Saturday, October 26, 2013

In which there is art!


You guys, I can't even tell you how excited I am by this.  I've never had an illustration for one of my stories before, and this one is beautiful!  It's for "Haunts", coming out in Interzone #249 in November.

This story has its roots in an eclipse, back in 1993 or thereabouts.  I lived in a small city with a fountain in a square downtown.  My best friend and I watched the sun go dark and then we went for breakfast.  As often happens with stories, I can't quite describe how I got from that eclipse to this rather dark story about an ex-duelist selling off her fingers to keep her failing school from closing.  I can tell you it has some other hidden ingredients from the time of the eclipse--a kitten who only lived a few days, a house in the west end where the lilacs were all cut down--but how those little realities are woven into this fiction, I can't even explain.

There were some wrong turns--I finished the first draft of this story a few years ago, but I didn't finish the final draft until quite recently, and it changed a lot in between.  Now it's finally about to meet the world.  I hope the world likes it.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Story day!

"Nightfall in the Scent Garden" went up at PodCastle today!  This story is having a great run--it's also reprinted in the just-released anthology Imaginarium 2013, which was recommended by the Toronto Star as one of the summer's Top 20 reads.

PodCastle publishes all kinds of wonderful stuff.  Some recent stories that have impressed me are Kenneth Schneyer's "Selected Program Notes from the Retrospective Exhibition of Teresa Rosenberg Latimer", Megan Arkenberg's "The Copperroof War", and Cory Skerry's "My Dignity in Scars".  I am more visual than aural and I usually choose to read from a page, but hearing a story read to me creates a fascinating nostalgia, a remembrance of childhood bedtimes and an era when the entirety of Lord of the Rings was read on radio by the BBC.  A good reader--and PodCastle features many!--brings heightened emotion and a sense of extra space to the work.

Listen, read, enjoy, comment, wonder.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Renewing my SFWA membership

If you don't already know about the issues plaguing SFWA at the moment, this is a post you can probably skip, but the short version is: I have recently seen a whole bunch of members of my professional organization behave like assholes all over the internet.


To be totally clear: I'm talking about people who hold repugnant, racist, sexist, homophobic views.  Not people who stumble sometimes on difficult issues or communicate awkwardly or get blindsided by our own prejudice--those things are true of me, and you, and everyone else.  No, I'm talking about people who are actively working to make my professional organization unwelcoming to me.  Calling for women to shut up when they've been sexually harassed.  Calling for less diversity among the membership.

I am SO NOT OKAY with this.

I've been watching a number of people I respect leaving the organization due to this hostile environment.  I wish they could stay, because they're the people I want to associate with in my professional association!  But I understand and respect their choice.

I am choosing differently.  Partly, it's privilege: I have the energy to keep up with the political discussion, vote, and just plain stick around long enough to outlast the bigots.  Partly it's the hope that I will also find the energy to say some useful things.  I know I don't have the energy to be as vocal as some other members, nor is my opinion necessarily going to be heeded--I am not a high-profile writer or blogger.  But I can be part of the chorus, and I should be.

It's also something else: I'm in my late thirties now, and the incandescent rage of my twenties has slowed and chilled, but it hasn't gone away, because the problems that caused it haven't either.  It's become a layer of bedrock beneath everything I do.

I am still sexually harassed on a frequent basis, from little things like catcalls, to bigger things like being groped at events or flashed on the streetcar.  I spent a long time just sort of rolling with it--I didn't think I had the energy to both fight it, and live the rest of my life.  And I thought I was an outlier somehow.  Boy, was I wrong--the recent slew of posts from absolutely everyone has shown me just how many other people share this experience.

So here's what I'm doing.  One: supporting SFFragette.  Two: renewing my membership in SFWA and resolving to post more, speak up more, and give more assistance to the members and prospective members whose values I share.  And three: keep on writing with all my soul.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Story day: "The God-Seed"

"The God-Seed" went up at Crossed Genres today.  Go and read!  There are also wonderful stories by Alena McNamara and N.A. Ratnayake.

When I write stories, it's because they feel essential to me.  I hope I've done this one justice.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Secrets of writing, unlocked!

Today in my search keywords: "finish a fantasy novel".  Why yes, seeker, I did.  Twice.  (I'm awesome that way.)

How?  I will let you in on my secret.  Writer + laptop + chair + time = novel.  (I left out a few of the nonessential ingredients such as coffee, music and cats... if you are following the basic recipe though, and still having trouble, consider adding one of these.)

If you are short of the basics, it is very hard to finish a novel.  If you have a laptop, chair, and time, and are still having trouble finishing, it is possible, as Grady Hendrix suggests in a recent post, that you are not actually a writer.

