Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The One with the Year Ending

This year was, to be all cliché about it, a roller coaster. BIG GOOD THINGS alternating with BIG BAD THINGS in a way that I haven't really experienced before, most years. I'm not going to get into the bad ones, because I dwelled in them at the time and I don't want to dwell anywhere near them anymore. I think I've learned some things from them, at least, and I'll be using the knowledge I've gained for the rest of my life, which should turn out to be helpful. I think that's the best way to look at it.

So. In my writing and editing news, the good thing that's the most current is my story for Steampunk World, a multicultural steampunk anthology that's now in the last days of a popular Kickstarter campaign! "The Emperor Everlasting" is an alternate history story in which the Incas were much more successful in the world than they were in the actual past you may have learned about. Intrigue unfolds as a royal Deviser is thwarted in her every effort to complete the most important job in her nation's history! Who wants to read about a country that features battle llamas? Maybe you? Then here's what you need to know:


Featuring stories by Jay Lake, Lucy A.Snyder, Ken Liu, Nisi Shawl, and many more!

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My most exciting professional development was editing my first anthology, What Fates Impose, which was published after its own successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year. The fundraiser allowed the publisher to pay professional rates for all of the stories, because paying writers well for their work was one of the top goals for the project. And so we created this anthology of new tales of divination!

 
Featuring stories by Cat Rambo, Ken Scholes, Lucy A. Snyder, Tim Waggoner, and many more!
 
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2013 included the planning stages for TWO new editing projects for me, so I'm looking forward to doing that work in 2014! I will write more about those projects as more of the details are sorted out.
 
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There's only ONE MORE MONTH left to get copies of two soon-to-be-discontinued science fiction anthologies that contain stories of mine. It's not great news that they'll be gone, but at least there's time to grab them! Because they contain many wild stories about life in space, including my own "An Assessment of the Incident at Camp Righteous" and "Running in Wonderland."
 
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I did some good reading this year, too! My project of reading a Story Each Day for the whole year fizzled out at the end of August, but by then I had read over 250 stories, so I still feel good about it. That's approximately a million words of fiction, at minimum, which is around ten novels' worth. That's in addition to the other thirty-four books I read! Some of the best books I read this year were:
 
  • The Yiddish Policemen's Union, by Michael Chabon
  • Salvage and Demolition, by Tim Powers
  • American Elsewhere, by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • At the Edge of Waking, by Holly Phillips
  • Somewhere Beneath Those Waves, by Sarah Monette
  • The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
  • World War Z, by Max Brooks
  • Perdido Street Station, by China Miéville
 
(I realize that I was WAY LATE to reading many of these, but they were definitely as excellent as everyone had been saying!)

This concludes 2013! Best wishes and good luck for 2014! I'll leave you with a recommendation for my favorite blog, which offers science-backed recommendations for living well and being happy:



Thursday, December 19, 2013

Two Books I'm In Will Soon Go Out of Print!

I got a letter this week that told me the company which published a couple of my stories will be dropping most of its books. It's a struggle to run a small press, and often the profits don't even come close to matching the level of work involved, so the decision is understandable. But in case you're interested in grabbing some books that may be rare collector's items one day (I CERTAINLY HOPE), I'll post the links below. The books will be discontinued as of January 31, 2014, so order before then because it's your last chance! I will get a tiny cut of any sales that transpire, but more importantly, I hope to get more copies out into the world because soon they'll be gone forever...



Space Grunts: Full-Throttle Space Tales #3 is a military science fiction anthology edited by Dayton Ward. It contains my short story of a militant theocracy gone terribly wrong, "An Assessment of the Incident at Camp Righteous." The story is set in a prison camp for native aliens on a planet that's been conquered by humans.



Space Tramps: Full-Throttle Space Tales #5 is a science fiction anthology about vagabonds in space, edited by Jennifer Brozek. It includes my novelette, "Running in Wonderland," which is about a mentally ill refugee who must navigate through the criminal parts of a huge space station as part of her quest to find a home on a frontier planet.

In other news, I AM MOVING. I've lived in my current house for over twelve years, which is the longest time I've ever lived in the same place, and I've accumulated ABSOLUTELY TOO MUCH STUFF. Sorting through it and getting rid of the excess has been taking up lots of my time, but that's a good idea in itself AND the new house is in a much more convenient location, so the effort is worthwhile. The official move will be in early January.

I hope you'll enjoy any holidays you celebrate, and also all of the other days coming up!

Friday, November 15, 2013

NOT DEAD YET

Hi everyone!

I got a comment on my last post that noted that I hadn't posted anything since August, and wondered if this blog was dead. Answer: NO. I have been busy. I planned and executed my first trip to England! And things, and stuff. I did not blog. I intend to blog. I will. I will definitely blog.

So that's something to look forward to, right?

Saturday, August 31, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: You, by Austin Grossman (SPOILERS)

RATING: 2 out of 5 stars

I went into reading this book with high hopes, because I thought a novel about making video games, with a mystery involved, would be interesting. But...

The first problem is that whoever wrote the jacket copy made false promises. The main character, Russell, gets a job with old high school friends at their company, Black Arts Games. The book's description says, "But mostly he needs to know what happened to Simon, his strangest and most gifted friend, who died under mysterious circumstances soon after Black Arts' breakout hit." This is a lie. Russell reminisces about things they all did together back in their high school days, but hardly gives a thought to the circumstances of Simon's death. The false expectation set up there IS NOT THE AUTHOR'S FAULT, but there are plenty of things that ARE the author's fault, and he is not helped by the way the cover sets readers up for disappointment.

To start with the positive, as far as I can tell Grossman gets everything right when he describes the video game industry in the late 1990s; I've known many people in that field since the early 1990s, and I was tickled to see mentions of a couple of people I met long ago, John Carmack and John Romero. But describing an industry accurately does not necessarily make an interesting story. Russell is a very low-energy main character, who sort of drifts into his job as a game designer without really caring about games, and then he gets an undeserved promotion to lead game designer when a bunch of the company's employees leave. He does develop some motivation and job satisfaction along the way, but then the book wanders into long, long, long descriptions of him playing through the whole backlist of the company's games, and having conversations with the games' characters that could be interpreted as either imaginary or magical.

The most interesting thing about the book is the hunt for a mysterious "bug" that goes through all of the games, occasionally causing the appearance of a devastating weapon that wreaks havoc and does things it should not be able to do. However, I found it difficult to stay interested through the looooooooong sections of game summary. There's hardly any dialogue in the entire book, and few scenes with conflict, tension, or action that's shown directly. Russell spends a lot of time pondering the nature of games and wondering whether it's okay to like his job rather than preferring to work in a more conventional profession, such as being a lawyer (he's a law school dropout), but he never seems to fully engage with his life and move forward.

And another thing! There are many places in the book where Russell describes things that he wasn't present for, such as events in Simon's life, so he shouldn't know about them. They could possibly be interpreted as vivid imaginings, but they're not presented that way. They're told as if they're facts and Russell is an omniscient narrator. That bothered me every time it happened. I was not as bothered by the shifts between Russell's first-person story and the sections of second-person "you" describing the player in a video game, but the third-person omniscient sections took it too far.

The book was just barely engaging enough to keep me reading all the way to the end, but it took a lot of work to get through the second half, and I kind of wish that I hadn't.

Check out my Goodreads page to read more of my opinions about books!

Monday, August 5, 2013

When Depression Strikes at the Worst Possible Time

Real depression is rare for me—like maybe one short bout every few years, due to circumstances. This summer I had the highest number of simultaneous high-importance deadlines of my life, and in the middle of those I had a sudden and painful interpersonal drama from the least likely direction, and then because of those things all at once, I strained my neck from sitting in front of the computer for way more hours than usual, under way more stress than usual. And then I took prescription pain medication for that and worked in a fog for several days, and then discovered this new dance craze called "withdrawal symptoms" (not actually either a dance or a craze).


So what did I do about it? And what can you do about it if a similar thing happens to you?

First, I took a couple of days to just rest. I did whatever I felt like doing. If it was crying, fine. If it was getting into bed and alternating between napping and staring at the wall, fine. I started with the easy ones like those and ended up with more enjoyable ones, like reading The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (because although it's grim, it gave me perspective on how my life wasn't really so bad), and listening to Maria Bamford's new comedy album, which is GREAT, and perfect for anyone who occasionally goes to the dark side in their thinking. I was still depressed at this point, but I started to feel it lifting slightly.

Then I listed all the things I thought I SHOULD get done, and narrowed the list down to only the things I HAD TO get done, with completion dates. I figured nothing was going to be much fun for a while, so I might as well just methodically go through my work step by step and stop having to worry about those obligations. That helped. I get a lot of satisfaction from checking items off a list.

Still in a funk, I added in exercise: taking long walks in the mornings, before it got too hot and sticky outside. I also fixed my nutrition by adding in more fruits and vegetables and reducing junky, fatty, and sugary foods (not eliminating, mind you, but cutting down). That's when I started to have longer stretches of feeling better, especially for the few hours after the walks. Those walks also gave me good opportunities to think through my problems and decide how I wanted to handle them. It's much easier to think when I'm away from my usual environment, which is full of chores and time-wasters like Facebook games. Which I had been playing too much in an effort to just not think about it for a while. That escape was probably helpful at first, but after a while it's time to stop hiding and make some changes.

This whole issue was why I delayed my Victory Mohawk. I wanted to be able to feel sincerely victorious for those pictures! And I did.

Now I am back to my usual level of cheer, with some new insights, and my energy level is back up. So! If you have occasional funks or depressions, following a similar process may be helpful. If you have serious depression frequently, add a call to your doctor ASAP, because frequent, intense depression is an illness that needs treatment just like any other serious illness.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Multicolor! Victory! Mohawk!

AS PROMISED! The success of the What Fates Impose fundraising campaign brings:

 
WOOHOO!!!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I Have Messed Up My Neck

I spent a lot a lot I mean a LOT of time at my computer over the last two weeks. I didn't realize how incorrectly I had been sitting until about a week ago, when that neck I mentioned started to feel sore. But at that point there was still so much computery stuff left do do, with deadlines, that I rearranged the way i was sitting and just kept working. 

I'm testing the Blogger app on my phone from my bed today because that was not an effective solution! For one thing, my neck really needed more of a break, and for another, I kept catching myself back in the same old bad position every time I got absorbed in what I was working on. So today I shall rest this neck in the least painful position I can find, with occasional breaks to gently stretch it and move it around, and I'll avoid sitting at the computer. 

But hey! If this is the price of victory, I'll pay it! Because two big and awesome things are done now: the funding for What Fates Impose, AND my new alternate history story of Incan Steampunk, "The Emperor Everlasting." That required so much research, but I learned a lot of actual history and ended up with a story I love.

This means Victory Mohawk pictures will be slightly delayed (wouldn't want pained grimaces smudging the Victory of it all), but you'll definitely get them! I promise!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Amanda C. Davis

Note from Nayad: Last interview of the series! I've been posting interviews
with authors contributing to my speculative fiction anthology, WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination, which is all about the conflicts and problems that make people want to predict the future, followed by the new problems that come from trying to find out what's next.

It's also the last day of the Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign for WHAT FATES IMPOSE, and although we are fully funded (yay!) you can still get in on it to pre-order the book and get awesome rewards until 8pm Central TODAY, July 14th, 2013. All extra help we get will go toward the finishing details for the book and making more books like it possible, because we want to keep on creating anthologies and paying authors the pro rates they deserve.

You can easily tell your friends about the project by using this page to give us three clicks. Time's almost up!
 

Amanda C. Davis writes short stories in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Her work has appeared in Shock Totem, IGMS, three Triangulation anthologies, and others. She works in the combustion industry by day and spends her nights baking, live-Tweeting horror movies, and embarking on the occasional harebrained scheme (with varying results, but at least her failures make entertaining blog posts).

Amanda's story in WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination, "The Scry Mirror," shows how managing one's expectations is a crucial element of happiness, and it digs into some seriously creepy depths.

Here's Amanda with her thoughts on writing and what looks like an awesome egg recipe: I'm going to have to try it! *for a solid three minutes, mirrors around the world reflect the wrong images*

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Depends. Put enough coffee in me and I'll lecture for hours. On the other hand, I'm constantly telling my crit partners that I'm always wrong about everything. I'd probably better just stick to that for now.

Which subjects and themes do you write about often, and why?

I'm definitely one of those writers who pulls the same themes over and over again. I love sacrifice and loss, dread, the realization that you've been wrong for a really long time. Following your duty to a terrible end. I like to treat magic like science and science like magic. And I've got this stable of character types who keep appearing in various shapes and sizes, to the point where I've named them, and can recognize them and their hybrids even where I didn't expect them. I couldn't speculate on why. It'd just get embarrassing.

What's your favorite story of all the stories you've written, and why?

I don't necessarily have a number-one favorite, though within genres, I'm more satisfied with some than with others. Can I pick two? People seemed to like "Drift" and "Shimmer."

What do you like and dislike about the process of writing a story for a themed anthology?

