Cattle Futures

My story Cattle Futures is now available to read at the 99 Pine Street Literary Journal. Many of my stories come out of a collection separate ideas that I sew together, Dr. Frankenstein like, into a unique creature.

Remember FarmVille? A few years back it was the most popular game on Facebook, and even though I have zero interest in playing games on my social networks, I would see these little bright green fields in my feed as others played. I was fascinated by the idea of thousands of people growing crops and caring for flocks and herds of farm animals that were all just flickering pixels on their screens.

And people were spending real money inside the game, which seemed like a natural enough progression, especially when you look at how money, goods and stock are traded today. Screens dominate the floor of modern stock markets, and prodigious computing power is devoted to mediating their daily business. Everything under the sun is traded largely via flickering screens. It seems ephemeral, yet very real fortunes are made and lost every day in the markets.

Around this time there were also some news stories circulating about efforts to grow beef in the lab. So far this is still extraordinarily expensive, but if the process could be scaled up there is real potential to create solutions that might feed the world’s growing population while being more humane to livestock animals and using up less water and land resources. It’s a very science fictional idea on it’s own. Kind of feels like we’re one step closer to a food replicator.

Add a family trip to Carlsbad Caverns, mix well, and Cattle Futures was the result. I enjoyed writing it immensely and am delighted that it found a home at 99 Pine Street. Be sure to stick around and check the other stories, artwork and poetry.

Getting Stuck, Reimagining, and Moving Forward

The African violet budding on my kitchen windowsill; these flowers, like my novel are growing but still hidden in their potential state.
A couple weekends ago, I attended a half-day novel workshop with Kij Johnson in San Antonio, and it was wonderful! Kij is a wellspring of writing knowledge. The format of the workshop was inspiring. After going over some general principles, each attendee presented a summary of our novel-in-progress, then described the problem or difficulty we were facing. Kij offered specific, actionableadvice to each of us, then opened the conversation up so that we could all brainstorm solutions for each other.
Just hearing the breadth of problems that a dozen writers are wrestling with was weirdly inspiring. Maybe it was the simple affirmation that most of us (certainly everyone in that room) struggle with this complicated, wonderful, maddening thing called a novel.
Writing a novel is an endurance event. They are so much larger in scope than a short story and truly different in kind. Short stories can rely on, and often benefit from, leaving much unsaid, and encouraging the reader to discover the meaning on her own. Alternatively, you can aim directly at the target and that can work too. Novels, being longer, can be more meandering, more inclusive, more complex. After spending so much time writing short stories, I’m finding that a challenge.
I’m about a quarter of the way into my novel, Izzy Crow, which means I have now arrived at the very beginning of the dreaded middle. Many elements of the events that I so cavalierly put in the opening are now coming due. Because a novel is so much bigger, I feel like I’m learning to juggle or spin a dozen plates, and I can’t quite keep everything in the air yet.
After running my troubles through the patented Kij Johnson wringer, I can see that I will have to trash my beloved first scene (kill your darlings), but that decision allows me to re-envision the whole story in a way that suggests more layers. So, I’ll be throwing some words out and repurposing many more, but I believe I’ll have a deeper novel when I’m finished.

Kij Johnson teaches a two-week version of this workshop at the Gunn Center for Study of Science Fiction. If you’ve been working on a novel and are not sure how to proceed, I would highly recommend it. She’s taking applications right now!

In other business:

You can read my thoughts on the excellent Vestal Review at The Review Review.

Flash Fiction Online included my Diorama story included in their Annual Anthology along with over 30 other amazing flash fiction stories.

My story “Cattle Futures” is forthcoming in February at the lovely 99 Pine Street Literary Journal. I’m delighted that this story found such a lovely home. I will post a direct link as soon as it becomes available.

Rule #4

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” ~ Wayne Gretzky
“Why are you making me hold this envelope?” ~ my daughter

Remember Heinlein’s rule number four?

“You must put the work on the market.”

I’ve been trying to keep it simple: Keep working, keep trying to get better, and keep sending stories out there. And now, all of a sudden, I have a spate of forthcoming stories! This is no overnight success story. I got serious about writing again in 2011 and have been writing and revising and sending stories out ever since. What has kept me going for nearly three years has been the process of constantly creating new work. Of course, acceptances and publications are the goal. I can’t wait to see these stories out in the world and to hear what people think of them – hot, cold, and lukewarm. But, I also feel that getting published is the frosting on the cake. The cake is the work. The work is the constant and truly it’s own reward.

The Horses will be appearing in Every Day Fiction in June. I like this webzine at least as much as Daily Science Fiction. Every Day Fiction is less genre bound, so there is always a good variety of stories, and they’re always under a thousand words.

Futile the Winds will be appearing in Interzone – tentatively slated for their July issue (247)! This, for all intents and purposes, is my first professional sale. It will be the first time my work will be in a non-on-demand print publication, available on newsstands and in bookstores! And what a gorgeous publication it is, as you can see by the cover of the current issue. I cannot wait to see the artwork for my story.

Cattle Futures is slated to appear in Stupefying Stories special Wild Weird West Anthology, tentatively scheduled for release in July.

Beata Beatrix will be appearing in Bourbon Penn (another gorgeous zine), hopefully in their next issue.

I’ll post with links as the individual stories become available. Until then, back to work restocking the inventory! I’ll leave you with the thought that’s been going through my head this week: