Notable Hugo Reading

As you know, I’m nominating for the Hugos this year. I keep telling you that, so you know. 🙂 And because of that, I’ve gotten a lot of good fiction to read. I wanted to note some standout stories in the batch of good stories I’ve read. These stories have really made me think, or more to the point, have involved me enough to make me feel. For whatever subjective values, these are my favorites that I’ve run across so far. Here we go.

Nadirah Sends her Love by Ada Milenkovic Brown. It’s not the clever Christian/Islam reversal alone. It’s also the integrity of the main character in the face of social adversity.

Lures, Hooks, and Tails by Adam Colston. This mermaid on a train story might seem a tad lightweight, especially at the finish, but it really hits my folklore tooth, and the characters do some interesting things. Oddly, I’m reminded of Salinger.

Movement by Nancy Fulda. Everyone’s talking about this one. The core of the story is a first-person narrative of a temporally autistic girl and her choice to have an operation to make her normal, or to stay the same, gifted and out of touch. The characterization is true.

The Old Equations by Jake Kerr. Imagine a universe that figures Einstein was wrong sending a man to travel FTL to another planet. Now, imagine that in this universe they discover Einstein was right. The interpersonal fallout between a traveler, his government and his family washes over you in this superlative exchange of communications.

Run, Bakhri Says by Ferrett Steinmetz. Ferrett digs into my skull again with another strong character in a morally sticky place. Read it.

Forever Sixteen by Amy Sundberg. The story starts a little slow, but it finishes sharp and spot on. Imagine you were perpetually sixteen and what life would be like. A holy avatar plays with the idea and discovers what happens after her time for worship is done.

I’d like to encourage you to send any notable stories you’ve run across my way. We can nominate all the way through March.


The Constant Companion

I’m not sure what kind of fate it is that makes me sicker after 4 days of resting to get rid of this flu, but here we are. However, it is imperative that I return to work tomorrow, so I will. It will be an interesting week, I think. Don’t worry, if this continues, I will, in fact, visit the doctor before the week is out. Oh, the drama!


I recently read a post by a friend about the frustration of juggling writing with a rather full life. That journal is here. I relate, and have always related. Particularly, at this time of year, work is so busy, and my energy is sort of low at the end of the day. Even before the flu.

How do we manage? The average human being can be pulled in so many different directions. I have a very demanding job. You have wonderful children which make your life fuller and more meaningful. Another friend is not only an accomplished writer, but also works on art or dancing or karate or some other pursuit that is just as serious to them as writing is. And of course, I love spending time with the love of my life. And my friends. You know, I even need to give my cats a good romp with the laser pointer. They are important to me.

The problem comes when it all seems to stack up. I’ve lost two days at work. I haven’t written for a week. For every three words I type tonight, I have to correct one because I’m ill. My blog is losing attention. I have so much Russian homework to do. I have to plot a game for this weekend. And the stories to read for the Hugos. Also the stack of books. And Abby Rath is tapping her impatient foot in my head.

Nevertheless, in spite of my anxiety and hand wringing, life goes on. Life is a big continuum, a conveyor belt full of the best sushi. You can’t eat all the sushi as it goes by on the conveyor belt. Sometimes you’re going to pick ikura. Sometimes you’re going to want kappa. (And yes, there really is conveyor belt sushi in Japan. It’s awesome. Or sugoi, if you prefer.)

I can’t do all things all the time. My life is a sum of the choices I make every day. And why do I make different choices? Because different days are different. Because sometimes I have to work, and sometimes I even have to get well. And on the good days, I can write.

I know, I know. Writers are supposed to be hard core. It’s the number one thing we do. Sit down. Write. Send things out. No one is saying use the other things to avoid writing. If you’re lying to yourself, if you never write, you may want to look at that. But I’m saying that it *is* okay if you don’t write some days, or even sometimes. Because that’s going to happen. Especially if you have any of the other aspects of life I’m talking about above. Gonna have to accept that and live with that. If you want to be happy.

If it’s not cool for a writer to be happy, well, I respectfully disagree. I don’t smoke clove cigarettes either. I’m such a square writer. 😀

I am serious about my writing. Normally, I dedicate my twelve hours a week, and even though I’m a little behind right now, I’ll get my hours in eventually. But you know, as I live my life, perhaps the point isn’t to be the speediest writer, or to send the most things out. The point is to make my art a natural part of my life, to make progress on my art, to move forward. These things take time. Deadlines are important, you betcha. But there’s more than that. I’m always going to be writing, and I’m always going to be moving forward on something. The end is not the important thing. The habit, the process, and the art. That’s important.

Once, Donald Maass said, addressing a group of people that I was among in his workshop, that writers are the kind of people who live good lives and writing compliments that life. There’s no way I can expect the seeds of creativity to grow on barren ground. The writing that I need to do, I need to plant in the soil of a rich, fertile life full of good experiences and bad experiences. Writing is not the only monolithic thing I should be doing, else I am not successful. Writing should be a constant companion that walks by me and enriches me, a part of a very fulfilling whole.

That doesn’t mean I won’t sometimes be frustrated by the time I don’t have to write. But yes, I am a writer. And I do other things. And that makes me a better writer. It makes you a better writer too.

With apologies for any lack of cohesion due to that queasy kind of vibe.


Flu, Great Leveller of Man

Bryon was talking to his mother last night. Turns out she’d had the flu for about 3 days. It was a weird flu. When you ate something, your stomach hurt, not with the usual nausea of flu, but you know, like if you’d eaten sour apples and were paying for that particular sin. There were chills. If you stayed away from food, you were mostly okay.

Yesterday I heard about this kind of flu on the radio. New flu, so if you got the flu shot, well, too bad. Flu’s a mutating adapting viral machine.

And so, had trouble sleeping last night, again, just like Monday. Couldn’t get brain to slow down after another busy work day. It was my plan today for my motif to be tired but martyred, go to work and stumble around.

Except I ate breakfast this morning, and I was hit by a wave of nausea and tummy soreness. Thinking I was open to the power of suggestion, I struggled on through about half a glass of milk and half a bowl of cereal before it became unbearable.

The good news, of course, is that there are periods were you feel pretty good. Just as long as you don’t try to eat/drink anything to speak of.

So, I’ll be home today, missing my 4th class with my students and getting behind at work. Yay. I hope that I can get this taken care of in one day, but it is what it is.


Adult, Hardcore

Stepping in for a moment. My apologies to you, o faithful reader, for not supplying you with sufficiently writerly or geeky content. We’re almost done with the second week of the new semester, so I have been constantly talking to students and instructors at work. It may surprise you that most of my Internet life is at work, and at home, I tend to write.


So, what have I been up to? I’ve had a few days of being an adult, hardcore. This morning I sacrificed my writing time to go see my fiscal adviser. Yes, money, distasteful. But I am trying to retire early, and I am trying to retire after only 22 years of full time employment, so I had to reorganize my portfolio, and set up a fund for donating extra money to the cause. Depending on how the monthly budget pans out, I may add EVEN MOAR extra money to the cause. It still looks like I’m going to need some income in my retirement, so let’s hope it’s writerly. However, I would be willing to do a faerie godmom gig at Disney if they want me. More to the point, I could teach adjunct at a community college if I had to.


Another hard core adult activity is getting my ribs re-checked. I’m leaving work a little early today to get my ribs scrutinized. As you know, about 3 months ago, the theory was that I cracked some cartilage in my ribs, and I should allow it to heal. I am trying to exercise very lightly, and I still get some pain. Right now, sitting here, I’m still getting some pain. It will probably turn out to be one of those old person things, and I have to live with it, which means I’ll have to rethink my exercise, but I want to know that. I also keep getting these Charlie Horses occasionally on my right side at an inopportune moment, and I want to know what that’s all about.


Being an adult isn’t all responsibility and aches and pains. Bryon and I put down some money on our 25th anniversary trip last night. We had to bail on the France trip for a variety of reasons, so we are Disney Cruising to the Bahamas for 4 days, and then we are Disney Worlding for 4 days. Our good friends Aric and Kim will meet us at the park, so we get some quality time alone on the cruise, and a great time with good friends at the park. I’m looking forward to July!

Come to think of it, I’m looking forward to June too, what with Taos and all. And May, what with Wiscon and all. Hey, this adult thing isn’t half bad.


So, off to the doctors. The next post will probably be a State of the Union thing. And a Hugo recommendation thing. I’m closing in on those stories.

A bientot.


Imaginary Landscapes

Thanks to Paper Golem, I now have a story in a hardback book. Cucurbital 2 has been published as a hardback. That’s kind of nifty. You should go buy the book, not so much for my story, but to see the interesting ways in which people combine watermelon, turtles, and sex workers into something viable.


I’ve been working hard on fiction, which is minimizing some of my commentary here. And now, the truth about why I write. The real honest, full on, maximum mileage truth.

When it works, it’s better than crack.


Right now, ARvBSF is working. Oh yes, it’s not a be-all-you-can-be draft. It’s hardly ready for sending off. This is draft 2, where we pull out all the dead ends, and we make the structure work. Where we see what actually worked. Where we get to relive our favorite pieces of the draft. And when, if the draft is working, we fall into the imaginary landscape.

I can see the houses. I can feel the characters. I can live the risks.


I know. It’s not fashionable to suggest that writing is other than hard work. That there is something at work greater than yourself. Maybe that’s because there’s so much baggage attached to the artistic side because hard working writer really wants to be recognized for hard work.

Look, it probably does all come from your self-conscious, which means you can still take credit, but if you can just put the old ego aside for awhile (and God forbid, the super ego), and you can ride the coaster, you get to live in the imaginary landscape.
And if I can share that with you, pull you into the imaginary landscape, make that character real for you, I feel like I’ve done my job.

My name is Catherine. I write because I like to pretend. I don’t want to be in every story I write. But when I cry because Oliver Toddle can’t see himself in a relationship with a mortal, or a girl has to decide whether she’s going to be a fox or a girl, and I can feel those things, that’s why I’m here.


This weekend–time to get all haggis-y for Robert Burns’ birthday. Be there or be a sassenach!


The Zen of Patience

Holy squash pancakes, Batman! That was a harrowing day! I’ve been harrowed. When they say 100 percent snow and ice covered, they mean 100 percent snow and ice covered.


Yesterday we had teacher in-service and today was the first day of classes. I have two pretty full classes this semester: Fundamentals of Grammar and Elements of Writing. Expect much more homework. Eh, you guys won’t notice.


I’m at a good place writing-wise. I can see the projects lining themselves up in front of me, waiting their turns. Each day, I work a little more on the first one, and a little more, until I have it where it needs to be, and then I put it back in the queue, and I move on to the next thing. The last year I’ve been winding many pieces of yarn into a big string, and now I can see the individual colors and follow that string through to the end.

I’m in the patience zone. Right now, my writerly brain isn’t foucsed on the finish line. It’s on the crafting every day, moving forward. And I don’t mind. I don’t mind that I’m not jackrabbiting ahead, finishing and sending something out.

Writing is now something I do with regular frequency. Like flossing. Or working out. As you move forward, you’re writing. Enough days moving forward, and ta-da!, you have a book.

Tonight I’m snug at home, finally inside after a long, cold, busy day. Happy to be here. And the rest of this week, I have substantial writing time every day. That’s awfully nice.

Stay warm out there. It’s January.


Bits from the Bottom of the Drawer

Today has been a bit of a wrangle. I’ve subbed for the office front staff, since one of them is out ill today, and I’ve been answering the phone for me and the department. And I’ve been calling references, and troubleshooting in all other ways, so it’s been INTENSE until this very moment. I thought a little break was in order.

Let me share some interesting bits of information that have come my way lately.

I debated linking to this, because frankly, this website is not a Jim Hines’ sock puppet. (I’m not Jim Hines, and neither is my wife!) However, here’s an interesting body image discussion as Jim Hines poses like several females on fantasy covers. I would say that this proves my reasoning why Jim should be nominated this year for best fan writer Hugo yet again, but it does not. It illustrates why Jim should be considered for fan writer next year.


