Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category
Here I am in the last hours of my winter break, twelve days off the day job, and I’m wishing for one more day, one more week. Really, what I want is to give up the day job and settle into the life of a gentleman writer. I know exactly how my days will go, what activities I’ll use to fill my hours. It’s a bitter-sweet pipe-dream that I will harbor and hold dear to my heart until the day I can bring it to fruition. In the meantime, I look back at 2012 and consider what I did well, and those things I should’ve done better.
Of course that way lies madness. We can all find flaws in the plan, once things are long completed whether successfully or in failure. I know I wish I’d exercised more, and gotten off soda sooner. But in reality I’ve been soda free since June of 2012. That’s a huge deal in my book.
Speaking of books, my third published book came out from Tor in 2012. I can walk into a bookstore (virtually or in meat space) and find books on the shelves with my name on them. I’ve dreamed of that my whole life, and I saw it into reality. It took a lot of hard work, and no small bit of luck, but there you have it.
I step forward into 2013 with no books under contract. While I’m sixty percent or so done with the next book in the Sarah Beauhall series, I’m writing it for hope, faith and love. I won’t know if Tor will pick up the next contract for a few months yet. I’m hopeful, but we are in a tumultuous period in the publishing industry and the definitions of success continue to morph. I have faith in this series and faith in my editor, agent and publisher. I know deep down that this book will find its way into the world in one way or another. I do hear from some of you asking for the next book, wishing it was sooner. I’m writing as fast as I can and will just hope that the winds of fate and the publishing industry catch up with those desires.
I do have a short story collection coming out in 2013 — Bravado’s House of Blues — for anyone who would like to see some of my more diverse work. It will be coming out from Fairwood press in the second half of the year. We are still in the early stages of this conversation, but it’s been announce in Locus, so it has to be real.
I’m optimistic for 2013 in a way I wasn’t for 2012. I didn’t have any strongly negative expectations for 2012 when we rang in that year, but the economy was in free fall, we were facing another contentious election year and the world grumbled with the undertones of discontentment and anguish.
I think 2013 will be a year of great discoveries. We see more promise on the medical fronts with specific genetic targeting for both cancer and organ replacement as well as work on telomeres, brainwave interfaces and advanced prosthetics. We are making great strides in the areas of communication, electronics and alternative energy. We continue to explore the universe and make new discoveries every single day.
While the American people will continue to bicker and fight in their bi-polar dance between the old and the new, the fear and trepidation of change, and the joy and wonder of the future, we, along with the rest of humanity, will stumble forward to a new and better world.
As we dance our Texas two-step of making progress and falling back, in the end it will find ourselves further ahead than we dreamed and lament our slow pace of progress. It’s who we are, it’s in our nature.
For me, I’ll read more, take more time off work to pursue my dreams, spend time with my family and friends, and create more stories to share with the world.
Who knows, one of these novels could hit and the dream of being a full-time writer could come to be reality. Of course, we need to make further progress on a reasonable healthcare solution. That is paramount. We need to support the artists and the dreamers. They show us the way to the future.
But we are smart monkeys. I think in the long run, we will find our way forward to a civilization where the poorest of us will be able to make their way with dignity and a hope for improvement, while the wealthiest of us will offer a helping hand with compassion and grace. (Hey, I write fantasy, okay?) I believe this year will begin the long grinding climb out of the political insanity that has gripped our country and we will find our way once again on a steep path to a productive and fulfilling future.
How can we do otherwise? We are not always the brightest, or the strongest, or wisest, but we are a persistent bunch and that can go a long way toward success.
Taking this down to a more local and personal level, you are reading this on an amazing blog called Genreality. I was first introduced to this place of words and wonder by my good friend, Ken Scholes. I subbed here a few times, then in 2012, I was asked to help pick up an alternating Wednesday slot with the estimable Charlene Teglia. Well, for the first time you will get words from both of us on the same Wednesday, as this is our last hurrah.
Genreality is closing its doors to new content. While it will remain open in an archival state, you won’t be getting new words from any of us at this address.
But if you are interested to hear what I’m thinking, want to follow up on the news of my career or just ask questions, you can always find me over on my personal blog — , on Twitter at JAPITTSWRITER, or on Facebook at my author page or my personal page.
It’s been a great ride. I’ll miss this playground. Keep in touch, keep reading, keep pursuing your dreams.
I know I will.
Happy Saturday, Howdy and Ho, Ho, Ho Folks!
By now, you’ve no doubt seen that Genreality is wrapping up. If you ‘ve got last questions for me, I hope you’ll get them to me. Email is preferred. But comments here are fine, too.
I’ve already excerpted Requiem here and really don’t have much new going on that would excite you all, so I thought instead that I would offer up a buffet of choice Trailer Boy selections.
If you’re feeling in a holiday mood, consider last year’s offerings of “What Child is this I Ask the Midnight Clear” or “If Dragon’s Mass Eve Be Cold and Clear.” One’s a snack; the other’s a meal. But if I’m allowed to love my own words, those are two of my favorites. And both about the holidays. And the end of the world, of course. (Which incidentally hasn’t seemed to happen yet. Hmmmm.)
Or if you’re feeling like something musical, you can listen to me sing about evolution and mating and offspring or listen to Dylan and the Queen. And if you’re local to Portland, watch my Facebook Wall for upcoming performances out in the world.
And for those of you who haven’t finished your Christmas shopping, you know what folks love to get? Pre-ordered books! (Heh. How could I not?)
I wish you all the happiest of holidays! Be kind and patient out there!
Hugs and Kisses,
With the year ending, and so many of us working diligently on projects we hope you’ll love, it seems the time has come for Genreality to close it’s doors, so-to-speak.
However, we’re not just going to run off and leave you all hanging. This is both a heads up, and a request for any topics you’d like to see discussed. This week will be our regularly scheduled Theme week…with a week of excerpts. Then We’ll be taking a week off for christmas (from December 24-29) then from December 31-January 5th we’ll be back to say goodbye, and tackle any topics you’ve asked to hear from us about and answer any questions from you.
The blog itself will not be disappearing, we will leave it up as an archive and hope that you will continue to use it as the valuable resource we tried to build it into.
Happy Saturday and Howdy Folks!
I put out the call for a Genreality topic and my pal (and amazing research scout of all things Psalms of Isaak) Tracy suggested the topic of religion in fantasy. What a great suggestion!
I suspect I have some unusual qualifications on this particular topic. In 1985, at the young age of 17, I gave up my childhood dream of being a writer, disappointed my English teacher, and pointed myself at the ministry. I preached my first sermon at Foothills Baptist Church in Wilkeson, WA on “Putting on the Full Armor of God” (from Ephesians chapter 6) that spring and I was off and running. By 1989, I was licensed as a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention and working as a Youth Pastor. By 1992, I was pastoring my own church. I stayed at one form of ministry or another (to include performing religious songs I’d written and preaching various sermons all over the northwest) until around 1996 when I eased back into writing. I moved very slowly through a fundamentalist Baptist/Pentecostal type of faith to eventually becoming Episcopalian. By 2004 or 2005, I had slowly evolved into agnosticism and now, today, I’m a wholly secular humanist who does not believe in any of the gods heretofore proclaimed by my fellow humans and thinks that religion is more dangerous than helpful for lots and lots of reasons. I’ve experienced a pretty broad spectrum of religious faith (and rejection thereof) between those two polar opposites and it gives me a different perspective from many.
That being said, religion is also absolutely a part of human existence, a ripe and juicy bit of low hanging fruit to pluck for world building and building dramatic tension in Story. And Story is a great sandbox to play with and explore religious notions. Anyone who’s spent any time in my fiction knows I play in that sandbox a lot. These are some of the things that I keep in mind when I write religion:
1) In a fantasy, if part of the fantasy is a belief in gods, I have to know as the author if those gods really exist or are imagined. If they are imagined, why are they imagined? Were there other beings or legendary-type heroes mis-cast into the role of gods by the mortals? And if they are real, how do they operate? Are they personal? Impersonal? Both/and?
2) If my gods ARE real, they have to be governed by consistent rules in much the same way a magic system is. And the religions springing up from them are going to differ based on that god’s values, expectations and interactions with its worshipers. So those gods become more than a world-building prop — they become characters in the history, backstory and present of my world.
3) The language and behavior of faith has a cadence to it as does the language of sacred writing and the things written about. I saturated myself in religious life and thought so a lot of it comes naturally to me. But it can never hurt to spend some time getting to know some of the things folks have believed over the history of our species. Having the religious interactions in my world “feel real” to readers feeds their suspension of disbelief.
4) People have varying degrees of adherence to their religions and the beliefs across a fantasy world should reflect that. And if there are societal or divine consequences for too much or too little faith, that’s a rich soil to grow Story in. As are the inevitable clashes between groups, though in a polytheistic system where gods are know to exist, it would stand to reason (heh…I said reason) that all gods would likely be believed in and approached based on their specialty.
And this is just a starting off point. There’s much more to dig down into if you’ve a mind to do it. But make it feel real. And if you want to read an excellent essay on it, check out the Kobold Guide to World-Building…I think it’s the best world-building book I’ve read and Woflgang Bauer’s essay on the pantheon is really amazing.
As a holiday treat, I think I’ll close with a prompt to go read aboutone of my made up religions, Dragon’s Mass Eve and its Santaman, in my holiday story “If Dragon’s Mass Eve Be Cold and Clear.”
Today, I’m participating in the Norton Award Blog Tour to help raise awareness of this award.
The Andre Norton Award, named for pioneering SFF writer Andre Norton, is an award given to a children’s novel of speculative fiction by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America at their annual Nebula Awards Weekend. I highly recommend reading the other stops on the tour (link at SFWA site, above) for beautiful posts on Norton’s work and influence, the creation of the award in 2005, the award process, and people recommendations for this year.
This year was my first trip to the Nebula Awards Weekend, but it certainly won’t be my last. I’m a relatively new member of SFWA (joined in 2010), but right now, it’s the most valuable professional organization I belong to. The Nebula Awards weekend gave me the opportunity to learn so much about the genre I write in, and to meet and interact with marvelous writers I may never otherwise have met.
Here I am at the 2012 Nebula Awards. From Left: Norton Award Nominee R.J. Anderson (Ultraviolet), awesome writer and multiple award winner Ellen Kushner, Nebula Award Nominee (and like, a billion other awards) E. Lily Yu, me, and Norton Award Nominee Franny Billingsley (Chime). Not pictured: the sixth member of what we might as well call the 2012 Nebula Awards singing group: Delia Sherman, who actually did win the Norton that night for her gorgeous novel, The Freedom Maze.
I don’t know if the other writers I spent the weekend with had the same experience at the awards weekend as I did (actually, I think Ms. Yu, a college student whose debut story was up for awards, was in the midst of sorta having her mind blown), and maybe it was just timing, as it was one of the first professional events I’d attended since my maternity leave, but attending these awards and listening to these writers talk about their work, the genre in general, and Andre Norton (author Alethea Kontis gave a teary tribute to her former mentor while introducing the award), was truly a watershed moment in my career.
I was reminded, at the awards, of how diverse and exciting the current field is for young people’s speculative fiction, and as I went home and dedicated the next week to reading the Norton nominees I’d missed out on (my only nominee that had made it to the final slate was Laini Taylor’s excellent The Daughter of Smoke and Bone), I was impressed all over again. Last year’s Norton slate was filled with big, difficult questions in book form; the novels explored identity, evil, history, race, destiny, love, war, and family; they utilized complex narrative techniques and innovative storytelling and meticulous research. These books are about young people, and published for young readers, but they’re universal in appeal.
As another pioneering writer of speculative fiction for young people, Madeline L’Engle, once said: “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”
The Norton Award is important for science fiction and fantasy, not only because of what it says about children’s SFF, but for what it says about the genre as a whole.
For more information about the Nebulas, the Andre Norton Award, or SFWA in general, please visit sfwa.org.
This year, I have a Norton-eligible book called For Darkness Shows the Stars. It’s a post-apocalyptic story inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and received a starred review from School Library Journal, as well as being named one of the best YA books of the year by Amazon and The Atlantic.
I also have several works eligible for this year’s Nebula Awards:
Short Story (<7,500 words):
- “The Hammer of Artemis” in CAST OF CHARACTERS (Fiction Studio)
- “Stray Magic” in UNDER MY HAT: TALES FROM THE CAULDRON (Random House)
Novelette (>7,500 words):
- “Foundlings” in BRAVE NEW LOVE (Running Press)
The season of light comes with full fat eggnog and cookies so obviously it isn’t light in the dietary sense. It’s light against the darkness, the promise of spring’s return, the celebration of the end of winter even when we’re in the icy heart of it. And in the icy heart of winter, I want my butter-laden cookies and high-caloric eggnog latte, thankyouverymuch. Along with that I want light entertainment, so here’s a roundup for you of free and low cost holiday cheer.
2. Play games on Norad Santa’s countdown village while you wait for the sleigh to take flight on their famous tracker. I especially like the connect-the-Christmas-tree-lights game and Christmas Tetris.
3. In the Seattle area there’s the Garden d’Lights at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens, with tickets for sale (and if you’re an early bird there were several free nights). Check out the botanical gardens nearest you for similar displays.
4. Watch holiday favorites like Die Hard, Scrooged, It’s a Wonderful Life.
5. One of my personal favorites, the Christmas stories of Connie Willis. All Seated on the Ground and Miracle and other Stories are available as ebooks and will lighten your spirits with alien invasions, carols, and even a spine-tingling Epiphany.
Storytelling is one of the oldest and truest ways we’ve kept hope alive in the dark, and it’s good to remember in this season of light that telling stories and listening to them is the human spirit beating in the icy heart of winter.