I pretty much love everything about it. I thrive on deadlines, and I approach prompts and themes as puzzles where I have to find the approach that's maximally appropriate, unique, and interesting to write. The only downside might be that stories written to theme can be harder to place elsewhere, which is why (shh, trade secret) I often incorporate a second or third element that's in regular demand. And anthologies! I adore them. Don't get me started. I'm so excited about the table of contents in What Fates Impose, so excited to read it.

Where can people find other published work of yours?

All my published work is linked from my bibliography. Earlier this year, World Weaver Press released a collection of my sister Megan Engelhardt's and my fairy-tale retellings, available in a vast bouquet of formats, and we're very proud of it: http://worldweaverpress.com/books/wolves-and-witches/

What else would you like to tell people about any subject?

One egg. Quarter teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper. Half tablespoon crumbled feta cheese. Two tablespoons chopped baby spinach. Scramble, fry on medium-high, flip when the bottom holds together on a spatula and the top is solid enough not to slide off. Fold in half. Top with ketchup or hot sauce according to taste, but you don't need it; that's a lot of black pepper.

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Last day to get involved! The WHAT FATES IMPOSE Fundraising Campaign closes TODAY, July 14, 2013, at 8pm Central. Join us and be a part of making history!
AUTHORINTERVIEW: Erika Holt



Saturday, July 13, 2013

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Erika Holt

Author Interview: Erika Holt Note from Nayad: The series continues. This week I'll post interviews with authors contributing to my speculative fiction anthology, WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination. If you want to read twisty tales about struggles with destiny, this anthology is for you. I hope you enjoy these author interviews!

As of this posting we have only 30 more hours to go on the Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign for WHAT FATES IMPOSE, and WE ARE FULLY FUNDED. Yay! We're up to $5,185 from 217 Beloved Backers!

You can still pre-order the book and get awesome rewards until 8pm Central on Sunday, July 14th. All extra help we get will go toward the finishing details for the book and making more books like it possible, because we want to keep on creating anthologies and paying authors the pro rates they deserve.

You can easily tell your friends about the project by using this page to give us three clicks.


Erika Holt lives in Calgary, Alberta, where she writes and edits speculative fiction.  Her stories appear in Shelter of Daylight Issue 6, Evolve Two: Vampire Stories of the Future Undead, and Tesseracts Fifteen: A Case of Quite Curious Tales.  She is also co-editor of two anthologies from EDGE and Absolute XPress: Rigor Amortis and  Broken Time Blues: Fantastic Tales in the Roaring ’20s, and assistant editor of Nightmare Magazine. I can give you my personal guarantee that she's fun to drink with!

Erika's story in WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination is called "Murder of Crows," and it's a chilling tale about the nature of trust, belief, and terrible choices.

Now here's Erika to tell you about her methods of developing stories, some of her favorite writing themes, and her thoughts on divination. *all the crows in the world startle into flight*

Victory Mohawk Progress Report

WHAT FATES IMPOSE is fully funded! There's still time to get in on the pre-orders and rewards through 8pm on Sunday, July 14th, but right now I'm working on something I told you I would do.

As promised, I am on the path to posting Multicolor Victory Mohawk pictures of myself on the internet! To let you know that I'm serious, here's a photo of my hair at the bleached-out stage. :)


What's next, you ask? How about some blue, turquoise, and green? I have to write a big chunk of my next short story before I get to start putting on the colors, but the colors and the photos will be along within a few days at most.

Friday, July 12, 2013

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Andrew Penn Romine

Author Interview: Andrew Penn RomineNote from Nayad: The series continues. This week I'll post interviews with authors contributing to my speculative fiction anthology, WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination. If you want to read twisty tales about struggles with destiny, this anthology is for you. I hope you enjoy these author interviews!

As of this morning we have only 57 more hours to go on the Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign for WHAT FATES IMPOSE. We're up to $4,862 from 202 Beloved Backers. That's a thrilling 97%, but we still need $138 to get to $5,000. The Countdown Is Happening! We're SOOOOOO CLOSE. :)

Thanks to everyone's efforts, we have unlocked a new bonus for backers! Everyone gets two bonus art downloads for contributing any amount from $1 on up. You can easily tell your friends about the project by using this page to give us three clicks. Will you help us? Because we would love to create this book and pay our authors pro rates for their work.




Andrew Penn Romine lives in Los Angeles, where he works in the visual effects and animation industry. A graduate of the 2010 Clarion West workshop, his fiction appears online at Lightspeed Magazine and Crossed Genres as well as in the anthologies Broken Time Blues: Fantastic Tales in the Roaring 20s, and Rigor Amortis, and in Fungi from Innsmouth Free Press.

Andrew's story for WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination, "Ain't Much Different'n Rabbits," is, I believe, the most disturbing story in the whole book, AND I LOVE IT.

Here's Andrew, explaining himself. *swarms of fireflies all light up at once*

Thursday, July 11, 2013

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: David Boop

Author Interview: David Boop Note from Nayad: The series continues. This week I'll post interviews with authors contributing to my speculative fiction anthology, WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination. If you want to read twisty tales about struggles with destiny, this anthology is for you. I hope you enjoy these author interviews!

As of this afternoon we have only three more days to go on the Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign for WHAT FATES IMPOSE. We're up to $4,663 from 192 Beloved Backers. That's an amazing 93%, but we still need $337 to get to $5,000. The Countdown Is Happening. We're SO CLOSE. :)

If you'd like to help out, you can easily tell friends about the book by clicking here. If you contribute any amount from $1 on up at our Kickstarter page, you will get our first bonus art download in addition to whatever rewards you choose, and we're only 8 backers away from making that TWO bonus art downloads. Will you help us? Because we would love to create this book and pay our authors pro rates for their work.

 
 
David Boop is a novelist, short story writer , and super-friendly guy. I first met him after he was on a panel at NorWesCon. I don't remember the topic of the panel, but I remember the title of his book, which was such a good title that I needed to compliment him on it: She Murdered Me with Science. He's is also in a table of contents with me in Space Grunts: Full-Throttle Space Tales #3, edited by Dayton Ward, as well as having stories in a bunch of other tables of contents! He offers flash fiction critiques for one of the reward levels in our fundraising campaign.
 
David's story for WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination is called "Dipping into the Pocket of Destiny." It shows how trying to get an edge over the competition depends on both the quality of your information and the context around it, so you need to keep an eye on cause and effect.
 
Here's David with some context for you! *as the strand of fate that brought you here is woven into place, Events of Significance begin to play out*
 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Cat Rambo

Author Interview: Cat Rambo Note from Nayad: The series continues. This week I'll post interviews with authors contributing to my speculative fiction anthology, WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination. If you want to read strange tales about predicting the future, you've found the right book. I hope you enjoy these author interviews!

