Org Shuffle

Have decided to let my membership to the Authors’ Guild lapse, after it ends this year. I joined them hoping for two things: a) inexpensive health insurance, and b) in-person networking opportunities. I ended up going with the Freelancers’ Union instead for a, because theirs was cheaper and more comprehensive, and never saw any sign of b. And I’ve been annoyed by the Guild’s politics. Cory Doctorow nails it better than I ever could. This pissed me off too. It’s not an easy fix; it puts the burden of access on the visually impaired, rather than normalizing/easing access for all. And read-aloud software is nothing like an audiobook, damn it. Anyway.

Have decided to renew my membership to SFWA. Still have many reservations about this org, but they’re making herculean efforts to modernize, so I’ll give them another year. Check out their new website; holy crap it’s better than the old one. I can actually find stuff in it now! Amazing.

So to replace the Authors’ Guild, I’m trying out an org that I already know is pretty dynamic on the networking, etc., front: Romance Writers of America. I should’ve joined them last year, really, but didn’t want to jump into too many orgs and guilds at once. (Hey, I’m an RPGer; it’s never wise to join too many guilds at once.) Their conferences are expensive as all get out, but I’m told they’re worthwhile, so next year I’m going to try and scrape together my pennies and attend their 2010 con, and maybe even Romantic Times, after fellow Magic Districtee Diana Rowland’s ringing endorsement.

But back to RWA. I’m told the local chapter (beware — site’s color scheme is eye-bleedingly intense) is pretty active, so I’ll probably join that too. We’ll see if I qualify, given that their rules stipulate I have to be engaged in the romance genre; not sure how they determine that. I figure if they give me any guff, I’ll send them The Infamous Chapter 24 ™ of 100K. I can sneak in behind their backs while their glasses are fogged up!

…Or I can just become an Associate Member.

Radios down, readings a-comin’

For those who follow my Twitter feed or Facebook updates, you already knew about this: this past Saturday morning, I and my writing group went on “Hour of the Wolf” on WBAI (99.5 FM, for those in the NYC area), Jim Freund’s phenomenal crackadawn science fictional radio show. It’s been running for as long as I’ve been alive! (Since 1972.) I wasn’t reading — my esteemed colleague Rajan Khanna was — and my comments are pretty much limited to a sleepy sort of “bwuh?” and vague suggestions for his manuscript. But if you want to hear the whole thing, which is a great example of how a writing group works (on the air, at 5 in the morning), listen here.

Other upcoming events in Noraland:

  • Not going to Readercon. =( But I am going to Worldcon in Montreal, and World Fantasy Con in San Jose. Have received confirmation I’ll be on the program — somehow — for Worldcon (I’d asked to do a reading, dunno if I got it), and have applied for same at WFC. Shall keep you posted.
  • Am doing a group reading hereabouts in NYC: Diaspora of the Fantastic: Black Women Writers of SF/F/H (RSVP here if you’re interested), on Thursday, July 30 at Bluestockings, 7-9 p.m.. Not sure what I’ll read yet; only got 15 minutes or so, which none of my short stories will fit. -_- I don’t want to read from 100K, since it’s still more than 7 months off at that point, and since I’ve got more readings coming up and will quickly get tired of reading from the book, I think. Might do an excerpt from the Postscripts story, or something unpublished.
  • Waaaaaaay advance notice, but I’ll be reading at KGB’s Fantastic Fiction event in March 2010. Which gives me only 9 months to freak out about it!! The KGB events are my favorite reading series in the city, so it’s a real honor to be able to read there… but by the same token, I’m already anxious about it. (Strangely, the thought of reading at Worldcon and WFC doesn’t bother me at all. WTF?)

And in micro news, am now revising chapter 8 (of 21) of Book 2. Hopefully won’t have to rewrite it, the way I did chapters 3-7… -_-

Random thought.

In The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, human beings exploit their gods as literal slaves, using their magical abilities as weapons.

In Book 2 (name undecided), human beings exploit their gods’ very flesh and blood in various ways. For example, a drug called “godsblood” has become popular in the mortal world, and it’s exactly what it sounds like — small vials of blood drawn from (willing) gods. When humans ingest this, they gain magic power.

Book 3 is still in flux, but the core story is solid in my head, and it occurs to me that the gods are exploited in this one too — the protagonist uses one godling’s magic and knowledge to advance herself politically, and later she plays one god against another in an attempt to gain power over them all.

Maybe “Inheritance” isn’t the right name for this trilogy; maybe I should call it the Godsploitation Saga!

…No.

New post at the Magic District…

…on How Much Fantasy is Too Much/Not Enough? In which I get meta-val on Alaya Dawn Johnson’s “Shard of Glass”.

And in RevisionQuest 2009, have rewritten another chapter of Book 2, bringing me up to chapter 6 of 21. Go go go!

Verb Noire’s First Book!

Hi folks. Those of you who followed RaceFail 2009 may also be aware of one of its many positive results: Verb Noire, a new small press started up for the purpose of showcasing authors and characters of color in science fiction and fantasy. Well, I’m happy to report that their first novel, The River’s Daughter, is now out! I haven’t read it yet — ordered, but I’ve got a long list of Stuff To Read at the moment — but I wanted to spread the word. Check it out!

Compliments Graciously Welcomed and Accepted

Like many writers, I worry — constantly — about the quality of my work. I don’t go fishing for compliments, but it means a lot to me when people say nice things about stuff I’ve written. Reviews from professional-type review people are gratifying, even if they don’t always like my stories; I’m of the school of thought that says apathy is worse than active dislike, because at least with active dislike you get a reaction.

But it’s compliments from readers, of the just-looking-for-entertainment type, that tend to have the greatest impact on me, because that tells me I’m really doing my job as a professional writer. So this one warmed my heart, when editor Rachel Swirsky of PodCastle forwarded it to me:

I recently discovered PodCastle and very much enjoy the series and
your choices.  Tonight I started digging through the archives because
I just can’t get enough, found Red Riding Hood’s Child.  LOVED it –
and left a comment.

I wanted to thank you personally for including it – not enough stories
out there in which main characters are gay and/or find personal
power…  and while I’m at it, to tell you that PodCastle is my new
favorite driving companion.

Am not including identifying info, since the complimenter may not have wanted to be plastered all over teh internets. And I’m not sure which of the comments on the story he’s referring to, though I think I know which one it is. But he has my thanks.

Now, to put this in context, the story in question, “Red Riding-Hood’s Child”, got a very strong reaction from listeners when it went up on PodCastle. A lot of the responses, I have to say, struck me as — hmm. Homophobically-derived? It’s one thing to dislike the story, but another thing entirely to declaim it as “gross” and “criminal” and… well, just read the reactions for yourself. (Don’t forget the ones in the discussion forum.) Overall, I’d say the reaction was mostly positive, but the negatives were really negative.

But some of the positive responses, like the one above, were enough to make all the negatives fade into nothing in my head.

This is what I do it for. This is why I take risks, as I did in writing RRHC; this is why I need to take more risks, IMO. (And this is why I’m glad for markets that are willing to take risks, like PodCastle.) This makes me very, very happy.

Good reads of many kinds

Over on LJ, author Cat Valente is going through some hard times, and is offering a novel literary experiment to make ends meet. Basically, she’ll post her latest chapters of her latest work for people to read and pay for as she goes along. I can’t donate at the moment because I’m kind of struggling myself, but I’m spreading the word. I loved Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales stuff, so I suspect anyone who can participate will get something beautiful for their money.

Speaking of something beautiful, have recently discovered Goodreads. Where have you been all my life?? I like it, though it feels a bit redundant with Library Thing. Anyway, I’m on both, so feel free to friend me at either.

ETA, because I am a moron — also, the Clarion West Write-a-Thon is happening right now. My buddy K. Tempest Bradford has met her goal of $1500, which is le cool, but other participating writers could use the encouragement, and CW could use the cash. So sign up!

My voice acting debut; first person angst at the Magic District

Busy little bee, me:

  • Over at PodCastle, I’m reading Alaya Dawn Johnson’s “Shard of Glass”. I had a cold while I was reading most of it, and kept having to pause/edit the recording to cough, so I hope it sounds OK. -_-
  • Also, posted something over at the Magic District on first person. Why do people hate it so much? Some thoughts.

In other news, have reached 3000 words on the newest version of Book 3. Go go go!

New Magic District Post

…on forthcoming fantasy films, and what I think of them. Not very substantive, but fun, and mentioned here late because I was traveling yesterday — am down in Alabama visiting Mom for the weekend.

Shoo!! Shoo!!

I’m plagued by short story ideas lately.

Have written two of them, actually — a short one set in Brooklyn called “Non-Zero Probabilities”, in which the laws of probability go haywire; and a novelette currently called “Pirate Jessie”, though I’m not sure I want to keep that name. The latter one, a steampunk espionage historical lesbian romantic adventure, was for an anthology invitation. (No, really.) Have other ideas, though, circling ’round my head like gnats. It’s as if, after six months of doing only novel work, my shorts-producing brain cells have revolted, demanding quick hooks and triple pay for overtime.

Here’s the problem, though:

  • On Thursday I’m going out of town, to visit my mom; she’s not likely to leave me much free time to get writing done.
  • By Monday, I need to turn in the first-pass manuscript of 100K (kind of a pre-ARC), which really means I need to finish it by Wednesday and drop it in the mail before I leave.
  • By August I need to finish the revision of Book 2, now that I’ve received my editor’s notes on what works and what doesn’t.
  • By the end of the year — seven months, roughly — I need to finish Book 3. I’d hoped to finish it much earlier, but… well… see below.

In this context, I know what’s going on with the short story attack — procrastination. My work ethic is solid enough that I rarely just futz around pointlessly; I’m really good at procrastinating in “productive” ways. So instead of vacuuming the cat — which I actually kind of should do, NukuNuku is shedding — or the usual writerly avoidance mechanisms, I write new shorts. Or I revise unsold shorts. Or I update my submissions spreadsheet and prepare new subs to go out. Or I work on my job search, since I’m looking for another part-time position right now. Or I write blog posts (self-promotion) or reviews (cross-promotion) or I do research. Or I go to the gym to work out. All very useful and necessary for my career… so that I feel less guilty about not hitting my wordcount for the day on Book 3.

So I think I’m going to have to womanfully resist the latest short story ideas. I gave in twice already; can’t let the damn things take over.

That said, it usually means something when I start procrastinating like this. I’m a little past 30,000 words on The Single Shining Star (Book 3). Generally by the 30K mark on a book, I’m eager to keep going, generally because the ideas have grabbed hold of me and I want to hurry to get to the Good Parts. The fact that I’m struggling so much at this point reflects my growing dissatisfaction with Book 3. It’s too slow-paced, covers too many parts of the world that we’ve seen before, and ultimately just doesn’t capture the feeling I want the book to have. They’re good words, but they’re not the right words. And I think I’m going to have to scrap them and start over.

It happens. Discarded 30,000 words on one of my older novels once (Dreambile, for the handful of you who’ve read it). But once I’d done it, I felt free — and that sense of freedom encouraged me to make a radical change in the plot and tone of the story, which IMO resulted in one of my best novels yet. (Sadly, unsold thus far. But one day…!) I don’t view those discarded words as months of lost effort, though that’s what they are in a practical sense. I view them as practice, so that the end product could be that much better.

After all, I wrote The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms twice, literally scrapping the whole completed first version of the book and reworking it from scratch. What’s 30,000 words lost compared to 120,000?

So I’m declaring a moratorium on short stories for myself, at least until the end of the summer. If the ideas are sound, they’ll keep. And in the meantime, I’m going to re-prioritize the things I absolutely have to do (like job searching) so that they’re not competing with my writing time… and I’m going to confine my procrastination to looking at Star Trek macros, like a normal writer. (Um, profanity warning on that last link, ya’ll. But soooo worth it.)