Yesterday was a writing orgy! 18,000 words. Woo-hoo! Only problem... they were all on a "short" story that was supposed to be under 5000. Clearly, my mind is primed to come up with ideas that are either novelette sized, or epic sized. Really long short stories, or really long novels. I have a feeling my short stories can all be filled out to become novels (add a subplot, expand the characters a bit, add one more twist and voila a full book!) while my novels could turn into trilogies.
Unfortunately, there is not much of a publishing market for novelettes. I think people would like to read them, but they may not be able to get them in print. I expect it is a form that is really perfect for e-books. The thought of reading a 120,000 word novel on screen makes my eyes go buggy. But 15-20,000 is feasible. Not only that, there are none of the cost concerns that make printing novelettes/novellas so unattractive. Maybe I need to start searching out for some good ebook publishers!
That or figure out how to manage the detail level, so the story doesn't come out so long!
New ezine for Muslim fiction
Will be posting two short stories each month, God willing. I'm looking forward to seeing what is submitted (and published.) Although it is not a paying site, it one of the few places you can reliably get fiction by American Muslims and about American Muslims.
Best of luck to the Editor, and to all the authors!
I have been having a hard time collecting my thoughts on Lebanon, beyond a terrible despair that this mess will ever clear up and people will ever be able to live in peace. Perhaps now that I've written the following poem, I'll be able to think about the politics of the situation.
By Pamela K. Taylor
From the ashes they rise
A hundred thousand
With flaming eyes
And bayonet beaks
Claws that tear like shrapnel
From the bloodied ground they rise
Plumed in crimson, vengeance, and rage
From the sky they plummet
They fall upon those
Who lately fell upon them
And those they fall upon?
From the ashes they rise
A thousand livid phoenixes
Where in all this burning
Is the Dove of Peace to nest?
Trojan Horse Scare
Wow, the past 36 hours I've been fighting a HORRIBLE Trojan horse virus that I got from a bad webpage I opened during some research I was doing for the Sails and Sorcery short story I'm working on. It was the first virus I've ever actually goten, and it was AWFUL! My virus protection site described it as low risk -- not because it is benign, no it's listed as highly destructive, but extremely rare, thus it's a low risk to most systems... unless of course, it happens to be yours that gets it.
My anti-virus was able to detect it, and prevent some of what it did, but for other stuff, it just ran wild. It kept opening webpages, and popping up boxes that I suggested I needed this or that to "fix" my computer (like every three seconds, these things would pop up). It disabled my task manager, so I couldn't turn it off, and it disabled my system restore, so I couldn't go back to a time before it had infected my computer. It even corrupted the files I needed to do things like turn task manager back on!
It was like getting one of those deadly tropical diseases no one has ever heard of -- very rare, spots keep popping up all over your body, you go feverishly delirious and start seeing things, and then you either miraculously get better or you die.
My anti-virus program was only a partial help -- they got rid of the actual trojan, but couldn't help with the programs/processes it had installed. Microsoft was no help at all (big surprise), they suggested doing pretty much what I had been doing, and then they wanted me to wipe my whole c drive. BLECK! I have so many programs that I would have to reinstall, and re-register, and so many updates that I would have to try and remember that I had installed, and some programs that I love, but I can't even remember where I got them, and a few I've lost the registration code. I used to have one, even, that the download that I purchased was only good for six months and when I had to get a new computer, I lost the old downloaded program, so I couldn't use it any more, even though I had paid for it. (lesson of the day: save your downloaded installer programs and files to cd.)
Well, to make a long story short, as a last desperate attempt, I decided to try the program I use to back up all my data and my document files. It came bundled with an external hard drive I bought to make it easier to do running backups of all my writing, but it does a lot more. In fact, a WHOLE lot more. I have two sets of files -- one is just an exact copy of my c drive. That' great to copy an individual file, but it doesn't help if you lose a whole program, because it doesn't recreate the linkage (you know, the stuff that tells Outlook where to store your saved mail, or Word how to define this particular font). The other thing it does is to make a "snap shot" of your drive, which does include all this stuff. Anyway, I asked it to restore my entire C drive and it repaired my registry and fixed all the missing/corrupted parts of windows that the virus had attacked, and somehow managed to leave all my latest document files, but not the latest virusy program/document files.
So now my computer seems to be perfectly well again. I'm running another virus scan to be sure. But all the pop ups are gone. I can use Task Manager again. Everything seems to be hunky dory. AMAZING! And to think, I was that close to erasing it all, when I thought, hey, why don't I give that data backup program a try!
Anyway, that was sort of the point of this post... 1) I highly recommend external hard drives for people who do a lot of work that they want to have backed up on a consistent basis. 2) I highly, highly recommend Retrospect by Dantz. They just saved my buttinsky!
Tasneem's Home from France!
Yay!! Seven weeks is a long time, when your baby is 16!
She appears to have had a wonderful time. (big surprise...) We are getting a lot of funny and interesting stories. She also seems to have really improved in her french -- when she first got off the plane, she had a hard time even speaking in English. lol.
Pictures to come!
To share or not to share...
The past couple of days, I've been doing a lot of research for a short story I'm writing to submit to an anthology called Sails and Sorcery. A lot of info on ships and sailing, privateers and navies and pirates, the Atlantic slave trade, 19th century slang, shipwrecks, African religion, on and on. Needless to say, the Internet makes it possible to do research that would only have been possible in person even a decade ago, which is truly wonderful. Still, I wish I could justify (and afford) a trip on a Windjammer as research! I took sailing lessons as a teenager, and loved being out on the water in a small craft. I think sailing on a Tall Ship would be completely amazing. It's near the top of my list of things I'd like to do before I die, right along with seeing the Great Pyramids, spending a few months on a Greek island, and getting into orbit.
Anyway, that wasn't really the topic of this post, the topic of this post was meant to be the temptation to hold a call for submissions close to one's chest, hoping that the person whose story would bump your own off of the acceptance list won't ever find out about it. It's not a very nice sentiment, but it's one I think many writers have to deal with. Certainly the competition for the few slots for fiction in magazines and anthologies is fierce. Especially in magazines or anthologies that pay a half-way decent rate (as defined by publishers; none pay enough for a fiction writer to live on the proceeds of their short stories, even if they manage to publish 10 or 12 in a year.)
So it's little wonder then, that there's a powerful temptation to keep calls for submissions to oneself, even though you'd reall like it if your friends and members of writers groups you belong to passed along such opportunities to you. Having been brought up to believe that what goes around, comes around, I do pass these opportunities on, but sometimes I have to struggle with my own personal shaitan in order to do so. Anyway, the call for submissions from Sails and Sorcery is below my dream collage. If you're going to submit a story... submit a bad one! *wink*
Call for Submission:
Short Fantasy Fiction for inclusion in
Sails & Sorcery:
Tales of Fantasy
The anthology will feature roughly twenty five short stories between 3,000 and 9,000 words.
We are looking for stories of fantasy on the high seas. From pirates to privateers, from royal navies to rebel fleets, from merchants to smugglers, and from explorers to conquerors, we're looking for adventurous tales in settings along the lines of the Age of Discovery to the Golden Age of Piracy. Mysticism and magic should play important parts in the tales, and throw in some encounters with sea serpents, mermaids, or mysterious natives for good measure.
We are not looking for space pirates (no SF), tales set in the modern era (nothing with a feel that is later than the early 19th century), poetry (no sea chanties, either), or reprints.
Examples of books and movies with similar themes include (but are not limited to): Pirates of the Caribbean, Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb, Rising Tide by Mel Odom, Fell Cargo by Dan Abnett, and Pirates of Darkwater (cartoon series).
No electronic submissions. Please include a SASE for reply.
Submission Period: July 15, 2006 to January 15, 2007 Reading Period: January 15-31, 2007; responses will be mailed by February 15, 2007
Rights: 1st World Publication Rights in the English Language
Pay: 5 cents per word upon acceptance of final draft, as an advance on pro rata (based on final page-count) share of 35% of net revenue
If you have questions, please e-mail email@example.com. No electronic submissions.
Mail your story to:
PO Box 9381
Wilmington, DE 19809
We always like to hear from artists in the fantasy genre, as we like to be able to pick from a wide pool of talent when it comes to illustrating our anthologies.
We would like to see vibrant, enchanting, fantasy art for possible use as the cover to our next anthology. Keep in mind the requirements for cover art (we'll need room for the title--demonstrate the ability to create images that could wrap around a cover and you'll get more consideration). We will keep candidates in mind when it comes time to choose an artist for the cover.
Our anthologies are currently black and white interiors only, so we will want to see what kind of work you can do in pencil, charcoal, pen and ink, and the like.
We would prefer you send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, including a little bit about yourself and a link to a web page where we can view your work. If you do not have a web page, we will, of course, accept CD's or copies of your work at our mailing address (please, please, please do not send originals).
PO Box 9381
Wilmington, DE 19809http://submissions.fantasistent.com/
E-piracy hurts us all
SWFA is trying to raise awareness how epiracy, and violation of copyright over electronic media hurts us all. Here's their site:
Disregard for copyright really does hurt writers and publishers. Please don't post things without the authors permission. Please don't pass along things you had to pay for to other people.
Petition for Islamic Fiction
The Islamic Writers Alliance is sponsoring a petition to call for publishers, distributors, and book retailers and wholesalers, particularly ones serving the Muslim community to produce and stock more Islamic fiction. If you'd like to sign (I hope you will!) please go to:http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/islamicfiction
This is a first! I've had a submission for Warped Galaxies. Wow! Of course, it's from my mom... a picture of her and my littlest, Noora, in Durango, Colorado after a ride on the narrow gauge railroad. I guess that means I'm officially open to submissions!
Good-bye Indy Star
My time at the Indy Star is up. The InTouch panel invite is good for only a year. It's hard to believe I've been doing those little columns for a year already (actually, more like 15 months), but cest la vie. I'm sorry to have to stop doing them, it's been a lot of fun. I hope that they find another good Muslim voice to be on their panel.
Better than Bin Diving at Good Will
You know you're a bookaholic if you get the reference in that title. For those of you who have a puzzled look on your face, I'm talking about the book clearance that Good Will stores have from time to time where they dump all their books into these enormous bins and mark them down drastically (from their oh-so-high original price of $1 buck! lol). It's not easy to get to the bottom of the pile, but usually that's where you find the best gems.
Anyway, here's something even better -- free ebooks from the Gutenberg Project
... select from 330,000 titles. It's available until August 4th, so start searching!
This past week, I got a call from a local videographer who is producing a series of Public Service Announcements for the City of Indianapolis for their Keep Indianapolis Beautiful program... specifically an initiative to plant 100,000 trees in Indianpolis in the next decade. They were looking for representatives from different faiths, and my local masjid suggested me. I don't know if it's because they know I'm a tree-hugger (and proud of it!) or if they just think I'm photogenic (hah-hah). The lady launched into her spiel about how important trees are, and I stopped her to say, "You don't have to convince me about trees, I've planted nine trees on my little bitty lot." (We've got between a quarter and a third of an acre, but one of the reasons we are where we are is because the lot backs up to a youth camp which has lots of forest.) I don't know yet what lines I'll have to say (something about the joys/benefits of trees), but I'm just tickled pink to be asked to do this!
The other opportunity, which I'm also tickled pink to be asked to do, is for Beliefnet, which is launching a new program called Guided Spiritual Journals. Basically, the editors will pose a general spiritual question and then a group of writers from different faith traditions will write a journal entry in response to the question. The initial go round will last for three months and have 24 entries. It sounds like it will be fasicinating, and I'm very honored to have been asked to participate.
Today my mom turns 62. Next week I turn 42. This is one of the first years in a long time when we will be together on both of our birthdays.
Gram and Saara on our recent trip. Looking pretty good for 62. (and 12!)
I, on the other hand, tend to look a bit odd, like in this photo taken while we were exploring the Chacoan ruins.
Somehow, I have very much lost touch with my age. I don't feel 42, whatever 42 is supposed to feel like. Since so many people say, I don't feel 40 something, or 50 something, presumably our impressions of what 42 or 52 is supposed to feel like are wrong. 42 feels not so much different from, oh, 34.
The mess in Lebanon is just so draining!
