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14 Writers Who Rock

And who happen to be women.

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Huffington Post has an article about women who write scifi and fantasy and stand head and shoulders above all others. It’s not an exhaustive list, by any means, but it is a good place to start if you want to add to your list of great women writers.

I’m extremely pleased to see Nalo Hopkinson on the list. Her ‘Midnight Robber’ blew my mind when I first read it in school and I couldn’t understand, then or now, why it wasn’t required reading in our English classes. I haven’t been in a school in ages, so I’m hoping that has changed, but even if it hasn’t, here’s hoping it does eventually.

I have heard of Sophia Samatar, but my reading list is so far behind, it pains me to even look at it. At the moment, I’m reading Nnedi’s Who Fears Death and enjoying it, so at least there’s that.

Let me know who on the list is your favourite and why in the comment section.

Catch you on the flip-side!

Writers Write Different

A while back, there was a conversation on one of my email lists about an award-winning author who had announced her intention to quite the publishing game. I can’t remember her name (it was QUITE a while ago) but I remember she was a British literary writer who had won awards. Her problem, as far as I can remember, was that she felt she couldn’t produce her best work within the timeframe and pressure of publishing deadlines. She was a fairly slow writer who took years to get to the end of a manuscript and the pressure of deadlines was stifling her, so she announced she would no longer be publishing.

What surprised me was the vitriol on my list toward her. I wasn’t participating on the list at the time, due to some deadlines of my own, but I was reading the posts and every one of them went something like, ‘How dare she? I would kill for her publishing deal and the ungrateful [insert uncharitable phrase] is throwing all that away because she’s SLOW?!’ Followed by contemptuous recountings about how many books they could finish a year (ranging from two to one a month), and how she should just suck it up and stop whining.

Personally, I completely get how that writer felt. I’m fairly slow for a writer depending on what I’m doing. I’ve been working on one novel for several years, for example. LEX TALIONIS took me 6 months to write and another 6 months to edit to my satisfaction. It then took me several agent and publisher submissions and huge rewrites over several years to get it edited well enough to publish, but that’s another story. (Hint: You never stop editing. Never. The book will be on the shelf, available for sale for months and you’ll see another typo and pull your hair out.)

However, I also finished a book in one month once, and a story (which I published) in a total of 2 hours writing time and about 3 hours editing time spread out over a week as beta readers responded. I’ve noticed that I wrote more, and faster, when I was younger and making a lot of mistakes, and that as I mature in the craft, I’m getting slower on the bigger projects (like series) and faster on the stand-alones (like stories).

My point is this: writers do not approach writing the same way. Writers write different. And sometimes, the same writer writes different. Some writers take 10 years to finish a novel, and I know a writer who once took 10 days. Some writers do better with deadlines, and some feel pressured and can’t produce at all under one. Some writers can be all of the above on different projects, or days. I’m like that. Sometimes a deadline helps me focus. Other times it paralyzes me. A famous writer once said, the best gift you can give a writer is free time. Without it, I feel pressured to get the housework done, or focus on my paying job, rather than give myself the time needed to write. I know from talking to other writers that I’m not alone.

Look, rather than let our petty jealousies about awards and publishing deals get in the way, let’s give ourselves permission to acknowledge and respect each other’s processes. The writing craft is hard, time intensive and doesn’t ever end. Anyone who has managed to get a book out of it deserves respect. Anyone who has managed to get someone else to pay for that book has accomplished a freaking miracle. And all of us could use support whether we get there or not.

Part of my process involves taking forever on some things, and finishing others in a flash. But quality is not determined by speed of production. A writer should not be condemned because they chose to be honest about the way the publishing world affects their craft or the way they get to a manuscript they feel proud of. In fact, writers can learn a lot from each other and the different ways we go about things. I know the best part of learning to write was all the time I spent reading and making friends with other writers on the OWW. I knew writers there who worked on books for years and others who worked on them for months. They were all eventually published. You know why? Because readers, publishers, agents–they only care about the work.

It would do a lot of beginning writers a lot of good to realise that’s all they should care about too. Criticizing people who already put themselves out there does no one any good and only serves to make you feel self-satisfied.

Here’s a better idea. Learn from other writers. Don’t repeat the mistakes you think they make. Do copy all the things they do right. Respect and support other writers. And most of all, keep writing the way that works best for you. Let the awards fall where they may and the criticism come from elsewhere because you are too busy being true to yourself.

In the words of Kid President, ‘Be Awesome!’

Because, life is too short, you know?

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Stay thirsty, my friends!

Happy New Year! Time to Start Writing Now.

Yep. We had a great time eating the food and drinking the drink. Marathon watching TV shows on Netflix and going to the cinema to cheer for the final chapter of The Hobbit. So we are all refreshed now and should be ready for what comes next.

A year of great storytelling.

We will be writing until we are done, my friends. So get a good chair, crack your knuckles and be sure to check back here three times a week to see how you and I have done. Feel free to leave your word count, page count or sentence count when you visit. I’ll be happy to know I’m not the only one down in the salt mines. I’m giving you today off because it’s New Year’s Day and we know what you did last night. But no mercy tomorrow.

And weekends count for extra. Or you can just leave them for your family and fun, as I plan too. I have to recharge often, and weekends do that for me. I have too much to do in those two days, so I’d rather use my spare time to get ready for the rest of the week.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year, lots of writing and plenty of online friends (me included!) to share your trials and tribulations, successes and achievements with.

Welcome to 2015!!

And just for fun, here’s how a writer’s mind works most of the times…

Still Here and Still Working

I know I’ve been gone forever. I have a great excuse. At the end of October, I came down with Chik V. This was just before a very important week of meetings at my job during the month of November. I managed to get my work done, but I was lucky enough to be one of those people who suffer from the chronic stage of the disease, which means even now I still have lingering pain, numbness and other symptoms. I’m not alone, of course. Lots of Trinis have the same problem. The virus has spread like wildfire here. And let me tell you, this virus is the sickest I’ve been since I was a child.

November and December then became consumed with catching up on the work I had to drop for two weeks, trying to write every day, cleaning the house and generally getting ready for Christmas. Christmas turned out great and I’m finally enjoying my vacation. But the plan for the new year is to get back to working out and writing every day again. The fatigue has let up enough for me to return to my regular schedule, I think.

I want to thank all of you who came by, followed me, or just commented. Sorry I haven’t been around, and I will be by all of your blogs before the end of the year to remedy my absence.

I’m currently cleaning up the first part of the sequel to LEX TALIONIS, which I’m calling IACTA ALEA EST (The Die is Cast) for now, so I can get some more forward movement on it. I’m pushing on with THE NIGHTWARD (also known as the ‘Hand of Gaia’) because it’s in my head right now. But if you read LEX TALIONIS you’re probably wondering what the sequel looks like. It’s rough right now, and there’s stuff that needs to be edited, but have a sneak peek at the opening below:

The C.S.S. Invincible

The technician screamed, the smoking stump of his hand smearing his lab coat as he held it to his chest. Through watering eyes, he looked up at the two soldiers standing over him, their faces hidden behind the wavering diamond reflection of distortion masks. The ship’s flashing emergency lights limned their black armour, turning the figure-hugging contours scarlet, then black, then scarlet again.

He could smell his own flesh cooking, and vomit scratched at the back of his throat even as pain tore his nerves to shreds. If he turned around, he knew he would see what was left of his hand lying on the floor of the corridor behind him. But there was no point in turning around. His hand was gone for good. And he was a dead man.

The one on his left lowered the massive lasrifle to his waist, still keeping it at the ready. The soldier on the right held his weapon with the business end pointed at the floor. The soldier was silent for a moment longer, apparently studying the tech, though it was hard to tell through the distortion masks.

“Are you ready to speak to me now?” he intoned, his voice flat and expressionless through the mask.

“I told you, I don’t…”

The rifle came up again, sighting on him. He screamed and felt warm piss trickle down his leg.

“You waste our time,” the soldier continued. “If you will not help us, there are others. Doubtless they will want to live more than you.”

The tech heard the soft whine and click of the lasrifle and could not stop his tears. Above him, the computer informed them that Decks Five through Ten had been breached by intruders and that the Fire Squad should report to a blaze in progress in the Dining Hall. It was a detached report on a dying ship and he knew that if he did not do as they said, he would only suffer more pain.

He was a tech, a lowly tech, not crew and certainly not one of the fearsome security personnel who–inexplicable as it seemed–were dying in droves at the hands of these relentless attackers. Soldiers, really. Soldiers who were better than the best that Conway Enterprises had to offer. Better than men genetically bred to protect and kill. It was unthinkable.

As unthinkable as what he was about to do. Because the only thing he wanted as much as a way off the ship right now was no more pain.

“Shoot him in the–”

“Wait!” He felt every breath that left him as if for the first time.

“I…know where it is. I know where the room is. I can take you there. Please…let me take you there.”

The solider did not move for a moment, then he raised his rifle.

“Lead the way. But be warned–-if you attempt to mislead us, you will die. Slowly and in great pain. Get up.”

That’s all for now. I’ll post more from both books as I go along.

Have a great season and see you again soon!

The “I Pinch Myself Every Day Now” Roundup

So I was so excited yesterday, I forgot to point out that if you want to read part of Chapter 1 of my debut novel, LEX TALIONIS, you can head on over to Tara Maya’s blog at bestfantasynovel.com. Just scroll past all the interviewy stuff and you’ll find the excerpt waiting to sit you down, put your feet up and give you a bucket of popcorn so you can settle in for the short haul 😉

Hopefully, you’ll like it and want to throw money at it.

LEX TALIONIS is now also available at Barnes and Noble.

And if you have something against them, just head on over to Kobo.

It should be up on Amazon really soon, so I’ll drop a note when that happens.

And as if that wasn’t surreal enough, one of my sister’s co-workers got her copy today, so my sister got to touch it and flip through it and realise the bedtime story of her youth was really out there in the big, bad world as a novel. It was a head-spinning moment for both of us (she sent me pics). One that I think made it worthwhile.

I’m always worrying if I did the right thing. If it was worth all the sacrifice to just keep pursuing this crazy goal. If it was smart to put myself and such a dark, difficult story out there like that. When you start to get your first ‘meh’ reviews and reactions your heart kind of plummets and you start wondering why you ever signed up for this.

But then you see an interview go up, or you read a reader’s reaction where they basically freak out over how much they love your story, or you just hold that dream in your hand as a real physical copy of all the thoughts and words you had. And it’s totally, totally worth everything it took to get there.

Even if you never sell another copy. Even if the books sinks into the massive trove of new books out there without another peep. Even if every critic that reads it hates it. I realise now I don’t care. I have shared my story, and part of me, with other people. No one can take that away from me.

I have been luckier than many to have this opportunity. And I treasure it.

So no matter what, stay thirsty, my friends. Take it from me; you’ll get there as long as you don’t quit.

My First Interview – Geek Syndicate UK!

Red letter day over here!

My first interview as an actual official author just went live over at Geek Syndicate! I’m totally on the front page and everything!

*Fans self nervously with hands*

So if I haven’t completely scared you off with my ramblings and ridiculous love affair with gifs, you can find out more about me and my inspirations for LEX TALIONIS over at Geek Syndicate. I also say things about speculative fiction, female protagonists in science fiction, and what I’m working on now.

Feel free to like the post if you are so moved.

Have fun, and stay thirsty, my friends!

Copyrights and Other Thoughts

I’m not an expert on this stuff. But I’m a writer, so when people are talking about stuff, I have to take notice. Scott Turow, president of the Author’s Guild, had an interesting article in the New York Times today that every author should read, so I’m posting the link here.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/08/opinion/the-slow-death-of-the-american-author.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&nl=opinion&emc=edit_ty_20130408

I’m sure those in the know will discuss it fully as it makes the rounds. I will say that as an author who lives and works outside the US, starving for my art has always been the likely reality. Very few people ever encouraged me to write, even friends that read and liked my work. There is simply no outlet here. Publishers are few and mostly do textbooks or assist in self-publishing those with the money to take such a route. Publishers that might publish a Caribbean author’s work are based in the UK and have the entire Commonwealth as their slush pile. With such odds–and writing genre fiction as I do, instead of contemporary literature or the usual post-colonial stuff–I never got anywhere querying agents and publishers in the UK. Most didn’t bother to reply. I have no idea if the expensive mail packages I sent ever went anywhere, and in the past, no way to follow up. Thank God for the advent of email!

The internet opened up worlds to me. I joined the best writers’ site ever in 2001, The Online Writing Workshop for SF, Fantasy and Horror, learned all there was to learn about the industry, all while genre itself was opening up to email and the internet far faster than publishers and agents in contemporary literature. I would have no book deal and no way out of the Caribbean without the OWW.

