A story a week? Maybe it’s time to look into Patreon

When I was in third grade, I used to make up stories from spelling lists. Granted, the stories made no sense; but it didn’t matter. It was a great way for me to learn how to spell and how to figure out the meanings for words, and to have fun doing it. I didn’t know it at the time, but that little game was preparing me for writing fiction.

Back when I was starting to write professionally, I used to do what I called “Happy Fun Freewrites”. It was similar to the morning pages concept Julia Cameron practices in her book The Artist’s Way, where you write three pages a day about anything. In my case, I found a writing prompt and then wrote about it for 15 minutes. They weren’t meant to be published, just something for my enjoyment, but every once in a while, one of them was reworked into an actual story. (My short story “One for Sorrow, Two for Joy” came out of a Happy Fun Freewrite.) It was a way to practice craft techniques. It was a way to get my morning pages in. But then I became full-time at work, and the little time I had leftover for writing was directed towards the novel or major writing projects. So I ditched the Happy Fun Freewrites because I just didn’t have the time.

Now that my time is more open again, I don’t know what to do with myself. It feels a little scary knowing that I can basically write anything I want. So rather than being frozen on figuring out what to do next, I’m going back to my roots. I’m bringing back the daily Happy Fun Freewrites. I miss that element of play and joy and discovery. And, to be really honest, it’s been a long, long, looooong time since I wrote short fiction. When I was just focusing on the novel or the novelette, I would get story ideas, and I would write them down, but I didn’t have the time or the energy to dwell on them. And over time, those ideas grew less and less, although they didn’t vanish completely.

When I was doing a bunch of organization a couple of weeks ago, I came across all my old Happy Fun Freewrites, and was surprised at just how many I wrote. It was heartening, but also scary, because it showed me that I used to do it all the time. Do I have it in me to write those again? Can I write like that again?

I decided to do a trial run this week and do the writing exercises in Ursula K Le Guin’s book Steering the Craft. I kept the exercises short. 350 words. Easy peasy. what’s 350 words? A few paragraphs. Not even a full page. On the last exercise, I wrote 600 words. Mainly because I had become engrossed and wanted to see what happened next.

Ah. Now it’s coming back to me. The joy and fun of writing.

But you know what…I think I need to bring some more incentive to it. Something that will hold me accountable. So I’m going to look into doing a Patreon or some other income generation. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do forever. I just never had the mental space to look into it…until now. It will get me back into writing fiction on a daily basis. It will help me improve my craft. And finally, it will give you, my readers, a chance to get more stories from me. 🙂

(…which is something else I’m dealing with. People actually do want to pay to read my stuff. It’s thrilling and terrifying and well, that’s the whole job of being a writer, isn’t it? So that’s the real reason why I’m doing this. It will help me improve, which gets better stories to you, which gives me a little income so I can find ways to improve more…and so forth.)

I’m still working out details and gathering information on how I want to do this. For instance, I want to offer other things besides stories: writing tips, faith thoughts, etc. And I need to figure out what type of stories I want to offer and the frequency. If I did flash stories, I can definitely churn out something every week, a la Ray Bradbury’s challenge, but a longer story will take a little more time. And I still want to send out stories to markets, so there’s that to consider. For any of you writers out there who use Patreon, or another income generating service, advice would be appreciated!

And, of course, all of this will have to wait until I get the novel out on submission, which is my biggest priority right now. So let me work on getting that out in the next couple of weeks, and then…well, stay tuned to see what happens next!

Story Notes: “Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good” available at FIYAH Magazine

Should’ve posted this earlier this month, but yes! I got another short story out! “Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good” has been published in FIYAH’s Music issue, which you can buy now! It also comes with a poppin’ Spotify Playlist and another gorgeous illustration!

Ain’t that gorgeous?

If you’ve followed me on Twitter, you’ve heard about this one a lot. A few years ago, I stumbled onto the rockin’ blues gospel music of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, which I didn’t even know was a thing. That got me listening to more women who played guitars in the 1930s and 40s, and when I came across Memphis Minnie, I knew I had to get them into a story together. Also, I am so stoked that this was published a couple of months after Sister Rosetta Tharpe was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. Now if we can only get Minnie inducted…

I also wanted to write a story featuring my hometown, specifically, the south side of Chicago where I grew up. Fun fact–the real Sister Rosetta and Minnie actually did live in Chicago in different parts of their lives, but there’s no evidence that they’ve ever interacted. Seeing that most gospel musicians considered blues artists as heathens, I’m not surprised. On the flip side, Sister Rosetta came under a lot of fire for putting gospel hymns against “devil music”, so who knows.

