Where I’ll Be: WorldCon 2018

Thursday I will be at the SFWA board meeting. Huzzah!

Friday, August 17

8-10 am SFWA Business Meeting SJCC 210DH

11 AM Successfully Negotiating Book Contracts SJCC 211C
A publisher’s interest and an author’s are not always in perfect alignment. Enter the contract. Each clause in the contract exists for a reason. Which ones protect an author’s interest and which ones benefit the publisher? How do you ask for changes? What are the rights an author should be prepared to give up and which ones should you fight tooth and nail for. Hear from agents and other industry experts on how to survive your book contract negotiation with your skin, and your rights, intact.

1 PM Un-pulping the Pulp Heroes SJCC 211C
Doc Savage. The Shadow. G8. Tarzan. The hero pulps are full of characters immersed in fast-paced action, but they sometimes come across as problematic or naive to modern readers. It can be uncomfortable to recognize the sexism or racism of their day. And yet, there are still things that we love about pulps. How have pulp heroes influenced contemporary SF writers (in surprising and strange ways)? How are writers currently reinventing and subverting pulps?

3 PM What Can SFWA Offer Me SJCC 210F
Learn what SFWA has to offer authors at all stages of their careers, from networking opportunities to sample contracts to the grievance committee. SFWA’s officers will provide an update on what SFWA is doing and where the organization is going and answer questions from potential (or current) members.

Saturday, August 18

1 PM Autographing

2 PM Idea Vs. Story SJCC 212D
The common question “where do you get your ideas” baffles most writers, because the ideas are all around them. The question should be, “How do you go from an idea to a story.” In this deep dive, we look at techniques to do just that.

5 PM Chasing Shadows: Living in Our Transparent Society SJCC 210B
Camera phones are ubiquitous, security cameras monitor many street corners, drones scout the skies, police wear bodycams, facial recognition technology is developing, and social networking allows everyone to keep an eye on everyone else. Is it the surveillance nightmare of Big Brother, or has our technology made possible a realm of sousveillance, where we can monitor those in power and keep them in check? What are the advantages and disadvantages of living in a brave new world, bathed in light?

6-8 PM SFWA Suite

Sunday

9 AM Patreon/Student breakfast
Mail me for details, still setting this up, will NOT be fancy. 😉

4-8 SFWA Suite

Most of the time you will find me in the SFWA suite but I’ve listed the times I will definitely be there!

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Guest Post: Tiffany Meurat Talks About Two Reasons Day Jobs Are Good For Writers

I sat at a desk that I shared with two other people as a piece of paper was handed to me from my boss. I was nineteen years old, my boss was my dad, and the paper was an estimate for repairs for one of our clients. I don’t recall for what repairs exactly or even the cost, except that this client was going to be pissed at whoever was unfortunate enough to deliver the expensive news.

“You need to call them,” I was told. And that was that.

My father had started his pool company from scratch one year before I was born. I had worked a few jobs before joining the family ranks, but eventually landed there out of convenience and a false notion that it would be a simple job—answering phones, taking messages and the like. Perhaps even a little filing. Having just dropped out of university that year, just having any job at all was my only career ambition at that moment.

So, the estimate in hand, I called the client with zero idea just how to properly approach the topic of “I know money is tight for you, but here’s an estimate for lots of money and, oh, your pool won’t work until it’s fixed”. It did not go well. I said something stupid. Then I spent the next hour or so apologizing to both the client and my boss/dad. And right there in that moment of customer service hell, I also began to understand the cunning power of words.

I continued to learn through multiple failures, out of self-preservation to not get yelled at. I learned about words through phone calls and faxes and emails, through hirings and firings, through employee reviews and business acquisitions. I learned by drafting proposals and contracts. I learned while attending conventions and conferences and pool industry galas (yes folks, this is absolutely a thing).

