Publicist for Feast

I’m hiring a local friend with marketing background to serve as a publicist for Feast, but of course, I’m not a publicist, and she hasn’t worked as a book publicist. She asked me to put together a bullet-point list, and this is what I came up with — anything I’m missing? Thoughts?

– put together timeline for release (most urgent) — ARC (advance review copies) are ready now, and need to be shipped 2-3 months in advance of launch to big review sites like Publisher’s Weekly. So tentatively, launch can happen anytime after mid-September

– schedule local launch events, coordinating with Eastgate (if doing), Book Table / Beer Shop, Jake’s Place, SugarBeet, MA’s own party

– help brainstorm, plan, and host local events

– draft press release

– research and send out press releases to other relevant venues, like food magazines, shelter magazines that might feature it as fall reading, etc.

– work with MA to have her pitch articles she’d write to those same magazines; she has a list, just needs prodding to brainstorm article topics, and actually draft and pitch them

– brainstorm other publicity possibilities, such as blog tour, online giveaways for launch week, etc.

– schedule out of town events, sending press release to relevant venues (MA will help put together list of venues to contact) and following up to see if interested; make sure MA gets travel plans into calendar. Will mostly try to coordinate with other travel she’s already doing for work, but may add in a few more stops, if it makes sense budget-wise; may also do some road-tripping next summer with Ben Rosenbaum for joint event (possibly coordinating this piece with Heather)

– draft publicity flyer, coordinate with MA’s daughter’s friends for posting around town

– look at the PR materials MA already has, think about how best to use them — there’s a big stack of book promo postcards, book stickers, plus greeting cards and postcards that can be used for giveaways or for sale cheaply

How is that? I’m not sure of everything that goes into a publicity plan! But this seems like a lot. 

Stayed up late writing

Stayed up late writing, so slept late and woke up late, so had to postpone this morning’s run — summer schedule is more complicated than one might think. But I’ve had breakfast and coffee and am settled in the shed for hopefully a day of novel-writing.

I’ve heard back from one of the people who read the newest version of the “Skin Deep” story, and she loved it, so I am feeling pleased and also with renewed confidence in the value of my revisions. H/t to Jenn Reese who told me that my main problem was that I was reluctant to revise; I think she was actually right, and I may have to buy her several drinks at the next con we’re at together… Inspiration and coherent beauty can come in the fourth draft, truly. I don’t know why I lost confidence in that.

The kids are making banana bread, the bit of the garden I can see from the shed is finally mulched, and I got the fountain properly up and running last night, so all’s well here. A garden should have water, ideally running water. The shady corner, newly-planted, finally, did come out v. nicely, with the hosta and purple heuchera and Jacob’s ladder and bleeding heart. Sometimes, your visions work, for gardens and for stories.

Feeling serene, for a change.

Not for shade, but I think getting enough sun there (it’s sort of a weird combo area, with close to full sun in a little bit and close to deep shade in a different bit), we also have baby dogwood tree, Sweet Summer Love clematis just starting to bloom (soon that fence will be covered in tiny wine-red flowers), and orange daylily, also blooming soon.

I’m delighting in the drumstick alliums with the purple veronica spikes — they seem very Seussian, somehow.

Turning off FB shortly, for a few hours, at least.

Locus Award

Here is my attempt to recreate my speech, on receiving the Locus Special Award for Community Outreach & Development. I was tremendously moved when I got the letter from Locus telling me about the award and asking whether I might be able to make it to Seattle to accept in person. It’s very nice to be appreciated. Very.

This is a new award; it was given once last year, to the Clarion workshops, and I’m its second recipient. I’m really pleased to see our genre making a move to honor service to the field; we’ve long had the Big Heart Award at the Hugos, which is wonderful, for service to fandom, but this feels a little different, more aimed at professional service? We’ll see how it evolves.

Okay, that’s all prefatory material–next is actual speech.

*****

When I first started writing, I was twenty years old, writing erotica in the early 90s. I’d started writing erotica in large part because the silence around sexuality seemed so damaging — my freshman year at the University of Chicago, four different women came to me and told me about being date-raped, and while I absolutely don’t want to absolve any responsibility from the men instigating those acts, it was also very clear that there’d been some serious communication breakdowns in every instance, that things might have gone differently if those young couples had been better able to talk about sex. I hoped that writing publicly about sex, (whether good or bad), might help encourage people to talk about sex and change the culture.

It was the era where Congress was considering the Communication Decency Act — they were very worried, and were going to try to keep sex off the internet.

I’d been posting stories on newsgroups and on the early web for a few years at that point (my blog is the third oldest on the internet, according to the Online Diary History Project), and I had to think about whether I would be willing to go to jail to protect free speech, if Congress decided my site was now illegal. I thought probably yes, but I admit, it was scary, and at times, I felt very alone.

This was a time when you couldn’t buy erotica in mainstream bookstores — you had to go to men’s sex shops if you wanted that; that was true until Susie Bright started the Best American Erotica series, and Down There Press started Herotica, and eventually we got to a point where people were reading 50 Shades of Grey on the subway, but back then, people would hide their racy romance novel covers.

It was in that environment that a group of us decided to start Clean Sheets, an online erotica magazine, that eventually ran weekly for over a decade. It joined Nerve and Scarlet Letters (the latter of which also runs the fabulous sex education site, ScarleTeen, under the brilliant guidance of Heather Corinna).

I know for the Clean Sheets volunteer staff, we were doing the work of editing and running the magazine because we thought it was important. There was damage being done by the silence around sexuality, there was a need for open conversation on the subject, a need that we could fill, so we started a magazine.

Two years later, I handed Clean Sheets off to Susannah Indigo. I like seeing a need, figuring out how to fill it, getting the structure up and running — once it’s running smoothly, I generally move on to the next thing. Clean Sheets ran for a long, long time, but eventually shut down, which on the one hand makes me a bit sad — but on the other hand, I can’t be too sad, because the need has been filled; the world and culture has changed, and I think we had a small part in that. We did what we set out to do.

I started writing science fiction, and as a result of attending Clarion West in 1997, I ended up at a Diana Paxson party at Greyhaven in the Bay Area. I met Debbie Notkin there, and she invited me to WisCon, which was the first feminist science fiction convention, and which was trying to make an effort to diversify its attendees. I was a broke graduate student — I had done Clarion entirely on credit cards, and had no idea how I was going to pay them off — so I said I couldn’t possibly attend.

SF3, the non-profit that runs Wiscon, put together the funds to cover my expenses and brought me out. They’d identified a need, and they took action to try to fix it. (WisCon is my favorite convention; they paid my way that first year, but I’ve been back almost every year since then, on my own dime. Hopefully they consider that a good return on their investment!)

Once at WisCon, I quickly met up with the four other writers of color in attendance (5 of us, out of about 750 attendees total); we decided to form the Carl Brandon Society, to support writers of color in the field. (Carl Brandon was a fictional black fan of color, from the early history of the field.)

I served on the board for a few years, helping to create the Parallax and Kindred Awards; Carl Brandon has gone on to create the Octavia Butler memorial Clarion scholarships and more. The Wiscon POC dinner has grown to hundreds of attendees, and the field is entirely different now. I hope we helped a little with that.

Somewhere around 1999, I was at a WorldCon, attending a Campbell panel. The Campbell Award is given for Best New Science Fiction or Fantasy Writer. One of the panelists said he had counted, and there had only been 25 slots for new writers in the past year in the magazines and anthologies; all the rest were taken by established pros. This seemed like a really unfortunate and artificial bottleneck, and I wondered if we could do something about that.

When I got back home to the Bay Area, I called up some friends (and I have to admit, a fair number of them were people I’d dated — being poly may give you some additional resources when it comes to having exes you can call on for this kind of thing, at least if you stay on good terms with your exes…) and we had a meeting at someone’s house in San Francisco to talk about starting a magazine paying pro rates for fiction. We would call it Strange Horizons.

We wanted to do it digitally, to keep the costs down (at that point, Eileen Gunn‘s Infinite Matrix and Ellen Datlow‘s SciFiction were the main early digital SF magazines, so we’d be joining them), though we knew we’d get some pushback from people who didn’t see online publishing as ‘real’ — it’s sort of amazing, in retrospect, how prevalent that attitude was back then!

I’d do some things differently if I could go back in time; we were very focused on ‘money flows to the writer,’ so we prioritized being able to pay authors and artists, but we didn’t try to even pay an honorarium for editing and admin work, and these days, I would say that labor is labor, and should be valued.

But live and learn, and with funds raised from the community and a volunteer staff of thirty dedicated souls (and I have to shout out in particular to my sweetie Jed Hartman here, who served as senior fiction editor for twelve years and read a truly astonishing number of submissions), we managed to put out 51 issues a year.

I handed the magazine off to Susan Groppi after two years, and she ran it for a while and then handed it off to Niall Harrison — at this point, the entire original staff has completely turned over, and the magazine has been going strong for coming up on 19 years now — Strange Horizons will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in New Zealand at WorldCon, and please do come to the party if you’ll be there!

That’s 51 additional slots for pro writers; as a non-profit, we didn’t have the financial constraints of the other pro mags, so we didn’t have to worry about having ‘name’ writers — we just published what our editors loved, and were able to triple the number of pro short fiction slots in the field as a result, in one fell swoop. For many speculative fiction writers, Strange Horizons was their first pro sale — we’re tremendously proud of that.

So we saw a need, we came together with a group of friends and like-minded folks we gathered on the internet, and we made a thing to fix it. One of the best aspects of our genre is that it is full of such people and the organizations they’ve built.

From the enormous network of fabulous conventions run by the fans, to the Clarion, Odyssey, Viable Paradise and other workshops, to the Interstitial Arts Foundation, the Carl Brandon Society, funds like Con or Bust (which helps bring fans of color to conventions), the Tiptree Award (given for work which expands our ideas of gender), etc. and so on — none of those would be possible without masses of time, energy, and labor, the vast majority of it done by unpaid volunteers.

I know we have several current Clarion students in the room, and I’d like to say to them, and to all the writers listening to this — the best thing you can do for your career is to get engaged in creating arts culture. It will feed your writing in ways you can’t imagine, and it will make the field better.

If you see a lack — and our field is wonderful, but there are still lacks and problems and it could certainly be better — then step up and figure out what could be done to fix it. If there’s an organization doing good work that you believe in, join them, and give them your time, your energy, your ideas — maybe even your money, because you know that most of these organizations are operating on the thinnest of margins and a few extra dollars are always welcome.

If you’re looking for something to join, well, I must note that these days I run the Speculative Literature Foundation (www.speclit.org), which gives grants to writers, runs a SF/F reading series in Chicago, co-sponsored by SFWA and Chicago Nerds Social Club, and is working on expanding into local chapters and international translation and award efforts. If any of that interests you, we would love to have you join us with your time, your money, your energy, and your passion.

(I’m a little behind on my intention to organize volunteers at the moment, but I’m setting aside some time in July, so this is the perfect time to drop a note to me, director@speculativeliterature.org, subject line: SLF VOLUNTEER, and join the crew. I’ll forward your message to Colleen Waldie, who is helping me get this thing organized, and we’ll be in touch soon.)

One of the best things I’ve done in my life was starting Strange Horizons, with a team of thirty hardy volunteers who made it so much better than I could have possibly done on my own. Every one of these projects was a group effort, and we’ve had so much fun, working together to improve this genre that we love so much, and geeking out intensely along the way.

My high school best friend, Lisette, and I met over a Star Trek Diane Duane novel), and there’s an Irving Stone quote we loved: “There are no faster or firmer friendships than those formed between people who love the same books.”

However you choose to do it, I’m asking you to engage with the field. The rewards are immeasurable; this work has been one of the great joys of my life. Come join us!

*****

Congrats to the other recipients! https://locusmag.com/2019/06/2019-locus-awards-winners/

 

Cooking does not have to be a speed sport

Had a slightly frantic hour this evening because I’d promised to make and drop-off dinner for 16-20 for a non-profit thing, and I meant to start cooking at 3, but was in the groove on writing and lost track of time, so it was almost 4 by the time I started, and I was supposed to drop it off at 5:15, and all the chicken was frozen so I set it thawing in the microwave and made the veg. poriyal (yams and cauliflower, new combo, good), then checked, chicken still mostly frozen, set it to thawing some more, put the rice on (mixed red rice and basmati with butter, cashews, and sultanas), then sautéed some onions with cinnamon and cumin seed and mustard seed, etc. for the chicken and let those keep cooking on low, then made the kale sambol (kale, onion, coconut, lime juice, chopped tomatoes, salt, sugar; I was a little short on lime juice, but it was okay), and finally the chicken was thawed enough, so with twenty-five minutes to go, there was some speed chopping and frying and sautéing and covering with a lid to make sure it was definitely cooked through (because worse than being late would be serving people undercooked chicken!!!), and dumping in a can of coconut milk and somehow it all got done in time and packed up and I added some naan and samosas and a few bags of leftover Halloween chocolates from the freezer because I had completely failed to provide dessert, gah —

— and THEN I couldn’t find my damn keys for ten minutes, so I was late after all, and panicking a bit because I had originally planned to make lentils too, and just ran out of time and WHAT IF THERE WASN’T ENOUGH FOOD???

I dropped it all off full of apologies and told the staffers that they should just order more food if they needed to and I would pay for it. But they assured me that it would be plenty, and even were kind enough to drop a note just now to reassure me that there had been plenty; enough that their clients could even pack up some leftovers. So okay then.

NOTE TO SELF: USE A CLOCK, DAMMIT.

#cookingdoesnothavetobeaspeedsport

#serendibkitchen

Productivity retreat, and _War Stories_

Today’s creativity / productivity retreat went well — we had five people attending, and I think most folks got some good stuff done. We’re going to continue them Wednesdays in July, 10-3, $5 — we should have an EventCombo listing up shortly, as soon as Amanda has a moment to put it together. My idea of ‘light snacks’ to accompany the tea & coffee is maybe slightly excessive. (But what if someone is HUNGRY? Can’t be allowed.)

For myself, I got everyone settled and then went to go hide in my shed (taking a break to join people for lunch, then going back out there) and managed to do two picture book revisions, submit one of them, get ready to submit the other and also get ready submit a SF story. (Both of the latter will likely go out tonight.) So that was productive, and also only took about an hour, so I should’ve done it a long time ago, gah. All right, spilt milk, etc.

After that, I finally tried putting together a sort of mosaic of Jump Space universe stories and an interstitial story, which I’ve been wanting to do for weeks, and it’s been super-frustrating that I haven’t gotten to it.

I mostly learned, in the process, that it wasn’t going to be as simple as just cutting and pasting the stories together, not to get the coherent effect I wanted, which, honestly, I already suspected. It couldn’t be THAT easy.

The frame story opens with the protagonists watching the news coverage of conflicts elsewhere in the universe, as the war is developing, and then it cuts to the other stories, in between their narrative. I want to make those transitions smooth and intuitive, so you don’t feel too frustrated cutting away from the main story, and I want it to all build together strongly, to make something greater than the whole (rather than a sort of choppy fix-up where you can see all the painful seams) — that’s going to take some serious thinking and work.

But I also learned that I think it may actually work, if done right, AND that I already have 40K words just putting together the already published stories and the interstitial bits that are already written. Which is very heartening — that’s at least halfway to another book, so that’s nice. Very very nice. Tentatively calling this project _War Stories_, at least as a placeholder. So now in this universe, we have:

• The Stars Change (novella-in-linked stories, published)
• Nalvarum (short novel, mostly written, on what I hope is the final revision pass)
• War Stories (novella-in-linked stories, half-published and maybe 3/4-written)
• Indenture (start of a trilogy or longer series, I think, about 20K written)
• Shattered (start of ANOTHER trilogy or longer series, I think, about 5K written)

Um, maybe I had better start actually FINISHING some of these, rather than starting one after another after another… Tentatively plan is to basically work on Nalvarum and War Stories for now, try to finish up the former and get it out the door, and keep developing short stories for the latter.