But I also knew I would never make a cent just by being a good writer. I had to sell overseas.Now it seems even as we have the self-publishing market opening up writers to make more money on their own, the internet has begun to shrink our usual revenue streams, and in ways that may affect the new ones over time as well.

I feel as though we are living in a time of great flux. I do not think it will be for long–it will probably take five, at most ten years, for the industry to settle down and find its new legs. But there are many, many changes to go before that happens. It’s premature to call Amazon the great devil, but it’s also premature to thank them for the dubious pleasure of Kindle Select. In the end, for the moment, I think this industry is less about good guys, bad guys and who’s right or wrong, and more about everyone making a mad dash toward one new thing or another, trying to get on top of everything they think might eventually replace the old order.

In other words, we’re all just trying to survive and not get left behind. In a despearate scenario like that, I think we should be careful to not get caught backing one side or another. I think it’s better to watch, listen, learn and take the best decision you can for yourself at the time, given your circumstances. We can’t protect ourselves from every bad thing that might be out there. But we can make sure we go into this industry with our eyes open, understanding that in this new world, we are now the masters of our own fate.

And perhaps that in itself is such a wonderful thing that despite whatever else the future might bring, it is enough to hope that it will all work out for the best.

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Defeating the Guilt Cycle

You know you’ve done it.

You’ve arrived at home after a hard day’s work, sometimes to screaming kids, or a tired husband, or just a quiet room with a waiting dog or cat, or a mess that needs cleaning up, and a dinner that needs making and laundry that needs doing and you’ve said to yourself, ‘I can’t write tonight. There’s too much to do.’ And you’ve felt guilty as you pass by your computer and avert your eyes. But not as guilty as you would have felt if you’d sat down to write.

Writers do this to themselves all the time, especially the ones that have yet to sell a story or a novel. We let the rest of the world convince us that writing is wasting time, that we need to get the chores done, or catch that new episode of ‘Game of Thrones’, or head out to the mall. If we’re not making money from it, the thinking goes, how do we justify abandoning our family and friends every day? After all, only about 200 people actually make a living at this, right?

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t pay attention to your marriage, or your kids, or your house. I’m just saying that a lot of the time, it can actually fit into your day without you having to grow extra arms and legs. What makes it not fit, most of the time, is the guilt trip we take ourselves on. We talk ourselves out of doing what makes us happy, what makes us complete, so we can help others be happy and complete. As if we don’t matter. As if what we do doesn’t matter.

Well, even if you never make a dime off your writing, it matters. You matter. You’re putting a little bit of magic into the world, every day, and you shouldn’t let being busy, or anxious, or frustrated, or overwhelmed keep you from finding a little bit of peace in your art. ‘Cause most of us do this to get all these darn stories out of our head, and if we don’t let them out, we’ll probably explode from the pressure.
(And yes, you have my permission to use that as a legitimate excuse the next time your significant other raises the eyebrow at you while you write in a pile of dirty laundry. It’s either happy writing you, or splattered all over the walls you. Take it or leave it.)

Okay. Maybe you won’t exactly explode. But that doesn’t negate the fact that you shouldn’t ever feel guilty about putting yourself first, just for a little while.

So the next time you are about to make an excuse to yourself so you can avoid the guilt of actually writing–
(Which of course leads to the guilt the next day of knowing you haven’t written and there’s been no forward motion—which makes you feel worthless and like you don’t know what you’re doing, and like maybe it isn’t even worth it, and you should just forget about the whole thing and focus on getting a good job that can keep you in ham and eggs…you see what’s happening here? Yeah, I know. I’ve been there, trust me.)

–try this trick I just taught myself. Stop thinking, walk yourself over to your preferred writing instrument—laptop, typewriter, pen, whatever—sit down and write three lines. Just let yourself do three lines. If you have more, go for it. If not, stop. And if you find yourself steaming along, really getting into it and you know exactly what’s coming next…stop. Keep that bit of inspiration for tomorrow and your next three lines.

Do this, every day, whenever you have a few minutes (trust me, it takes me about 5 minutes to catch up where I am and then dash that out), no exceptions. You are allowed to schedule a day or two where you don’t write, if you like, but try to write at least 6 days a week. Do not worry if it’s not your best work. That’s what editing is for. You can go back and fix any mistakes, or erase the whole thing the next day because it doesn’t work for you anymore. The important thing is to add three new lines, every day. Try this for two weeks at least. At the end of the period, I guarantee not only will you have made forward motion, you will have cured any writer’s block that may have reared its ugly head.

(Most likely it was never writer’s block, just inertia breeding on itself because you were trapped in the guilt cycle.)

I tried this for Lent after someone suggested to me that I should try to do something positive, as well as give up something for the season. I gave myself no off days and no excuses and stifled every feeling of guilt by saying to myself ‘come on, it’s just five minutes to half an hour—you spend more time in the bathroom’. Now, several thousand words later, I can attest that it works. Sure, some people write several thousand words in a couple of hours (me included). However, this is not about being the most prolific writer ever. This is about putting one foot in front of the other, and not feeling guilty about it.

So end the cycle. I think you’ll be surprised what you can fit in if you opt out of the guilt and opt into doing the thing that you love.

Write What You Know

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Write what you know

It’s what every writer has been told in every class they’ve ever taken. For a long time, I took it literally and despaired. Because I loved all things genre. I loved science fiction–“hard” or “soft”, whatever that means–fantasy, horror, mystery… You name it, I loved it. But how could I write it when I was only allowed to write what I knew?

I didn’t know enough about science to do science fiction, I thought. I certainly didn’t know enough about crime-solving to do mysteries. But, oh how I wanted to. I kept thinking of stories, kept writing stories, that had fantastic elements. Stories my teachers frowned upon in school, but my friends loved. Stories that came to me down a dream-pipe, completely without my assistance. When something beautiful shows up, just like that, dressed and ready to go, how do you ignore it?

Then I learned the truth. That the ‘what you know’ meant what you knew as a human being too. So stories weren’t all about the academic or procedural research. They were about translating the human experience. Your human experience. Because yours was the only one you were an expert on.

I should not have taken so long to figure this out–after all, if that rule was literal, how could Ray Bradbury write the Martian Chronicles, or Carl Sagan write Contact–but it was a daunting thing, all the same. Now I not only had the responsibility of credibility that research catered to–I had to bare myself in public in certain ways. I had to write what I knew, and in doing so, tell the whole world a little about myself. I don’t remember who said it, but they were right when they said a writer is someone who appears in public with their pants down.

It’s not an easy thing to put down your thoughts, hopes, dreams, nightmares so others can share them. There’s always that risk that you’ll be rejected. Or laughed at. Or worse, that no-one will care. But for everyone who has the courage to write what they know, they take a chance that somewhere, someone will find a kindred moment.  A shared experience. Somewhere out there, a bond will form between writer and reader, between two people who have never met. And it will be a deep and lasting friendship.

So to those of you who have had the courage to risk yourselves in the telling of your stories–take a bow. It doesn’t matter if you get paid to do this. You know what this really means, this writing what you know. You deserve to celebrate yourselves a little.

And to those who haven’t had the courage to try yet. Well..what are you waiting for? Write what you know.
We’d love to hear from you.

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Guardian – New Short Story

So, I have a new story up. This one arose from a writing exercise, although the idea had been in my head for years.

I won a prize of a year of short story writing mentorship from an established editor in a contest on my writing forum and the editor’s first challenge to me was to write a story with the word sacrifice.

Sometimes I need triggers to do things. I’m the worst procrastinator ever. Took me months to get around to those two stories. Thank God the editor was also a dear friend and willing to wait.

*Shameless Plug* That editor is CN Lesley, and her debut fantasy novel ‘Darkspire Reaches’ will be released shortly from Kristell Ink. I’ve had the pleasure of reading the beta manuscript and it was AMAZING! You can find out more and pre-order from her website, http://www.cnlesley.com.*End of Shameless Plug*

Back to your regularly scheduled programme.

I had been kicking around the idea of two star-crossed lovers meeting again after a long time, but they’re on opposite sides of the same war. This is what resulted. Not quite what I expected and I’m not sure I’ll ever publish it. It’s definitely in need of more polish.

But tell me what you think. Go read it and if you decide to vote or like it, thanks very much. It’s really appreciated.

Click right here to read Guardian  

or

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  check out the Trunk and read my other short stories too!