Goalposts.

The obligatory New Years’ goal post.  These entertain me, because LISTSOMGLISTSILOVETHEMLISTSLISTS.  And I know I swore that I’d stop discussing forthcoming projects because too often I wind up failing to complete because once I’ve announced “hey I am doing a thing,” my brain is all “lookie you have accomplished talking about it which is the same as doing it right?  Right.”  But Dec. 31 is a exception, I feel.  So, I give you: A LIST.

1. Complete exams.  I am in okay shape.  Could be better, but could be a heck of a lot worse, too.  At the moment I am on track to take them on time, and I plan to work my everloving butt off to make sure I pass.  Everything else is subordinate to this goal.

2. Finish stories and send them out.  I am in shape to have seven stories out within the next month.  Four are currently out accruing rejections, and three more are close to done.  This is kind of bad, because it means I’m not actually pubbing anything, but I’ll give it a year to accrue large quantities of rejections before I hunker down to rethink my strategy.  I’m vaguely alarmed because all the things I’ve been sending out are on the whole stronger than things I’ve gotten published, but I’m also sending to much scarier markets (that my Clarion classmates have already broken, sigh…man do I feel like a loser).  It’s going to be a long slog there.

3. Get back to nonfiction.  This was the year of spec fic for me, and I have loved every second of it: finally getting into Clarion (on my fourth try), and my first pro-sale to DSF.  But I also got my first nonfic pub, too, and I’ve been neglecting that side of my writing life.  After exams, I’ll be raring to go on a pile of essay ideas that have been languishing while I rode the Clarion-enthusiasm wave.  Now that that’s ebbing a bit, it’s time to nonfic.

4. Exercise.  This was not a terrible year for me, health-wise.  I lost about 15 lbs. from May-July, and I’ve kept off ten of them, mostly with regular walking and gym-going when I can find time.  I learned how to run–not well, not fast, but for a bit there I could do two 12 min. miles in a row, and that pleased me to no end.  I’d love to work my way up to a 10 min. mile, and an hour of runtime.  And I miss lifting weights.  One tangible goal: after exams, save up $100 and get a personal trainer for a month, someone to teach me how to work the weight machines.  I’d use them if they weren’t alien spaceships with bizarro controls.

5. Be able to discuss my work without sounding like an asshole or an idiot.  This is SO HARD and it shouldn’t be.  Keeping my process & aesthetic mini-journal has definitely helped.  I need to do more of that, and be smarter about it.

6. Visit the parents in Buenos Aires, read All the Borges, and Write All the Things.  I am absurdly excited about this.  It’s contingent on #1, but if everything works out, I’ll get to see my absent fam (I miss you so!) and visit Latin America for the first time. I plan to run around the city stalking Borges like a tourist.  It’s gonna be grrrrreat.

7. Let’s not torpedo our relationships, Batman.  (Warning: this is about to turn both overshare-y and painfully vague.) So 2011 was…not the best year for me Being a Good Person.  I totally screwed over someone I really care about, and there was a fair amount of collateral damage besides.  I want to work on being a good and stable partner.  That said, I have no regrets about the decision, just the process.  I’ve remained friends with my ex (because he is a stellar human being) and I’m still very much in love with my new guy.  This year we’re going to create things together, or at least side by side, which is what I’ve always wanted.  Tonight will be his first New Years’ kiss.  I am not going to mess this up.

8. Eat healthy.  This has gone better than ever this year.  I found a few foods that were messing with me (oh, white bread, how I lovehate you!) and reduced or eliminated them from my diet.  I cook and eat in 6/7 nights a week, with rare exceptions.  I feel like 2011 was the year I got my health (and weight) under control.  Now it’s about maintaining, and getting ever better.

9. Spend less money.  Clarion was an enormous expense, but the Foundation scholarship (and going into some debt) made it possible for me.  Besides that, though, it was a pretty good year for finances.  I’m hoping to get a second job after I pass exams, which will also help with the financial situation. But more than anything, it’s been drinking less and eating in more that have changed my financial landscape, which is all to the good.

