Where You Can Find Me at Bubonicon 2014

I’m very excited to be a part of my local convention, Bubonicon, in Albuquerque, New Mexico this year. New Mexico has an amazing group of speculative writers writing across many different sub-genres of the field, and they’ll all be in one place! If you find yourself in the Land of Enchantment for the first weekend of August, be sure to check it out.

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Here’s where you’ll find me:

Friday: ASPIRING WRITERS 201: KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES – RESEARCH
To be successful in SF, a writer must keep up with the technology, the competition and the field. Why are those all so necessary? How do the panelists do that? How does one balance the writing needs with mundane life? What happens if a writer doesn’t keep up? Are the panelists worried about being left behind?

Why I’m excited: Because I get to geek out about research and how my time in grad school and academia shaped the writer I am today!

Saturday: WRITING THE CHANGE: ANTHOLOGY DISCUSSION
An anthology based on SM Stirling’s “Change” series will be released in 2015. Contributors to the anthology (including me!) talk about their stories, what inspired them, what part Stirling played in their creations, the rules to playing in one person’s sandbox without contradicting each other, etc.

Why I’m excited: I get to talk all about my forthcoming story in the anthology along with both the editor and some of the other contributors—a unique opportunity to see how other authors tackled their stories for the anthology.

Sunday: HIGH SCHOOL IS HELL: YA DYSTOPIAS
Why are dystopian futures so popular in the YA market? Are they analogies for how teenaged youths feel about high school? What are some of the good YA dystopian works beyond The Hunger Games and Divergent? Is this sub-genre just a fad or is it here to stay? What might replace it? What’s being done that’s new and different? Has the dystopian theme become a crutch for writers and publishers?

Why I’m excited: Well, it’s no secret that at least half of my published short stories are YA in nature. I’m a big fan of speculative fiction for young adults and look forward to hearing my fellow panelists’ take on the genre.

So mark your calendars and be sure to say hi!

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The Albuquerque Marriott Uptown
2101 Louisiana Blvd NE (Louisiana & I-40)
Albuquerque, NM 87110

Guests of Honor: John G. Hemry and Cherie Priest
Toastmaster: Steven Gould
Guest Artist: Darla Hallmark

http://bubonicon.com/

 

The Story Behind The Story: Forge and Fledge

Yesterday, the Runaway issue of Crossed Genres Magazine went live, which includes stories by Rachael Acks, Angela Rega, and yours truly!

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If you haven’t yet, you should go read “Forge and Fledge,” a young adult science fiction story about an orphan of Titan desperate to escape life on a hydrocarbon mining rig. No worries, I’ll wait.

I’m so thankful to publishers Kay T. Holt and Bart Leib, as well as editor Kelly Jennings, for selecting my story for inclusion in the issue. Recently, Crossed Genres became a SFWA-qualifying market, and they are running a Kickstarter to keep publishing diverse stories and paying pro rates. If you love speculative fiction that bucks the norm, consider subscribing to the magazine and/or donating to the campaign.

Story spoilers follow:

A while back, I started researching Titan, a moon of Saturn, thinking it would be a great story setting. Originally, I wanted to use it for a novel, but the unique characteristics of Titan, that it’s mostly ice and covered in hydrocarbons, made it difficult to write the story I had already plotted out in my head. I eventually turned to Mars and wrote my novel, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking about Titan.

It’s considered a candidate for human colonization, but there are a lot of technical hurdles to overcome, not least of which is just getting there. Subzero temperatures, a thick atmosphere that exerts a pressure one and a half times that of Earth, and a gravity that’s slightly less that of the Moon’s. But it has plenty of water, nitrogen, and methane, so, as long as you get the engineering right, people could theoretically live there. (This is essentially the TL;DR version of the Wikipedia article: Colonization of Titan.)

And what would be the attraction to colonizing Titan? Why the hydrocarbons, of course (or perhaps the water depending on which post-apocalyptic future scenario you subscribe to). But even if it were possible, I couldn’t see people jumping up and down to live on a frozen iceball. Hence the corporate mining facility and the penal labor force in my story. And my main character Zhen wants nothing more than to get away by any means possible.

