Saturday, August 29, 2015

Writing Good Short Stories

This is taken from a handout / lecture/ rant I give my Fiction Workshop students every year at about this point in the semester (second or third workshop, in other words).  I thought some of y'all might like to read it.

It's my tips on Writing Good Short Stories.

(1) These are tips, not rules.  You don't write fiction by rules.

(2) The best short stories will be between 1500 and 5000 words. That’s about two to twenty pages – not a lot of room to develop characters, confliction, drama, and resolution. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

So That Was Week Two

This semester has had a rougher start than usual, for a number of reasons.
One, because I'm teaching two reading-intensive courses.  Both great classes, mind you -- Working Class Lit, and Utopian/Dystopian Lit -- but both with heavy reading to be done every day.

Second, because my insomnia is so vicious at the moment.  Not sleeping makes everything feel like I'm rowing uphill.

Third, why is Labor Day so late?  Why, why, why?

Also, I have a kid in high school.  OH MY GOD, what trauma.

Fourth, I have a kid in high school who is taking both PE and Geometry.  KILL ME NOW.

On the other hand, the short story I sold recently, "What Happened to Lord Elomar during The Revolution," is coming out soon: it'll be published on September 15, in Sockdolager.  

This is one of my favorite short stories -- of all the ones I have written, I mean, this one's one of my favorites.  I have such a soft spot for this story.  

It's in the same universe as Broken Slate, for those of you who like that novel, though none of Slate's characters are in it.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Whining About My Health

So, I've had this stomach issue forever -- a hiatal hernia is the technical term, for those keeping score at home.

Often this sort of thing causes no problems.

Sometimes it causes "mild discomfort," which OTC drugs can relieve.  I've been on those for one billion years now.

Sometimes, eventually, as with me, it causes an ulcer, which is where we are now.  I have a lovely ulcer, and am on some very nice drugs for it -- proton-pump inhibitors and something other drug, they work very nicely, but holy hell the regime is complicated.

I have to take them five times a day, and one of them I can't take with food; and one I must take with food but no other drugs; and meanwhile I have all the other drugs I must take (because I am still, always, a recovering cancer patient); and then today I discovered, looking one of these drugs up, that it can interact with one of the other drugs I'm on -- the levothyroxine for my missing thyroid -- so now I have to call in on Monday and find out what to do about that.

On the other I sold a story last week -- yay! -- and today I received the contract for it and got paid for it.

Nothing like getting paid for writing.  Absolutely the best!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What Could Be The Cause of All This Disrespect for Teachers?

Over at his blog, Rod Dreher cites an amusing little anecdote  (from the Daily Mail -- there's a reliable source, Rod! almost as good as Steven Sailer!) where some Chinese teachers come into a British classroom, spend some time teaching some British kids, and improve their test scores -- by a whole 10%!

The Chinese teachers comment with amazement on the unruly behavior behavior of the British kids and blame -- what else! -- the "generous" benefits of the British social safety net.  Having welfare available made kids rude and lazy, one Chinese teacher claimed, since they knew they had the dole to fall back on.

Rod expresses some doubt about this theory.  He thinks it's more cultural -- you know, some cultures teach people to respect education (he doesn't come right out and say white culture, but you know who he means) and some don't.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

New Issue of Crossed Genres: Issue 32 Portals

It just occurred to me that I forgot to post about our new issue up at Crossed Genres!

Portals is our theme; and our writers did some very nice things with it.

Yusra Amjad, in Where Do You Go, My Lovely? writes about women and girls who, now and then, mix a little more than spice into the dishes they cook.

(Yusra is our Spotlight Author -- her interview is here.)

Naru Dames Sudar writes about a scientist who uses her team's breakthrough in a heartbreaking, and dangerous, personal quest in Infinite Skeins.

And finally Lauren Rudin mixes mundane with fantastic in The Copperlin U.S. Post Office Manual.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Once More into the Breach

Tomorrow begins our back-to-school conference.


I have yet to meet a single academic who finds these meetings useful, interesting, or helpful.

And yet.

Some of these sessions, I understand, are necessary -- we have to be trained, yearly, for instance, on ADA requirements, and when else to do that? -- but some of it, you know, not so much.

To give my school credit, they have cut the back-to-school conference down from the four or five days of endless blatherskate we used to have to sit through (with people being brought in and being paid tons, I am sure, to talk at us for hours at a time about perfectly useless bosh) to what is now an almost painless two days worth of meetings.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Enough, Summer. We GET It.

It's been over a 100 here every day for the past week, with a heat index of OMFGNODON'T LEAVE YOUR HOUSE ARE YOU INSANE?!?!

We have air conditioning, which hasn't broken at all this summer, for the first summer since we moved into the house, but as usual in Arkansas, it can't keep up with his vicious heat. And unless we want the power bill to be $300 dollars, we can't run the AC low enough to keep the house decently cool anyway.

It's ten or eleven o'clock until the house is cool enough to sleep at night, and through the peak heat hours -- noon until seven, in other words, we are all (except Dr. Skull, who perversely loves the heat) limp and miserable.

The cats lie on top of our orange crate bookshelves, which are the coolest places in the house, except for the kitchen floor under the AC vent, which the dogs commandeer.  I have the white chair under a different AC vent.  The kid works in her room, under a fan. Both of us are stripped down to minimal clothing.

We don't go anywhere unless we have to. Yesterday I ventured out to the store for supplies.  The heat was astounding.  Not just the heat itself, but the wet heaviness of the air -- a violent, oppressive, vicious heat.

Even the dogs won't go outside.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

A Review of the Kid's Comic

This is pretty cool.

A through review, which makes good points.

Review: Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman

tl;dr: Oh, Harper Lee, No.

As I started out reading this book, I had some hope. The writing is lovely, and the early chapters are nice enough: It's the mid-1950s, sometime just after Brown v. Board of Education was handed down, and Jean Louise is coming home from New York to visit her daddy in Maycomb.

There's a train ride.  There's some trenchant and interesting commentary on the South and Maycomb and the difference between New York and the South and on one's ageing relatives. Some nice details about Atticus and Aunt Alexandria. This fella Hank, a new character, is introduced -- he's not part of To Kill a Mockingbird, but in the new history, he was always there, living across the street from Scout and Jem, and he was Jem's BFF, and Scout has always, sorta been in love with him. Lee does a good job of making him interesting enough that we see why Jean Louise might actually be drawn to marry him.