GENREALITY

Archive for December, 2011



Saturday, December 24th, 2011 by Sasha White
A Trailer Boy Christmas Story Just For You

We’ll be back on January 2, 2012 with new Genreality authors Diana Peterfreund and Helen Kay Dimon joining us!

Meanwhile, here’s a bit of a holiday snack for your enjoyment, taken from my second collection, Diving Mimes, Weeping Czars and Other Unusual Suspects….

What Child is This I Ask the Midnight Clear

By

Ken Scholes

It could have been snow, gently drifting down.  It could have been virgin white and cold as cold.  But it wasn’t.

It was ash and the night wind was hot upon me.

That’s what I remember now when I go out.

That first year when the world was on fire and we slipped over the broiling skin of it, we brave nine.  We ran the course all night but found nowhere to land.  For the first time ever I did not stop.  Not one place.  And all the while, as we slid through that broiling night, I kept humming that song.  The one about the star, the star.  Dancing in the night.

Tail big as a kite.

The end had come suddenly and they’d managed to do it to themselves.  I’d always known they would.

#

I’m airborne now and the past falls away.  The ash has long settled and it’s really snowing again.  We’re not as loaded down as we’ve been in the past but that will come in handy later.  Times have changed.  The list has changed, too.  And so has my work.  Naughty and nice are blurrier now so I’m less meticulous in checking.  I do the right thing, instead.

I don’t have to crack any whips or give any whistles.  We build speed to bend time around us.  We’ll do a year’s work this night and then we’ll sleep a while.  I check the ammunition in my assault rifle and loosen the strings on my sack.

Then we start landing here and there and I’m out doing the right thing.  Books for a library in Vancouver.  Needles and a whetstone for a circuit rider in Laramie.  We haul a starving family out of a dead mountain town in Oregon and assassinate a white supremacist who was building a skinhead army in Maine.  A handful of twelve-gauge shells for Leonard in Saskatoon.  A bottle of aspirin in Bo Phut, Thailand.  And so on.

We’re just turning north for home when we see the light.

A star, a star, dancing in the night.  Tail as big as a kite.

It builds and then blooms, a piercing white over the horizon to the east.  I shield my eyes and look homeward, then back into the light.  Is it a bomb?  Another crazy moving the world deeper into the hole it has fallen in?  Or a satellite falling from orbit?  Either way, it’s worth looking into.

I steer east and take us low.  As I draw closer, the light shrinks to a concentrated point of brilliance and I aim for it.  We pick up speed and rip open space-time for a split second.  Then, we bear down upon the town that sleeps beneath that unexplainable, spontaneous star.

There in the glory of that bright light, a child screams.

#

She is not on my list.  I’ve made no stops in this feral country in over a decade.  But I hear her screaming and it is as piercing as the star above.  I unsling my rifle and we drop right there to hover over what used to be a schoolyard.  I don’t know what I was expecting.  Someone being harmed.  Someone being carved up into pieces by primates gone horribly wrong.  I work the lever and feel the solid clunk of a chambered round.  Slipping my gloved finger around the trigger, I use my thumb to move the switch to three-round-burst and then I hit ground with a thud.  I race across the open concrete, stepping over the frozen clumps of gray weed and watching my breath billow into the cold night air.  The screaming stops.  I hear heavy breathing instead now.  Panting.

What are they doing to her? I feel a rage coming on as the screams start again.  I push it down and use it to feed my focus.

Do you hear what I hear, the song asks.

I hear it, I answer.

They rape the world the same way they rape each other.

They kill the world the same way they kill each other.

No list to make or check here.  I am bent on violent righteousness when I kick down the makeshift plywood door propped up to keep the wind out.

Someone has turned the old lavatory into shelter but it has gone badly for them.  The boy lies cold and still and bloody.  The girl’s screams change from pain to terror when I storm into the cluttered room and I suddenly know that things were not what they seem.  I see her, in the corner, squatting in a nest of blankets.  Her brown hair is long and dirty.  Her brown eyes are wild and frantic.  The blankets are stained with blood and I understand why.  Pale and shaking, her eyes go wide as she sees me standing over the cold body of her dead mate, light spilling around me into the room.

Another contraction and she screams again.  I turn, run for the medical kit beneath the driver’s bench.  When I return, I go in slowly with my rifle slung and my hands up showing the kit.  “I can help you,” I tell the girl.

Her eyes roll and she tries backing away from me but falls back into the corner.  Her breath heaves out in ragged gasps.

“I’m a friend.”  I keep my voice low and assuring, just like in the old days.  Only this time, it’s not a frightened child approaching me from a long line in the mall, nervous at the presence the myth of me has become.  This frightened child huddles in a frozen elementary restroom  at the end of her tether, trying to shove life into a dead, cold place.  “I can help you,” I say again but this time I hear the doubt in my own voice.  There is too much blood.

I crouch and move closer, opening the kit and finding nothing at all that I can use.

Then behind me, in the schoolyard, a clatter arises.

The eight snort and stomp and when the howling starts outside, the light winks out.  The moon, hidden behind a layer of clouds, offers little visibility.

Pushing the first aid kit towards the girl, I draw my rifle again, thumb off the safety once more.  I never unchambered the round.  Too smart for that.

More stamping and snorting but no ringing.  I took the bells off their harnesses a long time ago.

“Dashing through the snow,” a voice whispers from the edge of the schoolyard.

“O come all ye faithful,” another says.

“We wish you a merry Christmas,” sings a third.

I look over my shoulder at the girl panting in the corner.  “Just stay put and keep quiet.”

Donder screams and bucks.  Dasher bleats and kicks.  I hear the whir of stones in slings, the distant clatters of shots gone wide.

Then, I’m outside and running at a low crouch.  I’m fast for a big man, even without laying my finger to the side of my nose.  I whistle and I hear the eight lifting off; I hear the labored breathing of the two who’ve been hurt.  I hear the disappointed grunts and hungry sighs.  I don’t wait; when one of them takes shape in the darkness, large and wide, I put a three-round burst into the center of its mass and listen to the rush of escaping air as that rush twists itself into a shriek of surprise.

Another shape forms beside it, this one bending to see to its friend.  I put another burst there.  I’ve done this before.  I do the right thing.

Then I stop.  I smell the burning powder on the midnight air.  I listen for my eight, moving in a slow, widening circle above me.

A third takes shape near the others.  I move closer, rifle raised.  It moves to the left and I tap the concrete with bullets near his foot.  “Hold,” I tell him.

I can see him now and he might’ve been human once but the traces of it have left his face and eyes.  He’s wearing a red hat like mine, only tattered and dirty.  He’s dropped his sling and one of his suspenders is loose and dangling.  Barefoot with wet trousers, he trembles before a vision he may have dim memory of, from a childhood spent before the world heaved its last sigh.

“Remove the hat,” I say, “and look to me.”

He pulls it off slowly.  Our eyes meet and I’m pleased at the fear I see there.  “Life is your gift this year,” I tell him through gritted teeth, “but it comes with a string.  Tell the others what you have seen and tell them to be afraid.  Every other night belongs to you but this one.  I ride on this night with justice and grace.”  I raise myself to full height.  I fire the rifle over his head.  “Now, run like a rabbit.”

He does and as he fades, the night becomes silent and holy for a heartbeat before a new cry, muffled and straining, greets its new home in a broken world.

I turn back and enter the lavatory and in that I am both too late and just in time.  The girl is fading fast and in her arms she holds a sticky, bloody bundle packed into dirty cloth pulled from her makeshift nest.  I see the cord that still connects them.  Her eyes are wide and her nostrils flare when I draw closer but she doesn’t flinch.

She points to me.  “Ho, ho, ho,” she says in a quiet voice before making the sign of the cross.  She passes the squirming bundle to me and says one final word:  “Charis.”

Slinging my rifle, I take the baby.  I do the best I can with the tools I have, cutting the cord, closing the mother’s glassy eyes.  I remove my jacket.  Then I clean the baby and wrap her carefully in it.

I want to stay and bury my dead but I know better.  I have not prayed in years but I manage one there beside the fallen mother and father, victims of a nativity gone wrong in a world that struggles between death and birth.

Then, I whistle for my eight.  We lift off into the night and I hold Charis close to me, giving the reindeer their heads to take us north and home.

As we fly, I ponder — I wonder as I wander — and I call up my list to see who on this night had wanted the gift of a child.  I weep at what I find.

“It’s no place for a child,” I tell the eight as we soar.

“I’m far too old for this work,” I say to them again.

“I am afraid,” I finally admit.

But a vision unfolds to me of a tiny girl in red with elves for her friends and family, raised up with the deer and the sleigh as humanity’s orphan, taught from their books and their art and the better parts of a species tremendously blessed and terribly flawed, trained to go out into that broken world and do the right thing.

And in that moment, the light returns but it is inside me and inside of the baby in my arms, and that light threatens to swallow me whole and I beg it to because within that light is hope and promise and I recognize that tonight was the night upon which the universe — or whomever ran it — gave back to me and did so with a holy charge.

Home arises to the north and we pound sky for it.  As we fly, the clouds lift and the starshine falls like a mantle of jewels over the crown of the world.

I feel the peace on earth within my chest.

Goodwill towards men lay sleeping in my arms.

“What child is this?” I ask the midnight clear.

“Yours,” it says, and weeping, we fly home.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

(And if you need a bit more Trailer Boy for Christmas, go check out this year’s holiday story at Tor.com!)

Friday, December 23rd, 2011 by Sasha White
A giggle to start your holiday Weekend off right.

Yesterday Stacia Kane tweeted a link to a website that had this on it. I just had to copy it, it’s too perfect.

Especially number 3, 10 and 11. :oops:

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011 by Charlene Teglia
10 Ways to Have a Happy Writer Holiday Season

I love Christmas/Hannukah/Yule, whatever you call it, however you celebrate it, it’s time to let the kid inside out to play. And guess what? If you’re a writer, that’s a vital part of taking care of your creative self. But grownup responsibilities can overwhelm the fun, so here are 10 ways to help make the holiday season happy even for a writer on a deadline.

  1. Eat the Christmas cookies. If you love them, eat them, enjoy them, have them on pretty plates with tea or coffee or eggnog. They come once a year.
  2. Read your favorite holiday stories. I love Connie Willis’ Christmas tales especially, but there’s a world of choices out there. I read The Grinch to my kids yesterday and that never gets old.
  3. Watch your favorite Christmas movies. Make time.
  4. Call somebody.
  5. Write somebody.
  6. Play with your own kids or some in your extended family or friend circle. Busy parents will appreciate the gift of time to shop, bake or wrap unencumbered and the kid in you may enjoy playing with Playdoh, making snowmen, building with Legos, etc. more than you realize. I mean really, when was the last time you played?
  7. Schedule time when you can sneak off into your own world of words. When it’s on the schedule you don’t have to feel guilty about all the holiday/family things you are NOT doing. When work time is up, go be present for everybody else. But make time to be present for you and your writing world and don’t try to do both at the same time.
  8. You don’t actually have to spend all day in the kitchen to celebrate. Go out. Buy premade dishes from Costco. Holidays do not really have to mean a ton of extra work.
  9. Start getting ready early. If it’s too late for that this year, do it next year. Just like you figure out how many words/pages you need each day or week to not be pressured at the end, you figure out how early you need to shop to not end up overnighting everything at the last minute in a panicked rush at the postal annex. If you can’t face the stores on Black Friday, guess what; Saturday will bring the same deals and hardly any crowds.
  10. Remember that it isn’t merry for everybody. Kids in hospitals need books and toys and blankies, families in shelters need gifts and supplies, food banks need food. Check around your community to see how you can help out. Generosity and kindness make us better human beings and better writers.
Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 by Bob Mayer
The Kernel Idea

You have to start somewhere.

Have you ever listened to a writer who just recently started a new project? They are practically jumping out of their pants with excitement. Their eyes light up and oddly enough, they break out of that introverted shell and start babbling away about their latest novel.

This is at the core of the Kernel Idea. The spark of inspiration. That one thing that made you believe you could sit alone in a room and write 100,000 words. However, when the writer hits the 50k mark they often forget what excited them in the first place.  As you go through Nanowrimo, are you starting to sputter out?  The flame flickering low?

The kernel idea is the Alpha and the Omega of your book.  By that I mean it starts your creative process and it completes it.  It’s what you begin with and at the end of the manuscript, everything in the book points toward it.

The kernel idea is the foundation of your novel. When I say idea, I don’t necessarily mean the theme, although it can be.  Or the most important incident, although it can be.  But it can also be a setting.  It can be a scene.  It can be a character.

It is simply the first idea you had that was the seed of your novel. All else can change, but the idea can’t.  It might be a place; a person; an event; a moral; whatever.  But you did have it before you began writing and you must remember it as you write.  If you don’t, your story and style will suffer terribly.  You should be able to tell your idea in one sentence.  And repeat it to yourself every morning when you wake up and prior to writing.  Knowing it will keep you on track.

Every new book I begin, I write out this one sentence on a word document as the very first writing I do.  I print it out and put it where I can constantly see it.

A Test

Can you clearly state what your book is about in 25 words or less? This is a key, essential ingredient of writing a good book. This idea keeps you focused and on track. It is important to:

  1. Write The Kernel Idea down.
  2. Ask yourself what emotional reaction does it bring about.

Good writing and strong characters are the key to great writing and knowing what excited you to write the book in the first place will bleed onto the page. However, if you don’t write it down, you might forget and get lost along the way.

What Is Your Kernel Idea?

  • Good news is you had one.
  • Bad news is you probably forgot it.
  • It is usually the first thought you had (the spark of inspiration)
  • It is the foundation of your book, the seed.

KERNAL IDEA EXERCISE

Write down the idea behind your current project.

If you can’t do it, then you need to backtrack through your thought process to find it, because you had it at one point. Everything starts from something. While idea is not story (something I will talk about later) idea is the only thing in your manuscript that won’t change. Your story can, but your idea won’t.

In one of my early novels, the original idea was an action: What if Special Forces soldiers had to destroy an enemy pipeline? That’s it for Dragon Sim-13.  Not very elaborate, you say.  True.  Not exactly a great moral theme.  Right.  But with that original idea there was a lot I could do and eventually had to do.  I had to change the target country after the first draft.  But that was all right because I still had the idea.  I had to change characters, but that was fine too, because it didn’t change my idea.  I had to change the reason why they were attacking a pipeline, but again, the original idea was the same.

You will have plenty of latitude for story after you come up with your kernel idea; in fact, I sometimes find the finished manuscript turns out to be different from what I had originally envisioned, but one thing is always true: that kernel idea is still there at the end as the Omega.

For my first kernel idea, I made it as simple as possible to enable me to focus on the writing because when I was in the Special Forces my A-Team had run a similar mission on a pipeline.   Since I had a good idea what would happen in the story, I could concentrate on the actual writing of the novel.

I’ve sat in graduate literature classes and heard students say: “The author had to have a moral point in mind when they wrote that book.”  I agree, but sometimes it is not at the forefront of the story.  Many authors write simply to tell a story started by that kernel idea, which indeed might be a moral point, but sometimes is a story that they wanted to tell and the theme developed subsequently.

A moral or theme (screenwriters call it intent) always does appear in a book by the time it’s done. No matter what conscious expectations or thoughts an author has when they start writing, a lot more appears in the manuscript than they consciously anticipated.

After you have that kernel idea, you should spend a lot of time wrestling with it and consciously uncover your feelings and thoughts about it. I try to look at my main characters and determine what will happen to them emotionally, physically and spiritually as they go through the story.  Who are they at the beginning of the story and who are they at the end?

This is an example of being aware of what you are doing. Not all authors have a conscious theme when they write a novel, but experience has taught me that it is better to have your theme in your conscious mind before you start writing.  It might not be your original idea, but it will definitely affect your characters and story.

The reason it is important to have a theme in mind is because people want to care about what they read and the characters. If there is some moral or emotional relevance to the story they read, they will become more involved in the story and enjoy it more.  Even if the reader doesn’t consciously see it either.

Writers balk at the Kernel or one-sentence idea. How can you be expected to write the entire essence of your epic novel in one sentence? You are told that every word, every sentence, every paragraph and every scene must have purpose, so how can any writer sum up their work in twenty-five words or less?

It’s simple. Your story started with an idea. The idea wasn’t much. If you write it down when you think of it, then summarizing your story in one-sentence is just that much easier.

One way to work on understanding the Kernel Idea is to take your favorite movie or book and try to figure out the Kernel Idea. This will help you narrow the focus and see how it is the foundation of everything in the story.

Do you know what your kernel idea is?

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011 by Sasha White
Short Reads: free and not.

Hey everyone! Christmas is less than a week away! WHoo Hooo!
That means 2012 is getting closer as well!
I figured since I talked about Self-publishing some stuff earlier this year, I’d let you know what’s going one with them. Plus, since 2 out of 3 of my self pubbed offers are FREE this week, I thought you might be interested.

I’ve been keeping track of some of the numbers as I try various promotional things, and I’ll post the results in January. I’m waiting until January because then I’ll have a full month worth of info for Highland Heat, which was released earlier this month.

Mavericks of Space is a Free Read on Smashwords and All Romance eBooks for this week only. (Feel free to mention on Amazon that it’s cheaper elsewhere, but Amazon will only price match, they won’t let us self publish free reads.


ABDUCTION
When Max Cooper, a “damaged” ex-Coast Guard officer, wakes up naked in a strange bed with no memory of how he got there, “alien abduction” is not what pops into his head.
It’s Captain Tyla Natori’s job to bring males from other worlds back to her own female-dominated planet to be put “on the market.” When she finds a perfect male speciman in the form of Max Cooper, however, she decides he’s the one for her…and he has no choice in the matter…Or does he?
TRANSPLANT
Max made his choice to stick with Tyla and become a Transplant on Triton. Only things aren’t going too smoothly, right from the start. Max wants to be Tyla’s only lover, and for a Triton woman, monogamy is unheard of. Then there’s the fact that the queen’s ordered Tyla to marry a Durian prince in order to prevent a war.
Nothing brings two people closer together than facing a common foe, but can Max and Tyla stop the marriage and still prevent a war?
Abduction:6,700 words
Transplant:6,591 words
Please note: These stories have been previously published, separately, and with a different cover. They contains explicit language, frequent graphic sex scenes.

MEANDROS is a free read posted everywhere, and always.

Only once more, always once more.
Dancer Tammi Johnson thought she knew everything about her body–until she was almost crippled in a car accident. She’d resigned herself to a life without joy until the sexy and dynamic Tom showed her that dancing wasn’t the only passion, or pleasure, she could experience. He taught her to live and love with her whole body–and her whole heart
But when tragedy strikes again, Tammi is devastated. Until she acknowledges that the only way to honor the love of her life is to celebrate what he taught her, and for Tom, she’d do anything once more.

Available in all formats at
All Romance eBooks * Smashwords

HIGHLAND HEAT is a new release, and it’s new work. It’s not for free anywhere, but hey, it’s only $2.99 so I hope you might check it out anyway. :)

The story of a Highlanders Heart

When Dougal MacNeil refused to do an evil witch’s bidding he saved his honor, but lost the chance of a life with his soul-mate. Now, almost three hundred years later he has a chance to finally have what he’s always wanted, a life with the woman he’s always loved, or the re-incarnation of her anyway. In this life, she’s already married to man he calls friend.
Dougal is shocked when the couple asks him to join them in their bed, but unable to walk away. Will sharing her love with another man shatter his heart forever, or can this traditional Scotsman find his happy ending with a new beginning?

Word Count : 14,000

Now Available at
Monday, December 19th, 2011 by Carrie Vaughn
Talking it Through

Happy holidays!  I’ve had a good writing week, getting started on a new novel that I wasn’t expecting to work on right now, but inspiration struck, and since I don’t have any serious deadlines looming, I’ve grabbed the opportunity.  Being in the groove like this feels so wonderful!

And when I fall out of the groove. . .  I have another trick for getting unstuck:  talk it out.  Having trouble with the plot, or some other aspect of your manuscript?  Try explaining it out loud.  If you have writer friends, you can bring out the coffee or beer or other drink of choice, and have a big brainstorming session.  Explaining your work out loud can help you articulate the problem in a way you hadn’t been able to before.  By coming at the problem from a new direction, you may discover some excellent solutions.  What you say doesn’t have to end up in the story, but it may help you clarify things in your own mind.

Don’t have an audience?  You can still talk through your story, to yourself.  I’ve done it.  Imagine yourself in the future, when the book is all written, published, out in the world, and you’re doing a publicity tour for it.  You’re being interviewed on radio or on TV, or you’re on a panel discussion, and someone asks a question about the plot (maybe that section you’re having trouble with), or wants you to discuss the themes of the book, or why you wrote the book.  What do you say?  How do you explain it, as articulately and briefly as you can?  This isn’t meant to be a stressful exercise (it helps not to think about an audience hanging on your every word).  Think of it as a different form of brainstorming.  Switching to the verbal part of your brain might spark the idea you need to move forward on your draft.

Saturday, December 17th, 2011 by Ken Scholes
Novels and Short Stories….

Earlier this week, Jay Lake had a blog post referencing a Richard Parks blog post about short stories and novels.  And I don’t really feel the need to weigh in with my own opinion — it’s largely the same, though I think of short stories more as a shed than a cabinet.  Could be the trailer boy in me.  I built a lot of sheds as a kid.

I digress.

I’m one of those people who used to swear up and down that he was a short story writer, not a novelist.  I was not going to write novels.  I decided this, I think, after middle-muddling out on two 20k novel starts back in 1995 and 1997.  After that, I stayed in the end of the pool I felt comfortable with until the Great Tater-Taunting and Dare of Aught-Six that turned into my first novel.

So I wrote short stories.  And started selling them.  I think I had close to thirty short stories floating around the markets by the time Lamentation came out…but it was my novels that really seem to have gotten me noticed.

Still, the truth is, I’m more comfortable with short stories than I am with novels.  Probably because I’ve written more of them and have been writing them since I was fourteen.  Twenty years of experience in that medium — compared to five.  Though I’m finding with each novel that I feel a bit more at home.  Because I know that I know how to write a short story…but I do not know that I know how to write a novel (though I’m getting closer.)

I’m still learning my process with novels and one clear bit for me is that my short story and novel processes definitely differ.

In looking at my productivity over the last little while, I finally got back to work on Requiem and laid down around 50k words over the course of two months.  I was building steam for the finish when a couple of back-to-back losses hit our family.  And one thing I’ve learned about my process:  There are some events that I just can’t write through and trying to force it only makes the binding engine worse.

But…being able to build a shed in the midst of that break actually seems to have been a bit of new learning for me in my process.  I’m seeing a pattern now that when I stall from these life events, short stories become the lure that bring me back to work on my novels.

Not long ago, Tor.com invited me to write their holiday story and I leaped at the opportunity.  It needed to be a quick turn around but I knew I could do it.  And right off that bat, I knew I wanted to revisit the world of the Bureaucracy and their Santaman mythos from “The Doom of Love in Small Spaces.”  So I thought and thought; then Jen and I spent a weekend in Seaside, Oregon, (thanks to my family’s willingness to give us a twin-free weekend) and while she shopped and knitted and read, I pounded out a short story.   Ten thousand words in two days…and it felt great.

It’s kept feeling great.

Building that shed has me hankering to play with the tools again and just in the last week, two major pieces of Requiem’s third act have snapped clearly into place in my mind’s eye.  The house is taking shape and the carpenter is starting to understand how he goes about his work just a little bit better than he did before.

Happy Saturday folks!  Trailer Boy out.