last week, I had one idea, started developing it and decided it didn't feel like a good fit. And I haven't gotten back off square one. I really want to make this my top writing priority for the next week. (I do still have other writing-related things to work on which I can't just set aside, specifically reading the submissions for Kazka Press and critiquing the rest of the stories from this month's Shock Totem flash fiction contest.)
5) Write the first draft of my story for the Codex Halloween contest. - I still have an idea for this story which I think will work but which I haven't fully fleshed out yet. I'd like to get the first draft done by 9/30 since the story is due in by 10/6, but if I had to push it all into those first six days of October, I probably could stand to do so.
6) Get a revised version of my novelette out to beta readers. - This is done and I'm just waiting on feedback from one version before I call this done and get it put online. One thing that I spent a LOT of time on this past week was going through iteration after iteration of possible cover designs with some people online. On the one hand, I seem to have a much better cover plan than I originally had and I did get some good new resources for fonts. On the other hand, I'll be spending a bit of money on the art and I spent multiple hours working through various versions of the cover in the last five to seven days. Ultimately, this is probably time I could have spent better or, at the very least, I could have prioritized this effort further down my list. But, that's why I do these write-ups. To see where I've made poor choices and try to learn from them and not repeat them!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday Links: September 16, 2012 Edition

It's been a while since we've done one of these. With my blogging hiatus in early September, this is the first Links post in three weeks.

Before I get to the links, a quick reminder that I'm guest-editing this month's Kazka Press flash fiction contest with the theme of "Love Beyond Death." Submissions are open for several more days, through the 20th of the month. So, if you have a story of 713-1,000 words on that theme that you'd like for me to consider, now's the time to be submitting it. The stories I select will be part of the Kazka's October issue and I'll put a link up to them once they have been published on the first of the month.

Here are this week's links; I hope that some of them are useful to you. If you've come across an interesting link about writing recently, I'd be interested in hearing about it. Feel free to post it in the comments below.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fantasy & Science Fiction September-October 2012 Issue

As previously promised, I'm collecting my #storyeachnight tweets about the September-October 2012 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction in this post.

Here are the stories, all 11 of them in the order I read them, and my tweets:
  • "Where the Summer Dwells" by Lynda E. Rucker. Atmospherically foreboding, two sets of friends with one friend in common explore a decrepit set of train tracks.
  • "A Diary From Deimos" by Michael Alexander. A clever-enough reimagining of the American Civil War as a conflict between Earth and colonists on Mars. But to what end? Felt like it hit the same notes rather frequently. I see that there is a historical "A Diary From Dixie" which this presumably is intended to reference.
  • "Arc" by Ken Liu. An interesting story to read on the night of having taken your eldest child to college though maybe moreso with me, personally, than for some others. A very personal examination of the first person to receive hyper-longevity treatments. 
  • "12:03 PM" by Richard Lupoff. Story of a man wandering in time and space. He gets some answers but also some new questions. Third in a series of stories by Lupoff.
  • "Give Up" by Richard Butner. Story of a man climbing a virtual Everest in his back yard. It has a fantastic beginning and middle but I found the ending to be underwhelming.
  • "The Sheriff" by Chet Arthur. Entertaining Old West story with light fantasy elements.
  • "Close Encounters" by Andy Duncan. An old man reluctantly revisits his prior experiences with aliens.
  • "Theobroma Valentine" by Rand B. Lee. Strange story of psych workers orbiting a world of cacao farmers. Had a sort of mystery vibe to it along with the SF. 
  • "Troll Blood" by Peter Dickinson. Charming story. Took a few pages to hook me but once it did, I was hooked all the way.
  • "The Goddess" by Albert E. Cowdrey. Pre-(US) Civil War story with Kali potentially influencing events.  Alas, despite that appealing description, I wasn't crazy about this one.
  • "Father Juniper's Journey to the North" by Grania Davis. Gods (and devils?) at work in 18th Century California.
As you can see, it was a solid issue, well balanced with six science fiction stories and five fantasy stories. There were no stories I out-and-out disliked though there were several which I wasn't overly enthralled by. Still, I enjoyed reading the vast majority of them, and even ones which weren't among my favorites generally had some interesting aspect which made them worth the read.

