In mid-February, I needed to be rushed to the emergency room and spent 12 days in the hospital. It’s the first time I’ve been hospitalized since I was a child. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the emergency room and hospital for family members, but being there for yourself is different.
I was particularly crushed because I ended up missing Boskone. I had been selected to moderate and serve on panels, I was scheduled for a reading, and I was the primary representative of the dealer table for Water Dragon Publishing.
That said, it was fascinating, as a biologist, to see medical science up close. I underwent a number of procedures that generated fantastic amounts of data and it was interesting to see how the medical practitioners used those data to falsify some hypotheses and make others. I discovered a lot about myself and much of it was reassuring: I do have some chronic medical conditions that will require long-term treatment. But many of the scariest possibilities were excluded and it was encouraging to learn that those that remain can likely be managed.
I was cared for by more than 50 people during my stay, the majority of them nurses. Nurses are amazing. I have new-found respect for nurses who must accomplish many thankless tasks while providing emotional support yet, at the same time, must be prepared to enforce the rules on a patient that deviates from the care guidelines. It’s a delicate dance.
It gave me an idea for a new Better Angels story which will hopefully make it to the Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy before too long: the working title is “Better Angels and the Nighty-Night Nurses.”
Note: I selected the image for this post because it is my “medicine basket”. Many years ago, I traveled to the desert southwest and visited a museum where, among the displays, was a medicine basket that had been discovered in a archaeological dig which had a whole variety of interesting items inside: ground minerals, feathers, dried plants, bones, etc. which researchers believed were used by a shaman for ritualistic purposes. And I was seized with the inspiration to make one for myself. So I purchased a basket at a native market and have collected all kinds of weird things that I keep in mine.
I’m been myopic and needed glasses since I was in middle school. Around the time, I turned 40, I asked my optometrist about when I might need to start using reading glasses. He looked over his glasses at me and said, “You’ll know.” Sure enough, a few years later, I discovered my arms weren’t long enough anymore and I got progressive lenses.
I’ve been very happy with progressive lenses for most things: you just rock your head up and down and things generally just come into focus. When you’re first getting used to them, you have to be careful because there are certain things you simply can’t focus on anymore — like your feet — and it’s easy to trip until you get used to it.
During the pandemic, I got a second monitor and set it up in portrait mode next to my computer. It’s awesome for looking at whole documents (and most responsive web pages). But, I discovered that it was really hard to focus on the top region of the monitor because I had to tilt my head way back. So I decided to invest in some “computer glasses”.
Computer glasses are dedicated to a single, middle-distance focal area. Stuff is out of focus both close up and far away. But the whole region of the computer is in perfect focus, which makes all kinds of stuff easier. It’s been a great investment and makes doing my computer work significantly easier.
I’ve also found they’re great for cooking. I had never noticed, but it’s hard to read the spice bottles over my head above the stove. With the computer classes, the whole range, counters, and cabinets are in focus.
To be clear(er) Water Dragon Publishing has been developing a short fiction program for several years called “Dragon Gems”. Novelettes accepted for publication get their own individually designed cover and are published as both ebooks and printed books. Shorter fiction is now collected together in quarterly anthologies.
I submitted a novelette, The Third Time’s the Charm, to the Dragon Gems program which was accepted for publication. I then succeeded in persuading my (soft-hearted? soft-headed?) editor to open-endedly serialize subsequent novelettes as Revin’s Heart.
In the end, I wrote seven novelettes with the intention of collecting them together as a fix-up (along with several side-stories.) I did it partly because, like Charlie Jane, I really like episodic fiction. (Tho partly it was also because that’s where I was in my fiction writing at that point — I hadn’t written any longer fiction and I was nervous about taking on longer projects.) It’s worked out well for me as it’s given me a year where every three or four months I could go back and promote something. As a new author, it must be difficult to publish a debut novel and then say, “Well, I’ll be back in two years.”
Now, Water Dragon has asked me to write some new stories extending my Better Angels stories with the goal of eventually developing a collection. So far, I’ve written seven stories (maybe eight, depending on how you count). So I expect you’ll be seeing more of those this year.
