20 Aug

I’ll be a Guest of Honor at the North American Science Fiction Convention 2017!

I am utterly honored and super psyched to share that I will be a Guest of Honor at the North American Science Fiction Convention in 2017. Also known as Nasfic this is the convention that is held across from a Worldcon when a Worldcon is held outside of the US (and a Worldcon is a large science fiction convention that moves from city to city throughout the world each year).

Next year, in 2017, Nasfic will be in Puerto Rico in the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino in San Juan, Puerto Rico from July 6-9, 2017.

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More details at their website.

Thank you to the people behind San Juan 2017 who thought of me. I will do my best to make this an awesome NASFIC. Thank you to everyone who voted for Puerto Rico. It’s exciting to see an event like this in the Caribbean.

Of note, Nalo Hopkinson will be the Guest of Honor at World 75 in Helsinki, Finland. So, as far as Caribbean Guests for 2017, we have you all covered!

I’ll look forward to seeing you there.

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11 Aug

On having returned home…

Last Friday we packed the kids up and drove up to join my stepdad’s family up at Cedar Point. Two cousins on his side of the family that I rarely see were out here in Ohio to see family. I worked in the car and carried my backpack all around Cedar Point, did about 20,000 steps and ate All The Bad Things:

Elephant Ears
Dipping Dots (the ice cream of THE FUTURE)
Fries
Shakes
Fries with bacon and cheese
Fried cheese
and more…

With my heart defect I’m prohibited from enjoying the fast rides, but I did sneak onto the relatively sedate Mine Ride. My daughter Thalia rode the Iron Dragon and declared that was enough roller coastering for a 7 year old. Calli absolutely refused to do any coasters. They had a blast on all the other kid-oriented stuff, though. We all got soaked on one of the river rides, which Thalia insisted on doing a second time.

It was good old fashioned summer fun. And since a chunk of my early summer was eaten up with projects I think I wasn’t the best fun summer dad ever.

After spending a couple days with family, we drove out to Virginia where my parents currently live. I got my stepdad to watch a few episodes of Stranger Things, splashed in the pool, investigated the gym near their house, and then Emily and I drove back home without the kids. They’ll be enjoying a couple weeks with Nana at Nana-camp 2016.

The house is oddly quiet without two seven year olds ricocheting around inside.

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25 Jul

Media consumption: Ghostbusters (2016 edition)

This is a little late, but TL;DR I loved it.

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I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy the latest reboot. For one thing, I’m somewhat burned out by the endless churn of reboots. For another, I was really nervous about the Leslie Jones character being the sassy black best friend.

Also, I had super fond memories of the original.

Well, until a few months ago.

I mean, I always found people dressing up as Ghostbusters at cons and repeating the lines all along fairly harmless. Thumbs up, ya’ll: I love Ghostbusters, too. But it turns some of the tribe of Ghostbusters saw that there’d be an all-women reboot and they went and lost their damn minds.

With all the man-hatred aimed at Ghostbusters, I started to get nervous. With Paul Feig directing I figured it wouldn’t be total shit, but I find myself kinda hoping it would rock out and make some decent money just to fucking take a dump on the Mens Rights Activist types flooding the internet with general misogyny over the movie.

Feeling left out because the movie had a lack of representation? Damn, that’s gotta sting. Never mind taking a moment for some introspection and realizing that how you feel about that, is how some people feel for almost every movie for a very long time, along many different axes. Instead, let’s toss our toys out the crib.

So, I was scared to go see it because reboots often suck, but I wanted it to do well.

Wait up, let me back up. I almost forgot something.

I watched the original Ghostbusters eight weeks before I watched the new one.

Well, nothing ruins something you enjoyed as a kid more than going and watching it as a grown ass adult. Having Netflix has meant I’ve come to realize that Airwolf was a lot of stock footage about a twenty-year old helicopter that was not a super-cool advanced weapon from the future.

I still loved elements of the original, but, man, the Bill Murray character was creepy and we were all like ‘ewww’ about his ‘romance’ moves. They were stalkery and lacked boundaries (when he pushes into her apartment, etc). Also, there was way less invention and palling around than I thought or remembered. And we all know about the sad story of Ernie Hudson, the black Ghostbuster, getting many of his lines cut and his role reduced.

So, it’s not the worse, but it lost its golden haze on rewatch.

And the new one.

Well, it sucked me right in and had me laughing. I adored Kate McKinnon’s character, and I’ve never connected with her humor before. Her inventions, the body language, and that amazing speech about friends that was heartfelt. I could have just watched the further adventures of Kate McKinnon. I laughed at Leslie Jones’s acting, she dominated the screen with her presence, but I was lost in a loop of wondering if she didn’t need more. And the friendship between Wiig’s character and McCarthy’s character was fantastic.

There was a lot of joy here, and I really appreciate that. The whole theater laughed, applauded, and whooped when I caught a showing while I was in Columbus a week ago. It was a good experience.

When I watch it again, I might notice some pacing issues, I suspect. It’s not a perfect movie.

But for me it’s a damn good one.

PS: no, Ghostbusters is not tanking (actual numbers/data from Abigail Nussbaum).

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14 Jul

Status update: still editing a $%&*ing novel

I’m about 100 pages from the end of this edit.

It’s still one of the more challenging rewrites I’ve done, though I did take the last two days a bit slower on it due to focusing in a spreadsheet project that ate up some time. It’ll be way worth it for me down the road, one of those things where I had to build some wheels so I wasn’t dragging a cart around on the ground. In fact, it’s something I should have done some 8 years ago as a teaching tool for myself, but didn’t.

That aside, it’s now back to full grind on this edit. But seeing the end has me somewhat excited. It’ll be cool to see this project out next year.

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05 Jul

Media consumed: Preacher episodes 4 & 5

I’ve never read the comic, but while out at Rae Carson and Charlie Finlay’s place last month to spend a week focused on revisions of the current novel, I watched the first few episodes of a TV series called Preacher. I wasn’t entirely sure where it was going, but Ruth Negga is a pretty talented actress and I was psyched to see a vehicle for her. Joe Gilgun on E4’s Misfits was pretty freaking hysterical (he also starred across from the actor in Misfits who went on to play the freakishly easy to hate Ramsay Bolton) and he continues to entertain as a sketchy vampire.

I found the first few episodes a bit slow in getting their threads up and running, but after a few I felt I had the feel of it. Enough to continue watching. There were several pay offs along the way for me (squeal like a rabbit, Tulip (Negga) and her fight with the helicopter being a stand out couple). Last night, the fight scene in the hotel room had to be one of those highlights for grim, bloody humor that for some reason tickles my fancy.

I love it when I see an idea and world building taken to its logical conclusion in a way that makes you cringe and laugh and shake your head all at the same time.

What the fuck is up with the cowboy in the flashbacks to the old west, though? I’ll keep watching to find out.

Side note: well done to Seth Rogen for bringing something new to television. While it may be a bit uneven at times, I’m enjoying myself none the less.

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05 Jul

Summer revisions

I’ve spent the bulk of my day working hard on a novel rewrite due by the middle of summer. This is a weird thing because this is the 3rd novel in the last couple years that I can’t tell you anything about, but is hella fun to be working on.

I’d love to talk more about what I’m up to, but it’s been a weird year and a half in that respect. But, what’s cool about this one is that soon enough I’ll be able to talk more openly about the project. I’m just not allowed to say anything about it until the project’s PR people do their own announcements and handle stuff.

Mysterious? More frustrating. I’ve felt very distant from my readership even though I’m having some of the most fun in the day to day writing and general career side. If I were an introvert, I would have really enjoyed the last couple years.

Sadly, I’m extroverted and love talking about what I’m up to and doing and about to do.

I’m really looking forward to, in a month or so, being able to talk about whatever I’m up to once more. The strictures of the last few projects have not been very aligned with my personality. But, it’ll be fun in the next year to not just get past that, but be talking about them.

And I’m looking forward to being done with this rewrite, which has been the big focus of mine since January. I find big, deep rewrites like this hard to quantify. Did spending a whole day to rewrite a sticky single page mean good things? Yes, if it solves a Gordian Knot in the plot or sets of problems I needed to solve. But I feel better when there’s a page-eating rhythm rather than me sitting there puzzling over tangles in the book.

Yet, this is where I get to make it better yet again, so I sort of take it day by day.

I’m 170 pages into 300 pages here. After the next 30 I’ll get really excited, as it’ll feel like the downhill segment.

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29 Jun

How to collaborate on fiction in 2016 using pair programming, Skype, and Google Docs

I just finished a new collaboration. It’s a short story of nearly 10,000 words that will be in Bridging Infinity (you can pre-order here), edited by Johnathan Strahan “The latest volume in the Hugo award-winning Infinity Project series, showcasing all-original hard science fiction stories from the leading voices in genre fiction.”

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The writer I collaborated with was Karen Lord, who currently lives in Barbados (author of Galaxy Games, Redemption in Indigo, you’re reading her, right?).

There are a lot of different ways to collaborate. I’ve done many of them. But for seamless and rapid writing, one method stands out to me that was first introduced to me by Karl Schroeder.

In 2007 Karl and I spent a weekend in Toronto writing a short story called ‘Mitigation.’ The story would eventually spark my time spent on the novel Arctic Rising a couple years later. To write this story, Karl invited me to spend a three day weekend at his home while we worked on the story (also a 10,000 word story).

We spent the first night there drinking scotch and spitballing ideas, and the next morning in a diner scribbling ideas on the backs of paper mats. The fun, world building stuff that could go on and on.

But back at Karl’s office the work started. Karl had a plan, one he said he’d done with another writer before, where we would share the keyboard. One of us would write a single sentence. Then the other would revise that sentence, then write a next one. Other writer would revise that sentence, then write another.

Starting can be the hardest, but with one line at a time, swapping in and out of the chair, we soon had a few paragraphs. In fact, it was starting to get hard to stick to just a single line. Karl commented that once we started being unable to stick to a line, we’d switch to paragraphs.

This had the effect of blending our styles. It also forced us each to check in with each other, live, line by line, on what we thinking and trying to do. Get stuck? Jump out of the chair and usually the other writer could jump in.

We did this until we had 2-3 pages in short order. We broke for lunch and spitballed some outline ideas, coming up with upcoming scenes.

At that point, we then each took alternate scenes, not paragraphs, concurrently. I’d work on my laptop, Karl on his desktop, and email the scenes into a final document and edit them. In three days we had a clean, tight, 10,000 word short story that ended up being in a Year’s Best anthology.

I’ve done many other forms of collaboration. Handing the document back and forth, outlining for others to write, muddling through it on an ad-hoc basis. But Karl’s method really jumped out at me and I proposed trying to use it despite the fact that Karen and I are thousands of miles apart.

The methodology we used is something programming friends of mine indicated were similar to the idea of ‘pair programming.’ According to Wikipedia:

Pair programming is an agile software development technique in which two programmers work together at one workstation. One, the driver, writes code while the other, the observer or navigator,[1] reviews each line of code as it is typed in. The two programmers switch roles frequently.

While reviewing, the observer also considers the “strategic” direction of the work, coming up with ideas for improvements and likely future problems to address. This frees the driver to focus all of his or her attention on the “tactical” aspects of completing the current task, using the observer as a safety net and guide.

Karen was willing to try it. To write the document we used Google Docs as we could both use it at the exact same time, creating that concurrent use atmosphere and live ability I found so fascinating when I worked with Karl.

To get the live Pair Programming aspect, we used Skype. To write like this, I really found the live ability to talk to a partner to be killer. The reason is this, in past collaborations, I’ve found a lot of communication can be lost in text, emails back and forth, and people going around in circles without realizing it.

I found that just talking live to the person, I can see their face the moment I suggest an idea and more accurately assess whether we both truly love it, or whether they really love it and I don’t, or whether it’s something we’re both ‘meh’ on and should keep talking about. There is so much more you can figure out, and faster. You can tell when someone is just spitballing, as opposed to really hung onto something.

Karen and I spent a two hour Skype spitballing ideas on the first day, from which we came up with a skeletal idea for plot, some world building, and what we wanted to accomplish from the story.

The second Skype session was a half day of using the same method I described Karl and I did, but with Karen and I meeting over Skype and using Google Docs. One of us wrote a line, the other edited it and wrote the next. Then the other would come on and edit that then write the next. Soon we were doing paragraphs. Then sections.

The next two days we traded off sections, and then we did a series of revision passes that were not done live on video.

It took about four or five days to create a 10,000 word story called The Mighty Slinger for Bridging Infinity. Calypso singers, hard SF megastructures, idea SF. It was a hell of a lot of fun to write and I’m pleased to see that for a second time this process of ‘pair writing’ in a near-live situation works well, and that fact that it can work over great distances was a pretty amazing experiment, I felt.

Writing can often feel isolating. Being able to spit ball ideas and gain energy from another writer’s enthusiasm over the project made this a great experience.

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26 Jun

Ultimate weeding tool recommendation

The front of house was getting a bit weedy, despite all the mulch put down at the end of last summer when I paid to have the entire front area re-graded, as well as the beds pulled out. Our suspicion, confirmed by a recommended landscaper, was that the large raised beds along the front of the house were holding water against it, adding to our basement wetness issues we’ve been struggling with since 2008.

I hate weeding. One thing I’m quite fond of is using a flame thrower to keep the weeds back that come up between our patio stones and walkway stones. That reduced what used to take weeks of fishing around between pavers to yank weeds to just a yearly half hour burn.

But I’ve never been able to really keep up on weeding the mulched beds out front of the house. Leaning over, back unhappy, grubbing around for the damn roots. And for some reason my front yard, whether through years of struggle or just aggressive weeds around here, is aggressive as hell.

I was noodling around online and came across this beast, a stand up weeder:

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The basic idea is that you step on bit sticking out to shove the 4 claws deep down into the ground to wrap around the weed and all the way down to its root. Then, to pull it out, you lean back on it and use leverage that both forces the claws to grab the root and the lever lets you pull up with great force yet minimal effort:

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The weeding tool arrived last weekend, but I was out of town. I finally took it out for a spin on Tuesday. I stood it over a massive chunk of crab grass, stood on the lever and my bodyweight drove it down seven or so inches into the ground. I then pulled back on the handle and the whole weed just popped out.

I then flipped it into a bag, all without bending all the way over.

Reader: it was a transformative moment.

It was a slower process than weeding by hand, but not by much, and way less struggling and pulling and leaning over. I put on an audio book and set the timer for an hour to see how far I could go.

Turns out, pretty far. With just an hour here and an hour there, by the end of the week the entire front of house beds were weeded. Something that, by hand, I would have spent a couple weeks tackling and was dreading.

So this weekend, with so much weeding done, I tacked the third bed that lies along our pathway:

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You can see one of the main beds up behind it that is mainly weeded thanks to the weed tool.

Here is the walkway bed weed free, I used the weed tool on the spiky dug in weeds, but the grass I did by hand as the bed there is not very deep:

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Then Emily and I replanted:IMG 1762

I forget what the yellow flowers are, but they’re supposed to stay six inches tall and bush out and have yellow flowers all summer long.

The creeping phlox that survived an accidental miscommunication with landscapers who took out some weeds a couple years ago, and also led to them removing all the perennials we had in that walkway bed, that I split into three. Hopefully it roots and spreads, as that will lead to a few inches high phlox that produces lavender buds.

I reseeded grass in the muddy bits in front of the house beds, the grass last summer didn’t take out front. The weeds did, though, which were a big part of what I removed. Here’s hoping a second attempt at getting grass into those muddy sections work. Those were the edges of the old, high beds out front.

But this would have been a horrible, long, dreary thing were it not for that stand up weeder. A few days weeding, then I got to do some fun stuff. Rather than the usual weeks of horror or just giving up and paying for someone to come in and do it for me.

Next up, I need to re-mulch the bed down by the walkway and I need to burn the weeds between the pavers.

There’s a part of me that really hates yard work and shit like that. I just fume about the fact that I could be inside creating something, or consuming something created. But that weeding tool…

…that thing’s the shit.

I’ll likely be doing a better job of keeping up on the weeding too, now.

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24 Jun

A Reaction to the #Brexit Vote

Many of you probably don’t realize this, but I’m not American. It’s always a shock, and some folks in essays have continually flubbed it, but I’m actually a Brit in technicality.

Truth is, my mom’s the real Brit. Born in Middlesex, time spent in London, then sailed with her family around the Mediterranean and ended up in New Zealand for her equivalent of high school before rejoining the family who had sailed to Grenada. Grenada then, being a part of the last bits of British Empire.

Grenada achieved independence the year I was born, and mom was still a Brit, so she opted for the UK passport for me. My understanding is that I’m eligible to apply for a Grenadian passport if I visit. I’m also eligible for a US passport and citizenship after classes and tests.

I have kept hanging onto the UK passport all along as it is one of two things that I have from my childhood. As a kid who grew up always moving, it was one of a few roots that I got to hang onto.

The first time I visited the UK, despite being a subject of Her Majesty the Queen, was a few years ago. We went to visit some of mum’s family and see Wales, where her family originally hailed from. And the third time I visited, I used the passport to easily enter the EU and move about France and Spain.

It was one of the reasons I valued the passport. The knowledge that it gave me the ability to plug in to a larger community of 300 million.

This has been one of the biggest cutting off a nose to spite a face scenarios I think I’ve seen. It’s stunning. I’m still sorting through my reactions.

Basically, when Donald Trump, Iran, Moscow, and right-wing racist groups are all totally psyched, you fucked up.

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