And another one bites the dust…

Realms of Fantasy will be ending with the April 2009 issue…

I was looking forward to the day when I get published in that too.

Sigh.

Why do I get the feeling that by the time my writing gets good enough for the pro-markets, there won’t be any pro-markets around anymore?

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Flash Fiction Fun

I’m almost a week away from officially working on my Weeping of the Willows edits.

I look at the past couple of weeks, and I’m glad that I’ve given myself a month to rest. If you’ve been following me on Facebook the past couple of weeks, you’ve noticed I mentioned entering a Flash Fiction contest 8 minutes before the deadline. It wasn’t a planned thing; the deadline for this contest was January 1, but instead, it got extended to the 15. I had been toying with a story I wrote back in December, so I thought, I bet if I trim this down to 500 words, I can send it in.

Mind you, I learned about the extension on the 11th.

My friends, that was the most brutal writing experience I ever did. I thought working on She’s All Light was hard. This was flash fiction–something I’ve done a couple of times, but not that seriously–and it had to be done within four days. I worked on that sucker day and night. My hubby donned his editing cap to help me make sure it flowed well and made sense. He also donned his cheerleading cape (which is invisible, because if he really did have a cape, I would be a little nervous) to give me encouragement when I was all ready to forget the whole thing because writing flash-fiction is harrrrrrrrd and I just couldn’t do it anymore and forget the stupid prize–we don’t need $500 bucks. Well we do, but I’d rather file for 8 hours straight than put all my energy into writing

It’s really nice to have a supporting husband who tells you to: “aww quit your whining and get back to the computer. You said you were going to do this; you put all your energy into it; so you’re gonna finish it, dammit, or else I’ll never hear the end of it!”

Paraphrased, of course.

I got the flash story off, and I have to say, I don’t think I ever pushed myself to work that hard before. What came out really impressed me. Time will tell if it will actually win anything, but it feels nice knowing that I didn’t just write a story haphazardly and threw it into the contest bin just to have something there. This was all sweat and blood and tears, baby. Then again, I could open it back up next week and think it’s the worst crap I’ve ever written. Ah, the joys of being a writer.

So after all that work, my creative side pretty much crashed and I couldn’t do any writing at all for a few days. No surprise there: what I did was equivalent to having the flu during midterms and pulling an all-nighter on Mountain Dew and Nyquil (which I don’t recommend–it’s a brutal combination, especially when you wake up in the dorm’s lounge in your pajamas with absolutely no idea how you got there). So instead of pushing myself to write, I decided to be good to myself and take it easy. I finished reading a bunch of books. I got back into my podcasts. And I spent some quality time with Daniel (which will be talked about in a separate post).

But most of all, I’ve been psyching myself up to work on Willow again. This week, I’ll gather some resources together so I’ll have them at hand when I open up Willow next week. I’ve also been backing up files–I do that anyway–because my hubby plans to rebuild my computer this week. Normally, that throws me out in a loop, but this time around I’m glad he’s doing it. I want my computer to be in the best shape possible when I start working on Willow, and it gives me more time to refill my creativity well.

One more week, folks, and then the fun begins again.

The Passing of a Great Anthology; No more Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror

In the past, I’ve done reviews for the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror that you can find on this site. Well, today, we got the news that this great anthology is no more. You can find news about it at the Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet’s Blog, and at Terry Windling’s blog.

In a nutshell, St Martin’s Press, the anthology’s publisher, has decided not to publish a 2009 edition. That means that 21 years of the Year’s Best anthology books, displaying a broad, colorful array of fantasy and horror stories from all walks of life, is at an end.

This makes me incredibly sad.

I’ve been reading posts as of late on how the fiction world appears to be shrinking, that people read less nowadays, preferring to play video games and watch TV rather than pick up a book. For the most part, I’ve always felt that isn’t the case; if anything, people are reading more, what with networking sites like Facebook and blogs and whatnot.

But when news like this hits me, I can’t help but wonder if fiction truly is drifting away.

Maybe it’s not that the fiction world is going way. Maybe it’s just that it’s changing shape from the tangible world of the printed page to the less-substantial, more fluid media of the online document. And as gadgets like the Kindle takes off, how long will it be before all books are downloaded rather than bought?

What does that mean for book publishers? For popular writers? For writing standards?

The Year’s Best Anthology was a standard for me. Everytime I picked up a book, I read the stories and thought to myself, one day, I’ll get a story in this book. It pushed me, and still does, to write my best. I studied the stories, picked them apart, wondered what made them included in the book. But most of all, I enjoyed them. I was awed by them. While some stories I could have done without (I still think back to that one story about the Calico cat, which makes me want to curl up in a little ball), still, there were some stories that made me drop my jaw in awe.

I know, I know. There are other anthologies out there. Heck, I’ve turned most of my energies to Writer’s of the Future. But Year’s Best was the first anthology that got me daring to dream of fiction in the first place. What will be my standard now? Where would I go?

