giveaway: Daisy Yellow Zine #8

I’m super-excited to announce a giveaway of Daisy Yellow Zine (Issue 8). This digital art journaling zine is full of inspiration, including blogging ideas for creatives and journal prompts. My article, Embrace Imperfection, also appears in it.

Daisy Yellow Zine #8

Tammy, the awesomely creative person behind the zine and the site, has graciously offered to give away TWO copies of Issue 8 (available only in digital format). Please leave a comment if you’d like to enter. Giveaway is open until Monday, July 29th, 10pm EST. 

If this is your first introduction to Tammy and Daisy Yellow, check out some of my favorite parts on her site, such as the Index-Card-A-Day Challenge she runs every summer. If you’re stuck for ideas, check out Tammy’s post on What Can You Do With an Index Card? She also introduced me to the delights of drawing mandalas and the fun of practicing fonts.

If you art journal–or have ever thought of doing so–Daisy Yellow is a great place to go for ideas, tips, and inspiration.

note to self: about summer

One would think that summer would be a time of awesome productivity for me. After all, it’s school vacation!

One would be wrong.

And I’ve finally decided to adjust my expectations to take into account that I get very little writing done in the summer.

For one thing, summer is not a creative season for me–at least not for writing. My stories are ice flowers–they blossom in the darkness of winter nights, the grey chill of a fall day, or in the bluster of an early spring wind. Summer is too big and gorgeous and golden; somehow the overgrowth of vines and weeds, the bloom of showy roses and peonies, sap my creativity rather than inspiring it.

It’s strange, I know, but it is what it is.

Two, the very lack of school-imposed structure, the daily and weekly march of education, works against me. With a summer full of vacations, camps, and swim lessons, every week looks different from the next. The mental adjustments of getting one kid to swim and another to camp, of coordinating pickups and dropoffs, of making sure I have the right kinds of snacks for camp lunches–all of these take up a lot of headspace.

Three, what creativity I have is taken up with planning the upcoming school year. So far, I’ve pored over catalogs, checked a gazillion samples online, scanned through pages of reviews, thought and pondered and talked at poor David, and finally, finally, ordered our books for next year.

And four–my house. Summer is the time to reorganize the pantry, straighten out the school room, go through toys and books and clothes. You know, all the stuff I’ve been avoiding all year, becausewell, school.

Four, it’s nice to just relax and have lazy days. To be plain Mom instead of Teacher Mom. To play five games of Forbidden Island in one day or work on puzzle of a dragon on a rock or the Oxford Skyline.

When I start pining to go back to school (feeling that way now), when stories start sneaking into my head, when I feel the loss of creating something with my mind and hands, when summer is sliding fall-wards, then… then I know it’s time to write again.

Balticon 2013

David and I attended our first Balticon this past weekend. We were there for two out of the three days, and had a blast. I’ve attended a writing conference (Pikes Peak) and a writers’ workshop before, but this was my first convention. It was a very different experience!

The People

What I loved about this con was that it drew in readers, movie/TV fans, costumers, artists, and film-makers, as well as writers. We met a guy in a steampunk Tigger costume, a retired mailman into historical re-enactment, and a woman who’d sewn an Inara costume for a Firefly-themed wedding. I LOVED meeting people with these kinds of passions and skills.

(And, I also got to meet Linda Adams, although briefly. Hi, Linda. *waves* Update: Check out Linda’s thoughts about the con in Tidbits from Balticon)

(Also, this was the first family-friendly writing-type thing I’ve attended. We’re thinking about bringing our own three next year.)

The Panels

Most of the panels I attended had to do with self-publishing (social media, podcasting, marketing, business) which fell in the New Media track (and so many of those were in a room tucked all by itself in an end corridor, hmm *wink*). There wasn’t much there that I didn’t already know–and when the panelists touched on anything new, it was in a cursory way, making me go, “Hmm, I’d better go research this when I get home.”

(I believe that cons are all-important for meeting people and getting that valuable face-time with them. Information you can get in spades online, usually in more depth and detail than can be crammed into a 50-minute panel.)

Things that I learned/need to look into:

* Google + for writers. There was an entire panel on this, but most of the panelists admitted they didn’t utilize this as well as they could. If you’re a writer using Google + extensively, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also–I’d like to do a Google hangout sometime. Anyone interested?

* Podcasting fiction is a LOT of work. I think I’m better off hiring narrators down the road.

* At some point, I need to look into setting up a LLC.

* Why you need a business plan: So that you can gauge whether an opportunity is worth pursuing or not. Will this opportunity take you closer to your goals, or off in a different direction altogether? (Thanks to Gail Z. Martin for this insight).

* Advice on shopping around rejected stories you wrote for a themed anthology: Other writers are inundating the market with their rejected Machine of Death stories, so wait a year for the deluge to die down and then submit.

* Note to self: Science presentations are awesome. Attend more of them next time.

Special Events

The highlight of my weekend was the Steampunk Ball (and yes, David and I attended that in costume. We had hats and everything!). Susan de Guardiola, the instructor, was awesome. We did line dances and circle dances, and quadrilles, and much fun was had by all.

It’s amazing how being in costume can help you meet people. They will naturally stop by to comment on the costume or–in a few cases–ask to take your picture. Also, doing something with other people (like everyone failing to learn a dance) is a great ice-breaker. The next day, when you run into them again, you have something to chat about. (Though you might need to remind them who you are. They may not recognize you without the hat/goggles/hooped skirt.)

 

Have you attended science fiction & fantasy conventions? Which was your favorite?

 

how to collaborate with another writer: a case study

One Small Step: an anthology of discoveries launched last weekend at Conflux. I’m honored to have a story (co-written with the super-talented Jo Anderton) included in it.

This was my first ever collaboration, and I thought it’d be useful to talk about how the process worked out for us.

The Setup

Last fall, Tehani Wessely, editor of the anthology, contacted Jo and me with the idea of collaborating on a short story for One Small Step. We (metaphorically) looked at each other, looked at Tehani, and said, “Sure!” After all we’ve been friends for almost a decade now (has it really been this long, Jo?) and have a lot of experience with each other’s work. Even though our styles are different, we have enough common overlap that we could (probably) handle writing a short story together.

It was also the perfect project for collaboration. Neither of us was playing in the other’s sandbox (“hey, want to write a story in my world?” “Er… no.”) nor was our canvas unlimited (“So what shall we write together?” “Uh, I dunno”). We had a theme (discoveries), a form (short story), and a deadline.

So, we got to it.

The Idea

Almost immediately, we ran into some uh… differences in our processes.

Me, I come up with an idea, then run with it. I churn out several pages to see where it’ll go. Sometimes the idea works, sometimes it doesn’t. I have lots of unfinished short stories on my hard drive. I consider them regrettable but expected casualties of my writing process.

Not so with Jo. She isn’t willing to latch on to the first shiny idea that floats by. She wanted to wait for something special, the idea that set her story senses a-tingle.

So we waited for the lightning strike (some of us more patiently than others). A week or so later, Jo emailed me a photo of an old woman huddled in a doorway with an ornate doll next to her. “I think there’s a story in this picture,” she wrote me.

By golly, she was right.

We were both fascinated by this picture and traded speculations back and forth for days. Both of us agreed that dolls were creepy (I kept having flashbacks to Child’s Play). Then I remembered Hinamatsuri, or Dolls’ Day in Japan. We put the two together and I–yes, well I did what’s natural to my style–forged ahead and wrote a bunch of snippets exploring character, plot, and setting.

I think Jo knew I was chomping at the bit, so she let me. We talked over the snippets a lot (and I learned something about Jo: she doesn’t like to write about royalty). Both of us were very excited and creeped out about what we were getting. And I really appreciated Jo’s insistence on digging deep into the idea and taking it from good to great. “Good enough” doesn’t exist in her vocabulary, and it’s a lesson I’m applying to my own writing from now on.

An Aside

I’m going to pause here to mention one very important thing: do not look at a collaboration as something that will save you time. More likely, it won’t. Jo and I could’ve probably written two stories each in the time it took us to write Sand and Seawater.

Think about it this way. When you’re writing your own story, you only have to satisfy two people: You and Your Muse. When you’re writing with someone else, there are two Yous and two Muses, and they all need to be on board. It’s bad enough keeping one pairing happy, but two…!

(Oh, and apparently, our Muses have some telepathic connection that doesn’t go through us. Now that is also creepy.)

The Actual Writing!

All right, so once we were happy with our ideas, we started writing! Luckily for us, there were two POVs, so Jo took the doll and I took the old woman. We alternated scenes, and I noticed a style difference right away. My scenes sprawl, while Jo writes tighter. Once we hammered out the plot and nailed the climax, we each went through to cut out redundant material and tighten everything up. (I may be a first-draft sprawler but I’m ruthless when wielding a red pen).

A fitting concluding scene took us a bit of back-and-forth, but I think, again, we nailed it.

Checklist For Success

I would call this a very successful collaboration. Not only did we sell the story, but:

  • We are both very proud and pleased with it.
  • This is a story that neither of us would’ve come up with on our own.
  • And–most importantly–we’re still friends. And we both see this experience as a net positive, not something to be quietly shoved into a closet and never ever done again. We’re both too much of loners to do a lot of collaboration, but who knows? In the future you might be seeing more work with both our names on it. *is deliberately vague and mysterious*

Jo has her own thoughts about our collaborative experience here (link might not work until later in the day, since she’s already gone to bed). Update: Link works!

Have you collaborated? Share your experiences!

tell me about deserts

It’s been a long time since I’ve lived in a hot climate (over ten years now). And even when I did, my experience was of a coastal urban environment.

Right now I’m writing a story set in a desert.

I’ve read up on real-life deserts. I’ve looked at dozens of pictures of sand dunes, barren hills and salt flats. I’ve watched videos.

But none of those gives me the sensory details I crave. What does the desert smell like? How does the wind feel on your face? What’s the light like? What sounds do you hear in the desert night?

Since I can’t just hop on a plane for some first-hand research (I wish!), I’m asking for details from some of you who might’ve experienced a desert environment. If you live in, or have visited, the American Southwest (like the Death Valley area) or any other hot desert, I’d love to know some sensory details that’ll bring the setting to life for me.