Category Archives: Writing

23 Aug

What the alternate Hugo Ballot would likely have been

I haven’t seen anyone post something showing what the ballot for fiction would have looked like without the ballot stuffing, so here was my quick attempt to piece together what it would have been:

Best Novel

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin
Lock In by John Scalzi
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennet

Best Novella

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Pat Rothfuss
The Regular by Ken Liu
Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress
Grand Jete by Rachel Swirsky
The Mothers of Voorhisville by Mary Rickert

Best Novelette

The Day the World Turned Upside Down by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Each to Each by Seanan McGuire
The Devil in America by Kai Ashante Wilson
The Litany of Earth by Ruthann Emrys
The Magician and Laplace’s Demon by Tom Crosshill

Best Short Story

The Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon
The Breath of War by Aliette de Bodard
The Truth About Owls by Amal El-Mohtar
When It Ends, He Catches Her by Eugie Foster*
A Kiss With Teeth by Max Gladstone*

JWC Award for Best New Writer
Wesley Chu
Andy Weir
Alyssa Wong
Carmen Machado
Django Wexler

Quick reactions:

Man, everyone go out and buy City of Stairs. I’m buying Robert Jackson Bennet drinks for a night the next time I run into him. Bennet: I witness you!

In Novella, Pat Rothfuss was amazing with Slow Regard. What a loss. Ken Liu is one our best short story writers alive today, a missed chance to honor him. Mary Rickert, she’s another stunning writer.

Novelette. Go read Kai Ashante Wilson. Now.

That short story ballot would have been diverse and amazing (hell, the whole ballot).

Max Gladstone, I witness you!

The JWC ballot would have been, also, amazing. Wong and Wexler are standouts. All in all, an amazing list of talent, go read these people.

Then, also go read the people who withdrew their stuff from the puppy slates:

Matthew David Surridge. His withdrawal placed Laura J. Mixon on the ballot, who ended up winning. Not possible without him.

Marko Kloos, who is responsible for placing Three Body Problem in the list. In fact, I might be being unfair in leaving his name off the alternate ballot. There’s a very good chance we’ll be seeing more of him in the future on lists.

Annie Bellet, who dropped out of the short story ballot.

This list was put together due to everyone emailing or texting me Annalee Flower’s pictures of the data.

Update: there’s now a link to the full stats PDF.

*Update: I’m told there’s a 5% rule that *maybe* knocks Eugie Foster and Gladstone off the ballot for short story above. I’m leaving them up as great stories to consider reading.

21 Aug

Twitter Vacation Until October 15th

A long while ago, I read some very good articles about the impact of news.

See, news works on us by making us anxious. Six things under your sink could be killing you! Turn it at eleven. You won’t believe this horrible thing that happened that could have been to someone like you! If it bleeds it leads.

I’d seen the effect that had on people who consumed heavy media diets. My stepdad’s grandmother in Florida, once she was unable to get out of her house much (and in pre-Fox News times) consumed so much news. When I, a geeky underweight nerd, traveled with family to Florida I found that she kept leaving the room whenever I walked in. Turns out that since the only thing she’d seen about ‘teenagers’ was them robbing or beating up people that she was terrified of me.

A diet of constant alarm and fear puts you into a state of fight or flight. I drastically curtailed news shows, media, and such and began to engage with news extremely carefully and mindfully. Began focusing on deeper dives into topics if I was curious.

I do dearly love the water cooler aspect of twitter, and I learned a great deal from so many people linking and explaining important experiences to twitter over the last years. However, the media part of social media means that bleeding leads. I’m not going to bang on about ‘outrage’ culture, that’s not what I’m getting at. I love twitter. It’s a tool. I’ve been on it since 2008. It’s not about that. This is a problem that’s as old as any media. What I’m getting at is that we click and pass on stuff that scares or horrifies us much more than other items. It’s simple human nature, just like more of us turn in to scary news than happy news. We focus on bleeding for leading, always have. And because of the social aspect of social media, it’s been delivering things that I used to engage with more mindfully in a way that is a bit of a firehose.

