The Maine House

Author: stephenspower (page 1 of 4)

News That’s Sort of New

I haven’t written a short story in a long time, but my store of unpublished ones is being whittled down with two being accepted recently and two more enjoying holds. What I have been writing is the outline for a new novel, momentarily titled NIGHTMARE IN THE AFTERNOON, and several 10-minute plays, one of which I’ll eventually submit to the Cut Edge Collective, whose most recent 10-minute play festival inspired me.

I also contributed to Shepherd.com, a new book discovery site, a list of my three favorite reads of 2023. You can find that here, and the overall list of all the authors contributing here.

New Poem: The Water Dragon’s Lark

Happy to report that my mirror sestina The Water Dragon’s Lark will appear in the anthology A Flight of Dragons being put out by West Avenue Publishing. And I get paid! The poetry market being what it is, this is only the second time I’ve gotten a check. And I’m grateful.

The sestina, like those published by Clarion and Innisfree, uses as its unlike repeated word an “Avatar” element, in this case, stone (for Earth).

New Poem: Sakoku

I realized I had a bunch of poems lying around, so I subd them, and The Sandy River Review picked up “Sakoku” in a couple of days.

The title is the Japanese term for “locked country” and means, politically, “the isolationist foreign policy of the Japanese Tokugawa shogunate under which, for a period of 264 years during the Edo period (from 1603 to 1868), relations and trade between Japan and other countries were severely limited, and nearly all foreign nationals were barred from entering Japan, while common Japanese people were kept from leaving the country,” according to Wikipedia. I was inspired by its emotional resonance.

Ye Gods Has It Been a Long Time Since I Was Here

A couple years ago I decided to stop writing short fiction and dedicate myself to writing novels because, as much as I enjoy writing short fiction, it takes up a lot of time and keeps me from doing other things, what a friend described beautifully as “the cul-de-sac of productivity.”

Trouble is, What novel to write? I outlined many, but nothing I could get any traction on. Finally last year, after getting laid off by Macmillan when they shuttered my imprint, Tom Dunne Books–historically for me a precursor to novel writing–I outlined a book that was a take on Martian Chronicles: what if the psychic Martians attacked Earth first? Trouble is, it was just people reacting. But Tom Dunne liked one element, so I outlined an entirely different novel around that. Which Tom thought was halfway there. So I outline another novel, and that’s what I’m going with.

I have a rough draft of the first 20 of 30 or so chapters. Once I finish the last 10, I’ll revise the whole thing to fix continuity problems, address changed premises, etc. The third draft will smooth out the relationship at the heart of the story. While the book has a very high concept–instead of straight SF, I’m going for a more Crichton-esque “SF for non-SF readers”–to me it’s really the story of a marriage. That background is important to me; even if it doesn’t show up on the page so much, it informs a lot of the little decisions and touches, the way The Dragon Round is a book about faith in a world about gods.

And now to update my story publications. I have two on the way as I continue to sell my dwindling stores. I also have several I’m trying to get reprinted.

So I haven’t been totally lazy over the last couple years.

Also I’m working on a play with the above mentioned friend, an actual playwright. We’ll see how that works out.

The Year in Review

I spent 2017 trying to outline various novels after The Dragon Tower, the sequel to The Dragon Round, was turned (justifiably, really) by S&S. This proved more difficult that I figured. The first outline for what I’ve been calling the Dragonkin novel I tossed out because it lacked true heroes, and in the age of Trump, as Wonder Woman proved, people want them. When the world is grim, grim is out. 

So I tried my hand at an SF novel about guy who finds a time machine in his neighbor’s garage and uses it to escape to the future. That went well until I discovered just how hard it is to figure out what people will be wearing 600 years from now. The philosophy behind the story, the Laws of Humanix, a take of the Laws of Robotics, is interesting, though. I’ll get back to it.

Back to the Dragonkin. I outlined 3 of 5 parts, 18 of 30 chapters, each with four subchapters. Then, after several false starts, I figured where to begin the Dragonkin novel and, more importantly, how to tell it. (For me, a story needs an interesting setting, a want and a technical challenge.)  I’ve drafted the first three chapters, and already a ship is on fire, so I think I’m finally on my way.

Meanwhile, I only wrote a couple of decent stories. I did publish several that had been around from previous years, but my output was low. Stories are distracting, I have to say, because they are so immediately rewarding. Here’s the update I put on my short fiction page:

Forthcoming in 2018

The Paper Dragon, Daily Science Fiction. This will be my sixth story there. Written for a Codex contest and inspired by Japan’s “balloon bombs.”

2017

The Changeling, Unnerving Magazine. I get to be first on the masthead! Everyone probably has a “baby can’t sleep” story. I hope this one sets itself apart from the others by just being more messed up. You’ll want to shave before you read it.

The First Time They Murder BillyThe Arcanist. This story was fun to write, which I did for a Codex contest. Tin Can Audio is making an audio version. I heard the rough draft, and it is amazing.

A Feast for the Minotaur, The Worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Volume III. I wrote this story for a contest on Mythic Scribes. It did well in the voting, but I got dinged for the “something secret” prompt not being made prominent enough. 

The Other Face of Medusa, The Martian WaveThis is my response to Arthur C. Clarke’s “A Meeting with Medusa.” A template for how I’ve written dialogue ever since.

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Now back to rooting hard for the Jaguars.

 

 

Hail Felipe!

When the Sun Shines, It Blinds

After selling nothing for like 7 months–and not writing many stories either–I’ve now sold 3 stories in the last 30 days: “The Changeling” to Unnerving for issue 5, my second appearance there; “The First Time They Murder Billy” to The Archanist, where it’ll appear 10/31; and one of my favorite stories, which won me a $25 gift card in a contest on Mythic Scribes, “A Feast for the Minotaur” to the anthology The Worlds of SF, Fantasy and Horror 3.

In addition, I can now announce that my Lightspeed story “Fade to Red” has been named a Notable Story Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017. It was also an Honorable Mention in The Year’s Best Science Fiction 34, which is cool because it’s a Macmillan book. I’m shocked and pleased.

I continue to beat my head against novels. One, my main one, the one I’m supposed to be writing, the one with the 30K words outline and 10K word bible, I put aside for a couple others because I realized world events are pushing the market toward positive stories with recognizable heroes, not grimdark stories with amoral heroes, that is, we want more Wonder Women and less Batman.  Last weekend, though, I found a new way into the story, one that could more heroic. So we’re back on the path. I have 6 or 7 chapters planned. What happens in chapter 8 I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out once I get there.

 

Wow, Have I Not Been Here In A While

So I haven’t updated since mid-October. Anything happen since then?

Here’s where things stand with me:

I’m back because The Dragon Round comes out next week, June 13, in trade paperback, and once again S&S did a wonderful job, including allowing me to make a few last minute corrections and changes. Thanks, Megan. If you read and like it, let me know, either personally or by leaving a nice, honest review on Goodreads and at the etailers.

And check this out from Powell’s downtown!

I love Powell’s. On top of that I scored six books by John McPhee.

For a little promo, I’ll be on two panels at BooksNJ 2017 this Sunday, 6/11: Traditional Vs. Self-Published from 3:40-4:15 and Worlds Beyond Reality: Fantasy and Science Fiction from 4:20-5. I’m looking forward to it.

Sadly, S&S turned down the DR sequel, The Dragon Tower, for a variety of reasons, all of which make perfect sense to me, disappointing as that was, so now I’m working on something new. Three things, actually. Which will get done first, I’m not sure. 

While I’ve had a surprising amount of success writing spec fic stories, I’ve put those on the back burner because I want to continue writing novels, they’re the bread and butter, and stories take up just as much time. Even a 750-word flash story takes 3-4 days. Which is frustrating because I was getting used to the churn of submission/rejection/occasional acceptance, plus the money. But you have to think long-term, which can provide the greater satisfaction.

Nonetheless, I’ve updated by short fiction page to address my most recent pubs.

In addition, I have a new job. In December, I left Amacom for Thomas Dunne Books, where I’m now an executive editor. The pace has been insane (I just put my third crash of the year into production), but incredibly rewarding, seeing as the first crash, John Kasich’s Two Paths, was a NY Times bestseller.  The second crash is Amy Knight’s Orders to Kill: The Putin Regime and Political Murder, and the third is Bandy Lee’s The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. Both are important and promise to be newsworthy, especially if Trump takes a page from the Putin playbook and  starts killing his critics and/or if he goes insane, respectively. I’m also working on President Carter by Carter’s Chief Domestic Policy Adviser Stu Eizenstat, William Shatner’s next book, Live Long And…, Bill Press’s From the Left and Bernie Sanders’s next book. And many, many more. I love going to work.

So not much success to report, but a lot of writing, in part thanks to my new Chromebook, which is such a fantastic device.

Great October

October, which by my decree shall include all days since I last posted, has been very good.

Lightspeed pubd my story “Fade To Red: Three Interviews About Sebold’s Mars Trilogy,” as well created a wonderful audio version and did a spotlight interview with me. What an amazing job they did, especially the audio version recreating the interview structure. And fittingly, the day it came out, Europe’s probe approached the planet, while Pres. Obama said America, despite the story’s prediction, would be sending a manned mission.

It’s gotten two reviews so far. Charles Payseur at Quick Sips was very generous. Rocket Stack Ranking didn’t like it as much.

Eddie Generous at Unnerving Magazine was also kind enough to post an interview with me prior to the release of the first issue, which will include my story “The Glittering Point.”

And StarShipSofa podcasted “Stripped to Zero.” To hear a story set in Tennessee read in a very different accent adds whole new dimensions to it.

And the month is only going to get better with Amazing Stories pubg “The Sounding Cataract” on 10/16 and Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores pubg “Mr. Pony” around Halloween.”

Meanwhile, in my other life, I’ve been blogging for Amacom. Here are my essay What DON’T Editors Want. Soon I’ll start a series called “The Why to Buy,” which will show authors how to create a business model for your book.

 

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