Finishing a Novel

abstract image to represent the documents of TabatToday I finished Hearts of Tabat. Sure, I’ll go back and do some smoothing before sending it off to beta readers on Monday, but the book is done, the scenes are there, and (roughly) in the order they should be. The last scene took a lot of circling — I went out and walked five miles, came back, poked at it, went into the other room and made some notes, came back and kept pecking away.

I felt resistant to getting that last scene down on paper — I know that after a year and half with this book I am simultaneously exultant that it is, finally, done and sense has been wrestled from the seething mass of incoherence, and at the same time reluctant to let go of what has occupied a substantial part of my head for quite some time.

It’s an odd floaty but incomplete feeling. I feel as though I’m not sure what I should be doing, and a little anxious yet jubilant. There is a certain fear that beta readers will get something and go, “this is not a book”. Particularly when I’m trying something a bit adventurous with the structure, which I’ll save talk of for another time. I think they’ll like it; it’s as rich in Tabatian flavor as the first book and considerably more things happen in this one, to address the main criticism of that first.

Since I haven’t posted any stories on Patreon this month, I put up the first three chapters, but only for patrons. I figure they make the writing of the novels possible by supporting the stories. If you’re a patron, I look forward to hearing what you think.

I know that I need to read through the draft at least once and make sure all the names are correct; they shifted around a lot during the writing and most of the characters have gone through at least two permutations (Ariadne/Adelina, Skilto/Sebastiano, Crocofissia/Serafina) as have some of the surnames. There’s also some scraps of notes I’ve jotted down: loose ends to tuck into the narrative here and there.

But it feels as though there are a lot fewer redundant passages in Hearts than in Beasts, mainly because this manuscript hasn’t, like its poor counterpart, had multiple editors and agents leave their mark on it.

I’m also reassured that being SFWA President will not destroy my career; I wasn’t sure I would be able to finish a book while in office, but here you go. I promised Wayne if I didn’t get two done this year I wouldn’t run again; now I’m halfway.

At seven, I’ve got a Mandarin lesson via Skype, but I’d rather play Fallout. However, I will be good, and make poor Grace listen to my vowels and exhort me to “practiss, more practiss” before I will go indulge. Tomorrow I will plunge in the other big project due at the end of the month and frantically plow through that, but for the rest of the night, I get to play video games and not feel a gram of guilt for doing so.

May is for getting the YA novel finished; it’s currently about half written. I finally figured out the title, which is Conflagration.

Posted in Writing | Tagged , | 17 Comments

How I Use Instagram

picture of a tortoiseshell cat

My instagram features household cats Raven and Taco plus downstairs restaurant cat Maggie. This is Taco.

Still working frantically on the update for the Creating an Online Presence for Writers book, plus prepping for this weekend’s online class. One big change since the last version is Instagram‘s rocket upward in popularity. Here in 2016, it is the number two social media network in number of users, second only after Facebook.

It lets you post pictures, often with some sort of caption, and see what other people are posting. Unlike Facebook, it doesn’t play fast and loose with what you see, but gives you a stream composed of everyone you’re following.

Instagram features a number of filters as well as some basic editing tools that can be applied to uploaded photos. You can add extra filters with the 100 Cameras in 1 app or if you would like to edit the image extensively, try Pixlr-o-matic (

Random thrift store objects make great Instagram pictures.

Random thrift store objects make great Instagram pictures.

For me, the two major advantages to Instagram are that a) it’s accessible via my cell phone, which I have with me far more often than my computer, plus b ) it connects with several other social networks, so I can grab a picture at an event, post it to Instagram, and have it autopost in turn to Facebook and Twitter. Similarly, I use it in the kitchen or at restaurant to snap pictures of food.

What do I post overall? Here’s a breakdown of the last 100 Instagram photos on my stream. Only five categories (event, books, and writing process photos) might be considered promotional; you’ll note those pictures occur roughly one in five times; even there, none of them directly sell a book, just mention it, and many are focused on other people and/or their work.

