Saturn Ring Blues

The Best of James Van Pelt

Available for preorder now for a November release
Available for preorder now for a November release

This is the BIG project I've been working on for the last few months. Sixty-two stories chosen from almost three decades of publishing, including some previously uncollected work.  Only 200 copies will be released in a signed, numbered, limited edition hardcover with gorgeous wrap-around art. Available at Fairwood Press right now!

Saturn Ring Blues

Promoting THE EXPERIENCE ARCADE AND OTHER STORIES

Promoting a book is an interesting activity, and a separate one from writing the book or selling the book to a publisher. Marketing a book is a third challenge, or a third hobby, depending on how you think about it. It requires skills and a mindset that don’t seem related to the first two activities (and those two aren’t related either).

Collapse )
Saturn Ring Blues

Free Van Pelt Fiction at Curious Fictions

I have been posting about a story a week at one of the best online resources for short fiction you can find, Curious Fictions.

Authors can hide their stories behind paywalls for their subscribers, or offer it for free with the hope for tips and subscribers who would like to support the work.

If you follow an author there, you'll receive a notification when your author posts new work.

You can also "like" the work, comment on it, and/or tip the author. 

I'd love to see you there. Explore the work from over 600 other authors, and if you'd like, check out the collection of my stuff, stories that have appeared in numerous of the major magazines, been reprinted in several World's Best anthologies, and also my Nebula Finalist story, "The Last of the O-Forms" (which are offered for free).

James Van Pelt at Curious Fictions.

Saturn Ring Blues

Where I am Online

I have been spending much of my online time in two venues. The first is Curious Fictions where I try to post a story a week, generally on Wednesdays. The site contains a ton of free fiction. Readers can also subscribe to writers they like or give them tips.

Of course, I like tips. You can also follow writers who you want so when they post new stuff, you are notified. There’s a place to “like” stories or to comment on them. My latest contribution is “The Small Astral Object Genius,” which appeared the first time in Asimov’s.

I also have been posting short fiction reviews at Black Gate. Those also appear every two or three weeks and are free to read. The column is called “Stories that Work.” My mission is to comment on stories that I think are successful and what recommends them. I’m not searching for a “best of” necessarily, nor am I reviewing the stories I don’t think work. Here’s my latest for Black Gate.

Of course, I also hang out at Face Book regularly.

Keep safe! Social distance responsibly.

Saturn Ring Blues

Sheesh! It's Dusty in Here

I haven't posted on LiveJournal in forever, mostly because I moved over to FaceBook and my own web page at http://www.jamesvanpelt.com (where I don't post all that often either).

So here is some quick catching up. Things that have happened since I posted last:

  • I retired from high school teaching completely after transitioning from full-time to half-time in 2015. I taught half time at Fruita Monument for a year, subbed for a year, and then taught half time at Grand Junction High for two more years. This is my second winter in a row now where I haven't been in the classroom.
  • I took on Ray Bradbury's write-a-story-for-a-week challenge in 2015 and finished in 2016.  Of the 52 stories, I've sold 42 so far.
  • Fairwood Press released 26 of the write-a-story-a-week books in a collection called The Experience Arcade and Other Stories.
  • I have been writing short fiction almost exclusively over the last couple of years, selling pieces to Asimov's, Analog, Daily Science Fiction and other venues.
  • I've also attended several conventions during the last two years, plus continued my streak of going to the Rain Forest Writer's Retreat each year.  This year was my 12th time in attendance. I only missed the first year it was offered.
  • My youngest son too a job in Seattle, thereby emptying our nest. We turned his room into an exercise area. He hasn't seen it yet.
Collapse )
Saturn Ring Blues

New Collection and Accompanying Website

Hi, all!  I see I haven't posted at LJ for a while.  Most of the time I'm on FaceBook now or working on my jamesvanpelt.com website.  

I have a new collection, The Experience Arcade and Other Stories, coming out at World Fantasy in San Antonio in November.  Because teachers have asked about using my stories in their classrooms, I'm also working on support material for teachers.  You can see this work in progress here.


Saturn Ring Blues

April/May Asimov's

The latest Asimov's is out with my short story, "Three Paintings."  The main character is an artist who has come up with an unusual experiment in creativity.

I have artist friends, so I wanted to make sure I didn't create an artist who wouldn't pass their verisimilitude test.  So far, the two who've read the story said that I didn't screw up too badly.

This is my 12th appearance in Asimov's, starting with "Safety of the Herd" in 2002 (13th if I count a reprint of an Analog story that appeared in the Greek edition of Asimov's).  It is truly awesome to make a sale there.  If you would have asked me twenty years ago, the year I made my first professional sale, that I would be where I am today, I wouldn't have believed you.

Saturn Ring Blues

My New Website

Hi, all.  If you still follow me on LiveJournal, you might have noticed that I used to post quite often here, but over the last two years have done less and less.  There were a couple of reasons for that, including my discovery of FaceBook, but the main one is that readership seemed to have drifted away from LiveJournal.  The other reason was that I built up a large group of FB friends quickly, and I received a bunch more feedback there.

You know us writerly types.  We're feedback junkies.

What I missed about LiveJournal, though, was its format.  It lent itself to longer, more discursive essays.  The layout works well for reading long stuff, while FB, with its narrow columns does not.

In the meantime, I started turning my eye more toward writing longer works and trying to find a place for people looking for my books to land.  Neither LiveJournal or FB served that need well.  So, I have taken the plunge and acquired my own domain where I have a website and a place for people to find my books.  I'll still be on FB and LiveJournal, but the center for things I write, and for people looking for those things will be the website.

You can see it by going to jamesvanpelt.com.
Saturn Ring Blues

Writing a Story a Week for a Year

SUMMARY OF LESSONS LEARNED FROM WRITING ONE STORY A WEEK FOR 52 WEEKS:

My presentation at Rainforest was an autobiographical report of what I learned by following Ray Bradbury's advice to write a story a week for a year. After all, he suggested, it is impossible to write 52 bad stories in a row.

I tackled the challenge because I wanted to directly investigate my creative process, and I liked the idea of entering full-time writing status with increased productivity.

Since I knew I was going to be doing the presentation months ago, I started writing what I was learning, which is great for keeping my thoughts organized, but a terrible way to prepare a presentation. What I've pasted below is all the stuff I wrote. On Saturday morning, before I presented, I rewrote all this as a bulleted list because I know if I over-script myself, I'll read what I wrote instead of actually talking to the audience. Oddly enough, I came up with ten lessons (an unplanned round number, really).

I also gave the audience a list of all the story titles, their word count, where they were submitted to now or where they sold, and my number of rejections and sales (126 rejections to 16 sales).

1. Almost every story started feeling small, stupid or insignificant. Even the ones that didn’t feel that way were simple, single-noted or slight. However, after two or three days, my interest in the story grew. What seemed trivial at the beginning took on more significance. Through working on the story, my engagement with the story increased. By the end of the week, I sometimes found I’d tied myself into a much larger and layered story than I thought when I began. A couple times the story turned out to be more than a one-week effort. I learned to trust that the story would become more interesting than it started. No matter what I thought at the beginning, the story would deepen. Here’s a way to try this on your own: use a writing prompt from someone else. All you have then is the merest kernel, but you still grow a story.

2. The malleability of sequence in writing became more evident the more stories I wrote. Details that I included at the beginning just because I needed to invent something to complete the scene (a physical description, a line of dialogue, an action) often became pivotal later ALTHOUGH I HAD NO PLAN ON USING THE DETAILS WHEN I PUT THEM IN. I reinforced the idea that I could trust my earliest decisions and use them to solve problems. Here’s a way to try this out: write richly early. Give your characters pets or eccentric memories and traits. Be specific about setting. Write odd dialogue. You’ll find your own story to be rich with things you put in at the beginning that you can use later.

3. In the same sense, the realization that an early detail needed to be added, altered or deleted when I got to a later part in the story became easier. Because I wrote faster, I became less wedded to the early stuff and more ruthless about removing or replacing it. Writing this many stories this fast revealed to me more thoroughly the wholeness and connectedness of the narrative from the process side.

4. Different impulses got me into the stories. A couple I wrote just because a setting appealed to me. I wanted to describe a place richly. Others started because of a situation. A couple started because I had an idea about language, like I wanted to write a story that built like a song, or I intentionally wanted to be poetic. One story I wrote in first person but never used the pronoun “I” just to see if I could do it. Some came from autobiography, which may be because autobiography is the low-hanging fruit of inspiration, but it’s also the stuff that feels really important as I write. I wrote from writing prompts (there’s plenty of places on the web with writing prompts—just Google for them). I wrote to themed anthology descriptions, and used the theme as a prompt.

5. I found that I wanted to try different things because the previous stories were so fresh in my memory. Like, I didn’t want two first person stories in a row, or if the last story the characters were young, then next one they’d be old. I wrote characters who were different from me (different ethnicity, backgrounds, education, vocabulary, etc.). If my last story had a downer ending, I wanted the next one to have a different feel. I wanted to try different styles.

6. Because of the pace, I grew more conscious of my first readers. The stories started to feel confessional and because my first readers know me well, I became more aware of when I used autobiographical elements I thought they would recognized. Sometimes I used those elements for fun, and sometimes I worked hard to disguise them.

7. I found that I ping-ponged when writing the stories between being really interested in the language I was using, and being really interested in the story I was telling. Weirdly enough, I think I’m a better story teller when I fall in love with the language and just let the language go than when I’m focusing on plot points and structure.

8. Story writing rhythm feels like a slinky’s motion to me, when you hold both ends and then oscillate. Things bunch up and don’t move, and then suddenly rush to the next bunch point. The thing is that I’m very self-conscious about the bunched up points, and they are frustrating or bothersome. To get through them, I sometimes have to trick myself by giving myself some immediate goal, like how much can I write before “Stairway to Heaven” finishes on my CD? Other times I remind myself that I can’t edit nothing, so I’ve got to get something on the page, even if it’s not particularly good.

9. I write better and faster if I type with my eyes closed. This is a lesson I constantly have to remind myself about.

10. My best approach to submitting the work is to absolutely believe the market I sent it to will reject it. That’s a tough state of mind to stay in, but when I submitted so much work so fast, the rejections came back relentlessly. I sold a story about one out of every eight times I submitted, so that meant I could have multiple rejections in the same week. However, even on the day I had an acceptance, a rejection later was discouraging. So, to battle the discouragement, I assumed the story would be rejected. No big deal when it came in; they were going to reject it anyways. Every sale was a pleasant and beautiful surprise.

If you've made it all the way to the end of this long post, you have persistence!
Saturn Ring Blues

MILEHICON SCHEDULE

The schedule for his weekend's programming is now available online. Lots of cool stuff! I'm particularly interested in attending the following:

Friday, 6:00: Connie Willis on foreshadowing. She's been doing an hour on different narrative elements for several years is a row. I so, so wish that I had them all recorded, or a transcription. She's a brilliant, funny and insightful teacher. I also like that she doesn't reference her own work when she's talking about narrative. I can't oversell this programming item!

Friday, 9:00: Carrie and the Midnight Hour. Carrie Vaughn assumes her character's personality and becomes Kitty, a late night radio advice counselor for the supernaturally challenged (Kitty is a werewolf). This is always hysterical. Audience members come up with problems for her to solve.

Saturday 10:00 and 1:00: The blind submission panels. Authors have presubmitted the first page of their stories or novels. The page is read out loud to five editors who each raise their hand when they would have rejected it. Then they explain what they heard that was off putting. Or, the manuscript makes it to the end, and everyone applauds the author.

Saturday, 3:00: The Rusch hour. An hour with guest of honor, Kristine Katheryn Rusch. I've heard Kris talk before. As a writer and editor, she has a wealth of experience and wisdom.

I've highlighted something for every hour of the convention that I want to attend.

And, of course, there's the masquerade, the Critter Crunch, 160 presenters, a huge diversity of paneling, an organized bar con on Friday, signings, dealers room, art show (and art presentations), gaming, movies, science, kids programming, and everything else that is wonderful that happens at a con.

Here is my schedule, including my toastmaster duties: Opening ceremonies 7:00 on Friday. Autograph alley at 8:00 Friday (authors signing their books). Guest of Honor comments at 11:00 on Sunday. Post-remarks autographing at 12:30 Sunday. A “Why am I not Writing” panel at 1:00 Sunday. An hour with James Van Pelt 3:00 Sunday. Closing ceremonies 5:00 Sunday. There’s a link to the entire schedule at the MileHiCon webpage.