Guest Post: Inspiration and Trying to Understand Otherness with Dan Rice

When I first buckled down to seriously try writing after graduating from college, I dreamed of crafting epic fantasy similar to books by George R.R. Martin and Joe Abercrombie. Their works were breaths of fresh air. Unlike the novels of Tolkien or Robert Jordan, these authors eschewed the black-and-white worldview of good versus evil for shades of gray. I wanted to write just like them.

Of course, I eventually discovered that there’s a reason Martin and Abercrombie are best-selling authors, and Martin takes many years between books. What they do is really, really hard.

Switching to Young Adult

Discovering that writing epic fantasy is a monumental task was the first step in finding my authorial voice. My critique group told me that my writing was more suited to a young adult audience. At first, I was dismissive of this observation, but I came around when I started reading more young adult fantasy and science fiction. I soon appreciated these books possess an intoxicating sense of adventure and discovery.
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Guest Post: Neurodiverse Alien Encounters in The Neurodiversiverse by Anthony Francis

A common science fiction trope is that aliens would think differently from humans. Larry Niven’s carnivorous Kzinti are curious only about things that interest them, C. J. Cherryh’s T’ca are multi-brained aliens that speak in matrices readable in any direction, and Steven Spielberg’s aliens from Close Encounters of the Third Kind communicate with music and gesture.

But, even just on the Earth, every human being thinks differently! This tremendous variation is called neurodiversity, and each individual’s distinctive cognitive style is their neurodivergence. Many kinds of neurodivergence are common, including autism, anxiety, synesthesia, and more – sometimes presenting challenges to individuals if society demands a different thinking style.

But could these different thinking styles actually help us understand aliens? Many autistic folks experience hyperfocus on special interests: could they better empathize with Kzinti? Could someone with dissociative personality disorder better understand the multiple-brained T’ca? And could a person with difficulty verbalizing better harmonize with Spielberg’s aliens?

My co-editor Liza Olmsted and I decided to explore whether neurodiversity would help us understand aliens in The Neurodiversiverse: Alien Encounters, a hopeful, empowering science fiction anthology from Thinking Ink Press exploring neurodivergent folks encountering aliens. Over forty contributors shared with us stories, poems and art exploring this theme.

For example, in “The Space Between Stitches” by Minerva Cerridwen, an autistic person’s hyperfocus helps her effortlessly repair an alien’s broken teleporter. In “Where Monolithic Minds Can’t Travel,” Akis Linardos explores whether aliens with multiple minds would resonate with dissociative disorder, unlocking travel to the stars. And in “Music, Not Words” by Ada Hoffmann, aliens that speak in music find harmony with a young woman who has trouble with words.

Many stories in The Neurodiversiverse are told from an authentic #ownvoices perspective, in which authors write stories about characters who share their own distinctive experiences. For example, I struggle with social anxiety disorder, and in my own “Shadows of Titanium Rain,” give those experiences to the character Djina as she struggles to understand solitary aliens.

Liza and I feel #ownvoices are particularly important because they improve the representation of marginalized voices in stories, which is part of the mission of Thinking Ink Press. Sometimes, it can be hard to imagine achieving something if you’ve never seen someone like yourself doing it – and it can be hard to solve a problem if you have no words to describe it.

We’re bringing The Neurodiversiverse to life no matter what, but because we’re a small press, we’re running a Kickstarter to help defray the costs of producing and promoting the book. In particular, we want to pay our authors the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Association (SFWA) “professional rate” of 8 cents a word, and the Kickstarter will help us do that.

Creating The Neurodiversiverse has been a voyage of discovery for us. Recently Thinking Ink Press embraced its identity as a publisher focused on marginalized voices – something we had always done, but not precisely noticed that we were doing; but once we noticed that it was our focus, we decided to lean in on that and do it well.

Exploring the topic of neurodiversity inspired me to propose “The Neurodiversiverse Anthology,” which I shared with our team to ensure we handled it sensitively. Liza was enthusiastic, joining as my coeditor and helping craft the anthology’s explicit focus on hopeful, empowering and #ownvoices stories. And work on the book awakened my understanding of my own struggles with neurodivergence, particularly social anxiety disorder and autism.

The Neurodiversiverse has opened doors for us as not just editors but as people with our own struggles with neurodivergence, and we hope it has a similar impact on everyone who reads it. So please back our Kickstarter (accessible during the campaign via neurodiversiverse.com) where you can not only help us pay our authors, you can get a copy of the book and find out the answer to the question, “Would neurodiversity help in an encounter with aliens?”

You can find the Kickstarter here.


About the author: By day, Anthony Francis teaches robots to learn; by night, he writes science fiction and draws comic books. His “Dakota Frost, Skindancer” urban fantasy series begins in the award-winning FROST MOON and continues in BLOOD ROCK and LIQUID FIRE. His latest novel is JEREMIAH WILLSTONE AND THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE. He co-edited the anthology DOORWAYS TO EXTRA TIME and is the co-editor of the forthcoming anthology THE NEURODIVERSIVERSE: ALIEN ENCOUNTERS; for more information check out neurodiversiverse.com . You can read more about Anthony’s words, art and science on his blog “The Library of Dresan” at dresan.com.

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 with fellow fantasy, science fiction, and horror writers, sign up for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Critclub!

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Wayward Wormhole Update: Deadline Extension

We ended up granting a couple of deadline extensions for the novel workshop, and it seemed fairer to me to extend that to everyone. So if you are someone who wanted to apply and just didn’t get their stuff in order, you’re got an extra two weeks if you want to apply.

If you’re interested in the short story workshop, its deadline is the end of this month!

All details are here: https://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/the-wayward-wormhole-new-mexico-2024/

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On Eating Frog Legs and White Asparagus by Jennifer Brozek

Imagine this. You are nine or ten or eleven years old. In your “tweens” as the hip kids call it. Or is that “cool”? You have moved to a foreign country “overseas” because your father was stationed there and you are experiencing non-American food for the first time. Belgium. A little country partially notable by the fact that NATO exists within it. (And so much more…)

First, it is all hotel food because there are no quarters available for you and your military family in SHAPE, Belgium (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe). And the food is good. I mean, really good. We’re talking fresh fruit, chocolate croissants, and Belgian waffles. My mom complained that she gained a pound for every day we were required to stay in that hotel. I don’t remember how long. It was too long for nine-year-old me. I just wanted a home and my things around me.

Then we were there. Living in a 300-year-old manor house in Brugelette, Belgium in 1979 because “the franc was so good.” The backyard was bigger than any school playground I’d ever played in before. The house had history. Real history. This is where “Dear Penpal, Belgium 1980” was born. “Dear Penpal, Belgium 1980” is a unique, middle grade-appropriate ghost story told through 24 physical letters that I am kickstarting from March 26th to April 26th.
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Guest Post: The Cake is a Truth by Clara Ward

The cover of "Be the Sea" shows an underwater vista of marine creatures.Note from Cat: I’m so pleased to see Be The Sea out in print. I read an early version and it’s a lovely book. Please pick it up or request it through your local library!

A Yule log cake features prominently in my new novel, Be the Sea. While preparing it, four characters share bits of their history involving kitchens and cooking.

Kai, an outgoing enby poly pansexual from Hawai’i says, “Where I grew up, I loved everyone’s kitchen except mine.”

Aljon, a quiet ace sailor turned ship’s cook from the Philippines responds, “I felt safe in our kitchen and extended that to others.”

They’re both vegan, and Matt, who loves to feed people and is simultaneously making his second and third cakes for Yule, is Pagan. So the cake they make together is vegan, filled with pistachio cream spiraled inside chocolate cake. It’s frosted with whipped chocolate, applied in thick swoops with a knife, then textured using the tines of a fork to resemble bark. Powdered sugar is dusted on top as if there’s been a light winter snow; after all, this is a Yule log cake.

In truth, my household makes the same cake fashioned as…a groundhog.

Why? What’s the truth behind my fictional cake?

First, like my story’s point of view character, Wend, I love chocolate but grew up with a single mom who had little interest in or time for cooking, let alone baking. Second, and completely unrelated to my novel, my mom had a peculiar obsession with Groundhog Day (the holiday, not the movie). As she told it, this arose from a chance encounter with a newspaper reporter in San Francisco in the ‘60s who was asking passersby on the street if they knew what day it was. Evidently, the moment in my mom’s life when she felt most seen and affirmed was when she answered correctly that it was February 2nd, Groundhog Day.

I will never know if my mom would have identified as enby or ace (although I have my suspicions) because she passed away in the early ‘90s. What I know is that she made exactly one kind of cake. I don’t make it the same way she did, but once a year, for Groundhog Day, my chosen family chooses from several options for chocolate roll cakes. The tines of a fork pluck at the frosting until it looks like fur. A diagonal slice through the center makes one cake into two, each with a sloped face that can be decorated with nuts for ears and jellybeans for eyes.

In different times and different kitchens, each of us may share our own truths. We will see the same cake in new and different ways. And sometimes, in the eyes of a reporter or a groundhog, we will feel seen.
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Announcing the Next Wayward Wormhole – 2024 in New Mexico

The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is pleased to announce the second annual Wayward Wormhole, this time in New Mexico. Join us for the short story workshop to study with Arley Sorg and Minister Faust, or the novel workshop with Donald Maass, C.C. Finlay, and Cat Rambo.

Both intensive workshops will be hosted at the Painted Pony ranch in Rodeo, New Mexico. The short story workshop runs November 4-12, 2024, and the novel workshop runs November 15 through 24, 2024.

The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers has been in existence for thirteen years, serving hundreds of students who have gone on to win awards, honors, and accolades, including Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards. “I attended Clarion West, and have taught at multiple workshops now,” says Academy founder Cat Rambo. “While others have delivered the gold standard, I decided to stretch to the platinum level and deliver amazing workshops in equally amazing settings. Last year’s was a castle in Spain, this year a fabulous location in southwestern America. And wait till you hear what we’ve got cooked up for 2025!”

More details about these exciting workshops and how to apply!

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Reminding People of My Editing Rates

Next spring, I need to get new windows for this ancient house. Accordingly, if you ever wanted to give yourself the gift of an edit from an experienced editor/writer/teacher who is also a Locus and World Fantasy Award nominee and Nebula award winner, I highly encourage it. All edits/reads include the chance to identify particular spots for feedback in advance and to ask questions afterward.

Here’s what I offer:

Story editorial read

$50 per 5,000 words. This is not an edit. It is a 1-2 page analysis that includes notes on suggested changes, weak spots, and other editorial feedback. Stories over 5,000 words will be pro-rated at $5 per additional 500 words.

Novel editorial read

$1000 per 100.000 words. This is not an edit. It is a chapter by chapter analysis that includes notes on suggested changes, weak spots, and other editorial feedback. I will include a copyedit of the first chapter (up to ten pages) to show patterns and suggestions at the sentence level. Works over 5,000 words will be pro-rated at $10 per additional 1000 words.

Story copyedit

$100 per 5,000 words. This is a rigorous edit of something you consider finished, with changes tracked and explanatory notes. If you are not happy with it, I will return your money. Stories over 5,000 words will be pro-rated at $10 per additional 500 words.

Novel copyedit

Because this can vary greatly, the fee is based on how much work I’m looking at. Send one chapter and the word length and I can provide an estimate.

Got a project that doesn’t fit any of these? Feel free to mail me at cat@kittywumpus.net (it would be handy if you use the subject line “Edit Request”) with the details.

Projects will be added to my work queue in the order they are received. If you need your work prioritized due to a deadline, there is an additional rush fee.

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New Classes, Including Short Story Workshop, and Small Changes

This year I’ll be alternating two months of offering classes followed by two months of focusing on other work. In theory this should have been Jan-Feb, but it’s more like Feb edging into March. After that the next round will be May-June, and then September-October. I am also doing some price raising, reasoning that since I haven’t done it since the school started fifteen years ago, it’s a bit overdue. As always, there will be plenty of Plunkett scholarships.

I’m pleased to say we’re moving ahead on the next Wayward Wormhole, and 60% of our faculty is locked in so far. I hope to make an announcement about that soon.

Writing Short Stories Multi-Session Workshop

I will be offering a 6 week session of my writing short stories workshop on Saturdays, 12:30-3:00 PM Eastern time, starting February 3, 2024 and going through March 9.

In these six sessions, we will cover plot and story structure, character, world-building, style and technique, and how to move forward to begin (or continue) selling short stories. Each class will consist of lecture, discussion, and writing exercises for the first half and then turn to a critique of each other’s work. Students are expected to turn in at least one story for workshopping as well as critiquing each other’s stories.

