Thursday, June 11, 2015

This and That, Far and Wide

My Story The Nephelai's Song is up at SF Comet, but here's the catch. It is currently exclusively in Chinese! Every month SF Comet invites five authors to write a story to a specific theme. They are then posted and readers vote to pick their favorite. I was invited to write a story for June. The theme was "Echo from the Future."

You can see the story in Chinese here. But don't worry, if you don't happen to read Chinese the story will be posted on their English language web page later this summer.

I've also opined about a couple of excellent summer short reads over at SF Signal's Mind Meld. I picked Sleep Donation by Karen Russell and The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin. I am among several great writers, each of whom suggest short stand-alone novels. I'll definitely be adding some of these books to my beach bag.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Comicpalooza 2015 and the Texas Flood

Part of being a good panelist is being a good listener. Here, K. J. Russell and I listen to K. S. O'Neill's opinions about the topic of our panel: Is Hard Science Fiction Dead? Everyone on the panel agreed that it is most definitely NOT dead. While this sort of hand-wringing title/topic can be annoying in articles and blog posts, it generated a fruitful conversation. We discussed how labels like "hard science fiction" can be difficult to pin down when they are used in ever-evolving book marketing strategies. Individual readers also have different tolerances for the amount of actual science in what they might call hard scifi. To see what I mean, check out TV Tropes' Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness

I tend to be pretty forgiving as far as what I can enjoy when reading science fiction. Whenever a writer is extrapolating from known facts there is going to be a parting of the ways between reality and what he or she imagines, and that's the fun of science fiction, right? As long as you tell me a good story and don't break any promises as far as scientific rigor, I'm along for the ride. A great contemporary example of a book that promises and delivers a scientifically faithful tale is Andy Weir's The Martian. Another excellent example is Nancy Kress' Beggars in Spain, which is about what would happen to our society if we could make one tiny genetic change in some people.

Science itself is a big tent, some readers tend to think of hard science fiction in terms of what I would call engineering fiction, but I tend to seek out and enjoy books that feature biology, and yes, even the social sciences, which uses math-intensive game theory to hypothesize and test ideas about human behavior.

I'll write up my other panels more thoroughly soon. I'll just note that I also moderated the panel Discussing Dystopias with Raymond Feist, and got to sit next to the lovely Diana Dru Botsford on the panel, Star Trek: Evolution of a Franchise. She's written and produced for both Star Trek and Stargate SG -1 and had all sorts of amusing tales and fascinating insights.
I got to chat with Steve Bein, traveller, philosopher, and writer, and I  had a chance to spend some time with the lovely Stina Leicht, who will be this year's Toastmaster at Armadillocon. Go to her site to read about her latest projects and adventures (including getting back to Austin from Comicpalooza)!

By returning home Sunday evening instead of Monday, I dodged a bullet - and by bullet I mean the torrential rains and flooding that hit Central Texas on Monday.
Stevie Ray Vaughan walks on water during the 2015 Memorial Day Texas Flood

Thursday, May 7, 2015

My Panel Schedule for Houston’s Comicpalooza, May 22 – 25

My first time at Houston’s Comicpalooza and I’m going to be on a few panels. This comic con just started a few years ago at an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, but has been growing by leaps and bounds. Their attendance last year was over 32 thousand! I’m super excited to check out the scene.

They have cosplay and gaming and comics and movie and TV events. This year they also have a brand new literature and writing track. So, if you’re going to be around Houston, TX for Memorial Day weekend, consider checking it out.

Here’s the link to the complete list of panels.

And here are the panels I’ll be on:

Discussing Dystopias: Fiction and Film
Friday, May 22 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Room 25 – 352C

What is it about the dreary futures of works such as The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Handmaid's Tale that captures our imagination? Come join the discussion on the popularity of dystopian novels and films.

Is Hard Science Fiction Dead?
Sunday, May 24 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Room 03 – 350B

Has the hard science fiction of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke gone the way of the dinosaur? Have modern physics; computer science and artificial intelligence become too difficult to predict for speculative authors? Which contemporary writers offer the best hope for the future of hard science fiction?

K. S. O'Neill, Rachael Acks, Rebecca Schwarz, K. J. Russell, and E. L. Russell

Star Trek: Evolution of a Sci-fi Franchise
Sunday, May 24 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Room 03 – 350B

How did a low-rated series from the 1960s become a sci-fi phenomenon with countless spinoffs? And what is it about Star Trek that accounts for its enormous popularity? Join the discussion as our panel shares their insights, favorite episodes and films.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The ArmadilloCon Writers’ Workshop is just around the corner!

I have participated in the wonderful ArmadilloCon Writers’ Workshop for several years, last year I volunteered, and this year I’ll be sitting on the other side of the table as a pro! I’m so excited to be giving back to the Workshop, as it has been a staple of my progress as a writer.

ArmadilloCon has always been a writers’ convention, and through the years both the con and the workshop have hosted a variety of excellent writers. I’ve personally benefited from the advice and wisdom of writers such as, Paolo Bacigalupi, Lou Anders, Cat Rambo, Ian McDonald, and StinaLeicht. This year’s workshop pros will include Ken Liu and James Morrow, and Marshall Ryan Maresca.

But, the Workshop isn’t just about the big names. The pros contributing their time to the workshop represent today’s diversity in writing and publishing. These are men and women writing across a variety of styles, formats and genres. There are writers who are traditionally published, and writers who successfully self-publish, and everything in between.

The all-day workshop costs $79.50, which includes lunch and a full (3-day) Con membership.  The ratio of pros to workshop attendees is excellent (usually two pros per three to five attendees), so it’s a true small-group workshop experience.

The workshop isn’t only about collecting critiques on your brilliant work of genius. It’s participatory. Once you sign up and turn in your piece you will be placed in a group of fellow workshop attendees and receive your group-mates brilliant works of genius to read and critique.

If you are new to workshopping, learning to assess someone else’s work is an excellent way to develop your own writing. I’ve learned at least as much from putting together a coherent, constructive critique of someone else’s work as getting feedback on my own . Putting together your thoughts about your workshop mates stories can also take the edge off waiting to hear how your own piece went over. In the end you’ll go home with written and verbal critiques by the other writers in your group along with critiques by at least two of the attending workshop pros.

I enjoy group critiques. I regularly participate in online and in-person critique groups, but it is not for everyone. Some people do better with, say, a single beta reader, some people do just fine without any critique of their works-in-progress at all. The ArmadilloCon Writers’ Workshop is a great way to experience a group critique situation at a fraction of the cost of some of the big genre workshops like Viable Paradise, Odyssey, or Clarion.

So, dust off that story that isn’t quite working or get cracking on something brand new. The deadline to submit a short story or first chapter is June 15. The maximum word count is 5,000 words firm (i.e. they mean it). Go here to check out the specifics.

The Writers’ Workshop will be on Friday July 24th, ArmadilloCon 37 runs from July 24th through the 26th

Watch for my next post: Workshop Survival Guide…

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Already the ides of April! And it’s National poetry month

See more blackout poetry here!
I love poetry, and this year I’ve started writing it again. Perhaps you’ll see some of it on this very blog one day. While I tinker around reacquainting myself with verse and rhyme, here are some poetry resources, because this month isn’t over yet!

Of course you can read some actual books, 
like IRL. Here are the ones I’m working on.


WATCH: Pixels

To find poetry readings, see if there is a local or regional poetry organization where you live. Check out your local college English department, and of course, your local brick-and-mortar bookstores.
If you want to try something more casual, check out a poetry slam. These events often take place in bars. These are a friendly competition where poets read or recite their own original works and are judged by the audience. Energetic and emotional, these are often poems of protest, but anything goes. The form has its detractors (mostly among poets, natch), but I find them vital and fun and think it’s definitely a form worth checking out. Find a listing of poetry slam events here.


If you’re feeling flush, check out the gorgeous Elegy for a Dead World game, available for both PC and Mac. I haven’t tried it yet, so here’s a review.

  • Complete a poetry madlib over at Language is a Virus
  • Or check out this often hilarious Haiku generator
  • To play IRL, buy some actual fridge magnets for your actual fridge buy multiple sets. Leave poetic messages for spouses, children and siblings…
  • Ohmygosh! There’s a SciFi magnet


  • Check out these poetry prompts on Tumblr.
  • Every April, NaPoWriMo hosts a poetry writing challenge and celebration. Join with other intrepid poets to write a poem a day for a whole month.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Golden Hour

The Obliteration Room by Yayoi Kusama

Way back in 2011, when Paolo Bacigalupi was my pro at ArmadilloCon, I mentioned that I was worried about keeping up with my blog. He said, "Don't worry about your blog, you're a writer not a blogger, right?" This is seriously good advice, and it’s only taken me four years to begin following it.

I have had a productive spring, and find myself with over a dozen stories in submission – more than ever. The more stories I write, the more I value my fiction writing time. That said, I still need a place to park my random musings, so this blog isn’t going away. But, I will be updating less frequently.


Even letting my blog slide, it’s a daily a struggle to carve out writing time. Anyone who’s tried to fit their creative endeavors around the beautiful chaos that is life knows that some days (or weeks or months) this harder to accomplish than others. When I get busy, I fall back on what I’ve come to think of as my “golden hour.”

In medicine, the term refers to the first hour after a trauma or medical emergency. The theory is that if the patient receives treatment within that hour, their chances of survival are significantly increased. A neglected story is like a casualty laying on the side of the road, vitality ebbing, waiting for the ambulance to come roaring up.

If I get caught up in the day-to-day and ignore my current story for too long, it dies a kind of slow death. When I come back to it, I have to backtrack, retrace my steps, rereading until I can revive it. This is time that would be better spent on the next story. Also, Something important happens when I touch the work daily. A story in progress is a living thing inside my head, and I need to keep the characters, the tone and emotion present.

I’ve found that one hour a day is enough to keep a story vital, present and workable. Luckily, since no lives are actually at stake here, I’m free break this hour up any number of ways. I’ll jump in for 30 minutes in the morning and grab another 30 while my kids watch videos in the afternoon. I’ve done four 15-minute chunks of revising. I plunge into the work quickly and immerse myself for however many minutes I have. 

During busy times, my golden hour is the lifeline that will keep my story alive – one hour at a time. 

Illustration from Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid

BTW: My dark mermaid story, The Gyre, was mentioned on K.Tempest Bradford’s column on io9 alongside two other fantastic stories – one written by the award-winning Ken Liu! So, that is thrilling and an honor!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Read The Gyre at Luna Station Quarterly

Click on the story link in the side bar to read my dark mermaid story, The Gyre, over at Luna Station Quarterly. This web zine has been around for six years, but this is their first print issue. I love seeing publications make the leap from web to print! (I love it even more when that means one of my own stories is entering the realm of ink and paper.) Consider supporting them by buying a print copy of this inaugural physical issue. 

While you're there, swing on by the Luna Station Press' gorgeous website and see what other exciting things they are up to.

More about the North Pacific Ocean Gyre from the Singularity Hub