Right now, I have a tight deadline, and a larger than normal amount of freelance work to do. I’m noticing that social media is fine when I have a lot of emotional energy to handle and negotiate my media intake, but when I’m stressed and overworked my ability to handle it goes down. And when that happens, I’m over flooded with horrible news that’s important, but since social media has so many vectors and ways to deliver fearful news to me, it generally takes away energy that I need for doing my own important work because I have to engage, think about how to react, dig deeper, or move, which often doesn’t work because I then have guilt about either not signal boosting or grappling with something.

This isn’t about people sending me things on twitter or disagreeing with me or anything, it’s just about constant heart-breaking stories being linked that take energy out of me.

So, out of simple self preservation, I’m taking a cleansing break. I’ll be taking it until the middle of October.

The bonus? I will be blogging. And my blog posts will auto post to twitter.

I will not be reading @ replies or twitter. DMs will come to my email, however I won’t be getting on twitter to DM back, I’ll likely just email. You can always email me on the site!

Twitter has been uninstalled from my phone, bookmark deleted from my computer for now.

Ironically, I’ll be using more dead media to make sure I’m not uninformed, and doing more reading during this period. Just in a carefully controlled way so that I’m able to keep a balance going that does not lead to me feeling drained, and figuring out where I can invest my energy best.

As a result, I may even end even up blogging a bit more.

06 Aug

Four Hacks I’ve Used to Focus Harder While Writing with a Computer, Plus One that Rules Them All (For Me)

I’m ADHD, which means for most of my life I’ve been dealing with distractions and interruptions that constantly thread through life on what can be sometimes a minute by minute basis. I was not diagnosed until I was an adult, by a psychologist who was at a very long practice ceremony next me that I’d been told ‘would be quick’ and ended up being hours. Usually I would have taken a book or notepad with me. Because I hadn’t, I started acting out. They were surprised I was unmedicated.

I remain so.

Over the last three decades or so, I’ve developed habits and coping mechanisms that help me create islands of focus to get things done.

What is interesting about modern life to me is that, over the last 15 years, everyone else has become exposed to ADHD life in a way. Whenever I read articles lamenting the devastating impact of continuous partial interruption, like this one at Entrepreneur Magazine:

It is very easy to lose track of whom you have just followed up with — you end up sending your follow-up email twice or reference something you were discussing with someone else or, worse yet, send an email to the wrong person entirely. (Who hasn’t done that?) Continuous partial attention keeps you from being alert, attentive and focused and can hamper your post-event follow up not to mention your day to day activities.

We have supercomputers in our pockets connected to satellites connected to a universe of instant information. But people are getting swamped with it all.

Well, that’s pretty much what I feel like most days with just the world around me. Only, you can turn off Facebook pings, email dings, etc. I cannot turn off the world. It’s always there, always interesting, and always tapping me on the shoulder. Continuous partial interruption may be new to many of you, but it’s nothing new to me.

As a result, I do not have this loathing of connectivity and all it’s distractions. It’s just another environment that needs careful engagement, much like I have to be careful about how I engage the rest of the world.

Many people around me seem to view connectivity as something that masters them and not an appliance that needs controlled. Which, as someone with ADHD, I inherently view it as.

I’m starting to see this realization spreading as people begin to control their computing environment to get more writing (or any other kind of work) done. They’re realizing they need to turn off email pings and try to create focused spaces. There are four approaches I’ve seen. I’ve tried them all, and so far my favorite is #5.

I’ll walk through them.

1) Shut Off Notifications

This is the most common advice given in taking steps to control your working virtual environs. Turn off text announcements, email pings, pop up notifications and so on.

It’s not a bad first step. But sometimes different work setups require things to be setup to interrupt you. With a work setup, personal communications set up, social media layer, and other functions all stacked up in one workspace, the different functions step over each other.

If you can get away with it, sure. We should all cut back on notifications. But it doesn’t work for me due to the varying ways I use the same computer. I do freelance consulting, eBook design, social media and business and personal communication, browsing, research, and finally writing fiction…

2) Use Virtual Workspaces

I found the use of virtual workspaces a bit more helpful in separating out the various functions I used. Using Spaces in OS X meant I could stick all my writing app windows in one Space, all my comms in another, and so on.

However, notifications from different worlds could still pop up.

Also, it was easy to slide over from one space to another when I was losing steam. Stop writing, just pop over to my communications window and check email… just for a second.

Nope, not a long term solution for me. But it could work for someone who was able to focus easily if notifications were all silent (from tip #1).

3) Disconnect from the Internet

A lot of writers struggling with focus get apps, like Freedom, which disconnect the computer from the internet for a set period of time. That’s usually a fantastic hack for focus. Prevents you from getting incoming notifications. Eliminates the ability to get online and check social media.

I used Freedom back when it first came out and rather liked the focusing effect.

Downside, I do have to do some work online for my freelancing gigs. Also, as someone who has ADHD, I use noise canceling headphones and music to create focus. I stream music. Without internet, I’m out of luck.

Also, I’m obsessive about backing up. I use dropbox to constantly get a backup of my writing, including the ability to revert documents. Hours offline make me nervous.

4) Use a dedicated, disconnected computer to write on

I know some writers who use dedicated devices to write on. I liked the idea of creating a custom environment dedicated to the task at hand. But the expense of an extra computer?

Also, the issues in the last paragraph of tip #3 still stand. I want to be backing up my files.

5) Use Multiple Log Ins

This is the productivity hack I settled on over the last couple months, which has really saved my sanity. I stole the idea from watching a fantastic Python programmer and close friend, Brandon Rhodes. While working with me on a piece of code, I realized he had a login for work for his employer, a login for work on his own custom code, and a login for email and other communications-type work. Each login had a different workspace and set up aimed at the focus it had.

Up until then, I’d been using virtual desktops and clamped down notifications, with internet disconnecting apps during crunch times. Now I sat down and created 4 different logins for the different focuses I had.

One login, my default, opens to a desktop where I do email, browse the internet, do social media, blog, balance the checkbook, get texts, etc etc. This is a chaotic and interruptive place, but that’s okay. That’s what it is.

The next login is my freelance consulting gig. There, my email client logs in to just the email for that job, as well as a to do list… just for that gig. The browser autoloads tabs for the places I need to go for it, and all the apps on the dock are… only for that gig. When I log in, the last opened apps all open up, and last loaded tabs all open up. This login can be interruptive, which it is supposed to be when I’m engaged in it. But when I log out… it is all shut down. If I have to jump back over to my general comms login, for something briefly, I can moved between logins. But the friction of having to log over, type in a password, and wait a second for that place to resume, it’s just enough friction that I don’t do it unless I really have a compelling reason.

My eBook design login is set up to focus similarly on just doing that. All my scripts and templates and software are easy to reach on the dock. The focus again means when I’m there, I’m doing just that.

My Just Write! login contains nothing but writing software and a desktop with access to my Dropbox writing files. In this case, I have elected to leave it connected to the internet so that files are backed up, I have my preferred music streamed, and I can look up facts on Wikipedia.

However, there are no bookmarks to social media or email. To get online, I have to go to my applications folder, select Safari. It defaults to Wikipedia on open. A hint to myself. This Safari has none of my passwords memorized for online services like Facebook, or Twitter (those are long, random strings that are kept in a password manager in the communications area). In other words, I CAN get to those places via that login, but it’s a hassle.

When writing, I tend to be logged out of everything but writing.

The hassle of having to log in and start up the other areas creates friction to the ‘oh, I’ll just quickly jump over and check…’ and makes the brain go ‘eh, that sounds like work. Let’s just stay here.’

There’s a last hack with multiple logins, for those not worried about constantly backing up. You can create a login with child protection safety guards on the writing account to block yourself from getting online, or control where you go.

On each of these logins, I use Dropbox to manage my files. Yes, setting up Dropbox 4 times for 4 logins was a bit slow. And setting it up if I move to a new laptop down the road will be slow as well. But it’s worth the productivity gain.

There are a number of creative things you can do with tailoring environments to your needs, I’m not exactly cutting edge here. But over the last couple months a lot of writers I’ve talked to have lit up when I’ve mentioned doing this and a few have said it has been a big help to them, so I figured this was worth blogging.

Your mileage, of course, may vary.

15 May

Operation Arcana is now out in audiobook!

