• honest lies

    The rejections are piling up. I see it as a good sign in a twisted way. It means I’m sending out work regularly, which I am. Generally, the feedback is good. I’m hitting most of the desired requirements. The sting is when you get a comment that indicates your story is not original enough. Ouch. My poor ego, lying face-down in the dust with footprints on its back. All the stories I’ve written and completed this year are short. I’m comfortable in that format, and would like to continue writing sub-2K stories if at all possible. There is a shift going on in my writing, which is hard to elucidate.…

  • the wheel turns

    Sorry, no April 1st puns from me, although I’m amused by the ones piling up on the Internet. The weather has turned lovely here in Ireland, and about time too as we had a lousy winter–legions of gales, rain, and perpetual cloud on a constant offensive. The longer evenings and sunshine improves one’s outlook immeasurably. I’ve been able to hang washing out on the clothesline, which is one of the markers of a genuine change in the season. There is something deeply sensory about the patchwork line of jeans, t-shirts, towels, and sheets flapping in the breeze, and their smell when you retrieve them in the evening–of clouds and wind,…

  • a writer by any other name

    The name we’re given at birth can have its pros and cons. As a kid I was never hugely enamoured of the name Maura, but it wasn’t awful either. In Ireland it’s relatively common, and to my teenager mind that was the worst strike against it. I remember my shock when I first saw a copy of China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh. Here was a fellow McHugh, with a similar first name, who was a published science fiction writer. Worse, the book was well written and very good. At that time I had aspirations to write, but was doing very little about it. I’ve followed Maureen’s career since then…

  • the first

    Today I returned from five enjoyable days in Scotland, which I spent in the company of a dear friend. For one lovely afternoon we rambled around Edinburgh: I bought a excellent pair of running shoes from the enlightened Run and Become, we browsed a Christmas market sipping mulled wine from a proper mug, visited the National Museum of Scotland, a cheesemongers (hmmm, Goat Gouda), and finished up chatting with mates over a strong coffee in Beanscene. It’s a wonderful city. Six weeks ago I made my first professional sale of a short story: to Sean Wallace at Fantasy Magazine. (Those of you in search of gifts should note that there…

  • brains optional

    Weddings consume a lot of time. I’ve been away watching good friends commit to a life of happiness and love (if you met them you’d know the odds are in their favour). Finally, I feel as if I have the time and space to inhale since I returned from Clarion. I’ve been busy, and travelling, since I came back, with regular events interrupting my routine. From now until Christmas my schedule is clear except for the usual bits and pieces. It’s writing time. Once I get my taxes done, of course. This morning the postman rang my doorbell, and waiting in the pouring rain as I signed for a box…

  • tell it slant

    At Clarion Maureen McHugh reminded us of a line from a poem by Emily Dickinson: “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.” Maureen placed the emphasis on tell it slant. It’s a piece of advice that is so simple that it has stayed with me since. I’ve been trying to eradicate lazy writing from my prose. It’s a humbling exercise because it highlights how often I lapse into cliché, or use a common turn of phrase, in my fiction. Now, I try to see objects, people, and events in a different way. This allows me to describe them slant. So I set myself a related exercise. I love to…

  • needs writin'

    A third draft of the short story was hammered out during the wee hours of the morning. So wee, in fact, that you needed a microscope to see them. I emailed the story off for review before dawn fully developed, because there’s a weird chemical change that occurs when the early light of day hits your eyeballs after a long slog of writing. Everything you’ve written takes on the appearance of excrement. Sometimes it wears off by noon. Other times that early-morning clarifying light is accurate. Revising a story is always an interesting process. Usually it begins with great hopes, stalls in despair, and resolves through grim-faced determination. I’m sure…

  • a little progress is a dangerous thing

    I wallowed in a glut of sleep today so I had to cut into my surplus already. I do tend to write well at night. I’ve completed a second draft of one of my Clarion stories. I skimmed through the critiques my clever and clear-sighted classmates gave me. Just enough to glean pointers without confusing me with too many suggestions. Or so I think. I’ll go through the story tomorrow with a stricter focus, and then ship it out to a friend who said he was willing to give it the once-over. I shiver at the thought of that critique. Oh well, honesty is better than a kind word. Not…

  • sleep deprived and fuelled by coffee

    Ah sleep, long have I courted you, and long have you spurned my advances. No, I’m not an insomniac yet, but over the past few months my sleeping patterns have been shattered. I sleep in pieces now. During my absence my contributor copy of Cabinet des Fées (Volume 1, No. 1) arrived, and it’s a beautiful journal that fits neatly in the hand. The cover artwork by Charless Vess is gorgeous. He also contributed a great deal of the interior line drawings, which are lovely. It’s satisfying to see my story, “In the Woods” in such a well-produced publication, in the company of other fine stories and essays. I’ve started…

  • Clarion abú

    I’m back in Ireland. I’m still alive, and I survived the Clarion West experience. I gave up blogging, as you’ll have noticed from the dearth of entries, because I didn’t have the spare energy. I’m not usually one for stats, but here’s what I did during Clarion: Ist week: 3,200 2nd week: 4,400 3rd week: 3,400 4th week: 7,700 5th week: 8,000 6th week: 6,700 That’s 33,400 words over 6 weeks, which is approximately 5,500 words per week. That’s not that great, really. If I analysed it closely, the longest it took me to complete a story was 3 days. I averaged about 1,855 words a day in that case–although…