Birthday Business, Shout-Outs, and Other Matters

Today is my 33rd birthday, and I’m celebrating by taking a mini-cation from work to write and see close friends – two of my favorite activities.  I was thinking of having a big party for myself but that sounded an awful lot like the event-organizing I’ve been doing for work lately, so I decided to postpone the party to a less busy time.  I’m thinking I may have a party some time in the summer to celebrate hitting a third of a century.

There are many other illustrious figures born on March 18, including at least two others born in 1977, the year that Star Wars was released and Harvey Milk was elected.  A very special happy birthday to Peter Ball, my birthday-brother from Australia, a fellow writer who defies categorization, writing in every genre from magic realism to pulp noir, and possibly inventing some new sub-genres along the way.  For a free online taste, I recommend this short story at Strange Horizons about merfolk, Copenhagen, love, and loss.

And happy birthday to all the other fabulous March 18ers, including Jordan, a new friend who was born only a half-hour apart from me, and Fernando, an old friend who was born a bit further apart from me than that. 🙂 

In other news, SF Signal recently asked this year’s Nebula award nominees for recommendations of other worthy stories.  I was honored and flattered to see that “Tio Gilberto and the Twenty-Seven Ghosts” was mentioned by several of the nominees.  Many thanks to Chris Barzak, Richard Bowes, Will McIntosh, and Rachel Swirsky for the shout-outs.  It’s especially nice to get kudos from those four writers, all of whom much deserved their nominations and routinely write some of the best stuff out there these days.

All right, time to get some real writing done…

The Tangled Bank is Out Now!

The Tangled Bank: Love, Wonder, & Evolution is out now!  This anthology of tales of evolution celebrates Darwin’s 200th birthday and includes my story, “On the Entropy of Species,” not to mention great fiction and poetry from Carlos Hernandez, Christopher Green, Brian Stableford, Patricia Russo, Anil Menon, and a slew of other writers from around the globe. It’s edited by Chris Lynch, my Clarion South-mate and co-author of our collaborative story, “This is My Blood.”  Chris is fast proving that he’s as skilled as an editor as he is as a writer.  The book is not only packed with great fiction, but is also visually stunning, framed by images like this one and by a series of haikus from Sean Williams, each inspired by a different chapter of Darwin’s Origin of Species

You can download your copy here for only $4.99 (U.S.). Or, if you want a free taste, check out “Darwin’s Daughter” by Christopher Green here.

Listen to Tio Gilberto at Podcastle

I’m excited to announce that the podcast of my story, “Tio Gilberto and the Twenty-Seven Ghosts,” is up at Podcastle.  It’s interesting – and a bit odd – hearing someone else read a story I wrote, especially this one, which I’ve read aloud a couple of times.  I like the casual tone Brian Lieberman reads the story with, which is a great match for the narrator’s voice.

I wrote this story at Clarion South, and was partly inspired by a story by Lee Battersby, one of our Clarion instructors.  His story, “Through Soft Air,” was a ghost story about a man haunted by the ghosts of his fellow soldiers who died at war – a haunting that his children and grandchildren can’t understand, coming from a generation for whom the war is only history, not memory. 

It got me thinking about the way that an entire generation can be haunted by ghosts – of a war, a holocaust, an epidemic. There’s a wide gap between the generation haunted by those ghosts and the generations that follow, who just haven’t lived through that same overwhelming loss.  As a gay dude who came of age in the 1990s, I’d felt that type of gap with my older gay friends and mentors, whose lives  had been so deeply shaped by the early years of the AIDS epidemic.  Thinking about that generation gap was the seed for this story.

Have a listen!

2009 How it Went

In emulation of the inimitable Christopher Green, I thought I’d post some stats on how I did toward my writing goals in 2009.

I sent out 27 submissions this year.  Pretty modest compared to Mr. Green’s 75, but a personal best for me.  (In previous years I sent out no more than 20 subs.) The increase is mostly because I kept my New Year’s resolution to keep my completed stories in circulation. The rejections came in and I sent them back out – amazing how that helps to keep things rolling along!

I sold five stories – three new stories and two reprints.  Given that in 2007 and 2008, I sold, um, one story per year, this is definitely a record for me.  My acceptance rate was about 18% if you count the reprints, or 12% if you only count the new ones.  Either way, that’s ridiculously high for me considering my rate has been 0-5% up until now.  I think this is mostly because I had a streak of good luck, with several stories hitting the right markets at the right time.  I doubt I’ll be able to keep up that kind of streak in 2010. But, hey, very cool that I met my secret goal of selling five stories this year, even if I had to cheat a bit by counting reprints.

Of the stories I sold this year, on average they were rejected by 5.3 markets before they found a home.  There’s a widely quoted stat out there that the average story is rejected something like 20 times before it sells.  If that’s true (and it seems about right), 5.3 seems pretty good.  Either way, like Chris said, the clear lesson is not to be demoralized by a rejection or two.

In terms of actual writing, my goal was to finish five stories and I finished three.  I have a fourth one that’s close to done and another that I finished a draft of this year, so I was sort of close on this one. I had also hoped to finish the first half of my novel, and finished maybe a quarter of it.  All in all I’m not going quite as fast as I’d like, but I’m definitely doing slow but steady productivity, which I feel pretty good about considering what a hectic year it was and that my day job demands way more than 40 hours a week. 

Just to finish the rundown of how I did on my New Year’s resolutions:

  • Reading on subway: I kept this one, mostly, and did a lot more reading this year than last year. My unwritten goal was to read three books per month, and I came pretty close to that – it looks like I’ll be at about 34 books at the end of the year. 
  • Blog posting: My goal was 100 blog posts, and it looks like I’ll hit 54 or so.  Very hard to do any blogging when things get intense at work, and then so often when I do have free time I think I should be writing fiction instead of blogging.  I may just have to accept that I’m not going to be a super-active blogger any time soon.
  • Swimming: Totally flunked this one.  Really do need to get back to it, though – hopefully in 2010…

So all in all, of seven 2009 goals, I largely hit three, made decent progress on a couple others, and totally missed two.  Not too bad all in all…

More 2009 wrap-up and 2010 goals soon to come!

Another Story Coming Soon

I recently got word that a story of mine will be published in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, a very cool zine published by Gavin Grant and Kelly Link at Small Beer Press.   LCRW is like the sacred madre patria for writers of weird stuff, so I’m pretty geeked out to have a story published with them.

I first wrote this particular story at Clarion in response to my mates’ saying that I needed to write more concrete, sensory details. “Ha!” I said, “I’ll write a story so filled with concrete details that it can only be titled ‘Concrete!'”  Alas, the story ended up being a surrealist story that demanded to be re-titled “This is Not Concrete.”  Ah, well…

Will post more when I know when the story will find its way into the wild.

Story Coming Soon in The Tangled Bank

I recently got the news that my short story, “On the Entropy of Species,” will be appearing in The Tangled Bank, an e-anthology of stories on Charles Darwin and evolution coming out in just a few weeks.  The anthology commemorates Darwin’s 200th birthday as well as the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species.  I’m very excited to be part of such a cool project, and to have a story published in the theme-anthology that inspired the story – a first for me.

When I first saw the call for stories on evolution from editor Chris Lynch, nothing immediately came to me.  But then I started reading excerpts from Darwin’s journal, particularly from the time of his voyage on the Beagle, and found both his voice and personality inspiring.  I loved the unabashedness of his excitement in exploring new terrain and observing new species  – e.g., “The day has past delightfully. Delight itself, however, is a weak term to express the feelings of a naturalist who, for the first time, has been wandering by himself in a Brazilian forest.”  He was a totally glamorous geek-adventurer.  That was the initial springboard for “On the Entropy of Species,” the story of another geek-adventurer, on a voyage of exploration in a world where evolution doesn’t seem to work quite the way we’re used to.

Wilde Stories

I recently got news that my story “Tío Gilberto and the Twenty-Seven Ghosts” will be reprinted in next year’s Wilde Stories, an annual year’s best anthology of LGBT speculative literature.  The series is published by Lethe Press, an independent press publishing all sorts of stuff at the fun nexus of the queer and the speculative.   This year’s edition of Wilde Stories is out now and features cool queer science fiction and fantasy stories by Lee Thomas, Hal Duncan, and others.  The Best Gay Stories series is also worth checking out (though not exclusively speculative), with fiction by Richard Bowes, David Levithan, and others.