Guest Post from Sandra Odell: Fantasy Audio

Steam punk girl with headphones

Check out Audible.com for even more audio fiction.

Do you recall being read to as a child? The highs and lows of a familiar voice lulling you to sleep or keeping you entertained, if only for a few minutes? Where did it happen? In bed? Curled up together on the couch or in a favorite chair? On the subway? Outside under a tree? What did the voices read? Works by Laura Ingalls Wilder? Doctor Seuss? Langston Hughes? Judy Blume? Staples such as Goodnight Moon, Pat the Bunny, The Hobbit, There’s A Monster At The End Of This Book, any of the Harry Potter books?

Readng to as a child stimulates a number of areas of growth: language development; social bonding; letter and color recognition. Not that the child cares about any of that. Reading fantasy to a child opens up worlds of possibility. When done right, all the child cares about is the next line in the story, the next fantastic moment and location that will sweep them away to somewhere wondrous where they don’t have to do chores, finish homework, or hurt, if only for a little while.

The same can be said for audio fantasy fiction as an adult. Load an audio book, click on your favorite podcast, and let someone tell you a story. I’m not talking radio dramas or stage performances, though those have their merits. I mean a story or novel, something with the “he said”, “she did”, “they saw” intact, A full package deal with one narrator or many, sound effects and music or a bare bones production. There is something about listening to a story that allows our thoughts to soar. We focus on the wonder of the written word brought to life by the tradition of passing tales from one generation to another. Good stories make us feel. Great stories make us think.

All of the above is a fancy way of saying “I like audio fiction.”

The development of easily accessibly audio fiction has opened doors to a whole new audience of readers. Whether on a bus, at home alone, in the gym, driving to work, or “too busy to read”, audio fiction is the perfect hands-free medium to indulge yourself in a bit of fancy while continuing about your day. I often listen to stories while doing household chores, and audio books frequently transform rush hour traffic into quality time. At night, I put myself to bed with my favorite fantasy or horror fiction podcast. I have friends who listen to books while jogging or working out, and one who keeps a CD collection of Bradbury’s works in the bathroom so she can “read in the tub.”

SF/F/H/YA fiction have benefited from a variety of audio markets that allow readers to sample new authors, revisit old favorites, and delve into new areas of interest. Larger chain bookstores rarely deviate from the regular offerings of the major publishing houses. Audio fiction allows you to mix it up a bit, seek out different voices, under represented voices, women writers, LGBTQ writers, writers of color, writers with disabilities.

Services such as iTunes, Audible.com, and Blackstone Audio offer short story collections and a range of full length novels. A growing number of genre fiction podcasts present a selection of short fiction from both new authors and seasoned, award-winning writers of note. Certain podcasts also produce classic genre stories that might otherwise be overlooked by modern readers in the hurry and crush to buy the next mass-market best seller. Not that there’s anything wrong with best sellers. I listen to those as well.

Audio fiction is often free in the case of podcasts, is relatively cost competitive when compared to physical books or eBooks, and is often far more portable. Multicast productions present distinct character voices, while certain narrators are skilled enough to breathe life into the story with the barest of inflections. Most podcasts are produced under a creative commons license that encourages you to share the work with friends or on any number of social media platforms so long as you don’t change the attribution or the production itself. You can loan someone an audio CD or file of a downloaded work, but please don’t give copies away. Like writers, narrators and sound crews work hard to produce the best product possible and deserve to be paid for their efforts.

So, it’s a big audio world out there. Where do you start? Check out the links to some of my favorite genre fiction podcasts below and see what tickles your ears’ fancy.

#sfwapro

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Ten Plots Generated from Other People’s Problems

Abstract image to accompany a blog post from speculative fiction writer Cat Rambo.All taken from http://www.helpineedhelp.com/#/

  1. I don’t like my eyebrows.
  2. I’ve never been kissed.
  3. I don’t want to clean up my mess.
  4. I’m involved in a gang.
  5. I don’t know if I’m gay.
  6. I want my cat to be a cover model.
  7. I don’t know if I’m depressed/colorblind.
  8. I’m racist.
  9. I’m overstimulated.
  10. I have ghosts.
  11. I’m always wrong.
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Guest Post from Kim Mainord: Mileage May Vary

Photograph of Author Kim Mainord

You can find more of Kim’s words at her website, ninjakeyboard.blogspot.com.

Note from Cat: March 2 kicks off two months of blog content dedicated to promoting my new (first!) novel, Beasts of Tabat. There’ll be guest blog posts, original fiction, essays about writing, feminism, and life in general, and even some giveaways and contests. Here’s our first guest blogger, Kim Mainord.

(Warning: there is a terrible pun below. If you are allergic to groaning please enjoy this cartoon instead. http://youtu.be/ykwqXuMPsoc)

When I decided that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up I started collecting writing advice. Not tidbits from websites or manuals written by literati who wouldn’t touch a genre novel with a ten-foot pole. I went to my favorite authors, batted my puppy dog eyes, and said, “Please sir, I’d like some more.”

All right, I didn’t have to be that persuasive. Good thing too. I was so nervous I looked like Shaggy on espresso. Anyway…

One of the pieces of advice I received most often was “don’t give up” or some variation thereof. At that point in time I was still pretty naive. I had yet to complete my first story, I didn’t know about the caprices of the market, or the sting of rejection. What I did know what that this was the only career I truly wanted and there was no way I would ever consider quitting.

Oh, the schadenfreude when life proves me wrong.

What I failed to understand was that sooner or later we all have that moment. There’s no magical egg timer ticking away, warning us that it’s coming. No, like a regretful ex it rings when you least expect it and fills your life with woe.

Woe, man.

(Sorry. I couldn’t resist.)
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And So March Begins

Cover for the fantasy novel Beasts of Tabat,

Cover for Beasts of Tabat, first volume in the Tabat Quartet.

Things are cranking away as we get ready for the book release. Here’s the cover – the typo that some of you will notice has been addressed. ;)

The book will be available at Emerald City Comicon — find me there at one of my panels, or stop by the Wordfire Press table, which is where I’ll be hanging out when not stalking John Barrowman.

Those panels will be:

Friday, March 27: Fueling Creativity: Sci-Fi and Fantasy Authors on Ideas
Room: Hall B (WSCC 602-603)
Time: 3:30PM – 4:20PM
Moderator: David Hulton

Guest(s): Cat Rambo, Greg Bear, Ramez Naam, Jason M. Hough, Myke Cole
Authors often dread the interview question “where did you get the idea for this book?” because the answer is never simple. There’s rarely a single moment where an entire plot or world comes to mind. This panel is an exploration of why that’s such a difficult question to answer. Our panel of novelists will discuss the many ways they find inspiration for their work. In addition, they’ll talk about the wonderful and often strange ways an idea will find its way into a novel.

Sunday, March 29: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations
Room: Hall B (WSCC 602-603)
Time: 10:30AM – 11:20AM
Moderator: Anna Alexander

Guest(s): Cat Rambo, Garth Reasby
Diversity in entertainment is both vital and challenging. This panel of novelists will cover how to effectively write compelling characters who are different than you and how to deal with critics of who you are versus your work. Panelists include Anna Alexander, Jamie Ford, Cat Rambo, Aaron Duran, J.R. Terrel, Garth Reasby, and Sarah Remy.

I’ll also be appearing at ICFA March 18-22, and will be leading an informational meeting about SFWA there.

Plenty of stuff is lined up for the blog over the next two months, including:

  • Several giveaways
  • Lots of guest posts, including experts talking about writing for games and comic books, how to write more than one series at the same time, food and fantasy, writing collaboratively, and more!
  • Pieces of original fiction related to the book
  • Essays on the writers that influenced the book
  • Links to appearances elsewhere
  • Snippets from the sequel, Hearts of Tabat

I will not be teaching or taking on any new editing projects in March; I will be mailing out soon about April and May classes.

#sfwapro

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How to Apply for SFWA Membership with Small Press or Self-Published Credentials

Photo of Cat Rambo with Dark Vader and stormtrooper

Preparing to take on even more challenges ahead.

As you may know, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, (aka SFWA) had a membership vote and changed their membership criteria pretty drastically, admitting self-published and small press members to apply if they can prove they’re making an amount of money equivalent to the advance a writer would make from a traditional publisher and qualify for SFWA: three thousand dollars over the course of a year. The year does not need to be Jan-Dec, and it can be any period after January 1, 2013.

Income can come from crowdfunding, but in that case, the book must have been delivered to the funders in a timely fashion. You can combine advance and royalties, but they must fall in the same twelve months.

The income is net, not gross. If you spend ten thousand bucks printing books and then sell them for three thousand dollars, that would not count. Mainly this is there to keep people from faking their way in and I’m not too worried about small publishing expenses counting here, myself.

How do you prove income? Right now, we’ll look at whatever people think is reasonable. As the month progresses, we’ll start knowing what is and isn’t reasonable.

This is all very new, and I know we’ll be deciding many cases as we go along. I also expect there will be delays at first as we get the process working and people flowing through the pipeline.

You can find out more on the SFWA site. The application form is there. I apologize for the fact that it’s not entirely suited to self-pub apps so far – we’re working on that, and I’d be glad to hear your suggestions.

Got questions? I can answer them here if you like.

Note from a question that arose in this morning’s e-mail: Active members CAN qualify through self-published short fiction; that got left out of the official webpage and I’ve got a request in to add it.

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SFWA Presidential Platform Statement

Cat at World Fantasy Convention 2012

Visiting with a constituent at World Fantasy Con.

Dear SFWA members:

Yep, I’m running for President, even though that’s a two year term. I’ve got a number of projects I want to see through, and this seems the best way to do it. The self-pub and small press qualifications amendment has passed, and I’d like to help SFWA adjust to that large change.

You’ve seen me in action as vice president for a year. I don’t know that it was the most representative year since I spent most of it on the road, but I think I’ve demonstrated that even when other stuff crops up, I do stick around. I had to put a couple of projects on the back burner while waiting for the selfpub/small press qualifiying vote to shake out but now that the vote has passed, I hope to pick up those loose ends. By now, I’m starting to get more of a handle for the internal workings of SFWA, and that should help me be even more effective.

I’ve fixed a few small problems, and I’ve got some other stuff in motion that will solve others. Some of that is fairly visible, such as the push to make it easier for volunteers to find roles within SFWA. Overall SFWA is still suffering some growing pains, and I’ve found my experience as management very helpful there.

Most of you that have worked with me know that I’ve got decent people skills and a solid work ethic. When it comes to the various factions that clash occasionally, I’ve got friends on most sides and pride myself on trying to listen and understand where people are coming from. I’ve tried to be good about touching base with other members of the SFWA team and working well with them, including weekly Google Hangout sessions and phone calls. I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong, and I try to learn from both my mistakes and what other people pass along. Aside from deciding to run, I am reasonably sane.
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Catching Up, Plus An Excerpt From Hearts of Tabat

Photo of a clock shaped like a Neko Cat, altered with the Percolator app.

This Sunday’s online class is Literary Techniques in Genre Fiction. Come and pick up some new tools to use in your fiction!

Hello folks! January has been crazy, and I have been bad about blogging. One thing I’m going to be doing going forward is scattering in some food posts, because I’m cooking a lot this year as well as working with the SFWA Cookbook Project.

BEASTS OF TABAT is coming out on March 27, 2015, at Emerald City ComicCon, which is very exciting, but also blindingly fast. If you want to get news about the book and other projects, please sign up for my mailing list:

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Meanwhile, I’m working away on two book projects, one a YA novel, the other Book 2 of the Tabat Quartet, HEARTS OF TABAT. It picks up halfway through BEASTS OF TABAT and involves three of the secondary characters. Book 3, EXILES OF TABAT, will take up the characters from BEASTS OF TABAT again at the point where BEASTS leaves off. Book 4, GODS OF TABAT, is plotted but I’m still figuring out the viewpoint stuff.
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The Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated Awards Process

Image of a baby two-toed sloth, taken at the Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica.

This is a baby two-toed sloth. I figured it would be more appealing than an award logo.

Hugo nominations have opened and with that, an array of canvassing and promotion techniques have begun to be deployed, which will no doubt continue until the actual awards are awarded and everyone can briefly calm down before a new season begins.

The thing I’m not fond of, which has arisen in recent years, is the idea that one should vote according to one’s politics, and plunk down a vote for the “right” books without bothering to read them. Some people like to justify this by pointing to something that is undeniably true — the award is often less often the expression of the opinion of SF fans overall than that of a small subset of those fans and sometimes — perhaps even often — popularity, access to high-traffic websites, or other factors not related to quality of writing affects those results. In these cases, that’s usually used as a justification for throwing the votes in what’s perceived in the opposite direction.

And my reply is this: FFS, people, read stuff and vote for the stories you like, the stories which YOU find well-crafted and appealing. Go download the excellent Campbell sampler that Marc Blake has been putting together each year and take the time to read through it. Look at the ‘year’s best’ lists. Ask people what they liked that you might. Look at the five kerjillion “here’s what I have eligible this year” posts, particularly if you have a favorite author and want to make sure you don’t miss anything by them.

But read it and apply your standards to it and then vote for what you thought was the best story/novella/whatever. Anyone telling you to vote any other way, anyone offering their work and saying “you should vote for this because we belong to the same category” rather than “I hope you’ll vote for it if you like it” has an agenda that is not at all about quality of writing.
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Recent Stuff: Book! More Book! I Like 2015 So Far!

Cat Rambo and Connie Willis

Here I am with one of my personal heroes, Connie Willis. In Chez Rambo, we have a frequent saying: What would Connie do?

I’ve announced it on social media, But I haven’t blogged about it yet, so I wanted to pass along some terrific news.

As some of you know, I have a novel that is the first volume of a fantasy quartet that I’ve been shopping around for a while. It’s a great pleasure to be able to announce that BEASTS OF TABAT will appear this year from Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta’s stellar Wordfire Press. Now that I have some confidence that the books will appear, I’m finding that words on the second book, HEARTS OF TABAT, are flowing much much MUCH more easily, and that’s been my primary focus this week.

But! I have additional great news, which is that Hydra House will be publishing a second two-sided collection from me, this time full of fantasy stories. NEITHER HERE NOR THERE will also be appearing in 2015, which makes this a great year so far and we’re only halfway through month one.

Because I am insane and always taking on too many things, here’s a new one I’m involved with, a Seattle area event calendar/blog for speculative fiction, Supernatural Seattle. If you’re interested in helping out with that project, drop me a line.

I’ve also updated my About page with the appearances that I know of so far in 2015. I think I will be in Oklahoma in early May, but am still nailing that appearance down. In any case, it looks like it will be a fun year, and one thing that I’m particularly looking forward to are the Nebula Awards, which take place in early June in Chicago.

Reminder: this weekend I’ve got an online class coming up, Editing 101, that focuses on revision and rewriting. Sign up and learn how to make your sentences sing. If you can’t make it but want to make sure you get news of upcoming classes, sign up for my mailing list.

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WIP: Ms. Liberty Splits Up the Superb Squadron

Cover of ebook Ms. Liiberty Gets a Haircut

The WIP is a prequel to “Ms. Liberty Gets a Haircut.”

The meeting room had been storage area originally. Like everything else in the laboratory converted into headquarters, it was cramped, incredibly cramped, and more soon because of the outsized table someone had jammed into the middle. Chairs were crammed in around, an assortment of styles and shapes, as though everyone had elected to bring their own seating arrangement. In a corner was a small triangular table, holding a battered coffee pot and a perpetually empty plate.

They were the first to arrive, and Ms. Liberty took the opportunity to select, not the sturdiest chair (a hefty wooden bench) in the room, which the Unicorn would probably need, but the second sturdiest. Her augmented flesh was denser than that of most of the other team members, and she thought that breaking a chair would be a bad way to start off her first week with the team. The chair she picked was made of metal and was unyielding underneath her ans she sat down. She tried to relax into it, tried to assume the pose that would convey her attitude when others entered the room: not too eager but certainly on the alert.

Meanwhile, X wandered the corners of the room, extruded a long thin tentacle, which thoroughly explored the inner workings of the coffeepot, fingered the edges of the map of the world thumbtacked to the wall next to the nonfunctioning video screen. Over Antarctica, someone had scrawled in barely legible green pen, “Kilroy was here.” Air blew in through the vents, the only real source of sound in the room other than their breathing and the sounds of their movement.

The clock on the wall, which hung a little askew as though buffeted somehow in the past, clicked, and the hand clicked over to a minute before the hour. The door swung open and Dr. Raffy emerged, arms full of navy-blue folders stamped with the Squadron’s logo. He nodded at both of them and began to put a folder at each seat. X turned into a porcupine and waddled over to take the seat next to Ms. Liberty, a plain pine kitchen chair, its seat well-worn with use.

The Gladhander was the next to appear. “Ladies, gentleman…” He smirked as he slid into his chair, a leather Aeron that gave silently underneath him. The door opened again to show the Silver Juggler and Ballboy, both looking ill at ease and unhappy.

At the hour, Dr. Raffy began to speak, despite the lack of the Unicorn.
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