woolgathering

Before the Mast and on The Deck of the World

I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now. 

~ Henry David Thoreau

sunset

A couple weeks ago, I found myself at a place I consider more home than the house where I grew up. In that place, there is a rocky beach and access to a large swath of the upper Chesapeake Bay.

Believe me when I say that I know how lucky I am to have that place. I do not think I would be who I am without it. I doubt sincerely that I would be here at all.

When I first came to that place, I quickly earned the nickname “Mouse.” At eight, I was very small indeed. I did not speak much, and when I did, it was quietly. And I was afraid of everything.

A couple things happened over the course of many years to change Mouse into me. One of those was that someone showed me how to sail a small dinghy, called a sunfish. They did not *take* me sailing. I was not crew. After teaching me the basics on a larger boat, they put a tiller in my right hand and a mainsheet in my left and the sent me across the water on a calm summer day. (more…)

My Writing Process*

Emily Jiang’s Summoning the Phoenix – Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

There’s a series of questions going around the blogosphere about writing processes. Author Emily Jiang — whose beautiful children’s book, Summoning The Phoenix debuted this month to great fanfare (seriously, you should check it out!) — tagged me to talk about my writing process.

And I’m late getting the post up.

Why? Because I was finishing an edit pass, and …. I was late. No excuses. My letting this post go a few days longer than it should is relevant to my writing process.

So – there are six things that underpin how I write. I don’t always do all of them, and sometimes I’m a bit of a squirrel-brain (with apologies to the squirrels), but when I think about how I write (*always subject to change), this is what I get: (more…)

Here Be Deadlines

This is a flyby post because I’m on deadline (What happens when you go to a writers’ retreat and give a talk about why you love deadlines? You get bigger deadlines.)… which means really good things for 2015, but for right now … aieeeee.

So have some picspam and links to nibble on -

Sheila Williams, the venerable editor of Asimov’s, and her daughters answered 10 Questions for GeekMom. How cool is that? She talks about growing up in science fiction and fantasy, the ins and outs of the editorial process, and the amazing Dell Magazine Award.  (But wait, there’s more! Is Sheila Williams a Geek or a Nerd? Find out!)

My story, “Like a Wasp to the Tongue,” appears in Asimov’s this month. A couple reviews already!

And I’ll be talking about wasps and tech with SFSignal very soon too.

Here’s where I was last week, a writers’ retreat in the Pacific Northwest:

rainforest1

Hard at work at RWV2014 (photo: Andrew Williams)

And here too (Powells Book Store, in Portland OR <3 <3 <3). (more…)

On The Scientists in Your Popular SciFi Movies

We saw Pacific Rim again two nights ago (yes. Hush.) well, I saw it again. The Chemist saw it for the first time. We both loved it. Visually gorgeous and intelligent, enormously fun.

And yet, sitting next to a PhD biochemist who did his post-doc at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health, who I think is pretty amazing, I started thinking about the scientist meme in sci fi movies.

It’s not as prevalent in books… Not always.

But when sci fi scientists reach the big screen, they tend to look like this:

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    Dr. Emmett ‘Doc’ Brown, Back to the Future

And this:

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    Dr. Hermann Gottlieb, Pacific Rim

(more…)

My Little Shoggoth: Evolution of an Eldritch Horror

Say you want to put a little Lovecraftian horror into your life. Let’s take a moment to consider the shoggoth, and how it has evolved in cultural perception.

The shoggoth, in all its glory, is described in Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness”:

… a plastic column of fetid black iridescence… a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and un-forming as pustules of greenish light.

Readers, shall we see whether 82 years has domesticated the shoggoth? I think we shall… (My latest post is up at Apex Publications for their month of The Weird – check it out!)

Some Funny News:

UFO2Over the weekend, when I wasn’t slipping on banana peels at the local coffee shop, I learned that the UFO2 anthology has accepted my story, “How to Feed Your Pyrokinetic Toddler”.

So, despite all of my best attempts at becoming a stodgy stuffed shirt, someone thinks I’m funny. Or at least they think one of my stories is. I’m delighted because this story is completely inappropriate, highly pear-shaped, and was a lot of fun to write.

UFO2 is, like its predecessor, Unidentified Funny Objects, a collection of humorous science fiction and fantasy stories. UFO2 will feature Robert Silverberg, Esther Freisner, Mike Resnick, Ken Liu, Tim Pratt, Jody Lynn Nye, Jim Hines, me, and many more*.

Hey, do you write funny? *Because you could be in this anthology too. The open reading period is May 1 – 31 and submission guidelines are here.

UFO2 is a kickstarter-funded anthology. I’m not going to tell you that you should help back it, because I’m obviously biased. But if you like backing highly entertaining and suspiciously funny anthologies, I’d say this is a good place to start. Plus, then you’ll get to read about the care and feeding of pyrokinetic toddlers. You know, in case that should ever become a thing.

Gratitude: Ghost

photo (16)Now and then, I interrupt the digital media nattering, writing how-tos, and food-in-fiction posts for some old-fashioned gratitude. It’s that time again.

The mobile of my childhood is 34 feet long and weighs 225 lbs. It spins irreverent between medieval tapestries and Saint-Gauden’s sculpture of Diana, itself originally conceived as a weathervane.

Wind. Movement. Change. Even indoors, Alexander Calder’s Ghost rings the changes each second.

To see it properly, you have to stand beneath it, then run up the stairs, then catch it from the balcony. Ghost requires you to change perspective, even as it changes. The Philadelphia Art Museum guards will not take kindly to your running, but do it anyway.

On its own, Ghost is engineering, and balance. It is wing and wind.

In its current context, Ghost is whimsy and defiance. It interacts, where other art is still.

I am grateful to know it. And grateful to see it from many perspectives – as a child, as an adult, and somewhere on the steps in between.

Apex Books Blog & SF Signal Mind Meld

Last week, on SF Signal’s Mind Meld on food in science fiction and fantasy, I joined authors Laura Ann Gilman, Sherwood Smith, A.M. Dellamonica, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Bradley Beaulieu, Leah Peterson, Kat Howard, Joanne Anderton, Aliette de Bodard, Rose Fox, Linda Nagata, Michael Martinez, and Judith Tarr in answering the following question: “Food and Drink in science fiction sometimes seems limited to replicator requests for Earl Grey tea and Soylent green discs. Why doesn’t do as much food as Fantasy? Does Fantasy lend itself more to food than Science fiction? Why?” It’s great fun, everyone is brilliant, and the list of new reads is epic.

This Wednesday, I’ll join the blog crew at Apex Books. I’m very excited to be part of this project – Publisher Jason Sizemore has put together a great group of writers, and fantastic monthly themes.

The first topic? Noir. Problem: I don’t know anything about Noir. So I bribed Gregory Frost and Jonathan McGoran, both Philly writers well steeped in Noir, to help me fill in my knowledge gaps. Tune in Wednesday to see how we did.

PS: my friend A.C. Wise is also going to be making appearances at Apex Books’ Blog. Very exciting!