Video: Flash Fiction Story “Counting”

Posted in publications | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Post: Daniel Pinkwater on How He Exercises His Profession

I don’t know about other writers. For one thing, I’ve never been another writer. For another, although I’ve observed practically all the interviews, or as in this case requested from writers, are about how the writing is done, creative tricks, recipes and such. I can’t listen to, view, or read that stuff…not that it isn’t full of useful information, just that my attention wanders, or I fall asleep. So, the nice guy who works for the publisher and arranges this kind of thing told me it would be a good idea if I wrote something about writing. And I just told you that I really don’t know anything about how other writers do it.
Continue reading

Posted in guest post | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Video: New Classes Coming Up for the Rambo Academy

Continue reading

Posted in classes & workshops | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Rambo Academy Campus Calendar for September

All times are Pacific. (Here is a time zone resource.) Campus events are open to Chez Rambo Discord server members; join us by supporting Cat on Patreon in order to access the server and get class discounts and other freebies.

Tuesday, September 1

  • Co-working 8:30-10:30 AM
  • Co-working 6:30-8:30 PM

Wednesday, September 2

Thursday, September  3

  • Co-working 8:30-10:30 AM
  • Handicrafts or journaling (your choice) 1-2 PM
  • Evening co-working 6:30-8:30 PM

Friday, September 4

  • Check-in! How’d you do with your weekly goals?
  • Clean and chat 10-11 AM
  • Co-working 1-3 PM

Saturday, September 5

Sunday, September 6

Monday, September 7

  • Set your weekly goals here on the Patreon post or in the #motivation channel on the Discord server!
  • Co-working 1-3 PM

Tuesday, September 8

  • Co-working 8:30-10:30 AM
  • Co-working 6:30-8:30 PM

Wednesday, September 9

  • Prompts and writing games 9-10 AM
  • Co-working 1-3 PM
  • Short story discussion group (story is Cordwainer Smith’s “Mother Hitton’s Littul Kittons“) 4-5 PM

Thursday, September 10

  • Co-working 8:30-10:30 AM
  • Handicrafts or journaling (your choice) 1-2 PM
  • Evening co-working 6:30-8:30 PM

Friday, September 11

Saturday, September 12

Sunday, September 13

Monday, September 14

  • Set your weekly goals here on the Patreon post or in the #motivation channel on the Discord server!
  • Co-working 1-3 PM

Tuesday, September 15

  • Co-working 8:30-10:30 AM
  • Co-working 6:30-8:30 PM

Wednesday, September 16

  • Short story discussion group (story TBD) 9-10 AM
  • Co-working 1-3 PM
  • Prompts and writing games 4-5 PM

Thursday, September  17

  • Co-working 8:30-10:30 AM
  • Handicrafts or journaling (your choice) 1-2 PM
  • Evening co-working 6:30-8:30 PM

Friday, September 18

  • Check-in! How’d you do with your weekly goals?
  • Clean and chat 10-11 AM
  • Co-working 1-3 PM

Saturday, September 19

Sunday, September 20

Monday, September 21

  • Set your weekly goals here on the Patreon post or in the #motivation channel on the Discord server!
  • Co-working 1-3 PM

Tuesday, September 22

  • Co-working 8:30-10:30 AM
  • Co-working 6:30-8:30 PM

Wednesday, September 23

  • Prompts and writing games 9-10 AM
  • Co-working 1-3 PM
  • Short story discussion group (story TBD) 4-5 PM

Thursday, September  24

  • Co-working 8:30-10:30 AM
  • Handicrafts or journaling (your choice) 1-2 PM
  • Evening co-working 6:30-8:30 PM

Friday, September 25

Saturday, September 26

Sunday, September 27

Monday, September 28

  • Set your weekly goals here on the Patreon post or in the #motivation channel on the Discord server!
  • Co-working 1-3 PM

Tuesday, September 29

  • Co-working 8:30-10:30 AM
  • Co-working 6:30-8:30 PM

Wednesday, September 30

  • Short story discussion group (story TBD) 9-10 AM
  • Co-working 1-3 PM
  • Prompts and writing games 4-5 PM
Posted in classes & workshops | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Video: Principles for Pantsers

Posted in classes & workshops | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Video Interview with Robert Jeschonek about Space: 1975

#sfwapro

Posted in youtube | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Chandra Clarke on the Importance of Not Giving Up in the Face of Big, Intractable Problems

It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by… everything right now.

Climate change, the rise of authoritarianism, the economy, systemic racism, a global pandemic. Social media (which arguably has never been a showcase for the best humanity has on offer) has become a doom scroll. The news headlines aren’t comforting either, obviously, as that’s not their job, but feel even less so this year.

Meanwhile, Life with a capital L keeps happening. We all still have to keep a roof over our heads, some of us have kids to feed and prepare for whatever the hell it is that lies ahead, or parents to support in their old age, or maybe even both. An appalling number of us have to fight daily just for the right to exist.

And worst of all, I think, is that it is the year 2020. There’s something extra galling about the fact that we’re nearly a quarter way through the 21st century and we literally have access to the sum total of the world’s knowledge in our pockets… and yet we seem to be inundated with both egregious ignorance and aggressive gullibility. Never mind a jet pack, I’d be happy just to get everyone on the same damn page: Clean air good, pollution bad.

Cover of PUNDRAGON by Chandra Clarke.On my darker days, I tend to turn to accounts from other people who lived through uncertain or frightening times. Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning comes to mind, or going further back, something like Pandaemonium by Humphrey Jennings. An obvious place to look for historical parallels right now is back to our most famous pandemic, even if our perception of those times isn’t entirely accurate. These books and essays don’t offer answers, per se, but they do provide that all important connection: other people have been in a crucible and survived, and maybe you can too.

But what can you do beyond just get by? These problems we’re facing seem so big and intractable. You’re just one person, right?

Listen: One person can make a difference.

Here’s how I know. On May 16th, 2020, more than 5000 volunteers in my community, following physical distancing protocols and wearing masks, collected at least 678,200 pounds—yes pounds, and no that amount is not a typo—of food, donated by residents who had been asked to leave a non-perishable item on their porch or front step for collection.

The goal was to restock local food banks, because donations had tailed off due to the pandemic lockdown. Organizers called it the May 16th Miracle, and the whole effort was put together in less than three weeks via social media and the now ubiquitous Zoom.

The Miracle… was just one person’s idea.

It was not a government initiative, it wasn’t put together by a big non-profit organization, and it had no budget for publicity. One person saw that others were hurting, reached out to a few other people who would be able to recognize the same need, and this small group of people then put out the call to the community at large. And wow, did the community respond.

Even better, a neighbouring community was so inspired by the effort that they organized their own miracle and brought in even more donations for their food banks.

I took part in the May 16th Miracle as an area ‘captain,’ and the experience of collecting bag after bag of goods from my neighbours, and then joining the huge convoy en route to a makeshift warehouse has sustained me ever since. I’ve started noticing quiet success stories all over the place: the Facebook gardening group members giddily sharing pictures of the monarch caterpillars they’re now seeing in the gardens they’ve overhauled to include native species; the grassroots pressure that forced universities and other institutions to divest from oil and gas holdings; the proliferation of Pride rainbow crosswalks in even those most conservative of towns; colonial-era statues finally, finally coming down.

Yes, it’s 2020. No, we shouldn’t have to still be fighting these fights. But what you’re doing, however big or small your contribution, is working. Indeed, there wouldn’t be so much pushback if it weren’t.

Keep going. Double down if you can. It matters.

You matter.


Author photo of Chandra Clarke.BIO: Chandra Clarke (she/her) is the author of the Pundragon (available August 10)a cli-fi book disguised as a humorous fantasy. You can find her blog at www.chandrakclarke.com or say hi on Twitter at @chandraclarke.


If you’re an author or other fantasy and science fiction creative, and want to do a guest blog post, please check out the guest blog post guidelines. Or if you’re looking for community from other F&SF writers, sign up for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Critclub!

