“Tiger of the New Moon” is coming to Anathema Magazine: Spec Fic From the Margins! The story is a feminist fairy-tale spin on obscure Vietnamese folklore: Ông Ba Mươi, or the tiger known as Mister Thirty. I heard about this piece of folklore from my parents. It’s not something you can easily find online, because none of it is translated into English. This story was critiqued during week 2 at Taos Toolbox, so I owe the instructors and classmates a huge thanks for helping me shape this story into something worthy of publication. I’m really excited to share the direction I took with Ông Ba Mươi.
I’ll never forget meeting Ken Liu. He came to Writefest as a GoH in 2017. Before his panel, he sat down with me to have a one-on-one conversation for at least an hour. His generous time and attention with me, a newbie, made him that much more relatable. He gave great advice:
Goals vs milestones. Goals involve numbers and tasks you set for yourself. Milestones are achievements. Goals are within your control. Milestones aren’t. Work on what you have control over, and of course, celebrate the milestones if they happen.
Writing at least 500 words a day is a goal. NaNoWriMo is a goal. Publication is a milestone. Getting an agent is a milestone. Award nomination is a milestone. It helps to know the difference. Don’t get the two mixed up. Don’t mix up milestones for goals, or you’re bound for disappointment, frustration, and despair because you’ll always feel like the odds are too low and your “goals” are beyond you. I don’t want anyone falling into that mindset.
I’ll add to this with wants vs needs. For example: Did I WANT Clarion? Heck yeah. Do I NEED it? Nope. It’s ok to want something like that. Or not. To feel like you NEED it isn’t a healthy feeling. Goal: choose stories suitable for sample to Clarion. Milestone: got into Clarion.
Keeping these distinctions in mind really helps me have a tangible, organized scheme in my mind on what I can reasonably achieve and strive for. This is the mindset that I think helps me, as a writer, stay healthy emotionally and mentally.
I hope that this blog post would be useful for prospective applicants, or at least satisfy curiosity of what a (not THE, mind you,) successful application cycle looked like.
Table of Contents:
-how I got the news
-my writing sample
-my Clarion West essay
The secret is finally out. I got into Clarion West! I’m more than over the moon. I’m so far out that I can see the Milky Way. The announcement is here.
I’m not sure how I feel about getting in during the year of the coronapocalypse, though.
More details about my application cycle to come in a later post titled “Getting Into Both Clarions: The Deets.” (Yes, you read right. I got into UCSD, too, somehow. But like I said, more to come in a separate post.)
I thought it would be fun to make what I call “story of a story” posts, which detail the route a story had taken from completion to acceptance. Another person called it “anatomy of a sale,” and I didn’t feel right stealing that, so I came up with my own name for it.
This 2k-word epistolary Vietnam War story was written and completed during August 2019. I had 3 people I know from Viable Paradise and Taos Toolbox critique it before submission. The story got higher-tier personal rejections from F&SF, Augur, and Strange Horizons, and a form from Uncanny. I submitted it to Podcastle in October, got a bump notice a day later, and the story sat there for a total of 90 days before it sold on January 13th, only 4 hours after my dad passed away.
I found out this morning, just 4 hours after my dad passed away, that my epistolary Vietnam War story “Caring For Dragons and Growing A Flower” was accepted at Podcastle. A few days ago, I read the story at my dad’s bedside. Even though he was comatose, I like to think that he heard it and enjoyed it. He was my first audience. Now Podcastle will help me lift up the story to an even bigger audience, complete with Vietnamese-speaking narrators for three characters. I will forever remember this day, my first SFWA sale, as one full of bittersweet tears.
This week had been the longest and hardest week of my life. On 01/05, only 4 days of being out of state to start school, I got a call from my mom about my dad sustaining a hemorrhagic stroke while riding his bike. I flew back home the next morning and had been in the neuro ICU to see Dad and handle the flow of visitors every day since.
This story is about a wife losing her husband and a young daughter losing her father, so it’s intensely, painfully personal and honestly, I would have been so crushed to have gotten a rejection instead of an acceptance this morning. I wrote this story 4 months ago, so it wasn’t like I had written the story inspired by what happened to Dad. Stars just happened to align, amazingly enough. The themes of fiction come to life, the timing of the acceptance…it astounds me. I’m so grateful to Podcastle for giving this story a chance, a home, and a voice.
After 98 days since submission and being held for a second look on April 4th, on July 1st, Zooscape (a magazine for anthropromorphic fiction) accepted my 16,000-word novelette, “Saga of The Knapaleith.” I call it the “Arctic-foxes-in-Viking-era-Iceland” story. I wrote it with Zooscape in mind, so I’m quite happy that it found a home there, after all. It features fox language and mythos inspired by Watership Down and Icelandic sagas, which I really enjoyed writing about. In my story, the foxes have their own word for that cute/funny jump they make to catch prey in the snow. The made-up fox language I constructed is based on Icelandic. “Saga of The Knapaleith” will be part of the September 2019 issue, and I’m super excited to share it.
Stupefying Stories bought “The Bird and Baby”: a short dark fantasy set in Russia and about a half-crow plague doctor who takes a baby under her wing. I’ve always been fascinated with the history and culture surrounding plague doctors. This story has influences from Berserk and Claymore, two of my favorite manga. Readers familiar with those series will detect a taste of the Japanese comic aesthetic in there, too.
It took 75 days for the editors to reach a final decision. When I queried after 40 days of waiting, they said that I was supposed to get a bump notice (which I didn’t), they were holding the story for a 3rd read, and they’d get back to me “in the next week or so.” One, two, then three weeks passed. I began to wonder if they would ever follow up.
I was staying in Chicago from October 12 to 16 for Ace Comic Con Midwest, where I met the MCU actors Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen for photos and autographs. Plus I spent quality time with Bex: a Viable Paradise classmate and the coolest Chicagoan writer I know. This story acceptance came during my last day in Chicago, just as I was about to turn in for the night. I was double-checking my flight info to get back home when the acceptance email plopped into my inbox. I distinctly remember sitting up in the couch, looking across at Bex, and sharing the news to them before we went to sleep. What a great way to end an already awesome weekend.
Bonus: Elizabeth Olsen and I channeling Dragon Ball nerdiness. She joked that the pose made her arms sore. (Lol really Elizabeth? C’mon Strongest Avenger, this must be your off day!) I’m 99% sure she doesn’t know what a fusion dance is, but I love that she did it with me anyway. She’s so adorkable.
Bonus #2: The Scarlet Witch fanart I showed for an autograph. I drew the dragon’s head to resemble Wanda’s hand.
“Malebolge,” the story that got me admitted to Viable Paradise, has finally been accepted by a market that pays professional rate. It only feels right that this story would be the one to lead to my 1st pro sale. It skirted close to many pro-rate paying markets such as Apex, Fireside, Podcastle, and Diabolical Plots with personal, final round responses, but never quite got through the door. It finally did with Ombak: a new southeast Asian magazine for weird fiction that pays 8 cents per word. I really look forward to getting this story out to the world. It will always have a special place in my heart.
Within a surprisingly quick 3-day turnaround, I found out that “In The Name of Science” was accepted for the Infurno: Nine Circles of Hell anthology edited by Thurston Howl. Dante’s Inferno is one of my favorite classical works, so I thought the anthology’s theme was absolutely amazing and just knew that I really wanted a piece in this. I wrote a historical fiction short story about Japan’s Unit 731: a biological warfare program also infamously known as the Asian Holocaust, for performing grisly and utterly inhumane experiments on entire ethnic groups. It’s told from the point of view of a young surgeon recruited to perform operations on prisoners of war. I’m so happy to be sharing this story sometime in December!