ashnistrike: (Default)
2017-04-01 03:03 pm

Ask My Characters Anything

Winter Tide comes out on Tuesday, and I should be all over book promotion. But it turns out that having a book coming out in a couple of days is no ward against cramps and fussy toddlers; my motivation has collapsed into a pile of goo.

As a proper market-y person I should remind you that you'll be able to find the book at your favorite local indie store or online megavendor, and that preorders and first-week sales are the lifeblood of debut novels. I should also let you know that I'm launching at East City Books in DC on Wednesday and reading at the Power Plant Barnes and Noble in Baltimore on Saturday, April 8th. I should definitely share a selection of quotes from reviews, or at least tell you about Paul Weimer's lovely piece on the Barnes and Noble site that praises WT's "Lovecraft Family Values."

But what I really want is to do something fun, preferably something that will get my brain into gear and help me warm up for looming edits on Deep Roots. (Having a book coming out in a couple of days is also no ward against deadlines for the next one, alas.) So I'll tell you what: it's time to play Ask My Characters Anything. Rules:

1) You don't have specify which character you're addressing, although you can if you want. No guarantees that if you ask one character a question, another won't answer. 

2) No spoilers except for character name and existence. Characters will be from the Innsmouth Legacy universe but may not actually appear in Winter Tide. (There are some extremely gregarious Outer Ones in Deep Roots, who wish everyone would stop calling them Mi-Go.)

3) Men of the air can only answer questions about the 20th century and their own reasonably accessible history; people who expect a significantly longer lifespan can answer questions well beyond that. Yith can answer questions about anything.

4) This being All Fools Day, answers may not be accurate. Especially if an accurate answer would be a spoiler, or require me to nail down events several million years in the future.



ashnistrike: (lightning)
2017-01-01 04:43 pm

Arisia Schedule

I'll be at Arisia in two weeks. I'm excited to go--it's my first time since college at one of my favorite cons, and my first time paneling there. I'll be on:


Judaism's Influence on SF/F - Adams    -  Sat 1:00 PM                      

Jewish theology and culture permeates science fiction across all mediums. What effect has Judaism had on the development of SF/F and fandom in general?

Michael A. Burstein (mod), Ruthanna Emrys, A Joseph Ross, Danny Miller, Ariela Housman


How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things – Alcott - Sun 4:00 PM

*Lord of the Rings*. *Stranger in a Strange Land*. *Scott Pilgrim vs. the World*. Many of us like things that are deeply problematic! Liking these works doesn’t (necessarily) make you a jerk. How can we like problematic things and not only be decent people, but good, social justice activists? How does one's background matter? How does one address the problems? This panel will discuss how to own up to the problematic things in the media you like, particularly when you feel strongly about them.

Gwendolyn Grace (mod), Chris Brathwaite, Ruthanna Emrys, Mink Rose, Jared Walske


Grounding Your Audience in a Sensory World – Douglas - Sun 7:00 PM                    

The five senses are appallingly underrepresented in modern fiction. Without sensory information, it's difficult to grab your audience and drag them into your protagonist's body. How do you portray senses other than sight? Can you use it to portray emotion? Where can you scrounge up alternatives for the words see, hear, feel, taste and smell, or 'sixth sense' (psychic intuition)? Come learn how to describe your world in all of its glorious, sensory detail.

Ken Schneyer, Keffy R.M. Kehril, Ruthanna Emrys, Greer Gilman, Sonya Taaffe


Routing Around Cognitive Biases – Alcott - Mon 10:00 AM   

Most of us have a friend who always plays the same lottery numbers, refuses to travel by airplane "because they're not safe," and thinks music was better when they were a kid. Your friend - indeed, most people - suffers from multiple cognitive biases. How do you make people aware of the flaws in their thinking so that they have the critical tools to avoid such biases in the future? What about the more difficult task of identifying your own biases?

Heather Urbanski (mod), Ruthanna Emrys, David G. Shaw, Stephen R Balzac, Andrea Hairston


Aside from that, I'll be wandering around the con taking advantage of their child care, trying not to spend all my money on dealer's row, and giving away "Lovecraftian Girl Cooties Posse" badge ribbons. And catching up with all my friends who very sensibly live in Boston--who's going to be there?
ashnistrike: (lightning)
2016-08-28 10:53 am

Writing After Publication

I'm now a little under halfway through Deep Roots, the sequel to Winter Tide. I'm learning things. For example, that writing around a toddler is harder than writing around a pregnant wife who sleeps a lot. Who knew? And that I need to write something new every day, even when prior-book edits intervene, because the ease of getting started the day after a 50-word day is noticeably better than the ease of getting started the day after a 0-word day.

Publication changes my writing process, both because of the practicalities of the editing cycle, and because I've learned things from writing and editing the first book. Winter Tide isn't my first completed novel--it's my 3rd--but it's the first where I've had to go beyond making a few cosmetic changes based on beta reader feedback. Structural edits have always scared the hell out of me. I couldn't see how to fix a lopsided plot or a lack of foreshadowing, or how to stitch in and rip out entire threads of plot or theme. I could get away with that--right up until a book was accepted for publication. I owe Carl and Cameron endless gratitude for demanding those changes, and then holding my hand through several rounds of them.

The structural changes that Winter Tide needed weren't even major, relative to some I've heard about. The overall plot is still essentially what it was at the beginning. I added a few scenes and changed a few lines, but didn't have to cut any characters or subplots. The climax is the one I wrote originally. But the things I did have to do were scary for me. And having done them, I now know that I can. The end result is that I'm now much more willing to follow the way of the Crappy First Draft. I can take risks I wouldn't have before, when I assumed I'd be stuck with any roads that veered off cliffs. This is probably annoying for my alpha reading wife, who's dealing with in-line notes like <add a better transition here> and <people have faces, describe them> and <have Charlie do something or cut him from this scene entirely> in lieu of semi-polished prose.

Meanwhile, in the galleys, I'm learning that I really like to repeat words. One of the major things we did during line edits was to fix places where I'd enjoyed a piece of vocabulary so much that I used it three times in a paragraph. (Lovecraft never had an editor to catch these, thus the ever-amusing "cyclopean" count.) We must have fixed a couple hundred instances of this problem. Now, going over the galleys... I'm finding even more of these. My only theory is that the Great Old Ones really like repetitive words, and demand them of their scribes as tribute.

Road map:

    Structural edits = Foreshadow this ending; make this threat scarier, turn up the volume on on your themes
    Line edits = Make this paragraph comprehensible, cut half your cyclopeans, did you mean this dialogue to sound like flirting
    Copyedits = Did you mean discrete or discreet, argue about hyphens, I don't care whether or not you capitalize Archpriest but be consistent
    Galleys = Oh Great Cthulhu how did I miss that

...with a sprinkling of "fix this anachronism" throughout, because historical fantasy is hard and 1949 is a strange country.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
2016-01-04 12:30 am

Mommyblogging: Or, My Tendency to Post About Problems Only After They Are Solved

The first year of one's child's life is expected to be both exciting and stressful (it was).  One isn't expected to get much done other than take care of the child, and go to one's day job if one has one (I didn't).  In our case, the major reason for not getting much done was that M--while quite good at everything else--totally failed to learn to go to sleep on her own or sleep through the night. So for the past year we've had an unpredictable 1-4-hour intensive process involved in putting the baby to bed, and most nights gotten woken up by her crying 1-3 times. S, bless her, did most of the getting up and getting her back to bed, but it was still no fun for anyone.  At one point we tried the standard ferberization technique that's "supposed to" work for everyone, leaving her alone in her crib and coming in at slightly increasing intervals to check on her, which resulted in her not sleeping and being phobic of her crib for a week.

Also this year, I sold a book. This was awesome, and among other things eventually resulted in the arrival of a book advance. Part of which we spent on a sleep coach. This is possibly the best decision I've ever made short of getting married to my wife.  For the last couple of days M has fallen asleep downstairs in her own space, needing one of us in the room for less than half an hour, and slept for 11-12 hours. And taken a 2-3-hour nap in the afternoon. (Did I mention that she rarely napped, previously?) And we're less than halfway through the process that is supposed to result in a nice, easy bedtime routine and a child who can fall asleep without adult supervision.  All of a sudden, I have back 3-4 hours every evening. I can talk with my wife and read and catch up on chores and correspondence and write or edit, without feeling like every second spent on one of those is stolen from the others.

Probably someone wants to know what a sleep coach does.  About half of it is taking textbook behaviorist stuff that I could lecture on in my sleep, and explaining how to turn it into an on-the-ground intervention that I would not have been able to intuit correctly even without the sleep deprivation. Basically we're doing a variation on habit deconditioning or phobia fading--sitting a little farther away from the crib each night and providing a little less scaffolding for her falling asleep. The other half is family-specific--she talked to us about everything from when M gets fussy during the day to the fact that she may have a predisposition to anxiety, and helped us adapt techniques and figure out when in the day to apply them based on that input. If we'd known the technique, we probably could have figured everything out eventually, but it made the whole process smoother and less stressful for everyone involved.

The other other half is coaching--reassurance and on-cheering and a heads-up on what pitfalls and patterns to expect. After the fubar with the ferberization, it helped tremendously to know that we had expert back-up if something went drastically wrong again.

All of which is to say--if I've barely spoken to you for the past year, or always been rushing off somewhere when we have a moment to talk, or neglected e-mails or posts, I hope and expect that my time and energy will be much less constrained in 2016.  Ditto if I, um, owe you novel edits. Just as a hypothetical example.

But for now, I'm going to go to bed, and very likely stay there for a few hours. Best Christmas present ever!
ashnistrike: (lightning)
2015-09-13 03:45 pm

Hugo Long List anthology kickstarter, plus bonus sonnet

David Steffen, of Diabolical Plots, is kickstarting an anthology of the 2014 Hugo long list.  It's already funded at the basic level, covering the short stories, and is a couple hundred away from including the novelettes--including "Litany of Earth" as well as awesome things like Alaya Dawn Johnson's "A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i."

In the service of creating a proper Hugo Reading Packet for 2014, I'm offering 3 custom sonnets or sestinas for $50 backers, each coming with both paper and e-versions of the anthology.  At the same level, you could instead get one of Sam Miller's sketches of an animal of your choice working at the occupation of your choice, or you could pay a little more and get story critiques, custom audio books, and spiffy art prints.

David asked me for a reward description.


Not Exactly Shakespeare

It isn’t Shakespeare: I’ll admit as much;
They’re what I write when I’m not up for prose.
The forms of old are comfort food that shows
The tired writer hasn’t lost her touch.

But though these poems are nothing like the sun,
They might give hazy thoughts a form and shape,
Or make you laugh: give sharpness to a jape;
All poems have purpose, else they lie unspun.

I could compare your love to summer nights,
Abstract your dissertation so it scans,
Or villainous, declaim your cunning plans:
I’ll write an ode to whatever delights.

Still, I reserve the right to add my spin,
So trolls beware: the bard will always win.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
2015-08-26 12:08 am

It's an Honor Just to Not Be Nominated

M woke up crying at 6 AM Sunday morning. After I finally got her back to sleep, I checked my phone and discovered rather more Twitter mentions than usually appear in the midnight to 6 AM window, or indeed in a single day.  I had some trouble getting back to sleep!

Many thanks to everyone who nominated "Litany of Earth" for a Hugo, and everyone else who said they would have voted for it given the opportunity.  It would have been part of a pretty sweet ballot, and I would have thoroughly enjoyed losing to Seanan McGuire's "Each to Each" or Kay Ashante Wilson's "The Devil in America."  (I still need to read Crosshill's story, and shall.)

New plan: Support E Pluribus Hugo, and write even more kick-ass, rocket-worthy stuff in the future.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
2015-04-21 07:08 pm

The Surviving Fragments of the Dread Pnakotic Manuscripts

I'm delighted to announce that I'll have an original story in The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu: New Lovecraftian Fiction, which will be coming out in June 2016 in the US and April 2016 in the UK.

No Deep Ones in this story, but it does consider carefully the proper Library of Congress heading for forbidden tomes.

I'll be in excellent company:

THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF CTHULHU: NEW LOVECRAFTIAN FICTION
Paula Guran, Editor

CONTENTS

      • Laird Barron - “A Clutch”
      • Nadia Bulkin - “I Believe That We Will Win”
      • Amanda Downum - “The Sea Inside”
      • Ruthanna Emrys - “Those Who Watch”
      • Richard Gavin  - “Deep Eden”
      • Lois H. Gresh - “In the Sacred Cave”
      • Lisa L. Hannett - “In Syllables of Elder Seas”
      • Brian Hodge - “It’s All the Same Road In the End”
      • Caitlín R. Kiernan - “The Peddler’s Tale, or, Isobel’s Revenge”
      • John Langan – “Outside the House, Watching for the Crows
      • Yoon Ha Lee - “Falcon-and-Sparrows”
      • Usman T. Malik - “In the Ruins of Mohenjo-Daro”
      • Sandra McDonald - “The Cthulhu Navy Wife”
      • Helen Marshall - “Caro in Carno”
      • Silvia Moreno - Garcia - “Legacy of Salt”
      • Norman Partridge - “Backbite”
      • W. H. Pugmire - “A Shadow of Thine Own Design”
      • Veronica Schanoes - “Variations on Lovecraftian Themes”
      • Michael Shea - “An Open Letter to Mr. Edgar Allan Poe, from a Fervent Admirer”
      • John Shirley - “Just Beyond the Trailer Park”
      • Simon Strantzas - “Alexandra Lost”
      • Damien Angelica Walters - “Umbilicus”
      • Don Webb - “The Future Eats Everything”
      • Michael Wehunt - “I Do Not Count the Hours”
      • A.C. Wise - “I Dress My Lover in Yellow”
ashnistrike: (lightning)
2015-03-04 09:13 pm
Entry tags:

Everything is signed and sent and...

