Monthly Archives: August 2014

Addendum to video game soundtrack post from a while ago

alan-wake

I’m not sure how I forgot this one, but I was just out for a walk and ended up listening to this while doing so and oh my god I love this song (I also love the game embarrassingly much). It’s not instrumental, it’s a goddamn ballad, and it’s the best. Enjoy.

Writerly Roundup – August 2014

Here we go, the second in a series. August was a seriously mixed bag; a fair amount happened but I also didn’t feel nearly as productive as I would have liked. Let’s face it, August just kind of sucked anyway. Hopefully September will suck less for everyone overall.

As usual, fandom RP/Darrow stuff is under the cut.

  • Ravenfall gRavenfallCoverot released. Slightly later than anticipated, but it’s out there and you can pay money for it, which is always appreciated. What’s appreciated even more are reviews if you do pay money for it. You can also read chapter 1 for free here.
  • Labyrinthian promo started. Technically this started on July 31st, but whatever. Cover art got revealed here, and I posted the first chapter here. Be watching for a lot more about that in the next few 14794919024_73b09979e4_cmonths: freebies, giveaways, etc. I’m so excited about this book.
  • I had a story in Strange Horizons. “Cold as the Moon”. It’s weird and sad, which seems to be a lot of what I do these days. It’s my third story in that market, which is awesome.
  • I sold a story to Shimmer. “Come My Love and I’ll Tell You a Tale”. Elise tells me they’re full up on bleak at the moment so it’ll probably come out sometime later in 2015, but yaaaaay. That will also be my third story in that mag.
  • I kept working on novels. I’m behind on Rookwar (Casting the Bones book 3), mostly because it keeps getting longer. I think it’s going to be by far the strongest book in the trilogy, which is good because it’s also the last, but it’s becoming a monster. There is a lot going on in it. I still hope to be ready to send it off to my editor in the next few days. I also continued work on Untitled Book About How Kae d’Bideshi Met His Wife and They Had Adventures and Saved Everyone and Dealt With Relationship Stuff in an Awkward Fashion ( UBAHKBMHWaTHAaSEaDWRSiaAF), though that’s going a good bit slower because it’s not first priority at the moment.
  • I wrote a short story. Just one, but it’s the first one I’ve written in a while, and it was comforting as evidence that it’s something I can still do. Novels have been taking up almost all of my energy lately.
  • I submitted a couple of other short stories. Got a no on one of them, haven’t heard back yet about the other.
  • I wrote a fic for a friend’s birthday. It’s set in Darrow-verse and is actually a crossover with another RP verse, so it will make sense to probably almost no one, but it’s a thing I wrote and I’m proud of it so I’m linking it anyway: “Gravitation”.
  • Coming up in September: I have a story coming out in Nightmare next week – “Singing With All My Skin and Bone” – and I’ll be at the Baltimore Book Festival toward the end of the month. I’ll be on a couple of SFWA panels, I’ll have books for purchase at the SFWA vendor’s table, I’ll be at the SFWA reception, and I may be doing a reading. If you’re in the area, stop by. The programming looks awesome. I also will hopefully have finished Rookwar and I’m potentially slated to start work on a new book that I can’t talk about yet.

Okay, RP SOTP. If you’re one of the Darrow crowd, come in under the shadow of the cut.

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LABYRINTHIAN: first look!

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I wasn’t going to launch into promo for this book until September, but whatever, it’s almost September, and I want to. So here’s the first chapter of Labyrinthian, which – recap – is coming out in January from Samhain Publishing. It’s a (very, very loose) retelling of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur IN SPACE, and it’s set in the Line and Orbit universe, though it doesn’t feature any of the characters from that book and it stands totally on its own. It takes place shortly after the events of Line and Orbit, and if the L&O sequel ever actually gets a release, one should assume that it’s happening concurrent with that.

Here’s the blurb:

A hunter should never fall for his prey.
A hunter’s heart should never fall prey to his quarry.

Still nursing his latest post-mission hangover, bounty hunter Theseus jumps at a high-paying, high-risk job that sounds ridiculously easy. Yet from the moment he nabs the alleged supersoldier with sedative gas, nothing is as it seems.

On the run from the facility where he was created and raised, Taur is desperate to locate his genetically engineered brothers and sisters. To rescue them—and himself—from slavery. Waking aboard Theseus’ ship, his fury is tempered by curiosity about his captor. Despite his doubts about his prisoner, Theseus figures it’d be risky to let Taur go—until they’re thrown together by a shared betrayal. They declare a tentative truce as they flee from a shadowy and immensely powerful organization that will stop at nothing to find them.

But as they wrestle with their growing feelings for each other, Taur and Theseus face an even greater danger. A lethal threat lurking inside Taur’s own body, waiting to explode…

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So here’s the first chapter, which introduces Taur and reveals the fact that he’s not having a very good day, or week, or life.

(Warning: this actually gets pretty violent at one point)

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RAVENFALL giveaway: (Final) Day 4

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omg IT’S THE END

Yes, the final Thematic Hand-Made By Me Bracelet and the final copies of Crowflight and Ravenfall. It’s been quite a week of giving away free things, and thank you so much to everyone who entered and/or spread the word.

The final round’s bracelet is “Flight to the Stars”:

"Flight to the Stars" - August 16

“Flight to the Stars” – August 16

AND THE FINAL ROUND’S WINNER IS: Manali! *CONFETTI*

If you didn’t win books and you desire them, you can actually pay money for them here and here. Thanks again to everyone who entered. Shiny things will be on the way to their lucky recipients as soon as I can package them up and run them down to the post office.

RAVENFALL giveaway: Day 3!

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The idea that I’m going to be doing this on specific days is sort of funny at this point. >_> This has been a fairly ridiculous week. But HEY. Free stuff. Just a recap: I am giving away four sets of Crowflight and Ravenfallthe first two books in the Casting the Bones trilogy – as well as four separate thematic bracelets.

TODAY’S YESTERDAY’S WINNER IS: Cathy! Awright Cathy!

This round’s bracelet is “Wing and Bone”.

"Wing and Bone" - August 14

“Wing and Bone” – August 14

As before, if you didn’t win this time around, you’ll get two more chances before the final drawing on the 16th. And entries are still open! (scroll to the bottom for the entry form).

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So say we all.

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RAVENFALL giveaway: Day 2!

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So once again I’m late with this – very sorry, the last few days have gotten pretty rough for a number of reasons. But! Giving things away makes everything feel nicer, so welcome to Day 2 of the Great Ravenfall giveaway, wherein I’ll be giving away four sets of Crowflight and Ravenfall – the first two books in the Casting the Bones trilogy – as well as four separate thematic bracelets.

This round’s bracelet is “The Lady’s Silver”:

"The Lady's Silver"

“The Lady’s Silver” – August 12

AND THIS ROUND’S WINNER IS: Jenelle! Woooooooo Jenelle!

Remember, if you didn’t win this time around, you’ll get two more chances before the final drawing on the 16th. And you can still enter! (scroll to the bottom for the entry form).

If you’re a straight cisgender woman writing m/m romance, sorry, you are not striking a blow for equality

Stahp

[Dear people reading this in the Year of Our Lord 2017: I don’t know where you’re all coming from, or why you’re coming here now, but I wrote this literally years ago and don’t give a shit anymore, so please be aware that when you feel the need to register your disagreement with me, all you’re doing is clogging up my inbox with opinions I don’t care about regarding a thing I don’t care about. Which annoys me. Given that, I’m locking the comments. Thanks and enjoy your stay.]

Just to get my argument clear in the headline.

A lot of things have prompted this, and nothing in particular has. The truth is that this is something I’ve been feeling for a while. It’s something I’ve wrestled with a bit, given that two of the novels and two of the novellas I’ve sold have been marketed as m/m romance, though I’m not cisgender, nor am I straight. It’s something I’ve gotten shades of since I started really being aware of m/m romance as a genre, and since I started understanding the uglier side of it, it’s something I’ve come to understand features heavily in a lot of parts of the slashy areas of fandom. In fact, if something in particular prompted this little tantrum – aside from some very self-congratulatory stuff I’ve seen recently about standard m/m romance doing exactly what I said it isn’t doing up there in the headline –  it’s a good recent piece by Jim Hines about the times when something just isn’t your thing to make a story out of.

So when a reader says they don’t want white people writing about their culture, and that they don’t want me specifically to do so, I find myself struggling. And I think it’s good for me to struggle with it. I refuse to write books where I pretend other cultures don’t exist. But I also recognize that there are stories I’m simply not qualified to write well, that no matter how respectful I might try to be, my story wouldn’t be true. (An odd thing to say about fiction, but I hope you understand what I mean.) And I know that sometimes I’m going to screw up.

Here’s something you have to do if you’re in a position of privilege and you’re writing about people who aren’t: ask yourself if it’s your story to tell. Ask yourself every single time. You may not arrive at an easy answer. You may not arrive at an answer at all. But storytelling is very fucking political, and you owe it to you, your story, your characters, and everyone who might ever read it to ask the question.

You may want to tell the story. No one can stop you from telling the story. But at least be honest with yourself about what you’re doing and why. And I cannot escape the feeling – not least while so many publishers of “LGBT” romance almost entirely ignore the L, the T, and frequently shove the B into the whole “menage” category – that the reasons why a lot of m/m romance exists are not tasteful.  To borrow from Hannibal/Thomas Harris, they are not tasty.

Then I found this.

Amy began by saying that “love is redemptive” and if any group needs the redemptive qualities of love, it’s gay men.

are you seriously

Writing about two men falling in love is completely different than the traditional romance. For one thing, both characters are equals, each with his own power.

are you seriously

“In fact, in many ways, I feel like a man,” Josephine stated in her British accent. This realization makes it easier for her to bypass all the traditional tropes found in mainstream romances.

“I’m tired of women’s nasty, mean games, and don’t want to write about them,” Amy added. Backbiting and undermining of friends’ goals and aspirations aren’t often found in gay romance since men are more direct in their interactions.

oh my god

Mary echoed this thought by saying, “I don’t want to write about bitchy women.”

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I should be clear that I don’t know what the sexual orientations or gender identities of these people are. But just. Meoskop at Love in the Margins has a way more coherent takedown of this abomination and I recommend you read it. Regardless, I’ve seen this before, I see it a lot, and it’s this attitude that actually keeps me away from most m/m romance. I write it sometimes, sure. But for the most part I don’t wanna read it.

Look, I know about all the arguments that transformative works – out of which a lot of this springs – allow for queer readings/reimaginings of existing canon and that’s great. I buy that argument, because what I’m buying into is the possibility of it. But in practice, no, and that extends to m/m romance in general. In practice what we have is a tremendous amount of stroke material featuring white cisgender traditionally attractive mostly able-bodied gay men, written by and for the consumption of straight cisgender women. And you can’t claim to me that this is all striking a blow for queer equality and have me take you seriously.

“Redeeming” gay romantic relationships is patronizing. Focusing on cisgender male erotic relationships to the exclusion of other queer identities because you find that stuff hot is erasure. Reducing the significance of characters to gender and sexuality – especially in the interest of depicting erotic sexual activity – is fetishizing. I’m not the first person to say this, but now I’m gonna be another one. And sure, you can do the whole #NOTALLGAYROMANCE thing and you’d be technically correct, but when one of the largest m/m romance review sites clutches their collective pearls over any depiction of sexual activity that isn’t entirely cisgender male dudes with other cisgender male dudes, that’s at once gross and majorly indicative of some deep problems that have direct connections to not only ugly misogyny but to some very toxic homophobia:

The reduction of complex human identities to sex acts is essentializing. It’s dehumanizing. I’m guessing that most of us have heard someone at some point say something like “I have nothing against those gays. I just don’t want them flaunting it or anything.” Which really means I want them invisible. I don’t want to have to confront the fact that they exist because they threaten me.

I get that a lot of us like some porn, and I get that sometimes we just want our porn and we want to not have to perform sociocultural analysis of it before we make use of it. But that’s why I said what I said above. Write what you want. Read what you want. Just please, please be honest with yourself about what you’re doing.

And don’t you dare claim that you’re doing something progressive on behalf of populations to which you don’t belong. Because you aren’t. It’s not your progress to make. And I’m getting really tired of seeing straight cisgender women congratulate themselves for it.

[ETA] Read Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward. I mean, pretty much every writer should.

RAVENFALL giveaway: Day 1!

RavenfallCover

Today (really technically yesterday at this point) marks the first day of the Great Ravenfall giveaway, wherein I’ll be giving away four sets of Crowflight and Ravenfall – the first two books in the Casting the Bones trilogy – as well as four separate thematic bracelets.

This round’s bracelet is “Blood and Moonlight”, made laboriously by hand by me:

"Blood and Moonlight" - August 10

“Blood and Moonlight” – August 10

AND THIS ROUND’S WINNER IS: Brad! Yaaaaaaaaaay Brad

If you didn’t win this time around, you’ll get three more chances before the final drawing on the 16th. And if you haven’t entered yet, you certainly still can right here (scroll to the bottom for the entry form).

Finding the door

image by Rob Wanenchak

image by Rob Wanenchak

If thou followeth a wall far enough, there must be a door in it. – Marguerite de Angeli, The Door in the Wall

One of the first books that I remember being specifically formative for me in terms of actual writing is Stephen King’s Misery.

Like a lot of people, I went through a period of being obsessed with King’s books, beginning with a series of summer nights down at my family’s lake property in Texas wherein I stayed up until the small hours reading The Shining. One could – and many have – levy a number of very legitimate criticisms at King and his writing, and as I’ve learned more about the craft it’s become clearer to me that a lot of his books frankly aren’t all that great. But I retain the opinion than a lot of his stuff really is pretty fantastic, if often flawed – The Stand, the Dark Tower series (mostly the first three books but yes, I love the whole ridiculous thing) Duma Key, It, Desperation, Dolores Claiborne, The Green Mile, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (a massively under-appreciated gem)… I could go on.

A lot of what I learned about writing, I learned from Stephen King, and not just from his slim, lean, wonderful On Writing. I could name a number of writers who first sowed in me the seeds of Wanting to Write, but when I determined that I might actually attempt the business, it was from King that I started to grasp the inner structure and workings of how to put a story together, how to make all the pieces fit and set the thing running. More, from him I gleaned an idea of creation that was at once cautiously mystical and flatly practical, devoid of both the gauzy, fluffy nonsense and the pompous inflexibility which stand as unfortunate features of a number of books about writing. I got useful images from him that made a lot of what I intuited easier to grasp: toolboxes and tools, people digging away in mines. I gained an understanding of the business of writing as far more practical craft and hard work than the base-level possession of talent, or of sitting around waiting for inspiration.

But sometimes you do wait. Sometimes you shove whatever your current project is into the back of your mind and go on about your life. Sometimes you get an idea but you know it isn’t ready yet, or you suspect it may not be. Then you let it be. I’ve found it useful to conceive – heh – of this as a kind of pregnancy; I can feel that something is growing, but it’ll grow at its own pace. I’ll know when it’s ready to emerge, and to try to force it out before its time could kill it before it has a chance to get going.

But sometimes it doesn’t simply emerge in its natural time, and then you have to hunt for it. You have to chase.

In Misery, King describes my understanding of this process as regarding a blank page, waiting to fall into it. That image has stayed with me, because it feels so right; what you need is a way through and into, and you won’t find it by avoiding it. And it’s not fun. It’s painful.  It’s lonely and frightening, and I think that loneliness and fear is what keeps a lot of would-be writers dependent on inspiration, the lack of which provides an excellent excuse to quit for the day and do something that isn’t writing.

And then there’s what I tend to experience more than anything else when trying to start a project – and sometimes when stuck in the middle of one – which is a combination of the two.

I’m not waiting to fall through a page – or a screen – and I’m not waiting for something to birth itself. It’s like I’m in the dark, feeling my way along a wall. There’s nothing in the dark with me but that wall – except for the wall, I’m in a void. What I’m looking for is a crack, a hole, a window, maybe even a door. I have no clear idea what’s behind the wall. Maybe I can hear things through it, very faint – voices, music. Maybe I’ve heard rumors about what’s over there, unreliable third-and-fourth-hand reports. The fact is that I don’t know. All I know is that I can’t stay in the dark.

And if I keep feeling along the wall, sooner or later I’m going to find my way through.

That moment, when I find the way through, is difficult to describe, but I think King would recognize it instantly. I think most writers would. It’s a moment of quiet elation and revelation both – not an understanding of the whole story or of the totality or the plot but more that you now see the path by which you might get to the end. You have a way in. The country beyond is still undiscovered, but now you can begin – or continue – the journey. And now the journey doesn’t seem nearly so impossible, nearly so overwhelming.

That moment is one of the moments I’ve come to live for. I had one of them last night. I’m not quite ready to start that particular journey, but I can see the road through the door, and I’m looking forward to it with great anticipation.

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to. – JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings