delphipsmith: (McBadass)
September is my writing group's twice-yearly Short Story In A Week, aka SSIAW. In years past, though my goals have been lofty I've never managed more than two stories out of a potential four (or, if you're a glutton for punishment, eight). I vowed that this time...yes, this time would be different. I even attempted to plan for it by not scheduling any freelance work, intending to devote all my free time to the creation of fabulous original tales of surpassing craftiness and wonder.

Alas, the best laid p's of m & m etc. etc. etc.

I was seduced by its list of readings into a fall semester course in Early Modern Fantasy (this week I learned what an ekphrasis is) so have pages of readings. A freelance job that was scheduled for August lagged two weeks, so is in-house now. I will be out of town for a week at the end of the month. And to really put the Dementor's Kiss on things, I signed up for not one but TWO fests; a quick glance had told me that deadlines were in October, i.e. safely after SSIAW, but my mad calendrical skillz failed to translate this into "Yo, bitch, 'due October 1' means writing like crazy in September..."

Curse you, brain with too many interests!!!

However, all of that notwithstanding, I HAVE TRIUMPHED: I have written and subbed a story for the first week of SSIAW. Yes! I rock!!!! It's based on the The Marriage of Sir Gawain, aka Gawain and the Loathly Lady, particularly this bit:

Then shee said, choose thee, gentle Gawaine
truth as I doe say,
wether thou wilt haue me in this liknesse
in the night or else in the day


It took until 3:30am last night/this morning, it's as rough as a dirt road in Texas and the pacing is abysmal, but it's got good bone structure and when I have time to polish it up I think it will really shine. I even managed to work in a nicely apt Greek mythological reference via a character name; we'll see if anyone picks up on it.

I am pleased. Also tired. But mostly pleased. Only three more weeks/stories to go! ::collapses in a heap::
delphipsmith: (buttons)
...that there's a giant comprehensive master list for all six years of the [livejournal.com profile] sshg_exchange? It has 900+ fics listed and is sortable AND filterable by all sorts of characteristics: year, author, rating, etc. Wish I'd found it at the beginning of my four-day weekend instead of the end >:|

I'm plugging along on [livejournal.com profile] sshg_exchange and [livejournal.com profile] luciusbigbang, not to mention my writing group's twice-yearly Short Story In A Week which always, always, ALWAYS seems to fall during the busiest months of the year for me, in some sort of cosmic slap-down of my attempts to participate fully in it. So far we're three days into the first week and I've written king zippy nada, as a a friend of mine used to say.

But it's not my fault, really! I keep getting distracted -- not least by the aforementioned list, but also by the wonderful SS/HG AU fic Droxy's Folly, which went up on AO3 over the weekend. (If you haven't read this yet, drop everything and GO.) And of course by silly videos of cats, we all know how that goes.

Curse you, interwebz!!!!

Seems appropriate that I share one item of distraction, given (a) the current fests-in-progress, (2) the BBC's recent tut-tutting over 50 Shades of Grey (thanks, [livejournal.com profile] laurielover1912) and Newsweek's assertion that what's really wrong with FSoG is the lamentable quality of the prose. So, for your edification and jollification, I offer this light-hearted defense of smut, from Tom Lehrer:

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delphipsmith: (BA beta)
Clarion West just announced their author/teacher lineup for 2013: Elizabeth Hand, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Justina Robson, Ellen Datlow, and Samuel R. Delany. Four are among my favorite writers EVER, the fifth I'd never heard of but her blog cracks me up, and as for the sixth, well, y'all know who Joe Hill is, right? Heart-Shaped Box and all that. In short, major star power all around that spans the last fifty years of speculative fiction.

(Mr Psmith wants me to go just so I can ask Neil Gaiman what Terry Pratchett is like as a writing partner, heh heh heh...)

So yes, this is the year I apply. Next month is my online writing group's SSIAW (Short Story in a Week; it's like NaNoWriMo only, well, shorter) which is a great chance to crank out four stories, giving me a respectable number to choose from for submission. I used to be all about the novel writing, but I'm gradually being seduced by the short story format: it's like the difference between a giant canvas and a page from a medieval Book of Hours, where every brushstroke matters.

One of the ones I think I'll submit is the one that Big Name Magazine unofficially accepted back in October. They still haven't contacted me about a contract. *iz annoyed* I don't want to give up on them because, well, they're Big Name Magazine. And not just Big Name now but Big Name in the history of sci fi as well. So, I guess I keep waiting to find out if I've really been invited to the big dance or if it's just a shoddy trick being played on me by the Popular People and there's a bucket of pig blood poised over my head. Not that there will be Carrie-level vengeance or anything if you jilt me, Big Name Magazine. Really. Honest. Take your time. It's not like I'm ANXIOUS or anything.

