Monthly Archives: June 2009

Things I’ve Learned About Writing in 2009 (Part 1)

I was reading a post from Escape Pod editor Jeremiah Tolbert entitled An Editor’s Perspective on Rejection which raises a lot of good points, and I got to thinking about all I’ve learned this year about writing. I think I finished a grand total of two stories in 2008–this year so far I’ve finished seven short stories, three pieces of flash fiction and a host of twitter stories (and one “flash script”). I’ve also received my very first rejection letters, and, as Jeremiah says in his post, those do hurt.

However as he also says, everyone gets rejected, no matter how good a writer you may be; it’s just part of the writer’s life. That’s one lesson I’ve learned about writing in general and my writing in particular since the year began–here are a few others:

(1) I Need Raw Material: I think the biggest breakthrough I had was realizing that I’m much, much better at constructing a story from a bad story than I am at generating one on the fly. I can–and still need to–outline a story before I begin, but I’m rarely able to make it work without looking at a complete first draft; I just don’t have the right perspective without seeing the entire narrative–or at least a version of it–play out. Without a complete draft, I’m like a sculptor chipping away at air.

(2) First Drafts are Allowed to Suck: I think I first heard this made explicit on Mur Lafferty’s podcast, and given lesson one above, it was such a relief to internalize. The goal with my first drafts is now simply to finish the story:  all the bells and whistles can come later.

Continue reading

10 Reasons Why I’m on Twitter

There was once a time where I was a proud-member of the rear guard when it came to social media technology:  I was the last of my barkada to get a text/SMS capable phone, I scoffed at friendster and downloaded icq–only to stay invisible most of the time. The only borderline “social media” tech I remember embracing with enthusiasm was–and I know this will date me–a pocketbell beeper. Ah, high school romance in the 90s… Sweet nothings mediated through operators who couldn’t distinguish “Princess” from “Vincent”…

But where was I? Oh, right–I used to think social media technology was useless to me.

Times change.

When I first heard of twitter, I couldn’t understand the appeal. Going from lengthy-yet-instantaneous YMs and texts to 140 characters seemed kind of backward. It probably also didn’t help that my first exposure to twitter was via Penny Arcade.

When I decided to try my hand at digital publishing, I knew that I was going to have to take social media seriously: by that time, Facebook was a part of the daily routine of most of my peers, and Multiply had become the nation’s virtual mall. Yet while both Facebook and Multiply are great social network sites, as a publisher and as a writer, it’s twitter that has proven most useful to me. Here’s why:

  1. Tweets can be a conversation: This in itself isn’t very unique–text messaging, instant messaging, these can be used to conduct conversations as well. With twitter however, conversations are open (unless you’ve locked your account) and if you’re talking about a matter of general interest, other people can chime in. You can choose to look for those replies or allow them to slip past your radar, but open conversations does create an opportunity to, say, get personal advice from people you respect but don’t personally know.
  2. Tweets can be asynchronous: Sure you can scribble off delayed replies in instant messenger, but I always feel a bit rude whenever I ignore an instant message, since it feels like I’m undermining the entire point of the technology (ditto with being invisible). With Twitter, which doesn’t have an indication of my online status, that isn’t an issue, and I can take as long as I need to compose a reply. Continue reading

Twitter Fiction: Book View Cafe and Thaumatrope

Wow, we’ve been making a lot of good twitter fiction haven’t we? Book View Cafe recently launched its third Twitter Fiction contest to celebrate the release of Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff’s ebook Laldasa: A Beloved Slave. The goal was to write a complete story in 126 characters (down from 140 due to the hashtag) with the theme of “You got mystery/romance in my science fiction!” When the results were in, four stories from three of our local Spec Fic authors garnered Honorable Mentions:

Kenneth_Yu: @bookviewcafe I felt her kiss first, then her blade. Smiling, she switched her machine off as I died. Virtual reality leaves no blood.

luckychan13: @bookviewcafe She thought she had found love again, years after her divorce. He turned out to be one of her ex-husband’s clones.

blissery: @bookviewcafe “A new form of the old hate,” he says sadly, touching his hand. “It’s not because we’re both men, it’s because we’re robots.”

luckychan13: @bookviewcafe We were rejects; leftover embryo from fertility treatments. We were not supposed to be born. –And now someone’s killing us.

Congratulations to our wonderful authors! Next time, we shoot for #1 ^_^

While we’re in the mood to write some tiny fiction, it would be remiss not to mention that Thaumatrope, the site/magazine for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror fiction under 140 characters, has re-opened for submission of stories until 31 July. You can also submit serials. General guidelines and payrate can be found here.

Review: Philippine Speculative Fiction IV (3 of 4)

It has been awhile since the last, but here is part 3 of my story-by-story review Philippine Speculative Fiction IV, edited by Dean Alfar and Nikki Alfar. Here are my thoughts on stories thirteen to eighteen, with my thanks to each author for sharing their story with us.

I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum but nevertheless, fair warning: Here There Be Spoilers.

“Breaking the Spell” by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz

I remember a famous writer was giving advice on the use of different POV modes to aspiring authors, and he was asked when he thought it was appropriate to use a second person point of view. His answer:  don’t. While I don’t quite agree–a result of a childhood steeped in Choose-Your-Own-Adventures perhaps–second person present tense is hard to pull off, especially as in the case of this story, where the viewpoint character has actual characteristics (a young girl with long black hair and a beautiful voice).

The good news is Ms. Rochita pulls the second person POV off well… the only thing is, I’m not sure what the use of second-person really added to the story. The other POV in the story is set firmly in the third-person, and works just as well. Perhaps the shift in POVs is meant to higlight the different worlds (literally) inhabited by the main characters, but again, I think it would have been fine without it. POV necessity aside, while I did have some plot quibbles (why were such dangerous items being stored in a residence?), I really enjoyed the airy, almost fey character of the prose and I’m all for hero(ines) who break out of established gender roles.

“The Dance of the Storm” by Isabel Yap

I liked the first line of the story “It is raining when he first sees her”–although perhaps unintentionally, the first paragraph left me with the mistaken impression that the POV character was a kapre, at least until the last line of said paragraph. The prose is very well done, very fluid (pun unintended), so much so that it took me awhile to realize that this was the second straight story–going in sequence–that was told in present tense. I particularly like the second section of the story, with the short contrasting sentences used to show confusion and ambivalence. The story maintained an ethereal atmosphere all throughout, and was exactly the length necessary to tell its tale and tell it well. My only quibble was that some of the poetic structure of the prose bled into the dialogue, making the latter feel a bit stiff and unnatural–but then, I don’t know if Ms. Isabel purposefully sought that kind of formality of speech.

Continue reading

Turning Points in Philippine History

The current theme for submissions over at Crossed Genres is Alternative History–and writers take note, they are not only especially interested in Alternate History stories involving non-Western cultures and civilizations but they are also seeing a drop in submissions for this theme–so it got me thinking: the primordial element in the construction of an alternate history story seems to me to be the isolation of a focal point in the timeline of a people or nation, and speculating how a particular addition or omission might radically alter the course of history. While weighing the possibility of submitting to Crossed Genres, I’ve come up with a list of “what ifs” grounded in turning points in our history, and I thought I’d list them here for purposes of discussion/critique, or in the event that they can aid anyone planning to write an alternate history set in the Philippines; not all are major events in and of themselves, but some of the best stories I’ve read have dealt with the chain reactions caused by a shift in a minor detail.

Note that while I have been trying to brush up on Philippine history, I’m by no means an expert and as such I’m open to suggestions if I missed or mistakenly added anything. Also, I’m limiting these to possibilities that had an actual chance of occurring (rather than any number of way-out alternatives such as “What if the Rice Terraces became sentient during World War II?”) — although of course for purposes of a Spec Fic tale, the reason why events took a different turn may be as fantastical as the writer desires.

  • 1400s – What if Muslim missionaries had spread across more of the Philippines, entrenching Islam before the arrival of the Spanish?
  • 1500s – What if Portugal had discovered the Philippines?
  • 1762 – What if the British had conquered the Philippines?
  • 1767 – What if the Jesuits had not been expelled?
  • 1887 – What if Noli Me Tangere had been written in Tagalog?
  • 1897 – What if Bonifacio had executed Aguinaldo?
  • 1898 – What if Aguinaldo had not accepted United States aid?
  • 1899 – What if Willy Grayson had not taken that shot?
  • 1902 – What if the Philippines had won the Philippine-American War?
  • 1941 – What if MacArthur had repulsed the Japanese attack against Clark?
  • 1942 – What if Corregidor had never fallen?
  • 1945 – What if the Philippines had remained under Japanese occupation?
  • 1945 – What if the Philippines had become a state of the United States of America?
  • 1946 – What if MacArthur had implemented Japanese-style reforms in the Philippines?
  • 1946 – What if Taruc and the other five Democratic Alliance candidates had not been denied their seats in Congress?
  • 1950 – What if the Huk had overthrown the national government?
  • 1957 – What if Magsaysay’s plane had not crashed?
  • 1972 – What if Marcos had never declared Martial Law?
  • 1983 – What if Ninoy lived?

[More after the jump/cut]

Continue reading

Innsmouth Free Press: Multi-ethnic Issue

(Got the heads up from Charles Tan’s Twitter)

This one is for all you Lovecraftian-horror writers out there: Innsmouth Press, “a fictional newspaper publishing faux news pieces – lovingly called Monster Bytes – in a Lovecraftian/Cthulhu Mythos universe, as well as original short fiction stories” is looking for stories to fill a “multi-ethnic” issue in 2010. As an example, the guidelines do specifically state that they  “really, really want to read Filipino Lovecraft.” So what are you guys waiting for?

We’re running a multiethnic issue in 2010 and we want your scary, funny, exciting and plain-bizarre stories with a Lovecraftian twist.

Rules:

  1. Must have a minority character in a major role. We are trying to produce an issue that showcases diversity in speculative fiction. We get a lot of slush with characters with English backgrounds, and a lot of stuff set in the United States. We are trying to do something different this time around.
  2. Special attention will be paid to writers submitting from outside of the United States, so mention it in your cover letter. ‘Cause we don’t get that many of them and we really, really want to read Filipino Lovecraft.
  3. If you’re a Pakistani-Canadian, we’d like to know it. We’re trying to represent different regions of the world, so this is an important factor.

Send only from August 1, 2009 to October 31, 2009. Submit to: innsmouthfp@gmail.com, Subject line: Multi-issue, Story Title. Read our usual submission guidelines for pay rates, formatting info and tips.

The complete guidelines and a more in-depth FAQ can be found here. Also check out their usual submission guidelines (distinct from any special rules for the multi-ethnic issue). Note that the reading period starts in August, so don’t send anything in before then.

This one is way out of my usual proving grounds, but best of luck to everyone else!

A Tale of Two FCBDs

I know, I know, Free Comic Book Day was more than a month back (or a few short weeks ago, depending on which FCBD you’re referring to) but there always seemed something else to post about. Still, better late than never, so here are some photos and impressions of FCBD 2009 at Comic Odyssey Galleria and at Fully Booked High Street.

Comic Odyssey:

The line in front of CO was unbelievable. Sure I knew there would be a lot of people, but I didn’t expect it to look like an Episode 1 camp-out line.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Then again, it helped that many of our comic book and komiks luminaries were on hand to meet their fans, sign some books, and generally lend their aura of artistic cool to the occasion.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Continue reading