Category Archives: Clarion West

It’s Beg-A-Thon Time!

I found this photo from the Squirrel circus of 2016. Action shot of squirrel number one fleeing the premises. (I typo’d that as “feeling the premises” and almost left it.)

I started writing at 7am this morning and I did take a number of breaks but I’ve been working almost all day.

The Chicago trip was fantastic but I got home Monday night and then Tuesday I had a soccer game (Yes, I know, poor me) so I didn’t get home until 10pm. I woke up Wednesday morning with the crud.

I’m not feeling terrible today but I still have major coughing fits and I had just put a cough drop in my mouth when my husband came in here and set a frosty glass filled with strawberry colored frozen beverage in front of me.

He just finished school yesterday and he is in “OMG, I have the whole summer to play” mode. I am still working and I have a first draft to finish by the end of the month. I’m not quite in the same head space.

So, back to the drink, I looked at and said: I just put a cough drop in my mouth.

But it was pretty and smelled good.

How much booze is in this? I asked.

He said: Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, about a shot and a half.

I gave it back to him. If I spend the entire day writing that means I did not do anything else and I have chores to do before I can get fuzzy on a fruity drink.

I last did the Clarion West Write-A-Thon in 2011. I wrote an excellent introductory post about it then.

My stated goal is to write 1000 words a day although it’s not going to work exactly like that. I need to try to have a draft ready for beta readers at the beginning of August so I need to write about 17,500 a week for the next two weeks (That’s about 10 pages a day). Then I’ll have a first draft and for the last 4 weeks of the Write-A-Thon I will need to spin my first draft of poop into a readable draft of gold.

This would be much easier if I didn’t have a husband, a job, a soccer team, a vacation, cooking, cleaning and a never-ending pile of administrivia to contend with. But I’m going to try to make it happen anyway.

If you are rooting me on during this insanity – please consider throwing a few bucks to Clarion West. Small donations are very happily welcome. My donation page is here and there are tons of other writers to support if you don’t like me. There are other ways to donate here.

I hate making blanket dramatic statements like this, but the workshop really and truly changed my life and I am so grateful that I was able to attend.

Here is the progress on the project of August:

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The Birthday Problem: Or, We’re Terrible at Estimating Probability

While I’m away from the computer, here’s a guest post from one of my favorite people, Caren Gussoff ( writing about her new book. Caren was in my Clarion West class and is a terrific writer. I haven’t got my hands on the book yet but I do know: BOB is a character in the book.

Humans are naturally terrible at estimating the probability of something happening. There are many theories as to why: it’s a side effect of subjective consciousness, that we seek a “confirmation bias” to inject meaning into the random data that we move through on a daily basis; a trait somehow favored in our evolution that’s kept us safe and viable (fearful or emotional events leave a bigger imprint on us); or simply that few folks receive an adequate education in maths when we are young enough for it to carve into our thinking. It fascinates me that our intuition about how frequently (or infrequently) events can and do happen — for instance, thinking of a song right before hearing it on the radio — is wrong (we think it’s an “eerie coincidence,” while, in fact, the actual probability of such a thing happening is higher than we think). In fact, this skew is the theme of my latest novel, The Birthday Problem (Pink Narcissus Press, 2014).

We personalize everything … which makes sense, because, given our consciousness, everything happens to us (the individual) or in relationship to us (someone we know, don’t know, and not-me). I wanted to write a book that relied on coincidence; in The Birthday Problem, every character has a relationship to every other character in some way or another. They are a web of people all affected by the same tragedy — malfunctioning nanobots that cause symptoms of mental illness. But their interconnectivity was how I played with the phenomena of poor probability judgment and whether it felt possible that all of these very different characters could be so closely related.

The title refers to a classical paradox that, IMHO, nicely sums up our failings in understanding probability. The birthday problem asks how many people need to be in a room together for there to be a 50% (or greater) probability that two of them share the same birthday (month and date).

Unless you already know the answer, whatever you are thinking right now is wrong. Now, it feels like there need to be a LOT of people in a room for there to be a 50/50 probability two of them share the same birthday. You may even think, quite logically, that it would require at least 365 or more. But really, it just takes 23 people in one room to get a 50% probability that two of them will share the same birthday.

There’s great explanation of the math here: Understanding the Birthday Problem.

For less number-oriented thinkers, this explanation is quite tidy: The Birthday Paradox.

Interesting, right? Even when you see the math, it still feels wrong. And that unsettling feeling is what I tried to recreate in The Birthday Problem.

The Birthday Problem is available at Pink Narcissus Press, Amazon, B&N, and in stores everywhere.

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I Can’t Do Technology Part 748

This post has been updated because Tina showed up in the comments! If you’ve already read it, I’m not sure how you will know this but read it again.

I have been meaning to write this post since my trip to California way back in March.

I think I’ve explained that while I like the idea of podcasts, I very rarely have time where I just want to sit and listen to things. I only drive about 50 miles a week which isn’t enough time in the car and when I’m on the bus, I usually read. For years I subscribed to EscapePod because I thought I’d eventually get into the habit of listening more.

Instead, I would log in a couple of times a year and pick a couple stories that I wanted to hear and delete the rest. I recently gave it up all together because even when I do get around to listening I rarely enjoy the stories enough that I wanted to keep up with this exercise.

Meanwhile, when I got my iPhone I started subscribing to Toasted Cake which is narrated by Tina Connolly. When I went to California in March, I listened to about 10 of them on the drive. These work for me because they are short, maybe 10-15 minutes, and I almost always like the stories.

I also love Tina’s narration. She recommends books or talks about what’s going on with her. I swear I wrote myself a note so I could link to the exact podcast but I couldn’t find it and I didn’t want to bug Tina because she’s having a baby any minute, not to mention she has a book that came out TODAY, and I didn’t want to be all, “Oh hey, can you remember some random podcast you did where you talked about precious cookware?”

It is Toasted Cake #74 Taking Care of Ma by Lee Hallison and it’s from June which means I’m mistaken about when I listened to it, but who cares? Tina talks about having a hand thrown mini-pie plate perfect for making a fruit crisp. The entire podcast is less than 10 minutes. The story is good and the fruit crisp recipe is a keeper, too.

Upon hearing Tina talk about her special pie plate I thought: I have got to tell the world about my dual pie plate that Kira gave me. You can use it to make two kinds of pie at the same time.

And while I’m here, let me pimp Tina’s new book, Copperhead that came out today. The timing of this post is a coincidence. Yesterday I realized I had that photo of my pie plate sitting on my desktop forever and it was time to do something about it. Here’s an interview where Tina talks about the book.

Meanwhile, in addition to Toasted Cake I did a bunch of searching and loaded a whole variety of podcasts onto my phone to listen to on the trip I took this month. I had an interview with Joss Whedon and an interview with George Saunders. I had a WGA panel on the best written tv shows. I had all kinds of stuff.

It worked great on the trip down except I didn’t know I had to do something to get them to play one after the other so I kept having to fiddle with my phone to get to the next podcast while I was driving. I know, safe.

I still have about 500 pages of tutorials relating to technology that I’m very sincerely trying to get to but then, I’ve got a lot of things I’m trying to get to. The minute I finish this I’m running to the backyard to do about 4 days worth of gardening in 2 hours.

When I got to Orleans, I plugged my phone into my laptop, thinking I’d delete what I already listened to and then set up a playlist with the podcasts I had left.

And my laptop was kind enough to sync up my phone with the podcasts on the laptop which were the 30 Escapepod stories that I decided I didn’t want to listen to and a bunch of Toasted Cakes I already listened to. All my cool interviews went away. I don’t have my laptop and desktop systems synced right now because I haven’t gotten to that tutorial yet. However, one of the stories was Flowing Shapes by my Clarion West classmate Rajan Khanna who just sold his first novel.

So it all worked out.

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Big Announcement: RED TAPE Story Collection

I’ve been talking about this forever, but FINALLY! My story collection is out into the world and available for eReaders.
It’s called: Red Tape Stories from Indian Country.

It’s a collection of nine speculative fiction stories including three that were already published. All the stories have some connection to the people and lands of the Karuk Tribe.

Here’s the Table of Contents and a little bit about the stories.

The Battle of Little Big Science
(previously appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction) This was my Clarion West week #3 story.

Estelle Makes the Casino Run
(previously appeared in Innsmouth Free Press) I wrote this for a contest with my Clarion West classmates.

Social Security
(previously appeared in The Wordstock Ten) This was my submission story for Clarion West.

Field Work
This was my Clarion West week #2 story. Are you seeing a theme here?

The Medicine Woman of Talking Rock
Yup, Clarion West Week #5.

Clarion West Week #6. This was me trying to do something different since you’re supposed to stretch yourself at the workshop.

Trusted Leader
This was my Week #7 story – the first thing I wrote after I left the workshop. The process was gruesome but I like the way it came out after about 5000 drafts.

Fish Killer
This story has nothing to do with Clarion West. I was upset about the dredge mining situation on the Klamath and needed to work it out.

The Casino Gargoyle
This was another submission story I wrote when I misunderstood the application instructions.

All of this can be yours with just a few clicks.

It’s available for Kindle at Amazon or in all other formats at Smashwords.

Special thanks goes to my Clarion West class and instructors. Also giant tower of thank you pies to Douglas Lucas for help with finalizing the manuscript and Eden Robins for the title. (Note to Douglas and Eden, that tower of thank you pies is a figure of speech. Don’t expect an actual tower of pies.)

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Clarion West Write-A-Thon Wrap Up

In honor of the Timbers match tonight, these are sunflowers in my garden. (Here’s the link if you want to get the reference.

Week #6 words: 3099
Stories submitted: 0

Total words written for the entire WAT: 25,020
Total stories submitted: 2

I exceeded my goals.

And, now that I’ve signed the contract, I can announce that I sold one of the stories I submitted.

Yay, the 19 month sales-free drought is finished. (Yes, technically I sold 2 reprints of one of my stories during that time. But, come on, does Limahl call his Mom every time “Too Shy” makes into another 80’s compilation?)

My story “Lottie Versus The Moon Hopper” was accepted into the anthology Future Lovecraft to be published by Innsmouth Free Press at the end of the year. Don’t worry, I’ll announce it a million times when it comes out.

Huge thanks to everyone involved with the write-a-thon, especially my sponsors. I will send you all personal love notes thanking you soon.

It’s never too late to donate. There’s info here and my donation page is here.

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Week #5 Beg-A-Thon Update

Another busy day.

Here’s a quick update on my write-a-thon progress:

Words: 3490 (Goal 3000/week)
Stories submitted: 0 (Goal 1 during the write-a-thon, I’ve submitted 2)

Today I opened up a story that I thought was almost finished and I could submit before the end of the write-a-thon. Turns out, it’s a bit of a disaster. We’ll see if I can get it together in time. I’m going to try.

There is still plenty of time to donate and I would love it. Even just a few bucks would be fantastic. Instructions for donating here or my donation page.

Thanks for supporting nerd writers.

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WEEK #4 Beg-A-Thon Update

These ladies thought it was weird that I took a photo of the official crunch of the Portland Timbers. Do they not understand obsessive documentation?

Very quick update as I am so busy I am moving at the speed of light. You can’t even see me right now. So maybe faster than the speed of light? Whatever, you science nerd pedants.

I am going to be taking a nice long computer free weekend and going to do some fun things so I have been cramming to get my Write-A-Thon goals completed.

Here is it:

Words written: 3263 (goal 3000 per week)
Stories submitted: 1 (goal 1 during the WAT; this is my second)

You can still give money if you feel left out. I’m very close to my goal so a couple bucks could push me over the top.

Here are all the instructions for donating or you can go directly to my donation page.

And a super huge thanks everyone who made a contribution.

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Beg-A-Thon Update: Week #3

First dahlia of the season! I should probably take another photo in a few hours to make it prettier but I can’t plan my entire evening around my dahlia.

Here’s the Week #3 Write-A-Thon Results

Words Written: 3496 (goal 3000/week)
Stories Submitted: 0 (goal 1 during the WAT which I did last week)

The coming week is crazy busy. I’m not sure how I’m going to make my goal but I’ll do my best.

And special message for Turdpress: screw you you needy, demanding crapbag. If I one opportunity to use time travel and only one, of all things I could choose to do, I would go back and NOT PICK YOU.

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Beg-A-Thon Week #2 Update

Words written: 5450 (goal 3000)
Stories submitted: 1 (goal 1 during the write-a-thon)

Yeah, I still look like an over-achiever. Believe me I have had some pitiful weeks of writing this year. I made-up for my poor showing at the beginning of June so I could hit that goal. And I’m going to submit at least one more story during the write-a-thon, maybe two if I get crazy.

Actually, I working like a maniac now because after this weekend the rest of the month is insanely busy so I’m trying to get the work done while I can.

It’s not too late to make a donation. Even $5 would be hugely appreciated. I’ve got some donations but I still don’t even have my first $100 to match.

Here are all the instructions for donating or you can go directly to my donation page.

Thanks everyone who made a contribution.

Jeld-Wen Field. I mistype that as Jelf-Wen every time. I’m just going to start calling it that.

Tonight is the first of six home games this month. SIX! Half of those are exhibition games and to be honest, I don’t understand the point of so many exhibition games in the middle of MLS season. But I’m going to show up and eat my pizza and drink my beer and not complain.

I did not plan to make a pie this weekend. In fact, I was planning to make lemon buttermilk ice cream and exploit the giant bag of lemons we were gifted with this week.

However I saw this 10 minute lime cracker pie. I still had limes and heavy cream leftover from previous pie making adventures. I didn’t have crackers but one of the comments mentioned graham cracker crust and I still have graham crackers from an earlier pie. Let me tell you, this thing is so sweet it will put hair on your chest. I think the graham cracker crust is too much. I think it would work better with the crackers. And I might just try it when we visit the family next month.

That’s it for now. I need to weed and bathe and nap and get ready for my game tonight. Timbers!

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Beg-A-Thon Week #1 Results

I ran out of See’s candy and I don’t want to drive all the way to the mall for just that one thing. I found this at the grocery store and it is terrific. I let Bob try it but then I had to hide it from him.

I ended up writing my face off today and I need to go to bed so my Write-a-thon Week #1 (which ended yesterday) results will be brief.

Words written: 6249 (goal 3000/wk)
New Stories Submitted: 0 (goal 1 during the write-a-thon)

I know it looks like I’m being an overachiever here. I make monthly goals, too, and I’ve been behind on my June goal so I had to make it up. Plus I have two stories that are this close to going out the door and I was really pouring it on to try to get those finished.

If you’d like to contribute the info is here: Clarion West Write-A-Thon 2011 and here’s the direct link to sponsor me.

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