Watch Ireland Passing Marriage Equality

This is a wonderful video, just under 7.5 minutes long, by Raymond Braun who travelled to Ireland for the vote. He travelled around and talked to people, both straight and gay, about what it meant to them. It was pretty awesome seeing the up-welling of support for marriage equality, enough so that there was an entire store in a mall selling just pro-equality items.

This is the first time a country has adopted marriage equality through a popular vote. Props to Ireland. I hope it spreads.

Workshop Stuff

I went kind of radio silent for a few weeks there — sorry about that. I have things to post about, but I’m not going to dump it all at once. First is the Anthology Workshop I went to from late February through the first week in March. Great stuff as always. Anyone who has any interest in writing short fiction should try to get into one of these workshops some year. I think the 2016 Anthology Workshop still has space, or at least it’s not marked as full yet. Click through and scroll down.

For anyone going “Huh?” right now, the Anthology Workshop is an intense week-and-a-bit on the Oregon coast with about forty writers and half a dozen editors. We get six anthology assignments ahead of time — submission guidelines, like you’d see for any anthology — starting right after the first of the year. Each assignment has a deadline a week away, and then we get the next one, boom-boom-boom, six stories due on six successive Sundays. You’re not required to write for every book — you can pick the ones you want — but why wouldn’t you? This is a great opportunity to submit work and then listen to a bunch of editors arguing over your stories. Oh, and possibly make some sales to Fiction River, as a nice bonus to eight days of learning.

Most of the workshop days are devoted to going over stories, one book’s worth per day. They start at one end of the row of editors at the front of the room, and each editor says whether they’d have bought the story or not, and why or why not. The last editor is the one (or occasionally a pair, editing a book as a team) who’s actually buying stories for the live anthology. There’s a white board for each book, where BUY and MAYBE stories are listed, along with author and wordcount. Sometimes all the editors agree one way or the other, but usually not. The discussions back and forth between editors of differing opinions can be entertaining, and are always educational. That’s really what it’s all about — seeing how and why different professional editors can and do disagree over a story, occasionally with snark or sarcasm involved. When we’re done with all the stories, the editor(s) look at how many BUY stories they have, and if there isn’t enough wordcount, they go through the MAYBE stories to finish building the TOC. Watching them do this is another great educational opportunity.

So each day, the editors go over one book’s worth of stories. I always write for all the books, and so do a lot of the other attendees. Before this year, if a story was passed up, we were encouraged to sub it to some other pro market right away, but this time we were told not to. Good thing, too.

The six books we wrote for were, in scheduled publication order:

Hidden in Crime, edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, a historical crime volume
Visions of the Apocalypse, edited by John Helfers, a book of stories taking place during (not just before or after) the end of the world
Last Stand, edited by Dean Wesley Smith and Felicia Fredlund, stories about characters making a final stand, and no, it’s not all they-died-in-the-end stories :)
Superpowers, edited by Rebecca Moesta, a YA anthology about teenagers learning to cope with some kind of super power
Haunted, edited by Kerrie Hughes, an anthology of haunting stories
Pulse Pounders: Adrenaline, edited by Kevin J. Anderson, a book of short thrillers

Click through and scroll down a bit to see the up-coming anthology covers. Last I heard, they’re planning to find new art for the Last Stand book, but the others are pretty set except for names on the covers.

I initially sold a story to Haunted, which is cool; I’ve worked with Kerrie before and am looking forward to working with her again. I missed with John’s Apocalypse book, which was disappointing; I’ve sold stories to him the last two years, but this time I didn’t quite hit what he was looking for. Dean hated my story for Last Stand, but Felicia liked it a lot. I honestly wasn’t expecting to make it in there, but after going over all the stories, they did some horse trading between themselves and Dean got one he wanted that Felicia hadn’t really cared for, and Felicia got mine. :) Kris teetered a bit on mine, but it didn’t quite make it, which was disappointing, but I’ve never sold her anything before, so I was almost expecting it. Then on the last workshop day, she announced that someone not in the workshop who’d been invited to submit to the book, and who’d wanted a 10K word space saved for them, couldn’t submit something after all, leaving Kris with a 10K word hole. She bought two extra stories after all, one of them mine, woot!

Now this year, there was an extra person sitting up front with the editors. Mark Leslie Lefebvre, AKA Mark the Kobo guy, was a student in the workshop last year. He stepped in and offered some Kobo support when a couple of editors had more stories they Really Really Wanted to buy, but which they didn’t have room/budget for. Two of last year’s volumes have special Kobo editions with three more stories in them, which is awesome, so thanks to Mark for that. But this year, Mark was sitting up front. Huh?

