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Writing Process Blog Tour

Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam invited me to join this blog relay on writing craft. Her post is here.

1. What am I working on?

I’ve got three big projects right now, as well as a couple of short stories I need to revise, and my editing work. I’m concurrently writing two novels and compiling a mosaic novelette of SF poetry. The working titles are:

  • Sonnets for the Rocket Queen – 144 Shakespearean-style sonnets about love, loss, and space ships.
  • Shades of Gray – first person, female protagonist, modern day, ghost story. Urban fantasy without the tramp stamp. Miéville noir with a female lead.
  • Caudal Ballad – third person PoV, multiple protagonists, surreal/interstitial. Borges meets Nabakov, with traces of Burroughs and Poe.

Shades and Caudal are set in the same universe, same town, at the same time, and explore a series of events from very different perspectives. They don’t need to be read together.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

No one else has read what I read, in exactly the same way, or lived my life, or shares my exact sense of humor. That’s true of all of us. For that alone, I’d like to think what I write is different. When you add to that mix that I write because I have a story in my head I want to get out — instead of for fame, money, respect, or notoriety — and that if I’ve read the same story elsewhere I no longer want to write it, then what I do produce fits into a small space occupied by not much else.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Have you ever read something and thought, “Oh, yeah, that is true”? You learn some fact you didn’t know before, but based on everything else you know, this thing makes sense. I love to read fiction that has that resonance of truth, and I don’t want to put any of my own writing out into the world unless it speaks to me in the same way. It has to answer a question, or provide a viewpoint which clarifies a confusion you didn’t even know you had. I want to feel more alive, more knowledgeable, when I’ve finished a piece of reading. Even if the knowledge is sad.

I’m also interested in mixes of genres or the places where multiple genres lean against each other. I think that when you work in solid, simple, mainstream, genres, whether it’s literary or epic fantasy or hard science fiction, you’re more likely to be retreading the same old ground. There are stories which slip between the cracks, tales that don’t quite fit, and are therefore told a lot less often. Those are the stories I want to tell.

4. How does my writing process work?

My current writing process was developed over years of failing to produce consistent work. Ideas, I have. Ideas are easy. They’re everywhere. I’m lucky that my subconscious, what I call my lizard brain, is strong enough that I can decide I want to work on a story, spend a little time thinking about it, and then move on to another task, another piece of writing. Meanwhile, my lizard brain will keep writing, until one day, it taps me on the shoulder and says, “Here you go.”

The hard part is always writing it down. I’m chronically overbooked, overworked, and exhausted. I don’t have time to read for pleasure, be with my family the way I’d like. So, how do I find time to write?

I carefully manage what I have, and the rest I need, I steal. The managing comes from being organized — two white boards at home, online spreadsheets, Field Notes books in my bags to scribble down thoughts, post-it notes on the wall, documents saved to Drive so I can work on them anywhere. I manage my time like I structure my writing, so I’ve got spreadsheets for how much time is spent on each freelance project, to do lists, and even my daily word count.

Doing that means I’ve got everything I’ve written down whenever I want it, and knowing whether I’ve spent enough time on other projects that day tells me how much I have left for writing. If it’s not enough to get out the part of the story I’m ready to write down, I take what I need from other places. I write instead of going out. I write instead of getting to bed on time. I write on my lunch breaks, before work, while watching tv, during dinner. Not all of those times every day, but whatever I need to make sure that every day, I am writing.

I’m a better writer because of it, and I think that I more fully enjoy the times I spend with my family, partner, friends because I know what I give up to write, and what I give up to be with them. I cherish everything. To me, making time to write feels like having it all.

* I was supposed to tag two more writers who’d then complete this meme and pass it on. Instead, I am tagging all of you. Write your own posts, and leave me a comment with the link so I can go read yours too.

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Coming Soon, The Battle Royale Slam Book! Or, where I attack the idea of “anti-feminist” with a machete.

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Synopsis: 

Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale is an international best seller, the basis of the cult film, and the inspiration for a popular manga. And fifteen years after its initial release,Battle Royale remains a controversial pop culture phenomenon.

Join New York Times best-selling author John Skipp, Batman screenwriter Sam Hamm, Philip K. Dick Award-nominated novelist Toh EnJoe, and an array of writers, scholars, and fans in discussing girl power, firepower, professional wrestling, bad movies, the survival chances of Hollywood’s leading teen icons in a battle royale, and so much more! (Table of Contents here.)

… See that bit in the blurb about “girl power”? Yeah, that’s me.