As of this afternoon we have only four more days to go on the Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign for WHAT FATES IMPOSE. We're up to $4,356 from 183 Beloved Backers. That's 87%, but we still need $644 to get to $5,000. The Countdown Is Happening. But we're so close!

If you'd like to help out, you can easily tell friends about the book by clicking here. If you contribute any amount from $1 on up at our Kickstarter page, you will get our first bonus art download in addition to whatever rewards you choose, and we're only 17 backers away from making that TWO bonus art downloads. Will you help us? Because we would love to create this book and pay our authors pro rates for their work.

Author Interview: Cat Rambo
 
(Photo by On Focus Photos, http://onfocusphoto.com)


Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Tor.com. Her short story, “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain,” from her story collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012.

Cat's story in WHAT FATES IMPOSE, "To Read the Sea," is a powerful and unsettling flash fiction story about the magical objects that come from the ocean, and the dark motivations of the people who want them.

Here's Cat to tell you about divination and the many ways to do it, as well as her thoughts on writing. *tides around the world impossibly rise all at once*

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Remy Nakamura

Note from Nayad: The series continues. This week I'll post interviews with authors contributing to my speculative fiction anthology, WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination. If you want to read strange tales about predicting the future, you've found the right book. I hope you enjoy these author interviews!

As of this afternoon we have only five more days to go on the Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign for WHAT FATES IMPOSE. We're up to $4,267 from 178 Beloved Backers. That's almost 85%, but we still need some help to get to $5,000. The Countdown Is Happening.

If you'd like to help out, you can easily tell friends about the book by clicking here. If you contribute any amount from $1 on up at our Kickstarter page, you will get a bonus art download in addition to whatever rewards you choose! Will you help us? Because we would love to create this book and pay our authors pro rates for their work.



Remy Nakamura is a graduate of the Clarion West workshop, and one of the excellent writers contributing to Inkpunks, and I personally covet at least one of his shirts (the one he was wearing when I met him in the middle of the night at WorldCon in Reno). His story for WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination is called "Pick a Card." It features Tarot cards and a tortured man in prison who seeks a way out.

I'll let Remy take over now to tell you about his reasons for using Tarot cards, his themes, and the way he came up with the idea for his story.
*Ferris Bueller-style group dances start up on stairways across America*

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Jamie Lackey

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Jamie Lackey Note from Nayad: The series continues. This week I'll post interviews with authors contributing to my speculative fiction anthology, WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination. If you want to read weird stories about fortune-telling, this is the book for you. I hope you enjoy these author interviews!

As of this morning we have only five more days to go on the Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign for WHAT FATES IMPOSE. We're up to $4,116 from 171 Beloved Backers. That's 82%, but we still need some help to get to $5,000. The Clock of Let's Get Serious is now ticking.

If you'd like to help out, you can easily tell friends about the book by clicking here. If you contribute any amount from $1 on up at our Kickstarter page, you will get a bonus art download in addition to whatever rewards you choose! Will you help us? Because we would love to create this book and pay our authors pro rates for their work.



Jamie Lackey lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and their cat. Her fiction has been published by over a dozen different venues, including The Living Dead 2, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Daily Science Fiction, and she has appeared on the Best Horror of the Year Honorable Mention and Tangent Online Recommended Reading Lists. She reads slush for Clarkesworld Magazine, works as an assistant editor at Electric Velocipede, and helped edit the Triangulation Annual Anthology from 2008 to 2011. Her Kickstarter-funded short story collection, One Revolution, is available on Amazon.com.

Jamie's story in WHAT FATES IMPOSE, "Another Will Open," gives us a look at the difference between easy answers and hard choices, and how to pick a direction. Here she is with her thoughts on where that story came from and some advice for aspiring writers.

Monday, July 8, 2013

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Tim Waggoner

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Tim Waggoner
Note from Nayad: The series continues. This week I'll post interviews with authors contributing to my speculative fiction anthology, WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination. If you want to read weird stories about fortune-telling, this is the book for you. I hope you enjoy these author interviews!

As of this morning we have only six more days to go on the Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign for WHAT FATES IMPOSE. We're up to $3,879 from 160 Beloved Backers. That's almost 78%, but we still need some help to get to $5,000. The Clock of Let's Get Serious is now ticking.

If you'd like to help out, you can easily tell friends about the book by clicking here. If you contribute any amount from $1 on up at our Kickstarter page, you will get a bonus art download in addition to whatever rewards you choose! Will you help us? Because we would love to create this book and pay our authors pro rates for their work.

Tim Waggoner Author Interview Photo

Tim Waggoner is a popular, award-winning horror writer who has published over thirty novels and three short story collections, and also a creative writing teacher at Sinclair Community College and in Seton Hill University’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction program. His story in WHAT FATES IMPOSE, "The Goggen," is a creepy modern fairy tale about the darkness lurking behind waterfalls and inside human minds.

Here's Tim with great stuff about his writing themes, writing advice for you, and how the I Ching gave him the right wisdom to get him started as a professional writer. *out of nowhere, an orchestra starts playing dramatic classical music*

Sunday, July 7, 2013

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Beth Wodzinski

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Beth Wodzinski Note from Nayad: The series continues. This week I'll post interviews of the authors contributing to WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination. FYI: There is some outrageously imaginative work in this book, and I can't wait for you to see what these writers have accomplished. I hope you enjoy what they have to say in their interviews!

As of this morning we have only seven more days to go on the Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign for WHAT FATES IMPOSE. We're up to $3,732 from 153 Beloved Backers. That's almost 75%, but we still need some help to get to $5,000. The Clock of Let's Get Serious is now ticking.

If you'd like to help out, telling your friends about this book project is free and easy by clicking here, and there are reward levels from $1 on up at our Kickstarter page.


In addition to being an excellent writer, Beth Wodzinski is the editor of an outstanding magazine, Shimmer. Her story in WHAT FATES IMPOSE is called "One Tiny Misstep (In Bed)." It features fortune cookies, gives the reader many choices, and demonstrates exactly how deceptive choices can be.

Here's Beth, testing out various methods of online divination to find answers to my questions! *flocks of shimmery birds take to the skies in what is clearly an omen of some kind*

Saturday, July 6, 2013

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Lucy A. Snyder

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Lucy A. Snyder Note from Nayad: The series continues. This week and next I'll post interviews of the authors contributing to WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination. RECOGNIZE: I am working with some of the most fun and interesting people in the speculative fiction field. I hope you enjoy what they have to say!

As of this morning we have only eight more days to go on the Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign for WHAT FATES IMPOSE. We're up to $3,550 from 144 Beloved Backers, but we still need some help to get to $5,000!

If you'd like to help out, telling your friends is free and easy by clicking here, and there are reward levels from $1 on up at our Kickstarter page.


(Photo by Michelle Pendergrass)
 
Lucy A. Snyder is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of the novels Spellbent, Shotgun Sorceress, and Switchblade Goddess, and the collections Sparks and Shadows, Chimeric Machines, and Installing Linux on a Dead Badger. Her writing has appeared in Strange Horizons, Weird Tales, Hellbound Hearts, Dark Faith, Chiaroscuro, GUD, and Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet.

Here's Lucy, letting you in on her thoughts about divination and a bunch of her diverse interests! *a triumphant fanfare of trumpets*

Friday, July 5, 2013

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Sarah Hans

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Sarah Hans Note from Nayad: The series continues. This week and next I'll post interviews of the authors contributing to WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination. FACT: I am pleased and proud to be able to work with each of the authors in this book, because they're all great people. I hope you enjoy what they have to say!

As of this morning we have only nine more days to go on the Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign for WHAT FATES IMPOSE. We're up to $3,448 from 140 Beloved Backers, but we still need some help to get to $5,000!

If you'd like to help out, telling your friends is free and easy by clicking here, and there are reward levels from $1 on up at our Kickstarter page.


Sarah Hans is a writer, editor, teacher, and steampunk enthusiast. Her first anthology, SIDEKICKS!, contains one of my short stories, and has inspired at least two short films that are in development right now. Her story for WHAT FATES IMPOSE, "Charms," explores blackmail, identity, and difficult choices, using runes as a method of predicting the future.

Here's Sarah! Sharing her thoughts on Tarot, reluctance to get her fortune told, and writing from the perspective of characters different from herself. *showers of glitter confetti*

Thursday, July 4, 2013

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Ferrett Steinmetz

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Ferrett Steinmetz Note from Nayad: The series continues. This week and next I'll post interviews of the authors contributing to WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination. KNOW THIS: every one of these authors has a shot at becoming your next favorite author, because they're all that good. I hope you enjoy what they have to say!

As of this morning we have only ten more days to go on the Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign for WHAT FATES IMPOSE. We're up to $3,398 from 137 Beloved Backers, but we still need some help to get to $5,000!

If you'd like to help out, telling your friends is free and easy by clicking here, and there are reward levels from $1 on up at our Kickstarter page.



Ferrett Steinmetz is a Nebula Award-nominated author. He has been mentioned by Neil Gaiman in at least one public speech as an example to show that creative writing can, in fact, be taught. His story for WHAT FATES IMPOSE, "Black Swan Oracle," gives us a chilling look at how predictable people and their choices can be, and the outcome of making such predictions.

Now here's Ferrett! Who can explain to you how vacuum cleaners lead to Deep Thoughts about the divination prospects of social media, and also give you solid, get-to-work writing advice. *a thousand muppets flail at once*

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Alasdair Stuart

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Alasdair Stuart Note from Nayad: The series continues. This week and next I'll post interviews of the authors contributing to WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination. ADVISORY: every one of these authors is full of talent and marvels. I hope you enjoy what they have to say!

As of this morning we have only eleven more days to go on the Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign for WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination. We're up to $3,368 from 136 Beloved Backers, but we still need some help to get to $5,000!

If you'd like to help out, telling your friends is free and easy by clicking here, and there are reward levels from $1 on up at our Kickstarter page.


Alasdair Stuart's introduction to WHAT FATES IMPOSE is the kind of inherently interesting piece of writing you often see as a non-fiction article but rarely get to have at the beginning of a book, because someone wrote in some Publishing Scripture somewhere that nobody actually reads introductions, but you still have to have one for Reasons. Well, you're going to want to read this one. I mean, first of all, it's called "Singing from the Book of Holy Jagger." It must come from a different sect than that Publishing Scripture I mentioned. But you don't have to just believe me about how good it is. You can listen to Alasdair reading the heck out of a portion of his intro on the project's page by clicking that great big arrow in the middle of our cover image.

And here he is! It's Alasdair! With ideas about divination, and thoroughly correct writing advice. *cheers*

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Wendy N. Wagner

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Wendy N. Wagner Note from Nayad: This week and next, I will post interviews with as many authors as possible from WHAT FATES IMPOSE, in addition to anything else I write about. BE ASSURED that every one of these authors is an interesting person I would gladly hang out with for an evening (and I have done so, in many cases). I hope you enjoy what they have to say!

As of this morning we have only twelve more days to go on the Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign for WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Tales of Divination. We're up to $3,223 from 134 Beloved Backers, but we still need some help to get to $5,000!

If you'd like to help out, telling your friends is free and easy by clicking here, and there are reward levels from $1 on up at our Kickstarter page.


Wendy N. Wagner's story in WHAT FATES IMPOSE features fortune cookies. It shows a struggling couple coping with an unexpected stop on their road trip, with much larger consequences than they could have expected.

Here's Wendy, sharing her thoughts on fortune-telling and writing! *applause*

Monday, July 1, 2013

GUEST POST: Jennifer Brozek and her Karen Wilson Chronicles

GUEST POST: Jennifer Brozek and her Karen Wilson Chronicles
Jennifer Brozek is an award-winning anthology editor and a talented, prolific speculative fiction writer. Her story, "A Card Given," is part of the anthology I'm editing, WHAT FATES IMPOSE. Jennifer has also very generously offered up a donation of her series of novels, the Karen Wilson Chronicles, as a reward level for the anthology's Kickstarter fund-raising campaign. Jennifer tells the world about her series below, and at the end I'll tell you how you can get it (and my book, too)!


Here's Jennifer:

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Are Writers Really Insane?

The title of my blog is kind of a joke, and kind of not. I mean, the word "insane" is a strong word. It's an exaggeration. . . mostly.

This is not a scientific observation here—I haven't taken a survey, and I wouldn't know how to design a scientific survey anyway—but what do you suppose most people think about writers? How about some suggestions: we're eccentric, depressive, spacy, weird. We use big words all the time and we are aloof. We are disorganized and we have no sense of time.

Are you going to sit there and tell me people don't say that? Go on, the comment section is below. No? Because you know they do. The ones who don't say it are THINKING it. They are.
It is certainly possible to list writers who are pretty together as individuals. They turn in their stuff on time, dress well, and even remember to eat. But there are reasons why the general sense people have about writers is that we're DIFFERENT. Why is that?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

ART POST: Ouija Board

Since I mentioned my artworkings, it seems only right that I should show you what I've been working on. Therefore, I present this design for a Ouija Board. It's a fairly large picture in its full glory at 12" x 18", but I have some space limits here, so you're getting the small version with some detail pics.

You can click these to see them a bit larger.

The color version!


Detail 1
  

Detail 2
  

Also in black and white!


I'm not sure how I would go about this, but I think it would be fun to figure out how to transfer this image to an actual board, and design a planchette to go with it, to make it a usable Ouija Board.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Using Multiple Talents: Freedom or Folly?

(I almost called this post "When Art Mind Attacks!" You'll see why in a minute.)
  


I struggle with wanting to do All The Things. I have many, many, many, many, many, many, many interests. But for the purposes of this post, I'm going to write about the main two interests at war in my head: art and writing. Or writing and art, depending on the day. I'm going to throw aside such social niceties as humility and modesty and say that I'm good at both. Not OUTSTANDING at either, you understand, but definitely good. With time and practice, maybe I could be really good at one or the other.

The trouble is that they keep stealing time from each other, the brats. How am I supposed to make forward, linear progress when I practice one thing for a while, and then switch to the other thing for a while, and keep going back and forth?

Friday, June 14, 2013

7 Ways to Improve as a Writer

PREMISE: Every writer can get better at writing.

QUESTION: How?

The standard advice you hear about how to get better at writing is to write more, finish your projects, and submit your work. You're told to write either a certain number of words or for a certain amount of time every day, ideally at the same time of day, and after a while this is supposed to magically make your writing better.

The trouble with that, I think, is that it leads to people just churning out words at the same level of quality—the level where they started. Any improvement is slow. The advice to finish projects is the best part of it. Learning to finish one story and start another one is important. Submitting them is also important, but personal rejections are rare; getting a bunch of form rejections doesn't tell you anything about what you need to improve.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

WHAT FATES IMPOSE: Now on Kickstarter!

The stories are in and the Kickstarter page is up. This anthology only needs some love. If you're already excited about What Fates Impose and you know all about Kickstarter, you can go and see the table of contents and backer rewards right now!

If you'd like to know more about the book first, there's more information below.
  

Life is uncertain, and the chance to get a peek into the future is tempting... but is it a good idea to look?

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Cover for WHAT FATES IMPOSE


(click it for a larger version)

I LOVE THIS SO MUCH.

Cover art by Steven C. Gilberts.

Cover design by me!

Ten Books for a Desert Island

The eternal question: which ten books would you want to have if you were stranded on a desert island for the rest of your life? This is what I'm pondering, as I stare down summer (yesterday, coincidentally, was the last day of the school year for my three sons). I have not yet read and will not ever get to read everything, but for me, today, this is the set of books I would choose.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Take a look at my list and comment below with books you think I would like, based on the books I'd be willing to read over and over for the rest of my life. There are no wrong answers! Your opinion counts around here!

Story Collections

It's a challenge to write a short description of a whole book of short stories, so I'll tell you the things these collections have in common: excellent prose, very strange circumstances in every story, menace and conflict within and without the characters, and my total envy because those people wrote these stories and I didn't.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tips for Giving Useful Story Critiques

It's currently fashionable to give brutal critiques for fiction. The idea is that for a writer to improve at writing, she must receive the most blunt, strongly-worded responses possible from the people who evaluate her work. This will toughen her up. If she can't take this type of criticism, she is told, she will never, ever make it as a writer.

I'm not so sure that we need to be this extreme about critiques. A critique is a detailed analysis and discussion of a literary work. I think that, too often, people are encouraged to shift from a critical analysis of a story's merits and faults to being critical, or "inclined to find fault or to judge with severity, often too readily."

We speak English. We have so many words to choose from. You can clearly express thoughts about a story's strengths and weaknesses without being brutal, and without being too soft and fuzzy. There's a middle ground. For the purposes of this post, I'll think in terms of critiquing a short story, but this stuff should all be applicable to novels, essays, and even poetry.

On to my tips!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Why Enjoying Solitude Helps Me Meet Conventions Full of People

A while back, Ferrett Steinmetz wrote a great blog post called Surviving Cons: A Guide for Socially Anxious Writers. I recommend that post for the many excellent tips it contains. There's another reason, though. In the post, Ferrett recommends me as an outgoing person who likes to introduce friends to each other at conventions. He's correct: that's what I do! But after six years of going to conventions, it's still funny to me that I am that person, because whenever I go to a convention my first step is to get psyched up for some alone time. My approach to being social ends up being different from Ferrett's, but I think that between the two of us there's an idea for just about anyone who wants to have a better time at these things and meet more people.

Part of the problem with social anxiety, I think, is the expectations that go with it: feeling like at any given event you need to act a certain way, impress people, and make a ton of friends immediately, or you will look like a loser. That's a lot of pressure to put on yourself in a situation, and pressure is a known reducer of fun. I'm a proponent of easing up on yourself and taking a slow, easy approach to making friends. Yes, conventions are for meeting people, but no, you don't have to meet all of them all at once. It takes practice to shift your attitudes and expectations, but in my experience, it's been worthwhile.

As I was saying the other day, I learned to have good relationships with people by learning to treat myself well and enjoy solitude. Because of that, when I go to a convention I get prepared to happily hang out by myself all weekend. I know that I can go to panels alone, browse for books and jewelry in the dealers' room alone, lounge alone in my room in the morning without having to rush off anywhere, sit in a restaurant and eat alone, and it will be nice. It will be a relaxing break from my normal life, and I will have a good time.

Because I feel this way, I can walk into a convention feeling comfortable even if I don't know anyone, and I end up meeting people easily because there's nothing terrible at stake. I don't need them to like me or spend time with me. I'm there to take in the event by myself, but I try to spend my time in public areas to give myself the chance to meet people if I want to. If someone says something interesting on a panel, at the end I'll go up to introduce myself and chat for a minute. I'll compliment the cool outfit someone's wearing. If one of the book dealers is feeling talkative, I'll hang out and have a conversation with them and anyone else who comes along when I'm standing there. No pressure, and we can all wander away in a minute. I'm happy to meet people—ask anybody, I love 'em!--but I don't feel like I have to be with people all the time.

But the magic sometimes happens when I see one of those people around again, and we end up having a drink in the bar. Or maybe we'll bump into each other at a party. A couple of joking remarks later, we're in a real conversation, and they introduce me to their friend who comes over. That leads to another friend, and another. Or not. I might move on and introduce myself to someone else, or decide that I'd rather go and read a book. Feeling relaxed, and intending to fulfill my own emotional needs, tends to put me into the right state of mind for enjoying the moment I'm in, rather than thinking about what I may be missing or what will come next. That helps me to pay attention, remember people's names, and think of questions to ask them so that the conversation flows freely.