The story give a couple of callouts to the history of the Chicago’s South Side: The Regal Theater, which was big for black entertainers in the 30s and 40s; the Ida Wells homes, a series of low-income housing mostly populated by blacks, and the Bronzeville and Bridgeport neighborhoods. And my favorite: Rita Moy, daughter of Frank Moy, mayor of Chinatown, who really did like to dress in men’s clothes. There’s even a picture of her!

Finally, I wrote this story because I wanted to show a relationship between two women of different beliefs. Sister Rosetta was an evangelist through and through, and she was also queer. Memphis Minnie, on the other hand, had a rough life: busking on Beale ave, doing a stint with Ringling Brothers Circus. Although Rosetta and Minnie never met in real life, it was fun imagining the sort of conversations they could have. You can read more about these women in their biographies: Shout Sister Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Woman With Guitar: Memphis Minnie’s Blues. (Also for Minnie, there’s a description of her written by Langston Hughes)

And finally, listen to these women songs. I can repeat myself enough: they…are…AMAZING. Here, I’ll even get you started.

Writing Goals for 2018

Now that I got my 2017 Year in Review out of the way, I thought I’d take a crack at making writer goals for 2018. Do you know the last time I ever sat down to make writer goals? 2009. So let’s get cracking…

Weeping of the Willows Novel: Finish final draft by March 31; Submit it by April 30
In case you didn’t see my announcement on Twitter, I finished the 3rd draft of my novel the last week of December. The 4th draft will involve cleaning it up, making it look pretty, and moving it from Scrivener to Word.

Because I want this to be a polished draft, I would like to get this done as soon as possible. So after a brief rest, I’m going to tackle it exclusively over the next few weeks. Also, I’m going to do something I haven’t done in a long time: I’m setting a hard deadline, because I want this baby to be done and out the door by the end of April. I’ll announce my progress on Twitter to keep myself on track and for you all to encourage, cheerlead, poke with me a stick, etc.

Write seven short stories/poetry. Have 10 stories on submission
Once Willow is out the door, I want to tackle getting some short stories done. I already have one in progress, but I want to get more written and on submission.

Read more books!
Doing the Lightspeed book reviews has re-ignited my book reading. Most fabulous! I want to keep it going by taking the Goodreads 2018 book challenge. I know in doing the books reviews, I’ll be reading at least 12 books, so 20 should be a good goal.

Get back into blogging more
This I’ve been meaning to do for a while. Facebook has grown less and less hospitable for writers. Going through previous posts made me realized how much I’ve missed blogging, and how I’ve neglected the Café in the Woods over the past few years. Now that I have free headspace again, it’s time to revive the blog.

Right now, because of the last Willow revision, I just will be posting updates like this one. After Willow is submitted, I want to do an overhaul of the website. I also want to revisit some past posts I’ve done.

Reconnect with YOU
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years is that I wouldn’t be a writer today without my readers. A big THANK YOU to all of those who had stuck with me this far. Once I’m done with Willow, I would like to find a way to reconnect more with readers and fans. One thing I want to look more into is Patron or maybe do something similar to the Story Calendar I did a few years back. Remember that?

There’s a lot more that I want to do, but this is a good start. See you when I start the last revision of Willow!

2017 Eligibility Post and Writing Year in Review

It’s that time once again for everyone to be posting the works they published in 2017 that are eligible for awards. And for the third year in a row, I don’t really have that much published fictionwise.

Actually, no. I take that back. I’m looking at my bullet journal Writing Management Log (one of these days, I’ll post on how I’m doing that. It’s a todo in the journal!) and hey, whatdya know! I did have a fiction piece published in 2017. The Summation of EvilCorp Subsidies HR Meeting Agenda Minutes, Compiled by Olivia Washington” was published by Fantastic Stories on January 2, 2017. This is the print version on the audio story I wrote for Podcastle, so I don’t know if it qualifies for awards, but can’t hurt to mention it.

The rest of my published works in 2017 were nonfiction. I had an essay in this year’s WisCon Chronicles40 that was based off of my Tale of Two WisCons blog post. I also wrote an essay for Uncanny Magazine, “Learning to Turn Your Lips Sideways” in their May/June 2017 issue. 

