September Goals and an Update

Trinity College Library, Dublin
Future workplace, maybe?

Well, September is here, the year is 2/3 through, so here are my publication stats for the year so far:

Submissions: 77

Acceptances: 1

Withdrawals: 1

Rejections: 63

Pending: 12

So… I know that there are writers who have been much more prolific than I have this past year (I know one person who has logged over 300 submissions so far this year). Some writers have a 100% acceptance rate (one submission; one publication). Me, I’m nowhere near that. As for that one acceptance, I’ll make sure I post details about it here when the contract is finalized.

Most of the rejections I’ve received over the past year have been form rejection letters. I’m okay with that.  In fact, there’s a part of me that prefers form rejection letters over personal letters. With form rejections, you can take a quick look at the story, make any adjustments you may think are necessary, and move on (albeit with some existential dread). With personal rejections, you spend more time fretting over the story, trying to suss out the editor’s intent and wondering if the changes they suggest (if any — some personal rejections are very vague) will really improve the story overall or not. There’s more stress. And as an editor myself (have you visited Daikaijuzine lately?), I have to say that sending out form rejections is a lot easier on me.

Some personal rejections, of course, are delightful and inspiring. C. C. Finlay, former editor of Fantasy and Science Fiction, gave me a fantastic review of one of my stories, and I rewrote that story in light of his criticisms, and it’s gone on to be one of my favorites. On the other hand, one personal rejection I got from a magazine many years ago was so disheartening I gave up writing for six months.

Don’t do that to yourself.

Anyway.

I did not meet many of my August goals. I had planned to write something like 30,000 words on And the Devil Will Drag You Under, but instead wrote less than 3,000 total. I did complete revisions on my urban fantasy novella, and gave it to a friend for one last look before starting to send that one around to various markets. I also began revisions on my zombie love story, a short story I wrote some time ago, but which I revised and got good feedback on at the Cascade Writers Workshop.

So, my goals for September are:

  1. Write 7,500 words on Devil (that’s just 250 words per day);
  2. Finish revisions of zombie story; and
  3. Start a new science fiction short story.

IN OTHER NEWS…

School started up again a couple of weeks ago, and this semester I am taking Reference and Information Services, which is all about… well… reference and information services. Last week we focused on synchronous reference services, such as in person or on phone reference calls. Our class project will be pretty intense; I plan on doing a LibGuide for a certain topic. I’m not sure which one, though I’ve narrowed it down to three: the Republic of Pirates ca. 1790; Neanderthal culture; or childhood asthma. I’ve done research in all of those topics, though I have direct experience with the third only.

I haven’t changed my long-term ideal goals for librarianship; I still want to be a librarian and writer for a natural history museum. My dream job is doing that at the California Academy of Sciences, but I also recognize the unlikelihood of that ever happening. Maybe I’ll be a librarian at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland?

August also saw my father-in-law’s burial. He had actually passed away in June 2020, compounding an already awful year, but because of the pandemic, it was not possible to inter his cremains until over a year later. I don’t have a lot to say on this topic; my father-in-law was a kind and intelligent man who delighted in his family and in humor.

It did get me thinking about my own time here on Earth, and while I’ve spent too much time in my life thinking about that, I did decide that one song I’d like played at my funeral (which I honestly hope is a celebration and a joyful YAY FOR HIM HE LIVED! sort of affair instead of something sad and depressing) is “Turn the World Around” (alternatively called “Earth Song”) by Harry Belafonte. I’ve thoughtfully included a video below, where Harry Belafonte sings the song along with the Muppets. The song was performed at Jim Henson’s memorial, and I’ve always considered him a sort of spiritual mentor.

On that cheerful note, I will leave you for now. Have a lovely day.

(And now I have an earworm, and I hope you do too.)

