Monday, August 31, 2015

Something I Learned About Myself Today...

As I've reported elsewhere, my agent, who used to have her own agency, has joined with a larger group, Sterling Lord Literistic Agency.  This has been a very good thing for both of us, because she's now really anxious to see something new from me.

I've been tossing around a few ideas, I have, honestly.  But I discovered something really funny about myself... when I should be working on a brand-new novel, I apparently decide what I REALLY WANT TO DO is update UnJust Cause:

This has happened twice now.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Late Breaking Review

It's interesting to me as an observer to this whole blog roll/blog tour thing as to when and how the blogs come out.  As the authors we have access to a list of who has agreed to review the books and what days the blogs are scheduled to appear.

So, here's one that popped up since the last time I checked the schedule:  "My Writer's Camp."  Here's some of what he had to say in his 'good' column:

 The characters in this book are fabulous. Their flaws and talents are doled out with a pace that does not overwhelm the reader, but makes the characters feel so very human and familiar despite their supernatural gifts. The tension between them, both sexual and emotional, is perfect and enhances the story without becoming a dramatic focus that takes away from the adventure. The villains are despicable and the supporting characters are unique without overwhelming the story....

If you're blinded right now, that's because I'm over here BEAMING with pride.  I'm so, so gratified every time people point out how fun an interesting the characters are in Song of Secrets.  As a reader myself, characters are the thing I latch on to more than anything else.  I can be impressed by a good world-build, but if the characters are only 'meh,' I'm far more likely to bail.

In fact, my friend (and fellow writer)  Naomi Kritzer have been talking about some of the books that are up for the Hugo this year, as we're both voting members this time around.  I admitted to her in email (and now to you all on this blog) that I had ended up giving up on Ann Leckie's Ancillary Sword and Three-Body Problem by Lui Cixin entirely because I never really cared all that much for the characters in either.  Both those books are really deep in when it comes to world-building and plot... but I just never latched on to anyone (because I will keep going if there is a side character I'm interested in.)

At any rate, this is a yay!

An Interview

Today, I have something slightly different for you!  One of our blog roll/tour folks did a joint interview with Rachel Calish and me:

Also, I'm not sure that I've ever mentioned it here at this blog, but I've been doing a book review gig myself over at Bitter Empire.  Today, I talked about The MartianDuct Tape and Math for the Win


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Roll, Roll, Rollin' Along

The reviewer today (another Rachel) didn't have a lot to say, but it's still a very nice review:

A lot of the reviewers are anxiously waiting for Book 2.  I certainly hope that Rachel and Level Up Press will be able to give it to them.  For myself, I've had to take a step back. I won't be involved in subsequent books in the School for Wayward Demons series.

As I have said many places, I really enjoyed the writing process with Rachel, particularly when we were collaborating on the plot-light web version of this story.  I can not even tell you how much joy (and hope) that brought me.

But revising was a particular nightmare, in part because we were constrained by having to follow the structure of what we'd already published on the web.  And, as happens with two strong personalities with very different writing styles, there were also creative differences... and I left that process feeling that Rachel and I had very different values when it came to storytelling.  We're both award-winning authors. so it's impossible to say that one of us is right and the other wrong. In fact, I think the fact that we're both so passionate for our art is the reason we had so many difficulties.

This was not an easy decision for me to make, especially given that my current publishing prospects are fairly bleak and, as I said, the initial process of writing with Rachel was so tremendously fun and valuable for me.

On the other hand, I know there are plenty of you out there who might be just as happy at the idea that I plan to use this opportunity to focus more on my own writing.  I have UnJust Cause to finish, and there are other novels and characters in my head who are dying to get out and onto the page.

So, while I am saying goodbye, I wish Rachel and Level Up Press the very best of luck in the future.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Reviews Keep Rollin' In....

As the blog roll/blog tour continues, we now have two more to check out:  Reading with Pixie, which of course is my favorite because the character they most related to was Gabe, and For the Love of Fictional Worlds.

Rachel contacted the people involved with setting up the blog tour and the issue of crediting everything to Rachel alone seems to be resolved, at least somewhat.  So that's a big yay!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Some Theo Love!

Our blog roll/blog tour is really getting underway.  The reviewer Melissa Storm reviewed Song of Secrets today and said some amazing things about it: "Claiming Your Inner Power: What if Witches and Demons Really Do Exist?"

I think everyone has a favorite character or two in an ensemble cast like the one we created for Songs.  It's both one of the gifts and dangers of writing a larger cast. The danger, of course, being that if you ONLY like one of the characters, you might find yourself skimming through the rest.  The other risk is the one I always remind my students about: whomever you start with is the person that the reader is always going to feel is the main character, no matter what.  Readers are a bit like ducks: we imprint of the first images we're given.

This reviewer really loved Theo, our shape shifter/thief who starts off the book with a bang.  Theo is an awesome character and the bulk of who she is, is completely down to my collaborator, Rachel Calish.  So yay, Rachel!

The way collaboration worked for Rachel and me was that when we started (on the web project: The Unseen World), Rachel and I divided up the characters evenly. She wrote Theo and Kitty and I wrote Gabe and Erin.

But, when it came time to make the book, we both massaged, revised, and edited the whole thing.  We wanted each character to retain their distinct, unique voice, but we wanted to be absolutely sure that the whole book worked as a singular entity, with a strong sense of unity.

And, as I said, Theo starts off your reading experience so I think if you went and compared the difference between the unchanged web version and the book's first chapter, you'd get a really fascinating glimpse into the process of making something loose and fun into a publishable book.  Our process isn't perfect, of course, but first chapters are SO VITAL I think that's probably the one that stands out the most in terms of changes.  If you're interested in the writing process it might be worth it for you to buy a copy, just to compare and contrast with the web version.  ;-)

So, it may be a little selfish of me, but I hope that I can take a little credit for adding a certain something to this wonderful character.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Quirky Characters

If you're a fan of mine, you won't be surprised that the latest reviewer on the blog tour/blog roll called out the fun characters we created for Song of Secrets.

A lot of the review also focuses on the more serious issues we touched on in the book, particularly homeless youth.  Check it out, if you're so inclined.  Remember: each one of these blogs come with an opportunity to win a free copy of the book!

Please note, that because the blog tour is called Calish Couple, the reviewers are giving all of the kudos and praise to Rachel.  This was, however, a book we wrote TOGETHER.  If you feel so-inclined, I would deeply appreciate you going to one or two of these sites and letting them know how much you love my work and ask them to please edit their reviews to reflect that fact that the book they seem to enjoy so much was actually also written by me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Hey, hey... Our Blog Tour is Underway

Rachel Calish and I are on blog tour, promoting the first book in our Wayward Demons series, SONG OF SECRETS.  The tour is called the "Calish Couple" tour, but that's only because Rachel is also offering up copies of her newest, THE DEMON GABRIELLA (Bella Books), as well.

So far, the reviews have focused on Song of Secrets. Check out The Author's Storm review: "Rocking out to Song of Secrets" and today's review and contest at Natural Bri. When I went to Bri's page I noticed that they put up a fun "What's your paranormal name?" And I would be "Matrix Imp," which is actually pretty cool. (My given name would be Skull Clown, which, frankly, TERRIFIES me.)  My son and I scoured the list for the "Moon-Moon" bad luck option, and decided you'd need to have the initials S.U. to get the worst possible combination.  (Go check out the blog and see if you agree with me.)

I have to apologize again that I've been terribly behind on my Wattpad-ery.  

Monday, May 18, 2015

Starting Afresh

I've been terribly neglectful of Unjust Cause, my WIP on Wattpad. I updated today, finally, after a several month hiatus.

There a lot of reasons I let the work languish. The first and foremost is that I felt like the story had gone off the rails some time ago. It's super easy for that to happen when you're writing like this, out loud, as it were, in front of an audience. Normally, I tend to write everything away from the public eye, so, when I make mistakes or go down a rabbit hole, I can pull myself up and revise before anyone is the wiser (besides my writers' group, of course.) Not being able to do that this time stymied me. I knew it could, and, while I normally don't worry overly much about looking like an idiot in front of a crowd, this tangle fed into my general sense of failure.

Yeah, I know I'm not a failure, but as I said to someone who poked me for an update on Wattpad, Precinct 13 and its universe is a particular trigger for my... well, for lack of a better term, depression around writing. I've been on the verge of being clinically depressed, so I don't mean to use this term lightly. There should be a word for the behavior that mimics depression but isn't quite it... because that's how I sometimes get around my Tate projects. I _want_ to do them, but when I think about finishing Unjust Cause/writing an e-book or e-novella, and even when I work myself up into a bit of excitement around various ideas, when I finally sit down to write... my first impulse is to crawl under the covers and not come out.

It's very unlike me.

Normally, I'm very self-motivated. I would not have gotten as far as I have in writing if I weren't. So, I don't know why I have this block and, as I've said in numerous other posts, I've determined that this is the year I push past all that.

I wish I knew what worked. I started to type that it helps me when people ask after projects, but what's funny is that that kind of thing only works when it's STRANGERS (fans/readers/FB friends/casual acquaintances/con friends) asking. If you're my relative (or gods forbid, my wife) asking, I double-down into a weird, bitter resistance-- a very 'don't tell me what's good for me' kind of attitude.

Well, regardless, the plan is to get over THAT. So, if you're so inclined go read the newest.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

"Following" the Path to Success

Last night, in the Loft class, we talked about the mechanics of short story submission. Science fiction/fantasy/spec fic is one of the genres where, I think, a person has a fair chance to get their short work published if they're willing to keep going down the list of publications. You CAN run out, especially if your piece is of a very specific genre and a word count that's too long (or too short, etc.) But, I still think we have a lot more short story venues than a lot of other genres. In fact, while I'm sure they exist, I can't think of a single romance short fiction market--erotica, maybe, but romance? Nothing that jumps to mind the way Asimov's, Analog, Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Realms of Fantasy, Apex, Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons,, Uncanny Magazine, etc, etc., do for spec fic.

Just looking through the list at can be dizzying, because on top of the regularly published magazines, there's also anthologies, etc.

So, I pointed my students to and their page on manuscript formatting.

Our critique session went really very fast because it was a bad week for a lot of people for some reason and we had more than our typical "passes." (When teaching adults who have full-time jobs, families, school, etc., I always allow a pass if life eats your brain.) So, we had an unscheduled Q&A about the business of writing. I bring this up because one of my students asked a question that astounded me. She wanted to know if it was true that you should have at least 2,000 followers on social media before you try to court/land an agent. I had never heard such malarky in my LIFE, but nearly all the other students in my class had HEARD THE EXACT SAME ADVICE.

I had to admit, it could be true. I sold my first book in 1999, before e-books were really a thing and before social media was even really a concept. I said that the advice I heard back then still seemed pretty damned solid to me and that was: concentrate on writing the best book possible, full stop. I told my class that I don't know how a person gets 2,000 followers without spending every waking moment trying far too hard to be clever in 175 characters or less. How would you have time to write if you were spending that much time on-line? 2,000 followers sounded, to me, like a full time job in and of itself.

I also told them to look at the list on "ralan," and ask themselves if their time would be better spent collecting followers on Twitter or writing short stories for one of the three dozen (+!) magazines that will pay good money for good words?

I also suggested that they didn't have to give up on the idea of collecting 2,000 followers, but maybe the way to start doing that in spec fic was by attending conventions, volunteering to be on panels, and writing stories. Do both, I suggested. That way, maybe you'll have a little fun on the way to collecting some mystical number of Twits.

When I ask on FB whether or not other pro writers/agents/editors had heard about this idea, I got one response from an agent who said that, it was a lie to some extent, but of course its easier to sell books to an editor if you can point to a waiting audience. Sure, that makes a kind of sense, but I really have never believed in a 1:1 correlation between follower: buyer. A lot of people follow me on various social media (not anywhere near 2,000 if you're wondering, often not even HALF that, though on FB I have just over a 1,000--I checked), and I have directed them, often, to things of mine they can buy.

They don't. Some do, of course, but probably not even 1% do.

And presumably, I'm a known quality (maybe that's why they DON'T, but I did fairly well for Penguin for a fair number of years.) BUT, my point is, how on EARTH would this translate to someone you've never heard of? Whose cat pictures you've liked on Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr? Seriously.

TBF, I have no sense of how popularity works. Some people have clearly figured out how to leverage this social media thing far, far better than I ever have. So, maybe this is the new path to publication/scoring an agent. I really don't know. It seems crazy to me. I still think the key to success ought to be: write a good book.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Stomach Flu and Character Development

Some time yesterday afternoon, the rumbling in my guts finally stopped... just in time for me to get ready to teach my Loft SF/F writing class.

I can't say my lecture was terribly coherent or useful, but we had our first critique and my students are all 100% amazing, no kidding. Not only was everyone intelligent and civil, but they also all hit the same notes as I had. So, I feel very in sync with these folks. And, honestly, I suspect, for them, the class just paid for itself, because there is no bigger boost to your writing skills, IMHO, than getting real, helpful critique from peers and a mentor (and learning how to look at work with a critical eye.)

But, as promised, I'm going to try to reconstruct a more cogent version of my lecture for them here, on my blog. We were discussing characters and how you create them. I've talked about this a bit before: "What's My Motivation? Creating Character Through Narrative Voice.", "Narrative Voice (An Epiphany about Adjectives)" and then I apparently once had a grammar aneurysm over Omniscient Point of View: Grammar GeekFest and More About Bob

As I flailed around in class, I hit a lot of things that I talked about in these blog posts, so go ahead and read through them if you like, since apparently much of what I think is true about writing hasn't much changed over the intervening years.

I did manage to pass on that other tidbit that I probably wrote about at some point, too, which is the idea that EVERYTHING, absolutely EVERYTHING you write should be in service to plot. In terms of character, I specifically mentioned the idea that an author should cultivate a narrative voice that creates atmosphere and mood, something that hooks the readers into the FEEL of the plot (sometimes without their conscious knowledge). Literary writers, what with all their focus on word choice, are trained to do this better than genre writers are, but I think we're certainly capable of it to one degree or another.


Oh dear. It seems my brain isn't very coherent this morning, either. Well, I'll keep pondering this until next class and if I have other thoughts on character, I'll post them.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

While Many of You were at a Serious Literary Con...

...I was at home, doing this: "Story Time: Live-Blogging 'Taken By the Gay Unicorn Biker.'"

Bitter Empire has promised me business cards that say: "Reading weird erotica, so you don't have to."

Seriously, a very important conference is happening in town right now, the AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) is happening. I will tell you that I looked at their off-site events schedule (here's today's) and I know none of the people doing readings. I don't think they invited the spec fic community, though I might be wrong about that.

So, yeah, I stayed home and read unicorn porn, out loud (rather: on-line) instead.

Also, after yesterday (wherein I got a surprising amount of attention for what I thought was a very 101 Hugo's post), I feel the need to post this:

For the most part, I have to say, I remain lucky. If people are saying vile things about me because I compared the puppies to Nazis (possibly an unwise hyperbole, though the fascist stuff is very much connected to the rabid pups and I linked to my source in the article), I'm not really hearing it to my face. I had one troll come on my FB feed to say "How many lies can you print in one article?" to which I have to confess my first response was going to be "ALL OF THEM" (but I feared I might be taken seriously or out of context), so instead I asked for clarification, got it, and refuted it.

I also pointed out that the blog was not an article, but an opinion piece, which had been clearly labeled as such.

Kittens and unicorn sex. The only antidote, IMHO.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Of Science Fiction and Puppies

Possibly there were more qualified (and snappier) writers to sum up the Hugo shenanigans for the mundanes, but my editor asked and I answered with "Why Are All my Science Fiction Friends Screaming About Sad Puppies?"

If you're a long time fan and have been following along even tangentially, I say nothing new here. Mostly it's a link salad to some of the more awful things known about Vox Day and his Rabid Puppies (the more stridently vocal right wing of the already right-of-center Sad Puppies). My only new insight is that I, too, have never really felt the Hugos were "all that" in terms of pointing out what was the best in my field, but I have long used the nominee list to get a good sense of "what is trending" in science fiction/fantasy.

I will say here (as I do there) that I do think they're worth fighting.

If it were true that the Sad Puppies actually promoted the idea of fun-loving, non-navel-gazing science fiction, I might be one of them. Ironically (perhaps), yesterday I posted my review of The Girl in the Road in which I make some very snarky comments about what I call "NPR science fiction."

I like my science fiction to have a lot of vim and vigor. I'm very much uninterested in novels that are ONLY explorations of inner spaces. My favorite stuff (and the very best, IMHO,) is when you have high action AND deep thinking. Human beings are political creatures. To imagine a book that was apolitical sounds dreadful to me. Also it sounds impossible. I just read a book The Way Inn by Will Wiles which is basically about how plastic and empty hotels are and how literally soul-sucking they can be. Even that book had a thematic/political point: banality is evil. When you find comfort in emptiness, you probably should consider the value in spending a bit more time naval gazing. That's what this book was ultimately kind of about.

But that's not REALLY what this conversation is about. If it were, the puppies wouldn't complain about the Hugo's NEVER going to their sort. Lois McMaster Bujold has a few of these coveted rockets, and I don't see how she's not exactly what they should be excited about: action-oriented, fun, and... oh, right, she talks a lot about GLBT issues and gender and ability. Never mind she's published by Baen (their supposed favorite publisher). Lois doesn't count because her epic space battles have girl/queer cooties on them.

Ah, I could go on, but, ultimately, all this has been said already. Over and over. By smarter people than me.

It's really interesting the culture of backlash, though, of which the Hugo malarky is clearly part of. I mean, we're living in very weird times. On one hand there's so much moving forward. On the other, there's Indiana.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Guest Blogging About Failure

My own personal failure, not the fail culture of SF, that is.  You can read it over at Kurtis Scaletta's blog:  "My Biggest Failure: Letting the B-st-rds Get me Down."

Friday, April 03, 2015

Emotion as Story

Interestingly, this popped up on i09 today by Charlie Jane Anders:  "2 Secrets to Writing a Story that People Can't Tear Themselves Away From."

In which the second secret is:  "Emotions create their own suspense."

Pretty much exactly what I was trying to get at in my lecture on Wednesday night.  Charlie Jane (unsurprisingly) gets to the point far more succinctly than I ever could.  She writes:

What's the worst that can happen if you think of your story as "a succession of great moments strung together"? Well, it could be kind of incoherent. At worst, the story might actually not make sense, or contradict itself. Those are things that might need to be fixed in the rewrites — but they're easier problems to fix than a story that's lifeless except for a few turning points. 
And this is where the second statement, "emotions create their own suspense," comes in. If the characters and their emotions are consistent, then each "great moment" will absolutely feel connected to the next. Because the characters will keep caring about the things they care about. 

Yes.  Thank you.  This.

(Also Charlie Jane also wrote "How to Turn a High Concept into a Story" in case you want to check to see if she continues to be more articulate and accessible than I could ever hope to be.  ;-)

Thursday, April 02, 2015

From Idea to Story

Last night in class, I started off by reading out loud Neil Gaiman's essay about where ideas come from:  Where Do You Get Your Ideas? 

I do this regularly, because I love the simple complexity of his thoughts here and also because: so accurate.  Yes, ideas do just come out of your head.  It's also so much more than that, but half of the battle is being willing to ask all the child-like questions.

After reading this, we all agreed that the ideas were "the easy bit," so we next attempted to discuss the harder bit--which is how to turn an idea into a story.  There were pictures:

Let me take a stab at pulling order out of chaos.  This is what I promised my students I would try to do the day after, so I'm going to give it the old college try.

It starts like this.  So, you've got an idea for a story.  You've been thinking about Humpback whales, how their song gets longer every year.  This makes you think about human history and about how stories used to get told by poets like Homer, out loud and changing by audience and as they got told over time and again and again.  Then, you hear about a whale in California (is it a Humpback?) that's been pushing further and further inland up a fresh water river.  You think about whales in general.  What is their life like when the world they live in is hostile to them.  Can you imagine living where you can't breathe?  What if you also grew up hearing songs about a time when whales lived on land?  

This is a story idea, you think.  There's SOMETHING here.  Something you want to say.


But you can't figure out how to turn this bunch of jumbled, kind of connected ideas into a story, so you have to ask yourself.  What are the essential elements of a story?

First of all, you have to have a character--someone who tells the tale; someone who the story is ABOUT. (A whale?  A scientist studying whale language?)  

For the story to work as a story, however, something has to happen.  This is will be the plot, but, it is important to remember, that plot moves via conflict.

Thus, there has to be something at stake.  The fate of the world can hang in the balance, of course, but, as I told the class, you don't have to think in hyperbole to tell a rip, roaring story.  The thing that is at stake can be personal and small, so long as it matters.  How do you make the reader care, make things matter?  (Well, sometimes you just can't, but) one way is if it matters to you.  If you have something you want to say, it can carry you a long way.  Writing is an investment of time and energy, so if you have a story where you have something you want to say about the human condition, the nature of the world, life, or your favorite pair of socks, that will help invest the story with a sense of movement, of 'what's at stake.'

Also, if what's at stake is something that has the potential to change your main character in some way, that will also breathe life into a story idea.  Is there something to be learned?  Something that can challenge the character to reach for their better selves (even if they don't get to it)?  

Ideally, whatever is at stake is also, in some way, in conflict with main character.  They have to push themselves to get the job done.  This makes for an internal conflict.  A really energetic story will have both external and internal conflicts.  The bad guys with ray guns are your external forces; the heroine's crushing agoraphobia can be the internal one.  

You don't have to buy into any of this for a story to work, of course.  But, the point of the lecture is to consider ways in which you can get the ball rolling.  So, the questions you can ask your story idea is: who is the main character of this story?  Who will be most changed by the events?  How are they affected by the events of the story?  What do they have to lose?  What's at stake (for them and for the larger world)?  What flaws/internal conflicts might the main character have to overcome in order to get to the end/win the day?  

Then the big question becomes: where do you start the story?

My answer has always been: two seconds before everything changes.  

This is true of almost every story you tell, anywhere, to anyone.  "OMG, Barb, I was just walking along and BAM! There was Julius! My ex!"  

Two seconds before everything changes.

Because any good opening (hook) has the listener/reader asking, "What happened next??"

The two seconds is hyperbole again (you have to watch that with me), because with a novel and a short story you have a bit more time to set up and explain the status quo before you turn it on its head.  For commercial fiction, I wouldn't say you have a LOT of extra time, but you do have more than a precise measure of seconds.  You could have ten lines, you could have most of a first chapter, or you can even just do it in one....

"The comet passed through Earth's atmosphere, ripping the world apart." 

I mean, there are lots of ways to do this, but ultimately stories are about change.  Something has changed, and someone has to change in order to fix/solve/survive/(or not) it.

When we talk about openings in more detail, I will discuss the various ways you can hook people without an action that changes everything.  But I maintain that all stories, ultimately, are about an event that changed everything (probably for the worse, before things get better.)  A hero/ine is that person who will do something about the change (make it better? Make it worse?  Doesn't matter, so long as the change is acted upon).  

Protagonists need to protag.  

They need to act and they need to change.

And for me, and I think most modern readers, the hero/ines need to have some reason to do it, some way in which all of this affects their lives and emotions and thus reaches across the chasm of the page and relates to the reader.  There has to be something in their plight or situation or personality that makes the reader say, "Ah, this is just who I'd be, if I were this person."  (Or, best, perhaps, this is just who I WANT to be, if I were this person.)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Book and Con Review/Report

First, a book review. I posted my review of Jennifer Marie Brissett's Elysium, or the World After up onBitter Empire. This is a book that 100% fits Tempest's Challenge, by the way, because Brissett is a woman, and, according to the bio in the back, identifies as a British-Jamacian American.

Here it is, Tuesday morning, and I'm mostly recovered from the one, 12-hour day I spent at Anime Detour. The thing that should be known about Detour is that the median age is 14. That means I'm approximately three times older than the average con goer, and SIGNIFICANTLY older than many, many others. This con is also very, very well attended, so much so that getting from point A to point B often involves a myriad of "excuse me!"s and "summimassen!"s as costume bits get jostled against you and there is a general press of bodies akin to walking against the flow on the streets of New York City during rush hour.

I am an extrovert, but I am not a fan of jostling.

Also, this year I wasn't in costume. We really only have the one. Mason says, we're like those three old women in the myths who share the eye. It's not even mine, I've been borrowing it from a fellow Bleach fan, Anna Waltz, for about three or four years now. (Luckily, she's pleased to see it so often used and is happy to continue to extend the loan.) Mason decided to go as pre-evil, pre-"hair lock" Aizen, so the only thing I needed to add to the costume was a captain's coat (a haori). So my friend Naomi and I did a little thrift shop hunting and found a silky bathrobe that only took a bit of removing of bits in order to passably pass as such. I painted on the appropriate number in Japanese (5) and Mason was good to go.

Mason as Aizen:

Aizen as Aizen:

Not a bad likeness, neh?

The five on the back, which you can't see here, pretty much cinches it for most Bleach fans. But, the nice thing is that Mason already has the hair and the glasses, as a kind of gimme, so he was very easily recognizable. In fact, in the first few minutes at con, Mason got the reaction I was expecting. I was taking his picture with an Ichigo (there is always more than one) and a stranger came up (like they do at cons) and exclaims, "Oh, I get it! It's all been part of Aizen's plan since he was, what, ten?" I corrected, "Eleven, but basically yes." Aizen, since most of you probably don't know, is that villain who is always saying, "Ah, so you see, every moment of your life up to this point has been planned by me!"

So, that was kind of the highlight for Mason's cosplay, I think.

We went with Mason's friend Molly who went as Kyubey from Madoka Magica. I saw a number of other Kyubey's but Molly was the only one who had the actual magical girl contract and soul gems for people to have. Most of the people Molly asked knew enough about the anime NOT TO SIGN THE CONTRACT. But she found a few to play along and those that did were really, really charmed by the soul gems she handed out (which I think were Lego gems or possibly beads).

Molly as Kyubey:

Kyubey as Kyubey:

Since I wasn't in costume and was mostly playing "mom," I ended up going to more paneling than I normally would at Detour. I went to two panels which were different versions of "What You Should Be Watching." The first one was run by a guy I instantly mentally labeled as "Anime Hipster" because, while these two things should be mutually exclusive, this was a guy who experienced anime the way hipsters experience everything: ironically. So, you know, his recommendations were all super-obscure and kind of arty in a way that didn't appeal to me because I am a rube who does not appreciate the finer things in life and how awesome irony is when its very IRONIC. For the most part I watched his recommendations with a lot of head shaking.

However, I did write down a live-action show called Aoi Honoo/Blue Blaze which is about a manga artist student in the 1980s.

The other panel like this I attended I actually ended up writing down a couple of recommendations. This person still had things on her list that I wasn't fond of, but Mason noticed right away that one of my favorite anime of this last year, "Barakamon," was on her list.

Of hers, the one I thought I'd be most likely to watch is called Hamatora. Mason pretty much loved all of her recs, but I only wrote down this one and one other, Akatsuki no Yona/Yona of the Dawn.

Though I think Mason and I have agreed to try Hamatora first, just because the action in the clip she showed us looked super cool.

Otherwise, as mom, I spent a lot of time hanging out at the manga library station because that was our designated "meet up" spot, and that way the kids could come and go from there as they pleased. I brought along GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE by Andrew Smith, which I'd been reading, and mostly just sat on a bean bag chair on the floor and alternated between people watching and reading. Even so, the press of people really wore me out.

A good time was had however.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

I Woke Up Still Caffeinated....

Last night was my first "Mars Needs Writers" class at the Loft.  I'm happy to report it's a nice size; there's an even dozen, (if you include me.)

Since my lecture style is very non-linear, I promised my students that I would write recaps here the following morning. The first class, traditionally (and perhaps predictably,) covers the definition of science fiction vs. fantasy.

Alas, I have whip-smart students this time around.

Before I could even engage them in the battle of, "But, wait, is X fantasy, or is it... science fiction???" (my cunning ploy to get them to talk to one another) a women in the class offered up the term "speculative fiction" as a cover all.

Speculative Fiction (according to this article I JUST found) is a term attributed to Robert Heinlein in the 1960s and is, in point of fact, intended to include All the Things (science fiction, fantasy, horror, slipstream, etc.)  One of the first definitions thrown out by one of the students to describe science fiction "stories about the weird" would quite succinctly describe what is meant by speculative fiction.

I also laid out a few of the genre definitions I've heard over the past.  I told the class that when I asked Gardener Dozois, the then editor of Asimov's, how he defined science fiction, he quote the famous line by Damon Knight, which is, "science fiction is what we point to when we say it."  (Or as I misattributed it, "science fiction is what we say it is.")  The other famous quote I misattributed to Neil Gaimon, but which actually, apparently, belongs to Rod Sterling, is, "fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible."

My own personal one is as follows, "Science fiction is any story where the plot turns on science (and/or industry); Fantasy is any story where the plot turns on magic."

Then, we had some fun (at least *I* had fun), listing out various sub-genres of each and discussing various places where the sub-genres can fall into either category.  A prime example of that is that superhero fiction can either be fantasy or science fiction, depending on how the superhero was made: lab accident/alien = science fiction, magic/prophetic destiny = fantasy.  Similarly, time-travel stories can be either, depending on the mode of travel.  In simple: did you build a machine to hurtle back into time or jump through a gap in standing stones on the dawn of equinox?

Again, I mostly do this exercise because I want my students to get in the habit of blurting out their thoughts, asking questions, interrupting me, and talking amongst themselves.  I can usually tell how a class is going to go, by how many people get engaged in this exercise.

I'm here to tell you: we're gonna have a GOOD class.

Similarly, I did NOT have to work hard to convince the students about the value of critique.  I even got an early volunteer, and, when we did a prompt exercise at least three students were willing to read what they'd written out loud, to the class.

(You have no idea how hard this can be in Minnesota.)

So... I came home very, VERY pumped from the late night caffeine and from what I felt was a very successful start. Fingers crossed that everyone else felt the same and that this trend continues!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Getting My House in Order

Those of you who have been reading Unjust Cause on WattPad are probably wondering what happened to me.  I'm going to try to spend some time this week pulling everything I've written down from there and put it into a big file so I can finally start organizing that mess into a book-like-thing.

It's going to be a big job, and, I'll be honest, I'm not looking forward to it.

It needs to be done, though.  That story went off the rails some time ago.

The other thing that happened at convention this last weekend is that during the interview, I announced that my other plan for this year is to FINALLY start writing some Garnet Lacey novellas as a self-published thing for  One of the things I just did in prep for that was pull out my old book synopses for the stories that didn't sell.  I'm going to re-read those and see what I can do with what I have (since they'll have to be trimmed to novella size.)

I am SUPER determined to have things produced this year.  I will conquer my depression.  I will get myself back up and out.

You just watch.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Con Schedule, Reading, and Writing

MarsCON 2015 is this weakend, and I'm one of their guests of honor.  So, I hunted and pecked through the on-line programming list and I think I found everything I'm scheduled to be on:

How Come Nobody’s Heard Of Me, Dammit!!
Room 419 (Krushenko’s) -- Friday 04:00 pm
Let’s figure out all the things we did wrong!
With: Lyda Morehouse, Naomi Kritzer, mod.; Rachel Gold, Michael Merriam

Fiction Reading: Lyda Morehouse
III Eagle’s Nest (Re(a)d Mars) —Friday 08:00 pm
Come hear our Author Guest of Honor read her work.
With: Lyda Morehouse

FanFiction - Who, What, and Huh?
IV Hawk’s Ridge (Anime/YA) — Friday 09:00 pm
From the basics for the beginners to your favorite websites to share your own stories.
With: Lyda Morehouse, Rakhi Rajpal mod, Bailey Humphries-Graff, Susan Woehrle

Marvel Phase 2, on to Phase 3
Room 419 (Krushenko’s) — Saturday 12:00 pm
Catch up on all of Marvel films from phase 2: Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and X-man Days of Future Past. Marvel One-Shots: Agent Carter, All Hail the King, on TV with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. (There will be spoilers for all listed above.) The end of phase 2 with Avengers: Age of Ultron and the start of phase 3: Ant-Man, Captain America 3, Doctor Strange, and the rest of phase 3.

With: Lyda Morehouse, Tony Artym, mod.; Aaron Grono, Bill Rod, Ruth Tjornhom

The Rise of Women Superheroes
Room 419 (Krushenko’s) — Saturday 01:00 pm
Let’s talk about some awesome female superheroes who have become breakout sensations in recent years! Why do we love them so much, and how can we get more?
With: Lyda Morehouse, Christopher Jones, mod.; Cynthia Booth, Catherine Lundoff, Chandra Reyer

What is Anime?
IV Hawk’s Ridge (Anime/YA) — Saturday 02:00 pm
What really is Anime? What’s the real difference between Anime and cartoons, and why do we classify them like that? Hear all the facts and argue it out yourself!
With: Lyda Morehouse, Bailey Humphries-Graff, Hojo Moriarty

Lyda Morehouse Interview
Room 419 (Krushenko’s) — Saturday 04:00 pm
Learn about the mind and works of our Author Guest of Honor.
With: Lyda Morehouse, Naomi Kritzer, Interviewer

Mass Autographing
Room 419 (Krushenko’s) — Saturday 05:00 pm
The Author Guest of Honor and other interested authors sign their work.
With: Lyda Morehouse, Sammi Kat, Rachel Gold, Michael Merriam, Kathryn Sullivan, et al.

The Wyrdsmiths: Twenty Years
III Eagle’s Nest (Re(a)d Mars) — Saturday 08:00 pm
GoH Lyda Morehouse is in a writers’ group that was founded in 1994. How does a critique group sustain itself for two decades?
With: Lyda Morehouse, Naomi Kritzer, mod.; Eleanor Arnason

Hero Support: Sidekicks and Minions
III Eagle’s Nest (Re(a)d Mars) — Saturday 09:00 pm
How does your hero go about getting a really good sidekick or a really good minion? Who are some of your favorites in literature and other kinds of storytelling? Who is the hero of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings?
With: Lyda Morehouse, Rick Gellman, mod.; P M F Johnson, Ozgur K. Sahin, Tyler Tork

Otaku Dilemma: Wait for Season Two or Read the Manga?
III Eagle’s Nest (Re(a)d Mars) — Sunday 11:00 am
Your friends just turned you on to a hot new anime (think: “Attack on Titan” or “Yowapeda”) and you burned through the first season in one sitting. Now you’re wondering that age old question, should you jump in and read the manga or sit back and wait for season two to air? What are the pros and cons to reading “ahead”? Is there a reason that waiting is better, is there a reason NOT to wait?
With: Lyda Morehouse, mod

No Country for Old Heroes / Happily Ever After
Room 419 (Krushenko’s) — Sunday 12:00 pm
Topic one, No country for old heroes…. Life after heroism. How do former heroes—real or imaginary—continue to have meaningful lives? Topic two, Happily Ever After. Consider act two of Sondheim’s Into the Woods. Many if not most stories end at the moment of maximum joy for their characters. But life is more complicated. How do two people—real or imaginary—go about staying reasonably happy together for a long time? What are some good examples of this in fantasy literature?
With: Lyda Morehouse, Rick Gellman, mod.; Rachel Gold, Ozgur K. Sahin

Convoluted Quests: The Modern Writing Career
III Eagle’s Nest (Re(a)d Mars) — Sunday 03:00 pm
Book contracts, self-publishing, short fiction, editing… writing careers these days are often made up of a patchwork of options. Join GoH Lyda Morehouse and other professional writers to talk about how they’ve dealt with current publishing realities.
With: Lyda Morehouse, Naomi Kritzer, mod.; Roy C. Booth, Michael Merriam, Kathryn Sullivan

I will, of course, also be at Opening Ceremonies and Closing Ceremonies as to be expected. I may be AWOL from the con for a brief period on Saturday morning in order to take my son to his swimming class, but otherwise he and I will be around the whole weekend. Maybe, with luck, Shawn, too.

The last thing I wanted to report is that I finished reading THE GIRL IN THE ROAD and am now on to what appears to be a contemporary fantasy novel called MEMORY GARDEN.

THE GIRL IN THE ROAD is a difficult book to describe or categorize. I was talking to a friend about it and, while there were a ton of things I really enjoyed in the book (future India, future Africa, the strange journey across the wave power generator), the main character(s) were problematic in that they were not only typically unreliable, they were also, at times, hallucinatory. I can't say that necessarily got in the way of my enjoyment of a book, but I'm usually a careful enough reader that I can get to the end and have a fair idea of what happened. I'm not nearly as sure as I normally am having finished THE GIRL IN THE ROAD. Again, I'm not entirely sure that detracted from my enjoyment of the book, honestly. It was well written, engaging, science fictional and many things like that that I normally enjoy but... I don't know that I could recommend it with out the caveat of, "Okay, but this one is seriously TRIPPY."

Between THE GIRL IN THE ROAD and ELYSIUM, OR, THE WORLD THAT CAME AFTER, I have to wonder if 'trippy' is the new black. From the looks of things (so far) MEMORY GARDEN is more traditional in its narrative tropes, but we'll see. THE BOOK OF THE UNNAMED MIDWIFE had some oddities in its storytelling practices, but I wouldn't have labelled it "trippy," per se. I will say, in light of the conversations I've been having about women's writings, all of the four books I'm mentioning here are very feminine in their approach to science fiction.

I think a lot about what my friend Richard had to say when trying Margaret Atwood's HANDMAID'S TALE for the first time. The books women write are often (though obviously not always), quite intentionally, infused with the feminine. It probably does seem somewhat alien and unsettling to someone who isn't used to ever thinking about pregnancy, periods, and sex (and its corollary: death). These things all showed up in the books I've been reading--sometimes just casually, but sometimes as the point. THE BOOK OF THE UNNAMED MIDWIFE is very much a female apocalypse, both literally and figuratively. ELYSIUM less so, because the gender of our pov character constantly shifts.

So, it's been an interesting ride so far. The library tells me that ANCILLARY SWORD is ready for me to pick up (speaking of oddities in gendering. I read a large part of ANCILLARY JUSTICE before I had to return it and the ship AIs, who are the pov characters, always identify any human they encounter as 'she' regardless. They will sometimes tell you 'she was male.' But it really f*cks with a person's perception of gender identity, gender stereotypes and other such things when everything is always female. Makes you think. Particularly when women are always told, "oh, 'he' includes you." I'm thinking, by this way this feels, that doesn't work the way we think it does.)

I'm looking forward to reading that one, too.

All this reading has also inspired me. I'm about 3,000 words into a short story that, I'm thinking, is ultimately about redemption. I saw an anthology call for "angel and demons" and so I started considering what I might write since, as you know Bob, this is directly in my areas of interest. So, fingers crossed.

I don't think I can really pull off 'trippy' though, so....

Friday, February 13, 2015

New Book Cover

I have some VERY AMAZING cover art design to share with you guys for the book that Rachel Calish/Gold and I have written. This is the story that we've been publishing in serial form over at http://entertheunseen (and re-issuing, as it were, on WattPad as well). The cover art was designed by Rachel's friend Kristin Smith, and I really love it!  What do you think??

This is, at the moment, a GIANT TEASE because we're still in the production phase. The book, however, will (baring acts of god[s]) be available for purchase at MarCON (March 6 -8). Kristin did an amazing job with the interior as well and there will be illustrations through out from our artists Alexis Cooke and Mandie Brasington. There will be an ebook version, as well, but I have no idea when that will be available. Of course, as soon as it is, I'll link it here. I'm assuming we'll sell the print version via the usual e-bookstores, too. (This is where, once again, I'm SUPER-GRATEFUL not to have to be the only one in charge of dealing with all this, because the dealing with, etc. is never fun.)

In other news, Happy Friday the 13th.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

When Writing Breaks Us

Last year, my friend and fellow writer, Sean M. Murphy decided he needed to stop calling himself a writer. This morning, I woke up and discovered that another dear friend and colleague is considering doing the same.

This is heartbreaking to me.

I want to blame something for this, but there are, frankly, too many options.

It seems to me that it's far harder to break-in to pro markets (magazine and novel) than it was when I first started writing. A lot of people are jumping straight to self-publishing these days, and, while that seems to work well for many, it's no more a guaranteed road to success than any other. Personally, I find trying to motivate myself to write for self-publication much, much harder because of all of the extra work you have to take on yourself in order to get a finalized product out there. This why the first of my self-published books is going to be the collaboration I'm doing with Rachel. (She just went over our proofs, because I have to head off to work in about fifteen minutes! Thank gods for a co-writer!!)

But most of us struggle alone. Even Sean, who was part of a writers' group, was ultimately alone with his own sense of 'being a writer' and all the myriad ways a person can fail at that.

That's the other thing I really want to blame. Because, I think everyone realizes how hard it is to break it (and how hard it to survive once you do,) but I think we all underestimate how easy it is to undermine ourselves. Ultimately, I think Sean hit the nail on the head when he said 'writers' write' and that that should be the defining quality, but that's still a trap. Because how OFTEN does a writer need to write in order to call themselves a writer? Every day? Every week? Once a month? Once a year?

My answer is that I think we ought to expand this definition a little, give ourselves a tiny break. A writer is a writer if they have written, if they want to write, and if they write, but not necessarily all those things all the time, every day. Some days, the best we can manage is that we wanted to write. Sometimes, especially after some hard writing-related news (the publisher doesn't want to renew your contract, say,) it's enough to say, "I have written" while you take time to recuperate.

Of course, it's maybe easy for me to say. I have books on the shelf with my name on them.

But, damn it, my friends, I don't want to lose any more of you. Cut yourselves a break. You are a writer because you WILL write. You're a writer because you HAVE written. You're a writer because you WANT to write. Courage is measured in that voice that says quietly, "I will try again tomorrow."

Monday, February 09, 2015

My Partner Has this Fear of...

.. of all things, lightbulbs exploding into her face while she's changing them. She reminded of me of this fear of hers this weekend as we switched out the kitchen light. It burned out when I got up to feed the cats at o'dark thirty. At the time I thought, "Whelp, this is why they call them IRRATIONAL fears, because, really, how LIKELY is that?"

Well, I can now tell you that it's fairly likely when, say, you're idiotically fiddling around with recalcitrant lightbulb in the betta's fish tank where there is running water and electricity. Perhaps, one should have considered, say, unplugging the light, or maybe not twisting it in and out in such quick succession... but yeah, BLAMMO! It exploded in my hand. I am, not, however, writing this from the emergency room, probably only because fortune favors the foolish. In fact, I only have one Hello Kitty Band-Aid on my pointer finger.

I had to IM my Bleach fan friend, though, because, while my finger has the one obvious gash, I discovered when I started dripping blood on my keyboard, there are actually a thousand *tiny* cuts, too. Just just Senbonzakura, I'd imagine.

Because, yeah, I'm an otaku to my core.

At any rate, today is one of those days where I started out really strong but have petered out quickly. My family and I decided to blow off going to the big grocery store yesterday. All of us are really suffering from the collapse of Rainbow. None of us REALLY much liked grocery shopping at the big store much even then, but we all HATE Cub--partly because it's just not organized in a familiar way. I'm sure we'd learn it in time, but so far any excuse not to go is a good one. Though I said I didn't really want to shoulder the burden of the HUGE staple run, I'd be willing to do several really short trips to the big store over the week. Knowing myself like I do, I knew I had to pretty much drop everyone one off at their respective places and head to the store before I lost my resolve. So, that's what I did. I came home with about four bags of groceries, which seemed just about the right size for me, and, feeling super productive, also finally took care of some correspondence and a Loft teaching contract that had arrived in the mail that needed attention.

The correspondence had actually been hanging over me for several months (since last October actually.) The thing that's slowed me down is so silly too. The letter was basically fan mail, but the fan also really wanted to share their idea for a book--in that classic, I'll give you the idea, you write it sort of way. I know a lot of authors mock people like this, but I totally get the impulse and I really wanted to encourage this person to just go ahead and do it on their own. I believe, deep in my heart of hearts, that the only difference between a published and unpublished writer is drive and dream. I didn't know how to write when I started, but I was determined to learn. Similarly, when things got tough (and oh, they always do,) the dream kept me slugging away at things.

So, why did it take me almost six months to tell this poor fan that? They'd written snail mail.

I don't even have a printer at home any more, and while I kept MEANING to sit down and write and actual letter... it was so easy to forget when I started each day with the Internet to distract me...

But today I finally wrote back. Hopefully, this person won't be too angry that it too me so long.

The other thing I did today that felt very productive was that I looked through the list of Twin Cities meet-ups and I found a group that gets together to practice Japanese conversation. They say on their page that they're for Intermediate students, but I'm hoping that it will be okay for me to come and listen for a while as I keep learning. I can't go to their current meet-up, anyway, since it's on Saturday and I took the Saturday gig at the North St. Paul library all this month again. But, so I have that bookmarked and hopefully will be able to join them at some point. In the meantime I still have my class on Tuesday nights and the Japanese language podcasts that I've been listening to, which are teaching me basics like how to ask someone's name and where they're from and what they do for a living, which should be a good start to an actual conversation.

MarsCON is coming up fast (March 6 - 8). I'm going to be one of the guests there, as I'm sure I've said a few times. I'm waiting on my collaborator for a cover of School for Wayward Demons so I can get some promotional stuff ordered. But, otherwise, I'm signed up for paneling and all that. It should be a lot of fun. Hope to see you there!

Friday, February 06, 2015

All Sort of Things I'm Up To...

I just spent about a half-hour queueing things up on the School for Wayward Demons Tumblr page. During the process I was chatting with a friend who encouraged me to link to my other Tumblr page (which if you go there RIGHT THIS INSTANT, you'll see I did.) It's a funny thing, my resistance to... invading this sacred fan space I've made for myself with self-promotional things. It's REALLY silly when you consider that I have no qualms about posting links on my fan tumblr space to my reviews of manga or my podcast or my fan fic. She asked me if I was afraid to tarnish my professional reputation with my fan one. My response? No, it's the other way 'round.

I'm really protective of my fan spaces. I don't mind people knowing about them. In fact, I will happily give out my fan name or my AO3 account handle to anyone who asks me at con. I'm very, very proud that at CONvergence last year, in the women's bathroom, I had someone shyly ask if it was true that I was "junko from AO3." It turned out, the woman asking was the person who podfic'd my Bleach/Free! x-over, and, once I confirmed and she told me who she was, we did the dance of squee with each other.

So, it's not like I care if people who are my fan friends find out I write professionally, or vice versa.

I guess it's strange, but I almost feel like self-promoting my original fiction on my fan sites sullies them somehow. I mean, I should get over that, because, as my friend said, "The data stream is so fast. No one will really notice." Which is VERY, very true. I used to worry that if people found out I was a professional writer on my AO3 account that the tenor of the conversation would change. The very last thing I want is for people to stop telling me when I suck because, you know, I guess you know better because you're some kind of pro. Which is, of course, bull.

I sometimes wonder if that's partly why Rachel and I don't get many comments over on or why they're not more critical on either of my Wattpad entries. (It could be, too, that both those venues require some kind of log-in.) But, I think, often people are reluctant to tell someone they perceive as a professional that they'd like to see the story go another direction... face-to-face/directly. Obviously, people are happy to say all sorts of things about professional writing on review sites once a book is done and dusted. I mean, I can understand this hesitance. People are afraid of being yelled at. But, I THRIVE on critique. I love it. And fan fiction has been a great place to be treated like a peer by a large number of people again.

At any rate, I suspect I've said all this somewhere before. It's one of my favorite topics to hold forth on. But, so if you want to tell me what-for (and check out some of the new content that's been added) on Wattpad, there is a new installment of School for Wayward Demons up: Gabe Runs (into Darkness.
Also, my review of the latest chapter of Ao no Exorcist (#64) is up on MangaKast.

In other news, I finished reading Memory of Water by Emmi Itaranta. It was the first of the books I've read so far that are on the Philip K. Dick award nomination list that I would call straight-up science fiction. It's also a very... subtle, quiet book, despite having a LOT of tension woven in throughout. I found it very interesting. The story follows a woman who is the tea master's daughter in a future Scandinavia where we've depleted much of the Earth's viable drinking water. There's been a kind of post-oil apocalypse and the 'past world' is shrouded in mystery, mostly understood by the things recovered in the plastic graveyards on the outskirts of town. I would totally recommend the book without any reservations, so long as you weren't expecting a rip, roaring, page-turning thriller. The ending is also very much a downer, and the only sense of hope comes from the prologue and the implication that there might be a second book to continue some of the threads that don't really get answered. But, I didn't mind that, surprisingly.

Now I'm waiting for Book of the Unnamed Midwife to show up through Inter-Library Loan. Then, the last one will be the Jonathan Strahan book (which he seemed to have edited, Reach for Infinity which I'm reading last because I'm not a big fan of short story collections.) In the meantime, I think I'm going to start a Melissa Scott book that Shawn nabbed off Amazon when the Kindle version when on one of those 99 cent sales.

Not much else is going on. I finished up the two seasons of Tiger & Bunny that Hulu had, and have, on recommendation, started watching Zenkyou no Terror/Terror in Resonance while I wash the dishes. It's quite a shift in tone, I must say. Zenkyou no Terror follows two very disturbed and unusual young men (who to refer to each other by numbers because they were raised in some kind of horrible orphanage) who are exacting their revenge on society by... well, by being terrorists. So you know, from heroes to villains. It's a bit of whiplash, but I'm enjoying Zenkyou no Terror the same way I enjoyed DeathNote. It's kind of fascinating to go deep into the criminal mind. Like in DeathNote, there's a smart, vaguely outsider to root for on the other side, on the good-guy side. So, I've got that to cling to. I'm very, very worried for the female character in Zenkyou no Terror, but you know... it's early days. I'm only on the fourth or fifth episode so far.

Like much of fandom, I'm anxiously waiting for the arrival of this month's Shingeki no Kyojin/Attack on Titan. The things I've seen on Tumblr from the raws make me kind of happy (*anxiously grabs abs*)... I'll have a review up as soon as we see in English

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Dog whistles, Code, and Insider-ism

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, like you do, and I came across this: "Why 'Fandom is Family' is Problematic". It's a collection or round-up of tweets (probably involving a much larger discussion) about the phrase 'fandom is family' and why we should stop using it. First of all, I've actually never heard this phrase in my long association with SF fandom, and I tend to agree that family is not ALL THAT to everyone and it certainly should not be a phrase used to shelter abusers, etc.

What I'm reacting to is the idea that fandom (and it's not clear which 'fandom' is meant here, but maybe SF con fandom?) is unwelcoming because it has so many in-jokes... or...? I'm not sure, because I think, in point of fact, that the very term "not welcoming" is a dog-whistle for the Tumblr-generation/fans.

I'm not saying they're not right.

When I first entered con fandom, I felt very lost. I didn't know the routine. I didn't know the lingo. I didn't have many friends who went to cons. In point of fact, I dropped out of con fandom until I was a newly energized/hungry writer and saw the advantages of meeting people by being on panels. It should be noted, too, that I am, and have always been, a vey out-going and social person. It's not normally hard for me to make friends with strangers.

So it's absolutely true that a person's first con can feel very... exclusive, excluding even. Certainly, LONELY.

I experienced that whole feeling of exclusion all over again, despite years of being in sf con fandom, when I entered the anime fandom (and the anime con fandom, both of which have their own sets of rules and entire language books full of code and lingo and acronyms.) I even posted here that what i needed for the next Anime Detour was a translator to act as my guide.


I never felt it was the duty of the con runners to make me feel "welcomed." I felt weird about my lack of knowledge--uncomfortable even, but I didn't let that stop me. If I felt any sense of privilege it was a self-empowered one, which was to say I NEVER DOUBTED THAT I HAD THE RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE, I just had to figure out HOW. I also never doubted that figuring out HOW was on me, and me alone. So, I thought, "Alright then, I need to ask what does mean?" I need to call up my friends and say, "Okay, who here is going with me?" I asked my more anime con savvy friends, "So... when someone is in costume, do I talk to them 'in character' or... What? How do I interact here? What are the rules?" In my early SF con days, I found someone I knew and asked, "Okay, so what DOES it take to get on panels? How do I volunteer for the stuff I like?"

I'm not saying this because I feel like "kids these days" (or people new to fandom) don't have the same where-with-all that I did/do.

But, because this term gets bandied about a lot, I do wonder if "not welcoming" actually is for them one of those words they use that means something that my generation doesn't quite understand the same way. I wonder if it means more than what I'm describing. I'm wondering if there are very specific ways in which the younger generation feels less empowered to just participate, despite the things I described above.

I'm not sure.

I want someone to tell me. I want to understand. I want to hear the stories that will open my eyes, so I can FIX the things for you (and, ultimately for all of us.)

In the meantime, I have to guess from context.

One of the back-and-forths in the twitter round-up made it seem like one person felt left out because Michael Thomas joked about "TRUfandom" (which is also a phrase I didn't know). She said, basically: "Whelp, see what I mean, I don't know this stuff." To me, that's not being shown the door, and having it slammed in your face, that's just BEING NEW. I've had the same experience as an old-timer, getting onto Tumblr and going to Anime cons. I never felt unwelcome. I just felt NEW.

We all need to learn each other's language.

I think that this is less 'insider-ism' than just the way sub-cultures operate. I sometimes have to use the urban dictionary to parse out what my neighbor is saying to me or what comments on my fan fic mean. I don't think my neighbor or the fans of my writing are trying to insult me or exclude me or intentionally make me feel unwelcome. In fact, each time I deciphered a bit of the code, I felt brought closer in. When someone left me ILU on my fan fic, I'd no idea for sure what that meant. I looked it up, and it means "I love you!" or "I like you" and is kind of just a term of excitement, bonding, or, as my subculture would call it, squee.

I really think that when Michael made his comment his intention was inclusion, as in, 'like that joke we have about TRU fandom, you and me." Yet it was seen as endemic to the problem.

I think we need to stop assuming hostility from each other.

Fandom needs all of us, young and old.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Back in the Saddle (A Start, At Least)

I'm back to posting on UnJust Cause finally, so if you want to check that out, it's up on Wattpad now: "To Err is Human (and Tomorrow is Another Day.)" There's not a lot there, not too much more than 500 words, but I needed to get back in the habit. Honestly, what I really, REALLY need to do with this is what Rachel and I just spent three weeks doing to School for Wayward Demons (SWD)... I need to take all the parts and get them into a huge document and start to really examine the whole shape of it.

Because if I'm going to make it into a book, it needs that. I am learning, somewhat the hard way, that writing one's way into a book (and not planning it out like I used to do) might be hella fun, but it means a lot of work on the far end, the finishing end, as it were.

It's good for me to experiment with different ways of writing, though. So no regrets. I have learned much.

Besides, despite my belly aching, it's a well-known fact that I'm a heavy reviser no matter which method I chose: pants-ing or outlining.

In other news, Mason and I had some fun yesterday. Shawn had to work late, so we went to our usual favorite hang-out place when we have time to kill but it seems foolish to go all the way home: the Roseville Library. Mason tore through the shelves and took out old favorites and a few new-to-him books. I'd settled down at a table and was starting to write when he did that kid thing, "Can we go to the coffee shop and get a scone??" I didn't think we should. You know, it's money and treats, but then I thought about my own treat: a mocha, and so I was convinced. As we were waiting for the staff to ring our stuff up and make my mocha, we overheard two guys behind us starting up a game of Munchkin. If you're unfamiliar, feel free to check out the Wikipedia article I linked to, but the short of it is that Muchkin is a card-game version of D&D. Instead of role-playing you pull various cards and move through a very random "dungeon" as part of gameplay. It doesn't matter. What you really need to know about the game is that 1) Mason LOVES it, 2) it is ridiculously geeky and often involves, like the best D&D games, arguing the rules, and 3) Mason constantly begs us to play and Shawn and I... well, we like it, but don't LOVE it, if you get my drift. So, when these two nerdy college-aged boys asked if we wanted to join them, Mason was over the moon with joy.

I decided to opt out and sat nearby with my computer. At one point one of the boys came over and said (in such an adorkable outgoing nerd way, honestly) "Your son is a delight." To which I replied, "Isn't he just." But when nerd-boy looked baffled at that I said, "Yes. Thank you." Nerd boy wanted to let me know, too, that Mason was not only keeping up with them but, "talking just enough smack." Which I honestly found deeply delightful to hear. I wanted to say, "That's because I raised him right," but merely nodded and thanked them again for inviting us to join. Because I mean, Mason is 11, I bet these two young men were twice his age: 22.

Mason was so happy afterward he not only nerdgasmed about the game play all the way home, he kept dreamily and happily muttering, "They argued the rules, Ima. They argued the rules."

"Yes, my son," I said. "You have found your people."

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Joys of Collaboration (and Other Stories)

Wow, you guys, the book version of School for Wayward Demons is 90,000 words. It's currently off with Sean Murphy, sort-of-kind-of-former Wyrdsmith (retired? emeritus?), who is checking it for "book-y-ness." (Like, truthiness, except for books, I think.) But, here's the thing, 90,000 words? If you buy this book when it comes out, you're FOR SURE getting a third more story. All the stuff we have queued up for the web site only clocked in at 65,000. I can tell you that the big changes are to Kitty. She gets a much stronger back story. Erin, too, actually, gets to be more proactive in her own rescue. Gabe and Theo had started out awfully strong, so they really just got deepened and some of their issues got bought out and explored.

I will say, though, that I had some serious excitement about this on Saturday morning. Rachel, my co-author, sent back the version that she'd spent a whole week working on... and I discovered that I sent her an incomplete draft! So she'd done all this work on stuff that wasn't even complete!!

I was ready to lay on the floor and start sobbing, but Rachel whipped out the handy-dandy "merge documents" function and was actually able to quickly go through everything and give me a combo/nothing lost version in A DAY.

She is so awesome.

Seriously, I would still be in the gross sobbing stage, if it wasn't for her.

This is only especially traumatizing because I'd hoped to give it a final pass here and have it back and ready to go out to copy-editors and such by the 30th, which, if you check your calendars, is only a matter of days!!

So, now my big project is to do something similar with the UnJust Cause stuff I've posted on Wattpad as Tate. And THEN, then my friends, I hope to start writing some... science fiction.


I told Wyrdsmiths on Thursday that my plan was to finally start my samurai steampunk story, and our newest member, Theo, has already sent her minions after me to get working on it! Seriously, I was on gmail and an IM popped up, our mutual friend Teri, who was all, "Are you writing that thing?"

So I guess I have to write the thing!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Updates on Various Projects

Today, (more like this evening at this point) I hope to get a new Tate bit posted on Wattpad, but I had to work today from 9 to 1 at Maplewood library. It was really busy thanks to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Normally, Maplewood is my favorite library because the people are so awesome and they have the best ever graphic novel collection in Ramsey county, I swear.

In other writing related news, Rachel and I are also trying to see if we can build more of an audience for our School for Wayward Demons project by x-posting that at Wattpad too. So, if you find it easier to read an comment on things over there, you should feel free to check it out: (Also, if you want to, you can follow us on Tumblr, too:

If you're still following along at the website, the newest chapter is up "Bad Magic Puppies."

Thursday, January 08, 2015

No More Mourning Rugs

Today, I feel fairly accomplished (at least so far), despite not doing that much writing. I did work on a number of writing-related things, however.

First of all, I wrote the acknowledgements and a new bio for a short story in the AngeLINK universe that Cheryl Morgan at Wizard's Tower Press will be publishing. It's a story that was first published in, of all places, South Africa, in 2003, in a magazine called Simulacrum: The Magazine of Speculative Transformation. The short story is going to get cover art for the first time EVER, which I bought from the lovely and talented Theo Lorenz, who happens to be the author of the successful coloring book Unicorns Are Jerks (and others.)

What do you think? I know it doesn't match Bruce Jensen's amazing cover art for the AngeLINK universe or even the cover of Resurrection Code, but... I don't know, maybe short stories are friendlier? (Also, I didn't ask Bruce, because I'm sure I can't afford him.)

At any rate, I'm pretty excited to have this story come out and have a wider distribution. Wizard's Tower Press has been very awesome to me. I will let you know when this will be available for public consumption. I believe that it's first going to be part of a giveaway for the Accessing the Future Anthology's successful fundraiser. But, I suspect once they have the contributors have their copies, Wizard's Tower will make it available to the public. And, yes, of course, as soon as I have those details, I'll post them here (and probably everywhere. :-)

And, since we're talking writing, there are two new chapters up at the Enter The Unseen/School for Wayward Demons website, "The Cavalry Arrives with Donuts" and "Destroying the Dead." So, if you've continued along with the story, there's just so much extra goodness for you today.
Speaking of the School for Wayward Demons, I got a very, very rough draft of the novel version off Naomi for beta-reading and probably some triage/first aid. I feel like the novel has good bones but, because of the way Rachel and I wrote it, it's a kind of Franken-story, stitched together with very obvious stitches! :-) But, Naomi is a very smart reader and has always in the past found ways to make my books make sense, so I trust her to have good advice to smooth out the rough edges.

And, to be fair, this is all work I'm doing before I'm even giving it back to my co-author, so it will get many subsequent passes. I'm absolutely sure that by the time we're done, it will be one seriously amazing book.

Fingers crossed, 2015 will start with at least two publications! So yay! Go me!

My other resolution has to do with the blog post I made below in which I discussed some of my publishing "feels." As I told one of the commenters, one of my problems is that I actually had a really good career with Penguin and so when the rug got yanked out from me, I was so stunned that I just sat there on the floor, not getting up, shouting to all passers-by "HEY, THERE WAS RUG HERE! WHAT HAPPENED TO MY RUG? WHY DO YOU STILL HAVE A RUG? I WANT MY RUG BACK!"

It's time to get up off the floor. The rug is gone, my friends, and it's time to move on.

So, I'm going to finish up UnJust Cause, self-publish that, and then, with any luck at all, start on some new novel project.

I'm kind of excited to see what it will be.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Still Hope for 2015

A few things to tell you all about.  A new chapter of School for Wayward Demons is out.  "The Cavalry Arrives with Donuts."

For the two of you who wrote to me (one here and one on Twitter) worried that I would give up writing after yesterday's post, despair not.  Clearly, I'm still writing.  I've got both this School for Wayward Demons project and the Unjust Cause novel that I'm working on over at Wattpad.  

I do despair of ever traditionally publishing again, but, then again, a lot of writers end up doing what I'm trying to do--self-publish and work with smaller presses.

On the other hand, I'm still teaching writers how to write and if you happen to live close to me (in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area,) you should check out the classes I have available for you at the Loft.  The Fanfic class still has openings, but that's meant to start in a matter of weeks and as of right now there aren't nearly enough people signed-up for that one to be viable.  However, there's still hope of Mars Needs Writing: An Introduction to Science Fiction.  

Speaking of Mars, it was cold in my hometown of St. Paul, MN today than it is on some part of the surface of Mars.  Think about that.

Also Mars related, I'm going to be one of the guests of honor at MarsCON 2015 a local science fiction/fantasy themed convention.  

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

So This Happened (And it's Giving Me Feels)

My colleagues Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown are self-publishing the sequel to their book STRANGER. Sherwood has a long, detailed post about it "HOSTAGE Preview: Why We Chose to Self-Publish Book 2."

This... makes me sad.

First let me say, I think this was absolutely the right move on the part of Sherwood and Rachel. They're also handing the announcement of the decision a lot more gracefully than I ever would have been able to. I only wish, in fact, that I was as SAVVY as these two women. I wish that I had had a finished book waiting in the wings when Penguin gave me the boot so that I could have made an equally smooth transition to self-publishing. STRANGER fans will not wonder what the heck happened and where the next book is, unlike so many Tate Hallaway fans. So, seriously, good for them for being willing and able to make a move like this. I think an author's priority should always be to taking care of themselves like this, because GODS KNOW THE PUBLISHERS WON'T.

And that, right there, is what makes me sad.

Today I was hoping to get back to publishing my Tate installments over at WattPad. I didn't manage it, partly because I spent the morning finishing up some first draft work on my own collaborative self-publishing venture SCHOOL FOR WAYWARD DEMONS. But, I've had a lot of trouble focusing on the PRECINCT 13 sequel because I get so damned depressed about it. I know that this WattPad stuff is far too little, too late. It's been way too long since a Tate book has come out. Readers have gone to greener, more prolific pastures long, long ago.

The news of Rachel and Sherwood also triggers my depression... and bitterness, really, a feeling I've vowed to try to leave behind in 2014.

Thing is, while I'm glad that they've been able to turn this frown upside down, it really, really sucks (IMHO) they they have to, at all. Go read Sherwood's post because I can NOT believe the crap that professionally published (I should really use air quotes for that) writers are expected to deal with. Who sits on a book that long? What can possibly be the reason? My publisher managed a very quick turn around. I never waited more than a year from my delivery date to publication, so it's possible. Especially since Rachel and Sherwood SHARE MY PUBLISHER (though not my previous editors.)

When I read stories like this I half-wonder if traditional publishers are trying to drive writers away, trying to destroy business. Because so often there's also ZERO publicity for a new book (or continuing books in a series.) So it's almost as if they're doing everything in their power to ASSURE FAILURE.

I say this out of bitterness, surely. But, I had a very successful career with Penguin all things considered. I always had amazing editors. I lucked out very, very often with fantastic covers ("good packaging" as they call it), and, for the most part, I had no reason for complaints. Sure, I did a lot of my own publicity, particularly for my science fiction series, but, you know, I knew that was part of the deal so it never felt raw or unexpected.

Yet news like this makes me so... sad.

I think it's partly because I wish, for once, publishers would have to bear the brunt of their mistakes or ineptitude or whatever is happening over there in traditional publishing. But, they won't. They'll just pick up some other new talent, underpay them, abuse them, and throw them away when there's any kind of problem. None of this will ever lead to any kind of change on THEIR part. The publishing world seems to be changing AROUND traditional publishers, but they seemed happy to just keep on keepin' on (but not in a GOOD way.)

It bums me out.

I'm having feels.