because i said so

Two Ways to Win an ARC of UPDRAFT!

Advance readers’ copies (ARCs) of Updraft have landed at Tor – one more sign that September is coming! [OMG]

tor woo

While I’m posting various selfies with Updraft ARCs over on Instagram (who am I kidding, selfies will likely go everywhere) this month, here are two chances to win a copy for yourself and read Updraft before everyone else. Then you can post your own Updraft ARC selfie (& tag me!).



US Patent #410243 - An automatic grain weigher

US Patent #410243 – An automatic grain weigher

I try to spend a lot of time in these parts talking about people who are not me – from Cooking the Books features to keeping track of who I’m reading and what I’ve loved, to talking about tools of the trade and things I’ve learned that might be useful. (not to mention a few posts that are pure rantypants handwaving.)  But one thing I’ve done for the past couple of years that feels very different is an annual numbers / accountability post. I’m weighing whether to keep posting it. I’ll still track the numbers – it’s motivating to see progress and I will never fault a writer (including myself) for finding what motivation works for them. However, I don’t know if these numbers are useful for others to see. Let me know what you think? You might also drop in the comments and tell me what keeps you going – I’d love to hear about it.

This year’s big number is 410,243, or thereabouts. There’s still a day left.

  • 410243 is prime. This delights me.
  • On the web, #410243 is a lovely eggplant, or aubergine color.
  • US Patent 410243 is for an automatic grain weigher.
  • 410,243 is also the number of words I wrote in 2014, minus those I’ll write tomorrow. It includes all of Cloudbound, the sequel to Updraft; revisions to Updraft; revisions to another novel; revisions and several short stories in draft form, plus a story I wrote and published this year, “Welcome Briefing at the Obayashi-Ragan Youth Hostel.
  • It includes “How to Walk Through Historic Graveyards in the Digital Age,” which will appear in the March/April issue of Asimov’s, and revisions to “The Ghost Tide Chanty,” which will appear at
  • 410,243 does not include: twelve (out of fourteen total) Cooking the Books episodes, other blog posts here, an essay on staying ahead of technology as a fiction writer for SFSignal, two Mind Melds, a food of the future roundtable for, ten articles and bookshelf write-ups for, one co-written article for the Washington Post, two proposals, one game world for Storium, or my review of Eileen Gunn’s Questionable Practices for the New York Review of Science Fiction.
  • I used a friend’s wordcount tracking spreadsheet to see how my writing broke across days and months. It is infinitely useful and I’m very grateful for it. There were definitely a few thin weeks, while I was traveling. I’m hoping to get better about working on the road. 410,243 words breaks out to 7,890 a week, average, and 1,124 a day, but there were days and weeks when I wrote more, and less.
  • I like what I wrote for last year’s number post. I’m keeping it for this year:

Last year, my goal was to write more, better words. This year, I’m sticking with the ‘better’ side of that goal. I want to write consistently, and to learn new ways to tell more powerful stories every day. I don’t need to write more words, though if that happens too, I’ll be glad for it. Consistent words. Better words. In pleasing arrangements. Goal.

  • There’s one more number that’s much different from my word count number. It’s 0765377837. It’s the ISBN number for Updraft. I like that number a lot.

So that’s me. Do numbers keep you motivated? If so, which ones?

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


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…)

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:


Hard at work at RWV2014 (photo: Andrew Williams)

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

Writers’ Workshops – Which One’s Right For You

(This article has been reprinted from Apex Publishing’s archives. It was originally published there on February 7, 2014)

When you’ve reached the point in your writing career where you’d like to connect with other writers and improve your craft, it might be time to start exploring your options with regards to writers’ workshops.

For science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers, there are a range of options. There are six-week residencies and year-round online communities. Workshops vary in number of students admitted, costs to attend, and application procedures, so please visit their websites for the full scoop.

Nota Bene: Writers’ workshops can mean considerable expense, both in money and time spent. They are not for everyone, and they are not a guarantee of writerly success. What they are is an opportunity to focus on craft in the company of other writers, including more experienced writers. This can be a powerful experience.

Here are a few of the workshops available in the United States and online for adults and, separately, for teens, along with insights from program organizers, teachers, and students when possible. (Note, while I’ve done the gathering, errors happen and are entirely the blogger’s fault – please consider each workshop’s website as the final word.) (more…)

On Campbell Award *Ineligibility* and The Eligibility of Others

This year marks a new milestone. I’m no longer eligible for consideration for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. And I’m totally fine with that. Mostly.

I’ll tell you why: During the period when I was eligible, I published approximately 2500 words across three flash stories in Nature (2012) and Daily Science Fiction (2011). I enjoyed writing these stories; I learned from writing them. I heard from readers who said they enjoyed them too. That made me happier than I can possibly sum up with words.

It felt something like this: 

For a new writer, acceptance in a publication that pays pro rates is something of a milestone. I didn’t totally understand the full ramifications when I sent “Everlasting” to Daily Science Fiction in spring 2011 and they accepted it. I’d written a flash-length story, was looking for places that would publish flash-length stories and that had published other stories that I enjoyed. “Everlasting” was my first published short story, anywhere. And dear dog it felt good to have someone pay me for my words. (more…)



WIP, with coffee.

  • Colorwise, #309157 is a soft evergreen. Closest web-safe color is #339966.
  • 309,157 is the 26,736th prime (this is me, squeeing because: prime number).
  • US Patent #309157 was awarded to one Eliphalet O. Norton of Boone, IL in 1884 for an improved hay-carrier. Which does exactly what it says.


Dragons! SF Mind Meld & SFWA reblogs Cooking the Books

This week, I’m a guest at SF Signal, where we’re talking Dragons — What makes dragons appealing? How do you use dragons in your own writing? What are your favorite depictions in fantasy?  You should go check out the excellent answers from all the guests: Authors Scott Lynch, Sherwood Smith, Jon Sprunk, Peter Orullian, A.M. Dellamonica, Jamie Wyman, Tessa Gratton, Stellar Four’s Meghan B., Courtney Schafer, and L. Jagi Lamplighter.

The SFWA blog has reprinted my Cooking the Books interview with Saladin Ahmed – What Heroes Eat. Saladin was a great guest, and his books are amazing. If you haven’t already, give that a peek as well.

I’m wrapping up the year, trying to finish as much of OtherNovel as I can before I dive back into Bone Arrow and its kin. There should probably be a numbers post, like last year. Adding that to the list. Meantime, I hope your end of year goes wonderfully, and that I’ll see you next year!

Why I Run (Slow)


In Zombies Run, I’m food. Know what? That’s ok.

My friends Kyle and Kelly wrote about why they run after The Oatmeal comic on the same topic a couple months ago. I wrote something too, but I didn’t post it. I’m not always comfortable talking about physical stuff. I’d rather talk about flying. Or sailing.

Kelly says post it. And it is good to listen to Kelly. So, here we go.

I don’t run far*, and I don’t run all that fast. That’s ok.

When I was a toddler my feet pointed inward so much that I not only got the clunky corrective shoes; I also wore a special pair of boots to bed. These were made of stiff white leather and had a metal bar bolted between them. SUPER stylish.

I remember climbing out of bed and swish-walking down the hall, listening to the sound of my clunky feet.

Man, I hated those things. But I was happier when I figured out how to move in them.

Happier still when they came off and, after a year flailing around in ballet, I started gymnastics and figured out how to fly. (more…)