Tag Archives: writing

26 Aug

Some thoughts on the herding of POC writers into diversity panels

Kate Elliott writes:

In the wake of 2009’s #Racefail discussion, LJ blogger delux-vivens (much lamented since her passing) asked for a wild unicorn herd check in to show that people frequently told they don’t read SFF and aren’t present in SFF circles do in fact exist. In some ways I personally think of this as the first unofficial “diversity panel.”

I seem to recall the token diversity panel goes back further than that. I sat on a panel at Conjose in 2002 called “Ebony Age of Science Fiction?” with Wanda Haight, Steven Barnes, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Bill Taylor. And it was incredible seeing a (slightly) more diverse audience than normal Worldcons come to that.

It was, in 2002, packed, by the way. People have been hungry for diversity for a long while, even as others shouted ‘no no no’ and put their fingers in their ears.

Future Classics, a fannish history site it seems, has a lot of panels from Worldcons up. I still remember catching a small piece of Vandana Singh’s Imaginative Fiction: A Third World Perspective panel in 2003 Noreascon. If I recall right, there were some corridor discussions there.

In 2009 I was on a panel at a Worldcon called Writing Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Geographic Terms. You can see a good write up here. If I recall correctly there was much angry aftermath when the panel was over by some people you’ll recognize as ‘sad puppies‘ today (that shit ain’t new).

So while I’m not sure there weren’t token panels before 2009, I do think Kate’s right that around 2009 due to Race Fail there started being more dedicated panels.

Oddly enough, it was about that time I started refusing to be on them due to a reason Kate points out:

Now, however, without in any way suggesting that the need for discussion is over or that we have solved the problems, I am wondering to what degree the “diversity panel” may be beginning to become less effective and perhaps even to exacerbate the problem.

I have begun to agitate, among those who will listen to me, to propose panels with large numbers of PoCs that have nothing to do with diversity. At a couple of cons, I’ve conspired to suggest putting PoCs on futurism or science panels and shock the audience by then proceeding to not talk about race but all the cool shit the PoCs are interested in about said topic.

The one place we managed to get this done I heard was a success, and while some people in the audience were a bit confused, it was a lot of fun.

When I went to Det Con recently I took myself off of diversity panels and their like and asked for hard sciences and futurism. I was on almost no panels with any people of color. At *Detroit Con.* When appropriate, I represented PoC books and media about the future and science to the audience, which I doubt would have been done had I not been explicit about making sure I was on those non specialty panels.

And then, when I was out walking around, several times, people asked ‘oh, hey, I was surprised I didn’t see you an [diversity-related panel X].’

Which is why I did it that way.

I’m not lecturing PoC panelists, by the way, to start spreading around. No, the diversity panels are great. But some day, at a Worldcon, or any other con, I hope to be on a panel of with a large number of people of color that talks about Developments in Near Space Access.

Mainly because I’m trying, in small ways, to fight back against the ‘diverse books book displays’ issue, where a bunch of diverse books are stacked together in a specialty display that… people ignore as they come in.

I think there is a place for that. But I also think honestly representing that diversity means including it not just in cordoned off spaces. Yes, we need diversity panels, and suggestions for diverse books for those of us looking for that. But if that’s the only place we’re showing up, or that a panel-creation committee automatically thinks to stick us… then we’re always going to be in an echo chamber.

So I myself, while championing what others are doing and supporting the diversity panels and sometimes being on them, am trying to more and more to get some PoC friends on a panel with me to talk about other topics, to make those panels diverse just by who is on them.

I haven’t gotten very far with it, it’s still all nascent, but there you go.

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.

18 Mar

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

NewImage

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.

08 Dec

More on Kindle Unlimited

When I said half the stuff indie writers are now saying in the comments here about Amazon I was called some heinous names and ‘legacy’ writer, a ‘trad pub house slave’ and many other objectionable things. All I’ve done is note in the past that putting all your eggs in the Amazon basket will one day lead to sorrow.

Porter Anderson has a pretty thorough roundup over at theBookSeller.com:

Odd how those squeals of “this is the best time to be an author!” start to fade when you hear about a major self-publishing author’s struggles to pay a child’s medical bills because 75 percent of her Amazon income evaporated in the advent of KU, isn’t it?

Trial and so much error, obviously by Amazon’s folks — who are good people inventing a new  wheel — as well as by authors.

What comes next? We don’t know. As usual. 

That’s the bottom line: the way, the truth, and the lightheadedness of it all.. We just don’t know.

(Via Is the honeymoon over? KU comes between Amazon and its self-publishers | The Bookseller.)

There’s still a lot of sorting and settling out.

But we are the little insects under conglomerate giant’s feet. It’s not that I’m going to say other corporations are better. Just that I have a cynical eye toward them all! The idea peddled a few years ago that Amazon cared about writers and nothing but writers was silly then, and we’re starting to realize it.

Amazon cares about customers first, and gaining more of them… also first. Giving them free books for signing up to their service is a win for Amazon, even if it’s not a win for writers.

If that means at the writer’s cost, so be it. I warned about this with the cuts that were made in audio royalties, and the cuts made in certain foreign markets if you didn’t go Kindle Select. And even though I sold as a hybrid author, I was consistently attacked for pointing these moves out.

eBooks are a great option. I’m happy to see more arrows in the quiver.

But now we’re seeing the reality set in. There’s lots of work ahead of us. And the gold-rush mentality is fading. Which is a relief.

I’m not giving up on being a hybrid author, but I sure am making sure my books are for sale in multiple areas and in multiple ways.

08 Dec

They as a pronoun

I’ve noticed some reviews catch that I do my best to adopt they and them as a neutral pronoun. I’ve seen Zir and Ze around, but I’m not sure if that’ll take off. Them and they for a neutral works. Whether or not a character is gender neutral, I prefer to try to keep the character reference neutral. If the character’s gender is truly unknown, it seems fair.

It looks like it’s something younger generations are doing, and their teachers are trying to catch up:

As language catches up with culture, new pronouns have been invented to acknowledge gender-variant identities. Just as importantly, the gender-neutral plural pronoun “they” and its inflected forms, “them”, “their”, “themselves” (and “themself”!), are being used to refer to one person. To mark gender inclusivity, “they” has arrived at the party.

(Via ‘They’ has arrived at the pronoun party | Opinion | Times Higher Education.)

Though I’d submit in SF/F and other circles questions about non-gendered pronouns have been floating around a while.

addendum: Good point by David Thomas Moore on twitter:

08 Sep

Catching up

It seems like yesterday I was taking selfies while riding a cable car across the Thames to the O2 Centre, but I’ve been catching up on All The Things since getting home a couple weeks ago.

2014 08 18 15 44 48 HDR

Meanwhile, the twins started Kindergarten. Which is wild. Everyday they’re heading out with bags on their backs that seem bigger than they are, and they’re riding the bus. Emily takes them in with her on the way to school, and they ride a bus to the sitter and wait for her to get off work. Finding out they were riding a bus on their own was my first parental ‘wait, what?’ moment where I felt this was all happening a bit faster than I was ready for.

Photo copy

Now that we’re back home and slowly getting back into our routine for the new year I’ve managed to finish the rewrite of the pseudonymous novel PS-1 and, I think, tackled all the edit notes.

Which means I’m now back into my edit notes for the novel Island in The Sky which needs done ASAP and doing background stuff for my contribution to Storium. I’m soooo close on both fronts.

Meanwhile, I’m still doing some interviews and promotional items for Hurricane Fever (I’d love to do some more podcasts/audio interviews or video interviews, as those are easier on my hands than typed out interviews!). I’ll be signing in Kalamazoo, MI this weekend, along with Jim Hines, at Kazoo books. We’re hoping we’ll get a great crowd!

