Thursday, September 29, 2005

Wacky Times

Sorry - if anybody is REALLY reading this blog - that I haven't posted in a while, but things have been real hairy on the job. People who've worked at the newspaper for years say they can't remember the last time there was a workman's comp accident, and then we had TWO in two days.

The first was on Wednesday, the 21th - the day after my last posting. An employee in the press side of the operation crushed a finger in a piece of equipment. She didn't lose it, but she's on leave until further notice.

Although this was unfortunate, it didn't affect the news departmenr directly, but the next day - Thursday - our reporter tripped and fell on an uneven spot on the sidewalk while working on a story at a local school. She suffered a double compound fracture of her left upper arm. Poor thing! She's out for the duration.

Obviously, when your news department has three people, losing one of them causes a loft of shuffling around. Myself and the other person are coping - but it's hectic. At the time of the accident, the sports editor (the third person in the department) was on vacation, but she came back - otherwise I would have been stuck running things single-handed.

I can't believe I was still able to go to FenCon, but there was only one event happening on the weekend, and it was a 5K run, so the sports editor covered it.

I was able to drive to Dallas Saturday morning and attended the Con until about 3 p.n. Sunday. Since my wife grew up in Dallas, I was able to save money by staying at my mother-in-law's home Saturday night.

I was unhappy that neither Joe Lansdale nor Jayme Blaschke - who were originally scheduled as guest - couldn't make it. I still picked up a lot of useful information, though, and visited with a few people.

I'll try to post more about FenCon later, but I just thought to take a minute to get SOMETHING posted.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Witch has flown

Well, dropped "The Witch of Waxahachie' in the mail to GVG at F&SF today. Story came in at 6,371 words. I chatted briefly on the phone with Howard last night. I mentioned I felt good about the story and that I felt it was well written, because it dropped in word count as I finished it.
It's counter-intuitive to non-writers, but "real" writers know that after a point the longer you write the SHORTER a story should get, as you tweak and tighten it up.
Howard reminded me of Lew Shiner's Law, which is that a good story should drop down a category before it's finished, i.e. a novelette should turn into a novella, a novella should turn into a short story.
I've had the idea for the story that became "Witch" for years, but the biggest reason I never got around to starting it was that I thought it would take a whole book to write.
When I actually kicked the writing (on Sept. 8) I worried that I would have trouble bringing it in as a short story. Licked that problem, too.
I took the time to write a cover letter to Gordon - which I hardly ever do. But I wanted to explain that I might develop this into a series.
This is the first story I've finished in three months. The only story I finished up and sent off all summer - because of the job change, subsequent long commute, and then move - was "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes., which went to Sheila June 17.
Gardner once said the key to really establishing yourself as an up and coming writer is to produce a tightly written series of stories in a year in two set in an interesting universe of your creation. It seems to have worked for Charlie Stross.
When I first heard this advice, I despaired of finding my own formula, but with "Witch" I may have the key. The cast of characters - Penny Pennoyer, Larry Anglen, Doc Melancon, Brad Vavra, Deputy Joe and Sgt. Lucy - seem to be a bunch I can go to again and again.
The possibilities of developing ongoing series are there due to the setup of the "mirror worlds". The fact it's not straight fantasy (science, specifically the Super Collider, were needed to set up the connection between the two worlds) gives me more flexibility.
The tension and potential of having duplicated characters is obvious. Patricia said the scene where the two Sgt. Lucys have a dog fight between themselves was one of the things she remembers the most from the story.
And it was by having Sgt. Lucy be the only character from our world who actually meets her counterpart from the magical world in "Witch" gives me time and thought to the next logical development, which is: What will happen when the two Penny Pennoyers meet? (I already made a reference at the end of "Witch" to telling my 'two cents worth' when the two Pennys collide).
I also like the fact that it is obvious even from the limited references in "Witch' that our world's Penny Pennoyer is the bad one, and - counter-intuitively - the "Witch of Waxahachie" is a good character.
Patricia read the final manuscript last night, caught one typo. Like I said, dropped it in the mail today.
I also sent Stan Schmidt "Business as Usual" - my little take on zombies, feminism and rampant capitalism.
Howard is still finishing up his stories for CapClave. They made him sing for his supper as GOH by writing two novelettes which will be printed in the program.
I 'fessed up to Howard that I can't make the convention. I can't afford the time in the new job or the cost of airfare due to the fuel prices. I need to stay loser to home for the time being.
However, things for me are going to work out pretty good - my mom is coming to visit me thew middle two weeks of October, anyway.
Howard thought things sounded like they worked out.
He though the story for "Witch" sounded great, and he said it's one of the best story titles he ever heard (don't underestimate the value of a snappy title in the making of a story - I had the title first for "Rocket" and Dybbuk" before I had the stories). It's a common ploy among sci-fi writers.
I think I'm gonna forge ahead and do a story that follows right up behind "Witch' called "The Wizard of Boz". Let's see how long I can play this hand.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

More about "Witch"

I hardly ever post twice in the same day, but a thought occured to me - while I was minding the sauce on the stove:

I'm especially proud that "The Witch of Waxahachie" is the first story I've ever done with a dog as a character in it - and not some Swanwickian talking dog - just a normal old police pooch.

AND the dog isn't in the story for cutness or color - she's in there for some important plot twists. There's two places in the story where the dog's role is crucial; first, because she can't keep herself from getting into a fight with her doppelgager from an alterate dimension; and two, because she can't tell a falsehood when her mind is read.

Saturday Night at the Movies

Got the auto-response from Strange Horizons for "Finger Lakes". I was beginning to wonder.

Did the first read-through Thursday night with spouse on "Witch". Making some changes before running off the copy to proof.

Tonight it's either "Alice in Wonderland" or "The Borrowers" on DVD. Or both.

Special treat - to celebrate the completion of story, I'm making a lasagna. I'm using real tomato sauce and Barilla lasagna noodles.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Swapping Tales, writing new ones

Ellen returned "Twilight on the Finger Lakes" - said it was 'intriguing' but didn't bite. I sent her "The League of Dead Nations" and sent "Twilight" to Strange Horizons (at least I think I did - I haven't got an auto-reply. Hmmm).

"Twilight" was forwarded; it still had the old address on it. Considering Ellen's letter was dated Sept. 5 and I got it on Sept. 14 - that's not too bad for a forwarded large envelope.

Did some major work on "The Witch of Waxahachie" last night. Between the new writing and the trimming, it didn't grow in length. I'm wondering whether it will come in as a short story, i.e. 7,000 words or less.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Got Them...

The package with my bulk order of ten copies of the September Asimov's came in the mail today. It took about three weeks for them to arrive, but Dell shipped them second class. This gives a few more to send to old friends and cronies.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Off again

Finally got off high center and started up a new story. Wrote about 6100 words on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It's called "The Witch of Waxahachie" and is unusual in that it completely straddles the science fiction and fantasy genres. Think Randall Garrett's "Lord Darcy".

Took a break over the weekend - I was really hung up on the ending, but the light clicked and I'm ready for the home stretch.

Tangent has posted its review of Andromeda Spaceways. These are the dudes who gave "Rocket" a mostly negative review. They seemed to have actually liked "Dybbuk" more:

"This issue of ASIM opens with the fun little tale “The Cast Iron Dybbuk” by Lou Antonelli. Miners come across a very ancient artifact, and Bad Things happen when they accidentally crack it open. The story is a little heavy on exposition. I would have liked to have seen a bit more about how things were discovered rather than just having a character come in and tell me what was discovered. That said, the concept behind the story and the humorous note it ends on are enough to pull it through, starting another issue of ASIM off right."

I like that expression, "Bad Things happen".

"Dybbuk" has turned out to be a more important story for me than I would have thought. Of course, the timing - while completely accidental - helped prevent the appearance that "Rocket" was a fluke (quite remarkable a coincidence, that the two stories should run at essentially the same time, because the publication schedules of Andromeda and Asimov's are so different that "Dybbuk" was WRITTEN after "Rocket" was accepted."

Also, "Dybbuk" is written in the third person, which shows than I can write more than the first-person narrative that is "Rocket" (although I'll stick to my guns forever that it was told using the right format, sometimes a monologue story verges on being a 'trick'.) Dybbuk shows that I can write more than the monologue 'trick'.

Watched the DVD of the 1946 MGM musical "Till the Clouds Roll By" with the wife Saturday night. I've been humming Kern show tunes the rest of the weekend. Sunday we rearranged the bedroom furniture.

Just call me Mr. Domestic.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Symmetry

I mentioned in my previous post that it's been three years since I started writing science fiction in any organized way.
In that same timespan, I've also worked at three different newspapers, as I've tried to work my way up to more pay and better conditions.
I first began writing when I was working for the Malakoff News in Henderson County, Texas.
That's where I was when I had my first story published, "Silvern", which was at RevolutionSF in June 2003.
That August I took a job with the Winnsboro News and moved to Wood County.
I had whipped up a first draft of "Rocket" while still in Henderson County. I finished it up and it was the first story I sent off from Winnsboro, in Oct. 2003.
Ironically, the last issue of Asimov's I got in the mail in Winnsboro, the September 2005 issue, was the one with "Rocket".
So I had my first publication right before I left one town, and my first pro publication before I left the other.
I haven't got my Oct./Nov. issue of Asimov's; probably won't for weeks. since now since it had to be forwarded. I turned in an on-line change of address to Dell Magazines, but they said the first issue where the change will kick in will be December.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Some thoughts and tales on the third anniversary...

of my starting to write science fiction in any kind of serious fashion. It's probably a good time to reflect.
Of course, I read tons of science fiction when I was a kid. Remember the old joke, "What was the Golden Age of science fiction?"
The answer: 12.
I took a class in science fiction when I was in high school; the enlightened English Department offered it as an elective. So the first science fiction I ever actually wrote was in that class.
I got good marks; I seemed to have a knack for it.
I didn't approach writing again until I was almost 30. I think I was prodded by the impending demise of Robert Heinlein; his health was obviously declining. This news made me think about the subject; and I actually thought to do some writing. I still have one complete story I did back then, about two men huddling in a cave talking abut how civilization imploded by the turn of the century because people simply went crazy from the fast pace and out of control technology of modern life. I certainly wasn't a cyberpunk. The story is clumsy, and my inadequacies of the power of prophecy are evident (I had the Berlin Wall falling ten years too late. and I had the Christian Right taking over the White House eight years too early). Some day I may post the story on-line, as a historic artifact.
Heinlein died in May 1988. I bought "To Sail Beyond the Sunset” and had the bizarre 'talking book' incident that summer (I need to post that story later).
I took two weeks of vacation in August 1988 and lugged a TRS-80 Model II to a cabin in Cuchara, Colorado, and started to work on an alternate history story. I came to the conclusion I didn't have the chops to make a real go at writing. I still have the computer though, and the eight-inch disks in storage. If I could get the power-source on the computer, I may be able to save what I wrote back then.
The cyberpunks turned me off to the genre, anyway, during the '80s. I bought three books during the decade - James Hogan's "Inherit the Stars", L. Neil Smith's "The Gallatin Divergence", and a reprint of Heinlein's "Time for the Stars".
Otherwise, the only science fiction I read during the decade was in Omni. I bought a subscription from a strange boy who appeared at my office one day when I was all alone during an ice storm, and who didn't leave any footprints when he left (another bizarre story I'll have to tell later).
I did like a lot of the stuff I read there; I was very impressed with "His Powder'd Wig, His Crown of Thorns" by Marc Laidlaw. I also really liked "Wild, Wild Horse". Little did I know that years later I'd get to know the author hisself, Howard Waldrop.
There was a lot of good stuff in the magazine; who could have know that in 2004 I would sit on a panel at a convention with Ellen Datlow.
My interest finally petered out completely. I don't think I read any science fiction in the '90s at all; nothing that I can recall.
So how did I get back into the groove? Well, from 1995 to 2001 I was completely preoccupied as the owner and operator of a small community newspaper; a project that ultimately failed. By the start of 2002 I was looking for a real job and starting to pay attention to the world again.
Ginnie Heinlein died in January 2002. That caught my attention. Then George Alec Effinger died in April. Hmmm, got my attention again.
One day, while killing time on the internet, I was puttering around and reading about the Green Lantern. I saw that Alfred Bester wrote the Green Lantern Oath. Boing! Bester was my favorite author when I was young. I also learned that Bester had been a magazine editor. Hey, a journalist who wrote science fiction!
That spring, "Minority Report" came out. My wife likes Tom Cruise, and so we saw it. I thought at first - from preliminary reports - the movie was based on "The Demolished Man" by Bester. Of course, it was based on the Phillip K. Dick story.
Well, the little dings kept adding up. I guess ideas were percolating in my mind. And then the AC broke down right before Labor Day.
We were living in a guesthouse adjacent to a lake in East Texas. My boss at the time let us live there as part of my employment package. The window unit died right before a very hot weekend, and there was no way to get it replaced until after the holiday.
My wife couldn't take the heat, so she fled back to her mother's place in Dallas.
I stayed behind, and found a temporary solution by "borrowing" a window unit from the office (which was a big hassle taking it out and putting it in and taking it out again and putting it back, but it worked for a few days.)
Meanwhile, I was alone. So late one night, I sat down at the computer and I thought: Hokay, you're 45. Howsabout a mid-life assessment? Have I done everything I wanted to do in my life?
Get married? Check, did that in 1999.
Run my own newspaper? Check, like I already noted (although in the end that proved to be a big mistake. You know, watch out for what you wish for....)
A few other things not worth mentioning.
Hey! I never got around to really writing science fiction? Hmm.. well I got some time to kill.
I did a search and found a web site, SpeculativeVisions.com, which lets you self-post stories and get feedback. So I stayed up until 4 a.m. and banged out a 2,000 word story, and then posted it.
Checked back the next day to see how badly the other folks ripped me apart. Compliments all around. Not a bad job, they said.
Then it hit me. After All those years of writing for newspapers. my writing had improved. I wasn't up to speed in the '80s, but now maybe I could make a go at it.
I began a process of serious research on the web to ascertain the state of the genre. It involved a lot of self-education. By September, I submitted my first story.
So here we are three years later. I've had 20 stories published, including my pro debut in Asimov's.
Yesterday I sat down, collected up my notes, and wrote up on a crumbling old Big Chief tablet - which I had originally bought for this use in the 80's - all my story ideas just waiting to be written up. I came up with 53.
I better get to work.

Latest reviews

"It’s possible that you haven’t run into the stories of Lou Antonelli. Since 2003, he’s been publishing delightful short tales of alternate history all over the nooks and crannies of the SF world. Thanks to Fantastic Books, we now have 28 of these little gems in one place.

"Many of Antonelli’s stories have an unexpected twist ending. And many of them are what he calls “secret history” stories, which aren’t exactly alternate history—they’re set in our familiar history, but there’s always some element that contemporary observers missed. " - Don Sakers, The Reference Library, Analog July-Aug. 2014

In a spare, swift, convincing narrative style, conveying in a deadpan voice a wide array of sometimes Paranoid suppositions about the world, Antonelli juxtaposes realities with very considerable skill, creating a variety of Alternate Worlds, some of them somewhat resembling the constructions of Howard Waldrop, and making some sharp points about American history, race relations, dreams, and occasional nightmares in which the twentieth century goes wrong. [JC]

---From the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

A better path develops for a distraught man in “Double Exposure” by Lou Antonelli (debut 6/11 and reviewed by Frank D). Jake is about to end it all. He has been trying to keep his high maintenance wife happy for decades and has needed to embezzle to satisfy her spending habits. Now, on the verge of indictment and abandoned by his spouse, he buys a gun. Before he pulls the trigger, he spies a Kodak one-day photo hut. Curious, he pulls up to the window. They are holding pictures of him and his last girlfriend from 30 years before. The package is a lot thicker than it should be.

Double Exposure” is listed as an Alternative History story but I would classify it as a Magical Realism tale. It is set as a second chance tale, a look into a life that should have been. The author is inspired by his memories of the old photo huts (I remember them) and of their disappearance. A cool idea (photos of another life), one that I could imagine would make for a great anthology.

- Frank Dutkiewicz, Diabolical Plots

Great White Ship”: A traveler stuck waiting for a flight strikes up a conversation with an old airline employee. The Old Timer tells him a story of a Great White Airship that arrives from a most unusual destination. The story of a craft from an alternate reality and how it got there is only the precursor to the final act.

This is one of my favorite stories from this site. I have a great passion for lighter-than-air craft and their potential as a future means of transport, which opens the story. The author uses this speculation to launch into an engaging tale. As fascinating as the main story line is, the alternate history premise that accompanies it is just as worthwhile. This story was well written and very well thought out. It is well worth the read.

Recommended.

- James Hanzelka, Diabolical Plots

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