So tired…

Not a lot of sleep this week. I’ve only had Monday night to recover from the weekend, and then I’ve had date night Tuesday (dinner at Rye & Thyme with the hubby; predictable but not boring), RiffTrax Live last night, and tonight, dinner with a friend in Waltham.

Friday night is still open, but then I had the genius idea that, hey, Witchwood is this weekend! Witchwood takes place close to my house! Witchwood has a CP exchange with Fifth Gate! I want to be at season cap for Silverfire 2! I should NPC for Witchwood on Saturday!

Of course, Witchwood is also not an Accelerant game. It bears some resemblances, but there are a lot of different rules, which I am busily trying to cram into my brain. Also a really in-depth culture, which I do not have time to absorb — sadly, because I usually love detailed world-building.

I suppose in some ways it would have been easier to NPC Madrigal this weekend, since it’s at least an Accelerant game (run by the creator of Accelerant, I believe?), but the 20-min drive to Camp Stairmaster vs. the hour drive to Camp Mormon won out.

That said, I’m getting more exercise than I usually do thanks to spring boffer larp season, and despite the inevitable muscle soreness (fuck you, statins), I feel great, and I want this to continue.

Sometime this week — Friday and Sunday, probably — I need to get some writing in, if I want to stay on track for the Codex Novel Contest. I admit I have lacked both time and focus to accomplish this lately. I’ve been overcome by 5G prep, followed by 5G floon. Instead of writing the adventures of Yfre, diplomat and spy extraordinaire, I’m more interested in coming up with playlists for Ianthe (send me recs! my music collection is sad), planning out new costuming for her (didn’t I say NO MORE SEWING for a while??), or imagining how she would react in certain situations.

I’m having fun, though. Life is good. Can’t complain too much.

Two guest posts

I’ve never (?) written a guest post before, but I’ve had two published in the past few days.

First, while I was in the woods getting hit with foam swords, Kate Heartfield, a fellow Codexian, published my piece on What I Learned About Writing from LARPing as part of her Unlikely Influences series. I learned a lot about storytelling and my own process just thinking on the question, and I hope I didn’t overwhelm you with my conclusions.

Then, yesterday, Joanna Meyer, another writer I met through last year’s Pitch Wars, published my querying author interview. If you yearn to know things like how I take my coffee, go read it!

Thanks, ladies, for letting me visit your corner of Blogsylvania!

Creative people say no; women aren’t supposed to

I read “Creative People Say No” the other day and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

I think of myself as a creative person. This blog is evidence of that, as are the millions of words I’ve written in my life.

I also have recently struggled with several friends, all at once, airing their grievances about my availability and level of connection as a friend. Talking about it with another friend of mine, he pointed out:

“Right, you’re an introvert. As are a lot of people, but I think on some level it’s seen as less acceptable for women. I think [your husband] is more of an introvert than you, but does he get this kind of static?”

Mulling these two things over, it occurred to me that there are several habits of effective writers which are contrary to feminine socialization. These exist as additional challenges to overcome as a woman who writes.

(I’m going to talk about authors here, because that’s what I know the best, but I’m willing to bet this is true for other creative professions, as well).

So, the first one, brought up by my pal’s comment:

Creative people say no. Women aren’t supposed to.

There is so much written about how women get into states of overwork or burnout because they aren’t able to say no to invitations, requests, favors and other flotsam on the inevitable tidal wave of expectations that comes from interacting in the world.

I know this is true of me — even as I get shit for not spending enough time with my friends, I also know I too easily get sucked into things I don’t want to do. Ask me about how I can’t answer the phone when Vassar or Mass Audubon or the Huntington Theatre calls, because I’ll give them even more of my hard-earned money. Ask me about how I was convinced to serve as usher coordinator at the church I barely even attend.

When I mentioned this to another friend of mine, she said:

“Maybe you look like someone who can’t say no.”

Entertaining how I can be simultaneously “someone who can’t say no” and a bad friend, isn’t it?

At the end of the day, I love you all, but I also love my writing, and to succeed at it, I need to spend a lot of time polishing my craft. Time which isn’t afforded me in my day-to-day life, because, hey, I also need to earn a living, like a real human being. So please, allow me to love you from the comfort of my own home, from behind a computer screen.

Speaking of which…

Perfecting an art or craft takes thousands of hours of deliberate practice. There are still only 24 hours in a day, and women still do most domestic work.

I am just about the luckiest girl on the planet — I have a husband who’s a great cook, and does all of the cooking for us. He also primarily takes care of the laundry. We also don’t have kids, and don’t intend to.

And yet at 9pm every weeknight, I say to myself, “Well, I could wash the dishes, I could go to bed, or I could try to write a few words.” (I usually choose to wash the dishes). Washing the dishes is only fair; it’s my toll of love to the husband who cooks all the food. Also, living in a clean, organized house contributes tremendously to my well-being, and one of the biggest sources of disorder is the kitchen.

Not everyone is so lucky. Most women, I’d wager, have to make harder choices than this. Make dinner, or write. Do laundry, or write. Drive the kids to soccer practice, or write. I’m willing to bet that across the world, thousands of creative women are making those choices in favor of their family and home. And why shouldn’t they?

Publication is a numbers game–you need to keep submitting, keep believing in yourself when no one else does, improving all the while. And yet, women are more likely to self-reject.

I don’t have any clever statistics to prove the last point, just my personal experience. Submitting, and facing rejection, is the hardest thing I do every day. Many days, I don’t do it at all. I’ve been querying Gods & Fathers for a year, and I’ve only sent it to twenty agents. Those are terrible odds.

“When we ship, we’re exposed,” says Steven Pressfield in Do the Work, and it’s a phrase that sticks with me. Why would I want to be more vulnerable, when I’m already marginal? I get to fight to have my voice heard, and when I do, I face a greater likelihood of having it savaged. Seems like a mug’s game, some days.

I’ve seen — and I’ve been — the woman endlessly rewriting and polishing and dithering over a manuscript, wondering if it’s good enough to send. I’ve sat in front of my computer and thought, “With the thirty minutes I have to work on my writing, do I want to put new words down on paper, with their endless possibility, or do I want to send more queries out into a void?”

Meanwhile, across the world, some dude is probably scribbling a novel on a brown paper bag with a red crayon and sending it to an agent.

To be more concrete: women are socialized to not impose, to not take up space, to not matter. Submitting — shipping — is the opposite of that. We need to believe our words matter, even when no one else does. We need to believe we’re ready, even when we may not be.

Anyway. I write all this not to complain, and not to make excuses for not writing, but simply for my own awareness.

Two exciting things too long for Twitter

You may have heard me talking about these on Twitter, but I realized I had more to say. Because don’t I always?

Thing the First

This tweet is kind of full of lies, though I suspect mostly of omission. Brief investigation reveals that a massive engineering project (between 2005 and 2014) replaced the causeway from the mainland with a bridge, and dammed the river Couesnon, allowing tides to encircle the island and wash away accumulated silt.

So it isn’t so much a record-high tide, and it’s only “since 1879” because that was when the original causeway was constructed. This begs the question — where’s the new bridge? Either behind the island or Photoshopped out, I’d guess. Or this pic was taken when it was under construction?

… of course, all of that doesn’t fit easily in 140 characters, does it?

EITHER WAY. When I saw it (RTed by @KellanSparver, because HE KNOWS), my first reaction was “My beloved Petrochon!” Which is, of course, one of the cities in Lioness, home of the eccentric Lord-Mayor Bizel.

Despite the connection to my own writing, this makes me a little sad, because one of my fondest memories of France was walking back to the mainland across that causeway in the middle of the night. And that place is now no more…

Instead of the possibly-doctored, blurry pic, have this lovely pic from Wikipedia of the new bridge curving elegantly toward the island:

Mont St Michel + Jetée par Marée haute.JPG
Mont St Michel + Jetée par Marée haute” by Mathias NevelingOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Thing the Second

The Thorn of Emberlain, the next book in the Gentleman Bastards sequence (which I was just talking about t’other day!) has a cover reveal!

Thorn-673x1024
I like to imagine Locke in one of those suits of armor, saying to Jean, “What, by Perelandro’s hairy asshole, did I do to deserve being incarcerated in this thing? And how the hell do I hold this sword?”

I have to admit, I’m personally not a huge fan of the art–it just doesn’t feel series-appropriate to me? Regardless of that, I am dying to read the book.

Pluses and minuses, February 18, 2015

– Winter is seriously depressing me. We’ve gotten more than six feet in just the past month, and it looks like Snowpiercer outside my window. (Regrettably, I don’t even get Chris Evans as a consolation prize).

– As I’ve posted elsewhere, snow canceled my trip to Boskone. Poop.

+ Melatonin seems to be working well, which means that I can actually get up at a decent hour again.

+ I reached 48,000 words on Lioness, and revealed one of the Big Reveals of the novel.

+/- Received a rejection on another G&F query/partial I had sent for #PitMad, back in December. On one hand, rejection; on the other hand, it was personal and very kind, and this after I had forgotten I even had it out there.

– In about a month, I will have been querying G&F for a year, on and off. At some point I suppose I have to give up. But at the same time, I’ve only queried like twenty agents over that time, so.

– I’m still really not getting much out of reading A Game of Thrones. Sorry, fans. If I had come to it earlier in life, I might have, but at this point I don’t want any more fantasy worlds where women are this marginalized.

It’s funny, because I LIKE the female POV characters, and they don’t lack agency, at all. I have nothing but good to say about Catelyn, Daenerys, or Arya. Even Sansa!

But then there are the bit parts for women, which seem limited to “serving wench,” and “whore.” There’s the constant use of “slut” and “whore.” There’s the constant threat of rape and child mutilation thrown around for funsies. And sure, yeah, we’re clearly SUPPOSED to have our skin crawl around Viserys, and his use of same, but… it’s just tiresome. Really fucking tiresome. I keep rolling my eyes and wishing for [SPOILER] to happen quicker.

And maybe it gets better in later novels, but… I just don’t care enough to find out? If I’m going to read gritty and grimdark, I’ll go back to reading Joe Abercrombie, because at least I’m pretty sure he’s doing trope reversal.

+ I finished listening to The Broken Kingdoms, at long last. Sorry it took me so long, but that middle section, where Oree is with the New Lights, just draaaaagged for me. That said, the ending was exciting, and the novel is a study in how to do multiple ending beats well.

And yeah, it’s utterly ridiculous that there is no audiobook for The Kingdom of the Gods. Booooo.

+ I started listening to Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone yesterday, which was recommended to me by… I don’t remember who. So far, I’m enjoying it. The narrator, Khristine Hvam, is just superb.

Is this supposed to be YA? I find it hard to believe, with all the talk of dicks in the first few chapters. And yet, YA certainly is edgier than it was when I was a teen… Anyway, Karou is clearly a female wish fulfillment character, and I am totally okay with that. More than okay, actually — I think there need to be more of them, so long as they are interesting characters in their own right. And Karou is! The only weirdness is when she displays a very… external view of her physical body, describing herself like a third-party would describe her. That sort of makes me frown. But we’ll see where it’s going…

+ I have tickets — in the third row! — to see the live Night Vale show in March.

+ Writing group this Thursday. Assuming it doesn’t get snowed out…

+ I’ve gotten Falanu nearly to 50 in TESO.

Codex Weekend Warriors 2015

I’ve off-handedly mentioned that I’ve been participating in the Codex Writers’ Group Weekend Warriors (WW) contest, but I don’t think I’ve explained it, have I?

Basically, WW is a flash fiction writing contest, where “flash,” in this case, is defined as fiction less than 750 words. (Definitions vary; I’ve seen it go up to about 1500 words or so). For five weeks in January/February, writing prompts will be posted on Friday, and the contestants have the weekend to write a piece of fiction. It doesn’t have to be speculative (even though Codex is an SFF writing group), and it doesn’t have to directly follow the prompt, but it does have to be less than 750 words.

During the week that follows, all the other writers in the division (this year there are three: Puppies, Kitties, and Bunnies) rate all the other stories in the division. At least, this is supposed to be how it works, although in theory nothing is forcing you to read and rate the others — except that your own ratings are held captive until you do! (Clever, that). At the end of the five weeks, the final score is calculated from the three highest-ranked stories, and the winner is based on that. (So it behooves you to participate more than three times, although you don’t have to).

I participated in week one, writing a space opera-ish story of a cultural misunderstanding. This was as much a surprise to me as anyone; I hadn’t planned to participate, but I found myself stuck in a cold basement for most of a day (Ye Olde Commons, for those LARPers among you) with a notebook, an idea based on a vague misremembering of a prompt, and very little else to do. The story I wrote was fun, but it really wanted to be 1000+ words, and cutting it down to 750, I’m beginning to think I weakened it. The ratings reflected this — but hey, I wasn’t dead last!

Moreover I have a story! A story I can try to sell! I’ve heard tales of Daily Science Fiction (DSF) eagerly awaiting submissions based on WW entries, and I know that even stories that have done poorly in the contest have sold. So I’m eager to take the feedback I’ve gotten on the story and turn it into something I can maaaaaybe publish.

(If not, you’ll see it here eventually…)

So I was super-psyched to give WW a try again this weekend, week 3. (Arisia kept me from participating last week). The story came easily to me this time, based on the prompt “Write about an unusual wedding, birthday party, or other celebration.” I finished it on Saturday, and did some edits on Sunday. I had no trouble keeping it under 750 words; 700 was the length it wanted to be. Now, let’s see if it’s any good…

By the way, if you’re wondering why I’m not naming my stories, or even the division I’m in, it’s because this is all anonymous. We had to pick neato pen names and everything! You’ll find out soon enough which are mine, I suppose, either when they’re announced on Codex, or when they get published, here or elsewhere.

I’ve begun reading this week’s stories, too, and I feel so lucky to do so. They’re all so good — which is a function of Codex being a curated forum — and on the dark side this week (which is a function of the prompts). I’ve rated almost everything I’ve come across an eight (out of 10), and I’d be happy to read most of these in a magazine. Bodes ill for my little story, though…

In other writing news, I got my rejection from F&SF this weekend for “Powder of Sympathy.” It was about as I expected, but I’m glad I finally got off my ass and submitted it. Finlay wrote some nice personal feedback, though: “I was hooked by the opening scene of this story, but overall it just didn’t connect with me so I’m going to pass on it.” Meh. Story of my writing life — premature narrative ejaculation.

I think I know where I’m going to send this one next (Clarkesworld), but I’m debating whether or not I want to read it over and make any further changes, first. Of course, that way so often lies madness…

Arisia 2015

Importing this post from LJ; please excuse the markup.

I hadn’t been to Arisia in… possibly a decade? I know the last time I went it was at the Ziggurat/Q-bert Hotel/the terrible Hyatt in Cambridge, and there was a snowpocalypse that weekend, and we drove home to Watertown in that. At that time, I promised I wouldn’t go back until it was not at that hotel. That took five years or so, and at that time I wasn’t attending many conventions besides LARP ones.

But this year, the delightful Phoebe R. had a show, Mrs. Hawking, going up on Friday night, and having read the script, I really wanted to see it performed. Plus, N.K. Jemisin, whose work I enjoy, was the author GOH, and I thought she would have some interesting things to say. And, of course, there’s the fact that nearly all my friends go — the ones that aren’t doing Mystery Hunt, that is.

So I bought a membership very last minute, and went! I had an amazing time, too. There was some concern that I wouldn’t be able to make it to the con in time for Mrs. Hawking, but I was able to work remotely from the hotel on Friday afternoon, so that worked out well.

Things wot I did:

– A long-ish wait in the registration line with my roomie natbudin on Friday night, in which I ran into approximately everyone I knew, ever.

– Went to Mrs. Hawking, which was wonderful to see staged, especially the action scenes. Things like the scene at the club — where Mrs. Hawking uses a knife as a step to climb up into the rafters — worked surprisingly well with the set. (I suppose not that surprising, since the set was basically a deconstructed jungle gym). If I have any complaints, it’s that the sound wasn’t great, and I ended up having to move to the front rows to hear better.

– Attended the “Tricksters of All Trades” panel on Friday night, with Jemisin, Andrea Hairston, Daniel José Older, Vikki Ciaffone, and Catt Kingsgrave. What an entertaining panel! A lot of it was Older and Hairston talking about Yoruba gods and Santeria orisha who were tricksters, like Eshu and Elegba. This was fine with me, since they were clearly very excited about the topic, and brought that to the table. It succeeded in making me want to read Older’s new book, Half-Resurrection Blues, if nothing else! Jemisin talked about the tricksters in the Inheritance trilogy — primarily Sieh — and very obligingly told us all to cover our ears at the right point if we didn’t want to be spoiled on The Awakened Kingdoms. (I’m making my way through The Broken Kingdoms right now).

– Went to Tess’ Friday night party — sadly, never made it to laura47‘s — which was mostly WPI grads and related folks. I talked with Brian E., who was wearing a great Earthforce uniform, about the Elder Scrolls for a while (“are you in the Morrowind camp, the Skyrim camp, or the wrong camp?”) and to hanasaseru about Cottington Woods. I drank moscato and a Dark & Stormy that was mostly rum; sprrwhwk showed up later in the evening, and we ended the evening chatting in his room, drinking most of a bottle of Templeton Rye — the favorite drink of Al Capone, I’m told!

– I spent most of Saturday with the worst hangover of my life — and blind, because I had thrown out my disposable contacts before I realized I’d forgotten to bring my glasses or any other pairs with me 🙁 As a result I went to very few events, but in the afternoon, I was able to catch up with juldea, who had a similar prescription to me, and used the same brand of disposables, and gave me some of hers.

– I did stop in at the “Avoiding Culturefail” panel, but I ended up feeling so sick I had to leave. It didn’t help that the room was approximately 300 degrees, I couldn’t see the panelists, and they kept talking not about how to avoid culturefail in writing SFF, but the ethnic makeup of the U.S. post-WWII. While that could be an interesting topic, a) that wasn’t what the panel was about, and b) it wasn’t.

– Able to see and feeling half-human, I went to Jemisin’s reading at 4pm. She had three unpublished pieces in the world of the Inheritance trilogy she could read, and she let the audience vote on which — one from the POV of Glee (Oree’s daughter), one from the POV of Nahadoth, and one from the POV of… a character I haven’t met yet. Well, since I’m not far enough along in The Broken Kingdoms that I wanted spoilers about Oree or her offspring, I voted for Naha, and so did most of the audience. So we listened to a really cool piece, set before The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (I think? Time is wibbly-wobbly if you’re a god), which was about him being convinced to fight back against the Arameri.

I had questions I wanted to ask about the piece in the Q&A, but unfortunately, we were subjected instead to inane questions like, “What do you think the future of books is?” (To which Jemisin replied, “… could you be a little more specific?”) and “Why did you decide to write this piece?” (“For the same reason I write anything?”)

– A Codex dinner was planned, but fell through; I ended up having drinks at the bar with John Murphy, Joy Marchand and her husband, and the aforementioned Kevin (who it is uncanny to hear called “Kellan.” I will never get used to calling friends by their pen names). I tried to convince Joy to come to Intercon or Festival, as she was interested in trying out LARP; John told us about the “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That” anime panel, which apparently went pretty far off the rails, and didn’t actually discuss short series, like it had promised to. Instead we gave him some of our suggestions — Baccano, Spice & Wolf, Madoka, and of course I had to mention Hellsing and Gankutsuou 🙂

– I went to PMRP’s gender-swapped radio play of “Space Seed,” the famous classic Trek episode that introduced Khan. It was delightful — nothing like gender reversal to really make it clear how creepy 1960s sexism was! Adria–who I know from NPCing Shadows of Amun, and who most people know for being on The Quest — played Spock, and was delightful in that role. Liz Salazar (I think that was her name?) who played Khan was amazing too, as was the gentleman who played the unfortunate historical officer Khan seduces.

– I browsed the art show, since the dealer’s room wasn’t open that late on Saturday night. I especially liked the photography series of cosplayers/costumers in costume and in street clothes. I also really enjoyed the exhibit for the artist GOH, Lee Moyer, who I did not realize had done the cover for The Broken Kingdoms and for one of the Kushiel books. And, apparently, several Lovecraft collections; there were a few HPL-with-tentacles portraits. If I had $375, I would have taken one home! I also enjoyed his series of gender-swapped classic author pinups (i.e. Miss Carroll, Miss Dumas).

– While in the art show, I noticed a guy dressed in what I noticed immediately was cavalier-era garb (I guessed 1620s at first). This is impressive, because while Arisia has a lot of cosplay, most of it (that isn’t re-creation) tends towards the medieval or steampunk; the cavalier era doesn’t get a lot of love. I asked him about it, and he told me he was part of the Salem Trayned Band, a re-enactment group of one of the first civilian militias in the U.S., dating to around 1630. I missed their pike demonstration, alas, but I saw him later on the “So You Think You Can Write A Fight” panel.

I turned in early on Sunday, due to my severe lack of sleep the night before, and was up, feeling mostly human, at 9am the next day…

– The first panel I made it out to on Sunday was the end of the “So You Think You Can Write A Fight” discussion, where audience members read fight scenes they had written, and the panelists critiqued them. Among the panelists I recognized not only Uncle Jim (who I expected), but also aforementioned re-enactor (Mark Millman?), giving advice on halberds, and Gie, who I knew not as an editor for an SFF erotica magazine (which she apparently is!) but as someone I played Masquerade with, back in the day. To me she will always be the Assamite cheerleader who wanted to be a Toreador. Who also, apparently, knows a lot about martial arts and writes lesbian vampire pr0n.

– I ran into John Murphy again at this panel, and together we ended up going to “Tales from the Slush Pile,” held in a room which was entirely too small for its popularity. Gie was on this panel, as well as Joy Marchand, Cecilia Tan, Joy Crelin, Hildy Silverman, and Inanna Arthen. Since many of these editors dealt in erotica, a lot of the examples of terribleness from the slush pile were bad smut. Although, kudos to Gie for pointing out that sometimes the line between ridiculous and hot is paper-thin.

– I spent some time in my room writing after this. I wanted to prep for my 4pm event (more on that in a minute), but I happened to look at the writing prompts for this week’s round of the Codex flash contest, and one of them sparked an idea for a short piece in the world of Lioness, telling the story of how Yfre ended up accused of treason and nearly hanged. The prompt in question was “someone has made a terrible mistake and someone else must pay for it,” which is pretty much the definition of what happened to Yfre. I knew I couldn’t make it 750 words without ruining it, however, so I was in no hurry to finish that day. Which is fine, because nevacarusoand Nat came back to the room around then, and we ended up chatting about various things.

– I headed off at 4pm to my final event of the con — the pitch session with Nora Jemisin, which I had to sign up for ahead of time. To be fair, this was really more of a practice pitch session — as she pointed out, she’s not an agent or an editor, and her agent is pretty much not taking new clients. (I did query her already!) So I got my ten minutes with her, pitching G&F. My pitch came in under five minutes, which was the perfect length, and she said she was intrigued by it, but offered suggestions for making it better. One of the best pieces of advice she gave me was when I asked how to deal with the fact that there are two protagonists, but trying to focus on both in a query letter comes out muddled. She suggested I send the Serevic-focused one to male agents, and the Mirasa-focused one to female agents — because everyone wants to read a story with a character of their own gender. I had never thought of doing that before, but it makes perfect sense.

I mentioned I was also a VP grad, and we chatted very briefly about that. (I asked her if The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was her submission piece; she told me it was actually The Killing Moon, it just took a lot longer to sell).

All in all, she was cordial and complimentary of my pitch, which left me a bit reeling! I tried not to be too much of a fangirl, but I did tell her in parting how much I enjoyed her work.

And that was the end of the con for me! I had to go home Sunday night because someone was coming to my house the next day to fix my central vac. Also it’s pretty much all I feel up for writing, because I have come down with a cold and feel like my head is stuffed with cotton.