Then again, maybe it’s all the recession’s fault. Yeah, that’s it. Stupid recession.

To all the editors of Year’s Best: Ellen Datlow, Terry Windling, Kelly Link, and Gavin Grant. Thank you for inspiring this lowly writer to write. The stories you included were truly a marvel to behold. Here’s to hoping you’ll find all new ventures that will bless you greatly.

Writing Goals for 2009

Yayyy! I get to start off 2009 by setting up my goals again. Hooray!

Just think–around this time last year, I had no clue what the year would be like. My hubby and I had just started working on our house, stripping out the carpet and painting the walls, while we interviewed real estate agents who could best sell our house in the quickest time. In fact, I’m pretty sure–yes–around this date, I sat in what was our office and bemoaned the fact I hated painting, I hated having my life in disarray, I hate home improvement altogether.

Interesting how life can change from year to year.

I’m pretty sure this year would involve another move at some point. But this time, it would be a lot less stressful–at least, that’s what I hope. But this post is not about the fun of moving. This post is what I didn’t get a chance to do around last year–setting up my writing goals for 2009.

Believe it or not, I got a lot more accomplished in 2008 than I thought. Which is a more optimistic way of saying that when 2008 started, I didn’t think I would get anything accomplished at all. I figured by the time we moved to Madison and I adjusted from being a stay-at-home mom to entering the workforce on a part-time basis, I then would be able to figure out how I would do my writing schedule. And indeed, during the first half of the year, there were times when I only were able to work on writing five, maybe ten minutes a day. Sometimes not even that.

But once we got to Madison, things got settled more quickly than I thought. In fact, around July I was able to seriously take a look at where I was in my writing. So let’s bring that up:

Willow: Finish reading by Fall 2008, start edits by Winter 2008.
Well, technically I finished the readthrough on January 5, 2009. But at least I never specified exact months. So as far as I know, I can easily say start edits by Winter 2009. Okay, yes, that’s cheating. But frankly, I don’t care.

Short Stories/Essays/Poetry: Polish 5 stories and submit them. Write 2 essays and submit. Polish 2 poems and submit.
Let me take a look at what I did accomplish in 2008:

I wrote 5 new short stories and 1 poem, ready for revision.
I submitted 3 short stories, one of them being “She’s All Light”.
I had 3 short stories published (all in the beginning of 2008).

I also had a partial recap posted for the Agony Booth. (Southland Tales). So that can be applied towards an essay.

Critiques: Do one a month. Find a writer’s group.
Ha! It’s a miracle I even remain on some on my writer’s lists. However, I not only did I find two writers’ groups, I also joined up with a Wiscon book group.

Contest: I’ll give myself a break. Enter 1 contest, fee or non
“She’s All Light” was sent to the Writers of the Future Contest at the end of September.

Craft: Attend the Wisconsin Literary Festival in October (I don’t know when the Midwest Literary one is–the website seems to be down). Plan to attend Wiscon in 2009.
I attended the Literary Festival, and was somewhat disappointed. They didn’t offer as many writer workshops as I thought. Seeing that it was more of a Book Festival, I’m not all that surprised. Wiscon I’ll talk about it in a bit.

Looking at what I did accomplish in 2008, I’m pretty happy. Granted, it wasn’t that much of a productive year, but I could have done worse.

Looking ahead to 2009, I can tell it’s going to be a novel-heavy year. Weeping of the Willows is ready for its second rewrite. I managed to get it down to 50 chapters, and I want to shoot for a second draft that’s at least 150,000 words. I’m hoping that will cut down the amount of time spent working on it, because I no longer have the luxury of a stay-at-home status to write.

But I still need to get some short stories circulating out among the markets. I happen to be working on one right now, though it’s not for a market per se. I’ve also been seriously thinking about the advice Neil Gaiman gave on the Adventures in SciFi Publishing podcast about writing every day. I’ve been trying it out, and while I don’t always write something new everyday, I have been managing to write out a whole story a week since 2009 started. All right, yes, that means so far I’ve written two new stories, but maybe there’s something to this ‘write every day’ advice.

I’m thinking with all my energies going to Willow, this would be a good time to churn out stories that are relatively short, easy on the word count, and don’t require all that much. Of course, this brings me to my next hurdle, the Writers of the Future Contest. I confess–I’m really having fun writing stories for it. Maybe it’s that Honorable Mention I got the first time I submitted something. I’m curious to know how high I can get. Semi-finalist? Finalist even?

The Contest’s deadlines are quarterly. If I can revise four good stories this year and send them off, what are the odds that I reach the Finalist stage? Don’t know until I try, I suppose. But time is the factor here. Again, I don’t have as much time that I did when I lived in Chicago. I’ll have to budget my time wisely.

