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2021: SF Writing Year in Review

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larry-capclave2021-lgBut for me, it was a pretty good year. I sold 15 stories and had ten published. Strange thing about the ten published is that two were in November and five in December, so it was a bottom-heavy year. (Altogether, I’ve sold 124 short stories, including an even 40 at SFWA “pro” markets, six of them last year.) One nice breakthrough – for some reason, I’d never been able to sell anything to Daily Science Fiction. But I ended the year with two consecutive sales to them, in Nov. and Dec., which should come out sometime this year. Here are the stories I sold or published 2021, with the word count in parenthesis:

  1. Global Warming is a Hoax Said the Alien in the Spare Bedroom (3200) to Galaxy’s Edge
  2. Prototype Solar System with Strings Attached (1100) to Galaxy’s Edge
  3. Soul Testing in Major League Baseball (1300) to Daily Science Fiction
  4. Four Score and Seven Years of the End of America: A Bibliography (350) to Daily Science Fiction
  5. Madam Hitler (6900) to New Myths
  6. Love Drops (1100) New Myths; published Dec 2021
  7. The Annual Times Square Paint Dry (150) to Stupefying Stories; published Dec 2021
  8. The Devil’s Backbone (7000) to Alternative Deathiness; published Dec 2021
  9. Space Force: First Victory (900) to Alternative Space Forces; published Dec 2021
  10. Space Force: The Poem (300) to Alternative Space Forces; published Dec 2021
  11. The Purple Rose of Retribution (5500) to Utopia Science Fiction; published Nov 2021
  12. Ninety-Nine Sextillion Souls in a Ball (3600) to Dark Matter; published Nov 2021
  13. Nanogod (4600) to Dark Matter; published May 2021
  14. Galactic He-Men and Cheating Camels (100) to Martian Magazine; published May 2021
  15. The Pushovers of Galactic Baseball Fame (1000) to Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction; published Feb 2021

I had another story coming out in 2021, “The Vampire on the Tesseract Wall (3900), at Amazing Stories, but they went into limbo. They paid me a $116 “kill” fee, and the story is back on the market. (What happens when 4-D beings import living creatures from Earth as decorations for their wall – but mistakenly take a vampire? It’s a mixture of SF and fantasy.)

I am pretty prolific. On Jan. 1, when a number of markets opened, I submitted a bunch of stories. My current count is 42 stories in submission (some markets allow multiple submissions); 45 stories on hold waiting for markets; ten stories that are “finalized” but waiting to be critiqued at critters.org and/or TNEO (which I’ll be attending this summer for the 14th time, including eleven years in a row); and 16 stories that I’ve started, some almost done, some I might not get back to.

But I spend a LOT of time on each of these stories. Each goes through multiple drafts. I’ll spend a lot of time writing it, then put it aside. Later, I’ll go over it again with a fresh mind, and do major rewriting. Then I put it aside again, and come back to it later with a fresh mind, and then “finalize” it. Then I send it in for critiquing at critters.org, along with three that go to TNEO.

I attended one workshop and only two SF conventions in 2021, the least I’ve been to since 2005.

  • Balticon (May 28-30)
  • Capclave (Oct. 1-3)
  • TNEO workshop (July 23-31)

It’s been a busy year outside SF as well. As some may know, I’m also a professional table tennis coach and writer. (Of my 17 books, nine are on table tennis, one is a travel book, the rest F&SF. As I often jokingly tell people, I’m the best table tennis player in SFWA, and the best SF writer in USATT!) I did a lot of traveling for table tennis last year, including coaching USA Junior Teams in major events in Ecuador and Jordan:

