New at The Chain Story

Several new stories, the latest appearing just today, have debuted on The Chain Story website since I last posted about it. If you’re a fan of free adventure fiction (with many a side of the speculative thrown in) and you’re not reading these stories, you’re really missing out.

What Michael A. Stackpole is doing with this project really is something out of the ordinary. While there is a vast amount of free fiction available on the ‘net, it’s very much a trail-and-error undertaking to ferret out the quality stories. Most of us, even the most avid readers, have a limited amount of time we can allocate to reading for pleasure, and it’s disappointing to spend that time only to feel cheated by a poorly-written story in the end–or even partway through. The Chain Story takes away much of that guesswork, by offering up only stories that have been chosen especially for the project, and a quick read-through of the explanatory information on the site tells potential readers up-front what they can expect in a Chain Story story.

With nine stories now online (you can read them in order by starting at the Table of Contents page) and a new one slated to come along every Monday, you’d better start reading if you don’t want to be left behind!

The Chain Story

F/SF Novelist Michael A. Stackpole has an interesting new project underway, one that is going to make a lot of great free short fiction available on the ‘net.

It’s called The Chain Story. The idea is this (in Mr. Stackpole’s own words): “…authors create stories which are linked in a chain. Each author hosts the story on his website and links back to the project hub. The hub then links back out to all the other stories. The authors provide the stories for free for a certain amount of time…” after which they are free to do any number of things with the stories.

In this instance, what links the stories is the place where the storytellers relate their respective tales: The Wanderer’s Club. Imagine a Victorian gentleman’s club, outside time and space (or existing simultaneously in multiple realities, perhaps). There are no restrictions on clientele or on the stories they relate. Yes, just start to imagine the possibilities there…

The first seven stories have already come online and you can find the lineup and the links to them at the Chain Story website. The TOC page will show you them in the order they’ve been released, so you can start at the beginning and work your way through. Currently, the project is by invitation only, but expect some newer voices in the mix as time goes on.

Read an eBook Week

This coming week, March 7th to 13th, is “Read an E-book Week.” In recognition of this, I’m making one of my stories available free, just this week, in electronic format.

The story is “Summer of the Widows,” which was first published in the anthology Speculative Realms: Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way, by Speculative Realms in 2008. The anthology is available in print from Amazon and in various electronic formats at Smashwords (for just $1.99!), and if you try out my story and like it, I’m sure you’ll like the rest of the stories in the antho as well.

You can find a .pdf of “Summer of the Widows” right here, or click here to read the .html file online.

Enjoy!

ROML* Rolls Over Another Week

Photobucket While I still have two days left to log writing time for this week, they will be the weekend, so I think it’s highly unlikely that I will get to my goal hours this time around. Maybe it serves me right for getting cocky about how well last week went (614 minutes) and upping my goal by half an hour. When I think about it, though, it was mostly *Rest Of My Life issues that kept me from writing.

I’m really not sure what I can do about that except try to plan better (the things I CAN plan) and try to find catch-up time when the planning doesn’t work.

~.~.~

In other news, I came to a huge and sad realization last night. I need to get rid of some books.

I’ve been buying books since I was in university and the city offered a variety of used book stores, of which I would make the rounds almost every weekend. The book acquisition habit has continued over the years, and although I do get more titles from the library these days (especially when trying an author for the first time) I still like to buy books. Part of me would like to count the number of books in the house–and part of me is afraid to do that.

However, when I was doing some pre-housecleaning housecleaning in the bedroom last week, I realized that I have at least 50+ books in that room alone waiting to be read or in various stages of being read. And when I do read them–I have nowhere to put them if I want to move new to-be-read books into that space. Every bookshelf in the house is already packed or over-packed. I don’t see us adding a new room to the house just to hold books. Sooooo…the only conclusion is that I have to get rid of some. And while we’re planning a Great Purge of the house this spring, the idea of sorting through the books and moving some them out of here is more daunting than all the rest of the things that I know need to be done.

*Sigh* I wonder if I could convince my husband to add on that extra room…

Photo courtesy of mzacha @ sxc.hu

2009 Reading Roundup

I’m diving into a new pile of books, but thought I’d take a moment to look back at some of the reading I did in 2009. Sadly, I didn’t read as much as I would like to have. That seems to be a perennial complaint for me of late. Maybe it’s because I am writing more, but I’d like to find a way to balance the two. What follows will not be in any particular order, just as things occur to me.