So let’s do this:

Willow: Begin 2nd draft in February 2009. See if I can do two chapters a week for completion by Fall 2009.
Short stories: Freewrite a story each week. Revise four stories to send to Writers of the Future. Submit rejects to other markets. (This means that while I’ll be writing more stories, I won’t be submitting as much. A bummer, because I want to get more of my work circulating out there–but I think Willow takes higher precedence, so I don’t mind putting submissions on the back burner. And at least this way, I’m getting something out.)
Essays: Although I’m not going to work on any essays this year, I do want to do a full recap for the Agony Booth since that is so much fun to write for. That would probably happen in latter portion of 2009.
Contests: Focus on submitting a story for each quarter of Writers of the Future.
Critiques: With all the writing I’m doing, my email critters lists have taken a very low priority. Conversely, I’ve been working more with my face-to-face email groups. I’ll have to keep doing that, I guess.
Conferences: There are actually several conferences I’ll be doing this year, but seeing that it’s getting late, I’ll reserve those in my next post.

So there you have it. More writing, most of it concentrated on Willow. If all goes well, who knows? Maybe the beginning of my 2010 goals will be “sending Willow off to publishers & agents…”

More Friday Fun with Vocaloids

Moving back into my regular schedule of posting, I got some more vocaloid video fun. It’s Anime Music Night at the Cafe!

Miku Miku ni Shite Ageru

So ever since I’ve gotten into Vocaloids, I’ve been getting more into Miku Hatsune. There’s also a proliferation of 3D vocaloid videos as well which are fun to watch. This one, “Miku Miku ni Shite Ageru” is a promotional video that introduces Miku. No subtitles, but it’s fun to watch.

Do – Dai

Here’s Rin in 3-D! This happens to be one of Daniel’s favorite videos. And yes, Daniel watches Vocaloid videos. What’s it to ya?

I included the video above so the next video would make more sense:

Virtual Insanity

This is Jamiroquai’s “Virtual Insanity“. The makers of this video using Jamiroquai’s original vocals, but they’ve done an awesome job of matching all of his movies.  There is a way to see a comparison of the two videos here. I particularly like what they substituted for the ‘bugs’ in the original video.

Baby’s Star Jam by De De Mouse

Pay attention to the shooting stars. This is my favorite Vocaloid video. It’s so beautifully crafted–wonderful use of light and percussive rhythm. It makes you feel like you’re attending a Japanese Festival.

And finally, because you can’t have Vocaloids without being weird:

Pylori’s song

The Japanese title for this is “Pirori kin no uta”. “Kin” in English is “bacteria”. “Pirori” refers to the Helicobacter pylori that resides in the stomach and has been linked to ulcers and cancer. And “uta” means “song”,  so what we got here is a “Pylori’s Song”, a cute little song about a stomach-eating bacteria.

I kid you not. I actually figured out the lyrics to this. Now mind, I’m not terribly good at translation, but the most I’ve figured out goes something like this:

Inside your body there is (a)
Pylo, pylo, pylo, pylo, pylori kin
A stomach eating bacteria
Pylo, pylo, pylo, pylo, pylori kin

But it has a somewhat cute name
The Fast name
“Helicobacter Pylori” kin
Pylo, pylo, pylo, pylo, pylori kin
Pylo, pylo, pylo, pylo, pylori kin…

But it has a somewhat cute name
The stomach eating, wonderful bacteria
“Helicobacter Pylori” kin
Pylo, pylo, pylo, pylo, pylori kin
Pylo, pylo, pylo, pylo, pylori kin…

Yeah. I know.

Have some Pop Candy to wash all that sweetness down.

Readthrough of Willow Done (or Helllooooo, 2009!)

Well, I’m back! Did you have a good Christmas holiday? I sure did. Lots of rest and relaxation. It was pretty nice.

Oh, by the way. I finished with my readthrough of Willow.

It rocks considering that I didn’t think I’d be done with it until the end of January. Then again, it sucks because I realized I spent more than a year working on it. I started the readthrough back in October 2007, and I officially finished it yesterday, January 5, 2005. That’s a long time to figure out a first draft of my book.

But despite the long time, I am pleased. I took my time to go through each chapter, making notes on how I wanted storylines to go. Sometimes I had to backtrack to previous chapters to see whether things remained consistent. I wrote down a lot of questions that I will need to do research on, and I have a lot of decisions to make, like names and other world-building tasks, that need to be finalized. But the reason for going so slow in my readthrough was that I wanted everything in place, so when I start on my second draft, I can write it straight, knowing what will happen in each scene. It’s basically what Stephen King mentioned in On Writing  (and I really wish I can find that book now–it’s packed up somewhere in our garage; I could really use his advice again. Looks like I’m going to have to go digging this weekend.)

So what does this mean? Well, first of all, I’m giving Willow a little rest while I get some other things out of the way. My plan is to start the second draft work in February, but first of all, I need to know where I stand as far as writing goes. Seeing that it’s a new year, that means new goals, new resolutions. I’ll have that on the Cafe hopefully this week.

But just think–I’m one step closer to actually having Willow finished. Who would’ve thunk it?

Stay tuned. 2009 is going to be one interesting year…

…let’s just hope that it won’t be as interesting as 2008 was. Oy…