Of the stories, the ones by Liu, Arthur, Duncan, and Dickinson were my favorites. If pressed to pick a single favorite, it would most likely be the Peter Dickinson story, though I could imagine myself picking a different one in a different mood.

Fantasy and Science Fiction is the one of the "big three" which I was still picking up on the newsstand rather than getting it via subscription. I say "was" because after completing this issue, the next thing I did was go to their website and subscribe. If you have an interest in short fiction in the speculative fiction genres, this venerable publication is well worth your time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"No Way But the Hard Way" is in Print

My science-fiction short story "No Way But the Hard Way" is in print now, as part of The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes.

This story was one of the first ones I wrote when I returned to writing last summer. The best way I can describe it is that it's the story of a frontier town worker who has to fight to win his freedom -- and the frontier town is on an asteroid!

Among the other folks in this anthology are Mike Resnick and Milo James Fowler. I'm looking forward to seeing my contributors' copy when it arrives. This is my first book publication (as compared to print or electronic periodical publications) and it will be very neat to hold a physical book with one of my stories in it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

End Hiatus, #writemotivation Check-In, and Revised Blogging Schedule

My blogging hiatus is over. On the one hand, it was nice not to feel time pressure to work on blog posts and to use all of my writing time for fiction work. On the other hand, there were some nights when some low-stress blog writing might have been more enjoyable than trying to make something work that wasn't wanting to work fiction-wise. (Whether that latter is actually an "other hand" or just another way of describing the blog post work as being something which "keeps" me from fiction is a debatable matter.)

But, anyway, I'm not planning to extend the hiatus at this time, though I may choose to engage in them a bit more often than I have in the past if it feels appropriate/necessary.

I am making changes to my blogging schedule but they have no impact on my Monday/Thursday/Sunday routine on this blog; the changes are entirely on the Write Every Day blog. That blog will be shifting to a Wednesdays-only format. Details are in this blog post.

September is a #writemotivation goal-check month. Here's how I'm doing with about 1/3rd of the month gone.

1) Keep my Daily Writing Chain going. - No issues so far.
2) Decide on and publish revisions to my blogging schedule once my hiatus is complete. - As described above, done.
3) Submit at least six of my previously-completed stories for the first time. - Sigh. Zero so far.
4) Write a story and submit it to Criminal Element. - I had one idea, started developing it and decided it didn't feel like a good fit. So I'm back to square one here.
5) Write the first draft of my story for the Codex Halloween contest. - I have an outline of the story but haven't gotten any farther than that.
6) Get a revised version of my novelette out to beta readers. - Done! Hurray! One reader has provided feedback already and it was largely positive. Waiting to hear back from another reader before making (final?) revisions to it.

On the whole, I feel fairly good about this. Two of the six are firmly checked off the list and a third is in a good place. But there's still a lot of heavy lifting to do if I want to get all six done this month so I'd better get to it!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Three Short Story Sales: Space & Time + Kazka Press California Cantata anthology + Interstellar Fiction

The blog hiatus doesn't preclude me from stopping by for a quick announcement...

I received word late last night of not one but two short story sales. Venerable semi-pro zine Space & Time has accepted my science fiction short story "State of the Union" and Kazka Press has accepted my fantasy short "Counting It Up" for their California Cantata anthology.

(edited to add: Make that three short story sales! Interstellar Fiction will be running my science fiction baseball story "Out With the Crowd" in their October issue. Perfect timing, with the World Series coming up!)

No specific publication date yet for the Space & Time story. The California Cantata anthology is projected to come out sometime around the first of the year. Links will be provided when they are available.

Speaking of Kazka Press... This would be a good time to remind everyone that I'm guest-editing their flash fiction contest this month. Submissions are open now through the 20th of September on the theme of "Love Beyond Death." When asked to describe what I was looking for, I said:
"The best thing I can say is: surprise me! There are some obvious directions this theme could take: ghosts, other paranormal beasties, personality-on-a-microchip/uploaded-brain type stories, etc. I’m not saying I won’t take those if they’re great, because we want to provide great stories for the contest’s readers. But if I’ve got the choice between a great ghost story and a great story that took the theme in a direction I couldn’t have anticipated and that made me say ‘Wow!’ I know which one I’ll pick every time."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Celebrating a Year of Writing & Monthly Goal Checkin

(I'm on a blogging hiatus until September 10th. Enjoy the end of August and the start of September!)

