The Fictorians

Tesseracts 18: Wrestling with Gods – Where Sci-Fi and Religion Meet

8 December 2014 | No Comments » | mary

The newest volume of the Aurora-Award winning Tesseracts series is available online today!

T-18-Cover-270x417-100dpi-C8Tesseracts 18: Wrestling with Gods examines the intersection between speculative fiction and religion. It’s my honour to be part of this prestigious series with a story entitled Burnt Offerings.

Corporal Pasharan was destined to spend the rest of his life in a military sanitarium were it not for his tale of a near-death experience with a god. Now sanctified as a Shaman, he’s been equipped with cutting-edge technology and the freedom of cyberspace. He can never dare admit that his tale was a fabrication, or that he remains unconvinced about the existence of any form of deity. When a young soldier converts to another religion and risks the wrath of her theo-political superiors, Shaman Pasharan must find his own kind of faith to make a choice between truth and power.

The title of the anthology was a big inspiration: Wrestling with Gods. I knew I wanted to write about a character whose relationship with his faith wasn’t an easy one. I started thinking: what would it be like for an agnostic character in a ministerial job? What if he didn’t have the luxury of resigning over his doubts, because he counted on that job not just for livelihood but survival? That got me thinking about the intersection between faith and power; between privilege and faith; between speaking the truth and the fact that honesty can sometimes get people killed when the wrong folks are listening.

For the main character’s dependency on his job: I had a hemiplegic migraine one day and decided to waste time on the internet. A while later I realized: here I am chatting to people who don’t even realize I’m sick. Nobody notices facial droop or slurred words on the computer, and I had a lot of fun despite being in no fit shape to go anywhere. I put that experience into my main character as well: he’s severely disabled, but his role as Shaman to a technology god gives him this incredible power and authority in a virtual environment. And yet all the time he’s very aware that his physical body makes him face pain, limitations, and dependency on others.
I’m a Wiccan with primarily Christian family and in-laws, and I have an amazing family that believes in respectful discussion and mutual understanding. In the real world, I’ve seen cases of people horribly persecuted just for being Christian, and cases of people who call themselves Christian harassing and demonizing people of other faiths. I think every faith is capable of having both immense good and immense evil done in its name, and I tried to represent this in my story. The theo-political complex my main character lives under is a Pagan religion. The Kin are my idea of what an organized, institutionalized, corrupt Paganism would look like, and they’re kind of a mixture of Asatru and Catholicism with a bit of eclectic Paganism thrown in.

You can get your own copy of Wrestling with Gods today on Amazon Kindle. Paper copies will be available starting in March (Canada) and April (US).

I Am So SICK of This Manuscript, and That’s a Good Thing

5 December 2014 | No Comments » | Gregory D. Little

I recently finished a grueling slog through edits to my work-in-progress. It was a finale months in coming, not because it should have taken so long, per se, but because in between receiving the edits and finishing them, my wife and I bought and moved into our first house. As it turns out, I only thought I hated moving before. So I finished up the edits, months behind my personally imposed schedule, and then what do I do? I go right back to the beginning and start through again, because in fixing the manuscript before, I introduced a ton of continuity errors and some (lots of) typos.

Ugh. I am so SICK of this manuscript.

This year was supposed to go differently. I was supposed to be finishing up my beta-ready draft of the sequel, not still plugging away at edits on the first. The constant push to worry about what agents, editors and readers might want, what they’d find acceptable, was beginning to feel stifling. I wasn’t enjoying myself. Then I had a realization. It was okay that I was so far behind where I wanted to be. In paying for professional editorial help for my manuscript (thanks, Joshua!) I learned I didn’t really know how to edit before. I’d thought I did, but Joshua’s edits showed me the light. The painful, blinding, burning light. So this was a grueling but very necessary learning experience.

I am so sick of this manuscript, but I am in good company. Patrick Rothfuss has talked on his blog about how sick he gets of his manuscripts as his editing winds down. So when I started to feel the same way, I took it as a sign that it was finally nearing completion. This book (my third) is going to be my first to be published. I know that, not through some metaphysical sense of surety, but because if I can’t find an agent or editor who believes in it, I’m going to publish it myself. Because I believe in it. It’s finally good enough, finally ready. And that’s a pretty cool thing to consider.

In the meantime, I’ve made myself a promise. In addition to churning through the sequel in 2015, I’m going to work on a project in which I impose no restrictions on myself, creative or otherwise, a project never intended for publication. So this is me, getting an early start on goal-setting for the next year. One book published, two written. I’ll let you all know how it goes. :-)

And Then Life Happened

4 December 2014 | 1 Comment » | Leigh Galbreath

So, I made, what I thought, was a fairly easy goal in January. Focus on improving on my weaknesses as a writer. It’s not like there aren’t a dozen different ways I could satisfy this goal: read a craft book, take a class, revise an existing work and give it to a friend for them to say, “Yeah, this is better.” I mean, honestly, this one even seems ripe for rationalizing how an action only tangentially related could be applied so I could say, “Yes. I made my goal.”

But I must be honest.

Books read: 0

Classes taken: Nada.

Friends who have read a revision to make me feel better: Niet.

My only defense in this, my great failure at such an easy task? You know that saying about how life happens when you’re making other plans?

This year has been a bad one helath-wise for me. I’ve suddenly become plagued with half a dozen, seemingly unrelated problems, the big one being that I’ve developed asthma due to allergies, which I’ve been plagued with most my life. Apparently, my allergies have shifted so that I’m now allergic to mold and cats. I own two cats and live in Houston (where it’s humid most the year and the mold count skyrockets every time it rains…and it rains a lot). Add to that a few other issues I won’t bore you with, and the result is that I don’t feel well most the time. And just as I thought one issue was figured out, something else went wrong.

Seriously, I’m too young for my body to be falling apart all of a sudden.

Suffice it to say, it’s hard to focus on writing when it feels like an elephant is sitting on my chest. Taking classes isn’t the easiest thing to do when all the money’s going to doctor’s visits and medicine.

We writers and our health – what’s up with that?

I’ve heard people talk about how we have to be careful with our health, because writing is a pretty sedentary line of work. It’s easy to lose track and end up gaining weight and not getting enough exercise, thus bringing on the host of health problems that come with it. Plus there are the writer-specific issues, like repetitive motion injuries and such.

What I don’t hear often, though is how it can stunt creativity, and in the end, sap the desire to be creative. Let’s face it, pain is exhausting, and creativity needs energy behind it. Psychologically, feeling bad all the time makes it very hard to feel good about much of anything—even something I love like writing.

But, things are looking up, as that medical issues get sorted, and I have kept writing, albeit slowly, sometimes painfully. At this point, anything is better than nothing, and I’m addicted to the written word, so I’m not going to be able to stop writing, even if it’s makes it harder to stay healthy, for whatever reason.

It’s the nice thing about writing—it can happily wait out those curve-balls life throws at us. Sure, I still didn’t meet my goals for the year, but I think I have a pretty good excuse. The thing that makes me feel not so bad though is that it’s not like I’ve set a hard deadline. Pretty much, the only real deadline is when I finally kick the bucket. There’s nothing that says I can’t just start again now, so it’s not a lost cause and I’m not a total failure. Yet.

Choosing Your Battles

3 December 2014 | No Comments » | mary

2014 has brought me an odd mixture of success beyond expectation and abject failure.

fossilMy goals for 2014 were to duplicate my short story sales for 2013 (six stories, five under my real name) and to complete a novel.

Over the past year, I’ve sold eight speculative fiction short stories under my own name, and an additional two stories and a novella in another genre under a pseudonym.

And I haven’t come anywhere close to completing a novel, though I have two partial attempts and several outlines.

In 2015, my goal is to choose my battles.

I’ve already set parameters for my short story submissions. As a rule, I submit only to paying markets. (I do allow for exceptions—for example, if proceeds from sales go to support a charity I feel passionate about, I’m willing to write a story in lieu of a donation to the cause). But overall, at this point in my career, I feel my writing is strong enough that I should be earning money in exchange for my work, not just a free copy of the finished product.

This statement is not to denigrate anyone who is writing as a hobby. I spent many years writing fan fiction and giving it away for free. For myself though, last year, I decided that if I’m good enough to be paid and I want to earn some of my living this way, I needed to to focus my efforts on markets that represent income opportunities.

I’m excited to have my first SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America)-qualifying story coming out in the second half of 2015. It’s a short story called “Folk Hero” that will be appearing in Apex Magazine.

KITSLIn 2015, I want to refine my parameters further. I want to limit my short story writing and focus it on pro markets.

This plan is going to be challenging for me. Pro markets are highly competitive. I may not make six sales in 2015. However, I am at a point in my career where quality is more important than quantity.

I want to take a large portion of the time I spent on short stories this year, and spend it on completing a novel. I’d also like to do another novella under my pseudonym.

Long term, I believe novels represent the best income opportunities. I don’t regret spending the past two years focusing on short stories. The short stories have given me the opportunity to practice writing story arcs, strengthen my beginnings and endings, and explore different genres. They have forced me to learn to be concise: to introduce characters, establish their world, and immerse the reader in their conflict, with a minimum of wordiness or filler. And they have provided me with validation. I can do this. I can sell my writing. I have seen my work in print.

Validation, though, has a dark side. It would be relatively easy, I think, for me to set and meet a goal to replicate my 2014 success in 2015. It would make me feel good. Short term, it would make me feel better than dedicating my year to a novel. Long term, though, I see my career focusing on novels. It’s time for me to play the long game and focus on long-term rewards.

I have my validation. In 2015, it’s time to move on and take another step towards making that vision a reality.

In January I wrote about the importance of maintaining one’s health. In December, I think I’ve done well in that regard. I suffered hand and wrist injury in the summer, recovered in the fall, and now use a brace to prevent future injuries. I’ve struck a balance between a part time job, a sustaining family life, and accomplishing my writing goals. Health-wise, I’m in a good place to achieve my goals in 2015.


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