Friday, November 20, 2015

Daniel Ausema and the Meaning of Place in Fiction

Meadow to forest to pond, ecotones are everywhere.
Today, Daniel Ausema, contributing author in Ecotones is here to talk about his story of place in’s fourth anthology.

The first time I heard the word Ecotone, it was for the literary magazine of that name. I didn't know its meaning, only that the journal's tagline was "a journal of place." Place to me is vital, both in real life and fiction, especially the natural surroundings—whether that's the deciduous woods and glacial lakes where I grew up or the mountains outside my door today. When we moved here I cared more for the view of those mountains and the prevalence of hiking, biking, and running trails than I did about the quality of restaurants and nightlife.

In writing, I'm often told that my stories have a strong sense of place, that people feel present within the imagined confines of the story. Even when that setting is surreal or out of the ordinary, readers sense that care I have for the physical surroundings. One of the joys of reading fiction of any kind is being brought to an unfamiliar place (or seeing a familiar one made new); one of the joys of writing speculative fiction especially is conjuring such a place out of words.

So when the anthology's theme was announced, I liked it even before I'd read the explanation. An anthology about place, an anthology of stories that take note of and celebrate their settings and the physical world around them? Sign me up.

Then I read the definition of ecotone and the full explanation of the theme and found it to be different: not about place per se but about those border zones where one real or metaphorical place blends into another. If anything, this made me like the idea even better.

First, there's a long tradition in fantasy and folktales that the border between regions is important. Dawn and dusk, the shoreline, the cusp of adulthood, the edge of the forest, the turning of the year. These are key places (and times) where magic often seeps through.

The more I thought about this, the more I began to see all the possibilities. Borders are everywhere, literal and metaphorical places and times that bleed into each other. Those ecotonal zones are such a powerful place for a story to take place. I might even be tempted to say that at some level they become a key part of Story to make it real.

Add to that the ecological aspect. I grew up in a family that placed a high value on science and the natural world. We traveled to scenic places and even at home noticed the details of nature. My older brothers ended up with degrees related to ecology and biology, one as a teacher and the other as a park ranger. And I have been both involved in various environmental education settings.

So the theme of the anthology is a great fit for my interests, and add to that the keynote writers: I didn't know the full list of great writers who would be in the anthology, but I knew it'd be a great lineup. The chance to join such a group of excellent writers was one I couldn't pass up.

Want to read Daniel’s story of a special magical place? Want 13 other great, ecotoned stories from professional and amateur writers from around the globe?

Enter to win a $10 Amazon gift card by posting a link to this post on Twitter or Facebook. Remember to use the hashtag #Ecotone and come back here to let us know you promoted our anthology (provide link). The winner will be contacted via the email address used to comment. And we’ll announce the winner at the end of the blog tour (December 5th, 2015) on’s main site.

If you are curious, check out what other contributors have to say on this Ecotour check out the links below:

Friday, November 6, 2015

Check Out the Ecotones Kickstarter

The anthology will be published digitally in December. Donating now to the kickstarter is a great way to get your copy at rock bottom prices. Any amount you donate will show your love and support to all the writers who participated in this anthology.

The Silva isn't the first story with ecological themes that I've written and I'm sure it won't be the last. I am delighted that it found such a wonderful home. I can't wait to read the other stories in this book.

It has been a pleasure working with the editor Andrew Leon Hudson, and I have no doubt that he's put together a top notch anthology. This is SFFWorld's fourth anthology, each with a different theme. If their site is anything to go by, it's a good guess that they are all worth reading. If you have a little extra dough to throw at the kickstarter you can add the previous anthologies to your reading list.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Novel Progress and Other Irons

The Novel
I’ve been working my way through the first draft of what I’m calling my first novel. I have written a couple other long – um – things that, while technically novels, well, let’s just leave them in the drawer filed under “experience.”

Izzy Crow is the working title and the name of the protagonist. Here’s the proto logline: 
Freed from a powerful spell after centuries, a fairy tale princess must learn to live in the modern world.

I have a lot of irons in the fire, so I’ve set what I hope is a reasonable goal of completing a chapter a week. I’ve added a word count progress bar to the sidebar in order to keep myself accountable to y’all. 

Other Irons
I’m about halfway through the University of Iowa’s How Writer’sWrite Fiction mooc and really enjoying the experience. The syllabus is well thought out and the lectures have been useful and thought provoking. While I have not spent a lot of time on the teaching team discussion boards there are plenty of opportunities to interact with both teachers and students

The writing assignments are thoughtful and challenging enough to have me stretching my writerly muscles. It’s genre friendly but literary over genre, which for me who writes in both, is a refreshing change, and just the thing I needed to shake up my writing.

The feedback/critique element is a bit hit or miss, but I expected this. (All of the feedback on the writing assignments is student on student. The teaching team is in place to support the lecture discussion threads.) This is a "massive" and "open" course, so there are all kinds of people participating for all kinds of reasons and at all levels of ability.

I think what I am enjoying the most is connecting with writers from all over the world. I hope to not only generate some material that will be converted into complete short stories over the next few weeks, but also to form some budding friendships with other writers who I would have otherwise never met.

My story, The Silva, will be appearing in Ecotones, SFFWorld's  fourth annual anthology.

The table of contents has been announced, and boy howdy am I in some amazing company: Ken Liu, Tobias Buckell, and Lauren Beukes!

The kickstarter for this anthology will be debuting next week, so you’ll be hearing more about it and all the great stories within soon!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Read My Post-Scarcity Day-After-Thanksgiving Tale at Devilfish Review

The idea for Black Friday came to me while contemplating the ruination of one of my favorite holidays. Thanksgiving is like the easy-going uncle of holidays, it shows up a couple months into the school year grind for a long weekend of cooking and eating while near continuous football games play in the background. Not that it can't be tricky, centered as it is around sitting down with relations with whom you may or may not see eye to eye. If sharing an annual meal includes an argument or even a family dust up, well, that too is an American tradition. Think about how many times a family gathered around the Thanksgiving table has been featured on the stage, in movies and TV dramas? Annual ordeal, priceless family bonding, or both--Thanksgiving is a touchstone of American culture. 

And I don't even like turkey! Our family tradition, in fact, is to create our own quirky meal (alternatives have included quail, octopus, and lobster). Of course we prepare so much food that we can eat of the leftovers for the rest of the long, lazy weekend. We also make a point of not shopping at all for the entire weekend. All that mindless consumerism, the crowds chasing after phyrric savings--it's bad for the digestion.

While the Black Friday tradition is fading, it's only because stores are starting to open on Thanksgiving day. Sad. 

So, that's how this story got its start. Although I'm not exactly sure how the tooth fairy got involved.

I'm delighted that this story found a home in Devilfish Review among so many other great stories and poems!

Monday, September 28, 2015

I'm Back and I Promise to Stop Neglecting You!

Photo by Matthias Haker
Hello poor neglected blog. While I’ve been away planning and now writing this novel, I’ve missed you.

No, really!

So, I’ve decided to try to come by a little more often, albeit for short visits. No long think pieces for now.

As if I’m not busy enough, I’ve also decided to participate in the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program’s MOOC “How WritersWrite Fiction.” I’m posting today because it’s not too late for you to sign up.

MOOC stands Massive Open Online Course. It doesn’t cost anything and there is no obligation to complete assignments. But, I believe there will great rewards for participating in the course. “How Writers Write Fiction is currently in its welcome week. The first official class will be Thursday, October 1, so there is still time to join. Writers, both aspiring and experienced, from all over the world are participating. I audited their poetry course earlier this year and while the video lectures were awesome and the writing assignments looked well thought out, one of the biggest benefits is a chance to meet and interact with writers from all over the world.

I’m looking forward the experience. I think it will be useful for my writing in general, and hopefully, for my current novel in particular.* 

If you decide to join in you can do it here. Once you've signed on, be sure to find me on the message boards and say hi!

* More about the novel-in-progress next post, which will be soon. I promise!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Read "Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast" at the Lovely Saturday Night Reader

Today you can read my story, "Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast," at the Saturday Night Reader's lovely website. It's flash fiction, so it will only take you a minute. Stick around to read some of their many other short stories. There's a lot of diversity in style and content in these pages, so there is something for everyone. 
I can't really say how I came up with a time travel story influenced by Alice in Wonderland, but this one sure was fun to write!
Illustration for Alice in Wonderland by Arthur Reckham

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Review of december magazine

Summer is winding down and my work on the novel is ramping up.

Not much to blog about this week. Instead you can click on over to the Review Review to read my review of december magazine. Another strong literary journal that covers a broad range of poetry, essay and fiction.