Remember the low grav and high atmospheric pressure? Well, it’s been theorized that humans could strap on wings and fly on Titan so long as they didn’t freeze to death first. In fact, this concept was recently featured on io9—propulsion is still an issue, but Zhen’s dive off the rig’s platform, where it hovers over Titan’s surface, would hopefully provide enough momentum for flight. At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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Image courtesy of stans_pat_pix of Flickr

 As to submission stats, I only sent this to three markets and lucked out on the third one. I’m so happy it found a home. I hope you enjoy it as well!

 

 

Interview with Fran Wilde

Today, please welcome SF/F writer Fran Wilde to the blog!

I met Fran at Taos Toolbox and was impressed by her ability to fuse lyrical writing with genre fiction. She became a full SFWA member in July 2012 and scored an agent (!) in May 2013, and I’ve asked her here to share a bit more about herself and her writing journey.

Please tell us about your journey from when you first decided you wanted to be a writer through now.
Are there children in the room? Best ask them to leave, this gets messy…
I was a writer the moment I realized you could make words stick around by writing them down.
Mine is a storytelling family (some relatives use circular breathing so they can’t be interrupted; others tell fantastic yarns that end with ‘Whelp. So that happened.’). I grew up listening to their stories – some of which changed each time they were told. When I wrote my stories down, they stayed put. I liked that.
And more than anything, I was a reader. I got my own library card as soon as possible, and I was on a first-name basis with the local indie bookstore owners. I read everything I could, especially if it had spaceships, universe-sized intrigues, computers, fantastic creatures, strange people, or, better, all of the above.  Some of what I read wasn’t viewed as appropriate reading for me – I got told that a lot. I read it and loved it anyway.
Two years after I completed my MFA, I set aside the manuscript I was working on in order to focus on three things that paid the bills: teaching, copywriting (mostly for engineers and tech), and programming. While I wrote during that time, I didn’t send anything out, and I didn’t have a community of writers, save for a few dear friends who kept reminding me who I was. Finally, one day I snapped and wrote half a story – and the next day I wrote some more, and soon I was back on a regular writing schedule. And this time around, I gave myself full permission to write what I wanted to write.
No big shock, then, that my new stories had space in them. And programming, and engineering. And poetry. And strange creatures. I found a resource online –the SFF Online Writing Workshop – and critiqued there for a while before dropping a story in to see what would happen.  That led to finding my first crit buddies – several of whom I still exchange work with.  Five months later, I went to Viable Paradise and Jim MacDonald and the instructors at the Martha’s Vineyard workshop told me I wasn’t really a short story writer. They dared me to try to write a novel in 90 days. And I met more of my community. That was fantastic.
A similar thing happened at Taos – where I met you! And I’m a better writer for it all.
You have both a Masters in information architecture and interaction design and an MFA in poetry, which are very different fields. How does this background inform your writing?
Programming and poetry share more in common than you might think. I’d love to see a poem written in regular expressions that actually compiles into something.  I love the places where the two meet: interactive narratives, using hypertext and gorgeous graphics. I love graphic novels too.  And I’m very aware of sensory stuff – particularly the sounds words make – sometimes too much so. I get caught up in nets of sound.

What piece of writing advice has been key to bettering your craft? 
Easy is the enemy. Keep writing, every day. Put that amazing draft away for six weeks, then look at it again, with a critical eye.
I had the good fortune of reading the amazing novel that got you agented. Please share a bit about the book and what you’re working on now.
Bone Arrow is a science-fantasy YA novel that demanded to be written. I love building worlds, and this one’s a lot of fun, and strange, too. Think Cirque du Soleil meets the Codex Seraphinianus. But what I love best is the characters – because once I gave them the space, they ran with it. I had all these things planned out for them and instead, they did their own things, a lot of which completely surprised me.
Right now, I’m working on a second generation story set in the same world, with different characters. There’s a related short story coming out in the Impossible Futuresanthology in August, called “A Moment of Gravity, Circumscribed”.
And I’m working on a novella set in a different universe, and revisions to my first novel, Moonmaker, which is more tech-driven.  I usually keep a lot of projects going so that if one slows down or I need to stick it in a drawer, I can pick up another.
What is important for a beginning or intermediate writer to understand about writing for publication?
Ah. This is the hard part. Rejection isn’t personal. It feels personal. It can feel like you’ve been judged as not worthy – like you’re not really a writer when you get that “unfortunately”.  But writing for publication is all about ‘Right time, right editor, right story.” Pro writers get rejections too. The key is to send that story back out – and to keep sending it out. I need to do that with a few stories, actually. [Bad writer: no biscuit.]
Another good idea is to volunteer to read slush for a magazine in your genre. Keep an eye on your favorites via Twitter and Facebook. Editors sometimes post requests for new slush readers there.  Once you see the scope of a typical slush pile, you’ll realize it’s not personal. And hopefully that will help you start to feel more confident about your writing and your submissions as well.
Thanks so much, Fran!
Thank you Lauren! It’s always great to talk with you!
You can find Fran on Twitter [@fran_wilde] and stay up-to-date with her writing through her blog: http://franwilde.wordpress.com/
                       

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Interview with Lori M. Lee

Today I’m happy to bring you an interview with my critique partner Lori M. Lee. 
In December of 2011, she signed with Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary, and her book deal (!) with Skyscape was recently announced. She blogs about the writing life at http://lorimlee.blogspot.com/

Thanks for stopping by today, Lori! For the uninitiated, could you give us a brief overview of your writing journey up until now?
Thanks for having me, Lauren 🙂 It’s been almost four years since I began my first manuscript-with-intent-to-query/publish in 2009. It was a NaNoWriMo, and I spent a year editing and rewriting it based on feedback from my amazing CPs (like you! :D) before querying. While querying that project, I began working on Gates of Thread and Stone. This story so much fun to write, and I was extremely fortunate to receive an offer of representation in November of 2011 after only a few weeks of querying. But the work definitely didn’t end there. A major revision and a year later, I finally got that yes from an editor!
What is something that surprised you about being an agented writer? Many aspiring writers put so much emphasis on getting an agent without necessarily thinking about what happens after reaching that milestone.
This is sort of dumb (and a good example of how my brain works… or doesn’t, in this case), but when I began my next project, I had brief moments of panic when I thought about writing the query. Then, at some point, it struck me—I don’t have to write a query. My agent doesn’t require one. The query was always such a stress-filled requisite of writing a new manuscript-with-intent-to-find-an-agent that it didn’t immediately occur to me I didn’t need one b/c I already had an agent. And believe me, when that realization hit, it felt AWESOME.

I’ve gotten the impression from other writers in the blogosphere that being on submission is kind of like Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. What can you say about your time on submission and how you coped for other writers going through the same process?
Being on submission had even greater ups and downs than querying. When an editor loved the book, but it got shot down in acquisitions, that hurt a million times more than an agent rejection because I was so, so close. Being on sub was exciting and terrifying, but also emotionally draining. I coped with everything first by working on something new and then inadvertently by getting pregnant lol. With my mind focused on a new world and new characters (and the impending baby), I had less time to worry about what was happening with the book on submission.
The Gates of Thread and Stone will be published by Skyscape (Amazon Children’s Publishing) in 2014, and it is the first book in a series. Tell us about the book.
Going with what was revealed in the deal announcement (since I don’t know how much more I can talk about yet), Gates is about a girl who stays carefully under the radar to keep her ability—to manipulate the threads of time—a secret. But when her brother disappears, she has to risk getting caught up in a revolution in order to save him.
What was your biggest challenge writing this book?
This particularly book came really easily to me, which is not typical. The world building was probably the biggest challenge because world building, in itself, is fairly intricate, but the plot and the characters were very clear in my mind.
What excites you most about this next stage of your career?
Reader feedback. Good or bad, I can’t wait to hear what readers think. It’s definitely scary, and I’ll probably fumble through it all, but I’m looking forward to it.

Finally, what is the single best piece of writing advice you’ve received?
Work on your next book while you’re waiting for query responses. Write while you’re on submission. Write while you’re waiting for feedback from CPs or your agent or your editor. Having that shiny new idea to focus on really does make the waiting more bearable, and the bonus is if that ms doesn’t work out, you’ve got your next one ready to go.
Thanks so much Lori!

Be sure you check out her blog (http://lorimlee.blogspot.com/) and follow her on twitter (@lorimlee).

Lori’s always been an incredibly supportive writer, and I’m so happy she’ll be able to share her stories with the world!

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The Pros of Professional Development

While the blogosphere is a fantastic resource—rife with informative posts on craft, publishing, and other aspects of the writing life—it can get overwhelming and, at times, repetitive. Not that repetition can’t be helpful in crystallizing some aspects of craft. But too much, and my brain starts saying I’ve heard this before and I tune out.
When that happens, the act of learning, of actively improving, becomes passive. For this writer, that means I start to feel complacent. Not a good place to be.
I had been feeling this way recently—after all it’s been just under a year since I attended Taos Toolbox—so when I saw my local SCBWI chapter was hosting a NY agent for an all-day workshop, I signed up, hoping to be reinvigorated.
I was nervous as I always am when owning my writer persona in an unfamiliar environment with (gasp!) strangers. For the morning session, the agent presented an overview of essential craft elements for children’s books. Then the afternoon was all about the business side of things. It was a very informative session, and unfortunately I signed a waiver that doesn’t let me get any more specific than that.
The workshop would haven been tremendously helpful for me a year or three ago. As it was, I’d say didn’t learn anything “new.” Instead, I learned the relative importance this agent placed on different aspects of craft and business. Much of the content I had been exposed to before, though not as systematically all at once. Hand in hand with the workshop, I paid for an optional critique that didn’t uncover any fatal deficiencies in my writing. So at this point you may be wondering what I actually got out of a wasted Saturday and a c-note.

1. It’s Worth Checking In Sometimes

It is entirely possible to reach a point with your craft where you simply don’t need all the handholding you once did to stay productive. The writing is going well, you’re in the zone, this one’s going to sell, and so on. And that’s all great. But when you’re holed up in your cave, sometimes you can lose sight of what your writing really needs.
By attending a workshop like I did or engaging in some form of professional development to put you and your work out there, you have the opportunity to evaluate your writing through someone else’s eyes. On the business side of things, the publishing world is changing so rapidly every day, you can’t afford to not pay attention to opportunities to help put all the changes into perspective.

2. Don’t Underestimate the Value of Knowing You’re On the Right Track

You remember that critique I got? It let me know my opening for a new project was on the right track. That is invaluable. Looking back at where I was with past projects and knowing they wouldn’t have received this kind of feedback at this stage, shows just how much I’ve improved. Doesn’t mean it’s perfect, doesn’t mean there aren’t things I can do to strengthen my story. But it’s now a question of calibration, not wholesale revision. And that’s a huge difference (and a huge confidence boost).

3. Professional Organizations Provide Superior Opportunities

Now, this assertion is grounded in my personal experience. I’ve tried a lot of different things, including:
Local, grassroots style writing groups like those you find through Meetup.com or your local alt-weekly. You can find some good individuals, but too often the group includes people who don’t know what they’re doing or have a different focus (say self-publishing when you have your eye on the Big 6).
Classes at the local community college or university. Again, you might find some serious individuals, but many of these people are just testing the waters and haven’t screwed up the courage to take the plunge. The teachers at this level can also be suspect in their ability to teach or inspire. Note, I am not talking about MFA programs and the like.
Regionally-focused writing organizations. The ones near you may be different, but the one closest to me serves as a catch-all for writers not represented by other organizations. Mine has a lot of writers writing memoir and literary fiction, and their classes and workshops cater to hobbyists and beginners.
Residential workshops like Taos Toolbox. Expensive, but being surrounded by a dedicated group of peers, and being instructed by individuals who have lived through publishing’s ups and downs is priceless.
Local chapters of national writers groups like RWA or SCBWI. These organizations are far more likely to have classes and workshops for the intermediate and seasoned writer.
I can say with absolute certainty that you get folks who are a lot more serious about learning their craft at organizations and workshops with a targeted focus like genre. Not one of the thirty people in the workshop I attended had stars in their eyes that they’d be the next JK Rowling. Everyone was aware of the years of hard work and the smart choices it takes to succeed in publishing.
Now, I’ve held off joining any of the membership organizations. Partly because it’s another cost in a field with too little money for writers as it is. Partly because I was a little too in love with the idea of the “lone writer” for a long time. And partly because I felt I had to “prove” myself in a genre before I could presume to join an organization dedicated to it. Imposter syndrome, much?
But now? I’m in a place where I’m reasonably confident in my abilities as a writer. I’m also very cognizant of what I don’t know as I contemplate what’s next for me. That’s where the support of a national organization becomes invaluable. I’m still debating which one is best for my career long term, but I can no longer ignore the benefits they can provide.

What about you? Have you had a recent professional development experience? How did it go?

Happy writing!
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