Month: August 2011

Trying not to be a princess writer.

So I’ve been kind of messed up in the head this week.  I feel like it’s a constant theme:  writer goes haywire, drags herself back from the brink of despair, moves on.  I guess there are worse themes.  Objectively speaking, it does get easer.  Knowing that whatever it is I’m stressing about will probably be resolved by patience helps.  Talking about it after the fact helps, because one of the worst things for me to do is to keep my mouth shut about something for an extended period of time.  “I’m depressed about x, and I’m depressed that I’m so terrible that I can’t share it, which makes me more depressed about x.”

1) I haven’t gotten any further writing on Exotics 4 done.  For some reason, my head is so full of short stories that I can’t think straight.  I’m just going to write them and get it over with.

2) I’m convinced that my current short stories suck.  Just something awful.  Logically, they probably don’t.  I was telling the plots of some of them to Lee last night, and he sounded interested, even though internally I’m going, “Lame, lame, lame.”  I wish I could identify what it is I don’t like about them (or what’s disturbing me about them), but I can’t seem to get past that lame.  Now, if I look at them with my publisher hat on, they’re fine.  Not the best, but fine.  Writer hat = lame.

3) Sales have been steady, even though I’m adding more ebooks.  Waaaah!  More ebooks should = more numbers, right?  But crap, I’ve been doing this for five months now.  What?  It’s not all hearts and flowers yet?   Sheesh.  But in some ways, I feel like I’m letting people down.  I said it wasn’t easy, but it was supposed to be easier than this, right?  My numbers totally dropped when I started sending my family and friends my ebooks…which is both good and bad.  Bad, because my numbers are down.  Good, because I have a better sense of how I’m doing.

4) I got annoyed at the amount of crap that was filling my inbox, so I’ve been on a mission to unsubscribe this week.  It’s crazy how resistant I’ve been.  Too many newsletters, coupons, etc., and I don’t want to give any of them up.

5) I hit 100 rejections…er, either yesterday or the day before, I forget which.  I’ve continued to post all those on Twitter, which gets me about one comment per rejection:  “Why on earth are you doing this?”  And then I get to explain that on my last push to get short stories published, I gave up after 12 or so.  I feel like people try to hide their failures too much; it gets into this vicious cycle where people try to be “professional” by concealing how hard this stuff is, then see that nobody else is talking, and assume that they’re a failure because nobody else is talking about how hard it is.  Ah, I could go on about that all day.

One professional writer told me to knock it off because it makes me look bad, but I won’t; even if it does, it’s what I believe in.

I stopped tracking novel rejections, but believe me I still get them.  (I didn’t set a goal for novel rejections this year, because I decided that I only wanted to submit to my top picks before I self published.)  For some reason, part of what helped me get out of the mood of earlier this week was hitting that number.  “I may not be breaking into pro markets,” I said, “but I’m beating the hell out of that wall.”  I have about 25 stories up on average; I have 29 right now.

I keep wishing I had some brief burst of success to pull me out of my funk.  The white knight of acceptance or a burst of sales.  But, when I think about it, I don’t want to be some kind of princess writer who has to be rescued, but the kind of person who can keep myself sane and entertained.  Well, with the help of Lee and Ray and my friends and the kindness of strangers.  But we all need that kind of thing.

 

Blind Spot

Now at Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and OmniLit.

Try to catch the Smashwords free coupon code out of the corner of your eye….there it is:  VD39W. This weekend only.

Blind Spot

DeAnna Knippling

She sees art.  He sees technology worth killing for.

An artist who sees what nobody else sees:  the visual code generated by the eye’s own blind spot.  A VR developer who sees the possiblities–including the threat to her life.

“I can’t see myself,” Thomas said, raising his hand to touch the Mirror. The reflected room behind him was pale gray and filled with a line of guests, each craning their necks to see around him. It was a terrible sight, and he smiled in delight even as his eyes filled with tears. His body grieved for the lack of himself, the knowledge of how little he mattered, even as he felt like crowing with joy.

