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10 Years Gone by

I've always been a storyteller. I remember standing in the second grade schoolyard and captivating some classmate with the most outrageous string of, ahem, embellishments to the story I was telling.

A few years later I committed those stories to loose-leaf paper, with drawings and report covers. Next came attempts with typewriters.

Years later, I realized that there were such things as How-to books, and stocked up and read a whole bunch of them. But it wasn't until 2001 that I seriously started to write. By that I mean I took an on-line class in how to write, joined Critters, and I not only wrote, but keep track of what I was doing.

So back on May 10th, 2001, I wrote the first 380 words of my professional writing career. Since then I've written about a hundred stories and  more than 700,000 words of fiction. Which means I'm still working on the one million words of crap they say writers have to produce before writing something good. But I have managed to sell six stories and win a few contests. Did I show any promise with those first few hundred words? You be the judge:

 

The Pierian Spring

 

               Krane felt a lurch in his stomach as the lander dipped into the atmosphere.  The steady keel of the carrier was long gone, replaced by the bobbing and weaving of this small craft as it descended.  He could feel the thin wisps as they slowed the lander, and the wingtips began to glow.  Weightlessness and inertia traded places, and he was pulled into his seat.  Another swift turn, and the ocean below was revealed.  Clouds, white like all clouds; waters, blue for the most part.  Vast patches of greens and blues hugged the shorelines and equator.  He accessed for a moment.  These varieties of plankton were similar to species found thirty-two other worlds.  Preliminary studies showed them to to quite unremarkable.  Genetic makeup was closest to…  He felt the beginning of vertigo,  despite the momentary smoothness of the lander.  Closing his eyes, he concentrated until the feeling, and the information, faded.

               Krane looked over at the pilot.  No queasiness showed, only an eager grip on the controls and the intense stare of concentration.   His flightsuit bore colorful badges of rank and missions in contrast to Krane’s single insignia—a small stylized microscope.

               “We’re coming up on the continent.” he said, acknowledging Krane for the first time.

               Krane had seen the continent from orbit, of course.  Now it was appearing on the horizon.  The only major land mass on this planet, beside tiny outcroppings and volcanic chains of islands.  He was about to access the tectonic and geological records, but hesitated.  Later, he thought.

They were now over land, the descent moderated somewhat.  The lander was now an aircraft, and Krane imagined the sonic booms below him.  There was nothing to hear them, though, this area being devoid of any life on an already sparsely inhabited world.  Those simple creatures, plants mostly and a few phyla of insects, had their fate in Krane’s hands.

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No news . . .

. . . is no news. For me anyway. But some of my friends have been doing good stuff.

J Kathleen Cheney, a friend from WotF 24, made the Nebula Awards ballot with her story Iron Shoes! It came out in the fabulous Alembical 2, the anthology of novellas from Paper Golem Press. Edited by Laurence Schoen, who will be the Guest of Honor at Lunacon in a couple of weeks.

Ian McHugh, another mate from WotF, has his latest story, Boumee and the Apes, in the May 2011 issue of Analog. On newsstands NOW -- so get yourself a copy before they're all sold out.

And if you prefer audio books over antholgies or magazines, give the Erin Cashier (yes, another pal from WotF) story Crucigar a listen over at Escape Pod.

Oh, wait. I do have a bit of news. My story First Light is out now at Redstone Science Fiction.
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NaNoWriMo -- Final Thoughts

I jumped into this year's NaNo without much thought, and sometimes that's a good thing. I made the 50 k mark, just barely, and on the last day. The other two times I won, I finished a day early. This time was a lot harder. I had four no writing days, and three days with less than 1k words, which meant a lot of catching up. And I can't remember how many times I just wanted to quit.

But I haven't been writing much, and doing a lot of writing, even if it's bad writing, helped to get me unstuck. I went right back into the story I had on hold for November, and I'm almost done with it (it's a 20k novella, so it's a big story too).

Previously I had used Spacejock yWriter for NaNo, but this year I found out that Scrivener had a windows trial version out, so I wanted to try it. It has a lot of great features, none of which I had much time to use because I was busy writing. Scrivener came highly recommended as a all-in-one writer's toolbox, and I'll take a deeper look at the features now that I have time.

And the actual story I wrote? Well, it was a re-write of a previous NaNo novel, with big changes at the end of the story. I still don't think it's ready to go, many things about the story need work, and it needs another 20-40k to make it saleable. I'm going to let it sit for awhile.

Congrats to all you other winners out there, and for those that tried, keep writing anyway.
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Prize Package

The prize package for the JBMWC came (quite awhile back).

Here's the very cool trophy:

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The rest of the package was a great assortment of cool stuff from Baen:

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I got a Baen book bag, stainless steel mug and 2 books:

A Robert Heinlein double anthology: The Green Hills of Earth / The Menace from Earth and The World Turned Upside Down, edited by David Drake, Eric Flint and Jim Baen. This antho collects stories that made the editors SF fans -- stuff that turned their worlds upside down and made them lifelong fans! For more on these books, go to Baen's website.

If you're interested in the contest, start writing! The submission window for this year's contest opens October 1st. Good luck!

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Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest

My story "Space Hero" has won the Grand Prize in the Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest. Last year I won second place with a re-write of one of my WotF quarter-finalist stories, but this year I managed to write two new stories for the contest, and sent the best one in. The story will be published on the Baen Books website sometime in the future, as a feature story.

And congratulations to second place winner David D. Levine (another former WotF winner) with his story "Citizen-Astronaut" and third place winner Stuart D. Gibbon with his story "High Ground." I'm sure we'll see those stories in print soon.

The National Space Society and Baen Books sponsor this contest in memory of Jim Baen, to celebrate the role science fiction has in making advances in science. The basic requirement for entries is that they show the near future of manned space exploration.

The National Space Society has a simple vision: People living and working in thriving communities beyond the Earth, and the use of the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity. They have local chapters all over the United States. I've been getting their magazine adAstra for the past year, and I enjoy it thoroughly.  Check out the magazine's website where you can download a sample issue and read some articles.

Jim Baen (1946-2006) was a noted science fiction writer, who became and editor and publisher when he founded Baen Books, a leader in the field of military SF, fantasy, adventure and space opera. They also have a thriving e-book division called Webscriptions, which allows readers to download books before publication.

A big thanks to Baen books and The National Space Society for providing the prizes (including membership in the Society!), judges Hank Davis, Jim Mintz, David Weber. And special thanks to William Ledbetter for organizing the contest and getting the results out.

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What I'm Reading Now

Actually, I finished this one:

The Things that are not There by CJ Henderson. This novel takes the Lovecraftian Horror story and welds it together with some hard-boiled detective fiction. I mean, really, if some nameless unspeakable horror from the depths of time and space comes after you, would you rather just go insane or pick up some heavy duty firearms and rocket launchers and go right after them?

I also finished four books in the Honor Harrington series by David Weber. I'm up to Ashes of Victory, and will probably  take a break before I continue on with the series.

Star Wars Infinities: The Empire Strikes Back just came in the mail. This graphic novel series has a great premise: What if Luke didn't destroy the Death Star and Yavin and the Rebellion were destroyed? It's the same characters but pivotal events are changed.

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Doug Fieger, 1952-2010

Doug Fieger, lead singer and songwriter for The Knack, died sunday after a long battle with lung cancer.

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The band's big hit was, as anyone who was alive in 1979 knows, My Sharona.


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And that song remains etched on my memory. Not because of the catchy riff (does anyone NOT know it?) or the cheeky lyrics or the because it was the first wave (more like tsunami) of the New Wave. No, I remember it so clearly because back in the summer of '79, it was just about the only damn thing on the radio worth listening to.

Let me explain . . . I spent that summer in upstate New York, where the radio waves were overwhelmed by nondescript AM stations. But, if your turned the dial carefully, and ever so slowly, and had the volume turned way up (a trick I learned from my older brother) you could find decent FM stations. Not many of them, but they were there. There were no AOR stations, I couldn't be that lucky. But there were top 40 stations, and if I got up early on the weekend, I could catch the beginning of Casey Kasem's Top 40 countdown and hear My Sharona replayed as the number one hit of the previous week, and then I would listen to the entire countdown, just to hear it again. It was Number ONE for the whole summer. Or at least it seemed that way. And sure, there were other great songs that summer, I just don't remember them the way I remember Sharona.

The Knack and Doug never had a follow up smash hit (as was expected by the media), and the band broke up, reformed years later and put out more albums, making their own way through the music world. Some of the later songs I like as much as Sharona. "Just Wait and See" and "Don't Look Back" are two of my favorites.

It's a sad day for my musical memories. But as Doug said in his song "Pop is Dead:"

I wonder what they'll say, years from now

Who'll understand it all anyhow?


Condolences to his family and friends. And in some more of his own words, "Don't look back."


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