Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Look Back at 2005 - and the obligatory New Year's resolution

The year 2005 hasn't been a bad one. Lots of hard work, but it was fairly rewarded.
On a purely personal note: Patricia completed two more academic semesters at the Texas A&M-Commerce. She earned a Presidential Scholarship both terms. That means she had at least a 3.5 GPA and a full course load.
This past semester (Fall 2005) was her last full academic semester. Next month she starts interning at the Mt. Pleasant school district. She will be teaching third grade. She still will be doing some classroom-based study, but for this and the next semester, it's mainly "field-based learning" as they say.
Next fall, she will be an intern. A year from now she will have her degree in Early Childhood Education. I'm so proud of her.
As for me, back in March I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and starting taking a pill daily - a regimen I probably will continue the rest of my life.
In November I had an eye exam, and had my specs upgraded to trifocals. Too much staring at the computer screen, I guess. Otherwise, my health has been pretty good, and I felt better this year than I have in a while. The Type II Diabetes seems to be in check, although my blood sugar has shown a tendency to creep up. I'm making plans to start some oral medication, probably in February.
I started a new job June 1st. I went from the third person in a three-person news department at a weekly paper to the first in a three-person department in a semi-weekly (2x a week). Nice change and certainly feel a move up. Of course, it required a move, but we found a nice house in Hooks in August. The house was also a big step up. We went from a three bedroom with one bath (and no shower) to a four bedroom with two full bathrooms. Plus it has a nice fenced yard, which was a boon for the pups.
In November, a stray cat adopted us. She has to live outside because Patricia is allergic to cats, but otherwise she seems quite happy. I named her Dreamer. She lives in the backyard now with Solace, the big dog. Ashley, the 12-year old cocker spaniel, also enjoys the yard, although she sleeps indoors at night.
On to science fiction: 2005 was obviously a good year. I had my first pro sale hit the newsstands with the Sept. 2005 Asimov's. I still have my subscriber's copy - which is very weather-beaten at this point. I gave away 12 copies so far - my two authors' copies plus another ten I ordered from Dell magazines. I sent them to family members, old friends, an old scoutmaster - you know the drill. I probably need to order another dozen, which will dribble out a lot slower.
It was a genuine piece of luck that "Cast Iron Dybbuk" hit at the same time as "Rocket". Nice one-two punch for a debut - and totally fortuitous, since the publication schedules of the two mags are totally different.
The stories were also different enough that they complemented each other. For example, Tangent on-line panned "Rocket", but liked "Dybbuk". I also got some feedback from individuals the same way - they liked Dybbuk more than Rocket.
I asked to be paid by ASIM in copies, which I also handed out liberally, although the distribution there was much more limited. The only non-family member I recall I gave a copy to was Howard Waldrop - although I "sold" a copy to one of Patricia's professors who is a s-f reader. He had known of Andromeda but had never seen a copy. Patricia offered to give him one, but for ethical reasons (since Patricia was in a class he taught at the time) he paid for the copy. Of course, I never say the money...
The Rocket-Dybbuk combo was part of that run of six stories I had during three months this summer, the others being "Big Girl" at Ultraverse, "The Honor of the Blue Devil Patrol" at Beyond Centauri, "Dialogue" at RevolutionSF and "Hideaway" at Alienskin.
Three of these stories three were print - Rocket, Dybbuk, and the Blue Devil Patrol - and four were paid; those three plus Hideaway.
Bewildering Stories published "Won't You Come Home, Bill Buckley?" in February and "The Queen of Guilty Pleasures" in September. Surprising Stories published "After Image" in September.
Convention-wise, I was very happy to get to ConDFW in February. It was the second time I had made it. The first time, in 2003, was also the first con ever attended. I had just begun to write a few months earlier. The con's publicity person (I still remember her name, Stephanie Folse) sent out a news release that crossed my desk at the paper in Malakoff where I worked at the time.
She apparently had sent it to all the papers in the DFW area; Malakoff is on Cedar Creek Lake and the very fringe of the area (zip code prefix 751). I ran the release, and then wheedled my way in on a press pass.
It was there that I realized writing s-f was what needed to be doing. I know it sounds corny, but that's how it happened. I also learned a lot; the best piece I advice I heard was Dave Marusek's comment that breaking into writing was probably "one-third talent, one-third talent and one-third luck". I also met Jayme Blashcke there, the fiction ed of RevSF. On one panel, he commented it was tough to get good s-f when you aren't a paying site. When I went back home. I wrote "Silvern" for him. It was my first publication. My next story for him, later that year, "Silence is Golden", earned me my first HM in the YBSF the next year.
BTW, I let the folks at ConDFW know how much the event meant to me while I was there. I plan to go back in February.
In July, I was a guest at Conestoga in Tulsa. It was a great con, and marked the first time I chaired a panel. It was on "How the Defeat Writer's Block". The room was packed; Jayme remarked later on his blog I looked like I knew that I was doing and had been going to these things for years. Boy, did I fool everybody!
Conestoga featured one of the most embarrassing accidents that I've ever had. Sunday morning Howard and I slouched across the street to a supermarket to grab some breakfast food. I wanted to eat there, but Howard wanted to get back to his room; he was still working on a story he was writing for a reading. The reason I wanted to eat right away was because I could tell I was getting the shakes (the Type II diabetes in the morning). But I went along. Howard went back to his room to work on his story while I went to the green room. Then, I took the lid off the very tall cup of coffee to put some sweetener in it. When I reached to put the lid back on, I guess my had was shaking so bad that I practically flung the cup of coffee across the table - and all over an artist guest. I think her name was Janie Dann. Young Asian girl. Christ, I felt horrible. She was covered in coffee from the waist down, like a donut! Poor thing. I apologized most profusely.
After that I didn't care or mind my reading was scheduled opposite the GOH, George R.R. Martin. Myself and the other sacrificial victim for the hour, Dorothy Leblanc, were along in the reading room. I read a couple of stories to LeBlanc for practice. She was very nice about it. (I remember she said she had a rough start to the con, when she went to the hospital Thursday after having an allergic reaction to some food). She left afterwards and headed home to Louisiana. Later, when I got my copies of Asimov's with "Rocket", I sent her one as a thank-you for listening to me.
BTW, Howard once told me, when he was a newbie, they did the same thing to him - put his reading as the minor one opposite a con's GOH. I guess that's what new authors are for.
The next weekend after Conestoga, I attended a Turkey City at Lawrence Person's house in Austin on July 23. It was really a strain for me to attend; I just started my new job in June and, as noted, had traveled to Tulsa the previous weekend. (I had also made a work-related trip to San Antonio on July 11).
The bit I brought to the workshop was very experimental and didn't go over well. Ted Chiang was the guest author. I know he's a great writer, but jeez, I couldn't warm up to him personally.
In September, I attended FenCon, again in Dallas. It was a bit of a disappointment; Joe Lansdale couldn't make it because a tree fell on his house in Nacogdoches during Hurricane Rita. Jayme couldn't make it for personal reasons. The panels were good, with lots of high-powered guests. I hope FenCon isn't sucking energy from ConDFW.
OK, as a finale to this long report, I actually have a resolution for the new year: I resolve that I will write better characters in my stories.
Pretty simple, huh?
When I first began submitting, one editor (Jayme again) commented my stories seemed fairly polished for a newcomer, and that I seemed to have skipped the novice writer's stage. The truth is, of course, my novice writing (my first million words) was published in journalism. S-F fans never read my novice s-f because there was none.
I also have gotten many comments about my stories having clever ideas and twists. OK, so the imagination seems to be working.
I got a rejection just a few weeks ago from Albedo One that made me slap my forehead. The editor said, in so many words, "good story, but it's idea-driven, and we like character-driven stories".
Here I am - the guy who's said more than once that science fiction is about people - and in my determination to come up with snappy ideas, I've been neglecting character development. At least, that's the way I see it.
So from now on. starting in 2006, I will try to not only have imaginative and entertaining stories, but fully formed characters. That's something to work for.
Well, that's enough for now. I'll just close by saying have a safe and happy New Year's Eve.
Time to go out and buy some black-eyed peas...

A Look Back at 2005 - and the obligatory New Year's resolution

The year 2005 hasn't been a bad one. Lots of hard work, but it was fairly rewarded.
On a purely personal note: Patricia completed two more academic semesters at the Texas A&M-Commerce. She earned a Presidential Scholarship both terms. That means she had at least a 3.5 GPA and a full course load.
This past semester (Fall 2005) was her last full academic semester. Next month she starts interning at the Mt. Pleasant school district. She will be teaching third grade. She still will be doing some classroom-based study, but for this and the next semester, it's mainly "field-based learning" as they say.
Next fall, she will be an intern. A year from now she will have her degree in Early Childhood Education. I'm so proud of her.
As for me, back in March I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and starting taking a pill daily - a regimen I probably will continue the rest of my life.
In November I had an eye exam, and had my specs upgraded to trifocals. Too much staring at the computer screen, I guess. Otherwise, my health has been pretty good, and I felt better this year than I have in a while. The Type II Diabetes seems to be in check, although my blood sugar has shown a tendency to creep up. I'm making plans to start some oral medication, probably in February.
I started a new job June 1st. I went from the third person in a three-person news department at a weekly paper to the first in a three-person department in a semi-weekly (2x a week). Nice change and certainly feel a move up. Of course, it required a move, but we found a nice house in Hooks in August. The house was also a big step up. We went from a three bedroom with one bath (and no shower) to a four bedroom with two full bathrooms. Plus it has a nice fenced yard, which was a boon for the pups.
In November, a stray cat adopted us. She has to live outside because Patricia is allergic to cats, but otherwise she seems quite happy. I named her Dreamer. She lives in the backyard now with Solace, the big dog. Ashley, the 12-year old cocker spaniel, also enjoys the yard, although she sleeps indoors at night.
On to science fiction: 2005 was obviously a good year. I had my first pro sale hit the newsstands with the Sept. 2005 Asimov's. I still have my subscriber's copy - which is very weather-beaten at this point. I gave away 12 copies so far - my two authors' copies plus another ten I ordered from Dell magazines. I sent them to family members, old friends, an old scoutmaster - you know the drill. I probably need to order another dozen, which will dribble out a lot slower.
It was a genuine piece of luck that "Cast Iron Dybbuk" hit at the same time as "Rocket". Nice one-two punch for a debut - and totally fortuitous, since the publication schedules of the two mags are totally different.
The stories were also different enough that they complemented each other. For example, Tangent on-line panned "Rocket", but liked "Dybbuk". I also got some feedback from individuals the same way - they liked Dybbuk more than Rocket.
I asked to be paid by ASIM in copies, which I also handed out liberally, although the distribution there was much more limited. The only non-family member I recall I gave a copy to was Howard Waldrop - although I "sold" a copy to one of Patricia's professors who is a s-f reader. He had known of Andromeda but had never seen a copy. Patricia offered to give him one, but for ethical reasons (since Patricia was in a class he taught at the time) he paid for the copy. Of course, I never say the money...
The Rocket-Dybbuk combo was part of that run of six stories I had during three months this summer, the others being "Big Girl" at Ultraverse, "The Honor of the Blue Devil Patrol" at Beyond Centauri, "Dialogue" at RevolutionSF and "Hideaway" at Alienskin.
Three of these stories three were print - Rocket, Dybbuk, and the Blue Devil Patrol - and four were paid; those three plus Hideaway.
Bewildering Stories published "Won't You Come Home, Bill Buckley?" in February and "The Queen of Guilty Pleasures" in September. Surprising Stories published "After Image" in September.
Convention-wise, I was very happy to get to ConDFW in February. It was the second time I had made it. The first time, in 2003, was also the first con ever attended. I had just begun to write a few months earlier. The con's publicity person (I still remember her name, Stephanie Folse) sent out a news release that crossed my desk at the paper in Malakoff where I worked at the time.
She apparently had sent it to all the papers in the DFW area; Malakoff is on Cedar Creek Lake and the very fringe of the area (zip code prefix 751). I ran the release, and then wheedled my way in on a press pass.
It was there that I realized writing s-f was what needed to be doing. I know it sounds corny, but that's how it happened. I also learned a lot; the best piece I advice I heard was Dave Marusek's comment that breaking into writing was probably "one-third talent, one-third talent and one-third luck". I also met Jayme Blashcke there, the fiction ed of RevSF. On one panel, he commented it was tough to get good s-f when you aren't a paying site. When I went back home. I wrote "Silvern" for him. It was my first publication. My next story for him, later that year, "Silence is Golden", earned me my first HM in the YBSF the next year.
BTW, I let the folks at ConDFW know how much the event meant to me while I was there. I plan to go back in February.
In July, I was a guest at Conestoga in Tulsa. It was a great con, and marked the first time I chaired a panel. It was on "How the Defeat Writer's Block". The room was packed; Jayme remarked later on his blog I looked like I knew that I was doing and had been going to these things for years. Boy, did I fool everybody!
Conestoga featured one of the most embarrassing accidents that I've ever had. Sunday morning Howard and I slouched across the street to a supermarket to grab some breakfast food. I wanted to eat there, but Howard wanted to get back to his room; he was still working on a story he was writing for a reading. The reason I wanted to eat right away was because I could tell I was getting the shakes (the Type II diabetes in the morning). But I went along. Howard went back to his room to work on his story while I went to the green room. Then, I took the lid off the very tall cup of coffee to put some sweetener in it. When I reached to put the lid back on, I guess my had was shaking so bad that I practically flung the cup of coffee across the table - and all over an artist guest. I think her name was Janie Dann. Young Asian girl. Christ, I felt horrible. She was covered in coffee from the waist down, like a donut! Poor thing. I apologized most profusely.
After that I didn't care or mind my reading was scheduled opposite the GOH, George R.R. Martin. Myself and the other sacrificial victim for the hour, Dorothy Leblanc, were along in the reading room. I read a couple of stories to LeBlanc for practice. She was very nice about it. (I remember she said she had a rough start to the con, when she went to the hospital Thursday after having an allergic reaction to some food). She left afterwards and headed home to Louisiana. Later, when I got my copies of Asimov's with "Rocket", I sent her one as a thank-you for listening to me.
BTW, Howard once told me, when he was a newbie, they did the same thing to him - put his reading as the minor one opposite a con's GOH. I guess that's what new authors are for.
The next weekend after Conestoga, I attended a Turkey City at Lawrence Person's house in Austin on July 23. It was really a strain for me to attend; I just started my new job in June and, as noted, had traveled to Tulsa the previous weekend. (I had also made a work-related trip to San Antonio on July 11).
The bit I brought to the workshop was very experimental and didn't go over well. Ted Chiang was the guest author. I know he's a great writer, but jeez, I couldn't warm up to him personally.
In September, I attended FenCon, again in Dallas. It was a bit of a disappointment; Joe Lansdale couldn't make it because a tree fell on his house in Nacogdoches during Hurricane Rita. Jayme couldn't make it for personal reasons. The panels were good, with lots of high-powered guests. I hope FenCon isn't sucking energy from ConDFW.
OK, as a finale to this long report, I actually have a resolution for the new year: I resolve that I will write better characters in my stories.
Pretty simple, huh?
When I first began submitting, one editor (Jayme again) commented my stories seemed fairly polished for a newcomer, and that I seemed to have skipped the novice writer's stage. The truth is, of course, my novice writing (my first million words) was published in journalism. S-F fans never read my novice s-f because there was none.
I also have gotten many comments about my stories having clever ideas and twists. OK, so the imagination seems to be working.
I got a rejection just a few weeks ago from Albedo One that made me slap my forehead. The editor said, in so many words, "good story, but it's idea-driven, and we like character-driven stories".
Here I am - the guy who's said more than once that science fiction is about people - and in my determination to come up with snappy ideas, I've been neglecting character development. At least, that's the way I see it.
So from now on. starting in 2006, I will try to not only have imaginative and entertaining stories, but fully formed characters. That's something to work for.
Well, that's enough for now. I'll just close by saying have a safe and happy New Year's Eve.
Time to go out and buy some black-eyed peas...

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Getting back to normal

With the crush of holiday traveling and deadlines at work, I obviously have been strapped for time to keep things updated here. But things are leveling out a bit.
Just saw that Bewildering Stories has picked my story "The Queen of Guilty Pleasures" as one of the choices for its editors' year-end retrospective. I had two stories published with them this year. "Won't You Come Home, Bill Buckley?" was published in February. "Queen" was published in October.
One of my honorable mentions in this year's "Year's Best Science Fiction" was for "I Got You", which they published in two parts last year. That was the first HM Bewildering ever got.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

at work

sloppy posting. the wassail was served up at work.

Holiday Silliness

Well, the day is almost here. It's hard not to be in a good mood. At the other day, someone whipped up a batch of "wassail". They made it with apple juice and 7-Up.

Which led me to comment, "if you make wassail with 7-Up, does that make it Wassup?"

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Whoops!

I took a break while posting the last entry, and then never got around to the topic that my title referred to - my story "The Hideaway". I've just posted it on my web site. I had seven stories published this year, and by the Dec. 31 I plan to have them all archived on my web site for everyone to see (www.cedarhillsentinel.com). "The Hideaway" was published by Alienskin in June, and after the obvious choices ("Rocket for the Republic" in Asimov's and "The Cast Iron Dybbuk" in Andromeda), it was my next favorite choice of the year. (And, since I took my payment from Andromeda in copies, it actually was the second most profitable story I sold this year.)
It's another monologue story - like "Rocket" - and I though it had some snappy lines. I especially liked the description of what happened when the grizzly attacked the hunters' tent:
"It was probably about 2 a.m. when the grizzly tore open the tent. Tucker had gone to sleep with a bag of Cheese Waffies under his pillow.
The tent came apart like a thin tissue after a big sneeze."
There are places in that story I almost sound like Mickey Spillane - which makes sense in context.

"The Hideaway"

I mentioned a while back that a bad combination of carpal tunnel syndrome plus a pinched nerved has contributed to my wearing a wrist brace for the past few weeks. That's obviously slowed down my posting. I've also had to save my typing time for work, since as a newspaper editor, I write a lot, too.
I also think that a very old thumb injury may have factored in. When I was a freshman in high school and on the footbsll team, a kid once tackled a dummy I was holding when I wasn't looking, and it tore the cartilage of my left thumb. It twinged for maybe 20 years but went away, and I had forgotten about it. That may be part of the problem, too.
Also, I was working extra from Sept. 20 to Nov. 28 because a reporter was out on worker's comp and the company didn't replace her in the meantime. I had to essentially work two jobs and do the equivalent of 72 hours a week of work - since I work 40 hours a week and the other personb worked 32. My hand was at its worst right before she returned to work. One more week at that pace and I don't know what would have happened.
A nurse practioner I visited with suggested the wrist brace, plus aspirin as an anti-inflammatory (thankfully, I do real well with aspirin and I can pop five at a time with no ill effects. She had suggested I might want to tale Aleeve, instead.) She also said Vitamin B-6 is good for long-term nerve health (I already knew that). Since I have Vegemiter at home, I stepped up the pace of getting into that. I'm trying to eat some every day.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Some thoughts on "Dialogue"

I just posted "Dialogue" under my archives of my web site. As my stories go, it had one of the more convoluted histories.
I wrote it almost three years ago as an entry in the Writers of the Future. It was mailed off right at the end of 2002. WOTF lost it for a full year; it didn't turn up again until late 2003.
In the meanwhile I had submitted it to ASIM, and it was the first story I ever submitted that wasn't rejected outright. It passed the first reading. In the end, it didn't fly, but I finally sold "Cast Iron Dybbuk" to them a year and a half later.
It centers of a meeting with an alien race called the Ymilans. Later in 2003, after attending ConDFW in Dallas, I write a story for Jayme Blaschke at RevolutionSF called "Silvern" and set it on my envisioned Ymilan world. "Silvern" was the first story I ever had published.
After bouncing around a couple of years, "Dialogue" finally also found a home at Revolution - which makes it seem its a kind of prequel of sorts. Of course, the funny thing is, it is actually the older of the two stories.
"Dialogue" is the only story I had published at RevolutionSF this year, and since Blaschke is leaving, I have no idea of what kind of relationship I will have with them in the future. I tell ya' though, I'll always be grateful to RevSF and Blaschke for giving me a little validation when I needed it.
The left hand seems to be feeling better. But now, the transmission on the pickup is dying. I think the clutch is gone. If it's actually the transmission, the truck's toast, because a new transmission will be double what the truck is worth.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Slower

My pace of posting has slowed up a bit. About a couple of weeks ago I developed pinched nerve in my left hand. It may be carpal tunnel, it may be the result of my hitting my elbow, or both. It didn't clear up quickly, so I've taken to wearing a wrist brace and slowing down my typing a bit.
Insofar as my job involves typing, it's hard for me to avoid it altogether. But I've definitely tried to slow down.
A week ago I had a real good writing session one night, but it really seemed to aggravate the problem and I haven't gotten back to the story yet.
Temperature was down to 29 degrees this morning, which is really cold for this part of Texas.

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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