“Sir.” The guard shook his head. “Don’t touch.” He’d been saying it through the whole opening, no doubt, to incredulous guests trying to touch the work of art or science or whatever it was. Keeping people far back enough from the frame so they didn’t spill wine on it when it clicked.

“How?” Thomas asked, knowing that the guard couldn’t answer the question, but unable to stop himself.

“Read the sign, sir,” the guard said.

Thomas laughed under his breath. It wasn’t what he’d wanted to know, but he bent toward the sign anyway; he would have seemed out of place otherwise.

Why can’t you see yourself in “The Mirror of the World without You”?

The sign explained, in language a ten-year-old could understand, that it wasn’t a mirror but a television. Cameras in the television screen itself—which had originally been part of a console gaming system—recorded the images that surrounded the screen and projected them.

The real trick was in the way the cameras removed the viewer’s image from the screen. The cameras didn’t just edit out the image of the viewer—which would have removed all people from the image—but placed a subtle pattern layer over all moving objects. The pattern was cued to align with the orientation of the eyes of each object, if it had any, and simulated the sensory data the eyes sent to the brain from the area directly over the optic nerve, or blind spot.

The brain saw the pattern, interpreted it as the eye’s blind spot, and filled it in with what it calculated to be the correct images. The brain, trained to compensate for its own shortcomings, erased anything coded with what seemed to be the same pattern, rendering it invisible.

It was essentially an optical illusion, if a very sophisticated one. It worked wonderfully. As Thomas finished reading the sign, he peeked at the Mirror out of the corner of his eye, trying to get a glimpse of himself. The cameras tracked his gaze quickly, but he was able to catch a white wisp that faded like a breath on glass. It was creepy.

The woman behind him was having a completely different reaction. She was standing with her hands on her hips and grinning, making faces at herself. “Nobody can see me! I can do whatever I want! Nyaaa!” She stuck her tongue out.

But of course Thomas and the other guests could still see her, both in real life and in the mirror; each person only failed to see themselves.

 

Month Long Read-a-Thon (September)

I’m going to be in Back of the Book Reviews’ Month Long Read-a-Thon in September, featuring Chance Damnation (probably including a trade paper giveaway, if I can get the galley fixed in time).  There will be a bunch of recommendations, a bunch of giveaways, and a bunch of prizes for mighty readers.  More news as I get it.

Blind Spot

Now at Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and OmniLit.

Try to catch the Smashwords free coupon code out of the corner of your eye….there it is:  VD39W. This weekend only.

Blind Spot

DeAnna Knippling

She sees art.  He sees technology worth killing for.

An artist who sees what nobody else sees:  the visual code generated by the eye’s own blind spot.  A VR developer who sees the possiblities–including the threat to her life.

“I can’t see myself,” Thomas said, raising his hand to touch the Mirror. The reflected room behind him was pale gray and filled with a line of guests, each craning their necks to see around him. It was a terrible sight, and he smiled in delight even as his eyes filled with tears. His body grieved for the lack of himself, the knowledge of how little he mattered, even as he felt like crowing with joy.

“Sir.” The guard shook his head. “Don’t touch.” He’d been saying it through the whole opening, no doubt, to incredulous guests trying to touch the work of art or science or whatever it was. Keeping people far back enough from the frame so they didn’t spill wine on it when it clicked.

“How?” Thomas asked, knowing that the guard couldn’t answer the question, but unable to stop himself.

“Read the sign, sir,” the guard said.

Thomas laughed under his breath. It wasn’t what he’d wanted to know, but he bent toward the sign anyway; he would have seemed out of place otherwise.

Why can’t you see yourself in “The Mirror of the World without You”?

The sign explained, in language a ten-year-old could understand, that it wasn’t a mirror but a television. Cameras in the television screen itself—which had originally been part of a console gaming system—recorded the images that surrounded the screen and projected them.