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Operation Arcana is now available. It is unabridged and produced by Skyboat Media, the production company of acclaimed producer and narrator Stefan Rudnicki. It features the vocal talents of narrators: Paul Boehmer, Gabrielle de Cuir, Richard Gilliland, Sunil Malhotra, Arthur Morey, and Stefan Rudnicki.

(Via ABOUT THE AUDIOBOOK – Operation Arcana : Operation Arcana.)

More anthology details:

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In the realms of fantasy, the battlefield is where heroism comes alive, magic is unleashed, and legends are made and unmade. From the War of the Ring, Tolkien’s epic battle of good versus evil, to The Battle of the Blackwater, George R.R. Martin’s grim portrait of the horror and futility of war, these fantastical conflicts reflect our highest hopes and darkest fears, bringing us mesmerizing visions of silver spears shining in the sun and vast hordes of savage beasts who threaten to destroy all that we hold dear.

Now acclaimed editor John Joseph Adams is sounding the battle cry and sixteen of today’s top authors are reporting for duty, spinning never-before-published, spellbinding tales of military fantasy, including a Black Company story from Glen Cook, a Paksenarrion story from Elizabeth Moon, and a Shadow Ops story by Myke Cole. Within these pages you’ll also find World War I trenches cloaked in poison gas and sorcery, modern day elite special forces battling hosts of the damned, and steampunk soldiers fighting for their lives in a world torn apart by powers that defy imagination.

Featuring both grizzled veterans and fresh young recruits alike, including Tanya Huff, Simon R. Green, Carrie Vaughn, Jonathan Maberry, and Seanan McGuire, Operation Arcana is a must for any military buff or fantasy fan. You’ll never look at war the same way again.

And here is the Table of Contents:

INTRODUCTION—John Joseph Adams
RULES OF ENCHANTMENT—David Klecha & Tobias S. Buckell
THE DAMNED ONE HUNDRED—Jonathan Maberry
BLOOD, ASH, BRAIDS—Genevieve Valentine
MERCENARY’S HONOR—Elizabeth Moon
THE GUNS OF THE WASTES—Django Wexler
THE GRAPHOLOGY OF HEMORRHAGE—Yoon Ha Lee
AMERICAN GOLEM—Weston Ochse
WEAPONS IN THE EARTH—Myke Cole
HEAVY SULFUR—Ari Marmell
STEEL SHIPS—Tanya Huff
SEALSKIN—Carrie Vaughn
PATHFINDER—T.C. McCarthy
BONE EATERS—Glen Cook
BOMBER’S MOON—Simon R. Green
IN SKELETON LEAVES—Seanan McGuire
THE WAY HOME—Linda Nagata

You can read ‘The Rules of Enchantment’ for free at Baen, the story is here.

Some opening lines?

Sure:

You’d think arrows are pretty silent compared to gunfire, but there’s no mistaking that bristly whistle as it whips through the air just past your head before it thwacks into someone’s Kevlar. Everyone eats dirt, and you’re checking your ammo with your back against a tree trunk wondering how the wood elves flanked you when you realize how stupid a question that is: this is their territory.

You’re new to the squad, so you’re still nervous. Every crack in the brush and shaken leaf has you jumpy. We’ve all been teasing you. Rookie this and rookie that.

I’m about fifteen feet away. I can see that your face is pale and shaken, but you have your rifle cradled and ready, looking for orders. The rest of the squad is spread out. Diaz is pulling an arrow out from his body armor and looking a bit chagrined. Orley is slowly crawling through dirt; he’s got a bead on the shooter. “Sergeant: got eyes on the woodie,” he reports.

“Hold,” I order.

This is the rendezvous point. But we’re dressed in robes that make us look like peasant travelers. I can feel Orley objecting already to the suspicion in my head, but even though our minds are all linked up into one single group mind via the Spell of Tactician’s Weave, only one of us is still in charge.

Me.

“Ditch the robes,” I order.

“Sergeant Cale . . .” Orley really doesn’t want to do this. He wants to engage.
Diaz forms up a memory. A story he was told about a couple of African-American special forces who stumbled in out of the night with bows and arrows. Scouts setting out to blend into the local land. They ended up getting shot by jumpy sentries on the way back in who thought they were orcs.