Today marks the 365th day since I officially started keeping a Daily Writing Chain. In any year but a leap year (which this happens to be), that would mark one full year. In celebration of keeping to my routine on a daily basis for all of that time, I've put all three of my Kindle-published items on sale for today, Friday, and Saturday.

"Write Every Day" is only 99 cents (regularly $3.99) for that time period and the two short stories I've e-published are both free. I hope that you'll download one or all of these and that you enjoy them if you do so.

Write Every Day ($0.99)

Levels of Trust (Free)
(Crime/Thriller short story)

Gravity's Pull (Free)
(Science Fiction short story)

Overall, the last 12 months of writing have been very productive. If my numbers are correct, I've written first drafts of 63 short stories, 1 novelette, and 1 novel in that time. Focusing specifically on the 63 short stories:
  • 17 have sold.
  • 20 are currently out on submission
  • 17 need to be revised and submitted
  • 4 were posted as freebies on my blog
  • 1 was self-published
  • 4 have been retired/"trunked"
I'm comfortable with many of those numbers, but the 17 which need to be revised and submitted is irritatingly large to me. Fully 11 of those come from the last few months. Until I get that number whittled down dramatically, it needs to be my primary writing focus.

This leads nicely into a discussion of my writing goals for August and September. How'd I do in August?

1) Keep all my writing routines -- Daily Writing Chain, blogging schedule, etc. - Essentially on target. (One "Write Every Day" blog post got up slightly into the next day in my time zone. While I try to post on the calendar day the post is intended for, I don't really consider this a serious "miss.")

2) Write at least one new story.  - Done. I've written four new stories this month, none of them flash.

3) Submit at least three stories for the first time. - My goal for today and tomorrow is to make this happen, even though I'm still at zero. I'm going to say that I'm going to get it done and if I don't meet up to that, I'll acknowledge that when I'm back from my blog hiatus.

4) Write 10,000 words of new fiction. - I'm just under 10,000 words at this point. Like with #3, I intend for this to get done before September rolls around.

5) On 8/31, have two non-time-sensitive blog posts written and ready for future use on a day when I'm not able to post something "new." - I'm at zero here. This is a low-priority goal for me at this point. If I get done with #3 and #4 before the end of the month, I might try to get this done.

6) Get a revised version of my novelette out to beta readers. - I made more progress on edits but it's unlikely I'll send this out before the end of the month. Still, it might happen.

7) Launch at least one new eBook. - This isn't going to happen this month.

So, a big incomplete right this moment, but with the potential to still hit a majority of my targets with some effort today and tomorrow.

And now, my goals for September. These are very much focused around trying to fix the things that feel broken in my writing process right now. Also, note that September is a #writemotivation month, so I'll be putting up goal status reports every Monday starting on the 10th.

1) Keep my Daily Writing Chain going. - This should be very revision-heavy this month. (A while back, I added the option to do 45 minutes of focused revisions for my Daily Writing Chain goal. It's a good idea, but I've done a poor job of using that option to get things done and out the door.)
2) Decide on and publish revisions to my blogging schedule once my hiatus is complete.
3) Submit at least six of my previously-completed stories for the first time.
4) Write a story and submit it to Criminal Element. - This is kind of a specific goal, but it's time-based and something I want to accomplish, so I'm including it.
5) Write the first draft of my story for the Codex Halloween contest. - Again, specific but time-based.
6) Get a revised version of my novelette out to beta readers. - If I get feedback from them early enough in the month that I think I can launch the eBook of this novelette, I'll do that in September as well.

That should be enough to keep me busy. Good luck with all of your goals, big and small!

Monday, August 27, 2012

On Reviews

There's been a lot of chatter in the past day around an article in The New York Times which talks about authors buying reviews for their books. The title of the article, "The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy" rather neatly sums things up. There are any number of depressing quotes one could pull from this article. Among them:
  • One author estimates having spent $20,000 on review services in an attempt to "make the difficult leap ... to 'being a recognized author'"
  • One paid reviewer said that for 50-word reviews "she could find 'enough information on the Internet so that I didn’t need to read anything, really'"
  • Robert Locke, one of the first widely-touted e-book self-publishing success stories, bought reviews and while he doesn't credit them with a large portion of his success he does say: "it’s a lot easier to buy [reviews] than cultivating an audience."
And on. And on.
Reviews obviously come from any number of perspectives, motivations, etc. Many are undoubtedly completely honest. Others come from someone with an axe to grind or other motivations. And maybe I should have expected there to be a cottage industry of people who would supply reviews to people anxious to get a boost in the appearance of their work's credibility. But I didn't think it was as widespread as it apparently is.

So. A pledge to my readers. I will not buy reviews, now or in the future. If you see a review for something I've written, then you don't need to wonder if it was a purchased opinion.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Links: August 26, 2012 Edition

We're down to under a week before the end of the Kickstarter campaign for Unidentified Funny Objects. This is the speculative fiction humor anthology which I've been working on as one of the Associate Editors. We're also down to under a week before the end of the submission period, so if you've got something you want to get in for consideration, please don't delay!

As I mentioned last week, I'm going to be taking a short blogging hiatus in early September. After looking at the calendar and making various plans, I've decided that the hiatus will run from September 1st through 9th. So there will be regular Monday and Thursday posts here on the 27th and 30th of August and then the next post after that will come on September 10th. So, this will be the last Sunday Links post before September 16th. By then, I should have quite a few links which I want to share.

I'll still be writing during that hiatus. In fact, September 1st will mark the first day of a second year of writing every day (Barring anything unexpected happening in the next several days, of course; though, considering all the unexpected things I've dealt with in the past year and still managed to keep to my writing routine, it would have to be a real doozy!)

Related to coming up on this one year anniversary, I'll have an announcement on Thursday. That will be my 365th day of writing every day. Friday, August 31st will be the 366th, given the leap day earlier this year in February. The announcement will be related to my book "Write Every Day."

But that's for Thursday. For now, here are this week's links; I hope that some of them are useful to you.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Writing Process Course Corrections

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about "Three Signs Your Process Might Not Be Working." This was not a wholly abstract topic for me. While I'm generally having fun and the amount of time I spend on writing activities feels about right, I am running into issues with point number one from my list: "You're ending up with lots of unfinished work."

A few months back I was introduced to a site which has a weekly timed flash fiction contest. You see the contest prompts, you have 90 minutes to write and upload your story. After the weekend, all the entrants critique and vote on each others' stories. It's a fun activity (Yay for "having fun!") and I've written a LOT of new stories as a result. But.

But they've mostly ended up half-formed in the first draft due to the time constraints. And critiquing the other stories usually ends up eating up my writing time for one or even two evenings, depending on how many stories there are and how busy I am with other activities. Between that and doing a lot of blogging, I've actually been writing very little fiction besides what I write for these every-weekend contests.

Even that wouldn't be a huge issue if I was still getting the stories whipped into shape and out the door. But that mostly hasn't been the case. Between those stories and a few others I've got literally a dozen stories where I've gotten feedback from other writers on them but I haven't gotten the stories polished and out the door. And that's just not useful for me.

So... When you find you're getting off-course, what do you do? Correct your course! And that's what I'm going to do now with the following three items:
  1. Draft my September goals heavily around story revisions and NOT new words. (Remember that I've got an option in my Daily Writing Chain to do a 45-minute block of focused revision activities as one of the ways I can meet my goal for the day. A month filled with a lot of blocks of time like that would help me get many of these stories out the door.)
  2. Only allow myself to participate in the flash challenge if I've written and submitted at least one story of my own devising (meaning, not prompted by this specific challenge) within the past three weeks. I'll start this rule with the first full weekend in September. This is to make sure that I'm continuing to come up with organic stories from my own thoughts, not just relying on this prompt activity.
  3. Consider the amount of time I'm spending on blogging and see if I want to adjust my blogging routine (between this site and my Write Every Day site).
The first and third items there will be part of what I really look at when I take the blogging hiatus I mentioned recently. I hope that when I come back, I'll have a slightly revised course which will help me move efficiently towards my goals.