  • 29-30: Coached Maryland Junior Team at the Ohio Open.
  • 12-14: Coached Maryland Junior Team at the Wasserman Ohio Junior Championships.
  • 16-18: Coached Maryland Junior Team at the Cary Open in Cary, NC.
  • June 3-6: Coached Maryland Junior Team at the USA Under 15 and Under 19 Junior Team Trials in Milpitas, CA.
  • June 18-20: Coached Maryland Junior Team at the USA Under 11, Under 13, and Under 17 Junior Team Trials in Westchester, NY.
  • July 4-9: Coached Maryland Junior Team at the USA Nationals in Las Vegas.
  • 5: Coached Maryland Junior Team at the Westchester Teams in NY.
  • 10-28: Coached USA Junior Team in Cuenca, Ecuador, at an international camp and three tournaments in 19 days. The first event was the Pan Am Hopes Championships, for the best players in North and Latin America under age 12. The player I coached, Ryan Lin, was seeded sixth but came in second! This qualified him for the World Hopes in Jordan. I also coached the Under 13 Boys’ team at the Pan Am Youth Championships and the ITTF Contender Open, where they won a bunch of medals.
  • 26-28: Coached the Maryland Junior Team at the North American Team Championships in Washington DC.
  • 8-15: Coached USA Junior Team in Amman, Jordan, at the World Hopes Camp and Tournament (for the best players in the world under age 12). The player I coached, Ryan Lin, finished 7th – in the world – and is now on the World Hopes Team (top ten in the world).
  • 17-22: Coached Maryland Team at the US Open in Las Vegas. Also played in Hardbat Singles, where (shockingly for my age) I made the final (I’ve won it twice), and winning Hardbat Doubles for the 14th time. (Most events are with “sponge” rackets; hardbat is a separate event where players use old-style pimpled rubber without sponge. I normally play and coach with sponge but do hardbat as well.)

The most irritating to happen to me in 2021 (besides the obvious) was that the World Science Fiction Convention was held right next door to me in Washington DC (30 min away), Dec. 15-19, but I had to miss it as I was coaching, back to back, in Amman, Jordan and then Las Vegas – and trying to adjust to the ten-hour time difference!!!

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New Sales and Publications, and an Online Workshops

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larry1_sm2
Some news on story sales and publications…
 
On Feb. 1, 2021, my SF story “The Pushovers of Galactic Baseball Fame” was published in Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction. What happens if baseball spreads to the galaxy – but instead of great baseball players that make spectators feel inferior, what’s in great demand are really bad players so spectators can feel good about themselves?
 
On Feb. 3, 2021 I sold my SF story “Love Drops” to New Myths Magazine. (This was my 117th short story sale.) It starts out, “The greatest and most tragic love story began with a bomb exploding on a packed plane, six miles in the air.” But what happens to this elderly, loving couple after the bomb goes off and they are falling to the ground is the real story. It is tentatively scheduled to come out in September.
 
The cover for the May/June issue of Dark Matter Magazine just came out, with my SF story, “Nanogod,” and my name on the cover! What happens when a nanobot – i.e. a microscopic robot – has its processing system damaged, becomes an egomaniac, and travels the galaxy in a huge ship, enslaving entire civilizations and forcing them to build huge monuments to honor it? (Hint – now we know why the Great Pyramids were really built!) I’ve sold them two stories – I have another SF story coming out with them in November, “Ninety-Nine Sextillion Souls in a Ball.”
 
Meanwhile, I (and 14 others) just finished a one-month online writing workshop with Scott Andrews with the Odyssey Writing Workshop, “Emotional Truth: Making Characters Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate to Readers.”
(For my fellow table tennis players, it’s like a table tennis training camp, but for writers.)

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2020 Writing Review

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larry1_sm2

2020 – It was the worst of times, it was the . . . worst of times. Let’s leave it at that. As to writing, I focused on short stories, and wrote a plethora of stories. Or was that a surfeit or superfluity of stories?

I read 67 books in 2020. By category, Fiction 31, Politics & History 16, Science 9, Writing 5, and Table Tennis 6.

I’m attending the Odyssey Online Workshop, “Emotional Truth: Making Character Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate to Readers,” with Scott Andrews. We’ll be doing a lot of reading and analyzing (eight stories or articles as part of the pre-workshop assignment), with two-hour online sessions on Jan. 6, Jan. 20, and Feb. 3. I’m already well into my reading and analysis – I’ve already picked up on some interesting things in one of the assigned readings, “Carnival Nine” by Caroline Yoachim, where she treats emotions like, well, a ping-pong ball. :) I found another fascinating method she uses to re-enforce emotions which I may elaborate on later, and may bring up in the online sessions.