By far, the standout book of 2009 for me was Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson. It was the first fantasy I’ve read in a long time that pulled me in from the beginning and offered something different. In fact, it’s the first fantasy I’ve read in a long time, period, because I’ve seemed to put them down almost immediately for lack of those elements. The characters in Elantris were highly engaging right from the start, and the situation and conflicts very involving. Sanderson is part of the Writing Excuses podcast team, which I’ve also only recently started following, and I’m really enjoying that as well. It’s like a master class in genre writing, in 15-minute lessons. Highly recommended!

Near the end of 2009 I read The Affinity Bridge by George Mann. This was also a very enjoyable read, in the Steampunk genre, although I found the author’s frequent use of passive voice somewhat distracting. This is probably the writer/editor in me coming out, as most readers likely wouldn’t even notice it, but I found it especially strange since Mann is an editor himself. At any rate, I’ll be looking for future stories about these same characters, as the other elements of the book were good enough to overshadow that one complaint.

In the summer I devoured a batch of Stephanie Plum mysteries by Janet Evanovich. These books are just plain fun, if some of the jokes do get to feel a bit old if you read too many of them at once. Before those, I caught up on some Sue Grafton mysteries, with Q, R, and S in her Kinsey Milhone series. I wonder, when she began writing these, if she thought they would take up so much of her writing career? They’ve certainly been good to her, I think, and I am still enjoying them; she has done a good job of keeping the main character interesting and evolving over so many books. Grafton has made the choice to keep them all in the same time period, though, instead of keeping pace with the times, and I also wonder if this is difficult. Anyway, I hope to keep reading them to the end of the series.

Other good reads from the year included Into the Green by Charles deLint and Marvellous Hairy by Mark A. Rayner. I met Mark at WorldCon in Montreal and heard him do a reading, then had to read the book! It was fun and funny and kind of strange (in a good way!). I’ll be interested to see what he writes next.

In non-fiction, I read most of (still reading) The Language of the Night, by Ursula LeGuin. This is a collection of her essays and lectures on science fiction, and really excellent reading for anyone interested in the genre. Some of them seem a bit dated, but are still very relevant in many ways.

I also listened to some audiobooks last year, including three notable ones: Murder at Avedon Hill by P.G. Holyfield, Playing for Keeps by Mur Lafferty, and Space Casey by Christiana Ellis. All very different books, but all very enjoyable. And I really love being able to “read” this way when I can’t read, if you know what I mean.

Rounding out the field are a few short story anthologies. I am always surprised at the number of people who say they don’t like reading short stories. I am very fond of them. Last year I read three collections that I really liked: Many Bloody Returns, edited by Charlaine Harris (all stories about vampires and birthdays), My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding, edited by P.N. Elrod (all stories about, well, weddings and the supernatural), and Extraordinary Engines, edited by Nick Gevers (steampunk).

And I think this post is long enough now. I’ve just added a new page to the site, The TBR Shelf (see the new link in the right sidebar), to try and keep track of what’s on my to-be-read list, so you can follow along with that if you’d like, and by all means friend me over at Goodreads if you’re a member. Happy reading in 2010!

About that Sparkly Thing

Photobucket Yes, this is a blog post about sparkly vampires, but it might not be what you’re expecting.

A disclaimer first: I haven’t read Stephenie Meyer‘s Twlight series. I did see the first movie.

Meyer has come under a lot of fire for her portrayal of vampires (I’m sure she’s crying all the way to the bank, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about). Her vampires fall outside the “norm” of traditional vampires in many ways, including the way their skin sparkles. People who aren’t fans of the books really seem to hate that and poke fun at the idea quite relentlessly.

I’m neither a fan nor an anti-fan, and I think Meyer is simply following a piece of writing advice that gets handed out to writers (especially genre writers) all the time, and it’s this: take an old idea, and put a new spin on it.

We’ve all seen or heard about those lists–there are only seven plots, there are only twelve plots, etc. We’re told there are no new ideas, there are no new conflicts, there are no original stories. There are only new takes on old stories. It’s up to us to take an idea and set it in a new light, twist it, change it, give the reader something different.

Isn’t that exactly what Meyer has done?

Okay, granted, maybe the sparkly thing was not the best execution of this advice. Maybe it flew too directly in the face of accepted vampire lore and the things that dyed-in-the-wool vampire fans were going to be looking for in her stories. Maybe it set the author up for too much easy criticism from those who didn’t like the books. In a way, it’s so different, so “out there,” that it makes for an easy target for such criticism.

On the other hand, there are now a lot of readers out there reading vampire fiction–all sorts of vampire fiction–that they would never have picked up if Meyer’s books hadn’t introduced them to the dark seduction of the vampire mythos. If nothing else, it certainly hasn’t hurt the books’ appeal or sales.

I think genre writers would be wise to look at this an example of a writer taking a piece of standard writing advice and using it to very good effect.

Reading break

I’ve read more short stories in the last few days than I have in the last year, I think. But no, it was not simply for pleasure. That was just a welcome side benefit.

In a couple of weeks, I’m giving a presentation on writing speculative fiction, to a group of writers who don’t write specfic as a usual thing. Some of them have likely never written anything in the speculative genres, and possibly never read anything in those genres, either.

For that reason, I thought I’d like to assign them a few stories to read before the workshop, just so that we would have a few more talking points and all be on the same page (no pun intended). I had a few criteria–the stories had to be of short-to-moderate length, available online, accessible to readers outside the genre, and had to exemplify a couple of the things I’m planning to talk about. For example, the importance of good writing regardless of genre, the difference between story and mere anecdote, a certain depth of characterization.

I found that “accessibility” was the most difficult criterion to fill. For readers who are unfamiliar with standard genre tropes, I felt that stories with a minimum of SF jargon and a setting that was at least somewhat Earthlike might be best. However, it becomes obvious that we speculative fiction writers expect a lot from our readers–or is it that our readers expect a lot from us? I begin to think that specfic writers tend to start invoking the “sensawunda” as soon as possible at the beginning of many stories, dangling a tempting hook for our readers so that we can quickly reel them in. For readers coming to specfic for the first time, however, I think many of these stories would be too unfamiliar, offering too much “difference” too soon, for non-genre readers to stay with them long enough to become invested in the story. To get their specfic legs under them, so to speak.

And of course, personal taste enters into it and can’t be separated from the selection process, so the stories I chose would not necessarily be the ones someone else would choose. Still, it was an interesting exercise. I’ve asked the workshop participants, if they begin reading one of the stories and don’t finish it, to make a note of where they stopped and why. Could be some interesting comments there.

Anyway, after a few days of (mostly) enjoyable reading, I settled on four stories to recommend. Three are science fiction, and one is fantasy. Since I’m recommending them in my workshop, I thought I’d recommend them here, too. They are:

SF Short story – “Jimmy’s Roadside Cafe” by Ramsey Shehadeh http://www.strangehorizons.com/2008/20080630/roadside-f.shtml

Fantasy Short story – “Sun Magic, Earth Magic” by David D. Levine http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/story.php?s=9

SF Short story – “Ghosts and Simulations” by Ruthanna Emrys http://www.strangehorizons.com/2007/20071112/ghosts-f.shtml

The last piece is a novella, but since it won a Hugo award at WorldCon in Montreal this summer (and I was there to see it!), it is definitely worth the time investment:

SF Novella – “The Erdmann Nexus” by Nancy Kress http://www.asimovs.com/hugos_2009/ErdmannNexus.shtml

If you read any of the stories, please tell me what you think of them. Happy reading!

*Magazine cover art from http://www.bigmeathammer.com/gallery.htm

Less than 46 cents per story!

Last year I was pleased to have my short story, “Summer of the Widows,” appear in an anthology titled Speculative Realms: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way. It’s a wonderfully eclectic mix of fantasy, science fiction, and horror stories from a global collection of writers.

In “Summer of the Widows,” one of my recurring characters (a young female wizard’s apprentice with a knack for attracting trouble) is suspected of murder, and must find the real killer AND save her master from an even more dangerous threat–marriage!

Right now, I see that Amazon.com is offering the anthology for a sweet $5.88. That’s less than forty-six cents per story for the thirteen stories in the book. At that price, I’d suggest you get it while it’s hot!

Space Casey by Christiana Ellis

Space Casey Space Casey by Christiana Ellis


GoodReads Rating: 4 of 5 stars

I intended to listen to just the first episode or two of this audiobook to see if I liked it, while I was working on some things for Second Life; ended up putting it on my Zune and devouring it. The humour is engaging, the production is good, and the story is just fun overall. A great read/listen!

View all my reviews.