Being the poster child for introversion and working in one the most customer facing industries on the planet, I taught myself how to articulate properly in order to get people out of my personal space bubble as quickly and efficiently as possible. This meant knowing how to talk to them, knowing how to manipulate the situation, how to arm myself with just the right word at just the right moment to mitigate shit blowing up in my face.

At nineteen I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be a “real” writer yet. I was still in the mapping-out-battle-scenes-in-my-journal stage of writing. I hadn’t even the faintest idea of how to structure a basic scene, let alone a novel. Yet there I was, getting a crash course of the versatility of words, whether I wanted it or not.

At a speaking event I attended recently, author Kim Stanley Robinson touched on the benefits of day jobs for writers. It was a refreshing take, considering the engagement was hosted by Arizona State University and attended in bulk by students, of which I was not. Nothing makes you feel more like a flame out loser than surrounding yourself with a room full of MFA candidates, and as I was shrinking into my seat, feeling woefully outclassed as a full time pool lady, part time writer, Mr. Robinson began to speak about yet a second creative benefit to day jobs—mining the work place for inspiration.

I immediately perked up, piecing together all the ways I was already doing just that. How I used the eccentricities and flare and dynamism of the people I work with, incorporated so many of their quirks, their smiles and their hair styles, to turn my characters paper skin to flesh—The grandfather that kept a dedicated drawer in his work desk for Hillshire Farms meat, the coworker that interrupted a work meeting to announce the name of his car (Trixie), the mother (me) whose kid brushed his teeth with a highlighter one day when brought to work with her.

Authors sometimes see a day job as a hindrance to their writing life. The goal is to eliminate it, but in actuality it can be fuel. It’s life, it’s robust and strange and frustrating and chaotic. The characters are literally kicking down the doors, smashing their faces against the windows, and begging us to buy some girl scout cookies from their kid.

I always joke that the second I could make a living wage off of my writing all you’d see is a me-shaped cloud of dust in my office where I used to sit. And maybe I would dial it back a bit, work part time, but I’m finding more and more that to ditch the day job entirely is not part of my ideal future. It’s far too lucrative.

Or perhaps I’m just saying that to convince myself that it’s totally cool that I haven’t sold a book yet. Time will tell.

Author bio for Tiffany Meurat: Tiffany is a writer and desert dweller from Phoenix, Arizona. Her work can be found or is forthcoming with Four Chambers Press, Eunoia Review, Collective Unrest, Martian, and others. She is most often found wasting time on Twitter as @TMeuretBooks

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Guest Post: Khoa D. Pham Investigates The Waffle House Inspiration

Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (1942) is one of my favorite paintings. There’s something uniquely inspirational in the drama and mystery of strangers gathered at a late-night diner. I also like it because it’s stylistically uncluttered, focused, and full of Mad Men era nostalgia. Recently, I had to pick up some friends from the airport at 5:30 am. Because I like to be painfully early, whether to catch a flight, or to pick people up, I left at 3:00 am. Naturally, I had some time to kill, so I dropped into a nearby Waffle House to see what it might have been like to be one of Hopper’s nighthawks. And also for breakfast.

After a few minutes on the interstate, I took an offramp and made a right turn onto an empty road. The darkness was occasionally punctuated by hotel marquees, stop lights, and an unmistakeable bright, yellow-blocked Waffle House sign. I pulled into the empty parking lot and backed my Jetta under the amber glow of the lone street lamp. At least someone might see me if I got mugged.

Through the windows, I saw a man behind the bar, most likely the cook, and a young lady seated at the end of the counter reading a book. Great, I wasn’t the only nighthawk. And someone should definitely see if I get mugged. I grabbed my trusty notebook from my book-bag and headed in.
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Classes for the Rambo Academy through October

Description of Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, which focuses on online writing classes for genre writers.

Image by Keith Rosson. www.keithrosson.com

Here’s what many of you have been waiting for! The list of classes coming up for the Rambo Academy. I’ll be updating the website over the next couple days but for right now, this is the official, correct, list. Please note there’s some new times here and there!

More classes are in the works, including classes on game and comic writing. Subscribe to the newsletter to get advance notice before they’re posted!

Live classes are taught online via Google hangouts, are limited to 16 participants, and require reliable Internet connection, although in the past participants have logged on from coffee shops, cafes, and even an airplane. A webcam is strongly suggested but not required. If there is an on-demand version of the class, you will be provided with a free coupon for it, so you have access to those notes.

To register for a class, send e-mail with the following details:

  • The email address that you use for Google stuff.
  • Which class or classes and the dates.
  • Whether you would prefer to pay via Paypal, check, or some other means.
  • Please identify yourself if you are a returning student or support Cat on Patreon to qualify for the special rate.

You should receive confirmation of your registration within 48 hours.

Free scholarships: If you cannot afford a class but really want to take one, apply for a Plunkett Scholarship. Each class has a slot reserved for such a student, and the sole criteria is that you can’t afford the class but really think it would be useful for you. To apply, mail me with your name, the class name/date, and a brief statement about why you want to take the class. QUILTBAG and PoC candidates are especially encouraged to apply. The Plunkett Scholarships are named for Edward Plunkett, who wrote as Lord Dunsany. Scholarship recipients will be notified the week before the class.

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Where I’ll Be: GenCon 2018

Here’s my schedule for GenCon this year. Come say hi if you’re there too!

Thursday
12:00 PM Ballrooms 3-4 Creatures Great and Small: A Speculative Bestiary
3:00 PM Atlanta Space Opera: SF, Fantasy, Romance?
4:00 PM Atlanta Using the Scientific Method in Spec Fic

Friday
11:00 AM Austin What’s Hot and What’s Not: Fantasy
1:00 PM Atlanta Interstellar Travel
4:00 PM Signing Table Signing–Cat Rambo, Erin Evans, Chris Jackson
7:00 PM Worldbuilders Fundraising Event

Saturday
12:00 PM Austin What Makes a Story Science Fiction?
1:00 PM Boston The Morphing of the Story
2:00 PM Boston Surviving Social Media
3:00 PM Ballrooms 3-4 The Long and Short of Fiction
5:00 PM Ballroom 1 What is SFWA and What Can It Do For You?

If you’re a student, Patreon supporter, or friend, drop me a line about the Sunday morning group breakfast I’m trying to organize.

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When and Why to Hire an Editor, And What They Should (and Shouldn’t) Do

The question of hiring an editor often comes up in my classes, and since editor for hire is one of the hats I wear, I wanted to provide some overview. There are different kinds of edits. I’m focusing on two: the developmental edit versus the copy edit. You might also hire someone to proofread, where they are simply looking for mistakes and errors, rather than making any editorial suggestions. Continue reading

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Guest Post: N.J. Schrock on Writing Misterioso

In my backyard, I have a tree whose fruit is colored bottles, and it serves a useful purpose. The bottles trap and kill evil spirits. During the night, evil spirits wander into the bottles, and they can’t find their way out—basically like a lobster trap for spirits. Then, when the morning sunlight hits the bottles, the evil spirits, which don’t like sunlight, are burned away. Poof!

Skeptical? Where’s your sense of mystery? The bottle tree legend is believed to have originated in Africa and been brought to the states with African slaves, which is why you’re more likely to see one in the South. Being a transplanted Yankee, I’d never seen a bottle tree until I experienced one years ago at The Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas. It was a thing of beauty, and a sign nearby explained the legend. I thought the idea was so cool that I wanted to have one, but I needed the right structure. Some people use welded metal rods, but I wanted something more organic. So, when our Majestic Indian Hawthorn tree died last year, I saw an opportunity to have a bottle tree although I knew it would take some work.
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Guest Post: Robyn Bennis Provides a Debut Author’s Guide to Social Anxiety

People frighten and confuse me.

It’s not their fault. Well, sometimes it is, but that’s a topic for a different day. Today, I’d like to take you on a journey into the awkward glory of social anxiety. If you don’t suffer from this annoying malady, this article may not be for you, though I’d appreciate it if you’d keep reading anyway, because my second book just came out and heaven knows I need the exposure.

Most people don’t peg me for socially anxious, and I don’t blame them for missing it. I’m chatty enough with people I know, and I’m always the first to throw out an inappropriate comment. Indeed, in groups of more than three but fewer than seven, with at least two friends present, I can be absolutely effervescent. You might even say that I’m the life of a very limited range of small parties.

But if you get me in a crowd and tell me to mingle, you had better be ready for a nervous breakdown.

Have someone you need me to introduce myself to? Sorry, they look really busy sitting alone at that table, quietly refolding their napkin. Maybe later, when they’re not so preoccupied.

Got a small favor I should ask of a friend? That feels too much like imposing.

Trying to make me the center of attention? Then the center of attention is going to be a cloud of dust where I was just standing.

Want me to maintain more than a tenth of a second of nervous eye contact with you? Whoa, save something for marriage there, Speedy McTooFast.
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The Merqueen’s Report: Nebula Awards Weekend, 2018

I will add more pictures in later, editing them in as they get processed. For now, I want to record some of my thoughts and memories from the past weekend and the Nebula Awards conference weekend, before a brand-new weekend eclipses any part of the splendor. Kudoes to the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America events team, particularly Kate Baker, Mary Robinette Kowal, Terra LeMay, Laurie Mann, and Steven H Silver, for work well done.

I flew into Pittsburgh on a Tuesday, getting there late enough that I didn’t look for anyone after checking in, opting instead for a glass of wine, a piece of cheesecake, and quiet reading. In retrospect, that may not have been my smartest move, because my stomach was thoroughly upset by the time I got up the next day.

We (the members of the SFWA board) don’t usually get there on Tuesday, but this year the board was trying something new, a strategic visioning session. As an escapee from the wilds of corporate management, I will admit that I was a little dubious about this but convinced by the end. I’m glad to say that just about everyone from both the incoming and outgoing sets were able to attend and I look forward to catching up the couple of absent folks with all the amazing stuff we got done.
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Guest Post: E.D.E. Bell Serves Up Five Simple Vegan Foods to Try

Hello. I love, read, and write fantasy fiction. Oh, and I’m a vegan.

When I sell my fantasy novels at Comic Cons, I’ll usually sneak a little reference onto the bottom of my table white board, such as Vegan, or Vegan-friendly. In my mind, this covert signal will draw vegans to my table, whispering, “I am one too. Tell me, sister, about your fiction.” Like that first moment of connection in a dystopian novel. This doesn’t happen. Instead, people skip all the other great things on the board, point right to vegan, loudly state, “Look, it says veggan!” and then laugh. This hasn’t dissuaded me from the attempt. About half of those times, someone will ask, “Vegan-friendly fantasy fiction? What’s that?” They laugh. Then when I start to answer, they leave. Even more often, they point and laugh, then turn away.

In my mind, whenever someone asks what could be vegan about fantasy, it proves to me that they’ve never been a vegan reading fantasy. In addition to a lot of the violence and war in the genre (it’s usually a central component, even outside of grimdark), the best scenes feature someone riding their steed in a fine leather vest to grab a hock of ham. I’m not even sure I know what hocks are, but I have concluded they are key to the development of fantasy heroes. So, you know, my fiction is just focused a bit differently. In fact, I think that diversity and exploration is what fantasy is all about.

I’m not here to get into all of that, though. I’m here to talk about one of Cat’s and my favorite subjects: yummy food. Now, I’m not an authority on gourmet cuisine. Go to a vegan restaurant or check out many amazing online vegan chefs for that. (I’m particularly fond of Richa Hingle.) Hey, I’m not even a great cook. But I haven’t eaten meat in almost a quarter century, so I can definitely speak to “what we eat.” Don’t worry. This is just a quick blog to spark some ideas. But if you don’t mind eating plants, here are five simple foods you could give a spin.
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