Swing for the Fences

I was reflecting on how rarely I see writers talk about the frustration of “near misses” when sending out stories. What I mean by this is the stories that get close but don’t quite make it – they reach second rounds at multiple venues or they receive really beautiful personalized rejections over and over again – but you just can’t seem to sell it. On the one hand, those stories make you happy because they are getting so far at various publications. On the other, you just start wondering after a while if maybe you shouldn’t pull back and rewrite. What about it is keeping it from making it past a second round?

Obviously, I have one of these stories out wandering the world right now.

It has received some really lovely personalized rejections, and made it to second round several times, but there’s something about it that isn’t quite landing. (It’s flash which might not be helping its chances, but I LIKE flash.) I have faith that it will someday find its right home, but I do wonder where that will be.

We Never End Well

I have a short piece up today at “The Drabble.” Enjoy!

By Gwen Whiting

We spent the money from our summer jobs buying alternate futures that year. Some huckster built a time machine on the boardwalk. Ten dollars bought five minutes of one possible reality.

My boyfriend Luke said we should go together. It didn’t go well. No matter what we said or how often we visited the machine – in every future we broke apart.

I started viewing our future alone. Watching myself. I listened to others, not Luke. Needled him about things. Lied. The future didn’t need changing. I did.

We stopped going long before the machine broke. Some changes take time.

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Gwen “writes out her daydreams of possible future, past, and present times.”

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Short Story Submissions – 2021

As a nosy writer, I always wonder what other writers’ rejection statistics look like. With that in mind, I thought I’d share my stats for last year as compiled by the Submission Grinder.

Last year was the first year in about a decade that I actually wrote and submitted short stories. For the most part, my writing has been concentrated on either writing for work or long-form pieces. I decided to try short fiction as a way of relieving pandemic pressures and also because, at a time when so much else has felt in stasis or otherwise uncontrollable, a short story is something easily started, finished, and sent out. (Easy being relative compared to a 100K novel which is the average length of books in the series I co-write with James.)

So, here are the stats:

  • 43 different submissions (many of my stories were submitted to multiple venues)
  • 3 sales
  • 19 form rejections + 11 personal rejections

Currently I have 4 pieces outstanding that were submitted last year, including one in rewrites and one in the second round at a publication.

Unfortunately, the Grinder doesn’t report out on which pieces made second round and I was fortunate enough to have that occur multiple times, as well as two revision requests. Magazines where my work was held for further consideration included Uncanny, Diabolical Plots, Cast of Wonders, Fusion Fragment, and The Overcast. Two markets closed, sadly, while my work was under consideration: The Overcast and Departure Mirror.

As far as sales go, I sold two flash fiction pieces to Daily Science Fiction and one to Every Day Fiction. My flash piece, “Chocolate,” (DSF) is also featured on the Nebula reading list.

Overall, I think it was a good year and I’ve learned a lot about writing in general. My goal this year is to collect 50 rejections as that will mean that I’ve completed and submitted that much work. Will I make it? Who knows. But I’ll enjoy the process of getting there.

REFLECTIONS ON THE EYE OF THE WORLD/WOT (11-17)

As part of the reread challenge that my friend Dianne Gardner and I have set ourselves, I’m rereading and making observations about The Eye of the World, the first book in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. Dianne and I are not blogging about the same things so be sure to take a look at her blog as well.

This week, I’m late on posting due to my household coming down with breakthrough COVID. So this particular post will be shorter and probably a bit more scattered than usual. The brain fog is real.

In rereading this set of chapters from the Eye of the World, I was struck with how very different the pace is between book and show. Neither one quite works well for me – Jordan meanders quite a bit at times whereas the show hurtles through both time and space in a way that often makes the world feel smaller, rather than bigger. In many ways, on this reread, Eye feels as if Jordan is writing his way into the world. As countless others have noted, much of what happens owes a huge debt to Tolkien and to Arthurian mythology and in fact, I recall thinking this the first time I read it.

Kae Alexander as Min Farshaw. She looks remarkably like how I had pictured Min originally.

This set of chapters focuses on Baerlon, and is where the group meets Min. In reading her prophecies again, I wondered how much of the prophecies were from Jordan knowing exactly where his series was going and how much relied on using the old magician’s trick of keeping things so vague that anything could be read into it later on. As someone who’s myself a mix of plotter and pantser when writing, I’ve generally stayed away from prophecy so that I don’t write myself into a corner later on (I also don’t like “chosen one” stories but that’s a whole other post).

I read an article not too long ago about the missed opportunities around Min’s gender identity. On the one hand, I agree that making Min non-binary is a no-brainer. On the other, one of the many ways in which Jordan consistently let me down in this series was how female characters often changed once they hit relationships and became either stereotypically compliant or shrews whose primary purpose seemed to be nagging their partners, often in collaboration with other women. I think that the show has a lot to address (and hopefully improve upon) where it comes to gender relationships and Min is part of that.

I’m hoping that we do see more/continued gender fluidity from that character further on down the road in the show; however, we saw Min most through Rand’s eyes. Given what little we have seen about Rand in show, I don’t think that he’s nearly sophisticated enough (nor honestly does he care enough about non-Two Rivers folk) to pick up on relationships and dynamics not seen in the Two Rivers. From Nynaeve’s quiet surprise about warder relationships, I think we can infer that the fab five haven’t had much experience outside of what I’d call conservative familial and sexual relationships. I find myself wondering if we’ll see one of the Two Rivers folk get involved in a queer relationship or if, in this regard, the showrunners will choose not to go that route.

(For what it’s worth, imho, Moiraine as a queer character is completely canon, given her relationship with Siuan as “pillow friends” in New Spring. I wish there’d been more of it in the books but it was still pretty clear to me at the time.)

Reflections on The Eye of the World/WOT (1-10)

As part of the reread challenge that my friend Dianne Gardner and I have set ourselves, I’m rereading and making observations about The Eye of the World, the first book in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. Mixed in with this will be commentary about the TV show and likely the fantasy genre in general. Take it all with a grain of salt. Dianne and I are not blogging about the same things so be sure to take a look at her blog as well.

SPOILERS AHEAD. FOR EVERYTHING.

The first thing that surprised me upon this reread was the introduction of a new opening to the series. Because these books are monstrously long, I decided to pick up a paperback copy for ease of transport and to save my eyes some screen time. The set I ordered begins not with Lews, but with a pastoral interlude about Egwene at age nine walking through Emond’s Field doing chores and talking to the people of the village.

Egwene as pictured in the Wheel of Time comic’s illustration of this “prologue.”

I hated it so much.

About the only thing it accomplished for me as a reader was that it established that Perrin had a mother and multiple sisters, all of whom could have been fridged for the show without the need to invent some random wife for him to kill. (If you can’t read it from tone, like everyone else on the planet, I didn’t like Perrin’s wife at all.)

It seems that this added prologue was developed back in that time period where the first book was separated into two, so that it could be sold to the YA market. I’m not sure who thought up the idea that YA readers would much prefer reading a book that opens with a girl gossiping about people they don’t yet know as opposed to a man who killed his wife and broke the world with magic, but… Yeah. When I was thirteen or even ten or eight, the original opening would have been much more appealing to me.

So. On to the actual book that I first read and am re-reading.

With the show’s current emphasis on Moiraine and the Aes Sedai, there is a lot of missed opportunity here. I decided on this reread to focus more on the female characters and the White Tower specifically as those were the parts that both intrigued and infuriated me on previous reads.

In the book, the Women’s Circle in Emond’s Field with its reliance on the Wisdom (Nynaeve) is an excellent microcosm for how the White Tower itself functions in the world with the relationship to the Amyrlin Seat (Siuan). Like the Tower, the Circle doesn’t overtly govern in the sense that town councils or monarchs do, but it pulls the strings and holds the real power in this particular society. Despite the fact that village men may grumble about Nynaeve as the Wisdom, ultimately they have to respect her authority because she was anointed by the women in the village.

Egwene as portrayed by Madeleine Madden in the TV show. I think she’s a wonderful casting choice.

When you consider Nynaeve’s position in Emond’s Field and the mentor/apprentice relationship that she and Egwene have in the beginning of the series, what happens later on when they become Aes Sedai is even more interesting. Given that the entire focus of the show thus far has been much more on the Tower and less on the original ta’veren characters (Rand, Mat, Perrin), the showrunners really did themselves a disservice by not leaning into these ideas a little more while they were in the Emond’s Field setting.

One thing that I’d forgotten about the books which was overshadowed by the show’s choice of “mystery” (ie: Who is the Dragon) is how much mystery is actually present around the question of Moiraine, Aes Sedai, and what they can do/who they are. We see the world through the lens of the people of the Two Rivers and because of that, the world gradually unfolds through wonder, even when events are at their most dangerous. I love show!Moiraine but I can’t help but imagine that another opportunity was missed here.

The book does begin slowly but there’s a lot of tension between characters and present in the worldbuilding. In its effort to become the next Game of Thrones, it seems to me that the show forgot that Game of Thrones didn’t rush at nearly quite such a breakneck pace between settings and spent more time on its character arcs. At chapter ten in the first book, I still haven’t quite covered everything that episode one got to. It’s truly a shame that this series was given so few episodes to work with.

As I’m still figuring out the format for these blog posts, I may mix it up a bit in coming weeks and focus on just one particular part of a section. Ten chapters is quite a bit to write about in one go, particularly when thinking about how the show has portrayed certain things.

After Wheel of Time

the-wheel-of-time-daniel-henneyNow that the first season of the TV show has wrapped up, I’m going to reread and blog about the Wheel of Time fantasy series with my friend and fellow author, DL (Dianne) Gardner. We’ve been talking to each other regularly after each episode and thought that this would be an entertaining way to refresh ourselves on the parts of the books that we’ve both forgotten. As she and I have very different favorite characters and parts of the series, it’ll be fun seeing where we differ.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about the television show, but feel as if I really ought to do a reread before diving fully into writing out a critique of show versus movie. In many ways, I consider the book and the series completely different turnings of the Wheel… some aspects I enjoy more in the show, but others not so much.

Check out her blog to see what Dianne’s thinking so far. As the holidays (and this glorious Pacific Northwest snow!) have us busy with family and friends, I imagine we’ll start posting after the New Year. Off to catch up!

[IMAGE: Photograph of Lan, portrayed by Daniel Henney, who is one of my favorite characters, both book and series, thus far.]

Making Believe

Season 1 Book and Show review

Cover Art | The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (E-book ...

My good friend and blogger-partner Gwen Whiting and I have been discussing Wheel of Time. The show has left some unsettled questions, questions we can’t even ask until we go back and review the book. I just don’t have the memory it takes to recall the series of events in the story. So after episode 8, you’ll find us talking about the books, and comparing them somewhat to the show.

We aren’t going to do this to be highly critical of the adaption, but rather to add our own opinions because, like I said before, the series leaves the reader with a certain possessiveness. These characters are ours, you know. They played upon our emotions, our hearts, for so long they became ours.

Light and bloody ashes, you’re talking at least three months of abduction!

I’ve already started reading again and had forgotten…

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2021 Awards Eligibility Post

This year, I ventured into the world of short story writing. I’ve focused much of my effort on flash fiction, stories of 1000 words or less, in part to refine skills that I use in my place of employment. However, I’ve also found it both challenging and rewarding to tell stories with very few words.

Thus far, I have two stories that are eligible for awards – “Chocolate,” which was published in Daily Science Fiction, and “The Restless Bed,” published in Every Day Fiction. If you’re reading this, enjoyed the story “Chocolate,” and happen to be a Nebula voter, please consider giving it a vote on the Nebula reading list here.

There are many, many wonderful stories that were published this year in speculative fiction. To find more eligibility posts, I also suggest you check out Cat Rambo’s blog as she does a great post every year that rounds up several of them in one place.

(Writing) 11 September

A young child laughing at a street performer who is posing as an invisible man.
Astonished, my child laughs at a street performer in Rome, 2018.
My mood today.

Well, my writing streak of second round holds, followed by rejections, is still holding thus far with my recent rejection from Diabolical Plots. The rejection letter was so lovely that it’s hard to feel too hurt about it – there wasn’t a bad note in the entirety of the letter. This particular story is going to be a hard sell to any market (it revolves around a dying infant), but it’s close to the heart and so I’ll keep on sending it out.

I find that a lot of my writing revolves around familial relationships and dynamics. No surprise, given that I’ve been a mother not that much less than I’ve been alive.

There are still two pieces of my work on second round and a handful of others that I’ve not heard back on yet. (Once a work gets rejected, back out it goes! Sometimes after some revising, but not always.)

In other news, I’ve just been accepted into Cat Rambo’s Short Story Workshop! Cat is a wonderful teacher and I’m very happy to be studying with them in a more sustained and intensive workshop. I joke that the pandemic pushed me to design my own MFA program in writing speculative fiction, but there is really is some truth to it. There are many more opportunities that I’ve become aware of since being at home most of the time, and more opening up every day. I do selfishly hope that these online classes and workshops continue, even after life returns to whatever normal looks like then.

(writing) current state of things

It’s been a good, productive summer for writing. I credit Cat Rambo, the Nebula Awards, and Clarion West for a dramatic leap in my craft this year (well, I suppose I had a little to do with it too). I’ve been taking several of Cat’s classes – everything they teach has been useful and many of the courses have produced either fully-completed stories or ideas that I stash in a hidden document for later contemplation.

The Nebulas were also really fruitful in that my mentor talks and personal sessions with writers and editors led me to more great resources, including joining both an online forum for neo-pro writers and becoming a founding member of the Nautilus critique group. The other writers in Nautilus are amazing and I learn so much from reading their work, though sometimes I admit, I have to struggle to stop reading it for pleasure and actually get the purple pen out to give more constructive feedback than “This is awesome.”

Currently, I have three stories in the second round at professional-level markets. Typing this will undoubtedly summon a rejection, but I love all three magazines so much that it’s an honor to have even gotten to that level. Will they make it any further? I’m not sure, but I imagine that I’ll know something about at least one of them by the end of this month.

I do have one story coming out – “Chocolate,” a post-apocalyptic tale in Daily Science Fiction. No publication date has been scheduled but I’ll keep this space updated.

A Short Summer #3

Nebula weekend (which is amazing) has disrupted my well-meant plans to post a short story every day, though I will say that this is an incredible year for short fiction at the Nebulas.

If you have not read “Open House on Haunted Hill” by John Wiswell, you absolutely must. It is lovely and a little heartbreaking, but ends on a warm note. It is amazing how much Wiswell has packed into such a short space. I was told this weekend, prior to his winning the award, that he was someone I should follow and read given my personal writing goals. I absolutely agree. If I someday make someone feel half as much as I felt reading that story, I would be thrilled.