SFWA Reading in Portland!

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Last night’s  reading was wonderful! I always have so much anxiety leading up to any sort of writing event that my brain convinces me that I will have a terrible time. Surely, I will embarrass myself beyond any hope of repair. I will somehow literally drool on someone. I will trip and/or fall, breaking something (inanimate or otherwise) and drawing every eye in the building. I will, once face to face with the author I like, be suddenly incapable of forming a coherent sentence as simple as “Hi, I really like your book. Will you sign it for me?” That, in my nervousness, I will gulp alcohol and get tipsy and then be forever remembered as “That drunk chick at the reading.”

I am proud to report that I did not drool on anyone. I did not get drunk, although I did enjoy three very delicious beers from Lucky Labrador Brewing, where the reading took place. Though my hands were basically made of lava thanks to how anxious I was, I was able to introduce myself to all three readers (and Caitlin Starling who was in attendance as a fan!), and shake their hands. I said my name to all of them, I complimented their readings, spoke about their work and thanked them for coming to see us in Portland.

I had normal human interactions with four writers I respect very much!

SFWA swagAnd, I won a bag of ARCs via the SFWA’s raffle! I maybe hit a pretty high pitch when I raised my hand and said, “That’s ME!” But I NEVER win anything and I’d had such a wonderful time that I was understandably pumped.

Sam J. Miller, author of The Art of Starving and Blackfish City, read first. He read his short story “Kenneth: A User’s Manual” and an excerpt from Blackfish City. He did a wonderful job, and the short story was pretty funny. It was nice to hear one of his stories I hadn’t read yet. I bought a copy of Blackfish City while we were there and got Sam to sign the book! And guys, I’m striving for transparency here, mortifying as it is, and I really love Sam’s writing. So, when he asked my name I told him to just write BZ, and then he looked up at me and said, “do we interact on twitter?”Sam J Miller autograph.jpg

Y’all. I about died. While every cell in my body screamed with joy, I smiled and said, “Yeah!” Cool as as a cucumber you left out on the counter. He shook my hand and said it was nice to meet me, and then finished signing the book. I walked back to my seat ready to just float away. It was such a brief, delightful interaction. AND I WASN’T A WEIRDO!

Kari Maaren went next and she gave an outstanding reading from her YA novel Weave a Circle Round. Her performance was really wonderful, so vibrant and real. I felt those characters, from an entire beer hall away. I made a point to tell her how much I loved her reading, and she confessed she has a background in performance, so that’s why she was so delightful!

Note to self: start practicing reading now! If I wait until I actually have one booked, I’ll be a complete doofus in front of a crowd.

Last came Rebecca Roanhorse. If you don’t know, she wrote Trail of Lightning, which has been nominated for this year’s Hugo for best novela slew of short stories, and her sequel Storm of Locusts just released this week! GO BUY IT! I’d planned to buy her books at the event, but they were already sold out once we got there. Wah-wah.

She read the first half of her story “Harvest” which is in the new anthology New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color edited by Nisi Shawl, and an excerpt from her multiple award winning story “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience”. Her voice is fantastic. I don’t know how to describe it. She speaks with clarity and strength, her voice carried through the room and commanded attention, even when it was soft and whispering of the Deer Woman. She has range when she reads, her voice moving up and down, hitting the beats of her stories with precision.

Contents from my bag of swag! See anything you like?

It was spectacular. Even Trevor, my notoriously non-reader husband was blown away by her reading. He closed his eyes and absorbed her words, let them wash over and through him, and I was blessed with being able to watch him experience her work in a way I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. I maybe teared up a little. Shhhhhusssssh. Don’t tell him. He’ll never go to a reading with me again.

When she was done, he turned to me and said, “we need to buy her books. If we buy them, I’ll read them.” So yeah, I’d say he was impressed.

Next was a Q&A session which I always loathe. I never have a question. I can never think of anything I want to know badly enough to single myself out and ask someone I admire to talk to me. I don’t want the attention. I don’t want the focus of not only the authors, but the whole crowd. So, I sit and I listen and generally smile a lot because I’m happy to be surrounded by book people.

But, last night I asked a question. It was a meaty one, about how to twist and mold existing places into dystopian or post-apocalyptic settings. I apologized afterward because it was a large ask, but they all did such a great job answering! And Sam even said it was a “great question”! So there, self-conscious, anxiety-ridden self! You asked a question and you didn’t die!

After the reading, Trev and I stayed to have dinner with Kat and Obadiah (of The Audient Void) who were also in attendance. It was a really nice evening, one that I’m eager to repeat. Hopefully I won’t be a nervous wreck next time.

Or, at least less of one.

Until Monday, Bloggos!

 

BZ

 

What’s in a Pen Name?

I’ve seen some discussion on Twitter about pseudonyms lately, largely wondering why authors choose to use a pen name or not. Now, maybe you guessed, but (technically) I use a pen name. B. Zelkovich is not my legal name. I know, shocking, right? So, what made me decide to use a pseudonym and how did I choose it?

I didn’t start out writing under a pseudonym. Way back in my college days I wrote under my, then, legal name, Brittany Zelkovich, and had some small successes. My first four General Fiction stories were published under that name, as well as my Caladria stories.

But then I went and did a silly thing. I got married! My whole life I counted down the days until I could jump up the alphabet by taking someone else’s last name, but once the time finally came, I hesitated. It took me six months and quite a bit of inner-turmoil to finally go to the Social Security office and change my name. And only then because I’d decided to continue writing and publishing under Zelkovich.

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But I didn’t decide to drop to my first initial until last year. I don’t distinctly remember what inspired me to do it, other than a vague sense of dissatisfaction with how my name sounded when read aloud. “Brittany Zelkovich” just sounded… juvenile? The first name really dates me as someone born between 1985-1993, which is true, but that doesn’t mean I want the whole world to know that before they’ve even read my work.

Plus, I’ll do just about anything to avoid the Britney Spears jokes. Trust me, I’ve heard them all. At least three times.

So then I started experimenting. Britt Zelkovich? No… Still doesn’t sound right. Plus, that’s a nickname I reserve for family and close friends. What about my middle name? Sarchet Zelkovich? That’s unique, at least. But could you imagine having to tell everyone how to pronounce it for the rest of my life? No thanks. What about my initials? B.S. Zelk — oh, that’s hilarious. B.S. Zelkovich? Bullshit Zelkovich? PASS.Image result for pen name gif

Which left me with B. Zelkovich. Androgynous, professional sounding, with the last name as the focus which is important since that’s the bit all my books will be filed under. Plus, plenty of people in my life call me B., but it isn’t something exclusive to close friends and family. Just about anybody can get away with calling me that.

So, that’s how I got here. I wanted to avoid sounding young and possibly foolish. I wanted to avoid the inevitable mental image of shaved heads and that awful school girl outfit. And I wanted to keep my super unique last name. Because, and I mean this with 100% honesty, if you ever meet a Zelkovich in the United States, they are related to me by blood or marriage. I may not know them, but somewhere up the family tree we have relatives in common.

But what are some reasons already published authors decide to take up a pseudonym? The most common one is that an author is trying to sell a book that is outside of their already established genre. J.K. Rowling escaped YA Fiction by writing her Mystery Fiction as Robert Galbraith. Delilah S. Dawson writes YA and Science Fiction under her legal name, but writes Fantasy as Lila Bowen and Erotica as Ava Lovelace.

Stephen King wrote as Richard Bachman for awhile because he wrote novels faster than his publisher would release them. Joe Hill is the pen name for King’s son, Joseph Hillstrom King, who wanted to try his hand at Horror Fiction without competing (or probably being burdened) with his father’s legacy.

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Apparently Parks and Rec has a GIF for my every pseudonym need.

Agatha Christie, Isaac Asimov, Michael Crichton, Anne Rice, Joyce Carol Oats, and on and on and on, all used pseudonyms at some point in their careers. Whether to write freely in a new genre, to test that their writing still held up and they weren’t just selling novels because of their name, or for any number of other reasons, many authors decide to use a pen name.

