A Good News Post

I’m really excited to announce two pieces of news. First, I received an informal acceptance notice from Itty Bitty Writing Space, an upcoming Kickstarter anthology of flash fiction edited by Jason Brick. The Kickstarter opens on January 29th, and this is Jason’s third Kickstarter flash anthology. Both of his prior anthologies funded successfully, so I’m optimistic that my story “Jalopy Racer” has found a good home.

“Jalopy Racer” is one of those stories that just needed to come out. It doesn’t really have a genre, unless you count it as adventure fiction, I guess. It’s inspired by my dad’s tales of being a stock car racer in southern New Mexico in the 1950s, and it basically told itself. I’m glad it has found a home in IBWS. I find it interesting that two of my last three fiction sales (“Chesterfield Gray” and “Jalopy Racer”) were inspired by family members, and neither are science fiction, my first love in writing. I guess that just goes to show that the words decide on their own what path they will take.

The other piece of news is music-related, and I’ve been bouncing off the walls waiting to share it. Thanks to the efforts of my friend Wulf Moon, I will be performing music at the Superstars writing seminar in Colorado Springs on Game Night next month! This is a private event, and only people who are Superstars participants will be able to attend, but if it goes well, there’s a chance it may become a regular event in the future. Moon and I plan to perform some songs together and I’ll do some solo performing, in a sort of filk/folk mix. I’ll bring lyric sheets for those who want to sing along, too. My thanks to Moon and Chris Mandeville for making this happen!

On the Shoulders of Giants

I have many things to be thankful for this year. My life is going well in many regards, and this fall has been fantastic, mostly because of one big piece of news. On November 24th, the book containing my first fiction sale came out: Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence. This completes the hat trick of selling fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, so I can finally cross that item off my bucket list.

I could not have picked a better market for my first story sale. EBSoI is a tribute anthology to one of my mentors, Edward W. Bryant, Jr., whom I’ve mentioned on this site dozens of times. My story, “Chesterfield Gray” (which I’ve also mentioned on here numerous times), is in fine company, because stories by Connie Willis, Steve Rasnic Tem, Kevin J. Anderson, Mario Acevedo, Bruce Holland Rogers, and Ed Bryant himself appear in the volume, as well as work by more than a dozen other writers and friends. I’m honored to have my work share the same pages as these giants of the industry. Thank you to Chuck Anderson and Jim LeMay, Editors of the anthology, for inviting me to submit my work and ultimately including me.

But those aren’t the only giants upon whose shoulders my story stands. In addition to passing through two of Ed’s writing groups, “Chesterfield Gray” was also critiqued in Melanie Tem’s writing group and by my first mentor, Leonard “Red” Bird. It’s thrilling to me that all three of the people whom I have considered mentors weighed in on the story at one time or another, and that it was ultimately deemed of high enough quality to be included in the anthology.

So, Melanie, Red, and Ed: This one’s for all of you.

MileHiCon Schedule and Publication Announcement (Updated)

MileHiCon is just around the corner again. This year marks the 49th occurrence of this magnificent convention, and the first year where Ed Bryant’s presence will be more of a memory than a staple. A number of events are planned to remember MileHiCon’s favorite toastmaster, and I will be involved with several of them.

Of those events, the one I’m most looking forward to is a selection of readings from the upcoming Ed Bryant anthology tribute, Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence, due out in November. My story “Chesterfield Gray”, which I’ve referenced in this blog multiple times, is in that anthology, and I’ll be reading a selection from it. My story is in esteemed company; several pro-level and best-selling authors are also in the book, including Connie Willis, Kevin J. Anderson, Steve Rasnic Tem, Mario Acevedo, Lucy Taylor, Gary Jonas, … the list goes on. In the end, I think this will be a fantastic tribute to our mutual friend Ed. Thanks to Chuck Anderson and Jim Lemay at Mad Cow Press for all their hard work in putting this tribute together.

My MileHiCon 49 appearance schedule is below. As usual, MileHiCon is being held at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center location. The dates are October 27-29, 2017.

Friday, October 27, 2017
I won’t be on any panels on Friday this year, but I will be attending the con, so catch me if you want to say hi!

Saturday, October 28, 2017
1pm — Roundtable: How Can Creativity Transfer? (Bristlecone) — A discussion about how creativity can bridge or transfer between mediums and genres. I’ll be moderating this one, with panel participants Boom Baumgartner, R. Alan Brooks, Kirsten Imani Kasai, et. al.

6pm — Iron Hack (Mesa Verde B) — UPDATED — I learned what this panel is about, and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. From the description: “Our fearless contestants–given four ingredients by the Audience: a person/occupation, a thing, a place, and a time period–will then write a piece of Flash fiction. Results will be read and winner chosen by audience acclaim.” I’ll be moderating this panel, too, with panel participants Chris Barili, Nathan Beauchamp, Greg Hyde, and Author Guest of Honor Jane Lindskold. (Gulp! I’m going up against Jane Lindskold in a flash fiction contest?!)

9pm — SF Poetry Slam (Avistrum Academy, 12th Floor) — It sounds like this year’s poetry panel is more of a competition than a reading, as it has been in past years. We can either prepare a poem beginning with the line “In a hundred years” or compete in an improv “slam” format. Tim Anderson will be leading this panel, and I’ll be participating with Jane Bigelow, Rob S. Rice, and others.

