Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Thank You, Leonard Pung

The last few weeks of Clarion prep have been a roller coaster of emotion, activity, and non-activity. It's gone from everything happening all at once - get those fees paid! books those flights! - to hurry up and wait.

But after a few false starts - panic about my visa, changing flights - things are starting to come together, and the whole process is turning away from the surreal. It helps that the majority of the class have found each other online (Twitter Stalkers Anonymous), and we're now settling into a cheerful group conversation about plans and self-imposed reading assignments and signal boosting the heck out of fundraisers for those still in the process of getting their fees together.

I've also gained more followers and kind words of the writer kind in the last few weeks which is certainly blush making. Thanks everyone for paying a bit of attention to little ol' me from this little ol' country at the bottom of the world. I hope I can live up to your expectations.

A big boost towards getting me to Clarion was the scholarship I was awarded, reducing my fee total by about 30%. I received the Leonard Pung Memorial Scholarship, which prompted me too look up the author on whose good name I am in part attending.

This scholarship is awarded to a student attending Clarion over the age of 40. Yes, I turn 40 next month. I might not look it, and I like to pretend I'm younger than I really am because I started this journey so late, but there it is. I'm facing down the big Four-Oh. I've achieved one thing on my "Things To Do Before I'm 40" list - achieve a pro-paying publication - but since it slips in with a couple months leeway, I think I can tick Clarion off that list too.

Leonard Pung, from what I've been able to glean, was a late starter to this Skiffy Life too. He attended Clarion in 2009, and was just starting to negotiate his way through the publishing landscape when he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012. His death was a shock to his writing community, as it seemed he had every chance to recover after treatment.

Here are some tributes to Mr Pung, by Ken Schneyer (who was very kind to befriend me on Facebook), Nicole M Taylor, Richard Crawford, and Liz Argall.

The Clarion class of 2009 created the memorial scholarship in Mr Pung's name so that future late starters to SFF writing can realize their dreams. I'm honoured that I can carry on holding the line for the late bloomers in his name.

So, thanks class of 2009, donors, Clarion Foundation, anyone else involved in the scholarship...and Leonard. I'm going to make every effort to enjoy my time in San Diego, and make use of every morsel I glean from the workshop, whether it's good times with new friends or tearing my hair out at constructive writing criticism. I'm only as young as I feel. And I feel 100 feet tall and 21 years wide.

It's going to be wonderful and stressful and tearful and utterly grand.

Here is a video of Leonard reading from one of his stories in early 2012:

Monday, April 7, 2014

99% Blorp, 1% Squidge

The last few weeks have been...weird.

Ever since I found out I was going to San Diego my planning and writing has changed, and not always in a good way. I think I squeed so hard I popped something mentally: HOLY SHIT, says she, THIS IS FOR REALSIES. Time to go hard, or go home.

Initiate Sequence: MEEP.

So now everything I've been writing, or attempted to start, since the start of the year has looked like utter shyte. I can't finish a damn thing, and I am in no way satisfied with anything. Wurdz: how do I do them? Dude, says my bloorped out brain, you're making a step towards The Byg Tymes, you think you can hang with the cool crowd? Hahahahahah.

Yeah, thanks brain.

It hasn't helped that I haven't made a sale since August last year. That's over seven months now. I feel time ticking down, a Big Number Birthday is coming, and I'm supposed to be more All Of The Output and Famouser than this. Do editors hate seeing me on the slush pile all the time? Who have I secretly pissed off with my rampant wombat Godzilla slippers of stompiness? Am I suddenly plunging some unknown depths of suckage? Is it really just stupid dumb luck that I haven't found the right wall for my current manuscripts to stick against? Look at all those OTHER cool kids who are making sales and taking names and putting my output to utter shame.


Meanwhile, in the red corner of Pummelling the Author's Brain into Scary Super Mush, we have my Clarion prep. I must read ALL THE THINGS by my instructors. I must absorb ALL THE ADVICE from previous attendees. I must devise ALL THE QUESTIONS any intelligent looking student should ask. I must remember HOW TO BE EDUMACATING even though I haven't stepped in a classroom in over 15 years. I must pretend I'm GOOD AT TEH CRITIQUING. I must remember HOW TO ADULT IN ADULT COMPANY and not fall on my squirrel-chattering face (erm, too late). I have to book flights, and holiday thingees, and sort visa stuff, and oh my god you're mentally packing already and how many pairs of underwear do I really need for almost 2 months away from home, and my cat is going to HATE ME when I get home.

I'm a growed up. I can do these things.


Shut up, brain.

But as much as it's scaring the ever loving crud out of me...

Here is the mountain. I'm jumping off anyway.

Screaming all the way down, half terrified, half ecstatic. And hoping at least for some sort of soft landing.

Hang in there brain, we can do this.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Level Up

I said at the start of 2014 that this year is going to be better than the last.

Congratulations Author. Choose your armour and your allies, and head out into yon Mists Of Orsumness. You have levelled up.

I have been accepted into this year's class for Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop at University of San Diego.

One moment please:

This is life changing stuff. I am going to the US for six incredible weeks of being tutored by some of the best in the industry. Catherynne Valente. NK Jemisin. Jeff Vandermeer. Ann Vandermeer. Gregory Frost. Geoff Ryman.

I've had to sit on this news for three weeks - which is why my blogging has been so quiet because aaaargh no words! - and it's been so hard not being able to share my elation with everyone until now. Every morning I've woken up and  thought to myself "Holy carp, I'm going to be taught by two of my favourite living authors!"  I'm already practising my Proper and Intent Writer Face (Rah-rah-rah-rah Writer Face...she got it like nobody), because it just won't do to be caught staring starry-eyed. Somebody said to me the other day "You're going to be making friends with your heroines" and I just lost it all over again. I know it seems strange to be wigging out, but when you live so far away from everyone and everything, a New Zealander often comes to terms with never being able to fully appreciate the physicality of travelling and meeting and being in person with people you respect and admire and need to impress.

I know I talk a lot about being excited for my Writerly Ups, but this is beyond being excited. This is where it all changes. This is where writing becomes srs bzns. This will be the biggest level up in my professional development. I'm going on a long, cool trip (the longest I've ever been away from New Zealand). I'm going to be picking the brains of the people who are really switched on in genre publishing. I'm going to be making friends, connections, and networks who are going to sustain me for the rest of my professional life.

And speaking of friends, I'm not going into this alone. Harry Markov, who I met online last year in that nebulous way I can't recall (I think I liked a review or article he wrote and we clicked on Twitter from there), has also been accepted and he promises to "braid my hair" and such!

We get to live on campus! We eat at a college cafeteria! Drinking bad beer at a college bar! Walking on the beach! Comic Con! Yeah, I know, it sounds like an idealized version of the American college experience, as seen on TV, like Buffy, or Mean Girls. I'll just try to remember to wear pink on Wednesdays and not fall into trash cans. And carry a stake on me at all times.

Get in loser, we're going shopping with the Scooby Gang.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Free Fiction: "Mid-Life Crisis"

I have discovered that Flash Me Magazine, the venue that published my second story "Mid-Life Crisis" in December 2010 is no longer available online, hence my story is no longer in the archives. This is a pity, as I don't have electronic proof of the publication.

As the story is well out of contract, I am making it available here for people to read. It is a flash piece, companion to "The Ten Thousand Steps", from Expanded Horizons November 2011.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Sad Face

It's been a sad face couple of weeks in Pickles Land, so here's a quick run down.

  • I had a minor operation which has inconvenienced me for a week. I was really sore and tired (still am a bit), and unable to sit up at my computer for any length of time, so I didn't get any writing done. I had planned on this, so it was nice to check out from life for a few days. All is fine, the procedure went well, and I'm healing to plan.

  • The "Angels and Automatons" New Zealand gold mining steampunk Kickstarter that Steam Press were running did not reach its funding goal. We just didn't get the social media reach, or capture the imagination, or there were other genre Kickstarters that got a lot of attention...or any number of other things. Whatever the case, it's sad, but it happens. So, my "girl disguised as boy in the mine fields" story is getting shelved, and we'll move on. It would have been fun challenge. Maybe some other time.

  • I had little energy to do wordage about the latest bruha within SFWA conversational areas re: diversity in genre, and a lot of good people have had plenty to say about it, so I'll just sit here and massage my temples and keep writing what I write, again, as it passes by. One good takeaway from this latest bruha, as with the last, is that I'm getting the sense that SFWA is changing with the times, and the problems are only coming from a vocal minority. There is a place for us all in there, and a place for what we want to write, we just have to keep pushing and prodding and holding steady.

  • Still no word on Clarion. But that's not so much sad face as quiet anticipation.

So, we is plodding on, wordwards ho.

I can haz sick day?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

No News Is...No News

It's been a very quiet start to the year here in Pickled Land. There's not been much news to report other than mostly head down, bum up trying to keep efficient and on target with my word counts each week. I'm mostly succeeding, though I'm still suffering from a lot of Magpie Brain. Trying to turn that into a good thing: at least the inspiration is flowing.

The one thing on the agenda I was looking forward to was the release of my alt-history steampunk novella "Long's Confandabulous Circus" in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. This was originally slated for April, but I have been advised the issue is being pushed back to later in the year, possibly August. So, a bit of a delay on sharing one of my favourite worlds to date, but at least it's still on track.

Being asked to contribute to Angels and Automatons was lovely. If we can get this anthology off the ground, it will be pro-rates. I'm really enthusiastic about the project, I think it has a really unique New Zealand perspective to add to the steampunk genre. We've got just on two weeks to go with the Kickstarter, but there's still a lot of money to be raised. We're currently sitting around the $1400 mark, but the funding level is $10 000. We need to get the word out there. I fully believe in organic signal boosting rather than bugging this or that author/celeb to give it a boost, so keep talking it up.

Things I've been working on: I have been working on a "sequel" to "Long's Confandabulous Circus" with an eye to a particular themed venue; I've been reading a lot of comics/been comics universe influenced lately, and I've been playing with some ideas along those lines ie: flipping tropes around in my usual fashion.

But as per usual in writerly land, there's a lot of boring slog going on in the background just getting those words down. Not very glamourous, I know.

This works for now...next time, chocolate pleeze

Monday, January 27, 2014

"Angels and Automatons": New Zealand Steampunk Anthology Kickstarter

Take a New Zealand genre publisher with a growing reputation for awesome books, add a fictional New Zealand West Coast gold mining town in the 1860s, then add a liberal sprinkling of steampunk, and you have "Angels and Automatons", a shared world steampunk anthology.

Stephen Minchin, a Sir Julius Vogel winner, of Steam Press has kindly asked me to write a story for "Angels and Automatons", and I'm all in because it sounds like a heck of a lot of fun. Steam Press are the publisher of "Mansfield With Monsters" by Debbie and Matt Cowens and "The Wind City" by Summer Wigmore among others, garnering glowing reviews.

To get this anthology up and running, Minchin is running a Kickstarter to fund the anthology at pro rates. There are some sweet rewards available, including ebook and paperback versions of the book, books from the Steam Press catalog, short story and novel critiques, and one near to my heart...a tuckerization! That's right, if you pledge $100 under my name I'll immortalize you into my A&A story. There's only one available under my name,  but Tuckerization is available with some of the other authors too.

So if steampunk is your thing, why not give New Zealand authors take on the genre a helping hand by pledging and/or spreading the word. For more information on the anthology - and Minchin has really gone all out with the back story and historical context - click through to the Kickstarter, read all about it, and watch the video.