Meanwhile I have two fests coming up in October, not to mention the incredibly, horrifyingly, beyond embarrassingly late custom fic that was purchased on the [livejournal.com profile] loveforlily auction. (I suck, I really do. I deserve to be flayed or shunned or deprived of wine. Wait, forget that last one...)

'Nuff said. Clarion applications open in December. Eyes on the prize, baby, eyes on the prize...
delphipsmith: (pretty hair)
Optimistically overlooking my inability to crank out acres of fabulous words for SSIAW, I've signed up for [livejournal.com profile] luciusbigbang. Eek. I have no plot bunnies gamboling about, no drafts lurking in drawers awaiting rescue, no idea what I will do, so it's anybody's guess what the outcome will be. (Sadly, I've already written my Modern Major Death Eater piece, so that's out.) I like Lucius as a character but I find him more difficult to write than Severus, possibly because he's not as complex a character. Of course, as we all know, "It does not necessarily follow that a deep or intricate character is more or less estimable..." etc etc etc.

Other Notes of Note:

SSIAW week 3 is in full bloom, but my buds thus far remain tightly furled, alas. What with words like "doxy" "perdition" and "inoculate" staring me in the face, it's going to be a hard slog. (The moderator CLAIMS she chooses the words randomly, but one can't help but wonder...)

Wrote to my newspaper today as they have cruelly disappointed me by bailing on the Doonesbury/ultrasound story arc. They ran Monday's and Tuesday's, which got my hopes up ("Yay, my hometown paper has GUTS!"), then suddenly replaced today's with a re-run from months ago. Grrrrrr.

Fab article in the New York Times about "the slam-bang world of pulp magazines" exhibit. Since pulps were the original publishers of science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction they hold a special place in my heart, so I really enjoyed this piece. Hope to get to NYC in the next few weeks (Alan Rickman, my love, I know you're waiting for me!!) and maybe see it.
delphipsmith: (BA beta)
For SSIAW week 1 (last week) I started two stories but finished neither. I will eventually; I like both of them and am rather pleased with how they're shaping up. But once again I was thwarted because (to quote E. Blackadder), "the path of my life is strewn with cowpats from the Devil's own satanic herd" and unless I were to give up sleep literally altogether, I had to compromise. So nothing turned in last week.

This week I conquered, though actually "feebly staggered last past the finish post" might be a more accurate description. Six hundred and some odd measly words. They're good words, and I don't know what I could add to them so they are also sufficient words, and really "good and sufficient" is all one needs, is it not?

Regardless, I count it as a win. Yay!
delphipsmith: (classic quill)
Well, it's SSIAW (Short Story In A Week) time again. This is a challenge posed twice a year, March and September, by a writing group I belong to. At the end of April and August respectively we all throw as many great words as we can think of -- enticing adjectives, vigorous verbs, intriguing nouns -- into the pot. Starting on the first of the month, we're given two lists of five words each; you choose one list, and have to write a complete story (beginning, middle and end) in no more than seven days. Then the next two lists are posted, you have another seven days to write another story, and so on until the end of the month and we all expire of brain failure and exhaustion.

It's basically a chance to practice wrestling your muse into submission instead of waiting around until the fickle bitch decides to visit you on her own. Each time I firmly commit myself to doing four stories, one each week (we always have a few overachievers who use BOTH lists and do TWO stories every week; how slacker-y they make the rest of us feel can easily be imagined). So far my best achievement is two completed stories and one half-completed which I finished the next month.

SSIAW always seems to fall during a very busy point in my life, but damn it, this time I'm making it a priority and I will do no less than four stories. I will, I will, I WILL.

This week's lists include such gems as cistern, quincunx, and insouciance. I have no idea where I'm going with those, but I'll keep putting one foot in front of the other until I get there...
delphipsmith: (gumbies)
On outbound train Wed 6am, ten meetings in two days, up to catch homebound train Sat 3:30am. My brain feels like an overstuffed pillow, I have twenty pages of notes and, according to the shoulder that had to carry the bag, brought back seventy-three pounds of documents for review. On the plus side, it was all very interesting, the food in DC was excellent as always, and my hotel was full of highly distinguished looking people from (possibly) the Senegalese Embassy which turned out to be right around the corner.

I'm exceedingly pleased to be home.

Another plus -- the night before I left I got the second of four SSIAW pieces up. Next one is due the 21st, only two days away, and thus far the word list is not inspiring me (cue ominous music...)
delphipsmith: (much rejoicing)
Wahoo!! Hug me, pet me, praise me, give me major props -- I got a story in for the first week of SSIAW!! My goal is get four in, one each week. Given that I have a business trip next week to DC I'm going to have to fight for it, but at least I've made it over the first hurdle.

::wilts into pleased but exhausted puddle::
delphipsmith: (roses)
Spent the holiday weekend doing THINGS I WANTED for a change. Go me :)

♥ Worked on first SSIAW* for my writers' group; story has a beginning and an end but way too much middle, and the far end of the middle doesn't yet connect with the end. Not sure how to rein this in, and I only have until midnight tomorrow night to sort it out.

♥ Got all my fic posted to Archive of Our Own. I'm impressed with the site thus far -- design, functionality, features, layout, everything.

♥ Spent a radiant half an hour laughing myself into hiccups over Hyperbole and a Half's latest gem, on the Four Levels of Social Entrapment ("Trying to end a conversation in the grocery store is like battling a sea monster that has an infinite capacity to revive itself..."). Go. See. Giggle.

♥ Positively devoured more books than any human being should in three days, as follows:

- Sister Emily's Lightship, a terrific collection of retold/reimagined fairy tales by Jane Yolen. Since it's SSIAW in my writers' group I'm trying to soak up all the tips and tricks I can on short stories, but beyond that she's a great writer. Some of the stories were in the Ellen Datlow/Terry Windling fairy tale collections (e.g. Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears) but most were completely new to me. The title story turned me off -- just a bit too off-beat -- but the rest were excellent.

- The Book of Lost Things, an excellent story that includes remaginings/retellings of fairy tales, by John Connolly. Reminded me in many ways of a darker, more mature version of The Poor Little Rich Girl. His version of the seven dwarves is positive genius! Get the later edition that includes his notes at the end on the various fairy tales, plus the original Grimm versions.

- Faithless, by Joyce Carol Oates. I'm trying Oates yet again, having failed with two of her other novels (them and I forget the other one) and been left permanently scarred by one of her short stories ("Where are you going, where have you been"). So far it's not looking promising. She's an excellent writer, that's clear, but the characters are all so unlovable and unlovely, so damaged or stupid or just plain unpleasant, that it's hard to enjoy spending time with them.

- The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing. Doris is another one that I sometimes have trouble with. I disliked The Golden Notebook, was moderately impressed with A Survivor's Tale, and was captivated by her Shikasta series (which I still haven't finished). With this one I can't tell if it's meant to be a metaphor for the compromises one makes as one gets older, and the pain that results, or if it's meant to be literally about an evil changeling child. Either way, it's gripping, horrifying, and very, very desolate at the end.

Sadly, tomorrow it's back to work and flailing madly in a sea of emails and meetings. Blech.

*SSIAW = Short Story In A Week
delphipsmith: (gumbies)
As usual, some cruel conjunction of the planets has placed SSIAW* during the same month as three freelance jobs, a two-week teaching gig, and oh yeah, my wallet got stolen. Needless to say, I'm well on my way to having just as good an SSIAW this time around as I did for the last two -- i.e., very bad indeed. Zero for two so far. Ah, well. At least my two favorite teams made it to March Madness, the bank is refunding the $1200 the Sinister Gang of Thieves managed to spend at Macy's before my cards were shut down, and the pub where it was stolen gave us free beverages on Saturday. Life is not all beer and skittles, but neither is it all dust and ashes...

* Short Story In A Week, see here.
delphipsmith: (classic quill)
SSIAW* starts March 1. Goal this year: minimum four stories, one a week. Listen closely, this is the sound of loins girding for battle (if it sounds more like wine pouring into a glass, well, that's your own fault for not listening properly).

Although I'm writing TONS for work and for hire -- including my first experience as a ghostwriter (fun, but afterwards I felt ever so slightly ectoplasmic) -- I've done an epicly (epically?) poor job with my New Year's resolution to write more original fiction in 2010. I've started my piece for [livejournal.com profile] hp_art_tales but I'm being strict with myself and not counting fanfic as original fiction because, well, it isn't. I'm not demeaning fanfic -- I love to read it and write it, and there's some top-notch writers out there as well as some highly unusual and creative work. But you get to skip all that pesky stuff like character development and backstory, and whenever you can't figure out what to do with your characters you just make them have sex. It's like making brownies from a mix -- the elements are all there and it's pretty tasty, but it's not quite the same as ones that you make from scratch.

Not to mention it's not saleable, and that is my end goal, to support myself with my writing. (Thank you for not laughing...) So SSIAW is my chance to shake it off, get back in the groove. We'll see how it goes. Stay tuned...

*Short Story In A Week
delphipsmith: (wibble)
Argh. Flopped on Week 2 of SSIAW. Hope the week 3 words do something for me...
delphipsmith: (classic quill)
Yesss!! My online writing workshop has started our second short story challenge of the year: four weeks, eight five-word lists (2 per week), and as many stories as you can get your Muse to spew forth. SSIAW pieces are rough by definition, since you only have a week (or less) to crank them out, but that's why they're fun: you can leave plot holes and loose ends for the moment unaddressed, and just focus on getting SOMETHING on paper that has a beginning, middle and end. The last one (we do them in March and September) was a big part of why I started this blog -- to encourage myself in my writing. I suppose I can say it was a success since I did get a story in for that one (my first-ever SSIAW sub!), but I'm hoping for better things from myself this time around. So far it's shaping up well: got one in for the first week and am working on something for the second week.

On top of that, I wrote five flash pieces (also known, in the world of fanfic, for some reason that I have yet to identify, as "drabbles") for [livejournal.com profile] nursedarry's [livejournal.com profile] hp_uk_meetup that I'm quite chuffed about. Four of them came out exactly the way I wanted them, which almost never happens -- my Muse, she is a tricksy beast! She got me good on the last one, though, which twisted itself into something quite a bit darker than I had planned.

Postscript: Aha! drabble
delphipsmith: (PIcard face-palm)
Not a good weekend. Had an idea for SSIAW Week 3 that worked well in my head but turned to complete crap once it hit the page. Up until midnight every night with two freelance editing jobs, prep for "guest lecture" for second class Monday, final reports due for a couple of groups I'm in at work, and...something else, my mind has turned to mush. Then tonight our massive dog (190 lbs) trod on my finger as I was wiping up the copious quantities of water she relocates to the floor every time she gets a drink, and I actually almost barfed/passed out from the sheer agony. I've heard of this phenomenon but never experienced it (and hope never to again, thank you very much).

Oh, and it snowed today.
delphipsmith: (BuffyVlad)
I did it I did it I did it, yay me!! I got a story done for SSIAW!!! Of course the only way it made the midnight deadline would be if I lived on the west coast, but they're not Nazis about the deadline and as I'm still up I consider it still technically Saturday night.

Now I'm going to bed. Because really it's the wee hours of Sunday morning. But I'm happy!

Damn...

8 March 2009 05:20 pm
delphipsmith: (PIcard face-palm)
Well, the deadline for the first week of SSIAW was midnight last night and I turned in zilch. Bad writer! ::smacks self with rolled-up copy of Publisher's Weekly:: Ten people turned in 14 stories, shaming the rest of us miserably. Well, shaming me, anyway. Of course I promised myself I would do four stories for the month, not necessarily one each week, so can still meet my self-imposed quota if I rock out for the rest of the month.

On the plus side I chose and posted the readings for my students for next week, finished editing for one of my Malaysian clients, worked through a couple of scenes in a vampire short I have in progress, got to beta some tasty fic from [livejournal.com profile] noeon (who paid in a bottle of virtual Veuve -- what good taste she has!), and read a very well-done and technically-challenging poem from [livejournal.com profile] nursedarry. So I can't say it was all wasted time.

Unfortunately, I also went to Books and Coffee Barnes and Noble this morning and bought yet another book, which is leering and beckoning to me from the coffee table. Damn you, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle!!!
delphipsmith: (Elizabethan adder)
SSIAW (Short Story In A Week) starts March 1 in the online writing workshop I belong to.  (SSIAW = Each week  the list posts two sets of five words each; you choose one of the lists and write a short story incorporating all five words.  Words are posted 12am Sunday, stories are due by midnight Saturday.)   I haven't tackled it in the past but am going to go all-out this year -- goal is to sub at least two and ideally four.  If nothing else it will give me lots of raw material to work on afterwards!

On the work front, had a stupendously boring mandatory 3-hour workshop this morning from HR.  Zzzzzzz....   The most amusing part was the animated powerpoint slide that looked like a martini glass with three giant olives appearing one by one.  Presumably this was unintentionally humorous.

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