larry-balticon-2022smI wonder if I’m the only writer who tends to write snippets of dialogue before starting on a story? I find it helps in developing the characters and setting the tone of the story. For example, in my novel “Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions,” there were four main characters. One of them was Feodora Zubkov, a general from Russia who was being recruited to run for vice president of Earth. When she is first introduced she has just come out of a negotiating meeting. Long before I wrote the scene, I wrote:

“Hello, dahlings,” Feodora said.
“How go the Korean non-destruction talks?” Toby asked.
“Like igloo in a room full of hot air,” Feodora said.

From that, I realized she was dryly sarcastic and impatient with bureaucracy and politics. And from there on, her character came alive. When she orders brandied corn cabbage for lunch, everyone copies her and orders the same thing.

“We figured that if you ordered it, it must be good,” Toby said.
“I hate brandied corn cabbage,” she said. “Tastes like rotting tomatoes. But rest of menu taste like wet dog.”

Her whole character came alive from these snippets of dialog – and they were written literally months before the rest of the scene was written. But I then wrote the scene knowing exactly what Feodora was like and had great fun coming up with the rest of her dialogue – which, once I put myself into her character, she was surprisingly easy to write throughout the novel. She became the breakout character.

I’ve had a bunch of recent sales and publications, including an incredible sequence of three (or four?) days in a row with a sale. (The streak ended yesterday. But that makes 205 sales, including 53 to “Pro” markets that pay at least 8 cents/word.)

  • May 30: I sold “The Annual Albert Einstein Race to the End of Time” to Flash Fiction Magazine.
  • May 31: I sold “The Heist of Humanity” to Flame Tree (a “Pro” market), which should come out any day now in the Flame Tree June Newsletter. They’re a pro-paying publication.
  • June 1: I sold “Tooth Apocalypse” to Dragon Soul Press for their upcoming Apocalypse anthology.
  • June 2: a “Pro” market requested a partial rewrite of “The Bloody Shooting War on the Purple Senate Floor.” This usually means a sale, pending the successful rewrite. (Alas, I can’t give out the name of the publication at this time.)

I’ve also had a slew of stories published recently or upcoming, including:

  • June 1: The anthology Madam President came out from B-Cubed Press, which includes my story, “You Are President, Madam President.”
  • June 15: “First Galactic Table Tennis Championships,” from New Myths, a 10,000-word novelette.
  • Thank You Miss Kittykat!”, Amazing Stories, scheduled June, 2024
  • Don’t Look!”, Sci-Phi Journal, scheduled June, 2024.
  • Small Step,” Abyss & Apex, scheduled July 1, 2024.
  • Seven other sold stories without publication dates yet. This includes the long-titled “Two Democratic Civilizations Passing in the Twilight of the Boondocks of the Galaxy” to Ahoy Comics (a pro-paying publication), and the even longer titled but gimmicky story I have in the upcoming “Alternate Leadership” anthology from B-Cubed Press, which is a three-word story with a 630-word title!

I had four stories published in March, including three that are online so you can read immediately.

  • Confederate Cavalry on a Plane,” Metastellar, 4400 words.
    A physics professor and his student on a passenger plane argue about the possibility of infinite alternate universes, while being robbed blind by a bratty kid. The professor bets the student that even the most unlikely event possible must happen, leading to three very confused Confederate Cavalry charging down the aisle of the plane.
  • The Personary,” New Myths, a quick 500-word read.
    If a person goes to the library to read books, where does a book go to get a person to read it? Why, the Personary! And what if adventurous books have to avoid bullying books to get to the Personary?
  • A Tale of One City,” Flash Fiction Magazine, 1000 words.
    It’s sort of a takeoff of “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens and the short story “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut. A developing writer starts a mass movement that worships averageness, and condemns all that is great or poor – but runs into the problem of how to grow a mass movement that condemns your very success in doing so.
  • Eternity and the Devil,” The Devil You Know anthology, 5300 words.
    A physicist sells his soul he can solve the Grand Unified Theory, which he uses to greatly benefit mankind – he’s a good guy. When the Devil shows up and takes him to Hell, the scientist escapes into the future in a time machine – and with numerous stops, goes a trillion years into the future, pursued by the Devil. At each stop, he is surrounded by billions of systematically tortured souls in Hell – including his long-suffering girlfriend, who he is determined to save.

And now it’s off to read and critique stories for the upcoming nine-day “The Never-Ending Odyssey” writing workshop for Odyssey grads, which I’ll be attending for the 15th time (along with the initial six-week workshop in 2006) in Manchester, NH, July 19-27 – I’ll write more about that next time.

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