Writing and publishing update

It seems like ages since I gave a writing (or publishing?) report, but here it is. In August my short story “The 24 Hour Brother” will appear in the new issue of Bantam Spectra Pulse. At the end of November, my second novel, The Love We Share Without Knowing will be released by Bantam Books (very excited, very anxious, very everything, as usual, about the release of a new book). In December, a short story called “A Thousand Tails” (also a section of the second novel) will appear in Firebirds Soaring, a YA anthology edited by Sharyn November. And today, I found out that my novelette “The Ghost Hunter’s Beautiful Daughter” (set in Warren, Ohio, for local readers) will appear in the October/November 2009 issue of Asimov’s. This is the first time I’ve sold a short story to Asimov’s, and I’m really happy and excited to see a story of mine appear there.

More later as it happens.

On wanting to do better

A little while back I wrote an entry in this journal about not feeling very good about how things were proceeding in my third book, and about a kind of depression it’s induced for me over the past couple of months. I feel like I’ve spent much of this summer banging my head against my own writing, and walking away for breaks, hoping to come back to things I’ve written and not feel an innate compulsion to bang my head against them as I’d been doing. Mostly this period of frustration has served to make me feel confused and not as confident about myself as a writer as I’d like to be. I think most writers probably go through this at various stages of development. I know it’s something that I’ve gone through at different periods of my life since I was in my late teens, always in regards to my writing. Always I’d suddenly find myself unsatisfied with what I’d been doing up to whenever one of these sorts of periods would begin, and I’d have to just sit and stew, wait things out while I let whatever issue was bothering me sort itself out in my back brain. I think it had simply been a while since I’d gone through one of these periods that I’d forgotten how full of anguish and confusion and anxiety they can be. I think I’d forgotten what these sorting-out periods even looked like. Lately, though, I’ve been a bit more at ease (not as much as I’d like to be) because what I know about these periods is that they are often the mark of a developmental phase for me, where I’m trying to figure out how to do something new or different, or how to do something I already do, but do it better. I think that’s where much of the dissatisfaction comes from, a sort of leap that’s already been made though I haven’t realized it, but I can see the gap in writing I’ve already done with whatever it is I’m figuring out how to do or do better. Usually, at a certain point, what’s bubbling in my unconscious makes its way to the surface and becomes realized in what I’m working on or begin working on at that point. And this is what has been the cause of my turmoil lately. And what I’m relearning about all this is that it hurts to learn, because when you learn something, really learn something, it sends ripples through every other thing that’s connected to it, and changes those things too. And changing, I think most of us can agree, is a difficult thing to do. In the end, though, in regards to this sort of frustrating period, I’m fine with this, because it means I’m still striving, still wanting to do better than I have been, still trying to learn how to become a better writer. I’m okay with that. As the youngest of three, and as someone who was sort of an adolescent for a lot longer than I think we’re supposed to be, I have gotten used to growing up in front of others, gotten used to other people watching me make mistakes or fall down and cry or embarrass myself somehow, usually due to lack of knowledge or experience or both, on any variety of occasions. But I haven’t let any of those humbling occurrences stop me from trying to get better, and I think they’ve made me into a person who wants to do better and learn how to do something different whenever I’ve gotten to a point where I’ve grown too comfortable. So I’m less depressed now that I’ve remembered what all this is that I’ve been going through. Now the fun part begins: the start of a new direction.

Who wants to read about that?

Colleen Mondor is one of my favorite bloggers on YA literature, as well as a variety of other sorts of topics.  Here she is talking about the need for more YA literature (and I add to this the need for any sort of literature) to consider this incredibly ignored and swept-under-the-rug (at least here in America) aspect of our lives:

If you don’t read about kids in your economic strata who make it, who study great subjects, or build great things, or create great art, then you don’t think you can either. If you don’t see success for those from “your world” reflected on tv or in movies or in books then you will come to believe that certain – or maybe all – levels of success are not possible for you.

You will never be rich enough to be anything.

There are certainly some excellent books out there today that reflect the current economic situation for the majority of Americans (and I will be posting on some of them next month), but there are not nearly enough. That is what we should be talking about. Why do writers continue to write above the means of the average American kid and why do kids continue to want to read them?

Why must it so often be about the life you do not have, instead of the one you should aspire to?

Click here to read the entire entry and the lively conversation in the comments section at Colleen’s place.

A word about voices

What kind of writer are you?  What do you write? Questions that authors are often asked, these.  What do I say when someone asks me?  It depends, really, on however I’m feeling that day, I think.  Sometimes I say I write fantasies set in the visible world, or sometimes I’ll say that I write about everyday people and their struggles, or sometimes I say I write imaginary autobiographies, the paths I didn’t take but might have.  But an answer that I’ve never said when asked this sort of question is, I write voices.

I’m thinking about this because, for me, writing is largely a voice driven activity.  It’s a practice in listening.  Before I can write anything, I have to be able to hear the voice of the story.  Even if I have the idea, imagery, a setting, characters, a general direction for the plot to go in (because I am so not a plotter but a follower of where the voice of the story leads me).  If I don’t have a voice, none of the other aspects of telling a story can go anywhere, and when I try to force it, it all comes out looking like everything a story needs is there, but I can’t seem to love this sort of making.  It’s still missing something, an engine.

But what exactly is voice?  I think it may be something like what Virginia Woolf is quoted as writing in a letter, that it isn’t until she knows the rhythm of her words, her sentences and paragraphs, that she can write a book, and after that, everything else seems to just come to her.  This makes sense to me.  It’s how the process of writing most often feels to me.  When I’m controlling, when I’m deliberating consciously and making choices before I’ve allowed the voice to come to its own conclusions, it all feels hollow, and I lose interest.  That is a sort of mind for me to be in after I’ve found my way to the end of something, when I am ready to go back through the wilderness the voice created for me, and then, after touring the wreckage of a dream, can I begin to make sense of it, deliberating consciously, making choices, selecting, controlling.  Taking possession of what the voice gave me.

It’s the voice that brings the rhythms, and the rhythms that bring the setting, the characters who inhabit it, who are shaped by it, and the imagery and tone and subtle shadings, and the direction of the story, the plot and general vision.  It is a way of seeing, listening.  When I listen and hear the voice of the story, everything else seems to just come to me.

Locus Interview

The good folks at Locus Magazine are offering a deal for the latest issue, which features an interview with yours truly talking about everything from my first novel to my second novel, from Youngstown to Japan.  Order the issue with the full interview in Locus postage free (a savings of $3.00) or completely free with a subscription! To receive this special deal, click here.

Atama Yama

Due to extreme curiosity inspired by my Japanese translator’s comments in the previous post, I sought out this amazing Japanese animated short film on YouTube, and thought it was absolutely beautiful. So of course I have to share it here.

Meanwhile, back in Japan

But before I go, my Japanese mom sent pictures of the new issue of Hayakawa SF in Japan, which features stories by Barth Anderson, Ekaterina Sedia, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Holly Phillips, Alan Deniro, and myself. Here are pics of the magazine, and also the illustrations for Alan’s story, Tetrarchs (originally published in Strange Horizons), and my story, The Guardian of the Egg (originally published in Salon Fantastique and then reprinted here, too, at The Journal of Mythic Arts).  Art the illustrations way cool?  If you’re in Japan, get a copy and let me know what you think of the issue.  僕は早川SFが大好き!

Out of here

I was contacted recently to come up and teach at the Imagination Writing Conference at Cleveland State University again, this time as a replacement instructor, as the one they’d intended didn’t work out, so I’ll be away for the next week. Running around like crazy trying to do all the errands I thought I’d pace out throughout this week but now have to do today and tomorrow, so if I’m late in responding to any e-mails, I hope you read this note and know that it’s not because of you!