A season of endings has begun. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, from which enough ash spews to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.
It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.
It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.
And it ends with you. You are the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where orogenes wield the power of the earth as a weapon and are feared far more than the long cold night. And you will have no mercy.
I love my writing group! Last week we went on a retreat, taking over a farm in western Pennsylvania (near Gettysburg), where we spent 5 days doing nothing but writing and hanging out. I have to tell you, I’m not the sort of person who hangs out with a bunch of people easily for 5 hours, let alone 5 days, but this was worth gold.
Woo! I sold a short story. It’s called “Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Waters”, and is set in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Sold to the UK print ‘zine, Postscripts. No info yet on publication date, but I’ll keep you posted.
I don’t write short stories often. The problem is that I rarely get discrete ideas. For example, I once started a story about an assassin in a vaguely Egyptian setting who viewed killing as a transcendant religious experience. But that got me thinking about why a religion might consider murder a good thing… which got me thinking about why anyone would need to be murdered… which got me wondering what sort of society would need to develop in order to support this ideology… which got me thinking about how this religion’s cosmology would’ve developed… which got me researching whether the moon of a gas giant could be habitable… which made me wonder whether people living on such a moon might still be able to make the same observations of the heavens that, say, the Egyptians did… which made me wondering whether other people on the same planet would interpret those observations the same way… which made me think about this religious country’s enemies and allies…
I don’t mind when this happens; I like immersing myself in a novel world more than I like the brief dalliances of a short story. Still, I do wish I’d get short story inspirations more often, because I find them more challenging and exciting to write. I can’t stop myself from writing novels; that’s a compulsion. I do that to stay sane. But forcing myself to work on a more condensed idea, and conveying that idea clearly, takes all my skill. I feel like more of a writer when I do it.
Anyway, in a few months, you’ll be able to read this one. =) Yay!
Hey, all. Been working for the past few days on a Sekrit Projekt! Which no longer needs to be secret. See, me and some other authors have decided to form an online promotion gang. Well, I heard about it and got jumped in (pummelled by WordPress issues), and now we’re the baddest motheshutyomouths on the internet. …Well, not really. But we will be, one day. =)
Check it out: The Magic District! It goes live on Friday, and we’re promising a new post every day, plus a Sunday “open question” that all of us will answer. Who’s “us”, you say? Well, Margaret Ronald, whom I’ve been raving about here; Greg van Eekhout; Tim Pratt; Diana Rowland; and fellow Orbiteer Rachel Aaron. (Conversations between me and Rachel: “You write 1000 words a day??” “ME TOO!!” “What, yours is also a three-book deal for which you’re now busting your ass to finish books 2 and 3 on time?” “ME TOO!!!” Instant BFF material, I tell you.) It’s a great crew and I’m proud to be aboard. I’m all aflutter!
I’ll be posting on Thursdays, BTW; I start a week from today. We’re going to talk about topics like the secrets of great villainy, and how far one can or should go with fantasy-novel sex (that’s one I’m planning to do for my first post), and so on.
Finally recovering from NYCC and Son of Niece of the Cousin’s Sister’s Dog of the Plague, part 27. The worst of it hit on Friday, where I nevertheless gamely stumbled through the con hall while drugged and semicoherent. Hopefully I didn’t infect several thousand people with my cooties. Saturday I felt better in the morning, but ran down over the course of the day, though I still had fun Sat night when I had impromptu Thai with friends. Sunday I paid for it, when I woke up feeling like crap — at 11, despite going to bed at a reasonable hour the night before. The one panel I’d wanted to attend on Sunday was at 11:15, so that decided me; I stayed home.
All that said, I had a good time. I’m not much into traditional superhero comics, so a goodly portion of NYCC doesn’t really appeal to me, but I’m a raving fan of manga/anime, more indie comics, and of course science fiction and fantasy literature — the latter of which was out in force at the con. All the major SF/F publishers were there, many showing off new pubs and authors, most giving away books. (Bookssses, my precious. We lovesss them.) I came away with a major haul, including many authors I’ve never read before. Picked up the next two volumes (4 & 5) of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, which I’m only just now reading and have fallen in love with. Also got a chance to play the video game Spore, which I’ve heard about for awhile now but never tried. I’m hooked; that will be my next gift to myself. Said hi to the folks at the Orbit booth, and also touched base with friends at Tor and Lerner Publishing. Also got to see an old buddy, Margaret Ronald, whose book just came out as I mentioned a ways back (pay attention! this will be on the quiz!), and who seems to be taking well to new-author bliss. Fun all around!
Enjoyed the heck out of one of the panels at the con, which talked about images of Asian Americans in superhero comics; they were advertising a forthcoming anthology, Secret Identities, which I’m eager to take a look at now. I think this touches on one of the reasons why I’ve never liked superhero comics; they often use allegories to touch on serious issues (like the way mutants in the Marvel Universe have been used to explore racism and anti-Semitism), yet in the process they too often perpetuate in reality the same problems they’re supposedly trying to address in allegory (like the dearth of actual characters of color and Jewish characters, the relegation of those characters to non-heroic or minor roles, and the virtual absence of diversity among the creators and producers). But some of the stories in this one look really interesting, so I’m looking forward to it.
Oh! And I rambled through the artist’s alley at one point, mostly out of boredom, and had a literal stop-in-my-tracks moment when I saw this: “Mesa Enchantress,” by Randy Gallegos. It was done for a Magic the Gathering card — and if I’d realized MtG cards could be so beautiful, I would’ve started collecting them ages ago. She sort of resembles my mental image of the protagonist of Book 2 — not the hairstyle/clothing, of course, and Oree’s eyes are more of a no-color because she’s blind, and Oree’s darker-skinned. …OK, she looks nothing like Oree. =) But the spirit is there — the unworldliness underlain by pragmatism, which is how I interpret the Mesa Enchantress’ expression… and her staff. It’s natural and pretty, but it’s also a bigass stick.
It’s rare for fantasy art to speak to me this way. The only other examples I can think of are the odd piece by Todd Lockwood or Michael Whelan, and usually it’s landscapes that intrigue me, not characters. I’ll be keeping an eye on this Gallegos guy.
February 6th, 2009
• Comments Off on Facebook now! • Myself
So after discovering that Twitter would not eat me (and in fact, I rather like it), I decided to brave my second-greatest dread: Facebook. Which I am now on; look for Nora Jemisin. I’ll be posting updates re my writer life there as well as here in this blog, and will also be using it to keep an eye on some other interesting folk who, lo and behold, haven’t been eaten by Facebook either. Imagine that!
I’m pretty much accepting all friend requests, and reciprocating if people don’t seem to mind. But sometimes I forget to check my profile there for a day or two, so bear with me if it takes a bit of time. =)
February 4th, 2009
• Comments Off on Schedule reset • Progress
So, back in August when I quit my dayjob and dedicated myself to The Writer Life ™, I set up this anal little program to try and keep myself on track, because I feared my ability to do so without official work hours and a commute, etc., to frame my day. I’m a Virgo; I need structure. The plan basically went like this:
Rise by 9 a.m. every day. Breakfast.
Bike to gym, work out at least 45 minutes.
Bike to coffee shop; write for several hours. Daily wordcount should be at least 1500, but will aim for 2000. Aim to spend less than $10 on coffee, lunch, and nibblies while I work. Will aim for not-so-sugary nibblies.
Go home and shower. Cook healthy meal. Go do errands or whatever daily stuff I need to do.
Come home, eat. Track calories on SparkPeople.
I will permit myself either one glass of wine or one dessert in the evenings.
Go to bed by 2 a.m.
Did this, more or less, for all of 2 months before moving to a new apartment destroyed the routine. In the past few days I’ve realized just how far off-track I’ve drifted (I routinely stay up ’til 4 a.m., frex), so time to recalibrate now that I’ve broken ground on Book 3. My new proposed plan is as follows:
Get up by 9 a.m. every day. Breakfast.
Bike/train to gym (at least 4 days/week; aim for 5) for workout of at least 1 hour (aim for 75 mins). On Saturdays, additionally bike to Farmer’s Market and library.
Bike/train to coffee shop or home; write for several hours. Daily wordcount should be at least 1000. Aim to spend less than $25/week on coffee and nibblies, which should be easy since I now have an office at home and no longer have to go to the coffee shop to get anything done.
Come home, shower, cook healthy meal. Eat if staying in. Eat lightly if going out, so I don’t eat so much while I’m out.
Aim to spend less than $50/week on eating out — tough in NYC, but I’ve got to rein that in; it’s my worst vice, and does me damage both financially and healthwise.
Permit myself 1 glass of wine, 1 hot chocolate (with a dash of Baileys and marshmallows if I so desire), 1 mulled apple cider, or dessert in the evenings. The hot chocolate and cider are seasonal things; my craving for them should fade as the weather warms again.
If I have to eat more, popcorn.
Go to bed by 2 am.
Have joined a small online group with friends also working on a novel for additional motivation. Hopefully that will help. So, wish me luck!
February 3rd, 2009
• Comments Off on Shirley Jackson Awards Lottery • Causes
Get it? A lottery. See, there’s this story… uh. Yeah.
Anyway, the Shirley Jackson Awards fundraiser will be getting started on February 9th, and there’s some truly stunning prizes up for grabs. Lottery tickets are only $1, and best of all!! by going to the lottery details page, you might get to see one of the best spoofy webads I’ve seen in a long time. (OK, that’s not the only reason to visit that page. The SJ logo also contains the cutest pair of schoolmarm glasses!)
This? Go buy it. I know the author, yes, and she’s good. I’m not saying that because she’s my friend, but because she’s good. I remain jealous of her short story-writing ability. Her metaphors leave me breathless. I read this novel’s early draft back when I was in the BRAWLers writing group, and it kicked ass. I’m sure it kicks harder in its final form. So gird your buttocks, intrepid reader, and go forth to Amazon or a bookstore near you, and buy it.
That’s one small step for peer pressure, one (hopefully) giant leap for a really good new author!
I am utterly in love with this video by Janelle Monae, which has been blowing up my friends’ lists all over the blogosphere:
I bought the album, which you should do too if you like this song. The whole thing kicks ass. The cyberpunkish theme continues throughout the album, with nods to Philip K. Dick, Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, anime, and more. I also love the way she weaves in the old stuff — James Brown and Little Richard most obviously, but Parliament Funkadelic, The Brother From Another Planet, and Sun-Ra too. Also, that “doo doo doo” thing she does? Does the tune sound familiar? It’s from this, which was done by the Pointer Sisters back when I was growing up, and which gives me a total nostalgia buzz.
It’s always so thrilling to see another black geek. Sometimes I feel a little alone out here, ya’ll — but truth is, I’m not. The older I get, the more signs I see that there are actually quite a few of us out there, soldiering on in various fields and being true to ourselves in ways that society often resists. For example, there are only two other black female fantasy writers, to my knowledge — Nnedi Okorafor in children’s/YA fiction, and Carole McDonnell in small* press. I can’t think of a single black male in fantasy. What’s up with that? Yet I’m seeing more and more of us emerging in hip hop. To me, that suggests a bigger support network for artists there.
Speaking of support networks, the folks in my current and former writing groups, and some friends, have now read the first draft of Book 2 and graciously given me feedback on it. (The bruises are purpling nicely, thanks.) So for the next 9 days, I’m going to be doing virtually nothing but revising. Guess I’ll be listening to a lot of Janelle Monae. Wish me luck!
Am also — shhh! — beginning work on Book 3. Writing some test chapters to get a feel for it. The “shhh” is because the ideas are very fragile in my head right now, and messing with them too much may make them bolt or mutate. (The latter is not necessarily a bad thing… but the former is equally likely, so…) So be vewwwy vewwwy quiet and don’t ask me about it until I get the outline down!
Also, I’m in the “New Member Focus” of the latest (December/January) SFWA Bulletin! I’m not sure this bulletin is available to anyone who’s not a SFWA member, or I’d urge people to run out and buy it. If you’re really interested in getting the Bulletin, maybe contact SFWA and ask. They did a nice little interview with me, which I’ll ask them about reprinting here.
And that’s the news in Noraland.
* I’m not sure Juno/Prime counts as small press, because I’m not sure how such things are measured. I’m calling them small only because they’re new, and thus far not owned by a multinational corporate entity (that I know of). They put out great stuff, is all I know.