Status Update or My Equinox Check-In

What’s up? Writing.

Reading (fiction) and Writing (non-fiction) that is. As you know, I do monthly book and comic book reviews at BlackNerdProblems.com. (What? You don’t know that? Get over there and read my stuff! Some fan you are.) The site is 6 months in, and between all the hard work of the contributors and the guiding hand of William Evans as the Editor-in-Chief, it is blowing up.

I’ve really hit my stride in my book and comic reviews. It pushes me to consider fiction in a holistic way, considering the whole and the parts. I’m a copy editor by trade, I read in the weeds, worrying about spelling and sentence structure and metaphor construction. But as a pop culture critic, I’m not going to give the thumbs-down just because of some misspelled words – I’ll judge, don’t get me wrong – but I won’t automatically throw shade at a book because of it. A novel is a machine that produces a result (entertainment, horror, action, whatever) and the quality of that result is what most deserves comment. It is what drives a person to buy or not to buy. Now if only I could find a reliable source for culturally relevant images without having to spend hours of my day sorting tumblr porn, I’d be as chill as this:

https://41.media.tumblr.com/6297990b11e2e5a9809e83f9285c004a/tumblr_n1orgeCS3O1sldhkko1_500.jpg

In the last few months I’ve realized how solitary my writing, and nerding, life has been. I’ve been in writing groups and shared my nerd loves with friends, attended conventions, even dressed funny in public, but as I spend more of my free time conversing with and reading the work of other Black Nerds, I see that I was always, subtly, culturally isolated. I was always explaining my jokes and defending my choices and fighting expectations of my preferences. It is the work of a Black Nerd in a White Nerd world, just as it is the work of a Black person in a White one. Now, I’m not going to say I’ve “met my people” by becoming active in the Black Nerd community (There’s a Black Nerd community? Yep, there is. We have our own Twitter hashtags and everything. No, I’m not going to tell you what they are tho, that’d be too easy) but I am going to say I feel understood in a way I’ve never felt before. And that’s about the best way to go into Autumn I can think of.

This weekend, I’ll be attending Convolution SF in SF . I’ll be doing readings from the book, or perhaps a few of my short stories, and holding down a few panels on Women, inspiration, and creativity while parenting. If you are in the area, come on by. It’ll be a great chance to spend some good geek time at a place with a pool and a bar. No downside there.

If you want to hear my opinions on books, comics, and other assorted Black Nerd items, hit me at BlackNerdProblems.com or find me on the Twitter. I know interesting people who tweet interesting things which I then re-tweet with reckless abandon. Again, no downside there.

 


I’m reminded that it has been a while since I dropped a link to the novel, you know Queen of Hunger, into a blog post. So, here it is: Queen of Hunger: Tales of the Assembled Book 1. You haven’t bought it? Try the sample chapter

Updatery and the Problems of a Black Nerd

Hey all! As you’ve probably noticed by now, I’m an awful blogger. It isn’t that I don’t love you; it is simply that I have so many words, for so many things, that none of those words ever seem to land here. Well, at least not on a regularly scheduled basis.

One of those “so many things” is pretty awesome. I’m doing book reviews on BlackNerdProblems.com.

As I’ve mentioned here, I’m really interested in exploring and popularizing more speculative fiction by people of color. I know so many fans (of all descriptions) who want to expand their reading options, and so many Black readers who are tired of being written out of the narrative. Taking matters into my own hands continues to be the best way to solve the problem: write the books I want to read and review the books I’m glad are there.

So that’s where most of my words will be landing for awhile. The site also features some of the funniest, most insightful Black nerds writing right now, doing reviews and commentary on everything from Dr. Who to Book of Korra. There’s a page for cosplayers and another for interviews and blah blah blah. Click the link. Go read. Then you’ll know why I’m excited.

I’ll still have things to say here now and then, things that won’t fit over there, so don’t unfollow me. Just follow me twice!

Hope the summer is treating you right. My fall is shaping up to be intense, but more on that later. Later!

Review: The Atrocity Archives

Hi all.

For anyone who randomly comes across this post, here’s the deal. I’m in a virtual book group. We read books and post our comments about them to a FB group. No, you can’t join.

I started out making just a few notes for that group, but then those notes got too long. So I’ll put all my thoughts about the book here. Just like me to be too wordy for a FB post…

The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross: My Comments in 3 Parts

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On the inspiration of sewing and costuming

Through a long series of connections (and with too much time on my hands), I found myself wandering the Internet, looking at historical costuming blogs.

Now I’m not a seamstress. I can work a basic sewing machine, follow a pattern and mend a seam. That’s about it. I have none, and I mean none, of the basic skills needed to be a really good seamstress — color coordination, design sense, the ability to visualize in 3D using 2D materials, etc. At the same time, it is an art form I feel closely mirrors my own writing. Creating clothing is a process of trial and error; drape, pin, move and re-move; sew, sew, sew; try it; sew, sew, sew; pull out the buttons; sew, sew, sew; start over in a different color with a zipper next time.