Can I get through both before the end of the summer, while also continuing production on Feast and developing Maram (we had a good planning meeting this morning, and are starting to aim towards fall programming) and the SLF and taking care of my library board commitments and getting the house back in order, playing with the kids, clearing away some of the e-mail backlog, and relaxing with some good books?

Well, we’ll see.

Sripati was…helpful.

#spacekittens

*****

[excerpt from “Thin Air”, _War Stories_]

“What’s going on?” Narita stepped into the living room to find Amara curled in on herself on the sofa, crying soundlessly. The screens told her the rest of the story, and when she flicked on her internal net connection, the updates frenetically blinked a blazing red. The news must have come through in the last few minutes. She shut her connection off again – the screens were bad enough; she didn’t need it screaming inside her head too.

Tires placed around people’s torsos – not human torsos, of course. Humods, from Ariel, from the look of it, tall and thin, with arms and hands gene-modified to webbed wings. She’d read about Ariel in her humod med school classes; low gravity and air only a little thicker than Kriti’s, only marginally habitable without terraforming – but enough. It was the first colony planet which had inspired humans to deliberately change themselves to better suit the planet.

Some of Ariel’s colonists had wanted to fly. They hadn’t managed true flight, but they’d lightened their bones enough that when they launched themselves from Ariel’s jagged cliffs, they could catch the winds and glide.

They were flying now, flying and falling. Humans grabbing their tender wings, tearing the webbing.

It shouldn’t be so easy to kill. Lay a tire around the neck, press it down to immobilize the arms. Set the tire on fire and push the humod off the edge of the cliff. They fell, trapped and tumbling, burning and screaming. Amara had turned the feedback on high, so along with the thin, distant screams, Narita was buffeted with wind and heat and the smell of scorched flesh. There were hundreds of humods in the air, like tiny comets, blazing down in the dark. Night on Ariel.

Last Saturday’s Tea and Textiles

Last Saturday’s Tea and Textiles. Arya (kitten) helped teach Pat the basics of crochet — we got the chain stitch down, I think, and made good progress on single crochet, although why, oh why, is the first row also the hardest one to do? Seems unfair to beginners.

 

 

I added some stitches to my dress pockets that otherwise had a tendency to drop phones out of them; I should’ve chosen a darker blue thread, clearly, but I was too lazy to go back downstairs and hunt for it in the chaos that is my basement at the moment. Task for this week — straighten up the basement! But it’s okay; I doubt anyone will be peering too closely at the stitching on my pocketses…

I also managed to get the stitches back on the needles after some terrible person [cough, ANAND] pulled two needles out of them at some point, probably somewhat aimlessly while watching a tv show.

I knit another row, and was feeling quite proud of myself for finally picking up this project again after many months, until I looked at it more closely and realized that I definitely have a noticeable error about six rows back. Am I willing to tink it back that far in order to fix it? GAH. I think so, because this is my first time designing something, and I want it to be done right, but I may need more tea for fortitude before attempting it. (Also have tons of computer work to do this morning, and meetings, and annoying errands in the afternoon, so it’s not going to happen soon. Maybe this evening, though.)

(‘Tink’ is the word for un-knitting; it’s knit backwards, because knitters are cute that way. What’s less cute is that it’s just as much work as the actual knitting. Sigh.)

 

Next Tea and Textiles will be Sat July 7 link in comments!

(I think I’m remembering the names right — Jackie and Pat? I am so very terrible with names…)

#marammakerspace

Pulling weeds

I’ve been super-crabby the last few days, trying to rein it in with Kevin and the kids, although bits have slipped out, and it’s very clearly because we’re weeks into summer and I haven’t done any substantial writing yet.

