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#NaNoWriMo: Hello, Evernote


Current word count: 41, 392

Worldbuilding while writing something, for me, is very much like building the plane while flying it. It’s terrifying, and ill-advised, and a situation where, at the very least, you really need to be keeping really excellent track of what you have or have not done lest you miss a Very Important Step and wind up crashing and burning.

For the world of Aerdh, where my other novels are set, worldbuild, and then I write. It’s a very clean, linear process. Tidy. Orderly. I have a separate Scivener file that is solely for Aerdh worldbuilding.

So. I’m drafting The Analog System in Scrivener, which looks like this:

Screenshot 2015-11-25 15.01.29

I started with the intent of worldbuilding in the same Scrivener file as I was writing in. That’s what I do for short stories; I just create a little research folder outside the main draft and stick ideas and outlines and other shit in there as needed. It works great!

But it didn’t work great for The Analog System. Maybe it was a matter of scale. It got unwieldy moving back and forth within the same big document like that around Chapter 4.

I realized I needed something quicker, something external, where I could keep my notes (in digital format), where I could pull them up and refer to them without losing my place in the current draft of the actual story. BUT it had to be a program that had a lot of organizational potential because I like to fiddle with my notes a lot when I’m stuck, categorizing them and recategorizing them and adding to them, etc., as a way to un-stick my mind. AND it had to have the capacity to work offline since I’d need to add to the notes and things while writing on the bus.

Evernote. Evernote totally fulfills all these criteria.

I am just barely off track word-count wise right now in NaNo, and I can pretty much credit Evernote and some awesome writing buddies to that fact. Without Evernote, I’d be searching through my draft for a bunch of names and descriptions. Evernote is totally the backend of my book right now and it is working so well. For me, it looks like this:

Screenshot 2015-11-25 14.55.04.png

I’ve got a bunch of Analog System – related notebooks stuck in a notebook stack: one for character sheets, one for plotting, one for research (yay, webclipper!), one for worldbuilding notes, and one for notes on revisions*.

A LOT of my backstory is in Evernote right now instead of the book’s draft, which is a good thing! There’s still way too much exposition in the book, but that means there’s even less to cut in the revisions.

As always, do what works for you, but the two-fer of Scrivener and Evernote is really working for me right now.


*Yeah, already planning for the revision.

#NaNoWriMo: I Made An Outline For This


Current word count:

I used to be very hardcore about outlining. In college, I outlined my papers on half-sheets of paper and then taped those outlines to the monitor of my computer to keep them in my field of vision as I worked. I first got into fiction writing by helping to outline someone else’s1 project. And when I first finally started writing fiction by myself, I outlined in minute detail–every beat, every breath, every break.

I still outline short stories, actually, roughing out the beats before I start the actual writing, but I haven’t outlined a novel in years. I didn’t outline Ariah or Resistance at all. But with my NaNoWriMo project, The Analog System, I don’t have the luxury of working in a universe I’ve defined yet. I did some worldbuilding, some basic foundation laying, in October, but I also actually outlined a plot. Start all the way to finish.


Potential spoilers in these cards, FYI

It was hard. I am rusty. I kept getting stuck, so then I’d do some more worldbuilding, or flag questions I needed to research about worldbuilding, or else-wise procrastinate. I ended up googling “novel three act structure” because, hell, I don’t need something fancy for a first draft, just something tried-and-true, something serviceable.

I came across a helpful post at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University and forced my way through it.

It felt weird defining the plot before I knew all the ins and outs of the universe. It felt even weirder making plot decisions before I knew who the cast of characters would be. But I didn’t want to sprint my way into a dead end with NaNoWriMo. I needed a road map for this one.

It felt very weird, but I did it. Now, let’s just see if I follow it.

1That project was my partner’s short story, which eventually turned into the world of Aerdh. The most direct descendant of that fateful initial short story is probably Cargo.

Disrupting Publishing Linkspam: 11/3/2015

It’s that time again: that time every week where I round up links to articles written by marginalized people pushing back against oppression in publishing. I’m aggregated as many marginalized voices as possible from as many vectors as possible, and the more intersectional the better. As always if you’ve read something I missed please link it in the comments.