  • things that amused or delighted me: 17
  • food I’ve cooked: 12
  • the cats: 10
  • miscellaneous travel photos: 7
  • miscellaneous household photos: 7
  • miscellaneous event photos: 6
  • books: 5
  • my writing process: 5
  • birds: 4
  • flowers: 3
  • photos from the cat calendar Aunt Nona gave us for Christmas with sundry amusing handwritten additions: 3
  • refrigerator poems: 3
  • restaurant food: 3
  • sunsets: 3
  • clouds: 2
  • dioramas constructed of household objects: 2
  • my shoes: 2
  • rainbows: 2
  • the foam on top of my latte, hashtagged #seattle: 2
  • photos of friends/family: 2
  • other people at events: 1
  • selfies with people at events: 1
  • selfies: 1
  • things that creeped me out: 1
  • holiday collage: 1
Posted in classes & workshops | Tagged , | 13 Comments

For Writers: How to Blog Without Really Trying But Still Managing Not to Be Half-Assed About It

photo of a cat sleeping on its back

This cat isn’t blogging. Should they be?

I’m teaching my Creating an Online Presence Class this weekend and also going through a madcap rush to update the accompanying book. The class and book are aimed at helping people tame the bewildering timesink of social media, website, pocasts, search engines, and other facets of online existence for writers. One of the things I try to teach how to use online time efficiently, because writing and editing time is precious and time spent doing other things is time you’re not writing or editing. So here’s some things about blogging.

Is A Blog Mandatory?

No. But it’s advisable. You do want readers to be able to find you online and, more importantly, to find your work. You do want a website (and a mailing list, but that’s another post), but your website can be a static presence, something you put up and don’t update very often. In fact, if you have very minimal time to invest or otherwise want to limit your online presence to the bare bones, don’t include a blog. Few things look sadder than a blog with a single entry from five years ago, usually about trying to make oneself blog.

Something You Can Always Blog About

One reason to blog on your website is that it means the website is being updated frequently, which makes the site more likely to turn up on search engine results. So here’s two ways you can generate a weekly post. The first depends on having a social media presence; the second does not.

  1. Social Media version: If you’re posting links and observations on social media, you can collect the best of those into a post. They don’t have to be related to writing; you’re allowed to have other interests. Five to ten links with one or two sentence explanations as to why you picked them. There you go. Shazam, you have a post.
  2. Non Social Media version: Every week, pick an interesting chunk (I suggest 300-700 words) from what you’ve worked on the past week and post it.

Your own writing is something you can speak about with authority.

Your own writing is something you can speak about with authority. Pull out a passage that you’re particularly proud of, or that you definitely want input on. Pick an interesting moment or intriguing scene.

If you want to be thorough with that second approach, you can place it in context for readers. Here’s some possible questions to answer.

  • What is the project, the genre, the inspiration?
  • Are those the final character/setting names or placeholders?
  • What’s the title and how does it relate to the story?
  • What’s the setting based on? What are you trying to accomplish in this bit?
  • What are you particularly fond of?
  • What do you definitely plan to go back and fix in the revision?
  • What aren’t you sure about?
  • What do you intend to do with the piece when you finish?
  • What would you compare the piece to, either in your own work or that of others?
  • What do you want readers to get out of the piece?

Certainly there are ways to get the most bang for the effort out of these posts: include an image, have a good tagging system, make the most of keywords. But those are advanced techniques, and unnecessary to this basic effort.

If You Only Hate Writing about Writing

As I mentioned above, you do not have to blog about writing. In fact, the world is full of posts about avoiding adverbs, and you probably do not have anything to say on the subject that has not already been said. So blog about something else.

Blog about your adventures in learning how to pickle vegetables or speak Mandarin. Document some longterm project like your garden remodel or the bookstore your partner is opening. In a pinch, you can always fall back on writing about the books you’re reading. The most interesting and effective blogs out there don’t just show you the writer’s writing, but something about them as a person.

Always Be Closing is NOT a Good Axiom for Writers

While all writers need to think about how to help readers find their work, if they are too pushy about forcing them to it, those readers will balk and go no further. Don’t make your website all about sell sell sell. Don’t make it your social media focus nor what you blog about over and over again. You will be wasting your time and driving away fans.

That’s why showing readers scraps from your writing is effective. You are giving them something that is (hopefully) genuinely interesting here and now. If they like it, they may look for it later on when it comes out. Let your writing and its quality do the work of selling for you and don’t worry about the set of steak knives. Just write.