What are your thoughts on the matter? As a reader, does the author’s name really factor into your decision to try a book? If you find out it’s not their real name, does that matter to you? As a writer, would you ever use a pen name? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

I should be back soon with the review for City in the Middle of the Night, so be on the lookout for that.

Until then, Bloggos.

 

BZ

 

 

 

Wrimo Wrap Up 2018

Hiya, Blogland!

I wanted to take this chance to talk a bit about how my NaNo season went this year. Now, a lot of this will probably end up in my monthly recap for November, but I’ll try to go into a bit more depth here than I do there.

I was really straightforward with my goal for Nano this year: 800 words each day, or 24k words for the month. Now, if I’m being honest, 800 words isn’t all that much to me. When I do sit down to write I almost always pump out at least 1000 words, and usually closer to 2k before calling it quits for the session. In a free day, with proper motivation and focus, I can write 5k before my brain liquifies and dribbles out my ears.

So, 800 felt really doable. Which was the point. I work over 40 hours a week most weeks, and this is the first major writing project I’ve undertaken since working both jobs again. I went from 25 hours or less at work, to 40+. That’s a big change in routine, and I needed to be realistic with myself when setting the goals for Nano if I wanted to do well.

Still, 800/day nagged at me. Was it too easy? Too doable? Should I have stretched for 1000 words a day? Would that have been the better challenge? Truthfully, I don’t know. I think I could have done it, but I would be even more exhausted than I am now, and my recoup time would leak even further into December. I don’t want that. I want to keep working on this novel into the new year, and hopefully finish it by March.

And, well, I’m off to a great start because I made my goal for the month. I wrote 25,069 words in the month of November! It was a struggle and there were a lot of days where I didn’t write at all. Sundays were my most productive days, and that’s directly thanks to the local Write-Ins my Nano Chapter hosted each weekend. I also need to give a shout out to my writer’s discord community, for all the impromptu sprint sessions and encouragement they provided this month. They were a huge help and motivator.

Average words a day: 835
Total Manuscript word count: 25,488

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Here’s the thing about NaNo that so many people seem to miss: it isn’t really about the word count. Yeah, crossing the 50k threshold is one hell of an adrenaline rush, and it’s feels beyond amazing to know you could write so much in so little time. But, it doesn’t matter how many words you vow to write. It only matters that you write them.

National Novel Writing Month is about making time for your writing. It’s about establishing a writing habit and working out that writing muscle. Because it is a muscle. The more often you write, the easier it is to continue to be consistent and productive. If you write in spurts and starts it’s harder to get back into the swing of things and feel like the work you’re producing is actually worth a damn.

I think that’s my one complaint about NaNo. A lot of writers are willing to sacrifice the quality of their writing in order to log the sheer quantity that the terms of the traditional challenge demand. One Wrimo (Nanowrimo participant) confessed that when she’s sprinting, she doesn’t use punctuation. I was floored. How could that even be possible? How could you go back and read it, how could you edit it into what you’d originally intended?

And then she admitted, “I always mean to edit, but I usually never make it back to the novel. I move on to the next one.”

During National Novel Writing Month, the words are king. You are advised never to edit, not even if you decide to change your word choice. Just strikethrough the one you don’t want to use and write in the new one. Every word counts, don’t cut ANYTHING!

But I can’t do that. It’s why my sprints are so comparatively slow. 300-500 words in 15 minutes, maybe just over 600 if it’s a 20 minute sprint. And I think that’s good. But others pound out over 1000 words! It’s mind boggling.

I’d rather write to my usual quality than hoard words on the page like a dragon hoards gold. Nano for me is as much a celebration as it is a challenge. It’s a time for writers to come together and cheer on one another as we all work toward whatever goals we’ve set for ourselves.

And that’s exactly how my month went. Celebrating the love of storytelling that brings us all together and encouraging each other through the struggles of writerdom. And despite the stress of the challenge and the looming holidays, I freaking love it.

If you participated in Nano this year, I hope you enjoyed yourself, and are proud of all the hard work you did to reach your writing goals.

I’ll be back soon with the monthly recap, so keep an eye out for that!

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 16

Blogland,

It’s that time again! Let’s talk about goals!

Last Week

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Edit chapters 10, 11, and 12 of The Steel Armada
  • Revise The Seasons per feedback
  • Finish reading Binti: The Night Masquerade
  • Review Madhu’s pages

How’d I do?

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Edit chapters 10, 11, and 12 of The Steel Armada
    • No. But, there was some good work done in this area. Turned out that, due to considerable rewrites, I had to do some major restructuring. Scenes moved around and caused a bunch of trouble. So chapter 9 had to get completely reworked (again) and I got a good chunk of 10 done. So… 1.5/3. I’ll take it.
  • Revise The Seasons per feedback
    • Done. I got a lovely personal rejection from PseudoPod earlier this month that had some quality suggestions for making The Seasons more effective. Per that feedback I added 100 words and discovered a new title for the piece: The Cost of Rain.
  • Finish reading Binti: The Night Masquerade
    • Yarp. I’ll have the review up sometime this week.
  • Review Madhu’s pages
    • Yep! Always do!

Weekly Word Count: 1,930

I also did a proof read and final tweak of Lifelike. I felt pretty good about how it turned out. This piece is one I’ve worked on for almost 7 years now (of and on) and it’s taken many, many forms. I believe this is the strongest it has ever been, and the strongest I can make it at this time. So, I sent it out for submission Saturday night.

Monday morning Fireside Fiction opened their submission window, so The Cost of Rain went out to them. I’m feeling quite writerly today with two short stories out for consideration. Got my Big Girl Writer Pants on. Woo!

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One of my goals for 2018 was to submit two separate short stories for submission. It’s not even May and I can cross this one off the list!

What’s Next?

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Edit 3 chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Write 500 words of Sanctuary
  • Research more short story markets
  • Review Madhu’s pages

I’ve got two book reviews to write and another announcement to share this week, so there will be no shortage of activity on the blog. I’ve been itching to get back to Santa Sarita these last couple weeks, so it’ll be quite nice to spend a little time with Reyes and Sara again as I work on chapter 3 of Sanctuary.

With two stories out for submission right now, I need to line up the next few magazines I can submit to if both are rejected this round. I’m only submitting to markets that pay the minimum professional rate ($0.06/word), but if I exhaust those options without success, I’ll start considering semi-pro markets. I will not submit to non-paying markets. I have my token publications, the feathers in my proverbial cap. I’m done with that.A Reminder of Horace Greeley's Past Record

Madhu is going to send her next round of pages to me this evening, so I have that to look forward to. She’s almost done with her rough draft which is awesome! She hasn’t been working on this project for very long at all but she’s been very diligent and hard-working, pumping out those pages.

Which leaves me with the glaring truth. I really, really need to hold myself more accountable with my editing goals. I need to get through this draft. I keep telling myself that this is the hardest one, this is the draft where all the big changes happen. Characters meld, disappear, and maybe even play bigger roles than anticipated. Worlds develop much further than I ever thought they would. Magic becomes less fantastical and more intrinsic to the story and world.

The fourth draft will iron out the wrinkles from this much more disruptive draft. And the fifth draft will make it the best book it can be.

That’s what I keep telling myself. I’m not sure if I believe it. And I’m not sure that it really matters if I do. The work has to get done, regardless. And I am stubborn enough to keep trudging through this process until I am satisfied with the end result.

So that’s the game plan for this week. Fairly relaxed, other than the editing. Hopefully that means I can get a lot of work done. Chapter 10 is an almost complete rewrite, but 11 and 12 aren’t. Maybe I can finally get through them.

I’ll be back a bunch this week with various posts, so keep an eye out!

 

BZ

 

A Reminder, Once Again

Blogland,

Once again I am reminded of how many awesome people I am surrounded by! Old friends, new friends, family, and loved ones. All of you are here, creating an intricate weaving of support and encouragement, with healthy doses of reality. I truly appreciate you all. Without your constant reminders of my own ability, I would have given up years ago.

As it is, I don’t see myself giving up any time soon. I’ve got the initial novel, which is just too ridiculously close to finishing to be allowed to fade away now. I have the poorly titled ‘Ghost Story’ which has taken on a life of its own, and may end up being my longest ‘short’ work yet. I now have ‘Vessels’ (also poorly named), which has ignited within me something I haven’t felt in a long time; drive.

To add to these works in progress are four ‘completed’ works. ‘Goodbye Marla’, ‘Wild Turkeys’, ‘You’ve Always Been Good at Crazy’, and ‘Fallen Star’, three of which have been published.

To add to these are the ideas. The mere outlines and inklings. An outer space comedy told in three parts, the epic fantasy trilogy, the young adult novel ‘Seashells’, as well as the young adult series currently referred to as ‘Realm Wars’… Trust me, I know it’s an awful title.

I feel like there might be more than what I’ve listed, but my brain honestly can’t remember. That’s what my binder is for. In it all my stories, in their various forms, are stored. Some are ‘completed’ copies, fresh and clean. Others are revised copies, waiting to be edited in the computer and replaced in the binder. Still others are in handwriting, scribbled on college rule over a multitude of hardly organized sheets. And then there are the very few that are just vague ideas written on the back of Starbucks receipt paper.

It’s all far too much for one brain to keep track of, at least without previous study.

Anyway, I’ve rambled too much. This post started out with the intent of thanking those who have been involved in keeping me afloat all these years. So let me end it thusly:

Thank you. All of you. Teachers turned mentors. Classmates turned friends. Coworkers turned editors. Family members turned cheerleaders. And readers turned fan club.

Without all of you, all of this would be over.

 

BZ

Desert Nights

All right, here’s a quick post while I’m killing time. And if there seem to be any bizarre typos it’s not my fault, I’m writing this from my iPhone.

So, this morning has been quite the adventure. Fell asleep at around 1-1:30 last night and woke up at 5:30 this morning. Then I drove in the dark to the park and ride on Price and Apache. From there I decided the ticket machine and boarded my first ever light rail! Gotta say, it’s exactly like riding the metro in Europe, just above ground. Thank goodness I’ve done that before though, because it really helped.

A handful if stops later and I’m on the ASU campus, wandering the malls. I’ve walked pretty far ad I’m thinking I’ve passed it when there it is:

A structure tucked away, hidden and dwarfed by its multi-storied counterparts. This quaint house on this enormous campus is my destination. The Virginia G. Piper Writer’s House, where, in 30 minutes I will check in and the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writer’s conference will begin.

Now, I just have to wait.

And where the hell is the coffee?!?

Visual Outline Exercise

Just a quick one tonight guys, mainly because I have time to kill, and because I think this’ll be interesting.

For my novel writing class, we have to prepare a visual outline to present. Now, at first I was confused. Visual outline of the entire story? How? And then Malik explained it.

Go through your entire novel, beginning to end, and find pictures that represent the moments and scenes. You can draw them, find them on the internet, or pretty much anywhere.

Also, I built albums in my Photos folders that are filled with just story related things. For example, I have a “Characters” folder, filled with pictures of what my characters look like, or at least the closest I could find on the web. I also have a folder of just setting images. My novel takes place in Seattle, so I dug up pictures of all sorts of stuff from my favorite city.

If you have Scrivener, which I highly recommend, it has all of these options in the templates for you, which is really cool. But, if you intend to do any sort of presentation of the images, the software isn’t really set up to handle that, so I used iPhoto instead.

Not only is this a good way to share your story with others, but it helps you think of your story in different ways, and allows for some visual stimulation. As writers, we tend to get caught up in words, but you know the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words”. As we good as we are, sometimes a picture says it all.

Anyway, this is a good exercise, especially if you’re one to ding around on the internet when you should be writing!

Keep your pens to paper!

BZ

P.S. We start workshopping two of my chapters tomorrow… Wish me luck!