10. Still with the no teevee.  I quit teevee in August and never looked back.  I don’t miss it and I never want to go back.  I’m actually considering killing the Internet in 2012, just to see what that might do for my productivity.  ‘Cept I really like blogging…

11. Go to a con.  ComiCon was overwhelmingly awesome, and Furrfest equally so, and World SF is in Chicago this year.  Just got my ChiCon tix, so I will totally be dorking it up this year.  It will be a confectionary delight.  And I’d love to pull off Readercon, if not this year, then the next.

12. Workshops and contests.  I have a massive list of contests and summer retreats I want to throw down for come February, when all the deadlines for workshops and contests come calling.  It may be a fruitless investment of time and money right when I can least afford to lose either, but eh.  I’ve never really thrown myself into contest season before, outside of the yearly Clarion submission, and now that I’m no longer doing that (such a weird feeling)  it’s time.  I’m three stories away from a contest-length story collection.  No excuses, self.

In sum:  Unlike many of my compadres, 2011 was a pretty rockin’ year for me, minus the apartment being a b!@#$.  The third hole in the ceiling was closed when I returned from NY on Dec. 28.  I really, really hope I’m done with my apartment being a construction zone.  But besides that, I love my life.  I love what I get to study and the people I work with.  I finally did Clarion, and even sold some stories.  You were super good to me, 2011–we should do this again sometime, perhaps after the invention of time travel.  And here’s hoping 2012 is even better.

DSF challenge.

Daily Science Fiction asked blogging readers to post a top-five list for the end of the year.  I’ve been reading DSF fairly consistently since February 2011, so I figured it’d be a fun exercise in locking down my own aesthetic.  As in, perhaps exploring what I gravitate to might help me figure out WTF my own fiction’s been up to lately.  And I made a few arbitrary rules besides:

Rule 1: No big names in SF/fantasy.  That took out James Patrick Kelly, Jay Lake, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ken Liu (that guy is everywhere, and his stuff is brilliant, IMO), Nina, etc.  I’m sure I’ve missed many famous ‘uns, but I at least tried to knock out some of them.  And if a few of the people on my list are totally famous, then oops research fail, me.

Rule 2: No one I’m connected to in any way.  So, no Clarionauts or instructors from my Clarion year, and no 2-degree-of-separation folks.  That took out Annie Bellet, Erin Hartshorn, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, etc.

Rule 3: I went with stories that lodged in my brain and stuck.  This is in no way a systematic list; these are the stories my brain kept returning to poke at long after I’d read them.  I’m sure it says far more about me than about the stories in question.

Lo, the list (with #1 being my most fave):

5. Study in Flesh and Mind, Liz Argall

4. The Black Spirits That Rage in the Bellies of Rogue Locomotives, Rahul Kanakia

3. Palindrome, Will Arthur

2. Cloaks and Gloves, Patricia Russo

1. Like Origami in Water, Damien Grintalis

The runner ups: I Kill Monsters, Nathaniel Matthews Lee; and Facts about Gel, Michael Canfield.

I tend to like form-experiments and writers who have unusual styles, so that explains several of these.  And then there’s that extrasensory bit, the “lodges in your brain and sticks” component, and that part is less explicable.  Like, I am generally meh on immersive stories, the ones that drop you into a world and let you swim around in it, but Liz Argall’s strange artist studio just worked for me, as did Lee’s monster-scape.  And Russo’s world was so beautifully off-kilter that I searched the DSF archives for an hour just to find that story (had forgotten author and title, but wow did the setting and plot keep with me).  Eh, I always come back to “taste boggles,” even my own.

Homesickness soup.

Backstory, part I.  My parents are living abroad in Spain and Argentina this year.  Which means I’m family-less this holiday season.  My brother just flew from AZ to Spain, just in time for my mother’s birthday, so they’re all Europe-side, and I’m in Chi-town, lonesome.  I’m not THAT bummed out because I’m going to NY to meet my BF’s family over Xmas proper, but I’m still muchly homesick.

Backstory, part II.  My uncle lives in Montana, state of serious forest fires leading to serious morel mushroom hunt bonanzas.  Every year, my wonderful uncle sends my grandma a large Ziploc of morels, and from this large Ziploc, she culls a small Ziploc, which goes back with me to Chicago, for when I’m feeling homesick.