To apply, please mail cat@kittywumpus.net a 1000 word writing sample (does not need to be a complete piece) as well as a brief (1-3 paragraph) statement about why you’d like to take the class. If accepted, the cost is $400 for Patreon supporters and other Rambo Academy community members; otherwise $500. There will be three Plunkett scholarships.

Single Session Workshops

Cost is $89 for Patreon supporters, otherwise $119. To register mail cat@kittywumpus.net with the name of the class and how you’d like to pay (Venmo, Paypal, check, something else.) There are three Plunkett scholarships in each class.

SCHEDULE

February 4, 12:30-2:30 PM Eastern Time

Replying to Other Stories with Cat Rambo

Stories shape writers, who spend part of their writing replying to, refuting, celebrating, and exploring those texts. Some stories have inspired plenty, such as Godwin’s “The Cold Equations,” Tiptree’s “The Women Men Don’t See,” or Le Guin’s “Those Who Walk Away from Omelas.” How do you draw on these stories without plagiarizing or leaning too heavily on a reader’s understanding of them? How do you figure out the stories that have inspired you, and how do you use them to make your own?

Join Cat for a workshop in which we’ll talk, listen, and exercise what we’ve learned in order to come away with useful tools as well as a list of possible story ideas and tips on which markets may find such stories appealing.

February 4, 4-6 PM Eastern Time

Generation Upon Generation: Writing Families with Cat Rambo

Almost every character has a family, one that has shaped their psyche deeply. How do you write characters in a way that demonstrates the complexities of family relationships and power struggles? How do you show the interactions between the generations and how they clash and complement each other?

Join Cat for a workshop in which we’ll talk, listen, and exercise what we’ve learned in order to come away from this class with a greater understanding of how to write family relationships, including practical tips, techniques, and exercises.

February 11, 12:30-2:30 PM Eastern time

Project Management for Creatives with Jennifer Brozek

How do you stay on top of the daily demands of being a writer? How do you plan — and carry out that plan — for a novel? How do you make sure one aspect of writing doesn’t swallow up all the rest? Basically, how can a writer stay in control of the daily chaos of existence even when you have multiple projects going at once?

Join Jennifer Brozek for a workshop about how to create a plan that helps you get where you want to go and how to do it without burning out.

February 11, 4-6 PM Eastern time

Creating and Updating Your Newsletter with Cat Rambo

With social media falling apart, more and more writers are returning to newsletters. How do you get started putting out a newsletter? What should – and shouldn’t – you include? What platforms are available, and are they worth paying for? Where do you find interesting visual images to use in your newsletter? How do you go about getting more subscribers?

You will come away from this class with a plan for starting (or restarting) your newsletter and consistently sending it out with interesting content that helps you sell books.

February 18, 4-6 PM Eastern

Rosemary Claire Smith – The Art of the Book Review

Some avid readers want to become reviewers, talking about the fiction they love — and sometimes hate. How do you go about creating a book review that is fair, interesting, and spoiler free? Should you post reviews on platforms like GoodReads and LibraryThing? Where else might you publish such pieces apart from your own blog? Is it possible to get paid for reviews? How do you obtain advance readers copies before books are published? Who does those anonymous reviews in Publishers Weekly?

Join Rosemary Claire Smith to talk about the time-honored art of the book review, and its promises and pitfalls.

February 25, 12:30-2:30 PM Eastern time

Beats, Chapters and Scenes: Ins and Outs of Story Units with Cat Rambo

What’s the difference between a chapter and scene, and at what point in the process do you need to worry about it? What are story beats and how can you use them to move the story along and keeping it emotionally engaging for the reader? Is there a maximum or minimum length for any of these things? Do you even need to think about them, or will you just hamper the writing flow by doing so?

Join Cat Rambo for a workshop in which they teach you how to use story units to their best effect.

March 3, 12:30-2:30 PM Eastern time

Dial Up Your Dialogue with Cat Rambo

Want to make your dialogue more interesting, intriguing, and indicative of character behavior? How do you know to leave in and leave out? How can you use dialogue to successfully deliver vital information? How do you make characters distinctive through their voices?

Join Cat Rambo for a workshop in which they teach you the ins and outs of dialogue.

March 3, 4-6 PM Eastern time

Rewriting and Editing Short Stories with Cat Rambo

Students have found that learning to trust their editing skills has made them more productive when producing early drafts. This class combines lecture, discussion, and in class exercise to help you develop a rewriting practice tailored to your own particular strengths and weaknesses as well as one that lets you know when a story is ready for submission. Topics include how to edit at both the sentence and story level, working well with writers/editors, considerations when writing for anthologies or for franchises, and how to finally let go of a piece and get it out there.

March 10, 12:30-2:30 PM Eastern time

Money Management for Creatives with Jennifer Brozek

Money makes the world go round, and in today’s society your dollar has to stretch farther than it has before. In Money Management for Creatives, Jennifer teaches core fundamentals of money management, debt reducing techniques, and an understanding of how money awareness can work for you. The class includes hands-on tasks, examples of the techniques used, and a discussion about the emotions of dealing with money.

Join Jennifer for a session in which she teaches you how to make the most of your money while handling the often erratic flow of writing income.

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Reading and Gaming Highlights of 2023

I read more than I watch or listen, and so here are highlights from this year of the close to 200 books I read or reread in 2023. I get the majority of my reading from NetGalley, BookBub deals, ARCs, and the library. I include publication dates so I can remember what I will recommend for Nebula reading; bolded titles are eligible for award stuff this year; titles in italics indicate a forthcoming title.

Here are some of my favorites in speculative reading from this year:

