Follow Friday Five: Fran Wilde, A.C. Wise, Jeff VanderMeer, Wes Chu, Don Pizarro

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I realize that I’ve been lucky to know some incredibly talented people in publishing, at all stages of their careers. People that you should know about, too. For at least the next few months, I’ve set up regular posts to go out on Fridays (coinciding the with the popular #FollowFriday movement on Twitter) to highlight people and projects I want you to get to know.

The first five are some of my favorite people: Fran Wilde, A.C. Wise, Jeff VanderMeer, Wes Chu, and Don Pizarro.

Fran Wilde writes about invisible sky squid and bone cities and jewel girls, and she makes it all look effortless. There’s an ease about reading her work. I tear through it like a watching a movie. I’m never left, after reading Fran’s work, feeling as is there were things she left out, questions unanswered, worldbuilding she didn’t quite complete. She builds her stories from the basement up, figuring out history, society, cuisine, laws, fashion… all of the little bits of creating a culture which tell us it’s real, even when we don’t notice the effort. Her worlds and characters simply exist, fully formed, doing the things you’d expect for reasons that make sense and every part of it is so authentic that you don’t question it. You just believe it.

That talent didn’t come out of nowhere, and Fran — like everyone else on today’s list — has put in years to get where she is now. She has an MFA in poetry, has taught writing at high schools and colleges, worked in digital media, in communications for non-profits, wrote reviews and articles and blog posts and short stories and now, after all of that, novels. It’s no surprise, then, that her first novel, Updraft, won the Andre Norton and Compton Crook awards, and was nominated for a Nebula. (The sequel, Cloudbound, is out now.)

But on top of all of that, she’s a delightful person to be around. She loves adorable socks and good food and her family and friends. She’s enthusiastic about the projects we’ve done together. She’s always made me feel like she’s glad to see me. I’m genuinely happy that she’s my friend.

You can find her online at franwilde.net and on Twitter @fran_wilde

A.C. Wise was born in Canada, but we don’t hold that against her. She’s a short story writer with the range to pull off glittery and fun, or poignant, or emotionally powerful, depending on the story (and sometimes all of those things at once). Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies (including mine) plus Clarkesworld, The Dark, Lackington’s MagazineApex, Uncanny Magazine, and dozens more magazines. She has two collections so far: The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again, and The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories, which comes out this month.

Wise has been working on her craft for over a decade, publishing her first short story in 2005, and writing consistently every year since. She also co-edits Unlikely Story, and has spent the last few years actively encouraging women’s voices in fiction. She wrote the popular “Women to Read” column at SF Signal, starting in 2013, until it shut down this summer. (She’s now writing “Words for Thought” each month at Apex Magazine, but the “Women to Read” columns are all archived on her website.) She’s kind and helpful, and she’s always, always, supported me.

You can find her online at acwise.net and on Twitter @ac_wise

Jeff VanderMeer is world famous now, mostly as the author of his Southern Reach Trilogy (soon to be in theaters!), but I know him as one of the hardest-working people in genre fiction. He’s been devoted to writing, editing, and teaching, for decades. He’s been nominated for 14 World Fantasy Awards, has won 5, and a dozen or so other awards as well. He’s defined genres, introduced important translated work to a generation of English-speaking readers, taught at Clarion, Hobart-William Smith College, and Shared Worlds (a two-week residential workshop for teenagers). He writes non-fiction, including book reviews, and helped created Weird Fiction Review, as part of his ongoing contributions to the academic side of genre fiction.

If there’s anyone who’s career I’d like to have when I grow up, it’s Jeff’s.

He’s also continually inspiring as a person. He’s passionate about halting climate change and protecting endangered species. He works constantly, reads voraciously, and shares what he knows. If he reads a story he likes, he’ll tell you. If he discovers a new author, he promotes their book. He’s involved in the genre community, not just as a teacher and publisher, but appearing at events and on panels, serving on judging committees, and behind the scenes, too, quietly guiding and supporting.

On a personal note, he’s inspired me to write the weird little novel in my heart, even if no one else gets it but me.

You can find him online at jeffvanderrmeer.com and on Twitter @jeffvandermeer

Wesley Chu may be the most honest person I know in publishing. The first time I met him, just before The Lives of Tao debuted, he sat down and told me his plan. His goals, his motivations, the arc of his writing career — all laid out. He knew what he needed to accomplish in order to make a career of writing, and what he’d have to give up, too. In the years since, he’s done exactly what he set out to do, by believing in himself, focusing on one thing (writing his novels), and putting his butt in the chair every day. Over and over again.