31 Jul

I will be a guest instructor at Clarion West in 2015

So here is the announcement:

“Clarion West is delighted to announce the names of the instructors for the 2015 Six-Week Workshop. Applications will open in December 2014. More information about the instructors and application instructions will be posted in the coming weeks.

Andy Duncan  2015 Clarion West Leslie Howle Fellow
Eileen Gunn
Tobias Buckell
Connie Willis
Nalo Hopkinson
Cory Doctorow  2015 Clarion West Susan C. Petrey Fellow”

(Via News |.)

So first off, what an amazing line up of instructors for 2015. I’ll be keeping some heady company.

One of the things I got to do was meet Clarion West organizers Neile Graham, Tod, and Huw at the Seattle book signing while I was on tour last week. And I have to say, it’s been so hard to keep this secret up until now, even thought I was talking to them the day before the news went out!

So I’m totally honored and amazed that I am now going to be an instructor at Clarion. Having been a new Clarion student myself in 1999, this is one of those ‘coming around full circle’ moments that sometimes happen in life.

It’ll be very, very odd being on the other side of the circle, though. I hope to do well by the students.

07 Jul

The Del Rey UK edition of Hurricane Fever is also out

The Del Rey UK edition of Hurricane Fever launched over the weekend as well. If you’re a reader somewhere in the UK, Ireland, Australia or New Zealand, it should be available!

The Del Rey UK site has buy links and more.

A storm is coming…

When former spy Roo Jones receives an unexpected package from a dead friend, he’s yanked out of a comfortable retirement and is suddenly embroiled in a global conspiracy involving a weapon that could change the face of the world forever.

But as one of the largest hurricanes to hit the Caribbean begins to sweep through the area, Roo just may find that time is running out – not just for himself, but the whole world…

Perfect for fans of action-packed espionage, Hurricane Fever is a kinetic techno-thriller for a new generation.

I’ll be in the UK and will appear in two places to sign. I’ll be at Fantasy in the Court, at Cecil Court in London on August 12th. I’ll also be at London Worldcon (LonCon). I’m hoping to be able to sign some Del Rey UK copies at both locations!

01 Jul

My latest novel, Hurricane Fever, is now for sale at eBook outlets and brick and mortar stores of your choosing

Hurricanefever

Today’s the big day. The launch of Hurricane Fever, my latest novel.

Here is a buy link to B&N.

Here is an Indiebound link that takes you to your nearest Indie bookseller.

What is Hurricane Fever about? Here’s the summary:

A storm is coming…. Introducing a pulse-pounding technothriller by the New York Times bestselling author of Arctic Rising

Prudence “Roo” Jones never thought he’d have a family to look after—until suddenly he found himself taking care of his orphaned teenage nephew. Roo, a former Caribbean Intelligence operative, spends his downtime on his catamaran dodging the punishing hurricanes that are the new norm in the Caribbean. Roo enjoys the simple calm of his new life—until an unexpected package from a murdered fellow spy shows up. Suddenly Roo is thrown into the center of the biggest storm of all.

Using his wits—and some of the more violent tricks of his former trade—Roo begins to unravel the mystery that got his friend killed. When a polished and cunning woman claiming to be murdered spy’s sister appears, the two find themselves caught up in a global conspiracy with a weapon that could change the face of the world forever.

In Hurricane Fever, New York Times bestselling author Tobias Buckell (Arctic Rising, Halo: The Cole Protocol) has crafted a kinetic technothriller perfect for fans of action-packed espionage within a smartly drawn geo-political landscape. Roo is an anti–James Bond for a new generation.

Here is a blog post I wrote for Tor.com about doing some of the research in Barbados for the book.

I was born in Grenada, an island further to the west of Barbados, both of us at the southern tip of the sweep of the Caribbean as it curves down toward South America. Only Trinidad and Tobago lie between Venezuela and us. And all that time growing up, I had no idea that a lost, but no less major and fascinating chapter of humanity’s early attempts to get into orbit lay just one island over from me.

Here is my West Coast Tour Schedule:

—-July 25th: Comic Con panel Vengeance and Villians (San Diego, CA)
—-July 26th: Comic Con signing at Tor Booth (San Diego, CA)
—-July 27th: Borderlands Books reading/signing (San Francisco, CA)
—-July 28th: University Books reading/signing (Seattle, WA)
—-July 29th: Mysterious Galaxy reading/signing (San Diego, CA)

In addition, I’ll be attending DetCon in Detroit and London Worldcon.

My full schedule, as always, is in Appearances.

If you’re interested in reviewing it, details are here.

And here’s what it feels like the day before a book launch.

Thank you to all who’ve pre-ordered copies, or helped spread word of mouth, as first week sales do make a big difference to momentum. Thanks to all bookstores carrying it, and thanks to all my readers. Here we go again!

30 Jun

My latest book, Hurricane Fever, launches tomorrow, and even though I’ve been through six book launches I’m still nervous as hell

You’d think by now I’d be rather blasé about all this. Why yes, I do have a book coming out tomorrow. Yes, I’ve done this six times already with other novels, nine times if you count launching an anthology I’ve edited and three collections.

By launch number ten I should be ready to throw a little soiree in town where I sip cocktails and entertain people with witty anecdotes. Or whatever it is suave writers who launch books do.

Instead I’m utterly unprepared and feel like the guy at the top of a roller coaster. “Oh shit,” I’m thinking, “Here we go again!” and, “No turning back now!”

I wrote a tight book. As tight as I could. And I’m hoping it doesn’t leave people much room to take a breath before they’ve slingshotted through Prudence Jones’s world of heavy weather, spies, and corporate conspiracy. I dwelled on two islands that have a special place for me, and hope I communicated some of their uniqueness. And I certainly shared my love of boat life.

But the roller coaster feeling comes from all the things I wonder if I should have done instead. Should I have dwelled further on world building? Should I have included more POVs? Will people who loved Anika in Arctic Rising feel short changed that she isn’t in here? Did I… Did I… Did I… did I do enough. I worked on the book as hard as I could, so I know that is behind me. But now, there begin the worries about whether I’ve sent out enough copies. Do enough people know the book exists.

Does it have a chance out in that cruel, cruel cold world?

I perused a listing of all the other science fiction and fantasy books out there that launch this month by Locus. Books that aren’t just vying for reader’s attention, but for the attention of reviews, coverage, and buzz. Great books, some them ones I’m looking forward to reading.

And I wonder, did I do enough? Should I be doing a gazillion blog interviews? Should I get on the street corner with a megaphone and start assailing random passer’s by? Do I buy ads? Do I…

…a thousand what ifs and possibilities, worries that I could have done more the last couple months to help the book, swirl around my hindbrain.

But, I’ll be spending time on tour. I have interviews lined up. I’ve put up the Batsignal telling people I’m here. And, at some point, because this is the 7th (or 10th) time I’m doing this, I also know: it’s time to also get back to work.

Because I’ve sacrificed a month or two on doing *nothing* but promotion to try and help a baby book, and at some point, like a mama deer, I know that damn book has to just get up on its own two wobbly legs and stand. Or it won’t be able to escape the wolves of indifference. Either I wrote a good book and it will generate interest and readers, or it won’t.

Two nights ago I finished writing my 10th novel. I’m going to be spending a good chunk of time while traveling to promote Hurricane Fever doing edits on the YA novel Islands in the Sky. And sometime next month I begin working on the 11th novel.

Because the buzz doesn’t start unless there is a book out there to buzz about. And while no promotion isn’t ideal, I do have to take a deep breath and realize I can’t, all by myself, get people to be excited and spread the word. Either people are invested in the book and things will happen.

Or they won’t, and I work on a book that will.

And that is my state of mind, the night before my 7th novel launches, that I need to be chill. Relax. And trust the book. And also OMG please for the love of all that is holy read my book.

That is all.