It is also possible, in my experience, that instead of writing a novel of fun escapism, you're writing a novel about hard stuff you have experienced: loss, ill health, depression, abuse, that kind of thing.  When I procrastinate, it is not because I'm not a writer.  It is because I'm afraid.

Once I push past this fear, and take a hard look at whatever is in my path, I make my best work.  It doesn't have to be literally about my experience--in fact, it rarely is--but it has to have a core that is mined from my deepest self.  Some may find this easy.  I do not.

I do, however, find it joyful, and more rewarding than anything else on this earth.

Oh, and before I go, here's some other stuff that is rewarding:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Unveiled!

Tenea D. Johnson and Steve Berman have announced the table of contents for Heiresses of Russ 2013, and guess what...I'm in it.

“Harrowing Emily” by Megan Arkenberg
“Reality Girl” by Richard Bowes
“The Witch Sea” by Sara Diemer
“Saint Louis 1990” by Jewelle Gomez
“Narrative Only” by Kate Harrad
“Nightfall in the Scent Garden” by Claire Humphrey
“Elm” by Jamie Killen
“Beneath Impossible Circumstances” by Andrea Kneeland
“One True Love” by Malinda Lo
“Winter Scheming” by Brit Mandelo
“Feed Me the Bones of Our Saints” by Alex Dally McFarlane
“Nine Days Seven Tears” by JL Merrow
“Oracle Gretel” by Julia Rios
“Otherwise” by Nisi Shawl
“Chang’e Dashes from the Moon” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
“Astrophilia” by Carrie Vaughn
“Barnstormers” by Wendy Wagner

I was also really happy to note that last one, Wendy Wagner's "Barnstormers", which first appeared in Ideomancer.  (I was the slush reader who caught that one--for some reason this always makes me feel extra-pleased when the story goes on to do well!)

Strange Horizons makes a great showing, too: several of these stories first appeared there, including mine, plus work by editors Brit Mandelo and Julia Rios made the list.  I'm proud to appear in this company.

Go here to look at the cover!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

So, this Kickstarter I'm backing...

Long Hidden is an anthology of "speculative fiction from the margins of history", edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older and to be published by Crossed Genres.  It's already funded, but I'm really hoping it will reach its stretch goal to be able to include even more stories.

In the words of the mission statement, this anthology is participating in a tradition of "literary resistance to erasure".  I love this statement, I love the list of authors already lined up, and I love that there are more spots open for submissions from those of us not yet big enough names to have been asked in advance.

Most of all, though, I love seeing the enthusiasm around this project.  680 people, as of this writing, are so into this idea that they're supporting it sight unseen.  That tells me there's a really enthusiastic market for SF that isn't just about royalty or spaceship captains.

I've always liked to learn history from fiction.  Oh, I'm fully aware that fiction can't always be relied upon for facts--we writers are prone to moving cities, marrying off people who lived decades apart, and other such conveniences in service of a more enjoyable story.  But good historical fiction is also deeply true in its depiction of people's lives.  When I read it, I'm not just learning history--I'm learning empathy.

As a reader, I feel like I'm going to benefit from this book in more than the usual way.  As a writer, whether my story makes it in or not, I'm thrilled to see such an appetite from other readers.  Every backer of this project is urging us all to keep writing our truths, to keep telling the stories no one else can tell.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Novel Enduro: The Finish Line

Done.  Wait, let me say that again:

DONE.

80,000 words of PURE GENIUS.  Yeah: 80,000... despite word counts of more than 2k new stuff per day yesterday and today.  I took out a lot of faffing about, especially from the beginning.  And here we see the problem with the Pantsing Method: when I started writing this book I had no clue at all where it was going.  I wrote a lot of scenes that ended up being character background--worthwhile work for me, but not stuff that really needs to be in the final version, as it has the effect of slowing down the action.

So I actually have a 20-item list of things to fix in the next draft, but they feel like next-draft things: strengthening certain thematic threads, punching up some of the action scenes, reading through the dialogue to improve the voices (something I seem to have a problem getting right out of the gate).  It's possible there are continuity issues, because I haven't done a proper date-map yet.  And it's even possible there will be a character streamlining--I have a few secondary people who all seem to be doing the same job.

But the important thing is that this draft has an ending.  I wrote it today.  I cried.  It's a happy ending!  That's a new thing for me!

Fave sentence: "Gavin kissed him on the mouth, standing across their threshold.  And deep below the parking garage, the concrete caissons of the apartment building shook against the surrounding clay."



Why is it my fave?  Because it's the last one.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Novel Enduro: Day VIII

79,000 words.  Two new scenes left to write, maybe three.  Not with a bang, but a whimper (from the author, who's continually surprised at how fucking emotionally draining it is to end a book!)

Horrible things: how hard it is to write romantic scenes without slipping into Hollywood tropes.  I haven't had much practice, I guess... in my previous novel, there wasn't a central love relationship, just a bit of dating.

Beautiful things: getting one of those scenes right, I think!  Also, some more bits with magic, always fun.

Tonight's homework: going through a year's worth of notes from my writing group because I'm almost positive there's a great suggestion in there about a specific missing scene I should write, and I can't remember what it is.  And being a very orderly person, I'd like to write that missing scene before I write the two final scenes, because once those are done I'd like to go celebrate, instead of messing around some more.

Also, today's win: Beyond Binary is nominated for a Lambda Literary Award!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Novel Enduro, Days VI & VII

I didn't have time to post Monday because I had an urgent need for a pint with my husband at Bar Volo at day's end.  I did, however, hammer in another 2000 words, bringing that day's total to just over 77,000.

Sadly, it's still there as of today.  I put in hours of work to keep it there, too.  I deleted several vestigial, useless or outdated scenes, and the new words I added were just barely enough to keep the total count on track.

I don't think this novel is going to be quite 90k, but it is still going to be done by the end of the week: I have about five scenes left to write, and none of them contain land mines as far as I can tell.

I've also had a flurry of other writing-related activity, including both success and failure, which I can't share at this time, and only mention in order to provide context for why today was another low-count day.  I can see this being quite a time-sink for a full-time writer.  As my own publishing history grows, and my involvement with the SF community with it, I find myself with a lot of tangential tasks like updating my website, mailing contracts, Ideomancer slush, social media, grant applications, SFWA business.  All worthwhile and part of the work, and I need to account for it in my Grand Plan.

The Grand Plan for the rest of today, however, includes mostly stretching and tea-drinking.  G'night!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Novel Enduro: Day V

In the spirit of public accountability, I'm posting even though this day has NOT gone as well as the others.

Today's word count: 1263.
Total word count: 75,250 of 90,000.
Percent completion: 83.6%.

Beautiful things: bike couriers, hand-pulled noodles at Pacific Mall.

Horrible things: everyone wants you to talk about things and you just want to whack-a-mole every single thought that surfaces in your brain.

Favourite sentence:  "It was the voice he used on both Gavin and Asta, when they were sleepy or sick and had to be coaxed."

What went wrong with this day: Late start due to unavoidable obligation; rewrote the same scene four or five times before getting it even close; deleted another scene entirely, cancelling out a bunch of word count.


Interesting note: judging by where I am right now, this novel isn't actually going to hit 90k.  I think I'm closer to the end of the action than that.  Which is fine.  I'll just throw in some more sex ;)

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Novel Enduro: Day IV

Today's word count: 3832.  Can I just say how awesome I feel about this?
Total word count: 73,987 of 90,000.
Percent completion: 82%.

Beautiful things: Martin, who is still hot; um, that's all, the rest was pretty ugly

Horrible things: zombie raccoon!  Which explodes!  I was so pleased with this I immediately put it on Twitter.  So if there's a rash of exploding zombie raccoons in your slush, you'll know who to blame.

Favourite sentence:  "Gavin's spirit mantled like a hawk, ready to rend."

Reason for stopping: eggplant.

Fetishes: wooden ring on index finger: Bellwoods bottlecap necklace.

Sustenance: soy maple lattes, a god-awesome sandwich with tempeh, kimchee and Baconnaise, a pint of Bellwoods' Roman Candle IPA.

Playlist highlights: Matt Mays, "Take It On Faith"; Cat Power, "Ruin"; Esthero, "Walking On Eggshells".

Warnings That Must Go On the Tin: Mum, you can't read this book.  Even if I forget and try to give it to you.  It has too many zombie things which you would not like, plus bad driving, and 'fuck' at least once in every chapter.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Novel Enduro: Day III

Today's word count: 3001. I really know how to nail that, apparently.
Total word count: 70,126 of 90,000.
Percent completion: 78%.

Beautiful things: heartbeats; the Bentley Continental GT

Horrible things: zombie sedan!

Favourite sentence:  "Painkillers didn't kill the pain so much as put it on a nearby shelf, where it sat glowering over him until it could come close again."

Reason for stopping: Lapdogs pub night.

Fetishes: South African bead bracelets, and pink shirt, because it's Pink Shirt Day.

Sustenance: white peach tea, olive bread, olive oil.

Playlist highlights: Airmech.  Again.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Novel Enduro: Day II

Today's word count: 4295!
Total word count: 67,175 of 90,000.
Percent completion: 74.6%.

Beautiful things: stair-spindles, winter grass, bright scraps, wallpaper flowers.

Horrible things: Terrence's people in hospitals, Terrence's poor lungs.



Favourite sentence:  "His spirit saw it too: Chicago in all of itself, under the sun."

Reason for stopping: to write this blog post, because that's what I felt like doing.

Fetishes: South African bead bracelets.

Sustenance: the rest of the corn chips, more grilled cheese, more Picholine olives, little tomatoes, soy maple latte.

Playlist highlights: Airmech by Front Line Assembly.  (Why does my novel about urban magicians require its soundtrack to be a concept album about mecha?  I don't know!  The mysteries of creativity!)

Bonus: although Tybalt mostly prefers the cat tree, he also napped on my copy of The Waste Land.  Cute and literary!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Novel Enduro: Day I

Today's word count: 3065! Right on target.
Total word count: 62,880 of 90,000.
Percent completion: 70%.

Beautiful things: A crisp checked shirt. Corn pudding (maybe it is not beautiful, but I am hungry).

Horrible things: Home truths. Coughing.  Someone is watching "Cheers".

Reason for stopping: I need to wash the dishes.

Fetishes: new yoga pants, Badger lip balm.

Sustenance: corn chips, grilled cheese, Picholine olives, hibiscus-jasmine tea.

Playlist highlights: Richard Thompson, "Pharaoh"; Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Pretty Little Ditty"; Wilco, "Reservations".

Bonus: the cats really like the new cat tree, and they stayed on it all day instead of messing with my desk!  The laptop was only bitten once.

Public Accountability: The Novel Enduro Begins

Today begins a two-week writing marathon.  My (rather ambitious) goal is to finish my novel-in-progress.  Here's a screen shot of my current stats (from Scrivener):
30,000 words to go; 10 business days to do it in.  That means 3000 words a day.  Folks, I've never written that much, that fast.  But I have another novel lined up behind this one, which I really want to get started on; I'm thirty-seven and not famous yet; I've carved out this space from a demanding day job; and the only way out is through.

Materials: Scrivener; my trusty Lenovo which I got at the end of last year's novel enduro; a new pair of yoga pants; typing fingers; playlists.  Plus a new cat tree, meant to keep the cats off my desk (wish me luck).

Cuing up my playlists... pouring the coffee... wrapping a scarf around my neck... and GO.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Story Day!

Item the first: "Bleaker Collegiate Presents an All-Female Production of Waiting for Godot" is live at Podcastle today, read by Tatiana Gomberg, who does a wonderful job as the voice of the young, jaded and vulnerable Deirdre.  I am so delighted by this.

Item the second: Congratulations to all of the Nebula nominees.  Many of the works on this list I've read and loved, and I'm looking forward to catching up on the others.  I see this as a very strong year all round and I'm full of joy at the strength, beauty and relevance of our genre, and awe at the, well, awesomeness of the people I know.

Item the third: speaking of beautiful and relevant work, Kelly Rose Pflug-Back has a wonderful story at Strange Horizons right now which you should go and read.

Item the third-B: the first comment on that story was a hilarious troll complaining about SH publishing too many lesbian stories.  (If you are wondering: yes, all of my SH stories feature lesbian or bisexual protagonists.  Viva la revolucion!  Although SH has plenty of stories without lesbians, also.)  (PS: The fun that was had on Twitter today... well, I found a whole bunch of awesome lesbian-story-writers to follow, and I said some things in all-caps.)

Now you know all of the most fun things in my day this day, and you can go forth and propagate them as you will.  (Especially if you like lesbian stories.  Just saying.)


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In which I plan to unleash the Pussy Hurricane

The title for this post came to me from a cherished friend who is one of very few people in my life from whom I'd accept large-scale guidance on the direction of my fiction.  She's earned this right by being the only person to have read absolutely everything I've written in the last four years.

She's read a few things in draft which you, the world, haven't seen yet, since I haven't sold them yet.  She says my fiction really comes to life when I write women protagonists, and she asks me to do more of that (the above-mentioned hurricane).

This advice comes at an interesting time for me.  When I first started writing seriously, in university, I had a hard time writing believable female characters.  Partly due to internalized misogyny: it's only recently that women's works have become more included in the cultural canon, and the literary education I received as a kid was pretty heavily weighted in favour of the dominance of men's works and men's stories, which in turn influenced how I write.

More personally, I'm told I'm a pretty atypical woman in some ways.  When I tried to write characters like myself, I'd get feedback that they weren't believable as women even though they were just reflecting my own experience.  The woman who was supposed to be a mentor to me in university told me in front of an entire seminar that I didn't know how to be a woman.  I'm still not sure what she meant, but at the time, sadly, I believed her.

I've gotten over a lot of this, thanks to repeated encounters with smart feminists making arguments like this one (thanks, Foz Meadows!) and also thanks to the process of growing up and owning my experience.  I'm feeling excited and confident about my writing, and more than ever, I'm feeling that it reflects and develops my own best self.

But all of that is about me, and I sometimes worry that what's good for me isn't particularly good for the world.

And then I come across something like this discussion begun by Liz Bourke.  It's a lively, wonderful post about the dearth of older female protagonists in speculative fiction.  The comments section includes recommendations...and even when defining 'older' women as over 35 (!), the list is disappointingly short, although full of things I look forward to reading.

It's a timely reminder that writing my own truth--as a woman over 35, as a queer person, as a person who experiences gender unusually, as a person--is not only good for me.  It's good for readers.  It's good for other writers.  It's even good for the business.

I'm not saying I'm now going to plan some kind of authorial-insert cookie-cutter version of myself for all of my protagonists, but I am feeling like I no longer have to go through the process of translating my characters into cultural defaults.  They can be who they are.  They must be who they are.  And if that means they're odd women, older women, other women, so be it.

We can be soldiers now, you know.  (We've been soldiers all along.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

In which I apparently did make a New Year's resolution after all

As you know, Bob, Duotrope began charging authors for its service and content as of Jan 1.  I chose not to sign up, even though the amount they're asking is exactly what I voluntarily paid when paying was optional.

Why pay when it wasn't required?  I figured it was worth some amount to a whole bunch of people who would find it a financial burden to contribute, so I chipped in more than what I felt was my share in order to hopefully keep it accessible to everyone.  Now that the benefit would accrue only to me, the cost is totally not worth it.

I'm extremely happy with this decision now that I've gone a couple of weeks without Duotrope.

I don't miss the submission tracking--I have a spreadsheet for that anyway, which is pretty epic, since I am an Excel geek courtesy of years of corporate life.

I don't miss the market listings--I have a market list of my own, on which I've ranked the various pro markets according to all kinds of personal factors, and so far, I haven't submitted outside that list except for anthologies, which I usually find out about through word of mouth anyway.

I especially don't miss the response time statistics.  For the few months I used Duotrope, I was playing this unintentional yet sadistic game with myself: watching the response times of markets where I had a submission in, trying to figure out if I'd made it past the first readers, trying to read into these numbers some indication of my worth.

That, in case you were wondering, is a colossal waste of time.

I have as many submissions out right now as ever (not many) and yet, since I've withdrawn from Duotrope, I haven't spent any time at all wondering who's read them yet and how long it's going to be until I hear back.

Instead, I've written a new story.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

In which I have a new story

Project Write Faster is showing strong results so far--I began this story during Christmas, scarcely three weeks ago, and the first draft is already complete.  May I be this productive all winter!  In fact, I wish the same for any of you that write.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

In which I think about bodies

My colleague has an eight-year-old daughter who worries about having fat thighs.

Let's pause to contemplate this.  She's eight.  She's active--she rides her bike and hikes with her dad--and she's skinny.  And so what if she wasn't skinny... (a) that would be fine and (b) she's eight.

This kid isn't a woman yet, won't be for years, and she's already dealing with the pernicious body-consciousness that women face.  She knows the standard, and she knows she doesn't measure up.

What she doesn't know yet is that it's a fucked-up standard, and that no one measures up.  The most beautiful women in the world don't even measure up.  Tabloid headlines find imperfections in Jennifer Lawrence, Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lopez.  How's a kid supposed to read that?

I really want to fight this standard.  I want beauty to not even be a standard.  I want beauty to be a grace note, something we can enjoy and celebrate, but not a job we have to do, not a price of entry.

How does this tie into writing?  I think it goes along with committing to diversity in general.  Speculative fiction, like romance, has a lot of examples of princessy female characters whose worth is partly situated in their beauty, and while I don't at all want people to stop writing beauty if that's what moves them, I feel a need to go out of my way to write characters whose relationship with beauty is complicated.

I don't want to forget that beauty can't be separated from sex and class and race and every other axis of oppression.  I don't want to forget that beauty and its lack can both be used as weapons, especially against women.

And I don't ever, ever want to leave a kid feeling like there's something wrong with her thighs.