Then there are the book reviews.  I did one for Time’s Oldest Daughter by Susan W. Lyons for the Fall 2017 issue of Cascadia Subduction Zone. And of course, this year I started writing a quarterly book review column for Lightspeed Magazine 

And that’s just the published stuff. Writing wise, I pushed hard in finishing the revision of my Weeping of the Willows novel. As of today, I am revising the very last chapter. I’m hoping to finish it at this end of this month. I still have several stories out on submission, including the novella I completed in 2016. I also wrote a new short story, “One for Sorrow, Two for Joy” which, much to my delight, was picked up by Fireside Fiction magazine to be published sometime in 2018. 

So yeah. 2017 was startlingly, surprisingly productive. 

As for 2018, I’m going to make that a separate post. The past few years have been pretty rough (see my 2016, 2015 and 2014 Review posts), but finally, I feel like I have enough headspace that I can sit down and plan writing goals, something I haven’t done in a long, long time. 

But first, gotta finish this draft of Willow. See you on the other side of that.

Upcoming story in Fireside Fiction

Fireside Fiction just posted the list of stories they bought from their September submission period. Guess who’s on it? MEEEEE!  “One for Sorrow, Two for Joy” will be appearing soon on their website. Details forthcoming, click the link below to see the lineup of stories and authors.

https://firesidefiction.com/september2017-submissions-results

New story! “Sun-Touched” up at Kaleidotrope

I have a new story up! You can now read "Sun-Touched" for free over at Kaleidotrope.

You can thank Neil Gaiman for this one. In 2010, I was invited to attend “The Gathering of American Gods” at the House on the Rock. I was trying to think of a cool costume to wear and, well, okay, I was looking for an excuse to dye my wedding dress with tea. I came up with going as the Moth Queen, because I had a pin shaped like a butterfly, but this party would be at night, so moths fit better.

Well, the costume idea petered out, (I wound up going as a vaguely steampunk lady). But the idea of a Moth Queen stuck with me, and I began to play with the idea. How I went from a Queen to a Princess, Queen and Dowager, I don’t remember. but when I came up with the idea of butterfly people (papilion) being enemies of the moth people (doptera), and how the moth people are attracted to light, I knew I had a story.

I will confess, coming up with the backstory and history of the world was somewhat difficult. After I finished it, I shopped it around. One of the rejections I got mentioned that it was a very good story, but the editor wished the doptera and papilion were more insect-like. And this is true. But I had no clue how to make them more insect-like without making them relatable. And besides, I had a selfish wish to keep the figurines as is, which play a part in the story.

Hmm. Writing that though makes me wonder. Can I make a lead character that’s not human, completely alien, and yet make them relatable? At the time I wrote Sun-Touched, I didn’t think I could. Now? I might be able.

In the meantime, enjoy "Sun-Touched", and let me know what you think!

New short story! “21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus 1)” up at Strange Horizons

It’s now up! “21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus 1)” is up now at Strange Horizons! It has an illustration! It has a podcast! It is so cool!

The inspiration for this story came one day when I was on Google Plus (why yes…I do go there from time to time). Someone had posted an album of different spiral staircase pictures, and when I clicked on the album, it posted all the staircases at once. Seeing all those staircases and spirals got me wondering: what if spiral staircases appeared at random, with no reason whatsoever. What would be at the top? And then I wondered…if spiral staircases could appear out of nowhere, who to say it’s just a normal staircase? What other materials could it be made out of? How fanciful could I make these staircases?

Oh, I had a fun time coming up with the different kinds of staircases. But I didn’t have much of a plot until I came up with the idea that the staircase was a metaphor for epiphanies and enlightenment. Around this time, I had visited my folks back in Chicago, and wound up watching the Help with the womenfolk of my family, including my grandmother, who is awesomely badass. Talking with her and my own mother about growing up and raising kids, made me want to commemorate their strength, while at the same time showing how opportunities seem to open up more for each generation. So I decided to make the spiral story more personal.

The Momma in the story is a mash-up of my mom and grandmother. There are other true parts too; if you know me, you’ll figure it out. I never snuck out of my house, for instance. But the boyfriend part? That’s mostly true. So was the feeling of optimism. My dad never wanted to join the circus though.

Anyway, check it out and let me know what you think. What would your spiral staircase look like?

New Story! “Ebb and Flow” up at Daily Science Fiction!

My first SWFA sale! It’s a flash story called “Ebb and Flow” and you can read it now for free at Daily Science Fiction!

I wrote this story for a flash contest, back when I was wrestling with feelings of trying for another child. I’m really glad DSF picked it up. Head on over and check it out!

What Fates Impose Kickstarter Update (or Me Write Pretty One Day…)

TL;DR version: We’re heading into our final week of our Kickstarter for the anthology I’m in, What Fates Impose, and wow! We just cracked $4000. ONLY 6 MORE DAYS TO GO!!!! Pledge $40 and you will get, along with the book, a handwritten card by me with the personality type of your choice (either Myers/Briggs or StrengthFinders) its description and a humorous fortune written in calligraphy.

Edit: And we have made our goal! And then some!

But if you want to read the long version, I’m going to talk about calligraphy. And by that I mean, what I really want to say is, I want to thank my parents for forcing me to take drafting in high school.

You see, back when I was in high school, when it came time to choose electives, I was all ready and gung ho to take art, because everyone took art. It was fun. My father, for reasons I have yet to figure out, made me take drafting instead. I wish I remembered why. Something to do with my handwriting, I think. Or was it supposed to build character? I asked him the other day and he said, “Hell if I know.” Which was the answer I pretty much expected from him.

But there I was. A sophomore? Yeah, I think it was my sophomore year. I think I was only one of three girls in the class. I remember getting drafting kits, which involves a T-Bar ruler, a bunch of other rulers, a specific type of pencil, and graph paper. And I remember being very, very disgruntled, because while my friends were making fingerpaint murals and macaroni art and pottery, I was drawing lines and measuring  them and drawing more lines and learning how to make capital letters as straight as possible.

I can’t remember what grade I got, but I’m pretty sure I passed it. You ask me what I learned there and I wouldn’t be able to tell you offhand, except that maybe my handwriting got better. Maybe.

I hated drafting class.

Which is interesting because I love calligraphy.

I’ve been fascinated by calligraphy ever since I was a kid. I got several Sheaffer kits for Christmas, you know, the fountain pen kind that came with different types of nibs and different colored ink tubes, and you put the tubes in the barrel and twist the nib on to pierce the tube? And if you wanted to change colors, you were screwed because it meant pulling out the tube carefully so you won’t spill the ink out, then washing out the nib, which took forever, and then screw the new color in, then you had to do the same thing over again so you could go back to the regular color? Yeah, I loved those pens.

I did lots of calligraphy for a while. Mainly, I wrote poems, practiced the alphabet, and did flourishes on envelopes. Probably the highlight of my calligraphy use was when I hand addressed all the envelopes I sent out for my wedding. I was always insecure about my calligraphy, though, because I’ve never had a real steady hand. I couldn’t write in a straight line and my spacing was over the place. Over time, I stopped doing it, but I kept collecting calligraphy supplies in the vain hope that one day, I would pick it up again.

That day came about a month ago, when Nayad, our editor for What Fates Impose was brainstorming on what we could offer as rewards for backers of the anthology. I thought I’d offer a handmade knitted scarf, but I wanted to do something based off my story in the anthology, which deals with the subject of personality assessment. And I thought, “I can write cards that show Myers/Briggs personality types and a a brief description. I can also throw in a short humorous fortune in the end. And I can do it all in calligraphy.”

So I went to my closet and pulled out my calligraphy tools. Since my wedding, I have amassed quite a bit, including a bunch of dipping nibs that I had no clue how to use—I just thought they looked cool. But this now being the age of the internets, I thought it was high time I learned how to use these old-fangled thingies.

And when I learned, I was like WHY AM I KEEPING THESE AT THE BOTTOM OF MY CLOSET? THESE ARE AWESOME!!!!!

20130708_161603

Also, ink, because INNNNNNNK!!!!

So then, I made my first mock up, and I grew immediately discouraged because to me, it didn’t come out right.

20130708_152859-1

The lines were kind of crooked and the spacing was off and…

And that’s when all those lessons I took in high school drafting reared up inside me and said. LaShawn, you need to put down some lines and do some measurements. Get some rulers, girl.

And I said, Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

So I got me some rulers, put down some lines, did some measurements, and came up with my second draft, if you will.

