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!

Willow Update: THE LAST ONE (unless it gets picked up)

It’s done.

The final revision of my novel is done.

I’m all done.

I started writing this in 1994. On April 28, 2019, I completed the final revision of the novel. During that time, I wrote, rewrote, tossed out, threw away the novel entirely. Started over. Revised. Finished. Threw it out again. Started over one last time, revised, went through hell, came back, and now it’s done. It came out to 140K, which is a little more than I wanted (I was shooting for 120K), but overall, I’m pleased with the word count.

Second book should be easier now, right? Right? Hello??

Part of me is freaking out and going oh-no-i’m-done-what-do-i-do-now and running around in circles. But the writer me, the short story me, the one who has sent out hundreds of submissions and racked up sales, is grabbing the panicking me and saying, “Stop. You already know the next step. It’s okay. Take a deep breath, do some celebrating, and then, do the thing.”

So I’m taking a week or so off to recuperate. Clean my house. Play some video games. And then there’s some things I need to do:

  • I still need to format my novel, which means compiling it from Scrivener into Word, then spell check and format it.
  • It’s finally, finally time for me to start researching agents.
  • I need to put together a list of said agents. I also have a couple of publishing houses I plan to submit to outright, but it’ll be good for me to look for an agent who can negotiate well.
  • I have to put my synopsis together, which will also include doing one for the whole series. And yes, Weeping of the Willows is the first book in a series (I was hoping a trilogy but I had to split this book in two in the initial draft, so at the least, it’s a 4-book series).
  • Then, the query letter.
  • And lastly, start submitting my book!

I don’t know how long it will take. I don’t know if it will get picked up by a publisher. I don’t know if I’ll run out of options and publish it myself. I don’t even know if I just shrug and say, “well, it was a good learning experience,” and I just never make it public.

But I can honestly say I wrote and finish a novel. That’s a huge thing to celebrate in itself. For all of you who had stuck with me this long, thanks!

In the meantime, I can finally, finally, start considering my next project. Stay tuned!

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

Willow Word Count…10 years later….

Last night, Scrivener informed me that I had passed the 150K overall word count on Willow. Which made me wonder what the original word count was in the 1st draft. I did some digging and came across this blog post that I did a little over 10 years ago, when I had finished the first draft.

First Draft Total:

Word Count: 462,257
Chapter Count: 79 and a prologue

Third Draft Total (pending)

Word Count: 151,179 (as of today)
Chapter Count: 44 (firm)

Wowwwwww. That’s a pretty dramatic cut. A lot of that was tossing out a bunch of extra storylines, dropping a lot of supporting characters arcs (some will get pushed to the next book if it happens), and simplifying a bunch of things. It’s taken me ten years to figure out it. I have to say though, this 3rd draft of Willow is the easiest draft to handle yet. I can actually work with it–I think writing the novella helped me with that. And I now can see the completion of this book looming close. I want to try shooting towards completing it by the end of this year, but we’ll see. ^_^

This also makes me want to go back and reread all the older posts I did back when I did more blogging. Man, my writing process has changed soooo much. I’ve been meaning to go back to more blogging anyway.

Willow Update

Last night I finished revisions on Chapter 42 of Willow, which means that I have 2 more chapters to revise…

…except…

…Chapter 42 was the penultimate chapter, and in getting it to where I want, I have come to the realization that the set up for it needs to be written in a earlier chapter. So now I need to go back and rewrite that chapter.

Which means, actually, I still have 3 chapters left to revise.

Well, I guess it could be worse? At least it’s not the entire middle section I have to rewrite?

Guess I better get to work.

Thoughts on Dialect (‘cause y’all keep buggin me ‘bout it)

So I’ve been following with great interest the discussion about dialect in fiction. It started off by Daniel Jose Older’s comments of a review of his anthology Long Hidden in Strange Horizons, and followed by Abyss & Apex doing an editorial post on the decision to post two different version of a story with a Carribean dialect. There have been many thoughtful essays on it, including Tobias Buckell, Amal El-Mohtar, and Ferrett Steinmetz, so I don’t think I have anything to add except to tell my experience. Which isn’t much, but it’s my two cents, so take that as you will.

Personally, I’ve struggled with dialect in my fiction. Growing up, I was the kid who was teased for "talking proper". I understood Shakespeare better than the slang kids used around my neighborhood. So when I write fiction with black kids, I always worry that they don’t "sound black enough". But now that I’m thinking about it, I was at least aware of it–we tended to drop our ‘g’s a lot, mainly in -ing suffixes. "I’m goin to the store."  Using the d sound for th–what’s dat? Is it over dere? You know what I miss? ‘Fin’. As in "She finna go to the store." "Did you wash the sheets like I axed?" "Man, I FIN to!" 

Interesting aside #1–my mother always mocked us when we said "ovuh dare" for "over there". She said it made us sound like country hicks. That was the only thing she corrected our speech on. Either that or I’ve blocked out what else she corrected us on.

Interesting aside #2–in college, I dated a white guy who one showed me how to use the ‘th’ sound. Up to that point, I didn’t think there was a difference until he showed me how to place my tongue at the back of my teeth. And by that, he showed me using his tongue. Looking back at it now, I have super mixed feelings about it: on the one hand, there’s the dynamic of a white guy teaching a black girl how to speak ‘properly’ (I’m sure he didn’t think about that at all–only thought he was doing a good thing). On the flip side, damn if that wasn’t the sexiest linguist lesson I ever had….

So I just wrote those two asides, and I thought huh. Actually, those two asides play a lot into how I write. I’m coming from a background where "proper English" was correct, not just grammar, but also pronunciation. My mother didn’t want me and my sisters to sound like uneducated hicks because she wanted us to have clear diction, which in her opinion would get us better jobs than working at McDonalds.. My boyfriend wanted me to speak the way he did. And in the African American community, we don’t have the option where the way we speak is consider a "second language" or a "foreign dialect". With us, "white english" equals proper and preferred, "black english" equals ghetto and uneducated. I could show proof, but ain’t nobody got time fo dat.

Angry aside #3–I once dropped a white ex-co-worker from Facebook because of that. Seemed to be a nice guy, went to church, volunteered at our community center. When he learned that Obama had been re-elected, he wrote on his wall "Mo welfare fo us all!" I wanted to say, "How can you mentor those kids at the community center and then turn around and write such a thing?" but I was too upset to respond to him Instead, I dropped him like a hot potato.

It would be good to change black english from being a stigma to something more legitimate. One way we can do so is through stories, because it allows us to tell our own narratives. The problem is that there are those who will always see those dialects as low brow and ignorant. How can we move beyond that? I don’t have an answer. It’s something that is far larger and deeper than I can touch on. The notion that I’ve been bending  towards the white dominant culture is something I’m just now beginning to recognize in my life. I’m working on a separate blog post about it–it’s pretty long and deep, and I’m still trying to decide if I’m going to post it here or somewhere not as public

But what I can do is strive to have more black dialect in my writing. And for me, that means becoming more aware, paying attention, listening. Advocating it more. And having more conversations about it. I liked what Apex Abyss did in putting both versions of Celeste Rita Baker’s story "Name Calling" on their site. (Interestingly, I found the original patois version more engaging. I could hear her voice in my head, whereas the edited version was okay, but more muted.)

Isn’t that the point of stories? To push us? Transport us? To take us out of our lives and put them into another’s?

We also need to give writers a safe space to write stories in their own voices. I thought the point of Long Hidden was to give marginalized voices a chance to be heard. And those voices should include ‘black english’ because that is just as legitimate. It has its own rhythm, its own music, and to erase that is to erase voices that groaned in captivity, that sang in both joy and sorrow, that shouted for justice, and to this day continues to unsettle, unnerve, and push comfort zones to make itself heard.

Now, if you excuse me, I finna go work on my writin, cause dat’s wha’ its’’ ‘bout, son.

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?