Jay Lake links to this youtube video–Dear 16-year-old me, which is about melanoma. If you’re like me, you may cry a little.


The Monster High Doll Site confirms Nefera and Operetta have been found in Minneapolis. Not long now, people, not long now! Oh yes, it’s Freaky Fab 13 day, so here’s a preview of the new Nick special “Why do Ghouls Fall in Love?” CG Monster High. Kind of groovy.


This is the crazy, delicious Harney and Sons cinnamon tea that has been tantalizing my taste buds and air freshening my office. Gotta love killing two birds…


And…gotta, gotta write tonight. I’ve been so busy at the day job that it’s sort of sucked out my soul. I sit on the couch and drool. I *have* been reading Hugo stories, so I’m not a total bum, but since I finished the LA Access guide, and some of my other research materials, I haven’t picked the pen back up. I know, I know, two days! Quelle crisis! But still.


Tomorrow, Madrigal Dinner at Iowa State, and some shopping at Coldwater Creek. Wouldn’t mind some writing time either. I’m kind of grateful that classes start next week, and I can get back to my day writing.

You guys have a great weekend.


Creative Endeavor

Today, I have mostly links.

The 50 Things Every Creative Should Know— courtesy of Chia Evers

E.C. Meyers talks at length about his feelings at each stage of his book coming out. Sincere and earnest.


I have been reading A LOT of potential Hugo nominees. I begin to see where reading slush is a great education for writers. NOT that these stories are slush. These are the stories that have transcended slush, and have been published. There’s a lot of good work in here. Some stories excel in world building, in unique situations, in humor, in experimentation.

But every, every story that I’m going to take forward has going for it this one thing: brilliant characterization and epiphany. (No surprise to those who know me.) And there are some amazing gems in the stack. Man, makes me want to write like that.

It’s a real treat to get to read so many good works. I will share my faves with you soon.

Um…today we are actually having our first snow in Cedar Rapids. It’s getting more and more intense throughout the day, with a wind that just won’t quit. What this means is the worst of all worlds–stressful travel, a day of work punctuated with weather issues, and an elongated evening of physical labor as we struggle to remove snow. I have not missed the winter litany of boredom and frustration. Honest, it only takes a flake to put the specter of depression over my shoulder! Argh!

But perhaps those of you in warmer climes could send me pictures (or weather reports) of your glorious weather. And by glorious, I mean 40 degrees Fahrenheit or up. I’m not proud.

Okay. Work. Gotta work. Gotta work now, and be thankful my office doesn’t have a window.


New Improved Anniversary Plans

Disclaimer: No, I’m not disappointed. I was in Europe last summer. This trip I like in some ways, maybe better.


Well, the husband and I visited a travel agent shortly before the holidays to talk about our anniversary trip. We are 25 years married in July, and we thought we would go to Disney Paris to see Phantom Manor. We are Haunted Mansion geeks. We haven’t been to Euro Disney yet. It seemed like a great idea. We would run in for a 4 night 5 day extravaganza.

But no. There’s an amazingly high fuel surplus on this summer’s tickets. The stars are poorly aligned on traveling from the US to Paris and back in 5 days, because the costs increase astronomically if you don’t stay over a Sunday. And if you do, there’s all sorts of plane and train connections that are impossible to make for this short time frame.

I could make this work myself. My plan would be to book a flight to Britain, spend a little time there, and then book a Disney package from Britain. Still expensive, but I think it would get us to Disney. However, in order to get this trip to work smoothly, we’re looking at a much higher cost and more time than we want to spend in Paris.

I know, you think. What an awful burden! However, what we wanted was a Disney Paris vacation, not a Paris vacation. And we could afford about a week in France.

The travel agent also pointed out how much cheaper this whole excursion would be if we went, say, now, or in October. It occurred to us that this might be a pilgrimage to make when we retire. We would probably save some money. And we might also be more inclined to also do Paris as well as Disney Paris.

The contingency plan? There’s always been a contingency plan.

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