Wednesday, May 28, 2014

WisCon 38 Wrapup

It's hard to believe this was my fifteenth WisCon. As always, it passed much too fast, and I was torn in several different directions. Here's the recap:

Alex had a play at school Friday afternoon, so once that and the reception were over, we were able to leave. We arrived in Madison around 5:00, which is earlier than we’ve managed in the last few years. After checking in, I dropped off some books at the Broad Universe table, where I ran into some friends. We went out for dinner and stopped by a chocolate store for dessert, where we saw more friends. However, by the time we got back to the hotel, Alex, Eugene, and I were all pretty tired, so I skipped the opening ceremonies/parties.

I woke up early Saturday morning because that’s just how it is with me.  At least I had plenty of time to swim and attend the Farmers’ Market before heading to panels. My panel focus this year was learning about diversity so I can write well-rounded, diverse characters. I was on a panel called What Is Science in Feminist SF, and it went well (though I’m not sure if we answered the question if classifying a work as “soft SF” discriminated against women authors). Then I took my turn at the Broad Universe table for two hours before attending two more panels.  They were How to Ally (which was a good panel) and Non-Binary Genders (which proved less helpful than I thought it would be).

 For dinner, I had vegetable sushi and gelato with my family, and we also had a family swim before Alex and Eugene retired. I went to the parties, which seemed smaller and quieter this year. The Tor party was noticeably absent. I stopped by the haiku party to exchange a poem for a pair of earrings and give the hostess a copy of Life at Seventeen Syllables a Day. Somehow, I even found the energy to attend a late-night panel on Bisexuals in Science Fiction. By the time it ended at midnight, I was ready for bed.

On Sunday, I attended four panels and participated in the Broad Universe reading. The panels were on The Corporation as Character (OK), Women of Color in SFF (good), Is SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) Relevant? (good), and Where Have the Bisexuals Gone? (OK).  Since I’m Readings/Events Coordinator for Broad Universe, I had lunch with one of the officers and brainstormed ways to make it easier for members to run tables at other cons. Afterwards, I introduced her to my favorite Madison store, The Soap Opera. For dinner, Eugene, Alex, and I visited local college friends. We had a good time, but we got back so late I missed the GoH speeches. I read the transcripts, which you can find on N.K. Jemisin’s and Hiromi Goto’s blogs.

After packing up Monday morning, I attended a reading (Hard Chargers, featuring women who write hard SF) before participating in the Sign Out. Jemisin was kind enough to sign my hard copy of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and I talked with some other authors as well.

I didn’t make a lot of sales at this con, but I made a couple. I also met some other indie authors, so it’s good to expand my network. Hopefully I’ll be able to attend some more local conventions between now and next WisCon. WisCon, however, will always be my favorite con.

Edited to add: I meant to mention this earlier about the SFWA panel, but they are looking into ways of qualifying indie writers as members. It sounds like it may take a while before they decide to do it, however, and I'm not sure what the delay is. Maybe some members don't want to make it too easy to join. For me personally, I know for a long time joining SFWA was one of my goals as a writer, as a sign that I'd "made it." I don't feel the same way about SFWA anymore; I'd have to see what benefits it would offer me as an indie (or even hybrid author) before deciding to join. But despite the unpleasant incidents in the last couple of years, I'd still consider it. After all, the more people who join SFWA, the more diverse it will be--and hopefully more welcoming to all writers.

Friday, May 23, 2014

WisCon Schedule and Amazon Sale!

Today I'll be headed to WisCon as I have almost every Memorial Day weekend since 1998. (The exception was 2007, when I was nine months pregnant and forbidden to travel. I had Alex just a couple of days after WisCon ended, so I guess it was a good thing.) Here's my schedule for the weekend:

What is Science in Feminist SF? Sat, 10:00--11:15 am

Broad Universe Reading, Sun, 2:30--3:45 pm

The SignOut, Mon, 11:30--12:45 pm

I also plan to be at the Broad Universe table, though I don't know when yet. If the Broads band together for a meal, I plan to join that too. That will also be scheduled at the convention.

In honor of WisCon, I've decided to hold a weekend sale on three of my eBooks. Lyon's Legacy will be $0.99, Twinned Universes will be $2.99, and Life at Seventeen Syllables a Day: A Journal in Haiku will be free! (The final deal doesn't start until Saturday, but the other two are already available.)  This sale will run through Monday, so pick up some reading for your holiday weekend. I'm not sure yet if there will be a BRoP interview Monday, but there will be a WisCon recap either Monday or Wednesday.

Science of the Week, 5/23/14

Here are some of the most interesting science news stories I read this week:

Illuminating neuron activity in 3D

Scientists discover how to turn light into matter after 80-year quest

New, fossil-fuel-free process makes biodiesel sustainable

The biomechanics behind amazing ant strength

Superhydrophobic material developed that makes water bounce like a ball

Magnetic Levitation Train Could Reach Speeds Of 1,800 Miles Per Hour

 Doctors restore motion to a paralyzed hand

Female pigs recognize the sex of sperm

Stay tuned; there's another post coming today.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


I was planning to post my WisCon schedule today, but I think I'll postpone that one until Friday. In the meantime, I recently discovered AudaVoxx, a service for audiobook lovers and authors with audiobooks.

AudaVoxx is going to send out weekly newsletters about audiobooks. The newsletters will be broken down by genre and vetted for quality (based on the audiobook/eBook reviews). There may also be giveaways listed. If you want to receive the newsletter, you can sign up here. And if you're an author or audiobook producer, you can take out an ad in the newsletter. Go here first to read the requirements, then click here to submit an ad. As an introductory offer, all ads booked before May 30th are free, so go ahead and give it a try!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Blog Ring of Power--Ripley Patton

Today on the Blog Ring of Power we have Ripley Patton, author of Ghost Hand and Ghost Hold. She's currently running a Kickstarter to help her publish the third book in the series, Ghost Heart, and you can check it out HERE. This is the first part of her interview; you can find the rest of it at the following links:

The Writing Life
The Creative Process
About Your Current Work
Words of Wisdom

How long have you been writing?

I started writing for publication in 2005, mostly short stories, and sold my first story that year. I loved the way short story writing allowed me to experiment with genre, form, craft, and style, all without the huge commitment of a novel-length work. It was my literary playground and I romped happily in it for five years, publishing over 25 stories in online and print magazines and anthologies. I even won a Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Short Story 2009. But ultimately, I wanted to make a living at writing, so I decided to turn my attention to longer works of fiction. I've been writing novels now for four years and I love it.

Tell us about your early works—what was the first thing you ever wrote?

I wrote my first poem when I was thirteen. It was titled "When She Dies, She Flies," and was one way I processed the death of my mother to terminal cancer. I still have it on the original yellowed paper in my swirly teen handwriting. I wrote a lot of poetry as a teenager and that was when I learned that writing makes meaning. It creates order out of chaos and beauty out of pain. Now, I understand that poetry is the gateway drug to other writing. Almost every writer I know started as a poet and it escalated from there. 

When did you first consider yourself a professional writer?

I remember the exact moment I decided to BE a writer, to call myself that and not let anyone call me anything else. I was walking in the woods at my parent's house beside my older brother. And I just suddenly realized I was going to do it, so I told him. "I've decided to be a writer. I'm not going back to that other thing that makes me money." And he said something doubtful, but I don't even remember what he said, because it didn't matter. I wasn't telling him. I was telling me.

What genre do you write?

My short stories vary in genre from sci-fi, to fantasy, to literary. However, my fiction series, The PSS Chronicles, is young adult paranormal fiction. One reason I write YA is because I love to read it. I love its unassuming voice, its sense of humor, its innocence and energy and fearlessness to tackle current issues. I think because I started writing at thirteen, that is how old my writer self is and she really likes those stories about people her age. 

What is your favorite theme/genre to write about?

I tend to write about death, fear, and loss. These are all things I experienced at a young age, as I think many young people do, and grappling with them in the fictional realm helped me grapple with them in the real world. I've heard people complain that YA has gotten dark, and that is a bad thing. But I think YA has always had its dark side. Crossing over from childhood to adulthood isn't easy. In fact, it's damn hard. And our young people are dealing with darker stuff than my generation had to. Why wouldn't we write that into our stories and give them a safe place to wrestle their demons?

GHOST HAND: Seventeen-year-old Olivia Black has a rare birth defect known as Psyche Sans Soma, or PSS. Instead of a right hand made of flesh and blood, she was born with a hand made of ethereal energy.
How does Olivia handle being the girl with the ghost hand? Well, she’s a little bit morbid and a whole lot snarky. 
Her mother thinks her obsession with death, black clothing, and the local cemetery is a bid for attention. But when Marcus, the new guy in Olivia’s calculus class, stares at her like she’s a freak, Olivia doesn’t like it. And when her hand goes rogue, doing things she never imagined possible, Olivia finds herself running for her life with Marcus from a group of men bent on taking the power of her hand for their own nefarious purposes.

GHOST HOLD: Olivia Black is back.
 Only this time she’s not the one in need of rescue.
Samantha James, rich, popular, and an award-winning composer at age seventeen, is the next target on the CAMFers’ list. In order to convince Samantha to come with them, Olivia and Passion must pose as cousins, blend into the most affluent high school in Indianapolis, and infiltrate a mysterious cult known as The Hold.
Olivia doesn’t expect it to be easy, even with the PSS guys backing them up. But what she discovers over the course of the mission will call into question everything she ever believed about herself, her family, and especially about Marcus, the guy she is undoubtedly falling in love with.
You can find Ripley at the following links:


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Submission Call--First Annual Indie-pendence Day Anthology

This is a repost from Indie Writers Monthly.

Announcing the first ever 

COMING ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, it's the first-ever anthology of stories by indie writers to bear the INDIE WRITERS MONTHLY stamp of approval*, and we want YOU to be a part of it.

The anthology is going to be a collection of stories about Time Travel, and here is HOW YOU CAN GET IN ON THIS:
A. Have a story about time travel, or write one.
2.  Submit that story to us, by June 15, 2014.  (send submissions to litaplaceforstories[at]** and label them "IWM TIME TRAVEL ANNUAL" or something like that.)
THIS IS IMPORTANT: paste the story directly into the of the email.  

III. Make sure you have the rights to the stories and it'd be nice if it hadn't been published somewhere else.  
Word limits? Who do you think you're talking to, here? Because there'll only be a few weeks to read them, shoot for somewhere between 1 and 1,000 words, but if you go longer, by all means, go longer.

Still reading?  Good.  Here is WHY you want to get in on this!

8(a)2.: The stories we like the best will get put into the anthology and you'll be a published writer! 

C: There are prizes! Specifically, the story picked as best by the IWM gang will win a $15 Amazon Gift Card and the Runner Up will get a $10 Amazon Gift Card

So there you have it!  I look forward to getting those stories.
PSST? Want to read some of my own time-travel stories? Check out 

HEADLINE: “Time Travel Is Only Possible In One Direction, Scientists Say.” Subhead: “Balderdash,” Tim says.

And here's a link to five 250-word time travel stories (and an essay on another one) 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Blog Ring of Power: C.J. Pinard

We're back with another Blog Ring of Power interview, this time with C.J. Pinard. You can find the other parts of the interview at the following links:

About You
The Creative Process
About Your Current Work
Words of Wisdom

What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine? Do you use pen and paper or computer? Work at home or at the library/Starbucks, etc.

I work at home, late at night, on my laptop (with connected keyboard). I have an office in the downstairs area of my house and I write after my kids are in bed. I have to have music, and not just one specific type. It depends on my mood.

How do you balance writing with other aspects of your life? 

This is tough, I have a fulltime job and two kids at home, so like I said before, I’m usually writing late at night.

How much time per day do you spend on your writing? 

I try to devote 1-2 hours. Sometimes I do more, sometimes I don’t do any at all.
Other than your family, what has been your greatest source of support? 

Honestly? Other authors. Nobody understands this process like a fellow author. I have three or four I talk to regularly about books and publishing, and they’ve become good friends and confidantes and a huge help. They’re invaluable, actually.

How do you deal with rejection and/or negative reviews?

No author likes negative reviews. Some can be helpful though. It’s the ones that are mean or insult the author that are harder to deal with (and usually uncalled for).  That being said, I don’t expect everyone to like everything I write, and negative reviews come with the territory. They used to bother me, but now not so much.

C.J. is a west coast native who has lived on both coasts and now lives near the middle, in Colorado! Coming from a family of writers and editors, she feels writing is in her blood and hopes people will lose themselves for a little while in the fantasy and fun of her stories. She also loves sweet red wine, the SF 49ers, and unlike most authors, doesn't have any cats. When she's not writing, she can be found chasing around her kids or working at her day job, which she totally feels interferes with life, but it also sometimes gives her inspiration for her books, since reality usually is way more interesting than fiction.

Facebook page
Goodreads author page
Amazon Author Page
Smashwords Author Page

When 21-year-old Nolan Bishop meets a seductive woman named Eva at a dark club in downtown Shreveport, Louisiana, little does he know his soul will be gone as soon as she is. Realizing she’s taken something from him, he finds out he has a very limited time to destroy her before he turns into something sinister and inhuman. In a race against all that is holy, Nolan has to find Eva and get his soul back while trying not to fall in love with Charity, the twin sister of the succubus who took his soul – all in seven days.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

May Issue of Indie Writers Monthly Free 5/8--5/13

The May issue of Indie Writers Monthly is out! This month's theme is flowers, so the issue includes a new short story written by me just for this issue. (Set in the Season Avatars universe, the story features Jenna, a Summer Avatar who serves the God of Summer and has plant magic.) Also included is an interview with Pat Dilloway, tips on how to get more ideas, sites that will pay you for writing, and more. The issue is scheduled to be free from May 8th to May 13, so please go here to order it.

Update: Sorry, it's not free yet, but I will post when it does go free. If you can't wait, the issue is only $0.99 normal price.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Hard Science in Science Fiction

One of the programs I'm going to be on at WisCon Memorial Day weekend is called "What is Science in Feminist SF?" Here's the program description:

When we argue about whether women write more fantasy than SF, are we assuming a particular definition of science that should be questioned? And are we also applying gender bias when we assess the "hardness" of SF by men and women? 

I thought it would be useful to get some ideas from other readers and writers as to what works they consider hard science fiction. Does it matter which science is featured in the book? For example, is physics always a "harder" science than biology? (Here, hardness doesn't refer to how difficult the subject matter is but how rigorous and accurate the science is in the book.) What are your favorite examples of hard science fiction books? How important is "hardness" in your decision to read a particular book? Does it affect how much you enjoy the book or science fiction in general?

Monday, May 05, 2014

Using Adverbs Wisely

The Blog Ring of Power will return in a week or two, as soon as we can get them scheduled. If you're a science fiction or fantasy writer and are interested in being featured, please contact me. You can be either traditionally published or indie published, but we'd prefer authors who are new to BRoP. It might be best to e-mail me (see the e-mail address in the right-hand panel), since connecting Blogger and Google had the unfortunate side effect of making the comments harder to find. (You can still see them if you click on the right link, but they're all done through Google now.)

In the meantime, I thought I'd discuss the part of speech every author is taught to hate. I write, of course, of the dreaded adverb. We're all taught that using adverbs is a sign of lazy verbs and that we should ruthlessly expunge the adverbs from our writing. But is that always the case? Sometimes an adverb can give nuance to a verb or counter the verb's meaning. The best examples I can think of off the top of my head are instances like "frown gently" or "smile sadly." It's hard to capture the emotions behind this type of body language with a single word.

On the other hand, there are instance where an adverb seems superfluous, but is still used. For instance, one adverb I've been noticing a lot lately is "visibly." It's often used when a character other than the viewpoint character uses nonverbal gestures. For instance, someone might "shrug visibly." Maybe the adverb is meant to indicate that the POV character is watching this happen, but to me as a reader, I already know that and therefore find the adverb distracting. In fact, this adverb inspired this post.

I don't think the entire collection of adverbs needs to be discarded from a writer's vocabulary. I often use them myself, particularly when I'm blogging. But like every other word in a story, they need to earn their place. Does the meaning of the sentence change if the adverb is removed or if another verb is used? Does the adverb tell the reader something he or she should already know? Does the word contribute to the overall style or tone of the story? How many adverbs have been used already? Using a lot of them will give the story a different feel than using few or none.

How do you feel about adverbs? Do you have any pet peeves about them, either as an author or a reader?

Thursday, May 01, 2014

#WeNeedDiverseBooks Because....

I've shifted my blogging schedule slightly this week from Wednesday to Thursday to participate in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign.If you haven't heard of it, it's a social media movement calling for more diversity in children's literature, both in characters and in authors. You can find out more information here. The traditional publishing industry does not have the best track record when it comes to promoting diversity. Bookcon recently put together a panel of "the world's biggest children's authors" that was all white men. Despite protest, it's unclear if Bookcon will add any women or minority authors to this panel. Some books have been turned down for featuring characters that aren't "marketable" enough, and even when books with protagonists of color get traditionally published, sometimes the covers get whitewashed. (Here's one well-known example from a few years ago.)

The sad thing about these attempts to exclude diverse characters from children's fiction is that the youngest generation will not see itself reflected in these stories. According to the Publisher's Weekly article I linked to earlier, fifty percent of all U.S. children under the age of five are non-white. The fiction they grow up with needs to reflect, even celebrate, their reality.

In addition to needing a diverse group of characters and stories, we need diverse authors with firsthand experience of different cultures and backgrounds to tell these stories. I include characters of different racial and ethnic backgrounds in my work, but it's not always easy to do so accurately. For example, the next story in my SF Catalyst Chronicles series will feature Julia Kee, a minor character from Twinned Universes. I originally created the character as white, but when I changed her background, she became part Navajo. (Her father is pure Navajo, and her mother is also Hispanic and Scottish.) While I'm doing my best to research Navajo culture, I know I won't be able to use a lot of telling, authentic details because I'm outside of this culture. That said, I don't want to change Julia back, as she feels more vivid to me now, and I don't believe in writing an all-white future either. Still, there's obviously a need for authors who can write about other cultures from personal experience.

As an indie author, I think self-publishing provides opportunities for people from all walks of life to become authors and reach the audiences traditional publishing may overlook, either out of ignorance or because niche audiences aren't profitable enough for them. I hope as more writers and readers gain comfort with self-published work, diversity will be easier to find. But in the meantime, Stan the T-Rex and Oscar the (small) Orca, along with some of their friends, explain why we need diverse books:

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