On the Origin of Ideas

As a writer, one gets asked a lot of questions. What do you write? Have I read anything of yours? How much do you get paid? Will you write this novel that I have a tremendous idea for? How many homes do you have? and so on. Most writers often get asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” and that’s one that I’ve missed. No one has asked me that one. I like to think it’s because they know I have a degree in Philosophy and am liable to start pontificating on the whole notion of ideas and utter something like, “Where does anyone get anything, really?” Some writers have different answers to the question. One science fiction writer — I believe it was Harlan Ellison, but I’m not sure and I’m too lazy to look it up right now — famously responded that he got all his ideas from an idea factory in Schenectady, New York.

Since I don’t have a subscription to the Schenectady Idea Factory Box, I rely on other sources. What those sources are… well, actually I have no idea. But last night while I was sleeping, I had a doozy.

Imagine this: a science fiction epic which is a retelling of Les Misérables in space! That’s basically the dream I had last night. It started (in my dream) as an idea for a role-playing game, but, in the dream, morphed into a novel and then a movie starring Peter Capaldi. It seemed perfect in my dream.

And it sounds perfect now that I am mostly fully awake.

Will I write my epic Les Misérables in Space novel? Probably not. There are too many other projects demanding my attention. Or maybe I’ll retool my “epic space opera with horror overtones” or my “secret big project involving World War One”. Or maybe not. Who knows?

Maybe I’ll combine them all into one!

I wonder if Victor Hugo ever had to deal with thoughts like these?

Fellow writers: where do you get your ideas?

Daytrip Across the Universe

Apatosaurs with mask
RAWR!

Yesterday some friends of mine and I went to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. It’s one of my favorite places to be in the world. I’d say the Natural History Museum in London is a close second, but I haven’t been to that particular institution in over twenty years, so I can’t really say for sure.

When I was a kid, my family took me to the Academy on a fairly regular basis, and I remember loving the earthquake room, the solar system model, the Foucault pendulum, the Africa exhibit, and Hall of Man, and more. They remodeled the Academy about thirteen(!) years ago; I went there when they reopened in 2008 and was unimpressed, since they’d moved everything around including my one-favorite exhibits. But now I’ve been twice in the past two years, and I am loving it again.

I really wanted to be a scientist of some sort when I was in high school. A marine biologist, preferably, since my high school biology teachers were so good at their jobs and inspired me so well; however, college-level chemistry and math did me in. I did poorly in my first year and a half at UC Davis until I took James Griesemer’s course in the philosophy of the biological sciences in 1988, and fell in love with philosophy. I took a number of courses in the history and philosophy of science, and could have pursued that topic on graduate school, but… I didn’t. For a long time I regretted not following up on that, but now I’m in an MLIS program at San Jose State University, and longing to become a science writer and librarian at some sort of research institution: ideally, of course, the California Academy of Sciences. I would never have survived graduate school, in either a scientific discipline or in philosophy. The idea of specializing in one topic in a single field would have brutalized my tiny little brain. Librarianship seems like the perfect place for a generalist, an intellectual vagabond like me.

And now that I’ve sort of zeroed in on that career path at the age of 53, we’ll see if I have a chance to follow through.

I took a number of photographs at the Academy, including the one above of the T. rex with a cloth mask on its face.  Here are some others:

Jellyfish

I love jellyfish! I love the way they glide through the water, flowing tentacles in their wake. I learned that some jellyfish, such as moon jellies, qualify as plankton, which surprised me since I’ve always thought of plankton as the microscopic critters that float in the ocean not doing a whole lot except consuming food and providing food for other larger organisms… exactly the way these things do.

 

Jaws of a megalodon

This cast of the jaws of a megalodon fossil impressed me. It’s 6+ feet of toothed joy, and you can really see the rows of teeth that would have grown into the jaw as older teeth fell out. It’s not the best picture, but I am pleased with it.

 

Claude the albino alligator

Finally, this is Claude, the albino alligator. It’s a much better picture when it’s scaled down rather than blown up. Some trick of lighting or some quirk of my phone’s camera sharpened and highlighted the image more than it should have. Claude’s been part of the Academy for as long as I can remember. An albino alligator would not have lasted long in its natural habitat, since its coloring would have made easy prey for a predator.

 

And this, of course, is the entrance to the Academy’s impressive rainforest exhibit. Fun fact: When I went to the Academy on my own one day in 1998, I caught a presentation on the rainforests that including the Rainforest Rap:

…which, unfortunately, cannot be embedded in this post, but if you go to the YouTube video I’ve linked to, you will, I promise, be enraptured.

What did I learn in the Academy’s rainforest exhibit? Primarily that I would not enjoy being a rainforest ecologist. It was humid and hot and by the end of it I was sweating pretty heavily, which is not something I enjoy. However, I am glad that there are people studying the amazing diversity and beauty of the tropical rainforests, and working to preserve them.

Anyway, as I’ve said, the California Academy of Sciences remains one of my favorite places on Earth. I will very likely go again soon, bringing yet more friends with me.

 

Tomorrow is August 1! And things are weird!

Why is my computer smoking?

Well, I did not achieve all of my July goals. Which is a shame, because I was really busy anyway. I had planned to write 31,000 words on And the Devil Will Drag You Under, but insead I fell about 6,000 words short of that goal. Which is okay! It just means that I may not hit my word count goal of 60,000 by August 12, the date of my next critique group meeting (WFN, for those in the know). And that means I may have to reschedule things a bit. Which, again, is okay. Besides, when you’re writing a novel, it’s kind of hard to keep track of who’s doing what when, and who knows what when, so I’d have to do a revision pass before giving it to WFN anyway. And again: okay.

I also did not finish up revising “Witness to the Scrouge” or “Sauromancy”. I did attend the Cascade Writers Workshop and got some incredible feedback on “Zombie Processes”, and soon™ I will get to revising that one as well. Lots of irons in the fire, plenty of pie on my plate, and so on.

August 16, school starts up again! Fall semester! Woo! I’m taking, of course, one class, Reference and Information Services, which focuses on how to conduct reference interviews with patrons and so on. I’m not entirely sure yet. I’m looking forward to it. And, of course, to becoming a rich and powerful librarian who travels the world hunting for rare and magical artifacts, rescuing them from the hands of evildoers, and storing them safely in the archives or returning them to their proper owners. I hope that I can start that process soon. But first, Reference and Information Services.

In other news, I started up a Patreon page. Why? Because when I do become a famous writer/librarian, you’ll want to be able to say, “I knew him when”. Whatever. If you want to sign up, the link is to the right.

That’s all for now. I hope to post more than once a month in the future. Still, though, I suppose once a month is better than never, right?

Okay, things may not be as weird as the title of this post advertised.

July Goals (and a mid-year wrap-up)

Gozilla Vs. Kong picture
You go first! No, you! No, you! I insist!

I chose this image of Godzilla and Kong duking it out because it reminds me of how multiple projects demand a writer’s attention. More on that later.

June Update: I did not accomplish everything I set out to do in June, but I came pretty close. I meant to work on And the Devil Will Drag You Under every day, but, of course, sometimes life gets in the way. I meant to fully revise “The BIM” (now “Witness to the Scourge”). I also meant to fully revise “Sauromancy”. Instead, though, I partially revised “Witness to the Scourge”, and I revised “Zombie Processes” and submitted it to a writer’s conference I’m attending in a couple of weeks. I did get quite a bit done, though, so I’m calling June a win.

Mid-year submissions wrap-up: I’ve been submitting short stories to various short fiction markets pretty regularly this past year. Every Monday and Thursday, in fact. I may have missed the odd day here and there, but I’ve always made up for it the following day. So, at this point, I’ve submitted 61 stories. The result? 40 form rejections, 6 personal rejections, 1 withdrawal, 0 acceptances, and 14 pending rejections  submissions. If I can keep this up all year, I’ll have over 100 submissions for the year. I’m hoping to get at least one acceptance over that time.

July goals: I signed up not for Camp NaNoWriMo, but for Dream Foundry’s “Summer Stretch”. I suppose I should sign up for Camp as well, but, well… I didn’t. At any rate, I do have a goal of adding at least 31,000 words to And the Devil Will Drag You Under in July, which will bring the grand total up to 60,000+ words. That means writing at least 1,000 words per day. That’s accomplishable.

The problem of multiple projects: I have several projects that I really want to work on. I’m committed to finishing Devil, but I was reminded recently of a novel I wanted to work on at one point, The Book of Jonah, a genre-centered retelling of the Biblical text of that name. A fun fact: I once stated (on LiveJournal, of all places!) that I considered Jonah to be the funniest book in the Bible. And Guy Consolmagno, the head of the Vatican Observatory, agreed with me! I was so thrilled! I had met him at WorldCon previously, and chatted with him (ever so briefly) about religion and science. Then I read his book, Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial, and when I met him again I mentioned it. And he said, “Oh yes, you’re the one who thought Jonah was funny.” I pretty much melted into a pile of goo right then and there.

Anyway, there’s that project. And my pirate novel, of course, which looks like it wants to be a trilogy. And my horror-themed space opera fantasy trilogy, too.

THEY ALL WANT TO BE WRITTEN. All of them are fighting, Godzilla-vs-Kong-like, for my attention. And the main point I want to tell them is that I need to finish my Devil novel first. Because that’s been my problem all along; I don’t tend to finish what I start writing. So I’m committed to And the Devil Will Drag You Under. I’m gonna finish that.

Of course, one unsung voice in the writer’s head at this point usually says something like, “Yeah, but what if the project I’m working on sucks? What if the next one would be good?” And that, sadly, is a very loud voice in my head. I should learn to ignore it. To a greater extent at least.

In other news: I am writing this on my new laptop! It runs Windows 10. Normally, I would have simply slapped Linux onto this computer and left Windows behind, but in this case, I wasn’t sure if Linux would be compatible with all the laptop’s features that I was interested in: the fingerprint authentication, the touch screen, and so on. But the Kubuntu install disk offered no option for dual-booting. So I went ahead and installed Kubuntu 21.04 in a virtual machine (Virtualbox, for those interested) in Windows. It’s a poor man’s Linux box, I suppose. But why? Because all my writing over the past many years has been done on a Linux computer, and my version of Scrivener is a Linux port, and so on. Besides, I really like Linux.

I’m just a nerd.

Anyway, that’s my update. I hope you’re having a good day. And my reward to you for reading this far is this: a picture of Godzilla stomping through a peaceful Thomas Kinkaide village:

Godzilla vs. Thomas Kinkaide
RAWR!!

June 2021 Goals

Life! Life! Give my creation life!

I’m including this photograph of Gene Wilder from Young Frankenstein because I know how he feels: Excited! Pumped! Full of possibility! Except I think this particular image is from after his creation did not come to life, in which case he feels bitter disappointment. And that’s how I kind of feel right now as well. I did not quite meet my writing goals from last month, so I’m a wee bit disappointed in myself.

I had set myself a goal of working regularly on my novel And the Devil Will Drag You Under, which Facebook tells me (via posts I’d made about it showing up in my Memories) I’ve been working on for more than a year. I’d hoped to make significant progress by now, but I fear that I have not. I readjusted my completion goal so that instead of June 10, I now aim to complete the rewrite by August 12. I have all of June to work on it, and I’m planning on using Camp NaNoWriMo in July to push through it.

I also had hoped revise a short story or two, namely “The B.I.M.” and “Sauromancy”, as well as draft a new story, tentatively called “Metolius Descending”. None of that happened. I did, however, do some revisions on a story called “Zombie Processes”, which I wrote a few years ago. After the revisions I did (basically a complete rewrite), I think it has great potential.

School, at least, is over for the summer, so I will have more time to write. I didn’t do as well in my final class as I’d hoped; my final research paper on the information-seeking behaviors of cryptozoologists did not receive very high marks. At least I got a B+ in the class, though. With SJSU’s MLIS program, a B- or less means you have to repeat the class, and if you don’t do any better the second time around, you’re subject to academic probation. None of that nonsense for me! I do wish I’d picked a different information community than cryptozoologists, however. This one was… problematic.

So, that’s me in a nutshell for now. I hope to write at least one more blog post this month, so that’s a goal. So is working regularly on the novel, and revising “The B.I.M.” We’ll see what happens.

How are you?

May 2021 Goals

Why an armillary? Why not? I just think it’s a cool picture.

Well, I did not end up submitting anything to the “Imagine 2200” contest from Grist magazine. The main reason for that is simply that I didn’t have a story ready in time. Solarpunk is a genre that I’m interested in, but I know very little about, and I certainly don’t know enough about it to write in that genre. The same goes for hopepunk. Both of these, I think, are genres that we need right now, and they’re better, in my mind, than the grimdark despairpunk that dominate science fiction and fantasy right now. I’m going to think more about this and see what I come up with. I’ll let you know.

I met my other goals, though. I got about halfway through the outline revision of And the Devil Will Drag You Under before deciding to just write it. I’m going to continue outlining as I go, which is what I normally do, but I’ll be using Jessica Brody’s Save the Cat! Writes a Novel method, which I’ve found really useful and inspiring so far.

I also continued my submission process, two per week, every Monday and Thursday. I think I may have missed a Thursday when my depression hit hard, but I made up for it the next day. Go me. This is an ongoing goal. Every Monday and Thursday, the submission of a story to a market.

I started writing a new short story, specifically for the Cascade Writers’ Conference in July that I’m participating in, thanks to a friend of mine who donated her spot to me. The story is woefully incomplete at this time but is due June 4. Either I finish the story or I don’t. I just want to have a sample of my current writing ability to submit, not a story that I wrote five or ten years ago. This story is science fiction, takes place in the far future, and so on. That’s all I will say about it. So that’s one goal: finish this short story.

I was going to revise my short story “Sauromancy” but did not get around to that. So boo on that. Upcoming, though, for May, I plan on revising both “Sauromancy” and “The B.I.M.” I didn’t get to them in April primarily most of my free time was taken up with school, but school will be over on May 9, so I’ll have more free time. Yay!

So that’s it for writing goals.

How are you?

 

Zombie Jesus Day Pt. 2

The shield of the Episcopal Church has nothing to do with writing.

In other news, I’ve decided that I’m not going to participate in Grist’s “Imagine 2200” writing contest. They’re going to require a certain expertise in climate fiction and science that I doubt I can acquire in just a week. That’s okay. There will be other contests and other opportunities. I will write a story in April since I’m going to the Cascade Writing Workshop in July and they need a writing sample and I don’t want to submit one of my older stories. So something will be written.


I was going to write a long blog post about my religious beliefs and how they’ve changed over the years, but if you’ve read my post Happy Zombie Jesus Day then you already know a lot of it. I will say that I believe in a Triune God, that God is so far beyond non-binary in gender that pronouns barely apply at all (seriously, in my experience human language is utterly inadequate to convey accurate notions of the Divine), and so on. I believe in the life, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus as well. What it all boils down to, I suppose, is that I have no problems with either the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed that the Episcopal Church recites during Eucharist.

Also, according to Episcopalian Robin Williams, the Top Ten Reasons to be an Episcopalian are:

10. No snake handling.
9. You can believe in dinosaurs.
8. Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.
7. You don’t have to check your brains at the door.
6. Pew aerobics.
5. Church year is color-coded.
4. Free wine on Sunday.
3. All of the pageantry — none of the guilt.
2. You don’t have to know how to swim to get baptized.
And the Number One reason to be an Episcopalian:
1. No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

I mean, sure I have questions and doubts. What is the nature of the afterlife? I don’t know. I believe there is one, and I believe that we’re all going to be surprised by who else has made it, but that’s it.

I believe that all are welcome at God’s table: straight, gay, trans, Episcopalian, Wiccan, white, Black, etc. The Baptismal Covenant of the Episcopal Church says to seek the essential dignity and the Christ within all humans.

But there is no proof for the existence of God. I know that. So essentially, I have to take it on faith that God exists. I have had enough “spiritual” experiences to be convinced personally, but I don’t expect my testimony to convert anyone else. It’s always questions and mysteries, all the way down, and eventually you realize that faith is a choice; maybe it’s fundamentally an irrational one (or, if you’re a Pascalian, the only rational one) that you make every day. For me, having faith helps make sense of the world around us, and my place in it and my relationship to other people and to the Earth itself.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I hope you all had a good Easter, or a good Sunday, or whichever major holy festival your faith observes.

April 2021 Goals

My God, it’s April already! Oh my God it’s 2021! How do these things happen?

I know, it’s all about time. Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana. Etc.

I didn’t meet all of my March goals. In review, I did launch Daikaijuzine 5 on March 21 the way I intended, so yay for that! I’ve also been meeting my school goals, so I win there as well.

Let’s talk about writing, though.

I did not complete the outline revision of And the Devil Will Drag You Under, but I made significant progress. So finishing that outline and beginning the rewrite is one goal for April.

I did not revise either “Sauromancy” or “The BIM” the way I had hoped I would, but I did revise “Mrs” and submitted that. No response from the market yet. Here’s hoping they like it.

I’ve also been submitting twice per week, every Monday and Thursday. So yay me for that! I intend to keep on doing that.

For more immediate goals, I intend to write and submit  short story to Grist Magazine’s “Imagine 2200” writing contest. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on April 12, so this will be tight, given that I have no idea what I’m going to write.

I think that’s it for my April goals. This coming Sunday is Easter, of course, which will be the perfect day to write about my religious beliefs, so look for that if that’s your sort of thing. Be well, and shoot for your goals!

 

Happy Zombie Jesus Day: A Spiritual Autobiography

Cover of Godspell soundtrack album
Cover of Godspell soundtrack album

I was driving around Sacramento today listening to the soundtrack for Godspell, the movie, as one does, and thinking about religion.

My relationship to religion is not that complicated, actually. Some of my earliest memories are of going to St. Jude’s Episcopal Church in Cupertino with my mom and sister and Grandma Crawford. Hm, maybe my aunt and uncle as well; I’m just not sure. I was pretty young. As I recall, there was an orchard near the church, and AA used to meet in the parsonage at night. As I recall, my family and I went there for a number of years, but switched to a different Episcopal church — I forget which one — later on.

In college, I occasionally went to St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Davis, simply because I felt at home there. Of course, while in college I dabbled in many faiths. I was a Wiccan for awhile (though that was probably more because I was into a girl who was a Wiccan than because of any spiritual conviction). For awhile, even, I signed up with IVCF, the Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship, which turned out to be far more conservative than I was comfortable with. I poked at Islám and still have two copies of the Qur’án. I studied Tao for awhile, and Zen Buddhism.

Symbol of the Bahai FaithFor a long while I explored the Bahá’i Faith. There’s much to recommend the Bahá’i Faith if you are a journeyer; they’re a spiritual successor to Islám, they are monotheistic, they teach the equality of all races and religions and sexes, and so on. I’m not sure how they feel about homosexuality and transgendered people. You’ll have to ask. Eventually I left them behind because I felt a call back to the Episcopal Church.

Of course I veered through the Methodist Church; Jennifer and I were married at the Dixon United Methodist Church and I have many fond memories of that place. But once we moved back to Sacramento, I felt a need to go back to my Episcopal roots, so I started attending Trinity Episcopal Cathedral downtown. Of course I haven’t been to church in over a year at this point. Stupid pandemic.

I’ll talk elsewhere about my actual belief system; suffice to say here that I’m still heavily influenced by certain Celtic beliefs and that the Episcopal Church is in my soul to stay.

Every now and then I’ll mention on social media that I have occasionally — in the distant past, not recently — considered going to seminary and studying to be a priest; and a couple of people have expressed surprise that I haven’t been to seminary. It’s true that I love the liturgy of the church and the scholarship, but I don’t have a pastoral bone in my body and would make because of that a very poor parish priest.

That’s it for this post. Carry on.

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