I had 16 stories sold or published in 2020.

  • “Releasing Hitler” was published by Galaxy’s Edge, Jan/Feb 2020
  • “Blood Wars” was published by Galaxy’s Edge, Mar/Apr 2020
  • “Tooth Theology” was published by Galaxy’s Edge, May/June 2020
  • “The Untold Christmas Carol” was published by Galaxy’s Edge, Nov/Dec 2020
  • “Prototype Solar System with Strings Attached” sold to Galaxy’s Edge
  • “Journey to Perfection” sold to and was published by Unidentified Funny Objects #8 Anthology, Sept 2020
  • “Philosopher Rex” sold to and was published by Zooscape, Sept. 2020
  • “Pinning the Egg” sold to and was published by the Sci-Fi Journal, Dec 2020
  • “High Plains Centaur” was published by New Myths, Mar 2020
  • “The Vampire on the Tesseract Wall” sold to Amazing Stories
  • “Ninety-Nine Sextillion Souls in a Ball” sold to Dark Matter Magazine
  • “Nanogod” sold to Dark Matter Magazine
  • “Defeating Death” sold to Parliament of Wizards
  • “Space Force: First Victory” sold to Alternative Space Forces anthology
  • “Space Force: The Poem” sold to Alternative Space Forces anthology
  • “The Pushovers of Galactic Baseball Fame” sold to Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction

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Three Sales!

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larry1_sm2

I’ve had a good three weeks, with three “pro” sales. Earlier this week I sold “Nanogod,” 4600 words, to Dark Matter Magazine, which pays 8 cents/word. What happens when a microscopic nanobot, designed for brain surgery, is damaged and becomes an egomaniac that travels the galaxy, conquering civilizations and forcing them to build huge monuments in its honor? It forced us to build the Great Pyramids 4600 years ago . . . and now it’s back and wants more! The story (then titled “A Monument for ME”) was critiqued at the 2016 Never-Ending Odyssey by Jeanne Cavelos, Chip Houser, Lauren O’Donnell, Chris Kenworthy, Kat Kohler, Michael Main, and Terry Edge. Special thanks for their help! Side note – the editor asked if I could do a sequel! I’ll get to that soon.

In late May I had two sales. “Journey to Perfection,” 3700 words, went to Unidentified Funny Objects #8, the annual SF and fantasy humor anthology by Alex Shvartsman, at 10 cents/word. A wealthy, snooty “doctor” buys the newest car model, and with a few misunderstandings, they’re off to see and meet some rather strange places and people, including Jimmy Hoffa’s burial site, Jesus on Mars, and the “Perfect” place!!! It’s my second sale to them.

The other was “Philosopher Rex,” 900 words, which sold to Zooscape, which pays 8 cents/word for flash. It’s about a philosophizing T-Rex that meets our earliest ancestors – lemur-like creatures – during the final days of the dinosaurs, and how their attitudes toward each other change after this pivotal meeting. (No talking animals, but we get the T-Rex’s thoughts.)

Now I’m focused on getting ready for “The Never-Ending Odyssey,” the annual nine-day writing workshop set up and run by graduates of the six-week Odyssey writing workshop. (I went in 2006.) This will be my 11th! I’ve done the critiques for all three rounds. I’m debating which story to read in the “Slam Reading” – I could use “Philosopher Rex,” but I’ve got about ten other possibilities, and for this I usually go with something humorous. I’m leaning toward “Prototype Solar System with Strings Attached,” a humorous flash story I sold to Galaxy’s Edge in January – another “pro” sale at 8 cents/word. Alas, it’s a sad and sort of an historic sale – it was the last story bought by Editor Mike Resnick before he died about an hour later. (Lezli Robyn is their new editor – she, Mike, and I co-wrote the novel “When Parallel Lines Meet” three years ago.)

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“Still More Pings and Pongs” and “Trump Tales: A Taunting”

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I have two new short story collections, both coming out today! This coronavirus thing left me nothing to do but get these two done! Both are on sale at Amazon in both print ($10) and kindle ($6) format. They are:

  • Still More Pings and Pongs
    The third volume in my “Pings and Pongs” short stories series. This includes the 25 best short stories I’ve sold from 2016-2020.
  • Trump Tales: A Taunting
    A collection of eleven Trump satires I’ve written. Seven were previously published, four are new. Also includes two cartoons! Why a taunting, you might ask? Well, isn’t that what Trump’s whole political career is based on, [falsely] taunting others? If you are a Trump fan, say away from this!!!

still-more-pings-and-pongs-front-cover-sm2Here’s a listing of some of the stories.

Still More Pings and Pongs
(the third volume, after Pings and Pongs and More Pings and Pongs)

  • …An alien census taker has been going door-to-door for 83,000 years – but now must battle with hostile aliens and an even more hostile doberman.
  • …How did three Confederate Cavalryman find themselves charging down the aisle of a jumbo jet?
  • …A billionaire declares war on a 4D civilization.
  • …What if Satan sells his soul to a higher-dimensional being so that he’ll win at Armaggeddon?
  • …A hypocritical American Christian meets up with Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates.
  • …A young, dead Charles Darwin lives in a graveyard and wants to learn the origin . . . of the “Ded.”
  • …A human becomes the plaything of a 4-D child.
  • …A bat that thinks it’s a superhero.
  • …How did penguins make it to Noah’s Ark?
  • …What happens when a mathematician dies and becomes a zombie, but loses his moral compass?
  • …If Death hates cancer, what would she do?
  • …What if, one million years from
  • now, Hitler is paroled from Hell?
  • …And many more!

Trump-Tales-front-cover-sm2Trump Tales: A Taunting

  • …Sing the ballad of Cadet Bone Spurs (to the tune of “The Beverly Hillbillies”)
  • …A superhero confronts Trump
  • …Learn about the
  • …Five Horses of the Trump Apocalypse
  • …Read three stories about the new Space Force
  • …Meet the Plucky Billionaires Squad – Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg, and Alice Walton take on President Trump!
  • …A dream turns out to be too real
  • …Meet the alien that’s been waiting for the president
  • …Can Trump’s cabinet Bell the President?
  • …See the humorous future of Trump’s Great Wall
  • …Plus two cartoons!

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Sci-Fi Thoughts Podcast and Recent Sales and Publications

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larry1_sm2Lancer Kind did a four-part podcast interview of me at Sci-Fi Thoughts. In the interviews I talk about the importance of IDEAs in science fiction, and argue that, while many say “Character is king,” I think they should be at least equal.They range from about 6-10 minutes long.

On a side note, I’ve had some recent sales and publications.

  • In August I sold “Blood Wars” to Galaxy’s Edge. (I have another story coming out in their Sept/Oct issue, “Death for the Cure: A Comedy about Cancer.”)
  • In July I sold “High Plains Centaur” to New Myths.
  • In June I sold “Back to Reality” to Alternative Apocalypses. That anthology comes out at the World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin, Ireland, Aug. 15-19 – I’ll be there! (B Cubed Press also created the anthology “Alternative Truths: Endgame,” which came out in late May with two stories by me, “The Ballad of Cadet Bone Spurs” and “The Great White Wall” – yeah, Trump satires!)

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Interview at Analog SF Magazine

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larry1_sm2Wow! Not only did I get a story in the current issue of Analog, but they also interviewed me! I got to talk about how the story came about, my writing process, and pretty much everything else about my science fiction writing.

I’ve been watching all the news on TV with growing disgust. I might have to write a sequel to “Captain Exasperation Woman Meets President Trump“!

It’s been a wild month. I had three new stories published:

  • Analog: “The Plaything on the Tesseract Wall.” What happens when a 4-D child bullies a 3-D child?
  • Galaxy’s Edge: “Death, the Devil, and the President’s Ghost.” The president has died, and he’s on the elevator with Death and the Devil. Which way will they go?
  • Alternative Theologies: “An American Christian at the Pearly Gates.” What happens when a hypocritical Christian meets St. Peter? Not what you’d think!!!

Better still, I sold five stories! (I also have two stories that are “finalists,” at Apex and at Abyss & Apex. If both sell, it could be the Apex of my career!)

  • “Releasing Hitler” to Galaxy’s Edge. What happens if Hitler is paroled from Hell one million years from now?
  • “Ded Society” (9900 words) to Tales From the Old Black Ambulance. What happens if Charles Darwin died at age 12 (he almost did), and lived in a graveyard with the other “Ded,” who have no memory of their past – and he decided to learn about their origins?
  • Three stories to DrabbleDark 2: “Nobody Would Believe You,” It’s Too Damn Hot and Cold,” and “The Stork, the Baby, and the Witch.” These are 100-word drabbles.

Better still, I wrote three new stories:

  • “The Bullied Werewolf Boy.” An nerdy adolescent werewolf is constantly bullied, but settles all business with those bullies once a year on Halloween – but faces a big problem this time out.
  • “Just One of the Gods.” Every galaxy has a God, so there are about 100 billion of them in our universe, all of them working out of cubicles in a huge office. But one intelligent lifeform has grown too technologically advanced and challenges the Gods.
  • “The Fat Old Tortoise and the Hard-Working Hare.” What really happened during that tortoise and hare race!

Last weekend, Sept. 28-30, I was at the Capclave SF Convention. I had two author signings, and was on three panels, moderating two of them:

  • “Science Fiction of Resistance” – Using politics in your writing.
  • “Political Dynamite” (moderator) – “Writers and editors talk about how they address current events in their work and in social media.”
  • “Flash Fiction: Writing for the Short Attention Span Generation” (moderator)

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Analog and Galaxy’s Edge and Alternate Theologies, Oh My!

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alternate-theologiesThis has been an exciting time for me as I gradually work my way up the science fiction writing ladder. This month I have three stories out in three major publications – including my first story in Analog! (Here’s the Table of Contents for the Sept/Oct 2018 issue, now out in newsstands – I’m the “Probability Zero” story, “The Plaything on the Tesseract Wall.” The story is about a 4-D being, a little girl, who plays with a 3-D being (a little boy), and in inadvertently becomes a bully – with a surprise result.

I also have stories in both the current and upcoming issues of Galaxy’s Edge. In the current (July/August) issue I have Satan’s Soul; in the upcoming (Sept/Oct) issue I have “Death, the Devil, and the President’s Ghost.” In the first, Satan is depressed as it’s the night before Armageddon and he knows he’s going to lose – but then a higher-dimensional being shows up, and after some negotiating, Satan sells his soul to it in return for winning the next day! In the second, the president has just died and his ghost is taking the elevator down, accompanied by Satan and Death – with a surprising turn.

Perhaps my favorite recent story just came out in “Alternate Theologies: Parables for a Modern World,” which is an anthology of stories that satirize bad religion. In my story, “An American Christian at the Pearly Gates,” a hypocritical Christian meets a surprising Saint Peter, who does a surprising thing!

Last month I was at “The Never-Ending Odyssey,” a nine-day annual writing workshop for graduates of the Odyssey writing workshop. I had three stories work-shopped there. All three are now rewritten, along with about seven other stories I’ve been working on periodically this year – and all are now making the rounds. I’ve sold 92 short stories, but sales are “tougher” these days as I’m pickier about where I send them – I rarely submit to the non-pro markets anymore. (I’ve sold 26 to SFWA “pro” markets.)

And now I’m deep into research for my new novel, now tentatively called “Election 2050: The Return of George Washington.” I’ve read several bios of Washington and lots of other stuff on his personality and psychology since he’s going to be the main character. I’ve got several great characters planned out to go along with him. I’d initially written 7000 words of the novel, but after a compete rethinking of it, I plan to start from scratch, once I’m done with the research and planning stage. (Originally I had the first ten U.S. presidents in the novel.)  Assuming it eventually sells, it would be my fifth novel.

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Recent Sales, Dot Com, and the Upcoming TNEO Writing Workshop

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Campaign 2100 Front FinalI’ve had four nice sales recently. Feb. 23 was a banner day as I made my first sale to Analog, as well as my 13th to Galaxy’s Edge!

  • Analog: “The Plaything on the Tesseract Wall” (sold on Feb. 23, will be in the Sept/Oct issue))
  • Galaxy’s Edge: “Plop Plop” (sold on Feb. 23)
  • Terror Politico Anthology: “I’ve Been Waiting For You” (sold on Jan. 28)
  • Third Flatiron: “Five Billion Pounds of Soul” (sold on Jan. 14) – available at Amazon

I recently bought the rights to www.larryhodges.com, so my science fiction & fantasy web page is either that or www.larryhodges.org – they are identical.

This July I’ll be attending “The Never-Ending Odyssey,” an annual 9-day writing workshop by graduates of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. (I’m a 2006 graduate of the six-week program.) As part of this we’ll each get to send in three stories or chapters for critique. I just sent in my first one, and now have six that I have to read and critique. I’ve already done two. In addition to critiquing, we also have a number of “Master Level” writing course we teach ourselves. This year’s focus is “Learning from Top Pros.”

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The Never-Ending Odyssey – 2017

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group-gameofthronesThis year’s session was July 21-29. Wanting to avoid rush hour, I drove up from Maryland the night before (Thursday), leaving at 9PM and arriving in Manchester about 5AM. (I drove non-stop except for a 20-min break in the middle.) Once there, I planned to sleep in my car in the parking lot until they opened, but couldn’t sleep, and so read until 11AM, when I was able to get into my room at Saint Anselm College.

This year there were 17 of us – here’s the official group picture. (Here is the TNEO “Vacation” pictures – 12 pictures where we visited Darth Vader, Hogwarts, the Enterprise, the Moon, Game of Thrones – see above, the Cracks of Doom, and the Titanic, and visit Satan, a T-Rex, a dragon, and Godzilla. Here are more TNEO photos.) Hosting TNEO was Jeanne Cavelos, the director of Odyssey, who also joined the groups as one of the critiquers, with chapters of her novel in progress getting critiqued. Barbara Barnett-Stewart and Samantha Weiss were the Resident Supervisor and Moderator, and they, along with Jeanne, did a super-human job of organizing and running everything. (Actually, their work was beyond super-human, but the English language is just too limited to adequate describe it.)

Before going to TNEO I (like others) we each submitted for critique three stories or chapters. (You could do either short stories or novel chapters, up to 15,000 words in three segments. There is also an Extended Novel Group which submits and critiques more material.) I did 13 critiques of fellow student’s stories or novel chapters. They ranged from about 1000 to 2000 words (2-4 pages single spaced), and covered all aspects of fiction writing.

I tend to do my critiques systematically, using the following sixteen categories: Immediate Reaction, Title, Writing, Beginning, Main Characters, Dialogue, Point of View, Setting, Exposition and Pacing, Theme, Genre and Originality, Plot, Ending, Page Notes, Strongest Aspect of the Story, and Weakest Aspect of the Story and How It Can Improve. For the critique sessions, we’d go around the circle, with each person generally having up to ten minutes to give their critique, and then the one being critiqued had 18 minutes to discuss the story, respond to the critiques, and ask questions.

This year’s topic for the Master Classes was “Creating Powerful Emotion in Your Fiction.” There were eight lectures, most of them with interactive exercises, most ranging from one to one and a half hours long:

  • “My Knees Could Have Been Stirred With A Spoon: Showing Character Emotion,” by Katie Yelinek;
  • “Outer, Inner, Other/Recognition, Fascination, Mystery: Two Approaches to Writing Emotion,” by Gigi Vernon;
  • “Emotion Underlies the Character Arc,” by Gerald Warfield;
  • “You Shall Not Pass,” by Jeanne Cavelos:
  • “Create an Emotional Storyboard,” by Jessica Thomas;
  • “Ogling the Shapely Story: The Science of Shape in Fiction,” by James Hall;
  • “Have Yourself a Hilarious, Terrified Sob Fest: Evoking Emotion in the Reader,” by Travis Heermann;
  • “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love & Writing Humor?” by Barbara Barnett-Stewart.