Diaz is half-black. The realization that some people see black skin, bows, and right away think orc and go straight to trigger-pulling leaves a bad taste in all our mouths.

Teachable moment about making assumptions aside—and believe me, Diaz has laid plenty of those thanks to the intimacy of the Tactician’s Weave—Orley gets Diaz’s point and eases up. Now everyone’s on board with my line of thought: that the elves are looking at us and seeing the Enemy, not US Marines.

We all shrug off the cloaks, displaying our standard Marine Corps digi-cammies and gear. My staff sergeant insignia is quite visible, making me the high-ranking target. I narrow my eyes at the shadows.

A bird whistle from the tree canopy pierces the air. They’d had us marked from the get go.

Shit.

If it wasn’t for body armor, Diaz would have been a bloody piñata. And you, rookie, would have gotten a nasty surprise from up above.

Yeah, look above your head, rookie. That grinning visage looking down the bark of the tree is a wood elf. Remember what they taught you about high ground? That includes firs. You need to be better about your situational awareness; clear up and down, not just the two dimensional plane.

Operation Arcana has a whole page with more free reads and interviews at John Joseph Adams’ website.

07 May

Bocas Lit Fest 2015: a brief recap with pics

I was invited to be a guest at Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad, which is where I headed off to last week.

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The folks at Bocas put together a whole Future Friday segment, featuring Nalo Hopkinson, Karen Lord, me, and RSA Garcia. Karen and I did an all day workshop for writers interested in spec fic from the region.

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Here we are during lunch break (photo via Bocas Facebook Photostream page):

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And this is what it looks like when I murder a roti quickly at lunch before returning to the workshop (photo via Karen Lord’s Tumblr):

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Later that night the Chilean Embassy hosted a reception. Highlight of that was getting to meet and shake Derek Walcott’s hand and gush a little about his work. I tweeted about it, but a dearth of response on twitter made me realize that most of twitter feed needs a brief recap of why that was epic for someone working from the Caribbean perspective.

Derek Walcott, via wikipedia:

Derek Alton Walcott, OBE OCC (born 23 January 1930) is a Saint Lucian poet and playwright. He received the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature.[1] He is currently Professor of Poetry at the University of Essex. His works include the Homeric epic poem Omeros (1990), which many critics view “as Walcott’s major achievement.”[2][3] In addition to having won the Nobel, Walcott has won many literary awards over the course of his career, including an Obie Award in 1971 for his play Dream on Monkey Mountain, a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award, a Royal Society of Literature Award, the Queen’s Medal for Poetry, the inaugural OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature[4] and the 2011 T. S. Eliot Prize for his book of poetry White Egrets

Here’s a photo of Mr. Walcott from later in the week:

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One of the other highlights of the reception was getting to meet Naomi Jackson, a NYC-based writer with deep Caribbean roots. Her first novel is coming out soon:

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The attache for Suriname spent a lot of time trying to convince me to explore the Dutch Caribbean a whole lot more.

Here’s a random shot of the view of Trinidad I saw from breakfast at my hotel each morning:

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Oh damn, the food y’all. The south Caribbean, down-island, is responsible for the first 10 years of impressions of my life. Down island food and culture is so home.

I got to eat roti, beef patties, plums, and real calalloo (the green stuff below):

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Childhood comfort food, all of it.

One of the truly amazing things about this event was all the Caribbean spec fic writers in one place. At breakfast, Jacqueline Stallworth of the Lit Blog The Big Sea took a photo of Karen, Nalo, me, and Tiphanie Yanique (photo from her blog):

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That’s the first time Tiphanie and I’ve seen each other since high school. We both went to All Saints Cathedral School together, same class. Now here we are so many years later, both working novelists at Bocas Lit Fest.

Life is wild!

Tiphanie’s work has a strong sense of the fantastic (Nalo asked her if she minded being tagged as Caribbean Speculative Fiction, and Tiphanie pointed out many American reviewers seem to ignore/pass over the magic in her stories, but that sense of the fantastic is an integral part of a lot of Caribbean literature [something I keep pointing out to folks in the US who seem to think it’s some kind of discovery for Caribbean writers to be interested in the fantastic. No: it’s been there for as long as long can be])

Future Friday kicked off with a panel by RSA Garcia, Karen Lord, me, and Nalo Hopkinson where we talked about the above. The history of Caribbean fantastic traditions, our own work. Shivanee Ramlochan, a Trinidadian poet and critic, who interviewed us (and me earlier for the Spaces/UWI podcast) was an amazing moderator, and had done so much prep work before meeting us that the panel was amazing.