I’ve now helped run the dealer table for Water Dragon at Worldcon, ComicCon, and Arisia (and, in a few weeks, Boskone ). It’s been interesting to see the reactions that readers have to the Dragon Gems. A number of people have said that, for whatever reason — pandemic, social media, dystopia, planetary collapse, take your pick — they are looking for shorter fiction and the Dragon Gems are just what they want. Similarly, many authors have stopped by and been giddy to see that Water Dragon accepts novelettes.
And neither of them are talking about Amazon’s Kindle Vella or Radish which are yet further takes on serialized fiction.
In any event, I was very pleased to see Charlie Jane’s post because it dovetails with my experience perfectly. There’s a lot of short fiction out there, but the market for it is broken. And there are too few mechanisms for people to discover it.
Only a month after Arisia, I will be returning to Boston to appear at Boskone where I will be reprising my role coordinating the dealer table for Water Dragon Publishing and serving on a variety of panels.
I’ve never attended a full Boskone before, but I did drive over for a day a few years ago. It was great. So I’m really looking forward to it this year.
It’s a little tricky because I have to teach a class in Amherst at 1:25. But I’ve made arrangements with my department to teach my class via Zoom and then I will run downstairs for my first appearance.
Below are the program elements where I’m appearing:
Serving up a Tasty World (Friday 4pm in Burroughs)
Inventive gastronomy can really spice up speculative fiction. We look at how food and local cuisine can explore character, society, setting, gender, and more. Our panelists dish on the culinary delights that tantalize us in fiction, from regional teas to tasty grubs and kingly feasts. How can we redefine, re-imagine, or recover the historical aspects of the kitchen and the cook fire in fiction? And what should you know about writing food-centric scenes that sizzle?
Reading (Sat 12:30pm in Griffin)
I’ll be reading with Laurence Raphael Brothers!
In Our Own Voices (Sat 7pm in Marina 2)
The world is a many-splendored and wondrous thing! If you are from a marginalized community, how do you tell your story? What restricts your opportunities to do so? For what audience do you write? Where can your voice be heard? Our panelists discuss why this is important.
Disability in Speculative Fiction (Sun 10am in Galleria Meetup 1)
Disability takes many forms, both visible and invisible. In the past, characters in the background were often given disabilities just to check the diversity box, but that’s changing. We take a look at disabled characters across the speculative fiction genres and how their disabilities are featured within their stories, the roles they take, and the types of stories they tell. Why don’t we see more disabilities in stories that take place in eras or worlds without decent medical services? And what does it take to tell these stories well? And why are they so important?
Bioethical Issues Raised by SF (Sun 11:30 in Marina 2)
Ongoing advances in biotechnology and biomedical research have delivered some important benefits and promise more. But they’ve also brought ethical concerns, new moral dilemmas, and calls for moratoria or fresh regulation. There may or may not be something wrong with playing God: but are we playing blind? What might we unleash with stem cell research, modified viruses, bioengineered cures, self-replicating nanobots, cloning, and regrowth of organs or limbs?
I attended the Arisia science fiction convention in Boston for the first time. I signed up to be a participant and also agreed to set up and run the booth in the dealer room for Water Dragon Publishing. In other news, I am also a masochist and glutton for punishment. In fact, I had a great time. But it was not without complications.
The books came late. I had been planning to leave midday on Thursday to drive during the daylight, but a critical box of books wasn’t scheduled to arrive until Thursday. All we knew was that it was to be before 9pm. The day came and we had snow changing over to rain. I waited and waited. I was in a perpetual flight/flight state waiting for the books to arrive. But, once they did, I was fine. I drove to Boston, found a parking spot right by the elevator, and was good.
At one point during shipment, the tracking website had gone haywire and I worried the books might not actually arrive on Thursday, so I thought it prudent to make a backup plan. I asked a friend if he thought he might be able to drive to Boston if the box didn’t come until later. I was on the program on Friday, so I really couldn’t wait. But everything turned out OK. Except my friend had cleared the possible trip with his wife who then expressed interest in driving to Boston even in the absence of any need. But another box of books arrived Friday, so he brought that one. (And now he claims he’s mad at me because of how much his wife made him spend at the Ikea store, but that’s another story. 🙂
Yet another heavy box of books arrived on Monday. But that too is yet another story.
I was signed up to moderate a panel on Intersections Between Ecofiction and Science Fiction. I had been a bit concerned that I had been unable to reach the participants ahead of time. (It was new that you had to opt-in to share your address and many participants seemingly hadn’t understood that.) But they changed the participant list a couple of times and then finally closed the panel for a lack of participants. So that was a little disappointing.
I was a participant in a panel on Gender & Sexual Identity Representation in Media. I was really excited about this one because one of the participants of a similar panel at Worldcon that I had moderated was to be the moderator of the panel. But when I saw the final list, he wasn’t on it anymore. And when I went to room where that panel had been scheduled, it wasn’t there either. Luckily, since I always leave plenty of time, I was able to look up where it had been moved to and I was still the first one there.
I always worry that I won’t find anything to say when I’m a panelist but I’ve always found that if you stick a microphone in front of me, I can babble surprisingly cogently at length about almost anything. I was able to offer a number of perspectives that the audience and other panelists seemed to appreciate. And I learned a lot too, although I wished I had a keyboard so I could have taken better notes.
I was also scheduled for a reading. The session I was signed up for had five people on it and included another Water Dragon author, so that was exciting. But I got an email asking me if I was willing to be flexible so they could rejigger things. I said sure, so they moved me to the next day but there were only three of us, so I got 20 minutes instead of just 10. But more excitingly one was James Cambias. I had seen him read at the Odyssey Bookshop several years ago with Elizabeth Bear and Max Gladstone. And I just been scheduled for a panel with him moderating at Boskone. And he had just stopped by the Water Dragon booth and I had had a chance to catch up with him. So this was just icing on the cake.
The reading went well. We had been chatting ahead of time and I had mentioned Better Angels and the Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy, so everyone called on me to read from that first. So I did. As I was reading it, I was like “Wow. She keeps saying ‘Master’ a lot. Is that really OK anymore? And Gaetz says the F-word a fuck of a lot times. Shit! Was this really a good idea?” Then Amy J. Murphy read for 10 minutes. Then Jim read for the full 20 minutes. It was fabulous — a really funny bit. I read a scene from Crossing the Streams and Amy read another from her books. It was a small audience, no more than 10, but enthusiastic and generous.
I had been really worried about being responsible for running the table in the dealer room, but everything went great. I was able to roll everything in Thursday night and set up Friday morning. We had two tables set in an L shape. I had the insight that the corner would be the prime real-estate so I set my stuff up on one corner and left the center and other corner for my two co-conspirators.
Neither of the authors helping run the table were actually Water Dragon authors. One was Kathryn Sullivan who has been attending conventions and selling books for decades. She had two middle-grade fantasy books and an anthology. She had connected with us via a friend and it was great to have her help and insight. The other was a new author, Greg Stone, who’s been published by Paper Angel Press (the general publisher of which Water Dragon is an imprint). Among the books I had been waiting for was his first novel, a cozy mystery set in Vermont. And my friend brought the hardcovers on Saturday.
I had fun interacting with readers who came up to the table. I’ve developed a pretty good line of patter for many of the books, though I don’t know all of them well enough to say something meaningful. Some people just want to browse silently. Others want a whole tour. I’ve tried to adopt a just-in-time approach to providing information. When someone is looking at the short fiction, I would say, “Anything that isn’t marked is probably $5.” Or when they got to the Truck Stop stories to explain what the Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy is. “Like Callahans,” one old-timer said.
A number of other dealers were unhappy with the low attendance and, in particular, that the con-suite wasn’t co-located with the dealer room. Evidently, that was a big draw that brought many people through the dealer room to get snacks and drinks. But they had put it somewhere else mainly to protect us from people not wearing masks while they ate/drank, so I couldn’t fault them.
When things wrapped up, I was very grateful for the help of my co-conspirators and was able to get a prompt start driving home. Google initially told me I was on the fastest route, but then started trying to get me to get off the ‘pike and drive through Boston to get to Route 2. I turned off Google and just accepted that I would be delayed a bit on the ‘pike. And I was. But I got home in good order and went to bed just a couple of hours later, utterly exhausted.
I could tell you about the next day, but that would be yet ANOTHER other story.
Woohoo! I will be attending Arisia 2023 in Boston January 13-16, 2023. I will be moderating one panel, serving on another, and offering a reading. I attended Arisia virtually last year, but this will be my first time attending in person.
The reading is at 2:30pm on Saturday, January 14. Wow! I could not be more excited by a group of peers to read with!
I will be a panelist on Gender & Sexual Identity Representation in Media at 8:30pm on Saturday, January 14. This is a topic I’ve been struggling with since I started publishing and I’m very interested to share what I’ve learned and compare notes with peers that have been doing this longer than I have.
Water Dragon Publishing will also have a table in the dealer room and several authors will be in attendance, if you want to purchase signed copies of books.
If I’d looked, I’d have noticed I could just link to my whole schedule rather than cobbling something together by hand. Live and learn.
I had a fantastic year writing and realized a number of important things. I aimed at writing longer fiction for the first time. I also attended a number of conventions and paid attention more to the business of writing and publishing. I might describe it, in reflection, as a year of transition between being a writer and an author. (And here’s my Year in Writing:2021 from last year.)
I only made about 20 formal submissions for short fiction this year and received three acceptances. An odd little genre-defying story, Something Else to Do was accepted for the anthology Modern Magic by Knight Writing Press. The story Imaginary Friends was published in the anthology The Future’s So Bright. And The Right Motivation appeared in Corporate Catharsis: The work from home edition. But that’s not all I published.
In total, I wrote about 140,000 words in 2022. Not mentioned above, I wrote several side stories intended for the Revin’s Heart fix-up: Where There’s a Will (the story of how Will and Grip meet and fall in love), Curtains Rise (the back story of how Will met the Baron (Grip’s father)), and Riva’s Escape, the origin story of how Revin transitioned. I also wrote a novel (barely): A Familiar Problem, for which I also wrote a side-story (A Different Midsummer Night’s Dream). I’m just finishing a novelette/novela with the origin of neoboxers for the Truck Stop series. And finally, I’ve started a new novel project, The Ground Never Lies, for which I’ve written a pilot.
Writing the side stories got me to realize that I love writing fan fiction — I just love writing it about my own writing. But every one I’ve written has given me deeper insight into the characters and world building.
In August, I was interviewed by the Small Publishing in a Big Universe podcast (the interview aired in December) and, in October, I was a “guest interviewer” which gave me the chance to interview Francesca Forrest, which was a lot of fun. I don’t personally have the patience to listen to podcasts very often. But being interviewed and interviewing other people is fun, so maybe I should do it more often.
I joined two writing organizations in 2022. The Straw Dog Writer’s Guild is a regional writer support network. I’ve participated in workshops, readings and have joined the Program Committee to help coordinate events. The Science Fiction Writers Association (SFWA) is a professional association for writers of science fiction and fantasy. I was unable to attend their annual meeting, the Nebulas, because it conflicted with my union’s annual meeting. Hopefully this year, that won’t be an issue. But I participate in their weekly Writing Date events (and even hosted one!) and use their Discord server to interact with other authors.
Finally, I read slush for the first time. It was unbelievably helpful to see less polished writing than what gets published. I was like, “Oh! So this is what they mean when they say, ‘Show, don’t tell’!” This may have been as helpful as anything else I’ve done all year to help improve my writing. Although just getting editorial feedback on my writing continues to be helpful. And I’ve noticed that my most recent writing requires less editing than my older writing, which encourages me to think that my writing is improving.
Overall, It was a great year in writing and I look forward to another great year to come!
When I first wrote The Third Time’s the Charm, it was more like the first chapter of a book than it was a short story. So I had a sense of the larger story that lay beyond the initial foray. But, to be honest, I only had the vaguest idea of the overall arc of the story. I hadn’t made many of the important world building decisions. I went through many rounds of revisions to give it a satisfying arc of its own, but the rest was still there, taunting me and I really wanted to tell the whole story. It speaks volumes that Water Dragon Publishing was willing to take the risk to serialize Revin’s Heart and give me more-or-less free rein to develop the story as I wanted.
I wrote For the Favor of a Lady, primarily to learn more about the characters. I had only the vaguest idea about Grip’s origins. When I wrote Storm Clouds Gather, the Etheric Storm Generator arc presented itself which led directly to Crossing the Streams. And it was at that time, that the shape of the rest of the series took form. But I still had to get from here to there: that’s what The End of His Rope is: a bridge between the earlier arcs and the arcs that follow. It also introduces a couple of important new characters and gives us an opportunity gain more insight into Revin’s character.
As with previous parts, there are many (of what I hope are) “warm, fun interactions between likable characters”. And there are several of the dramatic airship scenes that I know are popular with readers. And some nail-biting action. And, if I say so myself, the ending is particularly satisfying and really sets the stage for the last two parts that follow.
After I finished writing Revin’s Heart, I wrote three side-stories that recount events where Revin is not present. Since Revin’s Heart is told from his point-of-view, these couldn’t be included. But I thought readers that had gotten to know the characters might enjoy seeing how they came to end up where they had. The first of these, Where There’s a Will, is about how Will and Grip met and fell in love (this is teased in For the Favor of a Lady).
“Just how long have you and Will been together,” Revin asked.
“It will be two years next week. On Thursday.” Grip said.
“You know it to the day. That’s very sweet,” Revin said.
Grip looked down, blushing. But he looked happy. “They’ve been the best two years of my life.”
“How did you meet?” Revin asked.
“Oh, that’s a long story for another time,” Grip replied.
from For the Favor of a Lady
The second, Curtains Rise, describes the history that Will and the Baron, (Grip’s father) share. This is teased in Storm Clouds Gather.
Then Will saw the Baron and stopped dead in his tracks.
“Well met, William,” the Baron said.
“It’s Curtains!” Will said.
“What?” Grip said, looking back and forth between the two of them.
“Curtains! That’s what they called him back when…” Will said, then broke off when he caught the Baron’s expression. “I’ll… I’ll tell you sometime later.”
from Storm Clouds Gather
These stories were a delight for me to write. But there was one more side story I decided that I really needed to write: Revin’s origin story. That is, the story of his transition from a woman to man.
I was worried about writing this story because I knew it was going to require to me to make a number of choices that might not support choices I had made in writing Revin’s Heart. But, when I had finished, I was was pleased with the results that required no more than token changes to the stories. And gave me a lot of deeper insight into Revin’s character.
I’m telling this story now because I realized when a beta reader reviewed the manuscript, that there were a number of unanswered questions about the series that some readers would want to know that I now knew the answers to. And there were a couple of perfect scenes that I could elaborate in the The End of His Rope that would allow me to tell this story. So I did. Long after the manuscript was “done” I got it out again and added a thousand words. I hope you’ll be pleased with the results.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that most of the software products I use generate a preview when I paste a link into them. When sharing a microblog or social media post, these often include the whole post and/or image, which seems convenient because your interlocutor can immediately see what you’re talking about without clicking through. How handy! Or is it?
I realized recently that this behavior leaks information back to the originating website. I discovered a particularly egregious form when I copied the text of an article and, when I pasted it, found that the site had pre-pended an offensive warning about sharing the article with a link up top — probably as a tripwire so they could collect information about people doing exactly that.
I had noticed that this was already a risk if you didn’t carefully edit the URL BEFORE pasting, to remove session information that often appears after the question mark in a URL. Otherwise, it follows the link before you can edit.
But I think now I’m just going to turn this behavior off. If I can.
Back in August, I was interviewed for the Small Publishing in a Big Universe Podcast. To be honest, I can’t remember it all that well: I remember babbling incoherently for a long time and then the interviewer finally said, “OK, OK. Got it. Put a sock in it. You can stop talking now. Sheesh! We had enough half an hour ago!” *
It was a wonderful experience, to be honest. It was fun to have a chance to chat about my writing experience and to reflect on my first year as a published author.
But now, after having been edited, the podcast is ready for you to enjoy in all its glory. (And for me, because, as I say, I have absolutely no recollection of what I said. :-))
In October, I got the opportunity to be on the other side of the microphone when I interviewed Francesca Forrest. It was a blast to talk to another author about their writing. Her interview should be ready early next year.
* Note: Some people’s individual recollections regarding these events may differ.