11pm — Group Reading & Discussion: The Ed Bryant Anthology (Avistrum Academy, 12th Floor) — Traditionally, Ed Bryant used to hold a late night reading at MileHiCon. This year, in honor of that tradition, Mad Cow Press will be presenting readings from several of the authors in the forthcoming anthology Edward Bryant’s Sphere of Influence. I will be reading from my story in the volume, “Chesterfield Gray”.

Sunday, October 29, 2017
1pm — Southwest Regional Authors (Wind River A) — What impact or flavor does the Southwest give to fiction written here, or by authors who live here? I’m honored to be on this panel with Paolo Bacigalupi, Robin D. Owens, and Aaron Michael Ritchey, moderated by Dana Bell.

3pm — Ed Bryant Remembered (Mesa Verde B) — A panel for all to talk about memories of Ed, similar to the remembrance that was held for him earlier this year at the Mercury Cafe. This is an opportunity for those who couldn’t attend the remembrance to tell their stories and listen to others’ stories about how Ed affected their lives. A memory book will be launched here, curated by Deena Larsen, and other projects involving Ed’s work will be covered, like Jean-Philippe Gervais’ massive three volume compendium of Ed’s collected works. I’ll be coordinating the speaking at this event, and a number of people are expected to attend, including Cynthia Felice, Greg Hyde, Ronnie Seagren, John Stith, and many more.

From Limbo to Focus in Nine Easy Paragraphs

In case you can’t tell, I’m having a problem with project commitment in regard to this website. I’ve made two Creativity Journal entries in the last four months, where I had been making daily entries for months before that. This drought roughly corresponds to the last time I wrote anything creative.

My last creative writing act was finishing the first draft of “Chesterfield Gray” on the airplane to Florida in October. I pulled that story from the dusty electrons of my Treo’s memory yesterday and was pleased to note that the story was just as bad as I remembered it being. It’s trite. It’s full of dull language and stereotypes like this:

She closed her eyes and bent her head back, holding the cigarette high between two fingertips, her crimson nails matching the lipstick stain on the unfiltered butt.

It sounds like something that should have Fabio on the cover. A certain amount of that is okay; after all, the setting is San Diego in 1945, and I wouldn’t mind if it has kind of a Bogey and Bacall feel to it. But the story’s problems don’t end with the hackneyed language. The story has three main characters: a sailor, a bartender, and, for lack of a better word, a tramp. The tramp and the bartender are cookie cutter characters; they don’t seem to have much life. They are definitely stereotypical.

The sailor, however, flies in the face of time. He’s not typical of a wartime enlisted man at all, and as such, he’s not believable. His sensibilities are much more 21st century than mid-20th, and that makes me wonder if I’m ruining the story by working my own agenda into it. I don’t want to do that, but I’m also interested in exploring the notion that real people in the 40s were not all clones of each other. Each person had his or her own feelings about the War, the Japanese, the Nazis. I’m sure all of those opinions were influenced by the times, but I doubt if Japanese sympathizers in the military were as scarce as history would lead us to believe.

One means of determining the truth of my suspicion is to interview primary sources. I may send out an e-mail questionnaire to friends and relatives that I know were alive during the time, asking for pieces of their memories. I could also go into a 50s+ chat room and ask general questions of the people there.

I’ve discussed this problem a bit with my friend Jeff at Old Possum’s Book Store. Jeff has a very good sense of plot structure and pacing; he has a couple of suggestions on how I could make the character more believable, and I will probably use those suggestions. Implementing them would require changing the structure of the story dramatically. That’s okay; I’m not really attached to the story’s structure. I was playing with structure a bit in regard to viewpoint shifts between the three main characters, but perhaps it would make more sense to focus on the most dynamic character and delegate the others to the background.

In that case, this first draft has some use as a character study. Though the characters are flat, I can use what I’ve written to define their actions in a limited viewpoint story.

I hate to say it, but I think I just convinced myself to go back to the drawing board on this story. I’m not too upset about that, though. By having some distance from the piece and working through it in this journal entry, I have rekindled some interest in finishing the story. Hopefully I can keep that flame burning for a while.

On Haitus

As you can tell, I haven’t made many entries in the last month. A few things have come up, and I don’t need to go into detail about them here, but I’ll give a quick update about some of the highlights.

Kim and I went to Key West last week for a manager’s meeting. I really enjoyed the trip, and I must admit that Key West during Fantasy Fest (possibly NSFW) was an eye-opening experience for a small-town Colorado boy. The most tasteful expression of Fantasy Fest clothing that I saw was a woman wearing only a custom-made brass ring mail halter top and a sarong. (There was nothing under the halter top except flesh, of course.) Believe it or not, it was a very classy and beautiful outfit.

The least tasteful personal expression of Fantasy Fest that I saw was a burly, bearded guy handing out 2-for-1 drink coupons outside a clothing-optional bar — with his manhood hanging out for all to see.

The sunsets were beautiful, the weather was perfect, and we had good times shooting pool and having dinner with some friends from my work.

On the plane ride to Florida, I managed to finish the rough draft of “Chesterfield Gray.” I’m not happy with it, but at least I now have something that I can look at and revise.

That is, assuming I do much writing in the near future. I’m not sure I’m going to have the time or energy for a while, so “Chesterfield Gray” may have to sit and percolate. Consider this an official statement that my creativity journal entries will be sporadic at best in the near future. Please keep checking back, but don’t expect an entry every day.