Other segments included:

  • Brainstorming Session, hosted by Samantha Weiss;
  • Novel Synopsis and Plot Breakout Sessions;
  • Problem-Solving Session;
  • Salon Fantastique: “Breaking the Rules,” hosted by Gerald Warfield;
  • Salon Fantastique: “The Fantasy in Fantasy and the Science in Science Fiction,” hosted by Travis Heermann and Samantha Weiss;
  • Two Read Aloud Sessions, hosted by Geoffrey Jacoby;
  • Slam Reading at Barnes and Noble (where we each do a five-minute reading);
  • Trip to Old Number Six Book Depot;
  • Daily Writing Hours;
  • Lunch with Jeanne;
  • Several group dinners.

I had three stories critiqued. From the critiques, the main problem is I need to challenge my characters more – they solved their problems too easily, so I’ll be giving them more problems in my rewrites. I also need to follow the three-act structure more closely. My stories were:

  • “Mad Molly and the Nuclear Bomb.” This was a humorous hard SF story featuring Mad Molly, an 80-year-old black autistic retired math professor who solves problems with math – but often for her own reasons. In this story terrorists had sent a nuclear bomb through a tunnel from Paris to DC, while Molly was trying to send an ice cream cake to her sister in Paris, as she did every Tuesday at 5PM – and while her main motivation was get that ice cream cake sent out on time, she has to solve the little problem of the nuclear bomb as well.
  • Confederate Cavalry on a Plane.” This was a humorous romp through parallel universes, featuring a professor and a student on a plane, where the professor believes in the multiverse theory that there is a universe for every possibility. This leads to a bet where the student has to come up some unlikely situation to see if it might occur, and so he bets that Confederate Cavalry will not appear on the plane – which leads, of course, to three very confused Confederates on horses charging down the aisle, including a valid scientific explanation. Also featured is a 12-year-old brat who steals them blind and causes havoc, a really fat chicken, the three Confederate Cavalry and their horses (including Hammer, who solved the Grand Unified Theory of Physics, and sort of steals the show), and a host of other oddball characters, from J.E.B. Stuart to the self-aware alien stasis field Quastika.
  • As a Matter of Fact the Universe Does Revolve Around Me.” This was about a teenage girl who discovers she literally is the center of the universe – and a whole lot more! It’s a fantasy disguised as science fiction as the universe rotates around her every ten minutes, which scientists can’t explain, and which leads to problems in school as she has to hold herself down or she starts to rotate around in the air (or rather, she holds still while the universe rotates around her). It’s also sort of a madcap adventure as she leaves our universe for the multiverse and beyond, as well as a superhero story.

My main volunteer activity was as a pack mule, helping move heavy boxes and other items around. Alas, I hurt my knee doing this on the first day, and limped the rest of TNEO, wearing a knee brace, which ended my pack mule activities.

The ride back was mostly uneventful except for a few times where my GPS on my phone went crazy. A couple of times it froze up, and so I’d miss exits, which led to an ill-fated 30-minute excursion into New York City. A few times the GPS would say something like, “In a quarter mile…” and then it would cut off for 30 seconds or so. Then, after I’d missed the turn, it would finish the sentence. Worse, for an hour in the middle of the trip it was consistently off by about 20-30 seconds. Sometimes I’d make a turn, and then listen to the GPS spend the next 20 seconds telling me to make the turn I’d already made.

Then came the weirdest GPS thing. I stopped at a rest break while on the New Jersey Turnpike. Nobody had physical access to my phone, which was strapped to my belt. But when I got back on the Turnpike, it told me to take the first exit off, which I knew was wrong – I had another hundred or so miles to go before exiting. So I pulled over and checked the phone – and somehow it was trying to get me to some local address! I have no idea how that happened. So I had to reprogram it to take me home. The drive back took about ten hours.

I’m already looking forward to next year, with three more stories. I’m already planning new ones – half the reason for going to TNEO and other workshops might be the inspiration! So if you are an Odyssey grad, perhaps you should join us next year? And if you are not an Odyssey grad, then why not consider taking a six-week “vacation” next year that will change your life AND dramatically improve your writing and chances of getting published?

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