I'm delighted to announce that I, and Winter Tide, and any other books I manage to turn out, are now represented by Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
2014-11-16 02:26 am

Oh, there's my inspiration; I left it under the bed

Story due December 1st has finally come unstuck, and now has plot and character that actually go together.  Also mysterious libraries, carnivorous books, and a sprinkling of my housemate's horror stories from rural Louisiana.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
2014-10-16 05:05 am
Entry tags:

The next day, Mr. Earbrass is conscious but very little more

It's 5 AM, and that's a draft.

Mr. Earbrass is also conscious of the fact that he has let his inbox get kind of out of hand during the last couple of weeks.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
2014-08-29 08:41 am
Entry tags:

Cultural shifts

Okay, it's time to do a pass for smoking, and for the minefield that is women's choices of hats (or no hats) in 1949.

Does anyone know:

...whether smoking would have been permitted in a library--in this case an ivy league academic library?

...in bookstores?

My instinct is what the hell are you thinking, but I can only just remember what it was like to have everyone smoking inside in the first place?  (It sucked, that's what I remember.  But people mostly got used to it.)
ashnistrike: (lightning)
2014-08-25 01:21 am

Writing Progress

Good: The rest of the Aphra novel is basically outlined, and I know most of what happens...

Bad: ...except for the climax, currently listed as "and then they do a thing."

Good: I like writing by the seat of my pants, and if I thought I knew what the climax looked like I'd be wrong anyhow.

Good: I've finished writing the annoying-but-necessary transitional bit before sh*t hits f*n for the rest of the book.  (Annoying to me, hopefully not annoying to readers.)

Bad: I've looked over how long scenes have taken on average, so far, and have counted up remaining scenes, and that's a longer book than I thought.  Which means either busier writing nights, or a busier editing season--because Baby M's birth date is not going to be affected by whether I've finished my other big projects.

Good: I find deadlines very motivating.

Fingers crossed.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
2014-08-21 11:03 pm

Sale: The Deepest Rift

To Tor.com, and due out early next year.  Aliens, AIs, and academic politics.

...and that actually basically clears out the short stuff queue, except for the lesbian steampunk mad science epistolary story.  The entire genre should be embarrassed that there aren't more markets that are obvious targets for a 2700-word lesbian steampunk mad science epistolary story.  In any case, I must write more shorts, but not until after I finish the novel.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
2014-08-20 08:59 pm
Entry tags:

Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land

Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land is up today on Tor.com.  Those of you who've been here for a while may remember the first couple of sections: the early drafts were created as, um, commentary, on the question of whether there's a Jewish Narnia and what it would mean if there were.

The issue of what it means to have a homeland may have gotten more political since I wrote the story.  No regrets; it still says what I want to say on the topic.

Lest I make it sound like a heavy read, this is probably the nicest story I've ever written.  It has magical mint and dolphin alliances and bread baking and cross-cultural friendships and a really good library.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
2014-06-16 12:54 am
Entry tags:

Continuing research

Things I've successfully learned today:  40s car models, history of "first aid" as a thing that exists, how a man could end up separated from his family at the start of the WWII Japanese American internment.  I already knew that George Takei was awesome, but am reminded of it as I go through his autobiography. Clear, honest, unadorned descriptions of his time at Rohwer and Tule Lake, along with historical context and some serious blunt truth on the things you miss when you're four.

Things where I have failed at search: Can anyone recommend good resources on civil rights and interracial dynamics in late 40s Massachusetts?  I'm looking for fairly practical stuff: how much trouble will this character (who is African American) have getting into libraries, restaurants, or stores?  How segregated are most settings?  How much fuss are bystanders likely to make about an obviously interracial group wandering around?

Any insight into how people in the northeast would slot a Japanese American woman into those laws or cultural restrictions would also be awesome, but that may be something I'll need to try and infer from experiences in New Jersey.

The past is another country.  A country that is deeply fucked up.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
2014-05-21 12:46 am

Possibly less of a longshot? Possibly not.

1) Lovecraft wrote quite a lot about Miskatonic University, and many of his stories featured professors from the school.  Am I missing a story in which he actually describes the school, or shows classes, or includes academic interactions between professors and students?  Or does it just sit there as an invisible background while people read scary letters from elsewhere?  (And yes, I know that Mount Holyoke gets used in the Whisperer in Darkness film.  I'm trying to figure out if there's anything in the original mythos I need to worry about.)(I'll probably end up using Mount Holyoke too, since Hampshire would be clearly inappropriate. Also since the library is awesome.)

2) Miskatonic is the next thing to an Ivy League.  Given the time period, and also given Lovecraft, it was obviously men-only for quite some time.  Has anyone ever speculated as to its sister school?
ashnistrike: (lightning)
2014-05-17 11:08 am
Entry tags:

Right, that was the other thing I wanted to ask.

Would anyone be willing to beta read a 7800-word science fiction story?  Possible first contact, poly families, xenolinguistics, and dysfunctional academic politics.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
2014-05-16 11:43 pm
Entry tags:

The Internet is Full of Knowledge, part 53 million

There is still no inspiration quite as inspiring as a story request from an actual person.  In related news, I'd be grateful for suggestions about any of the following:

1) Sources on Japanese American food just post World War II--either descriptive or actual recipes.  So far I've got this NPR piece on Weenie Royale, which is pretty cool even if it doesn't sound particularly tasty.  Cookbooks for modern Japanese American food are easy to find--anything prior to the general introduction of sushi in the US, not so much.

2) Sources, either fiction or non-fiction, for mood in the US in response to the start of the Cold War.  I have a pretty good handle on what it felt like after everyone got used to it (as much as one can get used to the looming shadow of nuclear war), but could use a better idea of the balance between post-war techno-optimism and oh-god-what's-that-thing-on-the-horizon in the late 40s.

3) When did commercial cross-continent air travel actually start to be a thing?  That is, at one point did it switch from one-offs for ridiculously rich people to regular flight schedules available to the merely well-to-do? Thank you, Wikipedia--looking up the actual airports I want to use gives me the information I need.  (As opposed to searching for general histories of air travel, which did not.)
ashnistrike: (lightning)
2014-05-12 11:57 pm

Welcome Post

Hello, and welcome.  You've reached my irregularly updated Livejournal.  A sampling of reasons why it is irregular:

1) I write fiction: you can find some of it online at Strange Horizons and Drabblecast--and on this journal, where I reprinted a story from Analog for Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day.  My most recent stories, The Litany of Earth and Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land and The Deepest Rift, are available at Tor.com. Winter Tide, a novel following Aphra Marsh's story after "Litany of Earth," will be out from Macmillan's Tor.com imprint on April 4, 2017.

2) I write non-fiction: you can find some of it at Green Minds, my old blog on the psychology of sustainability.  With Anne M. Pillsworth, I co-write a Tor.com series on rereading Lovecraft.

3) I have a large, complicated family.  They're hard to count because they move so quickly, but I'm fairly certain there are at least 3 children, at least some of the time.  I definitely have a wife, who is wonderful and the main reason I ever have time for all this other stuff.
ashnistrike: (lightning)
2014-04-12 04:59 pm

Disability After the Singularity

Elizabeth Bear ([livejournal.com profile] matociquala) has an excellent guest post on SF Signal, about disability in science fiction--why it's worth including, how to do it right, and how to do it wrong.  I read it with interest, both because it's a topic that interests me in general and because it's a topic that shows up in my own stories.  I like playing with how deficits get defined, and by who, and how much trouble comes from an actual physical or mental issue versus how much comes from the way society handles it.

But, so, anyway.  The first comment--actually, the first 3 or 4 comments--is S.M.Stirling "pointing out" that within a hundred years we'll have a perfect understanding of biology, and therefore we won't have disabilities, so why should we write about them.

Obviously one could argue with every assumption in that very weird statement.  From a purely scientific standpoint, for a start... since we've never reached a perfect understanding of any other field of inquiry, we have no data points to infer how long it will take in biology.  Nor do we have any reason to suppose that perfect understanding equals perfect control.  We understand computer programs pretty well, after all, having created them.

Also, I just went to a seminar on neuroscience data, and we were all really excited by a database that mapped the physical shape of 13 neurons in the hippocampus.  They had 2000 human neurons total.  Not all from the same human, you understand, or connected to each other.  I'm sure we'll get better at this over the next few years, but from a Bayesian standpoint I would bet a fair amount that perfection will take longer than a century.

But, so anyway.  Circumstances did not permit me to get in a neuroscience slapfight on Tuesday merely because someone was wrong on the internet, and by the time I got back someone else had done it.  Instead, I decided to take Stirling's scientific postulates for granted--we will have a perfect understanding of biology, and perfect understanding allows perfect control--and asked what disability would look like under those circumstances.
Read more... )

ETA: S.M. Stirling, not Steve Brust. Apologies to Brust, whose name was in my head because I just got excited about the publication date for Hawk.