There’s also the way that clothing and costuming is constantly shifting under the pressures of fashion and practicality. I feel that writing in “genre” fiction can be very much about hitting the fashion of the year or rather, the fashion of next year.  The dress that flops on this year’s runway may be picked up in five years and be a complete smash. Some fashions are best evaluated in hindsight because of what they reveal about the world in which they were created, what they describe about perceived femininity/masculinity, the stories they tell of trade and travel. Aren’t stories the same way?

Speaking of stories — I did do a new writing challenge this week, but the result is far too dis-jointed to share. I have this terrible fear that I’ve got a new cast of characters coming together for a new long-form-not-quite-novel. The last thing I need is another “too long for a short story too short for a novel” piece of fiction. But like with sewing, sometimes you have to work your fabric stash. You never know, it might be enough for that Victorian ballgown you’ve been dreaming of if you piece it right.

I leave you with my newest online costuming obsession: Rate the Dress.

Like I said, I’m no costumer, but the idea of looking back over history’s clothing and evaluating it for cut, color, and desirability just appeals to all my senses. If I knew just a little bit more I’d be tempted to start voting. But that’s the deep end of the pool and as you know, Internet people aren’t always kind when you’re in their pool.

After all this dress talk, I feel the need to leave you with a picture of a dress. So here you go, my current favorite use of the color red:

Dress-silk-1887-White-Howard-Co.25-W.-16th-St.New-York-Met-358x500

Dress, silk, 1887, White Howard & Co.:25 W. 16th St.:New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, CI68.53.6ab

Space Opera Challenge

I’ve got a friend who writes. Actually, I have a lot of friends who write, which is great because there’s always someone to understand my latest word block or to share a cup of coffee with when the words just won’t stop coming. But this friend of mine needed a little companionship in his writing this week. While writing is something one must do alone, it is also easier to do when you know someone, somewhere is writing too. So to better procrastinate my own writing, I volunteered to share a word-for-word challenge with him. He picked the genre and the word count target and we both wrote.

It was a good dare for me. Space Opera isn’t really my setting — I tend to avoid topics that require any understanding of physics beyond the most basic — but I was able to shrink the stage of the scene down to my usual comfort zone. And I was able to invent a character that I’m sure I’ll transplant into something else.

I’m sharing the result here with you so that this quick piece doesn’t linger in my word trunk unread. It isn’t in anyway related to QUEEN OF HUNGER. But it was fun. Enjoy.

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On Nerves: Having them and getting on them

Yes, it is October. However, consider this your September update, as that’s when all the thinking happened.

Book Status: QUEEN OF HUNGER continues to sell regularly, which is fabulous considering how little advertising I’ve done. It isn’t selling “I’m going to Hawaii for my birthday” well, but well enough. In addition, the feedback I’ve gotten from readers has been really encouraging and inspiring. If I could get half the people who’ve told me they loved it to say so on Amazon.com in a review…but I know not everyone is a “reviewing” type. Heck, I don’t have a Yelp account myself, so how can I complain? I can’t. Still, it is good to know people like it and recommend it and are looking forward to the next book. That makes me inexpressibly happy.

Writing Status: I am definitely writing, producing a small but steady amount of new content every week, which is helping to pull me out of my post-publication doldrums. Yes, post-pub blues. I’m realizing now that’s what I’ve had/have/will have for a bit longer. Those blues are manifesting in one serious crisis: I’ve lost my nerve.

Public art is about risk. Committing words to paper is great, but putting those words in front of strangers takes an awful lot of moxie — a fact I hadn’t really come to grips with until I did it for the first time a few years ago. And now, after taking the big risk, I find myself constantly battling doubt: what if the next book isn’t as good? or is too good? What if someone steals my ideas? or I’ve stolen theirs? What about the characters, are they interesting? complex? amoral? cynical? Is it too long? MY GOD EVERYTHING I WRITE IS TOO LONG!

Writing in a vacuum was so much easier than writing with the will to publish. My second-guessing demon is working overtime.

This makes for slow going. And re-writing. And pep talks with fellow writers. And more coffee than I ever thought I’d consume in a day — and I attended grad school, so my coffee intake upper limit is significant.

So while book two grows day by day, whether it will grow in time for a reliable publication date is up for debate. In the meantime, however, I do have some other shorts that are shaping up to be interesting enough to share. They aren’t in the same world as Teach and the Assembled, but you probably won’t mind. I mean, it’ll be free fiction. What’s not to like?

PS — I’m making additions to the Inspirations page too!

A New Page and Writing Status

Yeah, I know, I know, it has been a while since I wrote.

I’ve been busily working on the outline and character sketches for book two of my little series, entitled QUEEN OF CROSSROADS. I’m hoping to have some preview content up in the next few months. QUEEN OF CROSSROADS leaves the comfortable west coast and centers on a new heroine settled comfortably, or uncomfortably, in the midwestern regions of the Commonwealth. The characters are younger, the Assembled just as complicated, and there’s a baby. I think you’ll like it.

QUEEN OF HUNGER is going along well. I don’t have any new readings scheduled for the fall, but as with Westercon there’s no telling what will fall into my lap. Now that the initial flush is off the sales, I’m considering some new marketing venues — we’ll see how it goes.

To help myself with my ongoing writing (both for QUEEN OF CROSSROADS and some other projects) I’m compiling a list of inspirational websites. These links now have their own page here at TALES OF THE ASSEMBLED — Inspiration. Clever, I know. These are pages that I find myself going back to for some spark or detail. That page will keep growing, so if you’re a writer who could use a kickstart now and again, it might be for you.

With that, I’m off. Take care all and as always, thank you for reading.

Westercon 66: Surprise Reading of QUEEN OF HUNGER

The family and I attended Westercon 66 in Sacramento this past weekend (July 4-7) as the central event of our little summer vacation. I came prepared to do a reading of QUEEN OF HUNGER (hell, I could practically recite the first 100 pages by heart) but I didn’t really think anything would come of it. That’ll teach me to doubt. Not only did I read, I passed out a grip of promotional materials and had my own cosplayer! Now you don’t have to be a fellow geek to know how cool it is to have a reader like your work enough to dress up like them in public. Thank you to my Mama Leah costumed friend, and all my other friends and supporters who came around to hear of Mama, Teach, Mona, and Wyatt. It really helps to know you’re out there reading, and listening and loving every minute.

The reading went quite well and I got to hear from a few other talented writers as well. Their names and book links are listed below in the order we read. I will say that it continues to be entertaining to read out loud and observe the reactions of some listeners to my “urban” style and frank language. When I drop that first f-bomb and the listener blanches I always think to myself, Honey, you ain’t heard nothing yet. I admit that I’m starting to wonder if the reaction isn’t just to the word fuck, but to me somehow. But that’s another post.

In addition to the reading, I attended several panels about issues facing women in gaming and geek culture, received a list of princess fairy tales from around the world, and learned to build a quickie air-propelled rocket. I’m finding myself falling in love with fan conventions. Where else could I do all of that in a weekend and attend a concert by the Phenomenauts and and go to several parties, see a drink mixing robot, sip margaritas with a guy who would later dress as Grimlock, and learn to play roulette with two very lovely spies? OH, and have my daughter photographed with Captain America? Yeah, a small hotel in Sacramento, CA.

Thank you to the organizers, programming staff, and all the fans at Westercon 66 this year. It was a blast.

Authors from the Open Reading:

Phyllis Kalbach, Blue Eden: The future after the ice melts

Eileen Rendahl, Don’t Kill the Messenger

Leslie Light, Queen of Hunger

Stephen Rose, Jr., The Fool’s Illusion

My first live reading of QUEEN OF HUNGER

The main event for me at BayCon over Memorial Day weekend was the Themed Reading: Urban Fantasy panel, at which I read from QUEEN OF HUNGER and got to meet and hear a great crop of other authors working in the same rough genre. They all had FAR more experience than I, which meant I got to read first then sit back and listen. My two favorite of the other authors:

I have to geek-out here for a moment about Colin Fisk. Colin is the author of several of the Cyberpunk 2020 RPG sourcebooks — most notably the 1991 Chromebook. Now I don’t know if any of you are cyberpunk fans, either of the RPG or the genre, but I’ve read my Chromebook so many times the iconic pink cover  isn’t attached any more. It was simply AWESOME for me to get to shake Colin’s hand and tell him how much he’d inspired me. He read from a new short story he’s working on, an intense piece of cyberpunk with a horror edge. I’ve added him to my Goodreads list so when the short comes out I can find it. I’d love to read more from him.

The other reading I really enjoyed was by Jay Hartlove from his novel THE CHOSEN. It is the first of an occult trilogy about Charles Redmond, a man who slowly convinces his psychologist that no, really, he’s sane…there really ARE demons chasing him and the loa of his Haitian Voodoo religion actually ARE alive and well and ready to help him in a fight for the future of the world. As you can imagine, this is right up my alley – Voodoo, horror, vengeance, redemption – all my favorite stuff.

In addition to sharing some great fiction, both men were also encouraging to me as the new author on the block. Let me tell you, when you’re reading from your heart in front of a room full of people, it is great to hear from the pros that you did well. Thanks to both of them for their cheers and support. I look forward to the next exciting pieces of fiction they both produce!

For my fellow gamer geeks — FLASHBACK!

Cover of 1991 Chromebook Cyberpunk 2020 sourcebook

I think I had this book memorized at one point…

What? A whole room full of People of Color at a Sci Fi Convention? This must be the FUTURE!

I’m just settling in after a long weekend at my local Science Fiction/Fantasy fan-run convention, BayCon. It was a great chance for me to read from QUEEN OF HUNGER to a packed room and to get together with other fans and talk about our interests. Best of all for me, I met several other authors who I’m alternately inspired and impressed by. I wanted to give a review of the event but in the interest of short attention spans (and those of us who do our blog reading on our phones on our lunch hours) I’ll cut it into two posts. First – the Fans of Color Panel.

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