Where I’ll Be: MultiverseCon 2019

I’m the Industry Guest of Honor at the first ever Multiverse Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, along with my friends Seanan McGuire and John Picacio! It should be an amazing time; please come say hi if you’re in the area.

Friday, October 18

1:00 PM Opening Ceremonies (Gather BC)
-Come kick of the convention with style, get to know some of the folks running it, meet our Guests of Honor, and hear about some of the cool and awesome things to do this weekend.

2:30 PM Ageism in Fantasy (Harding)
Cat Rambo (Mod), Chris A Jackson, Catherine Lundoff, Christopher Morgan
-Are only the young allowed to be heroes? The panel will discuss ageism in fantasy and how inclusion also means having older heroes.

4:00 How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Podcasting (Rabun)
Shannon Strucci (Mod), John Hartness, William Hayashi, Cat Rambo
-Want to podcast but don’t know where to start? Come hang out with professional podcasters and learn what type of equipment and software you will need to carry out your podcasting mission.

5:30 PM An Hour with Cat Rambo (Chattahoochee A)
Jesse Adams (Mod/Interviewer), Cat Rambo
Who knows what could happen here? There may be pickles. Or cheese. Maybe not. There will certainly be questions.

Saturday October 19

10:00 AM Signing (Signings) Read It Again: Dealers’ Room

11:30 AM Story Quickies: Made Up Slide Presentations (Savannah A)
Gigi Eng (Mod/EmCee), Craig Campbell, Cat Rambo
-Audience and Guest Participants are challenged to give presentations on random topics chosen by attendees. Pictures shown for 15 seconds must be incorporated into a 5 minute presentation. Prizes awarded for the most entertaining, most unexpectedly educational, and other superlatives!

1 PM Social Media for Writers (Sinclair Amphitheater)
Cat Rambo (Mod), Catherine Lundoff, Terry Maggert, Melissa McArthur, Bobby Nash
-Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Goodreads, blog tours, cover reveals, contests, interviews… There’s only so much time in the day! As an author, what social media should you embrace? How do you decide? What’s the most effective? Join our authors to learn about different ways to use social media to your advantage as an author. Don’t be a slave to your social media. Own it!

4 PM Be Like Killjoys: Mapmaking in SpecFic (Rabun)
Cat Rambo (Mod), Bobby Nash, Chris A Jackson
– The TV show, Killjoys, gives the viewer a map of their world in the opening credits. Maps can help a reader know more about an imaginary world, and it can help a writer outline world-building details such as trade routes, rival civilizations, and class divisions. Come make a map with us! Each participant will have paper and colored pencils and will follow along as the panelists draw a basic map. Participants will add their own unique features to the map to reflect the world they want to build.
(Extended note from Track Director: Each participant will have paper and colored pencils and will follow along as the moderator draws a basic map. Participants will add their own unique features to the map to reflect the world they want to build.)

8:30 PM Rathskellar Readings (Sinclair Amphitheater)
Ceres K. Wright (Mod), Dana Cameron, Meg Elison, Bobby Nash, Errick Nunnally, Cat Rambo, Alyse Steves
– Got a story? Like to hear it, here it go! Grab a drink and come down to the Sinclair Amphitheater (WRITE) room! Be prepared to read for 5-7 minutes from one of your works. Choose wisely!

Sunday, October 20

10 AM LGTBQ+ in Fandom ((Chattahoochee A)
Darie L.K. Wolfson (Mod), K.D. Edwards, Marcus Haynes, Catherine Lundoff, Havana Nguyen, Cat Rambo
-A discussion about the unique perspectives, challenges, and considerations of the LGTBQ+ community as it engages with geeky fandoms.

11:30 AM The Many-Faced God: Unraveling Sub-Genres in Fantasy (Harding)
Cat Rambo (Mod), Scott Hawkins, Melissa McArthur, Seanan McGuire, Christopher Morgan
– For much of the early history of SFFH the operative terms for the genre were fantasy and sword and sorcery. But, today we have YA, Epic Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, High Fantasy, Dystopian, Dark Fantasy, Heroic Fantasy and upwards of 50 more subgenres. Are they really that distinct or are they simply marketing tools? The panel will discuss the state of the genre and talk about the development of the subgenre.

2:30 PM Part of the Pack: Horror Under the Speculative Fiction Umbrella (Ogeechee)
Cat Rambo (Mod), Marcus Haynes, Tiara Janté, R.J. Joseph, Kenesha Williams
– All in the family! This panel discusses how horror’s inclusion under the Speculative Fiction umbrella impacts the genre. Do you find that the inclusion negates many of the sub-genre distinctions, effectively flattening it out? Is this good or bad? How are authors able to stand out so that readers can find their work?

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Guest Post: Alanna McFall Reveals How Fanfiction Helped Me Write My Novel

Note from Cat: I copy-edited Alanna’s recent novel, The Traveling Triple-C Incorporeal Circus and was pleased to do so because I think it’s one of the outstanding fantasy books of 2019. It is gentle fantasy, an on-the-road feminist version of Peter Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place. I highly recommend this book, particularly to people who love literary fantasy. If you enjoy her essay, please check the book out!

I still remember the moment I learned what fanfiction was.

I was in seventh grade and deep deep deep in an obsession with the Harry Potter novels. I was speaking to a ninth grade girl in the same school play as me and she mentioned that she loved Harry Potter as well, and all the extra stories she had found.

Extra stories? Had JK Rowling written something about Harry Potter that I hadn’t gotten my hands on yet? Where could I find these stories? This girl corrected me: no, these were written by other people, but they were about all sorts of things not in the books. People were writing these stories and all I had to do was look for them and I would have no end of Harry Potter, long before the next book came out. This revelation rocked my world. Who else knew about this concept? What was out there for me?

Through middle and high school I set about reading as much fanfic as I could get my hands on. I wrote a great deal of my own, testing out ideas just for the thrill of making a mark on stories I loved, but didn’t have the courage to share it online until I was in college. That became yet another revelation, a world that I could now access as an active participant. It was some of the best concentrated writing practice I have ever gotten, and best of all, there was an eager audience ready to read and support what I had put out there. I know for a fact that a lot of that practice paid off in my professional life.
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Why You Can’t Teach Writing

How do you learn to write? You learn by observing and doing, by reading good fiction and making attempts at your own. The truth is that writing is primarily self-taught, that the axiom that you must write a million words is on the mark, and that the first rule is this: To learn to write, you must be writing.

With my students who are writing and thinking about writing, I would have to actively give them bad advice like Play videogames rather than write. Don’t read anything. Only write when you’re in the mood. for them not to get better. That’s the plain and simple truth.

So Do Writing Classes Help?

Writing classes do help – or can, at any rate, depending on what you do with them. They can supply short-cuts, impetus, tricks and techniques. They can kick you in the butt and make you produce, by forcing you to give fellow students a piece to critique, or via homework or in-class timed writings. They can provide inspiration to keep going by giving you something new to try or a way to break a log-jam or dry spell. They can build connections and new friends for you, sometimes friendships that will last for years or even decades.

But with or without them, if you’re writing and think about writing, you will get better at word-smithing, and that is true no matter what stage of the game you’re at. I schedule classes with other people for the Rambo Academy because they’re classes I want to take, which means I’ve been very lucky in recent years, getting to hear people like Seanan McGuire talk about writing series or Ann Leckie discuss writing space opera. Those classes always inspire me, and the novel that I have coming out next year from Tor had its genesis in Leckie’s class. If I wasn’t willing to take classes, I wouldn’t have had that inspiration.

What Should You Learn to Become a Writer?

What should you learn? Learn grammar, so you don’t have to rely on Word’s red wiggly line to tell you when you’ve got a subject/verb agreement. But remember a good, innovative writer colors outside the lines sometimes — know the rules so you can break them with panache. A writer writing to get a high score on Grammarly is missing the chance to innovate and improvise, and aiming for mediocrity in the process.

Learn how to show instead of tell, weaving a dream to pull in your readers. Pay attention to your senses so you can replicate those sensations in your text. Work on supplying the details without ever drawing attention to yourself, so you never commit the cardinal sin and remind the reader that they are reading. Look at how other people do it, and find the techniques that work for you.

Learn how to revise what you write, so you can just write whatever you’re writing, knowing that you’ll make it perfect in the rewrite, and relax into that joyful flow of verbiage. That’s another thing you must be doing in order to learn the skill, but also a place where working with a group that lets you critique other people’s work as well as be critiqued will help you learn it faster.

Critiquing groups are a vast help but not in the way you think. You learn more from critiquing someone else’s work than you do from having your own critiqued, because the former forces you to articulate your ideas and understandings of fiction. You’ll be amazed at how often the problem you’re spotting in someone else’s work will turn up in your own.

What Should You Read to Become a Writer?

What should you read? Read everything — contemporary and classic — and when you love or hate a piece of writing, go back and figure out why. Look at what other authors are doing and imitate them. Steal like Picasso and make things your own.

Read stuff that wins awards so you know what the current trends are and who’s producing what. You can’t predict where the market will be going, but you can know what territory has been so well-visited that it probably won’t be returned to.

Read nonfiction because so much of the stuff of story resides there. Nonfiction will give you details that help makes your dream real for the reader, as well as insight and information that will help shape your stories.

What Should You Do to Become a Writer?

You must write. Every day if you have that luxury, even if it’s a quick 100 words squeezed in on your phone on the bus to work. You must figure out how to carve space and time for your writing, and you must defend that time from well-meaning friends and vile enemies alike. You must learn to step the hell away from social media and other distractions sometimes and just write. Use the things you love to coax yourself along — ten minutes on Twitter if you finish that page, an ice cream cone for hitting your weekly word count, that new fountain pen for completing that story. Find the things that make you productive — and do them.

You must — at some point — start sending stuff out. Don’t do the editor’s job for them by rejecting the work before they even see it. Send it out and write more while you’re waiting for it to come back.

Remember that writing is a professional activity, that if you’re putting yourself out into the public maybe you want to think about how you’re coming off in face to face and online interactions. It’s a small eco-system and you’ll find that the editorial intern you take out a frustration on today may well be the acquiring editor turning down your book somewhere down the line. Don’t assume you always have the right answer, and don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t. Be kind. Or at least, as per Connie Willis’ advice, don’t be a jackass.

The unexamined life is not worth living, Plato tells us, and I will add that it’s not one that makes you a better writer. If you want to understand the human heart, look to your own and all its petty mean behaviors as well as the nobility of which it is capable. Write what you know; write truth. All of this will help you become a writer.

But write. And write, and write some more. You cannot be a writer until you begin to write.*

*For an alternate viewpoint, consult Timothy the Cat.

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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.


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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,
alone, 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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