“Equity in Publishing: What Should Editors Be Doing?” by Antonio Aiello for PEN

ALEXANDER CHEE: I guess I’m still stuck on this “white nepotism,” “brown nepotism” idea Sherman Alexie has left us with—in which he mistakes white supremacy for nepotism, and the work to undo it for another kind of nepotism. I am still trying to see the good in what Alexie has done, but I can only think that while he has indeed defended his choices, and perhaps, the way those choices were made, he has done so at the cost of approximately 100 years of writing and activism by Asian American writers, who have, at sometimes considerable social and professional cost, worked to pry open even a little of the white Potemkin village that is contemporary American publishing.

Poet Gregory Pardlo: ‘I won the Pulitzer: why am I invisible?’ by Angela Chen for The Guardian

“One of the things I run into surprisingly often is people saying to me, ‘I’ve never heard of you before,’” says poet Gregory Pardlo. “Yet I’ve been publishing in ‘mainstream’ journals and my book won that prize, so what is it that is making me invisible? It’s not the work and it’s not the publishing credits.”

“This Is Getting Old” by Katherine Locke

Bird, unlike Breslin, isn’t anti-Semitic. Just determinedly tonedeaf about marginalized people’s hurt and their right to protect themselves and express the hurt at the same time. But suggesting that marginalized people must be hurt, must continue to be hurt, must make themselves open to hurt in order to converse is cruel, unnecessary, and wrong.

“12 Fundamentals of Writing ‘The Other’ (And The Self)” by Daniel Jose Older for Buzzfeed

To write, we must listen. To listen, we must shut up. And this isn’t the simple kind of listening, where you’re waiting for them to finish what they can say so you can jump in real quick with your point. Really, have a seat, take a deep breath, and listen to what people around you are saying. Listen to yourself, your quiet self. To your doubts and fears, the things you don’t want to admit. Listen to the things folks say that make you uncomfortable. Sit with that discomfort.

NaNoWriMo 2015!


I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year!

I’ve never done it before. It’s funny, because when I told my partner I was doing it she looked at me cock-eyed and said, “right, because you really need a special project to make you write more.”

But I do. Let me explain:

I’ve had this nugget of a piece of a cool sci-fi concept bouncing around my brain for a while now. Maybe a year and a half? Maybe almost two years? A while. But I haven”t found the time to develop it or the right way to do it. Meanwhile, I keep writing other stuff.

A few weeks ago I realized this kernel of an idea was actually sprouting into a novel. And I realized that though I’ve written…nine-ish novels (many of which are unpublished) all of those novels are set in Aerdh–the same universe as Ariah and Resistance.

I had myself half-convinced that I could not actually write a novel that was not set in my familiar, stalwart universe of Aerdh. It’s my safe space as a writer. But I don’t want to just hang out in my safe space forever; I want to stretch and grow, too. The nice thing about something like NaNoWriMo is that it’s a dedicated time and space to try something different. With NaNo, I’m more or less giving myself permission to step away from the current projects I have going and try this new, unfamiliar, exciting thing I’m afraid to fail at.

Worst case scenario is that I scrape some words out of my brain and throw them in Scrivener and they don’t make any sense.

Best case scenario is that I take a rough pass at something currently out of my comfort zone and eke out something revision-worthy.

Wish me luck! Ok, now for the big reveal. Here’s what I’m working on for NaNoWriMo:


This is a working title. I am so bad at titles, y’all. Anyway, you can follow my updates on twitter or over on the NaNo website!

Iris Volek is an analog serving Universe 3. Chosen for her prodigious memory, at sixteen Iris is one of the few people in the world who can enter a pocket universe and converse with people from parallel universes: her other selves born into worlds where history took different turns. But suddenly the other analogs around her start to disappear—taken into “containment” by the powers that be. And Iris knows that once an analog is “contained” they never come back. Iris must find out why the analogs are disappearing and stop it—because she might be “contained” next.



Amazon | Goodreads

Notes on Diversity:
If you’re looking for a diverse read, look elsewhere.