What were those Hezbollah idiots thinking (if they were thinking at all) -- crossing an international boundary, kidnapping two citizens (soldiers or no) of another country, and using them to bargain on behalf of another group which has it's own problems?? And, predictably, the less than useful response of Israel -- bombing the capital of another country! Do they think that can go unanswered??
It's like everyone over there is trying to provoke war. It's just mind-numbing. Why does the notion that killing any and everyone is the way to solve our problems continue to hold appeal? Haven't we learned our lessons yet?
Too darn depressing to even read the newspapers.
basing characters on people you know
In the past, I never based characters on people I actually knew. My characters were just people like people I might know, or perhaps people like I wish I were.
But among the various epiphanies I've been having these past few days is one for a subplot for second of the two novels I'm going to work on in the near future (and it really needs a subplot if I'm going to turn it into a complete novel, since I thought it was supposed to be a short story, but it really wants to grow way beyond that).
Anyway... I was looking for a good subplot to add, and it hit me that the best way to do this would be to add a character who happens to be a whole lot like a good friend of mine. Of course, this character won't be exactly the same as my friend, but my friend is unique enough and the similarities are strong enough that anyone who knows this person will immediately recognize that the character strongly reflects my friend in many, many ways.
The question is whether I should work really hard to make this character different. Or maybe I should talk to my friend and see how he/she feels about being a part of one of my novels. And if I do, what happens if she/he says, "For Goodness Sake! No!" Do I go ahead and write the character the way I want? After all, it's not like I said, "So-and-so is a cool person, I want to make a character just like him/her."
Rather, I was writing a scene where a person's (business) partner is dying, and so s/he crawls into bed with them to warm them up (trying to prevent them from going into shock). And if felt really weird, and a bit erotic, even though this person was dying, and the partner's intent was only to help keep him/her warm with their body heat (a tried and true first aid technique). But the ambiguity around the word partner made two readings possible -- business partner or love partner, and the getting into bed with the dying person thus acquired two meanings as well -- the first aid one, and then this tender farewell to a dear friend/partner. Wow! Suddenly a vista opened up for a new partner again with the variety of meanings being brought into play. And I saw the scene where my character meets the new partner-to-be, and as I thought about what would bring these two people together, what business interests, what physical attraction, it became really clear that the new partner really resembled my own friend.
So either it was my subconscious working, or an unintentional resemblence, or just there are only so many kinds of people out there, sooner or later, you're going to hit on a character that in some way resembles someone you know.
Anyway, enough rambling... off to write!
An excellent opinion piece on the current and ongoing crisis in Gaza. Says it better than I could. :) As alway, printed with the author's permission
Watching Gaza: "The Genovese Syndrome"
by James Zogby
Arab American Institute
Today I thought of Kitty Genovese.
Some of you won't remember her, but many in my generation will
recall the horror and shame they felt after hearing the story of how
she was raped and stabbed to death on a New York City street in
1964. What shocked the nation was the fact that 37 witnesses heard
Kitty's cries but did nothing to help. Years later, social
scientists, studying this disturbing passivity, termed it
the "Genovese Syndrome".
That's how I feel about what is happening in Gaza today. Israel is
getting away with murder and the world is letting it happen.
I can hear my critics bellow, "But what about Gilad Shalit (the
Israeli soldier captured and held since June 25th)?" "What about
Hamas and Islamic Jihad?" "What about the Qassam missiles?"
My response is simple: the kidnapping of Shalit was wrong and I have
repeatedly condemned the evil and stupid tactics used by those
groups who target innocent Israeli civilians. Having said that, I
must add two observations: there is no moral or political
justification for the collective punishment which Israel has imposed
on Gaza's entire population; and Gaza's humanitarian crisis began
long before the June 25th capture of Shalit.
Reports issued before May of this year, describe Gaza's situation in
dire terms. One of the most densely populated areas on earth, two-
thirds of Gaza's population live below the poverty level. There are
acute shortages of food, fuel and water. Malnutrition and disease
are rampant among the young and, for the most part, only basic
medical services are available.
This crisis in Gaza predates Hamas' victory in 2006. For the first
twenty-five years of Israel's occupation (1967-1993) Gaza was a
place of misery. As Sarah Roy brilliantly describes in her
book, "The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of Re-development",
Israel ruthlessly suppressed Gaza's people, while denying them
economic growth opportunities. During this time, no infrastructure,
(sewers, paved roads etc.) was built and the population was reduced
to, in the words of one Israeli Minister, "hewers of wood, and
bearers of water," i.e. demeaning day labor employment in Israel.
Gaza's only hope after the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 was that
its economy and infrastructure could be developed and opened up to
the outside world. While many in the West blamed Palestinian
Authority (PA) mismanagement, the facts point in a different
direction. It was the persistence of the occupation from 1994-2005
that resulted in Gaza's continued stagnation. Despite "peace on
paper", Israel retained an iron grip on Gaza. Settlements remained,
as did the physical division of Gaza, north from south and from the
rest of Palestinian lands and the outside world. Being denied access
and egress meant difficulty in importing and exporting and,
therefore, no economic development.
When Israel unilaterally redeployed from Gaza in 2005 the situation
deteriorated even further Israel projected its removal of 7000
settlers as a "painful sacrifice for peace." But by refusing to
coordinate their departure with the PA or even to honor the
agreement they negotiated with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
(that should have guaranteed movement in and out of Gaza), Israel
left behind disarray and an angry and impoverished population. By
tightening their external controls on the tiny strip, Israel, in
effect, created one of the world's largest prison camps. Inside
Gaza, Palestinians were "free," troubled only by their own poverty
and armed gangs. Like prisoners, they could have occasional visitors
and receive gifts – but, for the most part, they remained cut off
from the outside world.
The economy, already crippled, worsened. With Israel refusing to
open Gaza's borders to goods, small Palestinian factories that had
once sub-contracted with larger Israeli firms, were forced to close.
And, this summer, tens of millions of dollars of Palestinian produce
rotted at the check points because Israel refused to allow them to
With the election of Hamas, in January 2006, Gaza's situation became
worse still. Having been reduced to dependency on international
donors for most of its operating budget, the Hamas-led PA now lost
even that. Tens of thousands of civil servants (the largest group of
salaried workers in the area) now receive no income. Hospitals
provide only basic services, with critically-ill patients or those
requiring emergency care left untreated, unless in a moment of
largesse, Israel decides to grant them admission.
Recognizing the need to resolve, at least, the crisis created by
Israel's and the West's refusal to deal with the Hamas government,
Palestinian leaders from across the political spectrum, launched a
number of initiatives in May and June. These were efforts to create
a new national consensus that, it was hoped, could lead to a new non-
Hamas government that might allow aid to be restored.
It was at this point that violence flared up again. Israel's
repeated assassinations of militants, done with callous disregard
for nearby civilians, resulted in the death of dozens of innocents
(many of them children). These attacks were met by daily Qassam
rocket attacks on an Israeli city just beyond Gaza's borders. And
then came the deadly June 25th attack on an Israeli military post
and the capture of Shalit.
Israel's response has been an overwhelming, though measured, display
of force. Stunned by negative reactions to their killing of
Palestinian civilians in earlier attacks, Israel has mainly focused
its strikes on Palestinian installations: the power plant, bridges,
ministries, a university, and various offices. But it has been the
state of siege, resulting in the complete suffocation of Gaza, that
has taken the biggest toll. The pre-existing humanitarian crisis in
Gaza has now been magnified with hospitals and social service
agencies reporting new casualties, resulting from alarming shortages
of food, fuel and medicine.
Shielded from criticism by a compliant US administration and press,
this siege is now in its second week. The administration has not
seen fit to publicly challenge the impact of Israel's siege on
civilians and the press has given only scant coverage to the
humanitarian crisis. Gaza is suffering -- and like Kitty Genovese's
37 witnesses, the rest of us watch in silence with varying degrees
of shameful paralysis.
Some ask, what is going on? There are no good answers and certainly
no justification for this massive act of collective punishment. The
response is disproportionate and cruel, even if one believes that it
is merely an effort by the Olmert government to free its soldier, an
excuse that even the Israeli press no longer believes. What is
occurring in Gaza today is nothing short of a crime against humanity—
unless, that is, you believe that the suffering of one Israeli
soldier outweighs the suffering being imposed on 1.5 million
innocent Palestinian men , women and children.
Worse still, if Israel's intention here, as some Israeli
commentators suggest, is to bring down the Hamas government, then
their behavior is tantamount to an act of terrorism—that is, the use
of violence against civilians without regard to their welfare in
order to force a political end. This is not the first time that
violence perpetrated by a reckless group has brought about a
disproportionate response that has had tragic consequences. No good
will come of this.
Two truisms come to mind: Palestinian violence cannot end the
occupation and Israeli violence cannot squash the Palestinian
resistance to that occupation. Only sanity and justice can bring
peace and security but, alas, sanity and justice like jobs, food,
and medicine are increasingly rare commodities in Gaza.
Meanwhile, like poor Kitty's 37, we watch.
As I've mentioned before, focus has been a problem for a long time (like for the past three years.) I've got five novels in progress and each time I start writing on one another calls to me, which means that I've got between 45,000 and 80,000 words on five different stories, with none of them finished, and none of them going anywhere fast. (And I'd really like to get at least one first draft, and preferrably three of them done by the end of year). I finally figured that it was mostly a matter of discipline, and that I should simply sit down, pick the one I think is most saleable, and make myself write on just that one.
The only problem is the writing got more and more tortured feeling. This is not the way writing is supposed to be. Writing is supposed to be a joy. And the words have always flowed easily and well for me. When I went back and read the stuff I'd written, it was actually decent quality, but I was totally unsatisfied with how the process felt, and forward progress seemed to be glacial.
I finally gave up on my discipline plan, and started working on one of my other wips (works in progress). I had almost come to the conclusion that I needed to scrap some 250 pages of writing with the first story and start all over, but I couldn't quite face that, 1) because there are some great scenes in it, and 2) it represents a huge amount of time.
Well, of course, as soon as I started writing on the other story, bang two insights hit me about the first one... solving two major issues which had been holding back progress. The first will require a bit of rewriting (fortunately a minor bit), and the second will require no rewriting at all, but they literally solve the problems that had been making the writing almost impossible to move forward.
Which makes me think, ok, maybe I shouldn't have tried to force the process. Maybe I just have to write on what is calling to me... and that will give me time to come up with the ideas I need for the other story. Maybe I need to be working on two at once. (Five, however, is definately too much.) That give me percolation time.
I wrote the first draft of my first novel (ok, technically my second novel, but the first one I wrote in seventh grade and is mouldering in a big brown accordian file, deservedly, I suspect.)... yes, well... I wrote the first draft of my first novel in about five months, working three nights a week, 3-4 hours a night. It was very intense, and the scenes flowed one from the other. I expected my future novels to be written the same way.
But maybe that is unrealistic... I had originally come up with the idea for the frist novel ten years before; it grew and morphed and changed and deepened, and so it was just waiting to pour out. My current novels have all come to me in the past couple years. The one I'm working with was inspired by a single word. The second was engendered (not even inspired) by a social commentary I want to make. It shouldn't be surprising then, that it would take a while for the plot elements and the characterizations to come together and gel.
What is most amazing is how the sub-consciousness works away at these things, when you don't even think you're thinking about the story, and then suddenly, you're sitting at the breakfast table, munching on a muffin and drinking a cup of coffee, and boom! the resolution to your problems is sitting in your brain!
I guess the moral of the story... writing is a wild and crazy ride and you just gotta go with the flow and do what is working for you at the time. It may not be what worked last time, and it may be, all that really matters is that it's working.
Bits and pieces
Some recent and upcoming writing news:
1) My two-hundred word tribute to my grandpa is up at blogs.indystar.com
. It's a condensed version of what I wrote here, with a little generalization for public appeal.
2) The second half of Mutawwa, my mind control meets the middle east sci-fi short, is in Citizen Culture issue 9. Issues 8 and 9 are both for sale at www.citizenculture.com
3) My review of Love's Alchemy, a collection of classical Persian Sufi Poetry is slated to be up at www.muslimwakeup.com
sometime this week. It's also in the Reviewers Choice section of the Reviewers BookWatch at the MidWestReview of Books
. You have to scroll down to about the middle of the page.