Posted in guest post | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Treating Myself

Things keep moving along well and I thought I’d check in. My reward for winning a Nebula is that I’m using part of teaching plus Storybundle money to upgrade my workspace. I just put in the order for a fancy standing desk and stool, and am going to retire my faithful IKEA hack deck that I’ve been using the last six years or so.

This will be a much wider workspace, so it also means I can pick up a second monitor and have a lot more real estate when teaching/writing. I had that with my former set-up and it really made a difference when working. I’ve been holding off on this while waiting to move and finally figured I might as well go ahead, since it seems likely we’re here for the duration.

As to why I feel justified in rewarding myself, it’s productivity and nose to the grindstone! Here’s some testimony to 2020’s work in the form of my current writing/editing projects and where they stand:

The space opera series: The copy-edits for You Sexy Thing are in and the editor didn’t mind that I shifted around a couple of scenes in doing them. The listing is up! Still waiting to see what the cover looks like. The second book is currently at incoherent first draft status. Need to start pulling notes together for book three.

The Tabat quartet: Finishing up Exiles of Tabat ASAP is the current big project on deck. I also have some notes for the final book that I need to start putting in one place.

Baby Driver: Need to catch up on writing this. I have someone interested in publishing the final product, and I would also like to do it as a comic book, so I’ve got 3-4 pages of that script written.

Books hovering in the wings: a rewrite of the MG book, a literary horror stand-alone, a Tank Girl/Harley Quinn/Doctor Strange mash-up set in post-apocalyptic Seattle (stand-alone?); fleshing out an existing project that will be a literary SF novella.

Upcoming publications: Because It is Bitter (novella) in AND THE LAST TRUMP SHALL SOUND; Every Breath a Question, Every Heartbeat an Answer (novelette) in BENEATH CEASELESS SKIES; Crazy Beautiful (story) in THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION; Snowflakes (story) in LAST CITIES OF EARTH; Stand and Deliver (story, with Wayne Travis Rambo ) in DARK MATTER MAGAZINE ; I Decline (flash) in DAILY SCIENCE FICTION).

Current story projects: a space western short story in collaboration for an anthology request; a space opera short story for an anthology request; a near future caper novella; a near future SF story, the usual smattering of flash.

I also have an upcoming anthology project that I just finished looking over the contract for; look for slush reader calls and guidelines soon but don’t mail me until they’re posted!

Posted in publications | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Post: Jeffrey A. Carver on How I Ventured into Audiobooks and Lost My Shirt—or Maybe Found It

Audiobooks are the current gold rush in publishing—or so they say, and you know “they” always know what they’re talking about. If you don’t get on the audiobook wagon, you are sure to lose out.

That might or might not be true. But one thing that is true, without a doubt, is that listening to a book narrated aloud is an experience unlike that of silently reading text. An audiobook can make or break a book for the listener. In the hands of a poor narrator, any book can be crushed. But in the hands of a skilled narrator, even humdrum text can take flight, and sparkling text can soar. The latter is an experience you might want to serve up to your readers. But if your publisher isn’t doing it, or you’re an indie writer and are your own publisher (I’ve been in both positions), how do you make it happen?

Cover of THE REEFS OF TIME.I’ve spent much of the last year getting some of my best work into audiobook, and I won’t kid you—it’s not easy. But you can do it. The landscape of audio publishing has changed quite a bit in the dozen or so years since my agent placed nine of my books with Audible, the 400-pound gorilla in the business. For that process, I didn’t have much to do beyond providing the text, except offer pronunciation guidance to the (Audible-chosen) narrators who asked. What I got from the deal was a mixed bag: some recordings I could be truly proud of, and others that made me wince.

As it happened, my best-known books were not part of that deal, because of the audiobook rights being held by my print publisher (who was not exercising them). It took years to get those rights reverted, and when the reversion came, it was just in time to miss a window of opportunity to get the books into Audible. Curses! Rotten luck!

Or… maybe not. Eventually, my failure to land The Chaos Chronicles at Audible (with a narrator chosen by them), led me to approach a narrator whose work I loved and admired—Stefan Rudnicki, a Grammy and Hugo-winning artist, whose natural voice is somewhere down in the frequency range of James Earl Jones’, and just as captivating.

