Two Kickstarters

I’ve mentioned both of these on Twitter, but since that medium is so ephemeral, it’s easy to miss things:

Both Apex Magazine and Uncanny Magazine are running Kickstarters right now. Both of them are award-winning publications, with lots of stories winding up on shortlists or nabbing the honors. Apex was on hiatus for a little over a year, but is now starting up again, which is really great news for the short fiction field. Their Kickstarter has been running longer and they’ve hit their main goal already; they’re almost to the stretch goal that will mean the entire next year of issues is fully funded. (After that there are a few more stretch goals for things like an indigenous and native creators special issue and an international creators special issue.) Uncanny’s Kickstarter just launched and is aimed at funding the whole year in one go; their stretch goals are for original cover art, paying a small stipend to staff, and increasing the pay rate for nonfiction essays. If you’re able to back one or both, that would be really amazing — I know there are so many things that need money right now, and for many people that’s in short supply, but these magazines are both vital parts of this corner of publishing. And both Apex and Uncanny have a lot of fiction online for you to check out, if you want a taste of what they do!

DRIFTWOOD giveaway!

If you missed yesterday’s Twitter giveaway for Driftwood, never fear; Beneath Ceaseless Skies has another opportunity for you. All you have to do is go to this post and leave a comment naming your favorite short story of mine (whether published in BCS or elsewhere). There are already a number of comments — and I confess, it’s fascinating to see what people choose! You have until midnight Pacific time on Wednesday, August 12th to toss your hat into the ring.

Two weeks to DRIFTWOOD!

August is just around the corner, which means we are a mere two weeks from the release of Driftwood! I’m frankly astonished at how good the reviews have been so far: stars from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus, and a whole flood of glowing posts in the last week or so from independent bloggers. I knew the short stories tended to attract fans from the very start, but the nature of this novel is peculiar enough (being a fix-up of those short stories) that I wasn’t sure how it would be received. So far the answer is “really, really well” — and come Friday, August 14th, everybody will be able to get their hands on it!

cover for DRIFTWOOD by Marie Brennan


In the latest adventures of the Tin Chef . . .

My sister is amused that her contributions to my cooking repertoire have both been a matter of saying “well, we could do this half-assed thing I used to do when I lived alone,” and then me getting ambitious about it. Last time it was Upgrade Pasta; this time it’s fried rice.

I have made it before, but I think only once, and then all I really did was scramble some eggs, dump in the rice, dump in a packet of store-bought seasoning, and call it a day. This time I started asking myself “what could I toss in to bulk that up?” Which is why this is now in my recipes folder as “okonomichahan,” a play on okonomiyaki. Because my goal here is to get myself to a point where I feel comfortable throwing this together with whatever odds and ends we happen to have around (“okonomi” kind of meaning “whatever you like”). Tonight that was not just eggs but some onion, cubed pancetta, a red bell pepper that would otherwise have gone to waste, and peas because it turns out I have two unopened bags of them in the freezer, in addition to the one I finished off here. And for seasonings, I used the powdered crack we bought from Red Robin, which in addition to garlic and salt has paprika and who knows what else, plus some soy sauce. I took a small amount of guidance regarding quantities of cooking oil and rice and such from a recipe my sister sent me (a recipe in Japanese >_< — thanks for the reading practice, I guess?), but the process overall was a lot of educated guesswork, including doing things like removing the various add-ins from the pan before I cooked the eggs so those would remain a distinct element rather than just glomming onto the other bits.

It wound up pretty good! Honestly, the only thing I screwed up was one very basic step: I didn’t remember to break up the big mass of day-old rice before it went in the pan, so there was some very frantic breaking and smooshing to try and get it to separate into grains of rice before the ones on the outside got too cooked. In the end it did as it was told, though, and now my large container of leftover plain rice is a much smaller one of fried rice with assorted bits in. And in the future I can experiment with carrot and whatever else might be lying around looking for a dish to be cooked in.

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 20

THIS &#$#@$%! BOOK

I say that with love. 🙂 But I had a progress report all written up on Tuesday night, ready to post the next day . . . and then I woke up on Wednesday to a slew of emails from Alyc, the bulk of which boiled down to “I think we should throw out most of the plot we have planned for the last fifth of the book.” You know, the stuff we spent Monday outlining with multicolored index cards all over the floor.

They had good reasons. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t be posting this progress report instead, the one that starts with the keysmash profanity. The plot we had in mind isn’t a bad one — but it’s one that would benefit much more from being delayed to book three, where it would have stronger logic backing it and a lot more room to breathe. And by chucking it, we bought ourselves room to do some other things in its place. But it meant that instead of waking up, posting my report, and getting started on Chapter 21, I got in the car and drove to Alyc’s place to do the outlining thing all over again. (Side note: I promise we are both taking pandemic precautions as we should, but for several reasons Alyc has essentially been counted as a member of my household for quarantine purposes. That’s why we were sitting on the same futon for the unboxing video for The Mask of Mirrors, why we’ve been getting together in person for book planning, etc.)

That work barely affected this chapter at all — we just had to cut the very brief ending scene that existed to launch the plot we scrapped, and we may alter the sequencing of the remaining ones. But the things I had written for my old progress report were all about us figuring out how to ring the changes on certain conflicts, keeping them from having too much the same shape as the things we did in the first book. Instead we’ve decided to go a different direction entirely — which is another reason why this shift of plans is a good one. I think one of the cool things a series can do is revisit core conflicts or themes from new angles, so it wasn’t inherently bad that there were similarities, but we like this version much better.

However. It isn’t just a matter of snipping out that one scene and proceeding into the new map. This change means that the narrative strand which was going to have its big climactic thing in part five just lost that; it needs a new climax. Which means taking the thing we did in Chapter 18 (where it honestly felt too cramped anyway) and pushing it back to 22, now in new! improved! form!, then figuring out new things to do in 18, and changing the fallout that it had in 19. And those other things we now have room to do? As I said in the last post, we’d already marked a few places where we felt like we needed to go back and add scenes; well, the things we want to do rest on the foundations of those unwritten scenes. So instead of starting Ch. 21 this week, we’re taking a few days to make some revisions and backfill some new material.

It’s all good stuff. Which is why, even though one of Alyc’s emails started with “Don’t kill me, but…,” my reaction was “yeah, we should probably do that.” But still. This &#$#@$%! book.

Word count: ~158,000
Authorial sadism: Someone’s worst nightmare come true.
Authorial amusement: She doesn’t have a first name. (Er, not that other character over there, whose lack of a first name is not amusing at all.)
BLR quotient: Since we snipped out that one scene, I’ll give it to love. Even if some of that love is really twisted and in need of help.

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 19

I forgot to write up a progress report for this chapter when we finished it! Well, that just means you’ll get the update for Chapter 20 not long after this one, since we have only two more scenes to write for that.

Though actually, we decided today that Chapter 19 isn’t really done. It needs a scene added to it, because there’s a side plot that has been kicked so far down the street, we’ve wound up with an unconscionably large gap between its beats. Not just that, but the plan we had for how it was going to start will no longer make much sense at all in its new context. So we’ll be writing the start as its own scene here, and the rest will become a scene of its own all the way down in 22. But I’m not sure when we’re going to fill that in, so since I normally would have written this post last week when I considered Chapter 19 complete, we’ll pretend that’s still true.

We’re doing kind of an astonishing amount of backtracking and changing things this time around. I’m not sure why — as in, will the third book be the same way? Or is it something about this particular tangle of plots that’s making the process of sorting them out so non-linear? There’s no way for me to tell right now, but today we came up with two more scenes we need to backfill, again to develop something that’s a little underbaked right now. Those are scattered all over the place, in Chapters 7 and 13, with a plan to also add something on that front to an existing scene in Chapter 5. Our spreadsheet outline is littered with comments reminding us to change little and not-so-little things when we revise. We had a similar list for The Mask of Mirrors, but I feel like less of it involved “rewrite the beginning of this scene to account for the subplot retconned in halfway through the book.” For someone like me, who’s used to an almost completely linear writing process, it’s a little unnerving.

But the good news is that I believe all these changes really are making the book better. And as of today, we have what passes for a complete outline through the finale of the book — so the end is in sight!

Word count: ~149,000
Authorial sadism: Really, that character can only blame Alyc. I didn’t write any of that journey.
Authorial amusement: Gloves!!!
BLR quotient: Sometimes love means bleeding on someone else’s behalf.

Sirens postponed

I mentioned some time ago that I was on deck to teach at the Sirens Studio, the workshop preceding the Sirens Conference. Well, like everything else in 2020, this has been disrupted by the pandemic; but unlike many things in 2020, it is not moving online. One of the key aspects of Sirens has always been the cozy feeling of a weekend retreat, and that is not something one can achieve online.

Instead the organizers have chosen to postpone this year’s plans to next year. So yes, I am still planning on teaching a workshop on creating fantasy religions for the Sirens Studio; it will simply happen in 2021 instead.

And with this announcement official, I can also officially say that I will not be attending any in-person conventions in 2020. It simply isn’t safe. I hope to be able to go places next year — ideally sooner than October — but that requires the United States to bring this pandemic under control, to take the measures that are necessary to restrict the spread of covid and return us to a state of normalcy where things like conventions are not recklessly dangerous.