Okay, there had to be a reason. Last year, there was some talk about how, if the special Kobo editions were a success and sold well, they might do special editions of all the books this year. But as days went by, they weren’t buying extra stories, and there was no mention of a Kobo edition. Huh. But there was Mark up there, doing the Yes-Maybe-No thing with all the stories. My guess was that he was doing a stealth book, his own anthology, and I was right. :) They went through all the stories that Mark or one (or more) of the other editors had loved, but either didn’t have room in their book, or it was a story for someone else’s book that didn’t get bought. We had a whiteboard for each book (Dean and company screwed each day’s board up onto the wall somewhere in the room after that day’s workshop was over) and then Mark had a couple more where he assembled his picks, plus all the unbought picks from the other editors. Hashmarks showed which stories had a lot of love from the editors, even if the one it was written for didn’t buy it. That last round of TOC building was great, especially for the folks who got last minute surprise buys.

There’s some great stuff in there, stories I’d have bought if I’d been one of the editors. The book’s not on the Fiction River site, but they were calling it Editors’ Cut at the workshop. Fiction River doesn’t always stick to just one genre in each volume, but Mark’s book will have more variety than usual. Should be great for anyone who just loves short fiction.

Like last year, we had sign-ups to eat lunch with the editors and Allyson (the publisher of WMG), and I went out with a few people. And there were great discussions in, around, and after workshop sessions. Some notes:

If you love a trope that nobody’s writing anymore, other people will love it too, so write it to fill that hole. This is especially an opportunity for folks indie publishing — don’t let New York tell you Horror is dead, or Westerns, or romantic vampires, or kids finding weird objects while playing, or whatever you’re into.

Past a certain level of craftsmanship, whether a story sells or not isn’t really about quality, it’s about taste. Don’t let a rejection, or a bunch of rejections, discourage you. If you’re pretty sure a story is well written, keep subbing it, or indie publish it.

If you’re doing a punch story, a short story with a quick hit at the end, do a double-punch — two hits in quick succession — to make it even more powerful.

When you’re writing for submission, readability is key. No 10pt fonts, no weird fonts, don’t try to be “special.” Try to be readable. If the editor notices your formatting, you blew it.

Define what “success” means to you before you plan a promo campaign. You have to know what you want so you can tell if your campaign was successful and worth the resources you put into it.

80% of people who download a free book won’t read it.

You need at least 3-5 books in a series for perma-free on the first book to be of any benefit. (And there’s some disagreement about whether perma-free is ever a good idea. Temporary free promotions might be better.)

Amazon categories — use Fiction, General and Fiction, [Genre] as your two categories. Then your keywords will get you into other categories under those. There are a bazillion categories under Fiction, General that you can only get in through Fiction, General plus keywords

When you sub to a literary market, don’t label the story by genre in your cover letter, and don’t note genre credits. For literary markets, no previous credits are better than genre credits.

Never use the term “self-published” — use small press, independently published, etc. The stigma is still there, so don’t get it on you.

A good title will sell a story before you’ve even written it (in tradpub). It’ll also sell a story to readers.

Stories about the everyday tragedies of human life need to rise above the everyday tragedies of human life. They’re realistic, but a reader needs more of a reason to read about that particular one. Usually it’s not something anyone outside the main character’s family and friends would care about. [Writer]’s story worked because their character was heroic and had a humorous thread in their voice about what was going on with them. Also, you need to balance the tragic event with being an entertainer. The reader has to want to read that story — they’ll want to read it because it’s entertaining. What about the story and the characters makes the reader want to hang with them, especially since most people aren’t keen to spend time with their own family and friends who are horribly sick, or whatever, much less a stranger?

To transcend the horrible mundanity, maybe the character does something different, something heroic. Or the story could have an awesome voice.

If you’re editing an anthology, or putting together a collection of your own short work, the gut-wrenchingly emotional story should be at the end, or maybe in the middle, but most definitely not right up in the beginning.

When building your TOC, figure about 1/3 of readers will read the book front to back, in order.

Don’t start a story with the character’s first and last name — nametag opening. It has to be up front quick, but not the first two words.

Kris’s technique for analyzing someone else’s book/story — Take a book you never want to read again, underline setting words with a different color for each sense. Then go through and color each word for how it supports the story, setting or character or plot. The idea is to load the technique into your head so it filters to your subconscious and five stories [of your own] later you’ll start using it when you write. It’s not deliberate; it comes out of the subconscious as you write.

Dean’s technique — Take a book and type the opening in your manuscript format to get the feel for what the writer was doing word-by-word. You’ll start realizing what the writer is doing and how they do it.

Whenever you get comments about too many details, it’s always the writer putting the setting details in (the writer’s narrative voice) rather than filtering it all through the POV character’s opinion. Everything should be filtered through the character, which makes the words build character as well as setting. If you feed setting in through the POV character, readers won’t notice all the setting coming in; it reads very quickly.

If anyone notices your setting in the beginning, you fucked up.

Don’t use a series name in the title of a story in an anthology because too many people will see that it’s a series story and skip it.

Stories are circles, and the end has to reflect back on the beginning. If an ending isn’t working, it’s probably because there’s a problem with the beginning, or because the ending doesn’t reflect on the beginning.

On a crime story being resolved — the reader needs to know who committed the crime and that the story is over. A mystery/crime story puts order onto chaos. If the story is noir, the reader needs to know that order will never be imposed on the chaos. If it’s not a mystery per se, they might not catch the crook, but in any case the reader needs to have that info.

This isn’t everything, but it’s most of what I had in my Notes file on my laptop. This is an awesome workshop, and I’d be taking it even if I never sold anything. In fact, the first time I went, the anthologies weren’t “live,” and nobody sold anything; we were all there for the learning. This is a wonderful experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone with any interest in publishing short fiction.

Angie

Your Brain on Fiction

A writer friend on a mailing list linked to an article called Your Brain on Fiction, which talks about how the brain responds when one is reading fiction.

It seems that reading vivid adjectives or active verbs stimulates the same parts of your brain that activate when you’re actually experiencing the adjective or doing the verb. For example:

Researchers have long known that the “classical” language regions, like Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, are involved in how the brain interprets written words. What scientists have come to realize in the last few years is that narratives activate many other parts of our brains as well, suggesting why the experience of reading can feel so alive. Words like “lavender,” “cinnamon” and “soap,” for example, elicit a response not only from the language-processing areas of our brains, but also those devoted to dealing with smells.

In a 2006 study published in the journal NeuroImage, researchers in Spain asked participants to read words with strong odor associations, along with neutral words, while their brains were being scanned by a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. When subjects looked at the Spanish words for “perfume” and “coffee,” their primary olfactory cortex lit up; when they saw the words that mean “chair” and “key,” this region remained dark.

This also works with social interactions. Reading about characters going through emotional experiences and relationships makes readers more able to understand other people, empathize with them, and navigate social situations.

It is an exercise that hones our real-life social skills, another body of research suggests. Dr. Oatley and Dr. Mar, in collaboration with several other scientists, reported in two studies, published in 2006 and 2009, that individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective. This relationship persisted even after the researchers accounted for the possibility that more empathetic individuals might prefer reading novels. A 2010 study by Dr. Mar found a similar result in preschool-age children: the more stories they had read to them, the keener their theory of mind — an effect that was also produced by watching movies but, curiously, not by watching television. (Dr. Mar has conjectured that because children often watch TV alone, but go to the movies with their parents, they may experience more “parent-children conversations about mental states” when it comes to films.)

Although that last bit made me wonder. It sounds weird that kids would pick up more about social interaction from movies than from television, and I don’t really buy the “going to the movies with parents” thing. When a little kid is really into a TV show, they’re going to want to talk about it, whether or not Mom or Dad knows who all Spongebob’s friends are. And what about watching movies on TV? Maybe they meant to differentiate between watching television and going to a movie theater, rather than between TV shows and movies. It still sounds iffy; I’d have liked to get more info on that.

Still, this is pretty cool. Definitely click through and read the whole thing.

Angie

Amazing Historical Archery

Like most people, I grew up thinking that the ultimate display of archery skill was the stationary shooter aiming at a target. When I was in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism — a sort of learn-by-doing history club) I learned about war archers, who massed behind the infantry and shot arrows in volleys, aiming high shoot their arrows in parabolic arcs over the heads of their own fighters to come down onto the enemy. War archers in the SCA counted on the massing of arrows for effectiveness, to make them difficult or impossible to dodge.

Lars Andersen studied historical documents and illustrations and has learned to shoot the way combat archers shot in pre-gunpowder days. This guy is amazingly fast, accurate, versatile and mobile. Watching this video makes me want to dive into historical fantasy just so I can write about a serious archer. :) Check it out:

Thanks to BoingBoing for sharing this.

Angie

Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide Cover

The Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide anthology successfully funded its Kickstarter, so the ball is rolling. We have the final cover, with my name on it, yay. :)

 photo YoungExplorers2015Cover.jpg

I don’t have a publication date yet, but I’ll definitely be posting when it’s released.

I love this cover. The art is great — genre-specific enough to communicate “Hey, this is SF!” without focusing on a particular subgenre that’d let out a lot of stories, or trying too hard to be too many things and thus likely failing at everything. Good stuff.

Angie

“Mine, All Mine!” Said the Octopus

So my husband volunteers at the Seattle Aquarium. They’ve had two octopuses there for a while, in adjacent tanks. The tanks are connected by a tube about eighteen inches or so across, but since octopuses can be territorial, a screen is in place so the animals are aware of each other, but can’t, say, try to kill or eat one another. Which they will sometimes do if they have the opportunity.

One of the octopuses recently started displaying reproductive behavior, pulling eggs out of her mantle and braiding them together. There are no male octopuses in the vicinity, so the eggs aren’t fertile, but policy is that when an octopus looks like she wants to breed, she’s released out into the sound. So Octopus Number One has moved on.

The screen between the two tanks was removed, and Octopus Number Two now has access to both tanks.

According to my husband, Number Two was positively gleeful today. She was much more active than she’s usually been, exploring, spreading her legs out, jetting a time or two, spending some time up at the glass looking at people — while he described it I could picture in my mind a cartoon octopus dancing around the newly-huge space and cackling, “Mine, all mine!” with a huge, cartoony grin.

Aquarium visitors spent a lot of time around the octopus tanks today, for obvious reasons. One pair got a surprise when they turned away for a few moments, then turned back to find that the octopus was Right There In Front Of Their Faces, legs fanned out. The animal’s web (the skin between its legs, like the webbing between your thumb and forefinger) is about six feet across, then add several more feet on either side for the legs themselves. That’s a lot of octopus underside to suddenly find spread out a few inches away from your head, and there were a couple of squeaks and jumps right before the cameras came up and started clicking. I’ll bet those pictures are great. :)

I assume the aquarium will acquire another octopus eventually, but until then Number Two will doubtless revel in her newly expanded territory. Sounds like she’s having fun with it.

Angie

The Safety Vid of the Ring

An airline safety vid you’ll actually want to watch. Air New Zealand made a Middle Earth themed safety video starting Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, Richard Taylor, and a bunch of other Rings/Hobbit actors. It’s great fun, and worth a watch even if you’re not planning on flying any time soon.

Angie

Fiction River

The Fiction River anthology series is doing a subscription drive on Kickstarter, and they’re already into stretch goals. They’re offering various subscription levels at various prices, including a single electronic issue for $5, some multi-issue genre packages, up through a year’s subscription in electronic or print or audio. Some packages come with extra stories — electronic or print — by anthology authors, and one lets you choose a character for each of three anthology stories Dean will write for up-coming issues.

There are also special packages left for writers that bundle some online lectures in with your Fiction River subscription. One that lets you choose a future anthology theme and co-edit it with Dean has already been snapped up, as have all the subscription-plus-online-workshop bundles.

If you’re looking for a new tablet anyway, there’s a Kobo special package that comes with a Kobo tablet, codes to download the previous ten volumes of Fiction River, plus ARCs to the two Kobo special edition issues coming up (with extra stories), plus three up-coming issues.

And like I mentioned above, they’re already into stretch goals.

Since they passed $7500, everyone who supports the Fiction River subscription drive at the $5 level or higher will receive one additional electronic copy of Fiction River from the second year.

They hit $10,000 recently, so they’ll create a special edition of Fiction River called Debut Writers’ Showcase. This will be a separate ebook of Fiction River authors who were published first with us. Plus, we’ll extend their biographies and ask them really cool questions such as, “Since you’ve been published in Fiction River, what’s happened in your writing career?” One of the goals of Fiction River is to bring you fresh voices in storytelling. We’ll send this edition to everyone who supports the Fiction River subscription drive at the $5 level or higher. (I’m one of their debut writers, so that’ll be fun to do. :) )

This is a great project, with a lot of awesome writers. It’s well worth supporting, especially since you’re already getting a couple of extras. Check it out.

Angie

Combat Juggling

So you’ve got a couple of characters who have a dispute, and you need a way for them to resolve it. They could shout at each other, or start beating on each other, or go old-school and settle it with pistols or even swords. Or you could do something different and let them have a juggling fight.

No, seriously, this is a thing. :)

Two guys, each has three juggling pins. They start juggling, then approach and try to mess each other up while still keeping their own pins going. There’s quite an audience watching, too, and they’re having a great time. First to seven points wins. Check it out.