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After the general panel we each did readings and q&as, RSA Garcia and I had Lisa Allen-Agostini moderating ours. Again, her questions raised the panel to a fantastic level. Not the usual ‘where do you get your ideas?’ sort of thing, but detailed questions about the nature of our work and how the region influenced them.

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Karen and Nalo reading and panel with Shivanee:

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The Bocas Lit Fest streamed photos were all taken by Marlon James. No, not the Jamaican author of that name, but the photographer. Some of the photos were amazing, so later on in the week Karen Lord and I ended up doing an impromptu shoot with him as we thought it was too amazing a chance to pass up.

Here’s Karen in front of the lens:

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Hopefully I’ll get the permission to post the photos Marlon took of me, as I want to use them for the PR section of my site. They’re really cool.

I also attended a reading by Naomi Jackson (aforementioned) and Tiphanie Yanique, and later got the chance to go out to a rum shack with Marlon and many of us writers of the fantastic. It was fascinating to catch up to Tiphanie, if not a little intimidating as she remembers the utterly quiet, withdrawn me of high school who was quite unsocialized. It’s the closest thing to a high school reunion I’ve ever had. But way cooler, as Tiphanie is doing work that is awesome and it’s fascinating to see that we both got into the arts, even if via very different directions.

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Karen Lord and I took the opportunity to head out for dinner and skipped some of the programming later on as I was too exhausted and wanted to be able to turn in early (a rarity for me, but being on deadline ahead of this event and meeting so many new people and doing so much meant I got overtired rapidly).

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It was great to sign some books for some new readers. Even cooler to sign books for long time readers who were excited I came to the island, like this guy:

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Books Lit Fest culminated with a poetry slam with a TT $20,000 (about $4,000 USD) prize. That was epic.

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Pretty soon it was heading back home, exhausted. Nalo and I were on the same plane, and said our good byes in Houston.

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I came home with a bottle of El Dorado (Guyanese Rum) 15, and a bottle of Mt. Gay (Barbados) 1703 Extra Old. And books, of course:

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And then I shaved my winter beard. Because:

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I have a million emails and to dos. So that’s my recap. Thank you to Bocas Lit Fest for bringing me down. I met so many people working on great things, and promoting Caribbean literature. I was welcomed and encouraged, which is always meaningful. Any time I get to read my own work on Caribbean soil it’s emotional. And I’m not an emotional guy. But it means something. And the readers there get a lot of references and things I’m doing in my work that reviewers in the US don’t. So to hear people ‘getting’ it, laughing in all the right places, or gushing about things that I worked hard to slip in, that refuels the tank.

Thank you.

18 Mar

I’m honored to announce I’ll be in Trinidad to be a part of the Bocas Lit Fest

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For a long time I’ve been aware of the amazing Bocas Lit Fest, a gathering of amazing authors and speakers that celebrate books, writers and writing from the Caribbean.

This year I’ve been invited to be one of them.

I’ll be in the company of amazing people. You can see them all here.

Nalo Hopkinson, Karen Lord, and Rhonda S. Garcia will all be attending for a special focus on speculative fiction at Bocas Lit Fest.

There’s a speculative fiction masterclass that we will be hosting (with a meet the authors session), a panel hosted by the four of us, and readings.

I’m looking forward to coming home with many new books and setting foot on Trinidad for the first time. I grew up in Grenada, so there’s a strong triangle of media and people who were Trini, or Bajan. We couldn’t afford to get to Trinidad when I was younger, so now I get a chance to go there.

I’m very lucky.

05 Mar

My Hugo eligible work (if you’re curious)

Oh, self promotion time. If you’re curious about my eligible works:

Novels:

Hurricane Fever – Tor (July, 2014)
– – UK & Commonwealth: Del Rey UK (July, 2014)

Novelette:
–Sundown – Dead Man’s Hand (May, 2014)

Short Stories:

–A Cold Heart – Upgraded (July, 2014)
–Help Fund Taphognosis Industries – Help Fund My Robot Army (July, 2014)
–Ambassador to the Dinosaurs – The Book of Silverberg (April, 2014)
–System Reset – The End is Nigh (March, 2014)

The novelette Sundown is a secret history of the story of Willie Kennard, one of the most amazing stories of black wild-west history for me.

For short stories, System Reset can be read here on io9.

05 Mar

Gardner Dozois and George R. R. Martin’s new anthology Old Venus now out and contains a story I wrote: Pale Blue Memories

I have a new short story out in an anthology edited by Gardner Dozois and George R. R. Martin:

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From pulp adventures such as Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Carson of Venus to classic short stories such as Ray Bradbury’s “The Long Rain” to visionary novels such as C. S. Lewis’s Perelandra, the planet Venus has loomed almost as large in the imaginations of science fiction writers as Earth’s next-nearest neighbor, Mars. But while the Red Planet conjured up in Golden Age science fiction stories was a place of vast deserts and ruined cities, bright blue Venus was its polar opposite: a steamy, swampy jungle world with strange creatures lurking amidst the dripping vegetation. Alas, just as the last century’s space probes exploded our dreams of Mars, so, too, did they shatter our romantic visions of Venus, revealing, instead of a lush paradise, a hellish world inimical to all life.

But don’t despair! This new anthology of sixteen original stories by some of science fiction’s best writers—edited by #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin and award-winning editor Gardner Dozois—turns back the clock to that more innocent time, before the hard-won knowledge of science vanquished the infinite possibilities of the imagination.

Join our cast of award-winning contributors—including Elizabeth Bear, David Brin, Joe Haldeman, Gwyneth Jones, Mike Resnick, Eleanor Arnason, Allen M. Steele, and more—as we travel back in time to a planet that never was but should have been: a young, rain-drenched world of fabulous monsters and seductive mysteries.

And a list of the stories:

INTRODUCTION, by Gardner Dozois
FROGHEADS, by Allen M. Steele
THE DROWNED CELESTRIAL, by Lavie Tidhar
PLANET OF FEAR, by Paul McAuley
GREEVES AND THE EVENING STAR, by Matthew Hughes
A PLANET CALLED DESIRE, by Gwyneth Jones
LIVING HELL, by Joe Haldeman
BONES OF AIR, BONES OF STONE, by Stephen Leigh
RUINS, by Eleanor Arnason
THE TUMBLEDOWNS OF CLEOPATRA ABYSS, by David Brin
BY FROGSLED AND LIZARDBACK TO OUTCAST VENUSIAN LEPERS, by Garth Nix
THE SUNSET OF TIME, by Michael Cassutt
PALE BLUE MEMORIES, by Tobias S. Buckell
THE HEART’S FILTHY LESSON, by Elizabeth Bear
THE WIZARD OF THE TREES, by Joe R. Lansdale
THE GODSTONE OF VENUS, by Mike Resnick
BOTANICA VENERIS: THIRTEEN PAPERCUTS BY IDA COUNTESS RATHANGAN, by Ian McDonald

04 Mar

Operation Arcana now out and contains a story I wrote with Dave Klecha: Rules of Enchantment

A new short story by me and David Klecha is out right now. And if you’ve read other stories by the two of us, you know to expect some seriously high octane.

Check out the anthology details:

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In the realms of fantasy, the battlefield is where heroism comes alive, magic is unleashed, and legends are made and unmade. From the War of the Ring, Tolkien’s epic battle of good versus evil, to The Battle of the Blackwater, George R.R. Martin’s grim portrait of the horror and futility of war, these fantastical conflicts reflect our highest hopes and darkest fears, bringing us mesmerizing visions of silver spears shining in the sun and vast hordes of savage beasts who threaten to destroy all that we hold dear.

Now acclaimed editor John Joseph Adams is sounding the battle cry and sixteen of today’s top authors are reporting for duty, spinning never-before-published, spellbinding tales of military fantasy, including a Black Company story from Glen Cook, a Paksenarrion story from Elizabeth Moon, and a Shadow Ops story by Myke Cole. Within these pages you’ll also find World War I trenches cloaked in poison gas and sorcery, modern day elite special forces battling hosts of the damned, and steampunk soldiers fighting for their lives in a world torn apart by powers that defy imagination.

