Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Wish List


July 1 question – There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade?

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t yet have much experience with the publishing industry. But as a life-long reader, what I’d really love to see is more diversity. At the moment, I am most focused on racial diversity, but we also need more diversity of upbringing, of class, of gender identity and sexual orientation and able-bodiedness.

I want to see more people of color in my books and stories. Everybody deserves to see themselves as the heroes of their own stories, whether those stories are escapist, gritty, or anywhere in between.

I want to see more books by people of color, as well. Yes, authors can (and should!) learn to write characters who are different from ourselves. We should do our research, hire (and listen to!) sensitivity readers when appropriate, and listen when corrected (And if you’re interested in doing that work, might I recommend checking out Writing the Other?). But Black, Asian, Latinx, disabled, trans, queer, and poor authors deserve space to tell their own stories. We can all strive to write about worlds that are full of diverse characters, we also need to recognize that while our imaginations may be limitless, not every story is ours to tell.

I also would love to see more diversity in our editors, publicists, and agents. Even with the best of intentions, it’s easy to favor stories by people who have had similar life experiences, or to believe our experiences are universal. Yes, that’s something that those of us with more privilege can (and should!) improve on in ourselves, but if we want to see more diverse stories, we need more diverse gatekeepers, as well.

I could say more, but as a white woman, it’s not really my place to say exactly what writers of color need from the publishing industry. I just want them to get that support, so that I can read their books.

Cat Ladies of the Apocalypse, or Good Things Still Happen

As you may have seen on twitter, Cat Ladies of the Apocalypse, featuring my short story, “A Witch for the Chrome Furies,” is out! It’s been out for almost a month now, actually. Even in paperback!

This is a weird time to have something good going on.

It’s not that I think it’s frivolous to think about books at a time like this – personally, reading is the only thing getting me through some days, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I want to hear all about what new books are coming out, and what older books people are digging up. Now is the time for more books!

And it’s not that I don’t think I have a right to be happy when bad things are going on in the world. Sadly, there is almost always some horrible slaughter or human rights violation going on somewhere, and while it’s important to stay engaged and aware of that, we can’t wait for the world to be fixed. Happiness has to exist next to despair, or we’re all sunk.

I think I just don’t have the stamina to be excited for very long.

When my author copy of Cat Ladies of the Apocalypse arrived in the mail last week, I was over the moon! The cover is even more vibrant in person, and I picked up on all sorts of details that I hadn’t noticed on my computer screen. And the inside of the book has the most adorable drawings of cats wearing hats and/or goggles between some of the stories. It was absolutely amazing to hold it in my hands, and I get a little frisson of pleasure every time I see it.

But I never even posted to Twitter about having gotten the book. I’m not embarrassed to be promoting this anthology. I just forgot. My excitement keeps getting buried under the weight of Everything Going On In The World Right Now.

I imagine this is happening to a lot of people right now, and for a lot of reasons. To a certain extent, it’s probably unavoidable, given our ambient stress levels. But I also think it’s important that we do our best to hold onto joy and excitement when we can. The world is dark, so we owe it to ourselves – and to everyone else – to create and reflect as much light as comes our way.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Getting in the Zone

May 6 question – Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? Care to share?

Truthfully, the best way for me to get into the zone is writing with other people. Under normal circumstances, one of my favorite things to do it to meet up with a writing friend at a cafe, catch up over pastries and beverages, and then settle in for a nice writing session. Since both sitting in cafes and socializing is canceled for the foreseeable future, I have had to compromise.

Zoom is currently the best tool in my arsenal. I’ve been meeting up with one of my regular writing buddies almost every week, and Cat Rambo has been hosting writing sessions on Zoom for her Patreon supporters and members of her Discord community since the pandemic began. They are well-attended, and it’s nice to see the same faces on a regular basis. She’s set up a really nice format for the medium, and it’s a great community! It doesn’t always get me all the way into “the zone,” but it’s 1.5 hours of writing time that I would not have otherwise managed, which is pretty darn good, especially right now. While I would prefer to be in my favorite cafe, these writing sessions are the next best thing.

Other news

Cat Ladies of the Apocalypse is out! My physical copy arrived in the mail on Monday, and it’s absolutely beautiful. This is my first anthology publication, and the first time I have seen my fiction in hard copy. It’s been a strange experience, to have this happen during a pandemic, but it’s a weirdly appropriate time for a book of semi-hopeful stories about the end of the world.

How are you all doing? I’m looking forward to reading some of the answers to this month’s ISWG question from other people! Maybe it’ll give me the inspiration to create a decent writing ritual of my own.

What I’m Reading: April 2020

I wish I had meaningful advice to offer on getting through this dark time. Things are scary out there, lives and livelihoods are both in danger, and I don’t have answers for you. All I have to offer are some of the books that I’ve been reading, that are helping me to stay sane

The City We Became, by NK Jemisin

This book is amazing, which comes as a surprise to exactly no one who has been following the Hugos the last few years. This book is much lighter than her Broken Earth trilogy, but no less bitingly insightful. It’s a love letter to New York City, and giant middle finger to the xenophobia of HP Lovecraft, and I can not recommend it highly enough. She does things with language here that made me laugh out loud with delight.

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, by Carlos Hernandez

haven’t read much middle grade fiction since I stopped working at a bookstore, so if I hadn’t read this for a class (Writing the Other: Deep Dive Into Description, which I highly recommend to any other writers out there), I would have missed out on something really fun. Hernandez deals with some heavy themes (loss of a parent, Diabetes, and a sick newborn), but somehow never loses the fun of this story.

I intend to reread this once I’ve gotten farther in my study of Spanish on Duolingo, to see if I can parse any more of the Spanish dialogue. The story is perfectly understandable without that – anything important is explained by Sal in his own voice – but I think it would be fun to do.

The King of Next Week, by EC Ambrose

This is a quiet novella, about a dreamer who marries a djinn, set shortly after the American Civil War, in New Hampshire. It’s everything I want from a historical fantasy: strong details to ground me in the time period, and enough magic to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar. It’s a little bittersweet, but it will make you think without breaking your heart.

Adventures of the Incognita Countess, by Cynthia Ward

This novella reminded me of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but much more sapphic. It’s a delightful blending of Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and a few other classic works of British fiction from the time, all converging on everyone favorite doomed vessel: the Titanic. The narrator starts off with some frustrating prejudices, but is disabused of them by the end. It’s a fun adventure, a send-off on classic horror, and a love story.

I’ll stop here, since I doubt anybody wants to know everything I’m reading right now. I hope you are all safe, and warm, and fed. Take care of yourselves, and each other.

The Cats Story Bundle

Exciting news! My short story, “A Witch for the Chrome Furies” has been published in Cat Ladies of the Apocalypse! Right now, the anthology is only available as part of The Cats! Bundle, but it will eventually come to exist as an individual ebook and in hard copy.

What can you expect from Cat Ladies of the Apocalypse?

Cat Ladies of the Apocalypse riffs off of the trope of a lone hero wandering through a post-apocalyptic wasteland with his loyal hound. Here, we see women taking control of their destinies and making choices to build a better future out of chaos. These stories are as much about relationships – between women and their cats, but also between and within communities – as they are about grim determination. When we were writing these stories, none of us knew how very timely the anthology would become, but we need stories of hope and survival and community right now.

Who wouldn’t want ten different cat books?

But even beyond my obviously biased favorite, this book bundle is a great value. You get ten different ebooks that feature cats, in a variety of genres, touching on romance, mystery, speculative fiction, and straight contemporary fiction. If you forgot to stock up on books before life turned topsy turvy, this would be an easy way to get new reading material into your hands without having to wait for shipping.

This bundle is just so. Many. Books. And so many cats! This is a particularly good deal if you like short stories, as seven of the ten books included are anthologies or short story collections. Sometimes, shorter fiction can be good for times when the real world is a little too high stress, since any fictional conflict will be resolved pretty quickly. But if you’d rather really sink yourself into a single world, the cat bundle still has you covered, with an entire twisted fairy tale romance trilogy, and two different murder mysteries.

Feel better about the world by contributing to charity!

The book bundle also let’s you contribute to a good cause. This bundle gives you the option to donate part of your payment to Ablegamers, a charity that helps people with disabilities to get custom controllers and other assistive hardware, so they can play video games. If there’s one thing that I hope we have all learned from the current pandemic, it’s that video games and other forms of entertainment are necessary outlets for mental health. Videogames can also be powerful tools to combat social isolation. Those of us who are able-bodied are only going to be isolated for a limited time, but many people with disabilities are curtailed in their freedom of movement and access to entertainment on a regular basis, and deserve access to the same tools that the able-bodied are using right now.

With the world falling apart, we all need hope and entertainment more than ever. Cat videos are great, but fairly brief. If you need relief that lasts longer than a thirty second cat gif, check out the cat story bundle for longer lasting relief! But act quickly, because this bundle is only available until April 14.