Critclub a Few Days In

A few days ago, I implemented #Critclub, tying the Chez Rambo Discord server more tightly into the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers and providing a way for F&SF to swap critiques online. People seem excited about this, and the Patreon campaign has seen an uptick. A few people have taken me up on the offer of scholarships – thank you!

A nice little bump of people have appeared on the channel as a result and we’ve been doing things like sorting out how the critiquing system will work. We have added the first custom emoji, a rainbow kittywumpus 🙂 courtesy awesome community moderator, Frances KR.

Writing sprints and discussion of process as well as substantial amounts of con discussion have all taken place, as well as some swapping of market news and much use of the rejoice and venting rooms. In short, happy small steps towards the sort of thriving writing community I’m hoping to build, happening at a manageable rate and letting people invest in it by helping shape it.

On September 19, 5 – 6 PM Pacific time, participants will be able to submit live questions for the class I’ll be doing for Gregory Wilson’s channel on Twitch, “Applying Algorithms” in which I’ll talk about how to use the rules of storytelling to make your fiction more effective. This is the fourth of these classes I’ve done, and they’re always a lot of fun, plus a chance for me to beta test classes I’m thinking about teaching.

In other news I’ve been working away on checking the edits from my editor for Tor novel, You Sexy Thing, which will come out in November of 2020, and putting together an initial list of potential blurbers to send him. At the same time, I’m getting The Five, the MG space opera I’ve written, ready to go out to beta readers, and prepping to add some scenes with writing sprints next week. After that I’ll turn back to getting Exiles of Tabat (due out May 2020 from Wordfire Press) ready for beta readers and writing the sequel to You Sexy Thing, tentatively titled Devil’s Gun.

If you’re at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association next weekend, please come to my workshops! I will have postcards with a free class on them, plus books for sale. 🙂 Similarly if you’ll be at the Surrey International Writers Conference in October, please check out my classes there! Can’t make it to either of those? I do have some live classes coming up; you’ll always find the latest news and most comprehensive list of those listed here.

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(Guest Post) R.J. Theodore on Secondary Worlds Without Monocultures: POV, Cultural Perspective, and Worldbuilding

I cut my SFF teeth on Star Trek, and I credit The Next Generation as setting me on the path to becoming an SFF author. But I lament the monocultures encountered on those Starfleet missions as a missed opportunity. Monocultures may catch attention as a hook, but the believability crumbles when the reader has a lengthy stay and finds that they lack real depth.

My favorite part of writing SFF is inviting the reader to explore new worlds with unearthly mechanics, magic systems, or zoology that entrance the imagination. But what imprints a story on the reader’s soul is the ability to relate to the experience. The real world contains multitudinous experiences, cultures, and viewpoints. It’s important to reflect that in our stories, even if we are zooming in on a more intimate story.

Avoiding monoculture by creating characters who have different experiences makes a story feel vibrant, more faithful, and realistic. When those characters interact, it adds conflict, tension, and opportunities to create real magic.

Building this kind of depth is not hard! It just takes more of the thoughtful and intentional world-building the author is already engaged in. It doesn’t limit the author’s imagination, it gives it more opportunity.
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Presenting #CritClub

I’m pleased to announce that the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is once again expanding its offerings.

This answers a question that writers have expressed to me over and over again in workshops, on panels, in e-mail and one-on-one conversations, including several of the mentoring sessions I did last weekend at DragonCon:

How do I find a writing group of other fantasy and science fiction writers so I can trade critiques?

I’ve got an answer now that I feel 100% happy with: the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers #Critclub.

#CritClub is an online space where fantasy and science fiction writers of all levels can talk with each other and exchange story and novel critiques. Its Discord server provides chat rooms where members can trade critiques as well as discuss market news, tips, and trends, recent rejections, and supportive advice and feedback. Critiquing is totally optional and there is no pressure to participate! Join for the gossip and chatter if you feel so inclined.

Ways to sign up for #Critclub:

  • Do you support me on Patreon at the $2 or more level? Then you’re already signed up and should be able to access the Discord server.
  • Are you already a member on the Chez Rambo server? Like the Patreon supporters, your access is already there. Thanks for being part of the community!
  • Subscribe using one of the buttons below for $5 per month or $50 per year. After you subscribe, you will receive acknowledgement and an invitation to the Discord server within 24 hours.
  • Can’t afford it? I understand that these expenses add up. As with the classes, I’ve got plenty of free slots available, with the only criteria being that you think it would be useful to you as a writer but can’t afford it. I particularly encourage you to apply if you’re a writer of color, QUILTBAG, a person with disabilities, or are otherwise othered. We want you as part of the community. There is no obligation to participate in the critiquing portion.

How the Critclub Critique System Works

Members receive 3 credits when they sign up; everyone currently participating has 3 as well.

The cost of putting a story up for critique is:

  • 1 credit for a story up to 7500
  • If the piece is longer, 1 additional credit for every 5000 words above that

You earn credits at the same rate. Credits are non-transferable.

Initially this will run on the honor system; if need be, we’ll add something more formal. Tips and formatting for critiquing are here, but as a rule of thumb, critiques should be at least 250 words (ish) and address developmental issues rather than line edits (unless the author requests otherwise).

Additional Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Community Benefits

Each week, channel #thepanel will feature discussion centered on a specific topic, sometimes with guest moderators to lead discussion. September’s topics are: Week 1: Conventional Talk (Whether Conventions are worthwhile and how to make the most of them), Week 2: The Coaxing, Care, and Feeding of Story Ideas, Week 3: The Fine Art of Rejectomancy, or How to Use Rejections to Get Better, and Week 4: What’s the Slush Pile Like?

Channels include Rejectomancy for discussing submissions, Motivation, Market News and Book Club for discussing recent reading, among others.

Payment Options

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Poem for Sarah

Some deaths hit you
like a broken bone.
That sharp. That painful.
They stick with you, hurting even when healing,
a dull throb keeping
you from sleeping;
a startled, knifeslash pang when jostled.
And you know that, decades later,
it’ll still be that ache, that pain,
that returns whenever you are standing
by yourself in the melancholy rain.

For Sarah Bird, 3/5/48-8/25/19, with all my love

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Where I’ll Be: Multiverse Con 2019

I’m the Industry Guest of Honor at the inaugural Multiverse, an Atlanta-based fan-focused convention celebrating science fiction & fantasy in all media, this October. The other guests of honor are Seanan McGuire and John Picacio, and the full list of attendees is here and includes the awesome Roshani Chokshi, Milton Davis, Meg Elieson, John Hartness, Chris Jackson, Catherine Lundoff, Misty Massey, Lee Martindale, Chris Morgan, and Sheree Renee Thomas — and many more!

Here’s my schedule.

Friday October 18, 2019
1:00 pm 2:00 pm Opening Ceremonies GATHER BC
(Chattahoochee BC)

2:30 pm 3:30 pm Ageism in Fantasy GEEK: Fantasy (Harding) (moderator)

4:00 pm 5:00 pm How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Podcasting GEEK: SciFi (Rabun)

5:30 pm 6:30 pm An Hour with Cat Rambo GATHER A
(Chattahoochee A)

Saturday October 19, 2019
11:30 am 12:30 pm Story Quickies: Made Up Slide Presentations MEET (Savannah A)

1:00 pm 2:00 pm Social Media for Writers WRITE (Sinclair) (moderator)

4:00 pm 5:00 pm Be Like Killjoys: Mapmaking in SpecFic (YA) GEEK: SciFi (Rabun) (moderator)

8:30 pm 9:30 pm Rathskellar Readings WRITE (Sinclair)

Sunday October 20, 2019
10:00 am 11:00 am LGTBQ+ in Fandom GATHER A
(Chattahoochee A)

11:30 am 12:30 pm The Many-Faced God: Unraveling Sub-Genres in Fantasy GEEK: Fantasy (Harding) (moderator)

2:30 pm 3:30 pm Part of the Pack: Horror under the Speculative Fiction Umbrella GEEK: Horror (Ogeechee) (moderator)

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Market Call: Zombies Need Brains Needs Stories

Let me introduce myself.  I’m Joshua Palmatier, a fantasy author with DAW Books, but also the founder of the small press Zombies Need Brains (considered a professional market by SFWA). We publish SF&F themed anthologies, using Kickstarters to generate the funds needed to produce the books.  We have a Kickstarter running right now. If you have a moment, click on through, check it out, and back! For the basic levels, you’re essentially just preordering the books (at a cheaper rate than they’ll be once released to the public).

But that’s not the point of this post.  I’m here because one of the features of Zombies Need Brains publishing is that I believe in finding new voices in the SF&F field.  To do that, I run open calls for submissions for each of our anthologies.  Cat invited me here so I could introduce the three new themes for this Kickstarter and to encourage all of you to brainstorm, write, revise, polish, and submit a story.  The call will open as soon as the Kickstarter funds and will last until December 31st, 2019.  Decisions on stories are generally made by February the following year, with the anthologies coming out sometime before August.  You can find more details at the Kickstarter if you’d like, and there will be a much more detailed set of guidelines issued once the Kickstarter funds.

“But what are the themes?!?” I hear you asking.  We have three anthologies, dealing with apocalypses, food, and old tech finding new life.  Here are some brief descriptions:

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The Future is Queer: 11 LGBT+ Contemporary Authors Writing Speculative Fiction That You Should Know

From Octavia Butler, author of multiple Nebula- and Hugo-award-winning novels, to longtime Star Trek scriptwriter David Gerrold, LGBT+ creators have long played a major part in steering the direction of speculative fiction. And the canon has never been more diverse and fascinating than now, with authors from a wonderfully wide range of backgrounds and experiences.

In this post we want to particularly spotlight all the contemporary LGBT+ writers of speculative fiction who are bringing their own perspective to science fiction and fantasy. Whether it’s semi-autobiographical surrealism or a unique, intricately imagined other world, you’re sure to find something on this list that piques your interest. Perhaps you’ll even discover a new favorite author, or one who motivates you to write your own book!

So without further ado, here they are, for your enjoyment and inspiration: 11 LGBTQIA authors of contemporary spec fic that you should know.

1. Michelle Ruiz Keil (author of All of Us with Wings)

Keil just exploded onto the scene with the June release of her YA fantasy debut, All of Us with Wings. This elegantly crafted novel follows seventeen-year-old governess Xochi — who, like Keil, is bisexual and Latinx — after she and her young charge accidentally summon a pair of vengeful demons to attack people from Xochi’s past. If you’re looking for an own voice LGBT author whose stories involve fantastical elements, yet still feel incredibly down-to-earth and authentic, Keil is definitely one to add to your list. “My favorite books make me feel seen and known and accompanied… less alone,” she noted in a recent interview with mitú. “My deepest hope is that is that All of Us with Wings will be that kind of company for its readers.”

2. Malinda Lo (author of Adaptation)

Like your reads dark, dystopian, and with a distinctly sophisticated voice? Lo and behold (no pun intended), you’ve found your literary champion. Malinda Lo, a Chinese-American author with several speculative fiction books under her belt, has also written for LGBT culture site AfterEllen and helped co-found Diversity in YA. (Talk about a woman of many talents!) After the success of her first novel, a queer retelling of Cinderella, Lo went on to write the sci-fi/thriller series Adaptation, which centers on a young woman named Reese as she attempts to make sense of the world in the wake of an unprecedented natural disaster — discovering herself in the process.
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Interview with Richard Kadrey

Recently I reviewed Richard Kadrey’s The Grand Dark for Green Man Review. I enjoyed the book and kept thinking about it, so I had some questions. Richard kindly agreed to a follow-up interview. Here’s his answers to those questions.

Q: What was it about the setting of The Grand Dark that drew you? It feels as though it came first and then the story within it – or was it the other way around?

RK: All of my previous work had been set in real places, primarily Los Angeles and San Francisco. With The Grand Dark, I wanted to build my own world from the ground up. The character of Largo appeared pretty much at the same time as I was creating the city of Lower Proszawa in my mind. I wanted someone somewhat innocent and with very little power to contrast with the weight and complexity of the city. But he had to be fluent in the streets. Largo could have been a crook, but instead I made him a bicycle messenger. Someone at the mercy of the weather, the traffic, and moody cops.
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Where I’ll Be: DragonCon 2019

Title: 15-Minute Mentor Session
Description: A chance for budding authors to talk one-on-one with a successful industry professional about business, promotion, the writing process, & career advice. Sign up in the Writer’s Track. (Embassy C-D)
Time: Fri 04:00 pm Location: Embassy G – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Cat Rambo, D.J. Butler, Toni Weisskopf)

Title: Her-storically Speaking: Meet the Women of War
Description: History books would have you believe that men did all the fighting while women kept the home life thriving. But those history books are wrong. Join us as we peel back the layers of fiction and reality and talk about both real and imagined women of warfare.
Time: Fri 07:00 pm Location: Macon – Sheraton (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel
(Tentative Panelists: Tamsin L. Silver, Tina Glasneck, Cat Rambo)


Saturday lunch commitment.

Title: 15-Minute Mentor Session
Description: A chance for budding authors to talk one-on-one with a successful industry professional about business, promotion, the writing process, & career advice. Sign up in the Writer’s Track. (Embassy C-D)
Time: Sat 04:00 pm Location: Embassy G – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: S.M. Stirling, Cat Rambo, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Anne Sowards)

Title: Her-storically Speaking: The Lost Women Of History
Description: Well-behaved women rarely make history, as they say. We’ll talk about some of the women who made waves, with their resourcefulness, ambition and a rebellious nature. History professors, writers, and all-around smart ladies talk about the stories we may not have been taught in history books.
Time: Sat 08:30 pm Location: Macon – Sheraton (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel
(Tentative Panelists: Cat Rambo, Amanda DeWees, Leanna Renee Hieber, Esther Friesner)

Title: Courtesans, Mistresses & Madams: History’s Most Famous Working Women
Description: History has a lot of unsung heroes, specifically in this profession. Contrary to what you may have read, some of the most notorious and celebrated madams and ladies of ill repute have shaped and often guided our history. This survey panel showcases some you should know about.
Time: Sat 10:00 pm Location: Macon – Sheraton (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel
(Tentative Panelists: Cat Rambo, Gail Z. Martin, Cecilia Dominic, Jean Marie Ward)

Sunday breakfast commitment; Patreon supporters welcome, just message me for details.


Title: Reading Session: Cat Rambo
Time: Sun 11:30 am Location: Vinings – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Cat Rambo)


Lunch commitment.

Title: Dragon Awards Ceremonies
Description: Presentation of the 2019 Dragon Awards in 15 categories! Who will you choose as the fan favorites this year? Come & find out the results!
Time: Sun 05:30 pm Location: Centennial I – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Dr. Charles E. Gannon, Tim Powers, George Pérez, Mike Capps, Cat Rambo, Larry Niven, Brandon Sanderson, Katherine Kurtz, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Peter David)

Title: All the Subs
Description: Fantasy is filled with all kinds of stories, but sometimes a trend pops up that turns into a sub-genre. Supervise? Gamelit? LitRPG? Cozy? Noir? There are so many, & a few that don’t really fit in any…yet.
Time: Mon 01:00 pm Location: Embassy EF – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Moderator / MC for panel
(Tentative Panelists: L. Jagi Lamplighter, James A. Hunter, Aaron Crash, G. Scott Huggins, Cat Rambo, K. M. Herkes)

Where will I be most of the rest of the time? I’ll be hanging out at the Bards Tower in the dealers room – come say hi and buy a book!

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Where I’ll Be: Confluence 2019

Friday 7 pm: Opening Ceremonies [Ballroom]
Participants: Tobias Buckell, Michael Longcor, Cat Rambo, Kevin Hayes (M)

Saturday 10 am to noon: Writers Workshop for 10
Participants: Cat Rambo

Saturday 2 pm: Beginnings and Endings [Commonwealth East] (moderator)
Participants: Cat Rambo (M), Tamora Pierce, Frederic Durbin

Saturday 4 pm: What Was Your Craziest Story Idea, and How Did That Work Out for You? [Commonwealth East]
Participants: Tim Esaias (M), Brenda Clough, Cat Rambo, R.K. Thorne

Sunday 10 am to 1 pm: Writers Workshop for 9
Participants: Cat Rambo

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