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It is not crocus season yet. I just saw the first buttercups, the very earliest of the spring ephemerals, this morning. But it is closer to crocus season than it was last week, and for that I am profoundly grateful. It has been a long, hard winter.
It has been quiet for too long here as well, but I am trying to get back into the habit of posting again. Maybe nothing much ever at one go, but—it has been too long since I was in front of you, performing, and I miss that, so here I am in whatever small way I can manage.
Also! I will be posting a story next Friday the 8th—the first of my Patreon stories, promised last July and then sidetracked. (One of the excitements of my other line of work is that we can get called any day to drop everything we are doing because something important is on fire, and we have been very busy over the last year.) But the story is now prepped and copyedited and scheduled, meaning it will be posted, so do please watch this space.
After I posted about signing up for Patreon, I got a few questions which other people may have too, so let me answer them here.
How often do you intend to post?
Over the past couple of years, I’ve written about two stories a year. I’d like to write more, and I think this will encourage me to do so, but I’m a slow writer with a day job. I definitely won’t post more than once a month. (If you’re worried, though, Patreon allows you to set a maximum amount you want to spend per month, for ease of budgeting, and please feel free to do so. I know how that goes.)
Are you posting the stories on your blog?
Yeah, I’m continuing to post the stories for everyone to read here. Right now nobody has heard of me or read my writing, and that’s what I’m hoping you’ll help me change. So to some extent, yeah, you’re supporting me doing something I would have done anyway.
What do I get if I support you then?
Partly faster posts. It’s a lot easier for me to convince myself not to screw around submitting to token markets if I know people care about and read my stories. Also I’m posting outtakes, “demos,” little bits and pieces of really raw behind-the-scenes stuff for backers only here on Patreon—for example, the beginning of an (unfinished) sequel to my “Hitchhiker” story. (I don’t want to seem to slag on token markets here; a lot of them are run by friends, or people who could be. I just don’t think that it’s worth submitting to all of them, all the time.)
Will you mail your stories to my house like Cat Valente did?
Maybe! When I started doing this, I wanted to be really careful not to make promises I couldn’t keep no matter what happened. As it goes along and we all get more comfortable with this, I’m open to new ideas. Would you like me to mail my stories to your house? Let me know!
Edit: TL;DR I’ve signed up for Patreon.
As you know, I write stories. Sometimes they’re science fiction or fantasy, depending on how you squint and turn your head. Sometimes they’re just little bits of life, mine or someone else’s. Sometimes they’re weird and misshapen. Here are a couple:
I submit these stories to magazines (a loose term in the age of e-publishing). Mostly they send them back with polite little form notes. They regret that they are unable to respond to each submission personally, but they are unable to publish my story.
And that’s fine. They don’t owe me an audience.
Every once in a while I get a personal note back saying that the story was strong but not the kind of thing they publish, or that it made them think but didn’t quite work for them, and I cherish those notes. (They’re even from magazines you’ve heard of, statistically speaking. So I can’t be that nuts, right?)
Once I’ve sent a story to all the eligible markets—or at least the markets I would respect in the morning—I usually post it here on the blog. For short stuff (flash-length pieces) or weird stuff (black humor), that’s easy to justify to myself, but I find it hard to post longer pieces.
There’s always another token-paying magazine which might publish them. Although… if a magazine is paying me $5 for a story, how many readers does it really have? Is it worth the heartache to get my work in front of those few strangers?
There has got to be a better way for people to meet my work, and for me to meet them, than this endless low-stakes spaghetti-throwing competition.
While she was doing it, I subscribed to Catherynne Valente’s Omikuji stories. The deal was, you paid once a year, and then every month or thereabouts she would mail an original never-before-published story to you. Real paper, wax seal, with a little note about life and work and the weather in Maine, signed by her.
Everything but the signature was laser-printed, of course—by the time I subscribed, there were enough of us that hand-writing would have about killed her—but even so there was a personal touch about it, and I came to look forward to when the cream-colored envelope with the red border would arrive in the mail.
The stories were usually short, suitable for reading over breakfast. Theoretically each mailing she would choose someone to receive something extra-special, though I never did, and for me neither that nor the exclusivity of the stories was the point. Just that steady contact did more to make me a part of her community than a dozen series could have.
I am not as prodigious a writer as Catherynne Valente, nor am I trying to support myself on my fiction as she does, so I can’t promise stories as often or as regularly, and I don’t want to ask you to pay up-front. Still, I’d like Patreon to be something similar—a little community of us.
I’m still learning how to do this fiction-writing thing. I’ve only been working at it seriously for a couple years, far fewer than I’ve worked at any of the other things that I think I do well. I don’t fit neatly into boxes—my own or anyone else’s. I don’t know how to be approachable yet, how to win the reluctant reader’s trust. I know my reach exceeds my grasp.
Still I can’t shake the conviction that my stories have value. Sometimes they’re the stories I want or need to read. Sometimes they’re the stories I’m too scared to read. I say in them the things I know no other way to say.
Amanda Palmer has a TED Talk on “The Art of Asking”, and I think the idea she espouses is profound, if not always simple to act on. She doesn’t use these words, but I will: as an artist, I exist by the grace of the people who support me—by your free gifts. You don’t owe me an audience. You don’t owe me that support. But if you’re willing, I’ll accept it.
Will you support me?
(Not about symbiosis, sad to say. Or maybe it is.)
In an effort to run less software myself, and having decided that WordPress was the right way to go for this blog, I have moved from a self-hosted WordPress instance onto WordPress.com. (A hundred bucks a year was a small price to pay to not have to be personally responsible for taking updates every time someone finds a security hole in WordPress, which is sadly often, and it will cut down on the amount of time I spend spam-whacking too.) All of the content should still be here, and all the links will hopefully continue to work.
Let me know if anything does break in the comments or at email@example.com.
There was going to be a more interesting post here, but I got distracted playing with WordPress theme settings and ran out of motivation. (Doesn’t this site look so much better now? Just tweaking a couple settings goes so far to making it look less like Every Other Damn WordPress Blog out there, even if it is still on the default theme.) I have nebulous plans to move to a different theme eventually, but first there needs to be content, and I like the look well enough now to let it be for a while, I think. I hope. The twitching is a completely harmless nervous tic, I assure you. To tide you over until I have enough brain to write real content, have an image macro, as we do in this here 21st century.
It’s a brand new blog
I am gonna shout
Comment spam is coming
Haters gotta doubt
I’m gonna shock the world
Gonna show you all
It’s a brand new blog