I’m trying to be patient with myself, but it’s hard. There are reasons — I had a huge pile of backlogged urgent things to deal with, for one. Financial stuff that had to be addressed (and a few big ones are STILL in progress, but we’re getting there, and I can’t wait for them to be dealt with). A garden in dire need of weeding and mulching — I’m a solid month behind on that, which was making me crazed as the weeds grew to knee-high, waist-high, shoulder-high…

The house was chaotic — clean enough on the surface, between the hired cleaner who came every two weeks to do the floors and bathrooms and kitchen, and Chris who does dishes and laundry twice a week. But every area that could accumulate STUFF had done so, and so the last few weeks have been a slow sorting process, clearing section by section. The first floor is almost done now. The second floor will take longer, and the basement, gah. I’m hoping to make the kids help with sorting the toys they’ve outgrown, but Anand gets attached to everything, so it’s slow there too.

And there were a host of other tasks — academic stuff to wrap up, lots of cookbook things, Maram event things, I’m not even sure what else, but somehow, the e-mail & FB messaging stack has not shrunk yet, despite my attacking it assiduously every day.

Add in to all that — I was just TIRED. I came off the end of the semester more exhausted than normal; there was too much packed in this last winter & spring, and I need to schedule myself a little less, take the community service work slower. I still want to do more with both Maram and the SLF, but I am trying to be patient with a longer process. It’s hard, esp. when I have volunteers ready to help, but organizing them takes a good amount of my time, just to get them up and running. I am trying to tell myself that we’ll get there.

So I gave myself a week to just rest and recover without even worrying about writing, and that was fine. And then the kids’ school ended, and I gave myself a week to try to get them settled into a no-camp summer schedule for the first time, and that was mostly fine, though I thought I’d do some writing at points when I ended up not, which started to grate on me a bit.

And now we’re well into the second week of that, and they’re back to more electronics than I’d like and less exercise, and I’m still not writing. More reading, though — at least taking them to the park / library / pool is pretty conducive to reading. I’ve finished a few early Le Guin novels, 1.5 garden magazines (I’m finally through March and part of May — with luck I’ll make it to July by actual July), a few short stories. I’ve also started actually getting into podcasts, and discovered they pair really well with weeding & other garden work, also dishes and laundry and sorting, so that’s a life improvement thing.

Still, June, my one clear month with no travel, is two-thirds over, and I had such plans for all the writing I would get done, and I have so far spent approximately 30 minutes on one story revision. GAH.

And it isn’t even all work — the only video game I allow on my phone these days, Polytopia, came out with a new ‘race’ this week, and I fell compulsively into that for several hours. Finally mastered it last night, and I just have one race left before I have three stars on all of them, but the urgency seems to have eased, thankfully. Not really urgency about the game, I think — more self-soothing, in the same way as the 2.5 seasons of Death in Paradise (British murder mysteries) that I’ve binged in the last week.

The back of my head is pushing me to write, and I want to write, but I’m anxious about writing (WHAT IF IT ISN’T ANY GOOD???), and it was okay when I had many urgent things that had to be done, but as those got cleared away, I had to turn to videogames and TV to keep myself from writing, and the back of my brain is well aware that this is basically a ploy, and so I get increasingly crabby with myself.

The only cure for this is writing. I know. I KNOW. Eventually, I will hit a tipping point, where the frustrating beats out the fear, and I fall into the work again.

I’m almost there. I can taste it.

Bittersweet chocolate, pistachio, sultana, and rose

One more floral bark for the road; now that the roses have started blooming, expect ALL the rose recipes — Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate, pistachio, sultanas, and rose. Luscious, with the slight bitterness of the chocolate balancing the sweetness of the sultanas, and that salty pistachio nuttiness….mmm…

When you’re trying to put the pieces of bark in a container for freezing (for a party to come), and you find that you keep surreptitiously eating them (they’re just *little* bits, not worth packing up, right?), you know it’s good.