I can’t remember a single character in the book who isn’t white. All of the characters are able-bodied. Due to economic collapse, characters in the opening struggle with poverty but it is noteworthy that they did not start out that way–this is a story about middle class people descending into squalor (how terrible!), then making horrible compromises to creep back out of the pit of violent poverty again. It is not a story about people who have always been impoverished.1

The book, I think, aims to establish an odd kind of solidarity with queer readers by way of a kind of essentially ironic heteronormativity,2 but the effect, for this queer reader at least, was disheartening. One of the main characters reflects:

Anything goes, out there in the so-called real world; though not inside Consilience, where the surface ambience is wholesomely, relentlessly hetero.

But it’s not clear why. Later on in the book, this same character leaves Consilience, due to plot contrivances, and winds up in a heard of Elvis impersonators in Las Vegas, all of whom appear to be interchangeably gay. But, lo! They are not gay. They just pretend to be so, for reasons, because that isn’t problematic at all.

So, not only is there no authentic queer representation in the book, in one locale it’s explicitly mysteriously absent, and in another, queerness is co-opted and appropriated. Both instances left a very bad taste in my mouth.

I should say right at the outset that Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite writers. She has historically been an auto-buy for me, so when I heard she had a new novel coming out, I pre-ordered it, no questions asked.

I regret it.

The truth is that The Heart Goes Last is not very good. I would recommend fans of Atwood read this engaging interview with her about the book instead of reading the book itself–seriously, skip the book. Everything Atwood wants to say about prisons and commodification she says more succinctly and with more wit in this interview.


The plot of The Heart Goes Last is as follows: there is a terrible economic collapse in America (kind of3) which leads to a middle class White hetero couple, Stan and Charmaine, losing their jobs and living in their car. Stan and Charmaine escape their grubby car-life by signing up for a planned community called Consilience. The deal with Consilience is that residents of Consilience get a house with fluffy towels and a fridge and TVs that play Doris Day movies, but the catch is that every other month they have to serve a term as prisoners in the Positron prison. As civilians, everyone has a job and a secure living arrangement, and then as prisoners, everyone chips in to do the grunt work that keeps the community going. The rotating population also shares housing–so, when Stan and Charmaine are in Positron Prison, a different couple (their Alternates) life in their designated house.

At first things are nice. And then, everything goes to shit. What first begins as a fairly mundane extra-marital affair4 spirals out into a frankly unbelievable conspiracy involving organ harvesting, lobotomies, and sex robots. As Stan and Charmaine are drawn deeper and deeper into the seedy underbelly of Consilience/Positron, each of them becomes pawns in someone else’s game. Ultimately, Atwood raises questions of free will in a forced, haphazard way that decidedly did not work for me. Maybe it will for you.

I found the book deeply unsuccessful. On the one hand, I think Atwood tried to do too much with it; maybe the book should have only focused on lobotomizing-women-so-they-become-sex-slaves or just on the complicity-we-all-have-with-regard-to-mass-incarceration. And in either case, taking on these subjects in a book written as a tongue-in-cheek absurdist romp rubbed me the wrong way.

Here is what I mean. In an interview, Atwood says the following about setting her book mostly in a prison:

The Millions: The set up of your novel felt so real.
Margaret Atwood: It is real.
The Millions: But it’s not necessarily your reality.

That’s my issue–Atwood is a massively privileged person. She has not been to prison. She is at a remove here. Given the scope and the viciousness with which incarceration can derail a person’s life, I think it’s inappropriate to treat it lightly, especially if it is not the writer’s reality. The entire book is flippant, frankly, which is why if didn’t work for me.

Atwood is a brilliant women. I deeply respect her. But I am uninterested in reading a book about how prisons are absurd and bad written from this removed and very privileged perspective. It’s fascinating, actually, considering that one of her previous novels, Alias Grace, did interrogate crime and imprisonment from a feminist perspective quite successfully.

The Heart Goes Last took Atwood from an auto-buy author for me to someone I now side-eye. What a shame.

2 stars

1I make this distinction because, in my experience, growing up poor and becoming poor as an adult are two distinctly different experiences. When you grow up poor there are things you never learn, elements of social capital that are forever out of your grasp. When you slip down the class ladder later in life you can often still “pass” because you were enculturated with these elements of social capital from an early age. It still sucks, but it’s different, and it is one thing that makes later-in-life poverty actually easier to escape than starting there.

2I would draw a parallel here to the kinds of deeply offensive “hipster racism” or “ironic racism” that are, at bottom, just racism.

3I’m calling a Plot Hole here: it doesn’t make sense to me that large swaths of America would be in total economic collapse but Las Vegas would be just fine. And Consilience/Positron is apparently turning a tidy profit–but who is buying if the entire economy has collapsed? If most of America’s middle class wound up sleeping in cars then how are the Elvis impersonators squeaking by? The economics in the book truly did not make sense to me, and since Stan and Charmaine’s actions are driven by this apparent economic collapse, I really needed to buy into it.

4Honestly there are few plots I find more boring than middle-aged-middle-class-hetero-married-couple-falls-into-affairs-out-of-ennui-and-boredom. This plot thread when on way, way, way too long.

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Debrief: “Real Monsters”

Lethe Press | Amazon

Lethe Press | Amazon

Scylla and Charybdis are sea monsters, but they didn’t start that way. In “Real Monsters,” Scylla tells her story. In Scylla’s version of events, what lies between Scylla and Charybdis is not death and destruction but a radical and vibrant love story.

Publication date: First published in Cactus Heartissue 8, on 6/4/2014.

Reprinted in Heiresses of Russ 2015 on 10/23/2015.

Completion date: 11/3/2013

Number of times subbed:
Six–four rejections and two acceptances. One of the acceptances was an initial acceptance to publish, and the second was an acceptance to publish as a reprint.

The story of the story:
I wrote this one to a call for stories featuring queer women and the theme “over and under the sea.”

I had that call banging around in my head when I went on a trip with my ex to meet her family. That trip didn’t go well; her family could not get my preferred pronouns right, nor did they seem to have any interest in doing so. Not a queer friendly situation, much less trans-friendly.

The idea came to me very suddenly, born out of I’m not sure what, but the upshot is that I ended up in a crappy little Starbucks looking up elements of myth about Scylla and Charybdis while I sketched out the plot. I wrote the thing in a single sitting, there in that Starbucks, the day we left her family behind and started another leg of the trip. Writing it was an act of catharsis, an exorcism of vicious defiance I’d been carrying for days.

Placing the story:
This one wasn’t easy to place. It’s a retelling of Greek myth, still with the same setting but told in modern colloquial language and subrversively recast. It’s kind of spec fic but kind of not–there are sea creatures and gods and goddesses, but it’s a Greek myth retelling and those are often perceived to be tongue-in-cheek literary as often as not as well. It was another one that was, frankly, just kind of…weird.

I sent it to the lit mag that issued the call, and was rejected. I sent it to a couple of spec fic lit mags, and was rejected. I tried a literary lit mag that had a call going for a fanfic-y type thing, and this piece seemed to fit, but was rejected. I saw Cactus Heart listed on Lambda Literary, and their mission statement said they were after “spiny writing & art—sharp, relentless, coursing with energy and able to thrive in the harshest of places, all while maintaining a vulnerable, succulent interior.” Hell, I thought, this one is spiny and vulnerable. So I subbed “Real Monsters” to them, and they took it! An ethos fit, I’d call it.

A few months later I saw the call from Lethe Press for submissions to their annual Heiresses of Russ collection–reprints of lesbian fiction from the past year. I sent them “Real Monsters” and “Beneath the Dane Hills” for consideration–both fit the bill–and they chose “Real Monsters”.

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Disrupting Publishing Linkspam: 10/27/2015

It’s that time again: that time every week where I round up links to articles written by marginalized people pushing back against oppression in publishing. I’m aggregated as many marginalized voices as possible from as many vectors as possible, and the more intersectional the better. As always if you’ve read something I missed please link it in the comments.

“The ‘Anyone Can Write’ Argument in Laura Amy Schlitz’s THE HIRED GIRL” by Debbie Reese

Is Schlitz–through her characters–pushing against the growing call for diversity of authors? I think so, and, I think it is an overt move on the part of Schlitz, her editor, and her publishing house.

“Accuracy or Bias: On Prejudicial Characters in Children’s Literature and Beyond” by Justina Ireland for Book Riot

It doesn’t matter that this book may be offensive to Jewish or Native people. As long as it satisfies the majority, in this case a white, Christian audience, it must be “quality.” The book is one more microaggression against readers that fall outside of the imagined audience, and the conversation surrounding the book further marginalizes these groups because it makes very clear that their opinion is inconsequential. A book that is offensive to them can still be considered award worthy.

The PW Publishing Industry Salary Survey 2015: A Younger Workforce, Still Predominantly White

“Same Old Script” by Alisha Harris at Slate

A Writers’ Guild of America report released earlier this year noted that staff employment for people of color actually decreased between the 2011–12 season and 2013–14 season, from a peak of 15.6 percent to 13.7 percent. The number of executive producers of color also decreased in those seasons, from 7.8 percent to 5.5 percent. While the 2014–15 season may have seen those numbers increase thanks to the addition of a few shows with diverse casts, such sharp declines demonstrate how tenuous progress in Hollywood can be.

The Rhimes effect onscreen is real. But can the remarkable diversity in those few writers’ rooms spread to shows across the television landscape?

Girl Monsters: Sofia Samatar interviews Sarah McCarry

I want to ask you about the cover of About a Girl—because isn’t this the first mass-market YA cover to show two girls kissing??

It’s the first cover of a YA novel published by a Big 5 publisher (Big 4 now? I can’t keep track) to feature two girls kissing, yes! It came about because I am a belligerent pest, is the short version of the story. I am still delighted about that.

“Sleeps With Monsters: Strong Female Characters and the Double Standard” by Liz Bourke for Tor.com

But the double standard of content, the double standard of criticism applied, bothers me really quite fundamentally. We fall into the error of really rather relentlessly applying criticism to female characters. They’re too domestic! They aren’t domestic enough! They have too little agency! Or too much, having unbelievably few constraints on their choices! They’re too violent, too shallow, too brittle. They’re too gentle, too generous, too forgiving, too soft. They’re insufficiently maternal, or too much so. They’re too independent! They’re not independent enough!

Roundup: October 19-25, 2015

CropperCapture[152]Wanderings on the Internet

  • A big thank you to whoever recommended Ariah for consideration for the Stonewall Award!
  • Looking for diverse fantasy book recs? Writing fantasy and want tips on how to avoid writing tokens? Check last night’s #DiverseFantasyChat over on Twitter!
  • If you are so inclined, browse the Supernatural Haikus.

Writing Update

  • I wrote a short story about murderous lesbian swan-maidens this week titled, not particularly creatively, “The Swan-Maidens.” As part of the research for this story, I learned about Swedish river names and read this incredibly thorough and fascinating article about the folklore of Animal Brides by Terri Windling.
  • I also am planning to do NaNoWriMo for the first time ever this month, and I spent some time sketching out a rough plot for a possible novel about doppelgangers and political intrigue and alternate universes.

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Announcement: “Real Monsters” in HEIRESSES OF RUSS 2015!


I am honored that my story, “Real Monsters”, is included in Heiresses of Russ 2015: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction.

The fact that my story is sandwiched between Nicola Griffith’s “Cold Wind” and Alex Dally MacFarlane’s “Because I Prayed This Word” gives you a sense of just how excellent this collection is.1 Again, I’m truly honored, and if queer spec fic is your thing I encourage you to check out the anthology!

About “Real Monsters”
Scylla and Charybdis are sea monsters, but they didn’t start that way. In “Real Monsters,” Scylla tells her story. In Scylla’s version of events, what lies between Scylla and Charybdis is not death and destruction but a radical and vibrant love story.

About the Anthology
Stories about lesbians, women who choose women as primary partners, lovers, playmates, and co-conspirators, tend to go where few men have gone before. Most of the real-life issues that lesbians must deal with, as women and as members of non-mainstream communities, appear in these stories in metaphorical form or as plausible scenarios in a future or alternate world. Lesbianism itself was routinely described by the conservatives of the past as “impossible.” The formula of “woman + woman” is thus logically connected with other phenomenon formerly considered impossible: magic, witchcraft, folk cures, scientific discoveries, alternate methods of producing offspring, space travel, communication with beings who are not human or not living in human bodies, historical accounts that have been suppressed or denied. The Heiresses of Russ series seeks to offer readers the best lesbian-themed speculative fictions stories published the prior year.

1Ok, full disclosure: when I saw the table of contents I was a bit flabbergasted that my story had been selected. Probably I wouldn’t even have sent in a story for consideration if I’d known all of these incredibly talented authors I admire so much were in the running. (I have major writer Imposter Syndrome).