  • F.M. Aden – The Bride of Death (Northern Light Press, March 1, 2024) – Lovely fairytale retelling.
  • Emma R. Alban – Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend (Avon, Jan 9, 2024) YA – queer Victorian romance with a whiff of The Parent Trap.
  • Cassie Alexander – AITA? (2021) – Fun paranormal sexy romance.
  • Julia Armfield – Our Wives Under the Sea (2022) Lovely, eerie horror.
  • Rachel Aukes – The Lazarus Key Waypoint, (Jan 8, 2024) – Thriller with fish & wildlife officers going up against dinosaurs
  • Bridget E. Baker – The Birthright Series, 2020. Solid space opera, and I liked the PoV changes from book to book. I read the first three and will be picking up the other five when I get the chance.
  • S.A. Barnes – Ghost Station (April 9, 2024) Great psychological thriller on a space station.
  • Redfern John Barrett – Proud Pink Sky (Amble Press, 2023) Linked short stories of a gay homeland. Enjoyed this a lot.
  • Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett – The Long Earth Parallel earth series, 1st of four.
  • Melissa Blair – A Broken Blade (2021) – Solid YA fantasy, first of three books.
  • Marie Brennan – The Market of 100 Fortunes (Aconyte, Feb, 2024) Loved this Legend of the Five Rings tie-in novel.
  • Tobias Buckell – A Stranger in the Citadel (Tachyon Publications, 2023), Terrific world-building and a librarian questioning that world.
  • Octavia E. Butler – Mind of My Mind. Rerelease of work by one of my favorite writers. Everyone should read Octavia. Over and over again.
  • Sebastien Castell – The Malevolent Seven (2023). Absolutely solid and fun fantasy that lives up to the excellence of Castell’s other works.
  • Heidi Catherine – The Whisperers of Evernow (2019) Interesting premise, YA.
  • Beth Cato – A Thousand Recipes for Revenge (47North, 2023) I love Cato’s work and this was no exception. Plus — food and fantasy! First of 2 and I’ve already preordered the sequel.
  • P. Djèlí Clark – The Dead Cat Tail Assassins (Tor, April 23, 2024) Delightful secondary world fantasy.
  • David Clawson – My Fairy Mother is a Drag Queen (2017) – Fun Cinderella retelling. YA.
  • Lex Croucher – Gwen and Art are Not in Love (Tor Macmillan 2023). YA queer romance, fun and frothy.
  • Alex Evans – I Am a Barbarian (BooksGoSocial, Dec 17, 2023) Fun YA secondary world fantasy.
  • Philip Jose Farmer – Lord of the Trees (2012), The Mad Goblin (2013) Typical crazy-ass Farmer and a certain amount of (literal) cock-swinging.
  • Brandon Gillespie – Atom Bomb Baby (2023) Strong whiff of Fallout fanfic about this book, but in a good way.
  • Nicole Glover – The Conductors (2021) Loved this alternate history with magicians running the Underground Railway; first of two books
  • Kim Harrison – American Demon (2020) I always enjoy Harrison and this was no exception.
  • Christina Henry – The House that Horror Built (Berkeley, June 14, 2024) Solid horror about the cinema, nicely creepy.
  • Kevin Hincker – The Ghost with a Knife at Her Throat (August 13, 2023) I adored this urban fantasy, which had some cool twists. First in a series and I’m picking up the rest.
  • S.J. Himes – The Necromancer’s Dance (2016) First in an urban fantasy series of the vampires/werewolves ilk, fun gay fantasy with lots of action.
  • Dara Horn – Eternal Life (2018) Is living forever a boon or a curse? Lotsa historical texture.
  • Kat Howard – An Unkindness of Magicians, A Sleight of Shadows (2023) Loved this duo of mannerly magician books.
  • Sarah Zachrich Jeng – When I’m Her (Berkley, March , 2024) Compelling story of female friendship.
  • Mary E. Jung – Blossom and Bone (2022) Cozy fantasy feel to this series that I really enjoyed, first of a 3 book series.
  • T.J. Klune – In the Lives of Puppets (2023) Terrific SF retelling of Pinochio. One of my favorite reads of the year.
  • Tim Lebbon – Among the Living (Titan Books, Feb 6, 2024) Lebbon is always good, and this is solid and compelling.
  • Ann Leckie – Translation State (2023) More in Leckie’s complex and compelling SF universe, along with one of my favorite characters of all time, Qven.
  • Britney S. Lewis – The Undead Truth of Us (2021). YA zombie with a lot of emotion to it.
  • Megan Mackie – Death and the Crone (2023) Enjoyed this older woman romance in Mackie’s Lucky Devil setting.
  • Melissa Marr – Remedial Magic (Tor, Feb 20, 2024) Cozy fantasy with a lovely lesbian romance.
  • J.R. Martin – The Engineer’s Apprentice (2023) Solid beginning to a steampunk series.
  • Zoe Hana Mikuta – Off With Their Heads (Disney, April 24, 2024) Great queer Alice in Wonderland riff with Gideon the Ninth vibes.
  • Jo Miles – Dissonant State (2023) Fun space opera that has me looking for the beginning of the series.
  • Premee Mohamed – The Siege of Burning Grass (Rebellion Publishing, March 12, 2024) If you buy one book in 2024, this should be it.
  • Sunny Moraine – Your Shadow Half Remains (Tor, Feb, 2024) Creepy horror of the everyone is the enemy apocalypse variety.
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Silver Nitrate (2023) Sharp-edged horror set in cinematic history.
  • Tamsyn Muir – Harrow the Ninth (2020), Nona the Ninth (2022) I loved Gideon and Harrow but bounced hard off the third book for some reason.
  • Patrick Ness – The Rest of Us Just Live Here (2015) – YA and I LOVE this book about what it’s like to not be the Chosen One so much.
  • Naomi Novik – A Deadly Education (2020), The Golden Enclaves (2022) Fabulous entry into the genre of magic schools.
  • Allison Saft – A Dark and Drowning Tide (Random House, Sept 17, 2024) Loved this secondary world fantasy frenemies to lovers take on a murder mystery.
  • Lilith Saintcrow – A Flame in the North (Orbit, February 13, 2024) I always enjoy Saintcrow and this was a pleasurable read but I like her more modern fantasy stuff considerably more.
  • Robert Shearman – We All Hear Stories in the Dark (2022). I’m still working my way through this massive three volume set and enjoying it enormously. Highly recommended if you love short stories.
  • A.J. Steiger – Eye of a Little God. (January 2, 2024). Well-executed psychological horror.
  • Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland – The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. (2017) Great time travel corps stuff with a fun romance. There’s a sequel, which I need to pick up.
  • Andrew F. Sullivan – The Marigold (2023) Fabulously unhinged horror.
  • Lavie Tidhar – The Circumference of the World (2023) His usual brilliance, so much lovely stuff in this!
  • K.B. Wagers – A Pale Light in the Black (2020) Fun start to a series.
  • Khan Wong – The Circus Infinite (2022) Terrific SF with a runaway teen with special powers.
  • Z. J. Ryder – Twisted Neuros (2023) I love this story of an AI trying to figure out its own existence.