Why does this work? It's a matter of managing expectations. By lowering my expectation of what others should provide for me, and raising my expectation of what I can provide for myself, I go to the event with the plan to make my own fun. Instead of looking for the solution of getting attention from other people, I'm free to be spontaneous and have attention to offer out. I don't have to worry about getting something wrong; I can just be, and see what happens.

When a conversation develops, it helps to watch the other person's cues: to listen for hints about what they'd like to talk about, or detect visible signs of whether they want to keep talking or move on. Being responsive to what the other person wants is the nicest thing you can do. In my experience, people act like they appreciate that at some level, even if they never articulate it. I'm not saying to ignore your own preferences, but it's helpful to be willing to make the conversation more fun for the person who's in it with you. It's easier to have that attitude if you're not feeling needy.

After six years of attending science fiction and fantasy conventions, along with keeping in touch with people I meet online, I don't know if I could find a convention where I wouldn't know someone anymore, not that I'm looking for such a thing! Part of the fun of going is being able to see friends and acquaintances, and part of it is being able to introduce them to each other. But I still like to know I won't be disappointed if I'm on my own.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

WisCon Book Haul

Over the weekend, I spent a lot of time at WisCon 37, socializing and doing my best to make sure other writers don't starve (also known as buying books, my favorite strategy). I feel the need to tell you what I selected.

Before and Afterlives, by Christopher Barzak. From the back cover: "These are tales of relationships with unearthly domesticity and eeriness: a woman falls in love with a haunted house; a beached mermaid is substituted for a lost missing daughter; the imaginary friend of a murdered young mother stalks the streets of her small town; a teenage boy is afflicted with a disease that causes him to vanish; a father exploits his daughter's talent for calling ghosts to her; and a wife leaves her husband and children to fulfill her obligations to a world from which she escaped." In case you were wondering what kinds of things I like to read about in short stories, now you know. It sounds like a great collection, and I have already enjoyed reading the first story in the book, "What We Know About the Lost Families of – House."

Seeing Things, by Kater Cheek. Description: "Coffee shop barista (and part-time treemaker) Kit Melbourne’s life turns upside down when her tea-leaf reading brother predicts that someone will rob her, break her heart and oh yeah, murder her. Kit suspects it has something to do with the priceless jewel she inherited from their infamous witch uncle. As the jewel’s powers begin to reveal the secret, supernatural side of the town of Seabingen, Kit realizes she has to uncover the mysteries of her uncle’s past, to find out which of his many enemies wants the jewel badly enough to kill for it." I've read enough of Kater's short stories to know that I enjoy her writing style, and I'm always psyched up to read about the secret, supernatural side of anything.

Trampoline: An Anthology, edited by Kelly Link. This book is not new—it came out about ten years ago—but I had been meaning to get this for a long time. It is a matter of public record that I'm a huge fan of Kelly Link's stories, so I'm certain that other stories she chose to put together will also make me very happy.

Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction, by Annalee Newitz. From the book jacket: "In its 4.5 billion–year history, life on Earth has been almost erased at least half a dozen times: shattered by asteroid impacts, entombed in ice, smothered by methane, and torn apart by unfathomably powerful megavolcanoes. And we know that another global disaster is eventually headed our way. Can we survive it? How?" You might not know this about me, but this topic is something I fret about. A lot. I'm also curious about what other people have to say about it. Given the fact that Annalee Newitz is a particularly interesting person (and also fun to chat with!), I can only believe that this book will be just right for me, especially since it seems to be angled toward fascinating science and optimism.

Which books have you picked up lately?

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Disclosure of Material Connection: None! I have not gotten and will not get any financial compensation for mentioning these books. I don't do affiliate links.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What Fates Impose Progress, Plus WisCon this Weekend

Today's exciting news is that I have seen and declared my approval of the cover art for What Fates Impose, which I commissioned my own self because MY PUBLISHER IS AWESOME. I'm not ready to post the image yet, but I love it and you'll see it soon. I can tell you that the artist is Steven C. Gilberts, who, by the way, is great to work with.

I've accepted the stories that will appear in What Fates Impose. I am so looking forward to revealing the table of contents for this book! I'm still considering the order of the stories, but no matter the order, the authors are amazing and they've written fiction that I'll be proud to send out into the world. At this point, we're working on story edits, and then I'll go into more detail with line edits, but the prose was already at a high standard when it came in.

We're also polishing up the details of our funding drive through Kickstarter, which will begin very soon. Reward levels will include digital and print versions of the book, as well as selected other titles from Alliteration Ink, and there's talk of offering cover art prints and other goodies as well. I'll post the link here when it's ready, of course, and I hope you'll consider checking it out.

As you may have gathered from the title, this weekend I'm going to WisCon, the World's Leading Feminist Science Fiction Convention, which is located in Madison, Wisconsin. The convention goes from Friday through Monday, May 24th through the 27th, but I will only be there during the day on Saturday and Sunday, since I'm commuting instead of staying at the hotel. I'm looking forward to the people, discussions, books, art, and probably jewelry I'm likely to engage with there. I don't think I've ever gone to a WisCon without buying jewelry from either the art show or the dealers' room. But the main thing is the people—it will be great to see friends there and have the chance to meet new ones.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How To Say No When You Need To

Making decisions is hard. Disappointing people is no fun. But it's impossible to do everything, so sometimes I need to say no to people who ask me to do things. Here's why it's important to do that, and how to make it easier.

I'm writing this post because a few months ago, I sent out invitations for people to submit stories to my forthcoming anthology, What Fates Impose. I got three types of answer: yes, no, and "no response." Those non-responses left me feeling a bit freaked out, with many unanswered questions on my mind about why I didn't hear back. I'm not here to try to make anyone feel bad about not responding. In some cases, they may not have received my email, or other things I didn't know about may have been going on. However, some of them may have felt uncomfortable with directly saying no, as many people are, or they may have believed that it didn't matter.

Here's why it matters. We all have the same amount of time: not enough. I understand if you don't have time to work on a new project. I often have the same problem. That's why I'd rather get a quick, polite negative answer than wait around for an answer that never comes. I just want to know where I stand with you, so I can proceed. Here are two easy notes you can send to tell me no ANYTIME YOU WANT:

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1. If you don't want to work on THIS project, but you might want to work with me in the future:

Dear Nayad,

Thank you for inviting me to submit a story. Unfortunately, I can't commit to this, but please think of me for other projects in the future.

Sincerely,

You

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2. If you don't feel convinced you want to work with me at all:

Dear Nayad,

Thank you for inviting me to submit a story. Unfortunately, I can't commit to this, but I hope the project goes well for you.

Sincerely,

You

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(You don't have to wish me well on the project if you REALLY don't want to work with me, but it's a nice touch. SOCIAL SKILLS, Y'ALL.)

These basic templates are easy to customize. If you know the person, include a little personal note. Ask about their cat. Sign off with "Best" or "Take Care" or, if you're really close, "Hugs." If you really would have said yes, but there were unavoidable obstacles, mention that. Ultimately, though, it is way better for your business and personal relationships if you say SOMETHING rather than NOTHING.

Monday, May 20, 2013

How I Learned to Be Social Despite Having Introverted Parents

The other day I wrote about How Being Social Helps Me as a Writer and an Editor, and now here's my post about how I learned how to do that.

My parents are both very nice people, and they are thoroughly introverted. Their home is their restful place away from other people. They don't get the notion to invite friends over. It's just not their thing, and that's okay.

Anyone looking at me when I was a child, if they were inclined to think about introverts and extraverts, would surely have thought I'd turn out to be an introvert. I was shy and quiet. I liked to read. I played by myself, and didn't really understand other kids. I didn't smile much, and when I did it was with my lips closed. I was SERIOUS.

Anyone who saw me then and saw me now, with a gap in between, would think that the child they'd seen had been replaced by someone else. Anyone who knows me now would be SHOCKED at the quiet mini-me, if they could see her. I'm just so different. So what happened?

We moved from a small town to the suburb of a big city just a couple of weeks after I turned twelve, when I was in the middle of sixth grade. The move was a big change, and I was suddenly around a whole new set of kids who had no expectations about what I was like. I didn't transform all at once, but I was trying new things simply by having to meet new people and make new friends if I wanted any, and then over the next few years I was increasingly interested in boys, too. I had the inclination to be extraverted, but it took me a while to develop some of my social skills because I needed to be around more people to learn them. It worked well for me to learn the ways of introverts when I was younger, fitting in with my family, but as a teenager I found that I wanted to expand outward and understand how to interact with people better.

Then I went too far with that and became clingy and needy, which made people push me away. That was upsetting, so I turned to self-help books.

The best one, strangely, was called Intimate Connections, by David D. Burns, M.D. I say "strangely" because the premise of this book is that in order to develop good friendships and find love, you need to learn how to really enjoy being alone. How to treat yourself as well as someone you would date. So I was learning how to be social by learning how to be alone. It's odd that a person growing up with introverted parents would need to learn that being alone is good, given examples of people who craved alone time, but I did. This was a life-changing book for me at a time when I really needed it.

What I learned was that there's a reason for this phenomenon most people know about: when you're single and looking for someone to date, or you're lonely and looking for friends, it's often hard to find them because you have a needy vibe. People sense that you want them to fix your life, and this is off-putting. When you stop looking and start to enjoy being single and don't even want to date, instantly you meet people who want to date you. It's because you're happy with your life, and happiness is attractive. Therefore, depending on a relationship to make you happy, or friends to make you happy, will limit your ability to have relationships and friendships. It's important to find your own happiness. The trick is to like yourself.

Everything I've learned about being social since then has been layered on top of that principle. It's not about being selfish or putting myself first; it's about treating myself well, and maintaining my own stability so that I can give affection to others, and listen, and be helpful whenever possible. This means knowing my own limits so that I can say "no" when I need to. I can't help everyone all the time. I have to do my own stuff. But if I have some time and there's something I can give freely and without resentment, I give it.

Coming soon: Why Enjoying Solitude Helps Me Meet Conventions Full of People

Also coming soon: How to Say No When You Need To

Friday, May 17, 2013

Five Books for Leveling Up in Writing and Life

There are hundreds of beginner-level writing books available for someone just starting out, but it's harder to find books that help with ongoing improvement after that stage. I have a few recommendations. The nifty thing is that these books all have a lot to offer for developing general creativity. Anyone from beginner through advanced in writing could get something out of reading these. They contain useful stuff for the rest of life as well, in my opinion.

The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle. This is the most generally applicable book on my little list, because it's about the kinds of practice that lead to mastery, and what's happening in the brain as that mastery is growing. It covers deep practice, ignition, and master coaching, each of which are important in reaching high levels of success in creative work and sports, especially. My favorite thing about this book is that it gave me ideas about how learning to be an excellent writer is more like high achievement in soccer than it's like mastering the violin, because the former relies on learning to flexibly access a wide range of options, while the latter is about perfecting the one correct way to play any given note. Anyone interested in developing any kind of talent should read this!

Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Solve Writer's Resistance, by Rosanne Bane. THIS BOOK IS SO GREAT. I've increased my productivity so much since I started to follow the practices suggested in this one. The great thing is that, although it's a book specifically about writing, the information is EASILY transferable to pretty much any area of life. It's about recognizing the ways in which stress prevents creative thinking, and how to establish easy, helpful habits that will prevent the stress response from taking over and blocking you from doing what you want to do. The book explains how to establish methods of process, product, and self-care to keep yourself in the right state of mind for creative thinking. This gets my highest recommendation.

Making a Good Writer Great: A Creativity Workbook for Screenwriters, by Linda Seger. Okay, I know the title says it's for screenwriters, but really it's for everyone. Who doesn't need more creativity? This book includes chapters like "Pushing Your Mind to Another Creative Level," "Exploring Your Themes and Ideas," and "Mining the Riches from Your Dreams," as well as chapters more specifically dedicated to improving writing skills. The examples are about screenwriting, but any writer can benefit from them. I like to read books about screenwriting to learn from a different angle. They tend to give me a better appreciation of movies, too.

Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence, by Lisa Cron. Why do people enjoy stories? Our brains get interested in stories for specific, explicable reasons which are covered here. Learning what makes people curious, and what holds their attention, is useful for writing fiction. It's also crucial for giving good presentations, getting along with others, and being an interesting person. In a time when social interactions online and in person are more important than ever before, as people become increasingly adept and sophisticated in the social realm, this is valuable information.

2k to 10k: How to write faster, write better, and write more of what you love, by Rachel Aaron, has a really self-explanatory title. All right, this one is strictly about writing. It's especially good for planning and outlining novels, so that you know what you intend to write on any given day. That helps with getting started and allowing the words to flow faster.

I am always looking for good books to read, so I hope you'll comment with your own recommendations!

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Disclosure of Material Connection: None! I have not gotten and will not get any financial compensation for mentioning these books. I don't do affiliate links.