My essay, “Girl Power”, is part of this collection and I am incredibly thrilled to be there. I’d been wanting to get back to academic writing for a while, I’ve been a fan of the story for years, I studied filmmaking and film criticism – particularly in regards to Japanese cinema – so when I heard that editor Nick Mamatas was looking for a few more essays, my hand shot up so fast you all probably heard the accompanying sonic boom.

He ran down the list of subjects already taken, and I immediate noticed the big empty space where I could make myself comfortable: a review and refusal of the “anti-feminist” label so often applied to the film, and (less often) the print versions of Battle Royale. See, this story is about teenagers, and half of the kids are girls, and they’re fighting and fucking and murdering each other, so doesn’t it have to be bad? It is a horror show. We know how those end up… meaning that the girls in this tale must not have any power or agency at all, right?

Wrong.

Sure, one the people who survives to the end is a boy, but the other one is a girl. The bad kids have a couple of slasher psychopaths and one of the most vicious? She’s a girl, too. And while they do spend the typical amount of time being catty and stealing each other’s boyfriends, the schoolgirls of Class 3-B don’t do it because they have nothing better to do. They do it because they recognize who’s got the power in their society, and they’ll do what it takes to get that power for themselves. Unlike Katniss or Bella or Babydoll, these girls make choices that directly affect their fates. Just because they’re splattered with blood at the time, doesn’t take away from their agency.

These girls are clever, resilient, independent, loving, insightful, maternal, vindictive, strong, and terrifying, when they choose to be. What could be more powerful than that?

Want to read the essay? Pre-order the book here.

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Writer Wednesday: Jessica May Lin

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Today’s writer is Jessica May Lin. I discovered her when I read her amazing flash piece, “Mortar flowers”, in Nature‘s Futures section, and then read her “Dark, Beautiful Force” at Daily Science Fiction, found out we have friends in common, she’s going to school in the first town I moved to when I left home after high school, and she’s a fellow Codexian. Naturally, I had to ask her a million questions. (Okay, ten. Ish.)

When she’s not writing, Jessica is a student at UC Berkeley. She is also an acrobatic pole dancer. You can find her at www.jessicamaylin.com.

1. How does your life as a full-time university student inspire and/or detract from your writing? Does your major influence your writing, or do you keep the two separate?

I think the exciting thing about being a student is that every day, you get tons of new stuff thrown at you from all sides, which is inspiring in strange ways. Once, after being unable to fall asleep all night, I misunderstood some theory my physics professor was describing, which eventually inspired me to write a story with the title “The Insomniac’s Guide to Collapsing Universes.” I’m majoring in Comp Lit, which has introduced me to radically different ways of storytelling that depart from the Western emphasis on plot and interiority, my two current favorites being Chinese vernacular literature and Soviet avant-garde cinema.

That aside, my writing life, my student life, and my dancing life are all pretty different from each other with very few overlaps, and I like to think that each one engages a different side of myself. It’s kind of like living in 3 different worlds at once with the ability to jump between, but I like it that way. When I get overwhelmed by one, I can easily slip into another. That way, everything I do always feels fresh.

2. What local authors groups or online communities do you actively participate in?

I’m very close with the Odyssey Workshop Class of 2012, who are the first writer friends I’ve ever had. It’s been pretty exciting, watching their careers blossom over the past year and getting to cheer them on from the sidelines. More recently, I made a lot of new friends at Taos Toolbox 2013, who I’m still in touch with. I’m also a member of Codex Writers Forum, which is a supportive, insightful resource that throws the best contests.

3. You’ve written and published some excellent very short fiction. You’re also working on a novel, A Dream of Burning Cities. Do you prefer one kind of writing over the other?

I’m a novel person through and through. When I get an idea I’m super excited about (which happens like, once a year), I want to hold on to it and explore it in as much depth as possible. Sometimes I think I get too invested. I do feel like there’s more room for experiment in short stories though, so every now and then when I stumble across a catchy concept that I can’t stop thinking about, I will write a short story.

4. Which publication are you most proud of, and why?

The bit of writing I am most proud of is actually something I wrote this summer. It hasn’t found a home yet, but I like it because it forced me out of my comfort zone. It was definitely a risk, but one I’m glad I took.

5. You’ve already attended a couple of writing workshops (Taos, Odyssey), which is unusual for a young writer so early in her career. What did you get out of those experiences, and which workshops do you want to attend next?

Before attending workshops, my writing was pretty much an explosion of feelings and ideas without much organization. I liked painting pretty pictures with my words, but I had no idea what a plot was… I think I’m much more disciplined now. Also, I’ve met some incredible people and mentors, who have been there for me through thick and thin. However, I think I’m done attending workshops for a while. For me, there are two parts of learning to write, which are 1) learning to write and 2) living and growing. I’ve been spending a lot of time learning to write but I don’t think I’ve been on an adventure in a while, so I think I’m going to do that next summer. (more…)

UPDATED! List: 130+ Asian Speculative Fiction Authors (with links)

Updated to add suggestions from the comments/email/Twitter. All authors mentioned prior to 5/13/2014 now included. If you’re not on this list but should be, or you’re on it but want me to link to a more recent story or current website, please comment below.

I’ve been wanting to expand my reading to include more international speculative fiction, and more non-white American authors. I am privileged to know a couple of brilliant writers who also happen to be Asian, and that seemed a good place to start my reading*. I put together a list of work I’d been meaning to explore, and then solicited ideas from Twitter and the SFWA forums. Most people suggested the same couple of names over and over again… while it’s, honestly, wonderful that we’ve reached a point in SF/F where these authors are being read and discussed at all, there’s so much more diversity in our fiction, if we just look for it. There’s almostover a hundred and thirty published writers on this list, and I know it isn’t everyone.

The authors are listed alphabetically by given name, so the list doesn’t imply hierarchy. I also didn’t sort by ancestry, current geographic location, or place of birth (though I noted it where it’s listed in author bios**), because the writers listed here have placed varying degrees of importance on those facts. Some work in American tropes, subverting the “classic” science fiction of the 50s, while others retell the myths of their homeland in new and unique ways. Some look to the future, extrapolating possibilities from their own experiences. There’s no one style, structure, or emotional context that can be called “Asian writing”. What these authors have in common is that they’re all of Asian descent, and they all write speculative fiction***. These authors write primarily in English—I’ve included a few translated works, but I can’t vouch for the authenticity of voice, so I tried to choose English-language stories wherever possible.

I want to thank Clarkesworld, Apex Magazine, Crossed Genres Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine, Strange Horizons, Giganotosaurus, The World SF Blog, and Daily Science Fiction for repeatedly publishing these authors. Looking for diversity in short speculative fiction? Look to those publications. (Or my own, Lakeside Circus.) When I could find it, I’ve linked to the author’s Twitter, website, blog, list of publications, and/or a sample short story. I’ve also noted if the author works primarily in YA or MG fiction.

  1. Aditya Bidikar (Indian, shorts) story: “You Cannot Fight the WarWorld SF blog
  2. Alec Austin (Chinese-American, shorts) twitter website story: “Brief Interviews with TherianthropesDaily Science Fiction
  3. Alice Sola Kim (shorts) website publications story: “Hwang’s Brilliant DaughtersLightspeed
  4. Alliete de Bodard (French/Vietnamese, shorts stories/novels, Nebula and BFSA winner) twitter website publications story: “The Weight of a Blessing” Clarkesworld
  5. Alexander Osias (Filipino, shorts) G+ twitter
  6. Apol Lejano-Massebieau (Filipino, shorts) story: “The Sewing Project” Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009
  7. Amish Tripathi (Indian, novels) twitter
  8. Amitav Ghosh (Indian, novels, Arthur C. Clark award, Man Booker shortlist) website publications blog
  9. Andrew Drilon (Filipino, shorts/comics/editing) blog
  10. Andrew Fukuda (Chinese/Japanese, novels) (YA) twitter website blog
  11. Andrew Vu website twitter facebook
  12. Anil Menon (Indian, shorts/novels/editing) website blog story: “ArchipelagoStrange Horizons
  13. Ashok Banker (Indian, novels) wikipedia
  14. Benjanun “Bee” Sriduangkaew (shorts) twitter blog story: “AnnexClarkesworld
  15. Brenda “B.W.” Clough (shorts/novels, Hugo and Nebula nominee) website publications
  16. Bryan Thao Worra (Laotian-American, shorts/poems) twitter blog poem: “No Such PhiLakeside Circus
  17. Budjette Tan (Filipino, comics/shorts, Philippine National Book Award winner) twitter blog story: “The Last Full ShowAlternative Alamat
  18. Camsy Ocumen (Filipino, shorts) story: “The Day the World Lost Its Gravity” Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009
  19. Cecelia Manguerra Brainard (Filipino-American, novels/shorts/editing) website wiki
  20. Cecilia Tan (novelist, editing, shorts ) twitter website publications free fiction (sample chapters/serials)
  21. Celestine Trinidad (Filipino, shorts) story: “Under a Mound of Earth, part 1Philippine Genre Stories
  22. Charles Tan (Filipino, shorts/editing) twitter blog publications story: “The Fortunes of Mrs. Yu” The Dragon and the Stars”
  23. Charles Yu (shorts/novels, John W. Campbell nominee) twitter
  24. Chitra Divakaruni (Indian-American, shorts/novels/poems, Pushcart prize) website blog
  25. Cindy Pon (Taiwanese, novels) (YA) twitter website blog sample: first 70 pages of Silver Phoenix
  26. Claire Light (Chinese, shorts) website blog publications story: “The Apocalypse ArtistStretcher
  27. Crystal Koo (shorts, lectures) website twitter publications story: “HeartlandAbyss & Apex
  28. Dean Francis Alfar (Filipino, shorts/novels/plays/editing) twitter wiki story: “The New Daughter” Philippine Genre Stories”
  29. Derwin Mak (Chinese-Canadian, shorts/novels/editing Aurora award) twitter website publications blog novella: “Kleinheimat
  30. Dinesh Rao (Indian, shorts) blog story: “The Portal PlagueThe World SF Blog
  31. Don Pizarro (Filipino-American, shorts/editing) twitter website publications story: “Combat Stress ReactionCrossed Genres Magazine
  32. Dwight Okada (novels) website
  33. Dung Kai-Cheung (Chinese, novels/plays) bio (more…)

Writer Wednesday: Wesley Chu

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1. Your first two novels are scheduled to be published by Angry Robot books this year. You originally submitted during AR’s “Open Door Month” in 2011. What was that process like?

The Great Angry Robot Open Submission was probably one of the most fantastic and angst filled experiences of my life, which is unusual for me because I usually live a pretty happy, zero-angst life. I’m like a cross between that singing meerkat in Lion King and a Labrador Retriever.

The robot overlords, Marc Gascoigne and Lee Harris, opened their doors to subs for one month in March of 2011. The subs went through four levels of review, from query and chapters, full manuscript, editorial and finally to acquisitions. At the end, out of a nearly a thousand submissions, twenty-five manuscripts made it to editorials and five received deals. The entire process from submission to signing the deal took fourteen months.

An added bonus about the open sub process was that fourteen of us in the editorial stage bonded on the Absolute Write forums and created our own social Group: Anxious Appliances. Since our inception, we’ve been the most active writing group on AW. Not gonna lie. Those guys kept me sane. I got pretty batshit crazy as the process drew to a close.

2. Once your book was in to the final stages of consideration, you got an agent. How did you find yours? Looking back on it, should you have started looking sooner, or waited longer?

I did query an earlier draft of The Lives of Tao a few years ago. I received some great feedback, and a request for a rewrite, but things fell through. It was still a great learning experience and helped me develop as a writer. It’s fair to say the book wouldn’t be what it is without the suggestions and changes I made from their critiques. I took a year off from the book and then rewrote it with a fresh pair of eyes.

After the manuscript was promoted to editorial during the open sub, I leveraged the potential deal and began querying again, and received offers from two agencies for representation. I was very fortunate to sign with Russell Galen of Scovil Galen Ghosh, who was one of my top targeted agencies. What better person to lead your career than the guy who represented the authors that wrote the books and movies you grew up with (Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Screamers)?

3. You have a wife, an executive-level job for a major corporation, family, friends, and a dog. How do you find time to write?

There’s a lot of time in the day. You just have to figure out how to prioritize what is important and what isn’t. I admit to being an OCD kind of guy. I am a single purpose driven machine, like a Phillips screw driver.

During my hardcore martial art days, I used to drive an hour to my friend Tony Marquez’s school (he was the original Kung Lao in Mortal Kombat), Extreme Kung Fu, and train at his facility. Then afterward, I drove thirty minutes to another school where I learned from a Bagua Zhang/Tai Chi master. It was four hours of training a day, six days a week. This went on for many several years.

One day, I thought to myself. “Man, I’ve always wanted to write a book. I don’t know how, but I’m going to figure it out.”

So I gave it a shot. Without knowing what I was doing, I began to write when I had the free time. Eventually, writing took over all my other hobbies. I stopped clubbing. I retired from martial arts. I quit raiding in Wow (that freed up a crap ton of time), and focused on what was really important to me. (more…)