The real trick was in the way the cameras removed the viewer’s image from the screen. The cameras didn’t just edit out the image of the viewer—which would have removed all people from the image—but placed a subtle pattern layer over all moving objects. The pattern was cued to align with the orientation of the eyes of each object, if it had any, and simulated the sensory data the eyes sent to the brain from the area directly over the optic nerve, or blind spot.

The brain saw the pattern, interpreted it as the eye’s blind spot, and filled it in with what it calculated to be the correct images. The brain, trained to compensate for its own shortcomings, erased anything coded with what seemed to be the same pattern, rendering it invisible.

It was essentially an optical illusion, if a very sophisticated one. It worked wonderfully. As Thomas finished reading the sign, he peeked at the Mirror out of the corner of his eye, trying to get a glimpse of himself. The cameras tracked his gaze quickly, but he was able to catch a white wisp that faded like a breath on glass. It was creepy.

The woman behind him was having a completely different reaction. She was standing with her hands on her hips and grinning, making faces at herself. “Nobody can see me! I can do whatever I want! Nyaaa!” She stuck her tongue out.

But of course Thomas and the other guests could still see her, both in real life and in the mirror; each person only failed to see themselves.

Back from Road Trip.

Man.  I thought I was going to be able to keep up with things while I was on this road trip, but that was just not the case.  I was pretty fried, though.

Tony is Lee’s son from twenty-five years ago, and the mom told him she didn’t want him to have anything to do with the baby’s life, so he didn’t, which pissed her off.  From what I’ve heard, though, it’s a good thing that Lee’s back now.  They’re so similar that they’re more like brothers than anything else, I guess.  I feel more or less the same about Tony as I did when I met Mike and Dale, anyway.  Tony is, I don’t know, more reserved than they are, though, so I don’t feel like I know him as well as I do those two, even after first meeting them.  Maybe it’s the awkwardness of being a mother-in-law, or just a mother, or that he didn’t know Lee for years and years.  Mike and Dale were all blah blah blah, did you know about this horribly embarrassing thing that Lee did when he was eight kind of thing.

Brittney, I think, has found her niche in being a preschool teacher.  I like her but I have to laugh, because it’s so foreign.  She does craft projects.  She terrorizes little kids into being good, when they’re coming from some pretty harsh backgrounds.  She has me crying TMI…not often, but yeah.  I forget what it was but it was something about farting, maybe.  She can’t spell to save her life yet reads all kinds of books and likes sad endings because they’re more realistic.  I guess you’d have to meet her to understand, because it’s hard to explain.  A sensible battle maiden type?  Hugs for the kids, an axe to the jerks, and burn the house down because you don’t feel like cleaning it.

They do well together, but they pick on each other constantly, if seemingly affectionately.  They had their first anniversary while they were out here, both of their wedding and losing their unborn baby together.  They both seemed to take it pretty well, but I got a little wound up about it and had to calm down.

The little things that Tony does that are just like Lee are uncanny.  Hating water, the kinds of foods they like, music.  It’s like they’re twins sometimes.  Tony seems, if anything, even more Russian-Cossack looking than Lee does.  I can just see this huge bear of a guy with shiny leather boots doing the dance with his buddies.  At twenty-five, he has more of a beard than most men will at fifty.  The genes speak true, I guess.

We went back through Omaha, which was tricky.  The bridges to I-29 are out, which hadn’t really clicked until we’d been cut off twice from getting back to the Interstate, so we drove back through Missouri Valley.  Sandbags all along the roads.  The water wasn’t that high, but it was close, and we saw house after house flooded out on the way back.   It was strange that there weren’t more mosquitoes.  And seeing everything so green in August, knowing that it wasn’t a good thing, necessarily.  Standing water in a lot of fields, even after we left the vicinity of the river.

Sioux Falls is changing, becoming bigger and more prosperous, but I still couldn’t get away from the feeling that it’s a place built on a black, black foundation.  Lee and I joked about it–the Scandinavian depression is everywhere.  He feels a lot more comfortable with it than I do.

I think it’s harder to see once you’re around it for a while.  Just before we’d come into town, apparently a room had started on fire at the meat-packing plant, Morrell’s.  They’d evacuated the room but made everyone else keep working.  We went to Falls Park (lovely) and drove back by the animal chutes, where the pigs were screaming.   Turning Sioux Falls into a place where you go, “I want to be there” instead of “I have family there” or “It’s where I ended up” will take more doing than just the Washington Pavilion and cleaning up Falls Park.  Not a horrible place.  But a very dark one.

Lee got a cold on the way back, and his attention span was bad enough that I was about ready to pitch a fit to try to get him to let me drive.  He hates having me drive the Jeep, partly because I do all the driving when he’s not with me, back and forth to Grandma camp and whatnot, but also because I bitch and moan about what a pain in the ass driving the Jeep is.  I can’t blame him.  Most of the time I just leave it alone, but having the Jeep sway back and forth in the lane was too creepy.  I said something about it, and he got off at the next rest stop to let me drive.  I like driving.  The Jeep was a pain in the ass.  I zoned out and made little vroom vroom noises in the back of my head, and bitched about Denver traffic and jerks who floor it to cut me off whenever I turn the blinker on:  it’s you @#$%^ that make people not use their blinkers.

And then we were home.  I had a ton more things that I could talk about, but I have to keep moving to try to get caught up again, which is ironic–one oof the things I came away with on this trip was that I’ve been working too hard, and I need to spend more time with people and less time with working my ass off.  Still, I’m the kind of person who has to unpack everything the minute I get home, no help needed.  I need to straighten my brain out, and getting caught up is part of that.  The house didn’t burn down, the animals were okay, school starts Monday, and I need to buy groceries because being away for almost a week has done nothing good to the milk.

Devil Mountain (New Story)

Now at Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and OmniLit.

Look for justice somewhere between love and revenge for free this weekend with Smashwords coupon FX95H.

Devil Mountain

by DeAnna Knippling

An Eye for an Eye.  A Seed for a Seed.

The alien called him her beloved devil for tempting her away from her brood and tried to make him promise not to take revenge if the other humans turned on him. Now he’s on top of Devil Mountain, looking down at the town that murdered his wife, and he has no promises to keep.

Hank dragged me out of the mining sled on my back. I bunched myself up in a ball and got ready to kick, either him or the door of the sled as I went past, just to try to throw off his balance, but he didn’t put the ramp down, and the rock knocked the wind out of me. I was lucky I didn’t crack my spine.

By the time I could really get a breath again, he was back, holding the processers—five of them—in his hand. “You watching, Farrod?” he asked.

I gritted my teeth around the gag, which was about all I could do.

For a fat guy, he’s quick. Three strides forward, and he threw the processors off the side, into the rocks like a javelin thrower, his whole body like a whip. All I needed was to find one of them to fix the sled to get back down the mountain, but it would take some doing.

He pulled his rifle out of the holster on his back. Didn’t aim it at me. “You going to be all right if I cut those ties?”

I gritted at him again.

“I better cut your gag anyway,” he said. “Don’t want you to choke on your own bile.” He put the rifle down, far out of reach, and loosened the snap of his sheath. He took a step toward me and waited. Another step, to where I might be able to roll quick and try to thrash out at his legs.

Oh, it was tempting. I knew, deep down in my heart, that he’d done it. He was the rotten son of a bitch who had killed my wife. Nevermind that he’d been with me the whole time. He was with them. He was the one who had kept me in the mines an extra week, extracting iron ore for the damned spacers that came through for parts.

Another step, and my eye started to twitch. He walked back to the gun, sheathing his knife. Damn it. He knew me too well.

“I guess you’ll just have to be okay,” he said. “Try not to vomit, Farrod. I’ll keep an eye on you, but we’re done until morning. And try not to piss yourself.”

 

Devil Mountain

Now at Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and OmniLit.

Look for justice somewhere between love and revenge for free this weekend with Smashwords coupon FX95H.

Devil Mountain

by DeAnna Knippling

An Eye for an Eye.  A Seed for a Seed.

The alien called him her beloved devil for tempting her away from her brood and tried to make him promise not to take revenge if the other humans turned on him. Now he’s on top of Devil Mountain, looking down at the town that murdered his wife, and he has no promises to keep.

Hank dragged me out of the mining sled on my back. I bunched myself up in a ball and got ready to kick, either him or the door of the sled as I went past, just to try to throw off his balance, but he didn’t put the ramp down, and the rock knocked the wind out of me. I was lucky I didn’t crack my spine.

By the time I could really get a breath again, he was back, holding the processers—five of them—in his hand. “You watching, Farrod?” he asked.

I gritted my teeth around the gag, which was about all I could do.

For a fat guy, he’s quick. Three strides forward, and he threw the processors off the side, into the rocks like a javelin thrower, his whole body like a whip. All I needed was to find one of them to fix the sled to get back down the mountain, but it would take some doing.

He pulled his rifle out of the holster on his back. Didn’t aim it at me. “You going to be all right if I cut those ties?”

I gritted at him again.

“I better cut your gag anyway,” he said. “Don’t want you to choke on your own bile.” He put the rifle down, far out of reach, and loosened the snap of his sheath. He took a step toward me and waited. Another step, to where I might be able to roll quick and try to thrash out at his legs.

Oh, it was tempting. I knew, deep down in my heart, that he’d done it. He was the rotten son of a bitch who had killed my wife. Nevermind that he’d been with me the whole time. He was with them. He was the one who had kept me in the mines an extra week, extracting iron ore for the damned spacers that came through for parts.

Another step, and my eye started to twitch. He walked back to the gun, sheathing his knife. Damn it. He knew me too well.

“I guess you’ll just have to be okay,” he said. “Try not to vomit, Farrod. I’ll keep an eye on you, but we’re done until morning. And try not to piss yourself.”

 

Short story submission tips…

I’ve been sifting through submissions pretty quickly lately, trying to figure out why I can have such an immediate reaction to a story.

Here are the things I had sorted out before:

1) Starting with backstory.

2) Highly dramatic first sentence followed by something boring, like backstory.

3) General cheesiness, spelling errors, writing in stereotypes…

But those are all don’t-do things.

Here’s what I’m noticing now:

1) Lots of surprising details.  If you say, “We’re in a winter forest” and follow up with lots of details proving that it’s a winter forest, meh.  But if you follow up with a) a perceptive detail about winter forests that I would not have known unless I was in one, like the sound of rain that comes when heavy frost melts at sunrise or b) something out of place, then I’m interested. And fake details like “The grocery store was big” are a red flag for boooooring.

2) Voice.  If I get the sense that the story has a strong personality, that’s good.  But it must be a surprising personality.  Scientists that are hopeful about some bright future–meh.  Scientists that are maaaaaad–meh.  But mad scientists who act out of hope, well.  I don’t see that too often.  (Although I do feel like printing the story out so I can fling it across the room when I read a story with interesting voice and all they do is kill themselves.)

Make things real, moody, and surprising–from the first sentence.  Then, don’t go back to vague and predictable. I’ll at least make it through the story to the end.  Not many people do this AT ALL.  Maybe one in twenty, one in fifty.

AFK

I had something cool come up…have to scamper off for most of the next few days to accomplish it.  Back soon.

Finding Yourself Somewhere Else

Word tracker installed.  Normally, I take Saturdays off and write my short story of the week on Sundays.  This Sunday…I’m on to something, but I don’t have a clue what the end is.  I dreamed about it all last night and didn’t come to any real conclusions.  So 3100-ish words done yesterday.

Terry Pratchett has some pretty great quips on the reasons that people try to find themselves somewhere else.  In The Thief of Time, he talks a lot about the History Monks.  One of the wisest of the monks is a humble sweeper named Lu-Tze who follows not the Way of the History Monks, but the Way of Mrs. Cosmopolite of Ankh-Morpork, the fictional equivalent of London (or “Big-Ass Cities in General,” really).

She says things like, “It never rains but it pours,” and “Because,” and “Do unto otters as you would have them do unto you.”  (Yes, otters.)

I’ve had that in the back of my head since I read it.  Even the wisest of all monks from a tradition holding a lot of wisdom (they can change time, after all) went somewhere else to find himself.  Why is that?

Okay.  I have a theory.  You can’t judge something while you’re a part of it.

I first noticed this when I moved to Iowa.  I could, after six months or so, start to conceive of stories set in South Dakota, which I had just left.  I didn’t write any.  But I started to be able to think about them.

And then after I moved to Colorado, I could, again after a waiting period, start to conceive of stories set in Iowa.

I suppose I could force myself to write a Colorado-based story, but it would have to be about some period of my stays here that I’ve finished.  Before I had a kid.  Living in one of the rental places.  Working at a previous job.  But writing about what it means to me to live in Colorado, what Colorado, as a place aside from all other possible places, is like–I’m not ready for it yet.

So if it’s hard to really get a grasp of where you are until you leave (how can you explain to an outsider what it’s like…until you’ve been outside?), logically, it should be really hard to judge yourself when you’re part of the landscape.

What parts of you are you, individually, and what parts of you are the way you were raised or your reaction to people you’ve known your whole life?  Hard to tell, when you’re still in the same place.

I think this is something that’s so deeply buried in the human psyche that it provides a template for all our stories:  someone who is not wise must go on a journey in order to accomplish a goal, gaining wisdom in the process.  Human beings, on the whole, are programmed on some deep level to leave home and set out on their own.  It’s probably a good thing, species-wise, allowing for exposure to a) new ideas and b) new genetic material.

When I wrote this last story, “Monsoon,” I started out thinking of it as a brief diary about a woman who’s in India (based on Julie Andrijeski’s amazing blogs from there) trying to find herself.  Then, to amuse myself and give the character some way to support herself, I made her a translator of pulp fiction for a second-rate Tibetan publisher, because she could be doing it on the road, and it would let me set up some funny lines.  Cheap reasons.  Then she said something that caught my attention:  she had used to be a writer, but abandoned it due to some of the stupid crap she ran into, at grad school.

Now, I’ve never been to grad school.  After I graduated from college with an English degree and moved to Iowa City, however, one of the things that crossed my mind was attending the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.  In the end, I moved before I got really serious about it, and by then I was sick of reading the kind of stuff that the writers there were producing.

If you weren’t writing serious fiction about foreign people, nevermind.  I think Jane Smiley was the big exception, with A Thousand Acres, but that had come out while I was still in college, and I was sick of that kind of thing, too, after four years of reading literature.  They bragged about having Kurt Vonnegut as an instructor but looked at you funny if you wrote SF or genre fiction in general.  Joe Haldeman was probably the big exception as a graduate.

Just being around that took me a long time to get over.  I wasn’t writing what the most famous writer’s program in the country was saying was good writing.  –It was important because I was talking to other writers and instructors there, listening to their opinions.

It wasn’t until I left for Colorado (and started hanging around with gaming folk who happened to be writers, rather than Serious Writers), that I started to get back into writing.  Sure, I’d been going through the motions, but I don’t have memories of a single thing that I wrote in Iowa City.  Stuff that I wrote in college.  Stuff that I wrote afterwards.  But Iowa City?  Maybe some poems, but I suspect those were before I left college in South Dakota.

I had no way to judge them, even to say, “It’s not for me, eh?”

…And that ended up in “Monsoon,” too.  There are all kinds of things you need to be able to find, and going somewhere else is a good way to do it.

 

 

Page 2 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén