Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

My Baltimore Book Festival schedule

I’ll be taking part in SFWA programming at the Baltimore Book Festival this year, which is really very awesome. First year doing that. Here are the panels/events in which I’ll be participating: main_logo

  • September 26 – Friday 2:00-3:00 | Writing about social justice in science fiction and fantasy. Join our panel to talk about science fiction that revolves around issues of social justice here on Earth–and elsewhere. From Ursula Le Guin’s tour de force novel The Dispossessed to the works of MacArthur Fellow Octavia Butler through a plethora of other writers, science fiction and fantasy authors have never shied away from stories that tackled issues of social justice. Talk with our panelists about their favorite examples and yours.

    Panelists: Anne K. Gray, Alma Katsu, Sunny Moraine, Alex Shvartsman, Fran Wilde

  • September 26 Friday 6:00-7:00 | Writing dark fantasy. So you’d like to write dark fantasy, horror fiction, or paranormals, or demons, angels, post-apocalyptic, and genre-bending fiction that puts you on the edge of your seat. Meet with writers of these genres to talk about what’s trending, what publishers are doing, and what tips our panel of authors has to offer.

    Panelists: Jill Archer, Em Garner, John Maclay, Sunny Moraine

  • September 27 Saturday 5:30-7:00 | Reception and Meet & Greet with authors, music, and food.  Join the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America at our reception, autographing session, and Meet and Greet with our program participants at the Baltimore Book Festival.

    Participants: Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jeanne Adams, Jill Archer, Catherine Asaro, Jack Clemons, Brenda Clough, Scott Edelman, Charles Gannon, Ronald Garner, Em Garner, Herb Gilliland, Anne K Gray, Elektra Hammond, Justina Ireland, Jim Johnson, Alma Katsu, Cheryl Klam, L. Jagi Lamplighter, John Maclay, Marrisa Meyer, Sunny Moraine, Christine Norris, Ellen Oh, Sarah Pinsker, Caroline Richmond, Don Sakers, Karen Sandler, Peggy Rae Sapienza, Rori Shay, Alex Shvartsman, Dawnyell Snyder, Bud Sparhawk, John Tilden, Mike Underwood, Jean Marie Ward, Fran Wilde, Ilene Wong, Karlo Yeager

Looks like it’ll be a fantastic time. If you’re in the neighborhood, come check it out and say hey.

As promised, my top ten favorite bits of game soundtracks

14874037033_7402cc271e

So my afternoon got completely derailed.

I was sitting down to write a thing and I put on the music from Metal Gear Solid 4 as background, but it reminded me how great it is. Which I started talking about, which led to me thinking about all these other great pieces of musical scores from games, so what the hell, here’s a list of my favorites.

I should note that this is not comprehensive. This is not a list of the best, this is just a list of the ones I often come back to or that were formative in some way. Most of these games are also very recent. Some of that is that I’m a relative newcomer to gaming – as a kid I missed out on a lot of the stuff my friends were playing on account of having no TV and little in the way of actual friends who would let me come over to see their game systems. I didn’t touch a console until I was in college. I’m a newbie.

The other part of it is that I tend to forget stuff I played a while ago unless it was really important for some reason, so this is also a snapshot of what’s at the forefront of my mind.

That said, these are in a sort of order. Here we go.

10. Myst III: Exile – Theme from Edanna | Jack Wall

There’s actually not much that’s remarkable about this track in and of itself – it’s sort of your standard new-agey deal. But I remember when I got to the age of Edanna – a lush, beautiful jungle world, by far my favorite age in the game – and this track started playing. There was something so perfect about the timing of it, and it pulled me into the environment with a frankly weird level of intensity. I’ve never stopped associating it with that feeling of goofy, childlike wonder as I wandered around swinging on vines and looking at glowing butterflies.

9. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – The Streets of Whiterun | Jeremy and Julian Soule

It actually took me hearing this piece in isolation from the game to appreciate it. There is, again, nothing stand-out amazing about it, but there’s just such a sense of place, and what I think is a real affection for the world of the game itself. Skyrim presents an gorgeously lush world in which to play, even if the game’s story elements are incredibly derivative and silly, and this perfectly captures the gentle way in which the game pulled me in and folded itself around me when I first played it.

8. Dear Esther – Always (Hebridean Mix) | Jessica Curry

Dear Esther stunned me from the moment I started playing it. This track, which begins when you find yourself in the caves beneath the surface of the island, almost made me cry it’s so perfect for the atmosphere of that section of the game. It’s quiet, meditative, and mournful – like the game itself. But it swells in intensity at several points, again like the game. It basically gave me lots of feelings about a game I was having lots of feelings about anyway.

7. Myst – Finale | Robyn Miller

Myst is probably the first game that blew the top of my head off – for a variety of reasons – and its music was a huge part of that. It doesn’t sound like much today, but in terms of capturing and augmenting the atmosphere of a game’s world, it showed me what might be possible. The music that played during the credits of the “best” ending especially grabbed me. It holds a very special place in my heart to this day.

6. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the PatriotsOld Snake | Harry Gregson-Williams

This was probably the first piece of a game’s score that blew me away in the way that Myst did. Again, I probably came late to this, but while I’ve always been a soundtrack buff, I was used to hearing this kind of quality in film scores. Not games. So here was a piece of music I’d be impressed hearing in a film, and it was playing over a game’s cutscene. It remains one of my favorites, as well as yet another thing that showed me what might be possible for the truly ambitious.

(Okay, we’re now into the territory where things are just barely edging each other out.)

5. L.A. Noire – Main Theme | Andrew Hale

I’ll admit to having a soft spot for more recent film noire on the order of Chinatown and L.A. Confidential, and of course L.A. Noire was basically all those tropes in a blender. For that reason alone, I loved it, but this theme hit me right in the brain the first time I heard it, and was a giant indicator that I was in good hands, that these people knew their tropes well and they knew what to do with them. Which turned out to be exactly correct. It’s a fabulous theme.

4. Portal – Still Alive | Jonathan Coulton

I’ve been confining myself to instrumental scores, but come on. I can’t not include this one.

3. The Last of Us – Main Theme | Gustavo Santaolalla

This is what happens when you get an Academy Award-winning composer to do the score for your game: It’s fucking amazing. Another one that gets tears out of me.

And these next two were almost impossible to choose between. They’re basically ties. Almost ties.

2. Uncharted (trilogy) – Nate’s Theme | Greg Edmonson

This is already one of the most recognizable game themes of all time. I came very late to the Uncharted franchise, but when I fell I fell hard, and this theme now slams me in the gut with so many emotions. Also it’s just incredible. Just fucking listen to it. Listen to it and try to resist the urge to go have adventures. Bet you can’t. I’m actually typing this from the summit of K2.

AND

1. Half Life – Hazardous Environments | Kelly Bailey

Gets the #1 slot not because it’s the best piece of music here but because I have a literally Pavlovian reaction to that opening bass. Like. Oh my GOD here comes something fantastic. Of all of these it probably gets me the most immediately psyched.

(WHERE THE HELL IS HALF LIFE 3)

So that’s it. That’s my list, as of now. Back to all the stuff I should have been doing in the last hour.

RAVENFALL is out!

RavenfallCover

I’ve been yelling about this in various places already, but here’s the official author-blog announcement: Ravenfall, the second novel in the Casting the Bones trilogy, is now available to purchase here.

While I of course hugely appreciate it whenever anyone spends their hard-earned cash on my stuff, you can also win copies of both it and Crowflight (book 1) over here. I’ll be giving out four rounds of copies in total, so your chances are pretty damn good.

YAY BOOK

RAVENFALL: win free books and handmade jewelry by me

Ravenfall comes out this week on the 6th, so I want to celebrate by giving things away, because it pleases me to do so. Starting on the 10th and running through the 16th, I’ll be drawing a name every other day; that person will win free copies of Crowflight and Ravenfall in your choice of ebook formats, and the bracelet (made by me) marked below.

image(4)

all together now!

“Blood and Moonlight” – August 10

“The Lady’s Silver” – August 12

“Wing and Bone” – August 14

“Flight to the Stars” – August 16

Enter below! Promise I will not use your contact info for any sinister demon-summoning rituals.

Writerly Roundup – July 2014

HELLO and welcome to the first of what I intend to be a monthly series of posts that outline things I, as a Person Who Is Also A Writer, have accomplished in the last 30 days or so. In part this is because everyone likes a good brag, but also because I tend to fall into this hole of not-feeling-like-I-accomplish-anything, especially in the middle of long projects or after a string of rejections (or both, wheeeeee). So I feel like this is both a way to do a little self-promo and a kind of self-care.

I’m doing something else, though, and I thought about it for a while beforehand, and I’m honestly still not sure what I think about it. Essentially, I’m including anything fandom-related I’ve done, including stuff from the pan-fandom roleplaying game I’m involved with (aka Darrow, aka #tcrpg, aka RP). I’m doing this in significant part because it would be difficult to overstate how much fandom writing has influenced and continues to influence every other kind of creative writing I do. Fanfiction showed me I could write and gave me the confidence to pursue it for money (just not, y’know, a lot of it). And if you look at the acknowledgements for my recent and upcoming books, you’ll notice I mention Darrow; there’s a good reason for that.

And finally, though I feel like the stigma of fanfiction and fandom among writers – at least genre writers – is increasingly oversold, I do think it’s still regarded by some as a set of streams that shouldn’t be crossed. And while I don’t think fanfiction and “original” fiction are exactly the same kinds of writing that do the exact same thing, I do think they deserve to get equal places at the table.

So at the end of this, I’m going to talk about fanfic and RP; feel free to ignore. A final caveat, though, in line with the above: I don’t look at my fanfic/RP the same way I do my other stuff. Among other things, it’s an arena wherein I try out ideas and techniques and issues with which I don’t feel comfortable working in my short stories and books. For me, it’s a different kind of writing. It’s done for public consumption, but a particular kind of public. If you peruse it, please bear that in mind.

SO. If you read all that, you get a cookie.

chocolatechipcookies

On to the stuff.

  • I published my essay collection (trade paperback here; ebook in all colors of the rainbow here). It was a lot of work, I did 99% of it myself, and I’ve very proud of it.
  • I went to my first Readercon. Spoiler alert: It was awesome.
  • I had two stories in two best-ofs. “A Heap of Broken Images” in The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Thirty-First Annual Edition (originally published in We See a Different Frontier), and “Event Horizon” in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, 2014 Edition (originally published in Strange Horizons).
  • On the submission front, I only sent out two short stories, one of them a rewrite request/suggestion. I completed none. That was in part because of what’s been happening on the writing front:
  • Did the highly questionable working-on-two-novels at-once thing again. The current stats are 75.7k words in Rookwar (Casting the Bones book 3) and 31.1k words in 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. Gonna need a snappier title at some point. Rookwar should be done very soon. I have no idea about UBAHKBMHWaTHAaSEaDWRSiaAF.
  • Looking toward the distant future, I completed almost all the final edits on Labyrinthian and I have cover art, which I can show off once it gets the thumbs-up from the marketing gnomes. Expect that soon.
  • Coming up in August, my story “Cold as the Moon” will be out in Strange Horizons toward the latter  part of the month, and next week Ravenfall will get its release. I’ll be running a giveaway for that starting in the next two days. I made jewelry. Stay tuned.
  • Fandom-wise, I sort of lost it regarding the Uncharted franchise – after feeling decidedly meh about the first game – and I wrote a crossover with The Last of Us that’s been percolating for a while. I’m proud of it, but holy God is it depressing:

    He was supposed to _win._ That’s how this works, how it always works. There’s danger and the threat of death and then there’s a goddamn deus ex machina, a god literally from the fucking machine to pluck them all out of the fire and set them down on level ground. He always takes the impossible shot. He always makes the impossible leap. He always jumps from the exploding vehicle at the last possible moment. She would have been dead for sure, and then he would have saved her, or something, and everything would have ended up okay even if the rest of the world was gone to shit.

    He was supposed to win. Not lose absolutely everything.

    Lips on his brow. He wanted to beg her to bite him, and that was so fucked up and so stupid.

    _If you love me you’ll do this for me. We promised each other. You remember. Don’t you dare back out now. Come on, you’ve done harder things._

    I love you. I love you, I love you. Fingers around the grip. Just like ten thousand times before. Your heart is a bullet, Nathan. This is what it does.

And now here comes the RP (Darrow). Here’s where most of you will get off the train. The rest of you, follow me under the cut.

Continue reading

Apollo 11, 45 years later

first-foot-step

The Universe: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

The first track still almost swings. High hat and snare, even
A few bars of sax the stratosphere will singe-out soon enough.

Synthesized strings. Then something like cellophane
Breaking in as if snagged to a shoe. Crinkle and drag. White noise,

Black noise. What must be voices bob up, then drop, like metal shavings
In molasses. So much for us. So much for the flags we bored

Into planets dry as chalk, for the tin cans we filled with fire
And rode like cowboys into all we tried to tame. Listen:

The dark we’ve only ever imagined now audible, thrumming,
Marbled with static like gristly meat. A chorus of engines churns.

Silence taunts: a dare. Everything that disappears
Disappears as if returning somewhere.

– Tracey K. Smith

On #Wiscon’s decision regarding Jim Frenkel

Wiscon was my first con, my first real con, back when I was a tender young writer just dipping my toes into being with other writers and people who read the kinds of things I write. It was also my first con on panels, and while I’d lectured as a TA in my graduate program and wasn’t especially terrified of that in particular, the entire prospect was very anxiety-making in a lot of ways. New people, new space with strange customs and rituals, new history, new discussions. For someone like me, intensely afraid of change and new things, it was a lot to face down.

And it was wonderful. For me, it was one of those experiences where you feel like you’ve come home to a place you simply forgot. People were so warm, so welcoming, panels were so awesome. I made friends, I met amazing writers, I laughed, I danced, and at the end of a very hard year in a very rough PhD program, I felt revived.

Since then – for the last three years, with one exception where I had to miss it – Wiscon has been My Con. It’s been the con I look forward to, the con that keeps me going through the slog that is the end of a spring college semester (I teach, or I did, and it’s a slog for us too). This past May, it was a con where I reached some important decisions and where I discovered some difficult things about myself. It was hard, but it was emotionally fulfilling in ways your regular con probably would not be.

So I can’t tell you how much it saddens me to say that unless there’s a massive, massive about-face on the part of the con, I will not be back next year.

There isn’t much I can say about the Jim Frenkel situation that hasn’t already been said by others, and much better than I could. I’m also not one of the people he’s hurt directly, and who have been correspondingly so poignantly hurt by the con’s decision in this matter. But I’ve been watching things unfold, and I’ve been watching people I care about in pain, and I cannot, in good conscience, support Wiscon with my money and my presence after this. Nor do I think I could enjoy myself if I went. As far as I’m concerned, this is a con that sets a toxic, dangerous narrative of redemption above the safety of its attendees, that provides a serial harasser with more recourse in terms of a process of appeal than it provides the people he has harassed.

I am not here for that. I’m here for Elise Matthesen and Lauren Jankowski. That’s why, come next May, I won’t be there.

I haven’t set this decision in stone. If the about-face I mentioned above happens, I’m willing to reconsider. I want to be able to reconsider. But here’s the thing: Even if Wiscon pulls a Readercon (why the hell should it have to, when Readercon trod this ground ahead of them? were they paying any attention at all?) the damage is still done. An enormous amount of goodwill has been lost. A lot of people appear to no longer feel that Wiscon is trustworthy where their safety is concerned. Something that people loved has been ruined in a profound way, and a quick revision of a policy decision is not going to fix that.

(Seriously, what the fuck were you guys thinking?)

As Saira Ali said on Twitter, “Harassment, the gift that keeps on giving”.

So yeah. Unless something major changes, I will most likely be at Balticon that weekend. It’s a relatively local con that a lot of local writer friends attend, and I’ve been wanting to go for a while.

I just didn’t want to go because of something like this.

Two Year’s-Bests with me in them and you can buy them now

Like it says in the title, two of the annual Best-Of collections are out today, and I’m in them. One of them I flailed about in my Readercon post – I has it and it is glorious and the contents are amazing.

So these are what they are:

  • The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-First Annual Collection (edited by Gardener Dozois) – In the new millennium, what secrets lay beyond the far reaches of the universe? What mysteries belie the truths we once held to be self evident? The world 1250046203.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_SL400_of science fiction has long been a porthole into the realities of tomorrow, blurring the line between life and art. Now, in The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-First Annual Collection the very best SF authors explore ideas of a new world in the year’s best short stories. This venerable collection brings together award winning authors and masters of the field such as Robert Reed, Alastair Reynolds, Damien Broderick, Elizabeth Bear, Paul McAuley and John Barnes. And with an extensive recommended reading guide and a summation of the year in science fiction, this annual compilation has become the definitive must-read anthology for all science fiction fans and readers interested in breaking into the genre.

  • The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2014 Edition (edited by Paula Guran) – No matter your expectations, the dark is full of the unknown: grim futures, distorted pasts, invasions Computer designed grunge border and aged textured backgroundof the uncanny, paranormal fancies, weird dreams, unnerving nightmares, baffling enigmas, revelatory excursions, desperate adventures, spectral journeys, mundane terrors, and supernatural visions. You may stumble into obsession – or find redemption. Often disturbing, occasionally delightful, let The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror be your annual guide through the mysteries and wonders of dark fiction.

I should note that not one but two of the stories in The Years Best Science Fiction are drawn from We See a Different Frontier: Mine, and Sandra McDonald’s “Fleet”. That’s pretty high praise for that anthology alone.

These are without question the highest-profile Year’s Bests I’ve been in to date, and it feels like a pretty cool milestone. But totally aside from me, look at those lineups. These are reliably great annual anthologies, and I can’t wait to dig into my own copies. Check ’em out.