Posted in selling things | Tagged , , , , | 30 Comments

This Weekend’s Classes: Beginnings & Endings (Saturday) and Character Building Workshop (Sunday)

photo of a man in hello kitty armor

Taken at last year’s con, but I don’t know the gentleman’s name, unfortunately.

I’ve still got room in this weekend’s classes, Beginnings & Endings (Saturday morning) and the Character Building workshop (Sunday morning). In the first, I’m going to talk about a number of things, including how to use your beginning to create your ending and vice versa, what your beginning sets up for your reader, what your beginning and ending must contain, how to most effectively use title + beginning + ending, and various other tips and tricks. There will be 3-4 quick writing exercises over the course of the class designed to help you apply what we’re talking about in order to effectively add it to your writerly toolbox.

The Character Building Workshop is familiar to some of you, and I always love teaching it because I come away with at least a couple of wordlumps that end up being part of the current WIP as well as better insight into the characters I’m working with. Come join us if you want a little inspiration for your current project.
Register by mailing me at or with the name and date of the class you’re interested in. And please feel free to pass this newsletter along to friends and fellow writers you think might be interested!

April Classes
April 16 (Sat, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Beginnings and Endings
April 17 (Sun, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Character Building Workshop
April 23 (Sat, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Creating an Online Presence for Writers
April 24 (Sun, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Description and Delivering Information
April 30 (Sat, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Flash Fiction Workshop

May Classes
May 1 (Sun, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) First Pages with Caren Gussoff
May 14, (Sat, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Moving from Idea to Finished Draft
May 15 (Sun, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Literary Techniques for Genre Writers
May 21 (Sat, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Retelling and Retaleing with Rachel Swirsky
May 22 (Sun, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Literary Techniques for Genre Writers II

June Classes
June 3 (Sat, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Writing Your Way Into Your Novel
June 4 (Sun, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Moving from Idea to Finished Draft


Posted in teaching | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Answers to Some Galaktika Magazine Questions

I’ve been following the controversy with Galaktika with particular interest because there are a number of SFWA members involved. My thanks to A. G. Carpenter for graciously sharing what they found out. In the process of talking to people, I dropped Istvan Burger a mail because I had these questions:

  1. Would all writers be paid, preferably without their having to contact Galaktika?
  2. Would all translators be paid? (my understanding was that the same lack of payment has happened with them.)
  3. For any online stories, would authors be able to request that the story be taken down?
  4. Would a process be put in place to ensure this never happens again?

Here’s the reply:

Dear Cat,
I’m writing on behalf of Istvan Burger, editor in chief of Galaktika.

We’d like to ask authors to contact us directly to agree on compensation methods. You can give my email address to the members.

The short stories were published in a monthly magazine, which was sold for two months, so these prints are not available any more. So Authors don’t need to withdraw their works. As we wrote in our statement, there is no problem with novels, as all the rights of novels were paid by us in time.

Also let me emphasise again that all the translators were paid all the time!

You can quote my reply. Thank you for your help!

Best regards,
Katalin Mund,
Manager of Galaktika Magazine

Next week SFWA will be sending Galaktika a list of affected SFWA members who need to be compensated. If you’re a member whose work was published in Galaktika and want to make sure you’re on the list, please drop me an e-mail, message me, or leave a comment here.

Later addendum: I requested clarification about the magazine not being available for longer than two months since there seem to be digital editions for sale on the website, which would seem to contradict that statement. I was told that authors will be able to withdraw their stories from the electronic editions if they so desire.

Posted in publishing | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Patreon Post: Web of Blood and Iron

picture of steampunk woman against a clockThis is the short story that I read from at Norwescon this year; many thank yous to the people who turned out to listen on the last day of the con when many of us were tired and hungover and ready to go home and gorge on Easter candy.

This is part of the Altered America steampunk series, even though it takes place on the European continent. If you’re curious about the others in the series they fall in this chronological order:

Clockwork Fairies
Laurel Finch, Laurel Finch, Where Do You Wander?
Her Windowed Eyes, Her Chambered Heart
Snakes on a Train
Rappacini’s Crow
Rare Pears and Greengages (contained in Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight)

There will be more; I’m finishing up another Artemus and Elspeth story, this time set in Matamoros, Mexico, which should go up next month. I’m also collecting these in an ebook that will go out free to Patreon subscribers within the next two months.

