Monthly Archives: June 2015

Book (Ok, Story) Boost: Sunil Patel’s “The Merger”

Internet-friend and fellow Bay Area author Sunil @ghostwritingcow Patel has an ebook out today! He wrote “The Merger” as catharsis when his employers were being acquired. Here are tweets that should tell you most of what you need to know about “The Merger” prior to reading it:

Now just go read it.

At The Book Smugglers (free!)

On your Kindle (US, not free, but on your Kindle, and don’t you want to support Sunil getting paid?)

DRM-free for everywhere (also not free as in beer, but free as in freedom)

(Other device-specific links available at The Book Smugglers link above; scroll down.)

Previously from the author: “Marcie’s Waffles Are the Best in Town”

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Short Fiction Roundup: Late May, Early June

So I’m pretty determined to actually read some things that come out this year during the year they’re published, so that maybe I can make more informed awards decisions next year. To that end, I now present some short fiction I read recently and really enjoyed, featuring terrifying babies, terrifying waffles, and something that isn’t a bomb.

First up (and most recently published), is “Look,” by Sarah @gaileyfrey Gailey, whose bio indicates that she’s local to me, so maybe I can blame her in person when I have trouble sleeping tonight. “Look” is a seriously creepy story which had added weight for me because recently everyone around me is having babies. It’ll only take you a few minutes to read, but it will stick with you for quite some time.

Next up, “Marcie’s Waffles Are the Best in Town,” by Twitter’s @ghostwritingcow (wtf?), AKA Sunil Patel (another Oaklander). As Sunil tells it, this story came from his asking twitter for a writing prompt last summer and getting “apocalyptic waffles” in response. If I taught writing, I would probably use this story as an example of how you do sensory writing the right way. This story will make you hungry for waffles. It’s also a sad story about the aftermath of the apocalypse, and a mother’s guilt. It isn’t actually terrifying—I lied for the sake of the pattern—but it is a sad story (and damn good). So maybe go cheer yourself up with waffles afterwards? And a milkshake.

Finally, we have “Time Bomb Time,” by C.C. Finlay (@ccfinlay), who lives in Arizona, I think, and therefore is very far away from Oakland. I love a lot of things about this story, and one of them is that the title works on a couple levels, and you won’t get one of those levels until after you’ve read the story. (I only just got that level now, several days after reading the story, on reflecting about it, so.) Without wanting to spoil much, this is one of the freshest takes I’ve read in a while on time travel (sort of). I give it [*National Movie Review voice*] three thumbs up.

Anyhow, those are some of the stories I’ve read recently that I really enjoyed. I’ll try to make this a more regular occurrence on here. Now go read. What are you waiting for?


On Cover Letters

Not every market I submit to asks for a cover letter, but they’re nice to include anyway, even if it’s only something as short as

Dear [editorial horde/slush pile heroes],

Thank you for taking the time to consider for publication my story, [title], which is about [length] words long.

Best,

Hilary

Some markets do ask for cover letters as a way to pre-screen those people who haven’t even bothered to read their submission guidelines, and I always think it’s nice to give thanks to the heroic slushers and editors who are at least looking at my first 13 lines. Other than crafting amusing ways for C. C. Finlay to reject my submissions, should he need to, though, I don’t usually put a whole lot into my cover letters. I’d guess that you don’t either?

So, a story about how a well-crafted cover letter can be a good thing.

In the 80’s, my dad worked as an editor at Amazing Science Fiction Stories. Working at a magazine means a lot of things, and not all of them are totally exciting. One day, it fell to him to separate cover letters from rejected manuscripts, put the cover letters in the round file, and put the manuscripts in their return envelopes (those being the days before widespread computer ownership, when a writer would want their manuscript back, rather than having to type it out again). As this was not a job that required much thought, he would scan the cover letters before tossing them.

It was in so doing that he ran across the cover letter of an as-yet-unpublished author named Lois McMaster Bujold.

He read the cover letter.

He re-read it.

He thought to himself, “This is the greatest cover letter I’ve ever read. It has got a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is an author who is going places.” And then, rather than tossing it, he date-stamped the cover letter, stuck it in a sleeve, and took it home with him.

Despite this, they did not end up publishing the story to which the cover letter was attached. It appeared in print some years later, after Lois had begun to make a name for herself.

Some years after taking home that cover letter, my father saw that Lois was going to be a guest at an upcoming convention, so he made sure to bring the cover letter with him, still carefully preserved, and sought her out.

He told her the story, showed her the cover letter. To this day, I believe that my dad can claim to be her first Fan. He still buys all of her books new.

This isn’t to say that you must labor over your cover letters, workshopping them with your writing groups, turning them into works of literature in their own rights. It’s only to say that maybe you should think twice before you totally phone it in on your next cover letter (or skip it entirely).


On One’s Start

I was reading something, I think it was Ken Liu’s interview in the May issue of Locus, and saw talk of where any particular author got their start, and how whatever story they tell is likely to be at least partly fictional, and that got me thinking about where my start was in genre.

I can tell the story of how I started writing sometime, but I feel like that’s less important, and in some ways I think it directly follows on how I got started as a fan of SFF. (As far as I can tell, all fans are also writers to some extent—we read these stories, and, at some point or another, we want to tell our own stories as well—it’s just that some folks continue writing, and others don’t.)

I grew up the child of fans. The first novel I remember having read to me, at the tender age of three or four, I think, was The Hobbit. I must have asked my dad to read it over to me half a dozen times over the next few years. My dad collects foreign-language editions of Tolkien’s bibliography, and as he read to me, if there were a choice illustration from another edition of the book that he thought would enhance my experience of the story, he would have it on hand. For many people, Peter Jackson’s depiction of Gollum is the be-all end-all; they cannot think of him any other way. For me, it was the illustration of “Riddles in the Dark” found in the Japanese edition of The Hobbit.

Afterwards, there were many other books and authors that followed who grew my love of story—Redwall, Terry Pratchett, Ursula K. Le Guin, Edward Eager, E. Nesbit—but my dad and Tolkien started me down the path I’m on.


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