Backstory, part III.  My family has lived in Spain before.  Seven years ago, to be exact.  Since then, every Christmas, we do a tapas-fest.  We’re pescetarians, so this involves lots of seafood and lots of veggies dishes.  Each person makes two little plates.  One of my mine is morel mushroom soup.  Not a traditional Spanish dish, I know, but the rest of the family have those covered. Dad: mejillones, Bro: salmon en mojo, Dad again: tortilla de espanola.  Morel soup reminds me of home, and people I love and miss.

Tonight, I used last Christmas’s dried morels to make this, with variations.

The best variation?  I dip two thirds of the morels in Bisquick and fry them in butter.  Of course I eat a few hot off the pan, but the rest go in a pile at the bottom of the soup bowl.

Pile of just-fried morels.

The soup, prior to immersion blendering.

Remains of the roux.

Made a quick roux (just like you taught me, Mom!) and thickened up the soup a bit.

And the finishing touches: adding a splash of cream, a splash of madeira, and a pinch of chive.

Finished soup, prior to The Great Devouring.

Thanks to Uncle Gerald for the mushrooms, Grandma Fran (whose birthday was a few days ago–happy b-day, Grandma!) for sharing them with me, and for my lovely Mama whose birthday is today, for making me love morels like a true Midwesterner.

An open letter to Kij Johnson.

Dear most brilliant and fabulous Kij,

In the last week of Clarion, you set me a challenge.  Despite PhD exams, despite my inability to release stories from the clutches of my grubby little hands, you told me:  “Keep three things on the market at all times.  Just do it.  No excuses.”  Okay, so it took me awhile (erm, from August til now, if you’re counting).  I had to revise, and revisions took a billion times longer than I’d expected, and then I had to hate everything I wrote for a while, which was very time consuming?  Also, I submitted a few things to contests, which I refuse to count because contests do not equal markets.  But.  But but.  As of today, Dec. 18, I have three stories out (plus a short that’s still at a contest).  And I’m within a week’s worth of revision passes on a fourth story.  Sure, the second the rejections come rolling in, I’ll be on the treadmill of write/revise/write/revise trying to KEEP three things out there.  But.  I totally owe you multiple Scotches/beers/teas/drinks of your choice the next time we have a con in common.  Thank you for being an inspiration, and for kicking my lazy butt.

Aroooooo,

DarkBrooke

PS. Kij’s Asimov’s story “The Man Who Bridged the Mist” just got picked up for yet another Year’s Best anthology.  I still kind of can’t believe I got to meet her in person, let alone spend two weeks getting to hear her frighteningly incisive story critiques…

Oh, author crushes.   * swoons *

More details at 10, but…

Woke up this morning to an email from the DSF editors–apparently someone contacted them about reading my story on a podcast.  So I fired off an email to the podcast folks (it looks like a nice little outfit–SF-centric, been around a while, good listener base) and we’ll see if anything comes of it.  I will post more details if everything works out.

I am testing, you see, to see if premature blogging jinxes things, as I understand it is wont to do.  I know some people avoid announcing sales, etc., in case the thing in question falls through.  But I am too excitable, and I too thoroughly enjoy being squee-happy in a public forum.  Mostly I’m just amazed at DSF’s reach. Echoes keep bouncing back new opportunities.  I felt this way about the Brevity pub when it went out, too, although I was lackluster on followthrough, in part because the pub came out right as I was gearing up for Clarion…sigh.  Gonna do better this time.

Oy, so much writing to do today, and then a holiday-birthday party later this evening.  At least the day began with good news.

 

Baudrillard and Lyotard.

I want there to be OTP fanfic of major theorists somewhere on the Internet because of how much I love the rhythm of these two lined up.

Spent the day critting a friend’s latest story (squeee!) and poring over exam books, ones that just arrived in the mail.  Moore’s The Novel: An Alternative History is thus far fabulous.  And Baudrillard and Lyotard just came, too, and really ought be read in conjunction with the Moore, since it will all wind up (in context of the paper that’s the endgame of all this) being part of the same pro-experimental-fiction argument.

Alongside my po-mo holiday care package arriving, with usual bizarre confluence, today’s DSF story was directly relevant to my experimental fiction exam list.  I was talking with a Clarionaut friend the other day about DSF, which occasionally gets a bad rap for the hit-or-miss nature of its pubs, and I made the cheap observation that due to the high volume of submissions DSF accepts, they’re one of my favorite pubs for risk, especially in terms of stylistic pyrotechnics wrapped in the trappings of genre conventions.  So I was 7-rocket-dragons of delighted by Rahul Kanakia’s story of people gone robot, with its homages to Ballard and Marinetti.

This is also as good a time as any to bask in the reflected glow of Chris Stabback, whose brilliant stories blew my mind every week at Clarion.  He’s got a story up at Clarkesworld, and I love it more than hyperbole.  He’s the one whose brain I most wanted to eat.

With remarkable frequency these days, I come across writers who I can use to argue that there’s a strong experimental streak alive and well within genre fiction.  I’m trying to build a list with which to convert nonbelievers.   Valente, Kij Johnson, Mieville…who would you put on such a list, and why?  The more recent the better…PKD and Gibson of course belong, but they’re canonized at this point.  I want all the time in the world with which to read all the books…but then I’d never get any writing done (which is what happened today….).

Reviewed!

What’s even better than a large quantity of rocket dragons?  Actual reader comments on a story. Thanks to everyone who posted on my rocket dragon post below, and to those people who left comments on DSF’s Facebook page, too.  What an incredible time to be a writer, when it’s possible to receive instant feedback on one’s work, for good or bad.  Feedback can only serve to make the next piece better faster stronger moar.

In yet another happy result of the DSF pub, I made the Internet acquaintance of the wonderful author Erin M. Harsthorn, who reviewed my story as part of her ongoing (and fabulous) overview of women speculative fiction authors.  I love this series, and I’m honored to be included in the list.  Check out her blog, too–including pictures of the SF/fantasy-friendly quilt she’s stitching for her son…overlapping interests FTW.  Erin’s been pubbed by DSF multiple times; you can find her most recent story here.

Now to get some last-minute holiday errand-running done…

White out.

People always ask me, when they find out I’m from Arizona, if I mind the weather in Chicago.  To which I respond that, a few years back, my hometown received more snow accumulation than Anchorage.  This is what my sweet hometown looks like today:

This is not atypical.

Meanwhile, Chicago is a balmy 42 degrees.  The word “Arizona” may conjure visions of palm trees dancing on the wind, but for anyone from up North, the palm trees are a lie.

Get excited and make things.

My friend and fellow grad student Gina got addicted to sewing last year, and over the past few months she’s turned her tiny studio apartment into the home of high-end sewing porn.  She has multiple sewing machines, a serger, an entire case of feet (I want a zipper foot so badly)…  It’s amazeballs.  She invited me over for a sewing date yesterday, so me and my sewing machine showed up on her doorstep at 11:30 and didn’t leave til after 6pm.  I have not had so much fun in a long time, and now I want us to drop out of school and open an Etsy store because that would go well, right?  Sewing fantasies aside, this is what Gina taught me how to make:

Tan buttercup purse.

I am totally in love with it.  It is spacious, and has a little magnetic clasp inside, and the internal pocket matches the external fabric, and oh it was so fun to make!

Inside of purse, with pocket.

So now I am addicted, and I want a billion sewing pr0n objects–or, my very own versions of the random objects I saw lying about Gina’s house. She’s unbelievably clever at reading craft blogs and viewing Internet vids, then modding other people’s concepts to suit her purposes…she totally had a system whereby she never had to actually cut anything with scissors.  She used a little supersharp pizza-cutter thingamawhatsit to cut patterns–cut prep time in half, or more.  I guess it’s a quilter thing?  Anyway, I was impressed.

Next up, a large tote for carrying school stuffs.  It will be made out of these fabrics:

Light pink on the outside, dark for the lining.

I have a million school-related things I ought be doing, and stories as need revising, but it’s lovely every now and then to take a day and make a thing.  A whole, complete thing, a thing that has use-value, a thing I find aesthetically pleasing.  A thing no one will ever critique!  If this is what I end up doing with my vacation, I am totally okay with that.