Stefan liked the book I pitched to him, Neptune Crossing, and he secured a deal to have it recorded by him and published through Blackstone Audio. He did a great job, and Blackstone got it out in great shape, and all was grand. Except… it didn’t sell. Not very well, anyway. It’s a terrific audiobook (in my opinion), but it was the first and only book in the  series. Who wants to buy the first book and find that there are no more? Approximately nobody, apparently.

Blackstone, discouraged by the sales, didn’t want to fund the rest of the series. I was on my own if I wanted the books that I considered some of my best work turned into audiobooks. Stefan was eager and willing. Stefan is also a top-tier narrator who works with a top-flight director and top-notch engineers. I could pay Stefan out of my own pocket, and the rights would be mine forever. My books tend to be long. The cost for finished recordings clocked out at around $4000-6000, per book. Eeek. It seemed impossible.

Cover of THE CRUCIBLE OF TIME.However, fortune seems to favor the foolish, because some unexpected funds came to me that made it possible to pay for books 2-4 in the series. And around the time those were finished, some different unexpected funds came in that enabled me to contract for Books 5-6, my recently published The Reefs of Time and Crucible of Time. I had spent eleven years writing these books, and after a career of working with traditional publishing, found myself without a publisher—and put them out myself, as my first self-published originals. They meant a lot to me. And so I made the choice—not an easy choice, mind you—to take some money that I might have used for other purposes, and invested it in having my books recorded.

That point bears repeating: the money was an investment in the future. An investment for my readers to have new ways to discover my story, and an investment in future earnings, even if the time to recoup my costs is measured in years.

Great, I can hear you thinking. How does this help me? Well, you might not have the particular good fortune of money coming just when you need it. But there are other ways to fund these projects. You might crowd-source the expense. You might find a narrator who’s newer and charges less, or is willing to record for a share of the royalties. The two major audiobook self-publishing platforms both offer ways to do this. There are avenues.

And that brings us to the second big question: Even if you get your audiobook recorded, how do you get it before an audience? You may already know that ACX.com and FindawayVoices.com are the two big players. But which do you want to work with, and why?

How about both?

I started out by leaning toward Findaway, mainly because they distribute to more than 40 stores, including Apple, Audible, Amazon, Google, Kobo, Nook, Overdrive (library sales!), and many more. ACX distributes to just Audible, Amazon, and Apple. Add to that Findaway’s 80% of net royalty rate, versus ACX’s 40% (if you go exclusive), and it seems like a no-brainer.

But maybe not. If you distribute through Findaway to ACX (which is how they distribute to Audible and Amazon), you only get 80% of the reduced nonexclusive royalty of 25% from ACX. For many people, Audible, Amazon, and Apple are where most of the sales come from, so that might not seem like such a good deal.

Personally, I lean strongly toward wider distribution, both for philosophical reasons and practicality. (I don’t want Amazon to control everything, and I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket.)  So I went with Findaway for maximum distribution.

Uploading to Findaway is a pretty straightforward, if finicky, procedure. You learn right away if a chapter file flunks some fiddling technical specification. So you know when you’ve nailed it, and your book starts showing up pretty quickly, at least in stores like Apple, Nook, and the other big outlets.

But all was not rosy with the Audible/ACX distribution. The “ingesting” process is slowwww. Where things started going wrong was when it turned out that ACX has more exacting standards—not in quality, but in finicky attributes such as the exact amount of silence (room tone) at the beginning of a chapter, or the precise length of a sample. Two or three months can go by before you learn that your book failed acceptance at Audible. That’s a long time when you’re trying to rev up interest in a new book.

I finally came around to this: Submit your book to both places. At ACX, choose nonexclusive distribution. At Findaway, exclude Audible and Amazon from your distribution. It’s more work, but you get the widest possible distribution, you’ll be up at Audible much faster, and the royalty rate is better. You’ll also get a better reading of where your books are selling.

Support at ACX, in my experience, has generally been quite good. At Findaway it has ranged from meh to excellent.

Since last fall, I’ve released three books in audiobook format: Strange Attractors, The Infinite Sea, and Sunborn. Books 5-6, The Reefs of Time and Crucible of Time, are being prepared for fall 2020 release.

Has it brought me riches of sapphire and gold? What do you think? (The correct answer is no.) It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I don’t know when I’ll break even, so in that respect as in many others, this is a labor of love. But it’s also a way to more richly present my stories to the widest possible audience. A way for folks in their cars, or at the gym, or walking their dogs to discover my work. It’s an investment in every conceivable meaning of the word. So, yes—a labor of love. But one that I hope will pay dividends for a long time down the galactic road.


Author photo of Jeffrey A Carver.JEFFREY A. CARVER has been writing character-driven hard science fiction/space opera since the 1970s and is still hard at it. His novel Eternity’s End was a finalist for the Nebula Award, and his Star Rigger novels and ongoing series The Chaos Chronicles have gained a wide and appreciative audience. Battlestar Galactica fans will enjoy his official novelization of the 2003 BSG Miniseries. Last year he published an epic two-volume novel, The Reefs of Time and Crucible of Time, which are widely available in ebook and print, and will be out in audiobook in the fall of 2020.

You can read about his books at https://www.starrigger.net, where you can also subscribe to his blog and his occasional newsletter. Or you can find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jeffrey.a.carver.


If you’re an author or other fantasy and science fiction creative, and want to do a guest blog post, please check out the guest blog post guidelines. Or if you’re looking for community from other F&SF writers, sign up for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Critclub!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chez Rambo July Reading/Gaming/Watching

I have been remiss about blogging, and I thought I’d like to share some of the stuff I’ve enjoyed lately. I do want to start by pointing out there’s just a couple days left on a Storybundle that includes my Nobeula-winning novelette, Carpe Glitter, as well as one of my favorite reads of 2019, The Traveling Triple-C Incorporeal Circus by Alanna McFail.

I finished Rin Chupeco’s The Bone Witch and The Heart Forger and really liked them both. The third volume in the trilogy, The Shadowglass, is queued up on my e-reader right now. An elegant, enjoyable series.

The screen play of Jordan Peel’s Get Out features an essay by Tananarive Due as well as plenty of deleted material and Peele talking about the script. Really lots of stuff that interested me and I’m really glad I picked it up. I will be going watch to watch the movie again.

Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963) is a terrific anthology with a lot of stories I hadn’t hit before. part of my self-directed reading this year (as with last year) is finding stuff written by women at the times when conventional wisdom says there weren’t a lot of women writing. Part of the fun of conducting the short story discussion group that’s part of the Chez Rambo community calendar is sharing and exploring some favorites. next up on our agenda, for example, is Kit Reed’s “The Food Farm.” Authors represented are Pauline Ashwell, Rosel George Brown, Doris Pitkin Buck, Otis Kidwell Burger, Sonya Hess Dorman, Joy Leache, Katherine MacLean, Judith Merril, Kit Reed, Jane Rice, Maria Russell, Sydney cvan Scyoc, Anne Walker

Alex Burcher’s alternative history As Ants to the Gods is dense but evocative prose that conveys the flavor of its world, where the Arab civilization has taken over Europe and is in the middle of its Industrial Revolution. The paperback comes out on the 10th and if the production values are as high as the e-book would imply, it will be a pretty book.

I hadn’t learned about the joy that is Rat Queens yet; currently on the 3rd book with the 4th on its way.

Since I love reading gaming supplements and systems, I was pleased to get the fulfillment for a Kickstarter I’d supported, the Monsters! Monsters! RPG Rules by Ken St. Andre along with a solitaire adventure, “Toughest Dungeon in the World.” Another system I picked up recently for reading is Tales from the Loop; I wasn’t entranced by the TV episode I watched, but I may be playing in a brief campaign of this so I wanted to check it out.

I’ve been watching season 2 of The Umbrella Academy (lots of fun but season 1 was better, IMO), Stargirl (so cheesy! so snappy and fun!), and Z Nation (halfway through season 3 and really enjoying it despite the fact I dislike zombies).

Posted in readings | Tagged , | Leave a comment