Calligraphy sample

Which…actually…still looks lopsided, now that I look at it. Particularly the flourish line. And the personality type still looks shaky (in fact, the first draft, the letters look more stable). But I’m happier about the description. And as I keep practicing, it would get nicer and nicer.

All of this is to say, if you wish to get in on my calligraphy journey, there are two backer rewards left for my calligraphy cards. Pledge $40 and you will get, along with the book, a handwritten card by me with the personality type of your choice (either Myers/Briggs or StrengthFinders) its description and a humorous fortune written in calligraphy. It won’t be super perfect, but I can guarantee it will be authentic.

Oh yes. I want to thank my parents. If it wasn’t for me being forced to take drafting, these calligraphy supplies would still be sitting at the bottom of my closet. Never being used. Collecting dust until, in shame, I sell them to the next poor sop at a garage sale. And I would have never discovered the joy of dipping a nib into ink, shaking the excess off, then sketching the letters into paper just so.

This has brought back the joy of writing.

New Story in “What Fates Impose” Anthology! Kickstarter Details and Prizes!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m doing my part to bring more diversity to the SFF genre. And what better way to do that than a new story!

I am excited to announce my short story, “There Are No Wrong Answers”, will be appearing in the What Fates Impose anthology, edited by my fellow Madisonianite Nayad Monroe.

Fortune-telling is a tricky endeavor. It’s the domain of an assortment of characters with various motives: charlatans looking to make a buck, true believers who may or may not have the gift, and powerful oracles who might be inclined to spin the truth for their own reasons. Which prophecies are true? Which are false? The powers of belief and wishful thinking drive the quest for a glimpse of the future–but is it a true vision? Whether the message comes from Tarot cards, tea leaves, entrails, or in my case, personality assessment, how are lives changed when predictions are made?

Nayad has gathered some awesome storytellers to peer into nature of fate. Here’s the full list of contributors:

Introduction by Alasdair Stuart: “Singing from the Book of Holy Jagger”

David Boop: “Dipping into the Pocket of Destiny”

Maurice Broaddus: “Read Me Up”

Jennifer Brozek: “A Card Given”

Amanda C. Davis: “The Scry Mirror”

Damien Walters Grintalis: “When the Lady Speaks”

Sarah Hans: “Charms”

Erika Holt: “Murder of Crows”

Keffy R.M. Kehrli: “Gazing into the Carnauba Wax Eyes of the Future”

Jamie Lackey: “Another Will Open”

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz: “Body of Truth”

Remy Nakamura: “Pick a Card”

Cat Rambo: “To Read the Sea”

Andrew Penn Romine: “Ain’t Much Different’n Rabbits”

Ken Scholes: “All Our Tangled Dreams in Disarray”

Lucy A. Snyder: “Abandonment Option”

Ferrett Steinmetz: “Black Swan Oracle”

Eric James Stone: “A Crash Course in Fate” (new) and “A Great Destiny” (reprint)

Tim Waggoner: “The Goggen”

Wendy N. Wagner: “Power Steering”

LaShawn M. Wanak: “There Are No Wrong Answers”

Beth Wodzinski: “One Tiny Misstep (In Bed)”

This anthology is being crowd-funded through Kickstarter. If it gets funded, we’ll get paid pro rates, and if goes beyond the funded goal, there’ll be more stories and artwork.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Check out the backer’s rewards. Look on down to the $40 level, which is the Palmistry and Calligraphy level. That’s right, you’ll get a little somethin’ somethin’ from me! Pledge $40 or more and I’ll write up a 4 X 6 card from with your Myers/Briggs personality trait and its description in calligraphy. A picture sample is forthcoming.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S EVEN MORE!!!

If you pre-order the anthology before this Thursday, June 20, you will be eligible for a drawing to win prizes: artwork of tarot cards done by Nayad, a signed print of the anthology’s cover, a copy of the book with all our signatures. And as the Kickstarter meets its milestones, there will be even more prizes!

So go check out the Kickstarter, reserve your copy,  and spread the word! Every bit helps. All the answers you seek can be found within this anthology. And if it’s not the answer you’re looking for, well, at least you get some darn good stories.

Tell people about What Fates Impose on Twitter
Tell people about What Fates Impose on Facebook
Tell people about What Fates Impose on Google+

Edit: WE HAVE MADE OUR GOAL! Thanks to everyone who contributed! More details on the book will be out soon.