Thursday, August 30, 2007


Today, I finally registered for the 2008 Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference at Arizona State University. Orson Scott Card and Michael Stackpole are on faculty this time. OSC is teaching a class, and Stackpole is teaching the genre small group (workshopping) session.

I've wanted to meet Michael Stackpole for a long time because he is local to me. I was a student of OSC in 2005 when I attended his literary boot camp in Orem, Utah.

In other news, the Codex Writers Group is holding a captive contest. This one is a collaboration contest. There are 6 pairs of writers who have never worked together before trying to create some new genius. We have Writers of the Future winners, a Campbell Award nominee, and writers who have appeared in all the major genre magazines. I must confess that I'm thrilled with the writer I was matched with, but I won't yet say who this is.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dark and Light?

I've noticed something since I started writing--dark fiction seems to sell. Markets that specifiy dark fiction seem outnumber the others by a significant margin. It gets me wondering why.

This train of thought was brought about by some comments on the Darker Matter web site about my story Chaos Theory. This comment was made:

Wonderful story. I'm not at all disappointed that he didn't indulge in his darker side, although I'd expect to see stories of a darker nature in Darker Matter.

Followed by this from the editor:

It's an interesting point. I think Chaos Theory is almost certainly the least dark story DM has published so far. I was conscious of that when I chose it, but I enjoyed it so much I couldn't resist. It's also worth pointing out that the name "Darker Matter" is not intended to indicate that the magazine only publishes dark stories - it's just a bias.

All of which has me wondering if the readers out in general public (read non-writer readers) really want all the dark fiction that is available. I honestly don't know. My fiction tends to be the opposite of dark, that is, hopeful. I don't say light because that implies humor. While some of what I write is humorous, even slapstick, dramas still predominate. In my stories, the good guy almost always wins. Even today, when my own life is in a shambles and stress attacks from every direction, my fiction betrays me. I'm an optimistic person, and my fiction reflects it.

My impression is that my work is well received by readers who don't write. Even my darkest of stories, Oh, Mallary! ends with the main character at peace with himself. It seems I'm not wired to write dark fiction, in the same way I'm not wired to write literary. Utilitarian and fun, that's me.

It begs the question of what people really like to read. I don't think that is necessarily reflected by what editors buy, especially in short fiction. What do readers generally want from a read? It used to be escape. During the Great Deprssion and World War II, people wanted to get away from reality.

That sense of escape, though certainly still available, seems to have taken a back seat to literary credibility, as demonstrated by Harlan Ellison. You would be hard-pressed to find more talented master of the English language than Ellison, yet his fiction takes work to read. Drugs and pushing the boundaries were the word of the day.

Today, there really aren't any taboos left to break. What worked as a Dangerous Vision in 1968 isn't worth a blink today. If the literary way is the right way, why is J.K. Rowling wealthier than the Queen of England? Why? Harry Potter is fun. It's escapism.

I've been told on a number of occasions that a story of mine was fun to read, and not always the same story. That gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. What more could a writer want than to give the reader something fun? Why, then, is so much dark fiction out there?

Is today's science fiction, as a genre, too literary and pessimistic? Has it fallen far behind fantasy because that is now where the reader can have fun?

I think the pendulum is moving back in the direction of fun, and I submit the recent popularity of space opera as my example. Big, preposterous, and perhaps a bit melodramatic, but definitely fun.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Respite is Over

So much for our sub-hundred-degree days. Today and yesterday, the remnants of Hurricane Dean came roaring through the desert, leaving nary a drop of water on the ground, but plenty of humidity in the air. It also dropped our temperatures below 100 degrees for the weekend. We go back to 103 tomorrow, and upwards of 110 by the middle of the week.

We're one day short of tying the all-time record of 28 days at or above 110 degrees. We're this close, we might as well break it. We came pretty close already, several days at 109, but not enough to push us over the top. Such is the fate of a desert rat.

In other news, this weekend, my son told me he now likes Rush. "That guy's voice (Geddy Lee) is weird." My daughter, the newly-minted percussionist, also likes to watch my Rush DVDs so she can watch Neal Peart drumming. My oldest is too interested in painting her nails and shopping for shoes to care.

The short fiction sale drought continues. After 12 since December, it's been almost three months since my last sale. It's a crazy-bizarre business, writing is. Some of the stuff from the past six months is now coming to print. I've got my Tales of the Talisman story coming out in a couple of weeks. I'll see the editor, David Lee Summers, at Coppercon in two weeks. In the mean time, I need to find new markets for a couple of stories that came back. One is a novelette, and they're always hard to place.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Woahs of Homeownership

Sometimes, owning a home makes renting look attractive. Take this weekend, for instance. I got home from work friday, looking forward to taking my daughter to her percussion lesson and spending that half hour with Mr. Heinlein. Instead, I discovered $500 worth of air conditioner parts blew out. With a 109-degree day and an 88-year-old woman in the house, it had to be fixed. I stayed home and watched the repair guy.

The pool is green again, still having algea problems from last year when that numb-nuts repair guy underestimated the repair time of my pump by 8 days. Thought I had it licked this July, but the algea has come back with a vengeance during this hot, hot August. It's looking more and more like I'll need to drain the thing completely this winter. What a sinful waste of water in the desert.

Speaking of wasting water in the desert, I spent this morning replacing the guts of the solenoid valve that controls the front yard irrigation, then digging holes to replace a couple of sprinkler heads.

Haven't done much writing in the past few days between life events, home repairs, and help with homework. Mailbag recently, got back a couple of stories I don't know where to send next. One from Zahir, one from American Short Fiction.

The ASF sub was one of my few non-speculative offerings. Unfortunately for the story, I write more utilitarian than literary. That's a good thing, for the most part. I don't really do literary, it's not me. Not a lot of popular fiction can be called great literature, but it certainly makes people happy. Satisfying the reader is more important to me than becoming one of the greats of American literature. That's not going to happen, my prose is too transparent because I try to keep out of the way of the story. My fiction is not about me, it's about entertainment. If you enjoy the story, I consider it a great success.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Coppercon Schedule

Here is my schedule of appearances at Coppercon 27 September 7,8,9 at the Embassy Suites North on the southeast corner of I-17 (Black Canyon Freeway) and Greenway. This is my only convention for 2007.

My agenda is all Saturday.

Sat 10a-11a Suite D Humor in the Genre
with Bennie Grezlik (moderator), David Brown

Sat 2p-3p Suite E Big Ideas Were Our Mainstay
with Michael Contos (moderator), Bennie Grezlik

Sat 3p-4p Suite E Publishing Short Stories
with David Lee Summers (moderator), Jack Mangan

Sat 5p-530p Room 1123 Reading “Hole in the Wall”

HUMOR IN THE GENRE. What does it take to write successful humor? Is it in jokes? Wry observations by a character? Situational comedy?

BIG IDEAS WERE OUR MAINSTAY. It was the grand vision of space exploration that fueled our early science fiction. Does it still have an appeal or have we beat it to death? Are there any other grand visions out there that have universal appeal?

PUBLISHING SHORT STORIES: The first one is the hardest. Are you writing and unpublished? Two fiction writers and an editor discuss breaking into the short fiction market. They will discuss marketing techniques that work, what editors look for in a submission and other advice to help you on the road to publication.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Domestic Port???

Well, speak about not hearing back on submissions publicly in a blog and what happens? Two rejections within a few hours.

Spent some time working on the short story mentioned a few days ago. Made some little progress today.

It struck me that i my last post, I never wrote anything related to the title. Domestic Port. I'm working my way through a bottle of Christian Brothers ruby port. Technically, it isn't truly port because it's not Portuguese, but what can I say, it was on clearance. Ruby port is a bit sweet for my taste. All I can say is that it tastes a heck of a lot better than Christian Brothers cream sherry. I tried a bottle of that while I was still feeling my way around wine land. That stuff was enough to make me gag.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Domestic Port

Today was the first day in about a million years that I didn't leave the house. Grandma fell again, though adamantly she denies falling. Russell found her collapsed on the bathroom floor inthe doorway under the walker. I guess she found a comfortable place to have a seat.

I did get some work done, as in 1250 words on a new short story. It's involved in a captive Halloween contest on Codex Writers Group. I can't give any details as this is a blind contest. All I'll say is that there are hints of home.

Mail bag is still empty. It's been 9 days since my last rejection. Considering I have 34 stories in the market, that's a pretty long time. (I have 36 available, but I'm waiting on a response of one before I decide where to send the other two.)

The last one out the door was a new one called "Swirling Beneath One Thin Ring," which I sent to George Scithers at Cat Tales. Though I've already sold my obigatory cat story to The Written Word, I wrote another one. It's about a genetically enhanced cat working on a gas mine at Jupiter. It's in first perons and written in the form of a journal.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


The family is settling in for another school year. Audrey is in honor band at Desert Shadows Middle School. She's playing flute and piccolo.

Reanna changed instruments after her oral surgery. She stopped playing clarinet and is now a percussionist. She started lessons with glockenspiel a few weeks ago. Looks like we may have started something because for three years there were no bell players at Sonorn Sky Elementary. I asked the band teacher to see if she could get one in the classroom so Reanna doesn't have to carry hers on the bus as it's quite heavy for a little girl. Suddenly this year, the beginner band percussion students MUST start on bells. Go figure.

Russell finally gets to join band. The school district dropped 4th grade band last year. He'll be playing cornet.