In anthologies and collections, I recently began a project to go through all my anthologies and collections to see which I want to keep. So far that’s included:

  • Space Opera, edited by Brian Aldiss. Keeping for historical relevance more than any innate quality.
  • Light Years and Dark, edited by Michael Bishop. Keeping for the high degree of original fiction, the quality of writers and works, and the editorial vision.
  • The Black Science Fiction Society’s Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction Book One, edited by Jarvis Sheffield. Keeping for the breadth of established and new voices.
  • A Larger Reality: Speculative Fiction from the Bicultural Margins, edited by Libia Brenda. Keeping because I love books with the stories in the original language as well as English, plus the range of established and new voices.

In my short fiction reading club, in which we read classic stories of F&SF, we read: Ray Bradbury’s “The Fog Horn,” Karen Joy Fowler’s “Standing Room Only”, Robert Heinlein’s “All You Zombies,” and “The Green Hills of Earth,” Anne McCaffrey’s “The Ship Who Sang,” Vonda N. McIntyre’s “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand,” C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner’s “Vintage Season”, Clifford Simak’s “Desertion,” Connie Willis’ “A Letter from the Clearys”, and Roger Zelazny’s “Auto-da-Fe.” I’ve found these craft-focused sessions, which are part of my Patreon community, illuminating and useful in terms of learning more about F&SF history as well as craft tips and tricks.

In video/computer games, I started playing the early version of Baldur’s Gate 3 in early September, and I’ve been obsessed with it. Earlier in the year, I was playing Sun Haven and really enjoyed it, along with occasional bouts of Darkest Dungeon. If you’re a Stardew Valley fan, you will like Sun Haven, because there’s a lot of similarities and fun writing. I continue to play Pokemon Go on my phone.

RPG-wise I’m running a live game of D&D 5e and playing in two f2f homebrew D&D campaigns, one virtual D%D campaign plus Esper Genesis on Twitch. That sounds like more than it really is, which is a chance to game once or twice each week. Early in the year, I played in a game of Apocalypse Hearts run by Lowell Francis and want to recommend the Open Hearth gaming community for people interested in finding interesting story-focused games to play online. I also used the Party Backstory Generator tool by Justin Sirosis in my D&D game as the session 0 and found people really grooved with it and generated some interesting connections.

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Wrapping Up the Year

I’m finally catching up, post-Wormhole Workshop in Girona, Spain, and pronounce it a success! We had a great time, and the students wrote their tails off, producing amazing, sometimes location-flavored, stories, such as “We Have Always Been Going to the Castle,” and “Murder at the Castell de la Cava.” Being in a 10th century castle was an evocative space for our first effort, and a number of moments, including my 60th birthday celebration, will live in my memory for the rest of my life. This newsletter is illustrated with sunrises and sunsets from the stay.

So many thanks to my partner in the effort, Janet K. Smith and her indefatigable husband Geoff. We learned a lot for the 2024 Wormhole, which will be a fully accessible location inside the United States. Look for a formal announcement mid-February but the scheduling will again be for November.

If you want access to the recordings from the workshop in Spain, featuring Tobias Buckell, Ann Leckie, Sarah Pinsker, and myself, they are available individually or as a group – and best of all, we implemented sliding scale so more people can afford it. Please check out what’s available and spread the word if you know people who might be interested. Find out more here.

Some Wayward Gift Ideas

Want to give your favorite writer a gift from the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers? Here’s some possibilities:

  • A subscription to the community ($50 for a year)
  • A class credit ($75, good for any two hour class)
  • A coaching session ($50, 30 minute consultation via Zoom)
  • A story edit ($50 for up to 5000 words)
  • One of these stickers or cool zippered pouches for their pens

For any of the virtual gifts, mail me at cat@kittywumpus.net. You will receive a .pdf that can be mailed to the recipient or printed out to give them physically.

What I’m Working On

The year is passing away with fierce quickness and I’m trying to wrap up the draft of Wings of Tabat in order to get that in before the end of the end. I’m planning changes for next year’s Rambo Academy classes and events – if you’re a community member, please weigh in on the post asking for feedback on what you’d like to see!

Lotsa Links

Cat-Related Links

Rambo Academy Community Links

Market & Related Links

Informative Links

Pictures from Life the Casa Rambo Way

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