He doesn’t pretend to be anyone other than he is, and he doesn’t need to. He’s unapologetically driven, but he’s kind. He loves his fans, appreciates his success, and has remained accessible to the people he came up with, even as he’s sold more, gotten movie deals, and could have easily forgotten everyone. But I’ve never seen him dismiss people, or be pretentious. And, he’s fun. He’s energetic. He likes good booze and fine food and will talk for hours. He wants to see the world and to be a part of it at the same time. If you like entertaining books and charming authors, you’ll want to know Wes.

You can find him online at wesleychu.com and on Twitter @wes_chu

Don Pizarro isn’t a household name, yet. He’s had a handful of sales, edited an anthology, voiced half a dozen podcasts, and written a few essays, but rarely promotes himself. He’s incredibly well-read, and has appeared on panels at Boskone, World Fantasy Convention, and given presentations at the Rod Serling Conference, several years in a row, sharing his insight. He’s always up for good conversation about writers and writing, and he listens at least as much as he talks.

Don doesn’t submit very often, though I hope that will change soon. He’s spent the last six years that I’ve known him studying. Reading. Practicing. Taking workshops, going to other author’s events. (He attended Viable Paradise this year, too.) He’s driven to work at his craft, week after week, and the stories he produces have a delicate blend of realism and folklore, personal history and a sense of place. He can write anything — even Lovecraft-inspired erotica — and give it a thoughtful, literary feel. (I’m not kidding. Felicia Day said his Cthulhurotica story was like “Innsmouth meets indie movie”.)

Read “Life After Wartime“, and then find him online at warmfuzzyfreudianslippers.com and on Twitter @DonP

The 5th Annual Art and Words show is tonight!

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My poem, “Myth of the Mother Snake“, will be appearing in tonight’s Art & Words show, alongside original art that’s being created to go with it. I won’t be able to be there — it’s in Texas — but if you’re local, you show definitely go.

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In addition, I was assigned a piece of art to be inspired by: Todd Ford’s painting, Ravenous (above). From that, I wrote an 800 word flash story, “If Wishes Were Feathers”. It won’t be unveiled for the public until the show, but here’s an excerpt:

If Wishes Were Feathers

The raven was past dead when Melda found it. Its belly had been ripped open by something with a small muzzle and sharp teeth, and its innards were long gone. It was missing a leg as well, and all around the raven’s body, black feathers littered the ground like drops of water shaken from a wet dog. Whatever blood had spilled was dried to a brown smear. She quickly grabbed a hold of the bird’s head and twisted.

It didn’t come off.

She pulled harder, struggling to not breathe, to not think of the way the feathers poked her tiny fingers and the flies buzzed around her head. Suddenly, with a squick of mud and fluids, the bird pulled free from the dirt and Melda fell backward. The air escaped her lungs in a rush; without meaning to, she breathed in the foul stench of decomposition, and choked on it. Coughing, she scrambled to get up without letting go of the raven’s head, and somehow, when she was standing upright, the rest of the body had dropped off.

“You be good now,” she said. “We’re going to see a witch.”

You can find the show at:

Art on the Boulevard

4919 Camp Bowie Boulevard, Suite B
Fort Worth, TX 76107

Reception and Reading:  6:30 until 9:30 PM.  Exhibit will continue until Oct.9.2106.  

Updates and News (August 2016 edition), or, Damn, That Was the Hardest Month

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In August:

I fell apart a bit.

I’ve said it before but this year has proven to me that the last 3 weeks of August (and the first week of September) are the hardest “month” of the year. That’s partly because of having my son home 24 hours a day without any respite, or break, or money to go out and do anything. His school year starts later than most; his first day back wasn’t until September 8, and by then, we were both ready for him to go.

We had to sit in our too-warm apartment all month — our landlord won’t let us put in an A/C unit — because it was too hot to be outside and at least we have some fans indoors. I still had to work as much as possible, and my hyperactive teen quickly became bored bored bored. With his special needs, I can’t send him out to play alone at the park, or go ride a bike, or any of the things I used to do to fill my summer days, all by myself as a kid. He’s an independent guy for the most part, wanting to play his video games or watch his favorite movies over and over for hours at a time. But even he gets tired of that much faster than I need if I’m going to put in a day’s work the way I can when he’s in school or camp.

The heat at the end of summer here is something I’m still getting used to. Growing up in California, we had heat. Hotter days. Lying out on the roof or in the grass that was dry and gone yellow, baking under the sun — my dog days of summer was late August dry heat, 100 degrees or more with no moisture in the air, and the utter joy of a sudden breeze. Here… it’s 90 degrees that feels like 95 because of 75% humidity and scattered rain every few afternoons that does nothing to cut the heat. I live in New York, but it feels like the summer I spent in Georgia, and like the bible school my aunt enrolled me in while I was there, I haven’t gotten used to it yet.

The best kid ever gets fidgety and then grumpy and then outright rebellious, given enough time trapped in a hot apartment with his mom who’s too busy and too poor to do much with him.

We did have one good adventure when I splurged on the gas on drove out to a Wal-Mart the next county over to do his back-to-school clothes shopping. Driving over the hills, the farms all green and growing, under a bright blue sky, the two of us played a game where we gave each other colors and picked out passing cars that matched. He got new clothes (not enough, but at least he wasn’t a shambles on his first day back), and a new haircut at the Wal-Mart salon (I didn’t even know they had those, did you?), and five whole dollars to spend in the arcade (I didn’t know Wal-Mart had those, either).

He was driving the Nascar game (of course) when a little girl sat at the Fast and Furious game next to him. She and her grandma couldn’t figure out how to get started, so Logan — silently — reached over and set it up so she could race the car she wanted, then went back to his game. Kid can barely speak, but he’s so smart and sweet and he didn’t just figure out what they were struggling with, but he wanted to help.

As hard as raising him is, and it is, a lot, my son always reminds me that he’s worth everything I do for him. Continue reading

10 Seemingly Polite (But Actually Racist As F*ck) Things You Need To Stop Saying To People You’ve Just Met

  1. Where are you from? Unless you’re prepared to respond to “I’m from Cleveland” with “You must be happy the Cavs got LeBron back”, do not ask this question of people you’ve just met. Why not? Because in America, the people who get asked that question are almost always people of color, and answering with the name of a US city usually gets “Ok, but where were you born?” as a response. The implication is that if you’re not white, you’re automatically not from here, you must be from somewhere else. The one exception to this is black people, who are usually assumed to be African-American (even if they’re not) because of course we know where they came from, right?
  2. Do you have an American name? If the person you are talking to was born in America or later became a citizen of the United States, their name is their American name. They are American. Even if they’re not, no one is issued an “American name” when they get their passport stamped at the airport on their way into the country. What you’re really saying here is “Do you have a more white-sounding name because I’m not going to bother to learn how to pronounce yours.”
  3. What ethnicity are you? Unless you’re taking a census poll, you do not need to know this when you meet someone. (As a white person, I have never, not once, in my life, been asked what my ethnicity is, even though pale-skinned people are not from the same hegemonious group somewhere in Europe.) If it’s relevant to the conversation, they’ll probably volunteer it. If they don’t, it’s either not relevant, or they may not want you to know.
  4. [greeting them in a foreign language] Unless you know for a fact the person’s ethnicity, place of birth, country they grew up in, and that they speak the language you’re attempting to use on them, AND THEY’VE TOLD YOU THEY ARE FINE WITH YOU SPEAKING TO THEM IN THIS WAY, do not do this. You’re most likely going to be wrong about either the language their ancestors spoke or that person’s ability to speak it, so you’re going to look like an idiot; worse, you’re starting off the conversation with proof you’ve both racially profiled and stereotyped that person, all at once.
  5. Who’s baby is this? when the infant in question is not the exact same skin tone as the adult you’re asking. Really want to be a jackass? Follow up them telling you, “Oh, she’s mine” with “Aww, is she adopted?”
  6. Your jacket/jewelry/outfit is so interesting/pretty/cool, is that from your home country? You know who rarely gets asked something they’re wearing is from their “home country”? White people. But, white people wear “ethnic looking” stuff all of the time. Mexican embroidery on peasant tops, Native American imagery on jewelry, Asiatic dragons on practically everything, and yet, few people ask about it with the idea that it’s somehow representing something specific to that white person. People of color get asked because they’re the other, they’re different, they’re foreign… even when they’re not. (Or do you just not ask white people about the origin of their clothes because you already know it’s appropriation?)
  7. Your hair is so complex/interesting/unusual — it must take a long time to do. Translation: you don’t have white people hair, your life must be hard. I’m so glad I have easy hair.
  8. Your hair is really pretty like that (when the person has a Western/American hairstyle that they don’t always wear). Translation: you made your hair look like white people hair, good job! You’re more acceptable to me now.
  9. What do your parents think of you being/working/living here? If you’re at a strip club, perhaps asking a dancer that question is reasonable — there’s a common misconception that erotic dancers are doing something immoral, and so, maybe their parents wouldn’t like their job. But it’s probably still the wrong thing to ask. When you’re asking it of a person of color, you’re signaling to them that you think it’s weird they’re there. You’re saying that you wouldn’t expect someone like them to have that job, or be in that place, and by phrasing it as a question about their parents, you’re trying to put a polite veneer on excluding them from what you think is “normal” for that place.
  10. Oh, do you know Bob Chu? He’s my neighbor/coworker/employee of a place that I go to. Pro tip: people of the same ethnicity do not automatically all know each other. Even people of the same ethnicity who are all in the same town, or all attending the same convention, do not know each other. By asking this, you’re letting the person know you aren’t going to remember anything about them except their ethnicity, and to you, all of those people are interchangeable and connected. Good job, jackass!

 

Fred Coppersmith’s Favorite Stories of 2016 (includes my @apexmag tale!)

Over on Twitter, author and publisher Fred Coppersmith has been tweeting about stories he likes all through the year. He starts off with my Apex Magazine story, “That Lucky Old Sun“. Thanks, Fred!

He’s curated the whole list on Storify, which I’ve embedded below:

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Updates and News (July 2016 edition)

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In July:

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Abutilon (Flowering Maple) after the rain, Ithaca, New York

I started taking photographs again. Not many, yet, but I’m trying to get back into it, when I have the time. The idea that I can share a beautiful moment without having to be front and center, letting the image speak for me, is very comforting. In a way, I can be social and introverted at the same time, which suits me best.

I wrote, too, a little bit. A poem about being frustrated at the inevitable whiteness of public grief when the media covers dead and injured people of color. More words on the new stories for my Mythos collection. (You can still get it for yourself by pre-ordering it via PayPal for $2, or donating to the fundraiser in exchange for rewards like podcasts and beta reads and art.)

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Landlocked, Canadice Lake, New York

I took a day for myself — who does that? So novel! — to drive out to the middle of nowhere to meet Mercedes, and it was lovely.

I had sales and publications, too:

Sold a reprint of my flash story “Call Center Blues” to Luna Station Quarterly.

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Issue 1.3 of Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal came out, and it includes my weird SF story, “One Echo Of An August Morning”. I blogged about it here.

I updated my Amazon wish list with some things that will help my life, if you like me enough to support me that way. You can also support me through my Patreon, which gets you poetry and microfiction at the moment, and will host longer stories when more people sign up.

One of the most important things I did was…

I got set up to once again teach my favorite online workshop: Better Writing Through Brevity: Writing/Editing Microfiction and Flash! And I blogged about why you should take this class from me, here. It’s entirely online, it’s less expensive than similar workshops offered anywhere else, and it’s starting in a month, so please, check it out, and tell your friends.

I also wrestled, mostly quietly and to myself, about my work as a freelancer. Most of you know that I went back to editing and content creation full-time because it’s the only job I can work around my son’s special needs, at least until I can finish college and have a real degree to back up my decades of experience (which should let me find a better paying dayjob where I have some seniority and flexibility). I love editing, I love writing, but freelancing is more than those things, and when it’s your only income, it’s frightening.

(Need an editor? I’m available!)

July was my best month as a freelancer so far this year — I got more done, on time! and secured some new work, got paid, too — but it’s still not enough to even cover the rent. I’m very glad to be recovering (recovered?) from being sick for so long; I feel good, I’m getting things done, and I feel confident going forward that I can do more and more. I’ve been chasing new kinds of work: in addition to editing, I did a lot of writing on spec, and at least some of that should pay off eventually. After not having the brain to do a workshop all year, I’m finally ready to do a new one, and a few people have signed up so far, which helped my July income. 

On the other hand, it’s tough to work 40+ hours a week, pull a couple of all nighters, chase every opportunity I can think of — on top of parenting my child — to bring in less than I need to give my landlord this week. Much less the other unpaid bills. It’s disheartening, is what it is.

I admit that I struggle, sometimes, to get up every day and do it again. I hope August is better.

(The list of what I did in June is here.)

New Workshop: Writing/Editing Microfiction and Flash (and why you should take it)

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I’m once again teaching my favorite online workshop: Better Writing Through Brevity: Writing/Editing Microfiction and Flash!

In this class, you will read, write, critique, and edit short fiction of various lengths, including 140 characters, 1 sentence, 100 words, six sentences, under 500 words, and under 1000. Previous students of this class have sold their final pieces to semi- and pro-rate SFF markets. They’ve made friends and contacts — many of them still keep in touch. Most importantly, they’ve been able to take the lessons learned here and apply it to longer stories, and even novels. Once you know how to write well while writing small, you’ll find the benefits across every piece of writing you do.

Why take this workshop from me?

  • I’ve taught it several times before; I know how to present the information so you get the most out if it, on a schedule that works around whatever else you need to prioritize in your life (day job, family, school) and can be accessed by people of different skill levels, online, in different time zones, all over the world.
  • It’s a community, for 4 weeks (and sometimes beyond). I still hang out with many of the writers who’ve taken the workshop. If you’re looking to meet new people who understand the joys and struggles of writing, this could help you.
  • I’ve edited hundreds of short pieces of fiction, both as a freelance editor, and as the head of Lakeside Circus, a magazine devoted to work under 2500 words, so I know what works.
  • As an author, I’ve published microfiction and flash fiction for years. Some of my favorite pieces are:

CLASS BEGINS FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 2, 2016.

THIS IS A GUARANTEED START DATE, SO SIGN UP BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!

You can read more about the workshop and sign up here (link goes to my freelance editing website).

“One Echo Of An August Morning” Now Live at Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal

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Issue 1.3 of Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal is out now, and it includes my weird SF story, “One Echo Of An August Morning”. It’s about math and time and the sound of silence…

I close my eyes to shut out the sight of it but with my face flushed and the blood rumbling in my ears I feel trapped inside my own head. Opening them again, I see the light remains the same as it did at 10:46 am on August the 11th, when I opened the back door onto a new dimension and found only my own deck. If I’d been half the scientist I thought I was, I wouldn’t have let the door shut behind me when I wandered a few steps, looking for a sign that I was somewhere different. I would have realized the sounds of my own footsteps were too loud in my ears, that it was not just a very quiet morning in my little university town. If I had told someone else what I was doing, if I wasn’t trying to prove a theory the doctoral committee had already dismissed, if I hadn’t been alone when the lights blinked green and the gate came online –

I can chase that rabbit down the hole forever without ever getting to Wonderland. I was a grad student with insomnia, 400 feet of 12 gauge copper wire, and 3 notebooks full of equations. I shouldn’t have discovered anything at all.

View the issue online here!

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Sale: “Call Center Blues” (Reprint) to Luna Station Quarterly

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The contract is signed, so I can announce that one of my recent sales was to Luna Station Quarterly. “Call Center Blues” was originally published by Daily Science Fiction, back in 2011, and Luna Station Quarterly is the first to reprint it. With their mission to “display the vast and varied talents of female speculative fiction writers”, I think they’re the best home for this story.

“Call Center Blues” will appear in the September 2016 issue of LSQ. I will post links once I have them, and I hope you’ll support the magazine by reading the story there, even if it isn’t your first time.

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Why Are You Listening to Me? (Another poem by a white person you shouldn’t bother to read)

Why Are You Listening to Me?

Nothing I can say will carry the weight
Of dead and dying and broken and bloody and forgotten
Victims of a system that sees them not
And a public that sees them only for a moment
As a hashtag, as a name on a protest sign
As a mugshot thrown up by media who sells the image
Of a deserving victim, somehow, instead of father
Mother, soldier, sibling, student, angel child

Nothing I can say will lessen the weight
Of anxious tears spilling down the cheeks
Of yesterday’s mother or wife, bearing rushed witness
Desperate for her loss to be heard and felt
In 60 second clips, on the top of every hour
For a day, at most, until another mourner is queued up
An endless cycle of news and blood: wash, rinse, and repeat

Nothing I can say will cast off the weight
Of utter certainty that tomorrow’s headlines
Will be the same as yesterday’s and today’s
Where only the names are changed
And no one’s innocence is protected
And every death is justified

Nothing I can say will transform the weight
Carried by those whose black and brown bodies
Are burdened by the hundred million ways
They are judged, thwarted, held down, beaten, and murdered
For living in a world which centers my whiteness
Every time I open my mouth to speak

So don’t.
Don’t forget them.
Don’t settle for a mug shot.
Don’t limit their grief to a moment.
Don’t let the days and deaths all blend together.
Don’t listen first or most to those white voices you find familiar.
Find the words, screams, pain, and hurt of those affected, and let them speak to you, instead.

Listen to them.