On Deadlines

I need deadlines to finish my stories. Like, I need deadlines.

So, because I figure that if you’re reading this blog, chances are that you’re a writer who needs deadlines, too, here are some deadlines.

If you’re working on a short story of under 7000 words, your deadline to finish a first draft is Sunday, May 31st. (If you’re reading this in the future, your deadline is 6 days from now. Right now. What are you waiting for?)

If you’re working on a novella or novelette under 20000 words, your deadline is June 10th to finish that first draft. I know that’s only 16 days from now, but you can do it. Keep up that momentum.

If you’re working on something longer than that, you have 2 months. That puts you at July 25th. I know it may seem impossible, but try anyway. At worst, you’ll get to hear that nice sound that deadlines make when they go whizzing past you.

And so you don’t think I’m bullshitting you, I’m holding myself to that May 31st deadline to finish the story I’m working on right now.

Good luck!

On Sinking or Submitting

Those of you who follow my twitter may have seen this when I announced it sometime last week, but for those of you who don’t I recently released Sink or Submit, a motivational game/web-app for writers, especially those of you who are in writing groups.

The premise is simple: for every submission that you send to a magazine or publisher, you get a point, and you get another point for every rejection. If you have the most points of anyone in your group, you get to sit at the top of the leaderboard and have a nice little trophy. If you get an acceptance, though, your score resets to zero. But you sold a story, so you still win.

Sink or Submit is entirely free to use, and the source is available on my GitHub. If you want to support the development of Sink or Submit, you can contribute code, or, if you just want to toss me a few cents and don’t mind giving money to the Evil Empire, you can start your next Amazon order from this link.

Of Noble Book Tours

Last night, I made a rare weeknight trek across the bay to San Francisco. I got home late, and now I’m running on Irish breakfast tea as much as anything else.

And it was




The reason for this unusual behavior on my part was that Mary Robinette Kowal and Marie Brennan, fabulous authors, both, were finishing up their book tour with a stop at Borderlands Books. There were readings from books that aren’t out yet. There were puppets and natural history lessons. There were secrets that we are sworn to keep. There was fannish squeeing. Tor (their publisher) even bought us wine and cheese.

I must admit, at this point, that I don’t get out very much, and this was my first time going to a book tour stop in a very long time. It might have spoiled me for other tours. Mary and Marie both dressed in period clothing (Mary in a Regency-era dress that she herself sewed as practice for making the dress that appears on the cover of her most recent book, Of Noble Family, Marie in a Victorian dress sewn by one of the costumers for the SF Opera), and at the end of the reading, there were prizes for those who came in costume. (Next time they come through, I’m determined to put together a Back Watch parade uniform, or something approaching that, at least.)

Mary read from her upcoming novel, Ghost Talkers, which opens in a warehouse near the front during the Somme with our protagonist speaking to the spirit of a recently-deceased soldier of the Black Watch to determine enemy locations and movements and relay that information to command. I’ve been seriously excited for this book since I read a bit of its first chapter during the workshop I took from Mary back in January, but her reading, complete with accents (Mary is a professional audiobook narrator, after all) has me even more stoked (and panicking about how I’m going to finish my huge to-read pile in preparation for that book’s release). Following the reading, Mary (also a professional puppeteer) performed “The Broken Bridge,” a shadow puppet play that was popular during the time period in which her Glamourist Histories are set.

Marie took the podium next to read the first chapter from her upcoming fourth book in the Lady Trent series, the title of which I have sadly forgotten. Marie’s reading, likewise, was excellent, and she had the audience laughing many times. Her reading was followed by a brief natural history lecture in which artifacts from the world of her books were passed through the audience. Dragon teeth and claws, reproduction skulls and eggs, a mysterious fossil of an unknown but ginormous beast: Marie’s lecture had it all.

The readings and demonstrations were followed by a Q&A period, in which we, the attendees, learned some secrets. Pity you who were not there. We also got a story from Mary about her time on the set of Sesame Street. Yes, that Sesame Street.

I know, right?

So much squeeing.

A book signing followed, as is only right. We were bribed to buy local with the promise of sandalwood fans. My messenger bag smells fantastic.

And Mary recognized me, even though I wasn’t shivering under a pile of coats and blankets in my home office.

I got a hug from a Hugo-winning author. Hashtag humblebrag.

(EEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! There, I managed to save that for later, rather than squeeing directly at Mary.)

So yeah. Worth it.

I can’t wait for their next book tour to come through town (Borderlands, I love you, but maybe Pegasus could have the next one, so I can stay in the East Bay?), and I really strongly encourage you to check out both authors’ books and stories and go see them the next time they come through your town. You won’t be sorry.

Filking (My Father Would be Proud)

So yesterday, this happened on twitter.

And then I sang it to myself and to my partner and to my writing group, which fortuitously happened to be meeting just a little while later.  And then I tweeted this today

To which Seanan replied

And, well, I’ll just leave this here for you.  It was recorded in one take, on my phone, right before I left for work, because this is the future (or something).

So, um, horray!

Puppy Thoughts

My partner and I were talking about the Puppies, Sad, Rabid, or otherwise, over a meal this weekend and she, as she has so often in the past, expressed surprise over the fact that “Social Justice Warrior” gets bandied about as an insult among the puppies, the Gomer Goats, the MRAs, the meninists, and their like.

“Hell yeah, I’m a Social Justice Warrior!” were, I believe, her exact words.

Which brought her to this thought for the puppies: Yes, there is a left-leaning cabal of Social Justice Warriors.  But.  But they aren’t particularly secret, and, to use her words, “they don’t care about your little fan-club.”

I don’t for a second believe in the narrative of the SMOFs.  But I do know of a cabal of generally left-leaning Social Justice Warriors.  Many of them belong to NASW, the National Association of Social Workers.  And they professionally don’t give two fucks about the Puppies and their little fan-club.  There’s more than enough shit that needs fixing in the world.

Do I think diversity and representation in fiction, and especially in SFF is important?  Hell yes, I do.  Do I think that should be represented in the genre’s biggest awards?  Yes, provided that the nominated and winning works are there because they’re good, rather than making appearances to advance a political agenda.  Not that I think inclusiveness and diversity is a particularly political stance.  It should be the default.  Gaming the system to force a slate in most categories that conforms to a largely politically-homogenous, largely SWM default worldview is childish, and claiming that it is not politically-motivated is either extremely naive or just plain dishonest.

To those puppies who claim that their slate isn’t political, all I can ask is that you refrain from shitting on my plate and calling it a fudge brownie.

So, for those of you, like me, who usually use the Hugo ballot as a recommended reading list, here are some suggestions:

  • Try the book and short-fiction reviews in Locus, if you don’t already.
  • Check out Sunil @ghostwritingcow Patel’s book reviews over at Lightspeed.
  • Check out the blogs and twitter feeds of authors you already like.

For those who are interested specifically in reading authors who are not SWMs, Sunil has stated that he will not review them in Lightspeed because they already get reviewed enough elsewhere.

As per usual, but especially since we’re talking about puppies, comments will be moderated.  I don’t tolerate bullshit.  Be nice.

Today’s Writing Prompt

A quick one for you today.

Take an unpleasant smell, such as burning hair or roadkill skunk, and write a scene or story that explains why someone would find that smell pleasant/comforting/positive.


Obligatory Hugo Post, or Why I’m Not Voting

Background: last year I got mad as hell about the Sad/Rabid Puppy thing.  The Hugos were taken very seriously by both my parents when I was a child: they both nominated and voted for the works, fans, editors, and artists they felt represented the best that the genre had to offer from each year.  This year, when I saw the slate, I mostly just got sad.

I know that the only people really qualified to complain about the Hugo nominations or any eventual winners are those fans who actually vote.

And I’m still not voting.

My reason for not voting is quite simple: I don’t think I’m qualified to judge what works and people best exemplify the genre this year.  If I am perfectly honest, I would say I am only qualified to vote on one or two Hugos this year: Best Dramatic Presentation Long- and Short-Form (and honestly, I’ve only seen the Doctor Who episode, so I wouldn’t exactly say I’m any judge there).  This is the case most years.  The last time I read a novel before it got a Hugo nomination was in 2010, when I was blown away by The City & the City, by China Miéville (I don’t think I actually finished Embassytown before that year’s nominations came out, though I may be wrong on that one).  It’s much the same with short fiction.  The things I read right when they come out, for the most part, are works by my friends or authors I follow closely.  Everything else I put in the pile of “will get to it eventually.”

I’m a slow reader.  And I have a full-time job and a commute that doesn’t allow me much reading time.  I have a huge to-be-read pile, and the only things that get precedence over the stack (or even in some cases over whatever I’m right in the middle of) are very special books.  Pratchett (forever may his name be on our lips and in our hearts) was one such author.  Miéville is another.  Otherwise, you go to the bottom of the stack, and gods help you if you’re behind a tome by Sanderson.

The reason, as so many others have stated, that the Puppy slates were so effective is that it’s very difficult, in the nominating stage at least, to get fans to agree on much of anything.  In past years, the difference between getting a nomination and not often came down to a dozen votes.  Because most fans only vote for things they like.  They usually only vote in categories where they feel qualified to make judgement.  There’s a reason that the Editor categories often get under a thousand votes: fans who don’t feel qualified to make those judgements just don’t vote there.

I’m not voting this year because, if I voted on any of the major categories, I don’t feel that my votes would be much different from the Puppy votes that made the nomination list what it is this year.  I’m not qualified, and, realistically, I’m unlikely to have the time to read the whole packet.

I’m going to vote in the Hugos based on my own informed opinions or not at all.  Voting based on any ideology may work for politics, but it’s no judge of quality in fiction.

EDIT: This is not to say that you shouldn’t vote, just that, realistically, as much as I’d like to vote in the Hugos this year, it doesn’t feel right for me.

Please, if you care about our fandom, vote.  If you can make the time commitment to make an informed decision vote.  If you read a lot of new stuff in the genre and want to nominate next year, vote.  Even if you can’t afford a voting membership, Mary Robinette Kowal and others are giving away voting memberships.

Vote.  Vote.  V O T E .

Please note that, while I normally am pretty permissive in my comment moderation, I do moderate all comments, and I will turn off comments entirely if things start to turn into a shit-show.  My site, my rules.  Be nice or shut up.

On Practice

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very good at the whole “write every day” thing in the long run. Yeah, sometimes I can manage some decent streaks, but those usually happen when I’m working on a project that I find exciting. When I’m between projects? Often you can forget about it.

And I think I know why that is for me (and maybe for some of you, dear readers). It’s the obsession with making every word count for something. It’s the same reason we can be so precious with our first drafts; we want it to be prefect. I know I do. I have a real problem with being okay writing crap that won’t make it out of the second draft alive.

So here’s my call to myself and anyone else for whom this resonates: write something crappy every day. Don’t worry if you don’t think you’ll ever be able to use it, because you really never know. You certainly won’t be able to use it if you don’t write it. Just male a folder, or a notebook, or whatever, that’s reserved for stuff you might never use. And then fill it up.

Today’s Writing Prompt

The following image was sent to me today by my partner with the accompanying text, “This is a writing prompt.”


So there you go. Your writing prompt for the day.


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