Featuring both grizzled veterans and fresh young recruits alike, including Tanya Huff, Simon R. Green, Carrie Vaughn, Jonathan Maberry, and Seanan McGuire, Operation Arcana is a must for any military buff or fantasy fan. You’ll never look at war the same way again.

And here is the Table of Contents:

INTRODUCTION—John Joseph Adams
RULES OF ENCHANTMENT—David Klecha & Tobias S. Buckell
THE DAMNED ONE HUNDRED—Jonathan Maberry
BLOOD, ASH, BRAIDS—Genevieve Valentine
MERCENARY’S HONOR—Elizabeth Moon
THE GUNS OF THE WASTES—Django Wexler
THE GRAPHOLOGY OF HEMORRHAGE—Yoon Ha Lee
AMERICAN GOLEM—Weston Ochse
WEAPONS IN THE EARTH—Myke Cole
HEAVY SULFUR—Ari Marmell
STEEL SHIPS—Tanya Huff
SEALSKIN—Carrie Vaughn
PATHFINDER—T.C. McCarthy
BONE EATERS—Glen Cook
BOMBER’S MOON—Simon R. Green
IN SKELETON LEAVES—Seanan McGuire
THE WAY HOME—Linda Nagata

You can read ‘The Rules of Enchantment’ for free at Baen, the story is here.

Some opening lines?

Sure:

You’d think arrows are pretty silent compared to gunfire, but there’s no mistaking that bristly whistle as it whips through the air just past your head before it thwacks into someone’s Kevlar. Everyone eats dirt, and you’re checking your ammo with your back against a tree trunk wondering how the wood elves flanked you when you realize how stupid a question that is: this is their territory.

You’re new to the squad, so you’re still nervous. Every crack in the brush and shaken leaf has you jumpy. We’ve all been teasing you. Rookie this and rookie that.

I’m about fifteen feet away. I can see that your face is pale and shaken, but you have your rifle cradled and ready, looking for orders. The rest of the squad is spread out. Diaz is pulling an arrow out from his body armor and looking a bit chagrined. Orley is slowly crawling through dirt; he’s got a bead on the shooter. “Sergeant: got eyes on the woodie,” he reports.

“Hold,” I order.

This is the rendezvous point. But we’re dressed in robes that make us look like peasant travelers. I can feel Orley objecting already to the suspicion in my head, but even though our minds are all linked up into one single group mind via the Spell of Tactician’s Weave, only one of us is still in charge.

Me.

“Ditch the robes,” I order.

“Sergeant Cale . . .” Orley really doesn’t want to do this. He wants to engage.
Diaz forms up a memory. A story he was told about a couple of African-American special forces who stumbled in out of the night with bows and arrows. Scouts setting out to blend into the local land. They ended up getting shot by jumpy sentries on the way back in who thought they were orcs.

Diaz is half-black. The realization that some people see black skin, bows, and right away think orc and go straight to trigger-pulling leaves a bad taste in all our mouths.

Teachable moment about making assumptions aside—and believe me, Diaz has laid plenty of those thanks to the intimacy of the Tactician’s Weave—Orley gets Diaz’s point and eases up. Now everyone’s on board with my line of thought: that the elves are looking at us and seeing the Enemy, not US Marines.

We all shrug off the cloaks, displaying our standard Marine Corps digi-cammies and gear. My staff sergeant insignia is quite visible, making me the high-ranking target. I narrow my eyes at the shadows.

A bird whistle from the tree canopy pierces the air. They’d had us marked from the get go.

Shit.

If it wasn’t for body armor, Diaz would have been a bloody piñata. And you, rookie, would have gotten a nasty surprise from up above.

Yeah, look above your head, rookie. That grinning visage looking down the bark of the tree is a wood elf. Remember what they taught you about high ground? That includes firs. You need to be better about your situational awareness; clear up and down, not just the two dimensional plane.

Operation Arcana has a whole page with more free reads and interviews at John Joseph Adams’ website.