Video: Three Tips for Success with Patreon

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Guest Post: Author Influences and Aha! Moments: The Evolution of Writing by S.G. Browne

Most writers can probably remember the moment when they realized that they wanted to become a writer. Maybe it was a story someone read to them when they were a child. Or a novel they read in junior high. Or the first time they wrote a poem or a short story for an English assignment in elementary school. Maybe they saw a play or a film and felt inspired to write their own script. Or wrote an article for their high school newspaper. Or took a writing class in college.

Everyone has their Aha! moment. An epiphany that sends them down a path of words and characters and plots, that takes them on a journey of creativity and self-doubt and soul-crushing rejection. Not to mention years of emotional therapy.

That moment for me happened in the late fall of 1985, during the first semester of my sophomore year in college. I’d been introduced to The Stand by Stephen King the previous summer and devoured the novel while on a family vacation. I didn’t read much as a kid. I was allergic to libraries and would rather play outside or watch TV. Books were an afterthought or a requirement for high school American and Western Lit classes. Although I did enjoy Vonnegut. And Lord of the Flies remains near the top of my list of Desert Island Books (irony noted). But after reading The Stand, I was hooked.

So I picked up a few more of King’s novels, along with novels by Dean Koontz, Peter Straub, Robert McCammon, F. Paul Wilson, and John Saul, among others. All horror writers, all the time. I’d fallen in love with reading and I couldn’t imagine my life without books. But there came a moment when I was in the middle of The Talisman by King and Straub that I became so caught up in the adventure unfolding within the pages of the story that the world outside of the novel ceased to exist. It was something I’d never experienced before. Not with The Stand or any other of the books I’d read. And it was such an amazing and exhilarating moment that I thought: I want to make someone feel like this.

So I took some writing classes and I kept reading. When I graduated, I got a job to pay the bills and wrote short stories in my spare time, sending them out to magazines in the hopes of having them published. The stories were all of the supernatural horror variety, of course. And the influence of the books I’d read, especially the novels of King and Straub, loomed large on my writing. They were, after all, the impetus for my wanting to become a writer.

Over the next decade, I wrote dozens of short stories along with three novels. While I managed to get a dozen of the stories published, the pay didn’t amount to much. And although I received positive feedback on my novels, none of them found an agent or a home. Writing soon became a grind, the joy replaced by discouragement, and I started to question whether or not continuing along this path was something that I wanted to do. Cue the self-doubt.

Soon after, in October 2002, I was browsing the books at my local bookstore in preparation for another trip and came across the novel Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk. I’d seen the movie Fight Club and loved it, and Lullaby was a supernatural horror-satire with a premise that sounded fun. So I bought a copy and put it in my backpack for the flight.

Have you ever read the first few pages of a novel or a short story and had to go back and reread them immediately because they spoke to you in a way that no story has ever spoken to you before? Suddenly an idea forms in your head. Except it’s more than just an idea. It’s an awareness. A realization that you have this story inside of you but you never knew it was waiting to be told until that moment.

That’s what happened to me in the first five minutes of that airplane flight, reading the opening pages of Lullaby. I’d written previous supernatural horror stories with elements of dark comedy and social satire but had never considered expanding any of them into a novel-length form. The idea had never occurred to me. But the dark comedy and social satire in Lullaby spoke to me in a way that straight supernatural horror no longer did.

So I read more Palahniuk. Around that same time, I discovered the comedic fantasy books of Christopher Moore (Lamb and Bloodsucking Fiends). Together, the influence of their books had an enormous impact on my writing. Where King and Straub had made me realize that I wanted to become a writer, Palahniuk and Moore made me realize what I wanted to do as a writer.

When I finally sat down to flesh out my darkly comedic short story “A Zombie’s Lament” that I’d written a year earlier, I discovered the joy of writing again. More than that, I discovered my voice. And that voice helped me to write Breathers, my fourth novel and first published novel, which came out in 2009.

I wrote four more novels after that, all of them dark comedy and social satire with a supernatural, speculative, or fantastic element. In addition to Palahniuk and Moore, I continued to read King and Straub but added other writers to my diet, including Gaiman, Pratchett, and Hiaasen, who all helped my writing to evolve. But Palahniuk and Moore were the catalyst for the writer I had become.

Then around 2014-2015, I discovered the short story collections of Karen Russell and Kelly Link, specifically St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and Get in Trouble. This discovery created a third shift in my writing and I found myself exploring ideas and stories and characters that I never would have considered writing about before. Not only did the stories of Russell and Link inspire me to write a number of my own short stories, but they also helped me to bring more balance to my writing.

Although all of my novels and many of my previous short stories included female characters who featured prominently in the plot, none of the women played the role of the main protagonist. Half of the 14 stories in my new collection, Lost Creatures, are told from a female POV—including a ten-year-old Japanese girl, a college zombie, and a time-jumping alcoholic. And they are some of my favorite stories I’ve ever written.

Over the course of my creative career, dozens of writers have had an impact on my writing, influencing and inspiring me. And while my writing wouldn’t be the same without the existence of every single one of those writers, the books and words written by these six authors found me at the right time and had the most significant impact on the formation and the evolution of my writing.

BIO: S.G. Browne is the author of the novels Breathers, Fated, Lucky Bastard, Big Egos, and Less Than Hero, as well as the short story collection Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel and the heartwarming holiday novella I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus. He’s also the author of The Maiden Poodle, a self-published fairy tale about anthropomorphic cats and dogs suitable for children and adults of all ages. His new short story collection, Lost Creatures, is a blend of fantasy, science fiction, dark comedy, and magical realism. He’s an ice cream connoisseur, Guinness aficionado, and a cat enthusiast. You can follow him on TwitterFacebookInstagram, check out his website at, or learn more about his new collection Lost Creatures.

If you’re an author or other fantasy and science fiction creative, and want to do a guest blog post, please check out the guest blog post guidelines. Or if you’re looking for community from other F&SF writers, sign up for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Critclub!

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Video: How to Screw Up

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Calendar for April through End of May

Event explanations:

  • Unmoderated co-working: Log on and work with other Chez Rambo peeps. You don’t have to be working on writing! Structure is up to the participants.
  • Moderated co-working: Cat or designated other will lead three thirty minute sprints, with check-ins to say how we’re doing in between. You don’t have to be working on writing!
  • Chillax and chat: Hang out and craft or clean your virtual or real workspace while we talk about stuff.
  • Story discussion group. Happens in the morning one week, the afternoon the next. Story changes every two weeks; titles and links will be posted on Discord and Patreon. Additional resources will be in #thepanel channel on Discord.
  • Writing Games. Happens in the morning one week, the afternoon the next. Bring a prompt if you like. We all write for 10 minutes to the same prompt, then people who want to share theirs. Then we do that a couple more times. Great jolt of creativity.

There will be some last-minute open-to-all classes and writing games; they will be announced on Discord and Patreon with as much advance warning as possible.
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Video: 5 Tips for Story Submissions

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Flash Fiction: A Horrific Homage to the Seattle Kraken

Start the clock! Release the kraken! Let the hockey players sharpen their blades, let the audience stir restlessly and go one last time for popcorn and sodas and beer, glorious golden beer that tints the ice with its microbrewed haze.

Because there is a haze tonight, that’s for sure, folks. Tonight Seattle’s surrendered to the supernatural forces that have been creeping up like uninvited shoggoths in recent years. The world’s gone weird and wacky, and why not krakens, why not tentacles spilling out from the Space Needle, infesting the sky? It’s Seattle, after all; it’s raining so it’s not like they block out the sun.

Who’d have dreamed that magic and hockey would mix this way, a mash-up made of bloody sticks and smashed spell bottles? Seattle’s wizards have come out of hiding for this game, emerged from their lairs in Greenlake and Mercer Island, driven their Teslas over to park in interdimensional folds where they won’t get scratched like normal cars.

Only an hour’s worth of game, and then the magic runs out, deflates like a sodden pumpkin, milked for all that tentacle and terror juice. Will it be enough to keep Seattle entertained for another evening, keep it from imploding like Scherezade in reverse into ennui and coffee beans? Cities don’t resort to supernatural hockey games until they’re really in extremis and no one is really sure what this one will – or even can — achieve, given a world of murder hornets and sapient bananas and well, you remember the last few months as well as I do, particularly what happened to the butterflies.

The clock’s ticking. The skaters are moving back and forth over the ice, and things are stirring in the depths underneath it, things that will fuck a Zamboni up and shred ice like tissue paper. That’s how close the danger is to us all. That’s how dire things are.

Let’s stop now, before another spray of ice goes up, before another player gets a bloody nose and melts the ice with that, so things can crawl through from another dimension. It’s not too late. Where’s the entrance? Where’s the exit? Why does this ice hold me so fast?

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Guest Post: We need to talk about the lack of realistic character response to sexual violence in Sci&Fi and Fantasy by Sammy HK Smith

We can do better. 

I spend my working week with both survivors and perpetrators of physical and sexual abuse, and consider myself privileged that these survivors trust in me to help them, and I’m dedicated in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Leaving that behind at the end of the working day is tough, and I often find myself reaching to fiction to shut off and ‘decompress’. Often though, my work finds me in literature and I despair.

We’ve all read those stories: characters beaten, raped, sexually assaulted and they often rise from the ashes stronger and resolute, or they become a broken husk. The sexual assault is often used as a plot element (or, dare I say it, trope) to move the main narrative forward but seldom given the actual scrutiny it deserves. Often too, the abuse is used to push forward a ‘revenge’ plotline or used as a reason as to why that person is ‘weird/broken/*insert derogatory descriptor here*’ and told from the point of view of an outsider with no empathy or understanding as to what they have gone through – a character backstory used to explain or excuse actions rather than feeding into the story.

Rarely do we hear the stories of those who are just trying to live with what has happened. Those with PTSD who are still healing. Those who can’t get justice or revenge or those who, for a myriad of reasons, choose not to, but still have to live with the consequences of what happened. Those who are still adapting to the changes forced on them, or the trauma that they have to live with every day.

Sexual violence is prevalent in both fiction and reality (1)(2), and while I’m grateful we have the #MeToo movement and increased visibility and voices in reality, we have a long way to go in addressing the long-term effects of sexual violence on a person. PTSD in sexual abuse survivors is also higher than the average population (3).

It is unfair of me to point fingers at books that get sexual violence ‘wrong’ or use it as a titillating teaser, so instead I’m going to share two books in the SF&F genre with realistic survivor reactions and ongoing PTSD/abuse aftermath that I really recommend.

DEERSKIN by Robin McKinley

As Princess Lissla Lissar reaches womanhood, it is clear to all the kingdom that in her beauty she is the image of her dead mother, the queen. But this likeness forces her to flee from her father’s lust and madness; and in the pain and horror of that flight she forgets who she is and what it is she flees from: forgets almost everything but the love and loyalty of her dog, Ash, who accompanies her. But a chance encounter on the road leads to a job in another king’s kennels, where the prince finds himself falling in love with the new kennel maid . . . and one day he tells her of a princess named Lissla Lissar, who had a dog named Ash.

The main character is sexually abused by her father near the beginning of the book, and the story shows her wrestling with this experience and learning to heal at her pace and in her own way.

A fantastic story with a clear message. You can survive sexual abuse. It will change you forever, but you can live despite that.

TENDER MORSELS by Margo Lanagan

Tender Morsels is a dark and vivid story, set in two worlds and worrying at the border between them. Liga lives modestly in her own personal heaven, a world given to her in exchange for her earthly life. Her two daughters grow up in this soft place, protected from the violence that once harmed their mother. But the real world cannot be denied forever—magicked men and wild bears break down the borders of Liga’s refuge. Now, having known Heaven, how will these three women survive in a world where beauty and brutality lie side by side?

A mix of fairy tale and fantasy, but most definitely for adults, this novel explores Liga’s childhood and abuse at the hands of her father. It shows us rape, miscarriages, pregnancy and how Liga becomes an incredible mother, overcoming the violence of the children’s conceptions. Have I included spoilers? Not really. Her journey is the story. Harrowing, but wonderful in the way the prose gives us hope even through unrelenting darkness.

Both of these show childhood trauma and sexual abuse, which can be very different to adult sexual abuse (and, to a certain extent, domestic abuse). I really tried to think of some good, solid stories that focused on an adult journeying through sexual violence PTSD but came up short.  Recommendations warmly received!

When writing ANNA I wanted to not only tell the story of a victim who struggles to deal with PTSD while rebuilding relationships, but also show how the behavior and persona of a perpetrator changes with their audience, and how those who have been coercively controlled can still bend to their abuser, even months after the event.

ANNA is not a milquetoast trope of a victim. She is broken, beaten, abused, carrying her scars and trauma around with her, never letting her guard down. She struggles as survivors struggle every day, second-guessing everything and everyone but desperately yearning for a sense of normality. Through all of that she is strong, and she shows us her strength as the story progresses.

As a writer and a feminist I think it’s important to show a different view of survivors of sexual abuse in literature. I wanted to show her decision-making, her thought process and agency through those dark times and hopefully take the reader on the highs and lows of her recovery.

I’ve been asked why I didn’t make the novel a contemporary piece. Honestly? I love speculative and dystopian fiction. I didn’t want to write in the here and now when I work with this subject matter so often.

I stress that I’m no psychologist. I have a vested personal and professional interest in this area, and have followed and relied on experts in the field (4) to help form my characters and stories. It is not my place to tell a reader how a survivor will react to such trauma; every person is unique, their story and experiences different. My experience of something does not make me the arbitrator of all the possible responses and reactions, but I hope that what I have shown is that sexual abuse is not a trope. It is not glib, it is not something to use to merely push a story forward and add a ‘grim’ slant to a novel. It is harrowing and often the survivor is alone, even when surrounded by people who love them, with a long journey to recovery.

But the journey of a survivor is not all doom and gloom. There is hope. There are moments of love, of pure happiness and joy, of friendship and trust, but it’s not easy. Strength comes in many forms.

ANNA is a book that stands witness to the experiences of so many survivors and although that makes it an uncomfortable read at times, it is an offering to and reflection of the people who struggle with these issues.

I refuse to make a spectacle of sexual trauma, and I hope that I’ve done justice to the hundreds of survivors I’ve spoken with during my 15 years in the field of domestic and sexual abuse.

I said that we can do better, but when we see how the world really is, we know deep down that we must do better.


BIO: Sammy H.K Smith lives and works in Oxfordshire UK as a police detective. When not working she spends time with her children, husband and pets, renovates her house, and inadvertently kills plants. A keen writer and lover of all things science fiction and fantasy, she’s often found balancing a book, a laptop, a child, and a cat whilst watching Netflix.

Learn more about Anna and buy the book here.

If you’re an author or other fantasy and science fiction creative, and want to do a guest blog post, please check out the guest blog post guidelines. Or if you’re looking for community from other F&SF writers, sign up for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Critclub!

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Where I’ll “Be” – Flights of Foundry 2021

Find information about the event here.

Friday, April 16 6 PM Pacific time
How to Put a Game in Your Fiction
Moderator – Panelists are P.H. Lee, Erin Roberts, and Gregory Wilson

Saturday, April 17, 9 AM Pacific time – Reading from Exiles of Tabat

Saturday, April 17, 12 PM Patron/student/mentee lunch – Zoom link will be posted on Discord and Patreon

Saturday, April 17, 2 PM Pacific time – cowriting session – Come write with me!

Sunday, April 18, 11 AM Pacific time – teaching Writing Your Way Into Your Novel

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Where I’ll “Be” – Norwescon 2021 Schedule


NWW Critique Session with Cat Rambo
8:00am – 12:00pm @ Zoom 1
Cat Rambo (M), Barth Anderson


Building Diverse Worlds in Sci-fi and Fantasy
11:00am – 12:00pm @ Maxis
Cat Rambo (M), Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Jacqueline Carey, Curtis C. Chen

Reading: Cat Rambo
4:00pm – 4:30pm @ Cascade
Cat Rambo (M)

SFWA: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
6:00pm – 7:00pm @ Poolside
Curtis C. Chen (M), Cat Rambo


Norwescon Breakfast 9:30 AM
Open to mentees, students, and Patreon patrons
Zoom link will be posted on Patreon and Discord

The Creation, Care, & Feeding of Writing Groups
2:00pm – 3:00pm @ Fishbowl
Cat Rambo (M), Tex Thompson, Sonja Thomas, Rhiannon Held

Why Do I Keep Getting Form Rejections on Short Stories?
4:00pm – 5:00pm @ Mt. Baker
Cat Rambo (M), K.G. Anderson, Tod McCoy, Jack Skillingstead

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Guest Post: Magical Crones and Adventuring Mothers by Catherine Lundoff

When I first began working on a story about women who turned into werewolves as they entered menopause way back in 2009 or so, there was not a whole lot of representation of middle-aged and older women to be found in science fiction, fantasy, or horror. I mean, there were the evil middle-aged queens with talking mirrors, out to poison their younger, prettier rivals and the ancient witches who popped up to do terrible things or sometimes, provide directions, as the case may be. But, with rare exceptions, they were never protagonists, and they were seldom more than cardboard embodiments of evil or just plain window dressing.

Around 2010, that started to change. A bunch of other things happened around then too, including a huge growth in ebook publishing by indie authors and indie publishers which brought in a lot of voices that were not previously being heard from in more mainstream science fiction, fantasy, or horror. Along with that came writers willing to take risks, to tell new stories, to tackle things like representation that had been pretty sparse up until then. Those writers included women who were middle-aged and beyond looking to see themselves and their stories in the pages of the genres they loved.
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