As always, I’m releasing this for free due to the support of my Patreon followers; please check out Patreon if you want to help fund creators doing what they (and you) love best.

So here you are:

Web of Blood and Iron

The Hotel Gevaudan put manservants and maids up in their own rooms, one attic below the hotel staff: housekeepers, valets, clerks, kitchen help. The manager lived on-site as well, his family taking up half the floor below that. I’d heard his children more than once playing blind man’s bluff and squeak piggy squeak in the back stairwells.

I wouldn’t have minded a room to myself, but instead I had a cot in his Lordship’s suite, down on the third floor. I was lying there enjoying the Cannes sounds of birds and street bustle and funeral rumble of the trains and reading when I heard the door fumbled open and Lord Albert lurch in.

Alive for another day.
Continue reading

Posted in patreon | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

WIP: No Clue What the Title Is Yet

Photograph of a diagram showing the different kinds of starting points for a story.

A story in very rough form.

Working on a far future space story that is getting very complicated with its gender stuff. This is one of the things that annoys me sometimes about future space stuff — that it superimposes early 21st century (sometimes earlier) gender patterns in a way that I know is hard to avoid but which infuriates me when it’s unquestioned. I just reread The Pride of Chanur (OMG how is that out of print in hardcopy??) yesterday and love the way Cherryh handles the question.

Hence this story of two cultures clashing, and both the gender norms and the norms around the sex act are getting tangled up in interesting ways.

Anyhow, this is currently the story’s beginning (and is a good candidate to remain the beginning):

Continue reading

Posted in teasers | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Cat’s Schedule: Norwescon 2016

Fri 11:00 AM-12:00 PM – Cascade 7&8
Catching Readers, Hook, Line, & Sinker
Cat Rambo (M), Gregory A. Wilson, Leslie Howle, Jude-Marie Green, Tori Centanni

Fri 12:00 PM-1:00 PM – Cascade 3&4
The Language of Gender
Cat Rambo (M), Jason Bourget, Sar Surmick, Amber Clark, David J. Peterson

Fri 3:00 PM-4:00 PM – Cascade 7&8
That’s Not What My Teacher Said
Cat Rambo (M), Robert J. Sawyer, Tori Centanni

Sat 9:00 AM-10:00 AM – Pro Suite
SFWA Meeting
Cat Rambo (M)

Sat 11:00 AM-12:00 PM – Cascade 7&8
Why Fantasy Matters
Cat Rambo (M), Peter Orullian, Catherine Cooke Montrose, Carol Berg, Spencer Ellsworth

Sat 1:00 PM-2:00 PM – Evergreen 3&4
Finding Diverse Voices & Characters in SF/F
Marta Murvosh (M), Cat Rambo, J. F. High, Lisa Bolekaja

Sat 2:00 PM-3:00 PM – Grand 2
Autograph Session 1
Amber Bariaktari , Caroline M. Yoachim, Dave Bara, Dean Wells, Erik Scott de Bie, G. Willow Wilson, James C. Glass, Jennifer Brozek, John (J.A.) Pitts, Kristi Charish, Django Wexler, Frog Jones, Rhiannon Held, Sonia Orin Lyris, S. A. Bolich, Morgue Anne, Robert J. Sawyer, Spencer Ellsworth, Steven Barnes, Tori Centanni, Cat Rambo, Don Maitz, GregRobin Smith, Jeremy Zimmerman, Laura Anne Gilman

Sat 3:00 PM-4:00 PM – Cascade 2
Characters Bearing Witness
Cat Rambo (M), John (J.A.) Pitts, Laura Anne Gilman, Lillian Cohen-Moore, Sonia Orin Lyris

Sun 10:00 AM-11:00 AM – Evergreen 3&4
Stranger than Fiction
Cat Rambo (M), Jason Vanhee, Alex C. Renwick, Ann Shilling, Grant T. Riddell

Sun 1:00 PM-1:30 PM – Cascade 1
Reading: Cat Rambo
Cat Rambo (M) Still not sure what I’m reading, but I promise it will be something new.

Posted in conventions | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Online Writing Class News for March/April/May/June

Photo of a tortoiseshell cat.

This is Taco

Here’s the most recent class listing and important news about the Writing F&SF Stories and Advanced Story workshops.

I will be offering two sections of the Writing F&SF workshop and one of the Advanced Story Workshop, but they are dependent on getting at least five students in order to make it financially feasible for me. If you want to sign up for one, comment or drop me a line with the information about which class and what times work best for you, and I will be announcing dates as they solidify. Expressing interest does not commit you, but lets me gauge whether or not there is enough interest in a date/time slot to make it viable. You will not need to pay until the week before the class starts; the overall workshops will be six two or two and a half hour sessions, depending on the number of students enrolled.

Reserve a spot in a class by mailing me at catrambo AT Cost is $99 per one day class for new students; $79 for former students (this includes taking workshops with me at conventions or other face to face events.) Payment can be made by Paypal or check (if you need some alternate method, please mail me to confirm it’s okay.) I’m happy to answer questions here or in e-mail! I am also willing to entertain barter offers.

Alphabetical List of Classes Offered in March/April/May 2016

Beginnings and Endings
Character Building Workshop
Creating an Online Presence for Writers
Description and Delivering Information Workshop
First Pages Workshop
Flash Fiction Workshop
Literary Techniques for Genre Fiction
Literary Techniques for Genre Fiction II
Moving Your Story From Idea to Finished Draft
Re-Telling and Re-Taleing (with Rachel Swirsky)
Rewriting, Revising & Fine-tuning Your Fiction
Writing F&SF Story 6-Week Workshop
Writing Your Way Into Your Novel

March Classes
March 19 (Sat, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Writing Your Way Into Your Novel
March 20 (Sun, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Creating an Online Presence for Writers

April Classes
April 16 (Sat, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Beginnings and Endings
April 17 (Sun, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Character Building Workshop
April 23 (Sat, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Creating an Online Presence for Writers
April 24 (Sun, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Description and Delivering Information
April 30 (Sat, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Flash Fiction Workshop

May Classes
May 1 (Sun, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) First Pages with Caren Gussoff
May 14, (Sat, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Moving from Idea to Finished Draft
May 15 (Sun, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Literary Techniques for Genre Writers
May 21 (Sat, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Retelling and Retaleing with Rachel Swirsky
May 22 (Sun, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Literary Techniques for Genre Writers II

June Classes
June 3 (Sat, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Writing Your Way Into Your Novel
June 4 (Sun, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Moving from Idea to Finished Draft
June 10 (Sat, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Description and Delivering Information
June 11 (Sun, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) First Pages with Caren Gussoff
June 19 (Sun, 9:30-11:30 AM PST) Rewriting, Revising, & Finetuning Your Fiction

Can’t make it to a class but it sure looks tempting? Check and see if I offer an on-demand version here:

If you’d like to receive my weekly newsletter, which features class information, market tips, news of stories and a monthly giveaway, please sign up below.

Posted in classes & workshops | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

WIP: The Ghost Installers

photo of an electric ghostHere’s a bit from the story I’m trying to finish up today, a young adult piece tentatively entitled “The Ghost Installers.” It actually came out of a dream that I had – a good reason to be keeping a dream journal.

We talked about that recently in a class – the need to listen to your unconscious mind, to pay attention to dreams and serendipitous slips of the tongue. To nourish it with a variety of arts and make sure its senses are satisfied. To give it space in which to express itself. Sometimes when I’m drawing, that’s when a story that’s mentally knotted begins to untwist itself and show me what my mind is trying to do with it.

The dream was just a moment, an image/situation that I won’t describe for fear of spoilers. Talking to Wayne about it the next morning, I found a story idea emerging, which we batted back and forth, applying the classic try/fail, try/fail, try/succeed algorithm, until it was fleshed out to the point that I jotted down a 250 word outline. Now I’m working through that from scene one till the end, but I think if I get stuck along the way, I might try moving to the ending and writing it, advice from this excellent post about writing process by Kameron Hurley that I wanted to point to.
Continue reading

Posted in teasers | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments