Release Day: “Grotesquery”

My first ebook is available exclusively as an Amazon Kindle download.

This sword and sorcery fantasy is a short story based (very) loosely on my research of medieval Wales. The ebook will be offered for free as an All Hallow’s Eve deal from tomorrow (Monday) through Thursday. Subscribers of Kindle Unlimited will continue to have the option of a free download past New Year’s.

Please consider leaving a review if you enjoy the story! You’re also free to complain if you don’t. Honesty helps.

Selling a story on Amazon is a new, and a somewhat intimidating experience for me. I’m troubleshooting as I go and hoping that the ebook is satisfying to buyers.

Image of Jupiter from a moon's mountain range

Post-Convention Thoughts and Reimagining

quotes and lessons from MileHiCon 50, a literary speculative fiction convention

Image of Jupiter from a moon's mountain range
The gas giant Jupiter from a moon (artist’s rendering) © AlexAntropov86

Modeling the World in Fiction

There’s a quality of fiction that’s modeling–that’s showing a model of the world.

Author Paolo Bacigalupi said this last Friday during a panel discussion. His line is one of the best things I heard at the convention. That’s one of my favorite uses of fiction: the modeling.

The World of Horror

Bacigalupi shared a showcase slot with another author, Lawrence Watt-Evans, a former president of the Horror Writers Association (HWA). He explained that Horror has gone through cycles since the late 17th century. The “Horror” genre label developed in the 1970s.

Do you remember when I was trying to figure out if I write horror stories?

We’re calling it Dark Fantasy now. Because people don’t know they don’t like that.

I really should’ve asked Watt-Evans more questions about what counts as a dark fantasy while I had the chance. Since that opportunity has past–Do you agree? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments about the Dark Fantasy and Horror connection.


Imagining Fiction for the World

There’s a question I repeatedly asked myself at last weekend’s convention: Why am I not sitting on panels?

I can often answer audience questions. I’ve been watching the publishing world that long. (I mainly attend panels anymore to see interesting authors talk, not as much to hear what they say.)

Of course knowing how to answer questions isn’t enough. My uninspiring author’s bio is a problem. (Uninspiring? It’s depressing.)

Where do I see myself…?

MileHiCon (ten years ago?) was the first big literary event I’d seen. One of my writing dreams since that first experience has been to sit on an authors’ discussion panel. I imagine sitting at the table with professionals, facing a room full of people willing to listen to our thoughts about storytelling. Someone else is the moderator in this dream, so I’m only responsible for playing the part of a new panelist.

With the type of luck woven into my life, I’m fairly certain that first time would have its nightmare moments. A fellow panelist might pick a fight, an audience member could interrupt every few minutes, an emergency can divert everyone into defensive mode, or anything of the kind would happen. I would gratefully accept the risks.

How does imagination become reality?

How? I’ve decided to try harder to sit on an author’s panel at an upcoming MileHiCon or another worthwhile event.

I need credentials in publishing or a related subject. Why should anyone care what I say? (Why do you?) For credentials, I need more experience.


Related to the need for more authorial experience, I have reconsidered setting aside a short story I love, one that’s been cycling through readers and rewrites for too long. I’m publishing that short story under my Blacklyn byline.

Upcoming eBook Release

“Grotesquery” is a melancholy fantasy about a wizard, a grotesque stone guardian, and their medieval-fort city. The story is also social commentary about today’s world, though that might only be my interpretation.

My goals in publishing this short ebook are (1) learn more about Amazon Kindle Direct to test out features I might need for longer works, if self-publishing, and (2) share this fantasy story with more people.

Please help spread the word to any readers who might like literary short fantasy.


Thank you for being a reader of Shadows in Mind.

Owl © 4924546

OwW1

I checked the robotic mouse that was waiting on an X taped on the floor.

Okay, my owlish friend, time for the test. I said, “Catch the mouse.”

The larger robot on her perch turned her head to blink unevenly at me with yellow eyes. Her beak opened into a shrill “Whyyy?”

“What?” I asked. “Go hunt!”

“Whyyy?”

English responses to commands wasn’t in her code. I scanned the project’s access log on my tablet then shot my chair across the floor to the desk where I could better view our 3D data projections.

“Huuunt?” Her beak clicked at the end of the word.

“Yeah.”

Limbs of feathery plastic fluttered.

Her talons clenched around my head.


Happy Saturday thoughts from a science fiction literary convention. Be safe!

Shades of Memory

cropped-sunsetheader.jpg

Once upon a bright Californian desert, I lived in fear of the sun.

That fear might have been inspired by an incident with a seat buckle when I was a toddler. Back then, car seats exposed more metal than what’s allowed today. I don’t remember the incident but know I witnessed my sister burn on her seat that heated in the desert sunlight coming in on her side of the car. The babysitter said she screamed and screamed. The burn left a permanent scar on my sister and (maybe) emotional ones on me.

I’m not sure I liked direct sunlight or heat before that. My parents insisted that I stay out in the sun on decks and beaches long enough for my skin to burn, and I remember wanting to stay inside. I do believe the incident in the car intensified my fears.

We moved north to green woods and valleys deepened by whitewater rivers. My family complained of the overcast skies that lasted for months. I explored the cool shadows of the forests.

Sure, animals that could eat me lived in the shadows, too. I knew to avoid routines while outside during the dawn or dusk, those glorious times between night and day when shadows filled with rainbow colors. Those were hunting times. I hunted for beauty.

I’ve known since early childhood how to avoid dangers where the light is dimmer. Don’t look like prey. Feel for each step. Know the difference between a baby oak and poison oak–I mean, know what’s actually dangerous. These are important lessons for living in the shadows.

foggy mountain rang at dusk

In my twenties, I learned to live in cities. The human to non-human ratio is higher in urban environments than it is in the country. Most of the dangerous predators are of the same species as their prey. Construction interferes with routes as much as weather does. Toxins are everywhere in higher doses than one finds in an old-growth forest.

Shade can take on new meanings* with greater exposure to human cultures. Shadows are cast by the people who attract the most notice.

As a writer, I like to take the places and types of characters hidden behind stereotypes. They’re buried in history. They’re too alien/unfamiliar. The characters aren’t the typical age or gender, or they’ve blurred the lines between heroes and villains. I blend the light and the dark. That looks familiar to me.

These days, I also try to fill shadows with rainbows.

That’s what I’d needed when I was younger.


* Just Wanna Share: “Throwing Shade”

What is the correct usage of ‘throwing shade’?” on Stack Exchange

Humanoid

Text: "They attacked us in our dreams. No one had expected humans capable of invading minds."

How
monstrous
we might appear
to any sentient life that
misread our tendencies.


Content on this page was previously posted, August 2017.

 

Tunnel in space © Genty

David Farland Missed the Point About Discrimination in the Writing World

Tunnel in space © Genty
Wormhole © Genty

A recognizable speculative fiction author published a blog post that I feel needs attention before it spreads through the writing community as gospel.

In “Discrimination in the Writing World“, David Farland opened with,

A few days ago, I saw a Facebook post from a woman who complained that she didn’t want to see panels by “boring, old, white, cisgender men” at the upcoming World Science Fiction Convention. Now, I’ve always fought against discrimination based on age, race, sexual orientation, and gender, so I was kind of surprised that this person managed to offend me at every single level. I can’t help it if I was born sixty years ago, male, white, and cisgender.

Worldcon 76 was this weekend. This is a huge event in Science Fiction publishing every year. The Hugo Awards are selected by WorldCon members and announced at the event.

I followed the WorldCon 76 controversies on Twitter a few weeks ago. What offended many science members of the science fiction community was discrimination on the convention’s original schedule, which favored authors who might match the description in the quote. You can read a take on the situation by Mark Sumner at Daily Kos: “What’s happening at the World Science Fiction convention is important, even if you don’t like sci-fi“.

One big issue is that authors nominated for expect to be given the opportunity to sit on Worldcon panels. (Wouldn’t you?) That was one of several expectations that the Worldcon planning committee struggled to meet. This year, the programming staff notoriously left off certain nominees for authors who look like David Farland.

The programming was so skewed that it had to be reworked by new volunteers in the last month to present more than white, heteronormative, American men as leaders of the world’s sci-fi community.

 

Not Wanting to See More of the Same

In his post, Farland mentions none of discrimination against young, non-white, and/or transgender professionals. He declares his offense at a comment on Facebook from “a woman” who comes off in his description as someone he might not know and that might not have even been directing comments at him.

Meanwhile, many authors face regular, focused attacks based on age, race, sexual orientation, and gender–as well as ethnicity, residency, physical ability, and socioeconomic status.

I could accept his ignorance if not for the racist comment–“With the Hugos, white men in particular are not even getting on the ballots, much less winning.”

Think about that. Not even getting on the ballots, much less winning.

The 2018 Hugo finalists for Best Novel include John Scalzi and Kim Stanley Robinson. The identities of these widely famous identities doesn’t appear to be in any debate. White men were clearly on this year’s Hugo ballots.

White men’s works have won major literary awards this year. Sam J. Miller’s The Art of Starving won the latest of The Nebula Awards‘ Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book.

This implies that all David Farland notices are people who are different than him. White men weren’t the only people whose stories were nominated and chosen for awards. How is that surprising? A rough estimate is that around 10% of the world’s adults are white men. Offense that any other statistical group receives recognition would stem from an assumption that a particular minority deserves the majority of awards every year. Farland’s false statement drew a line between White Men and The People Who Don’t Deserve Recognition.

I can’t sympathize with someone complaining about having to endure an angry Facebook post, a pen name when/if writing in Romance, and the potential lose of privilege in recognition events. All the rest of us endure the same things plus discrimination in the writing world not mentioned in a post supposedly on that topic.

Advice for Writers

Farland’s advice comes up in writing groups. What follows is my attempt to preemptively address what he shared in “Discrimination in the Writing World”. He gave four points of advice that are supposed to help deal with discrimination in publishing.

First, work harder and try to write better than your competition. Make sure that the quality of your work stands out.

This is obvious. Isn’t it?

I guess we can look at it from the angle that fellow authors are competition instead of comrades who provide support in a publishing career. That’s true in competitions. For example, an author aiming for a literary award might see others who wrote similar stories that year as competition leading up to nominations.

Then Farland stated,

Second, forget about awards. So many of them are rigged nowadays that they don’t mean much.

This advice is more confusing. When weren’t awards rigged? There’s also a few who do better at quality control than the rest. Those are the names many readers in the genre recognize.

I had to remind myself that Farland is talking to a particular audience that might’ve believed, deep down, that they deserve more awards because of their skin color, ethnicity, gender, and political leaning.

Let’s continue on to the part about awards not meaning much.

In the past few years, non-men, non-whites, and non-Americans have been pushing more for a place on awards ballots. Competition no longer looks the way that it did. That doesn’t make the awards meaningless to the writers who value award recognition from readers and peers.

A big-name award isn’t essential  for a good writing career. I’m confident of that after watching publishing for ten years. Not every writer cares about awards. Some do. Some don’t. Dismissing other writers’ dreams is unhelpful.

Farland wrote,

Third, as you build up a library of well-written books that can’t find a publisher, maybe you should just consider self-publishing your works.

Here is good advice!

Independent (compared to trade) publishers do better in certain genres than others these days. Creating several books to be released close together is said to help with ebook marketing in particular.

Finally, he acknowledged,

Fourth, many authors try to create gender-neutral names to hide their identity, and some authors even go further, creating pseudonyms that misidentify their gender.

This is acknowledgement, not advice. Choosing a gender-neutral or misgendering pseudonym is an old practice. The sisters Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë (Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell) are oft-cited examples. Almost everyone who reads in English knows of Joanne Rowling is J. K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith.

There is a history of men using feminine pseudonyms in Romance. Two contemporary examples are British authors:

  • Peter O’Donnell (1920–2010) under the byline “Madeline Brent”
  • Christopher Wood (1935–2015) who wrote as Rosie Dixon and Penny Sutton in addition to several masculine pen name across genres

Also, marketing is not a concern for all writers with gender-neutral pen names. People whose parents gave them names not strongly associated with one gender might use their existing name instead of creating a gendered pseudonym. Gender-neutral pen names are also used by authors outside of the gender binary who might not want to deal with the baggage of their assigned names.

I hope readers remember not to make assumptions about an author’s gender from the name on a cover. Declaring gender is not often the primary purpose of a pen name.

Fiction writers more often want readers to see a story before questioning who wrote it.


For the curious, planned protests and a MAGA (Trump-supporting) group beside Worldcon didn’t seem to have stopped participants from enjoying themselves.


Edited August 21, 2018 to add a promised link.

Urban natural setting

Weird Science in the News – 180818

This post starts with a warning. It’s a little depressing. Heavy, even.

I actually meant to publish it weeks ago but didn’t thinking about adults insulting infants, mass extinction, and animals stuffing their homes with human trash, and that only covers half of the topic!

Well, we are at Shadows in Mind. Here are the type of cold shadows that creep across your room in the nighttime.

Test Tube Babies

This first is a nod to what was considered weird when I was a child. The general public had not yet accepted the concept of “test tubes babies”. Forty years after the first in vitro fertilization, people continue to worry about what will come of the technology other than viable human children.

Human Privilege

Graph: The mass of living things on Earth. Humans account for just 0.06 of the 550 gigatons of carbon mass on the planet. The majority is made up of plants..
Photo by Elijah Wolfson

A study recently published in the United States’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) determined that out of the 550 gigatons of carbon in Earth’s known life, humanity makes up a tiny 0.01%. Another interesting finding was that the biomass of domesticated animals surpasses that of wild mammals and birds. Quartz reports that the study also shows human civilizations have drastically destroyed the world’s wildlife.

As an aside, I’ll share that the “scientists stumbled upon a plastic-eating bacterium—then accidentally made it stronger” (said PopSci in April). Apparently, humans impact the diets of the world’s life, as well.

Evolution Within Human Cities

Urban natural setting
© DadionHenrique

Even if we don’t weigh much, humans take up too much space. Wildlife has to coexist with us. However, I’ve noticed people are often surprised to learn how much wildlife exists within their cities.

The Guardian‘s “Darwin Comes to Town: How Cities Are Creating New Species” provides examples of non-humans adapting their behaviors to life in human-made cities.

  • Japanese crows using passing traffic to crack nuts
  • Tits (songbirds) in the United Kingdom opening milk bottle tops
  • Spiders in Austria known for weaving webs in darkness moving to sections of a bridge lit with fluorescent tubes to catch more prey
  • House sparrows and finches (birds) in Mexico using cigarette butts in their nests

What’s surprising more scientists is how animals adapt physically to our behavior.

The impact of cities is not just evident in the behaviour of animals – urbanisation has also changed the course of animal evolution.

In way, this is good news. While humans are destroying the diversity of complex life, fast evolution ensures that animals carry on beside us.

Jupiter’s Family is Larger than We Thought

Here’s silly news about the diversity of planets.

Astronomers looking for the mysterious Planet Nine discovered instead twelve more moons around Jupiter. One of the new satellites goes in the same direction of Jupiter’s spin, making it an oddball among the scores of other moons around the planet.

Image of Jupiter from a moon's mountain range
The gas giant Jupiter from a moon (artist’s rendering) © AlexAntropov86

Cars and Carbon Dioxide

Imagine converting carbon dioxide, which is the toxic, climate-changing gas we and many species on this planet exhale, into affordable gasoline.

Scientists have been working on converting air to gasoline for decades. (I hadn’t known that!) Now, the conversion not only looks possible, but a Canadian company called Carbon Engineering says air-produced fuels can be affordable.

CE’s engineering work shows that AIR TO FUELS™ technology can produce fuels for less than $1.00 /L once scaled up, making them cost competitive with biodiesels.

If we can shake the fossil fuel industry’s control on politicians, we can see this process put in place everywhere.

Speaking of taking modern technology in a new direction…

Intelligent Light-bending

Researchers from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have shown that a form of artificial intelligence can be solidified into 3D-printed layers of transparent material, imprinted with complex patterns, that “do to light going through them what the [probability] math would have done to numbers.”

That’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? TechCrunch writer Devin Coldewey explained,

If that’s a bit much to wrap your head around, think of a mechanical calculator. Nowadays it’s all done digitally in computer logic, but back in the day calculators used actual mechanical pieces moving around — something adding up to 10 would literally cause some piece to move to a new position. In a way this “diffractive deep neural network” is a lot like that: it uses and manipulates physical representations of numbers rather than electronic ones.

The writer in me wants to twist this into a story about intelligent light.

Tufted ducks lifting off from golden water

Tweeting Again -and- Oh, Horror!

Tweeting Again

I can give ❤️s again!

Twitter emailed me an apology for the inconvenience of locking me out of then restricting my account. The email confirmed that an automated system is charged with removing spam accounts. “[I]t looks like your account got caught up in one of these spam groups by mistake.”

I’m grateful to stop waiting for an answer.


Oh, Horror!

More than a week ago, I asked, “What is the story when frightening and disgusting the readers is the intention to create another mood?”

I don’t have an answer to that yet. The question arose from my curiosity about Horror. I’ve created an interview questionnaire for Horror writers. My intention was to better understand their perception of the genre. However, I don’t yet have the guts to approach potential interviewees.

Turns out, I’m kind of scared of people who openly admit to horrifying readers on purpose. I might be afraid to learn I’m one of them.


Website Updates

Visitors–Do you like the new background color? It’s more blue than the previous gray. I’ve also started changes to Shadows in Mind front page, which will continue through this week.

Thanks for keeping up with me.

Blanked-out profile with message from Twitter: "Caution: This account is temporarily restricted"

Restricted from Giving ❤️s

Howdy, y’all. Happy Saturday?

I’d be happier if I stuck in shadows without my consent.

While waiting for Twitter to respond about what’s happening with my account, I’m playing with the options that site has left open for me during the poorly explained restrictions.

Twitter is ignoring my instructions from WordPress. The restrictions twitter.com also carry over to tweetdeck. I wasn’t left with many options to tell Twitter-only followers why I’ve gone silent. Mostly all I can do @writeramlynn is change my settings and profile information.

So that’s what I’ve updated!

My profile shows that I’m:

  • under restrictions,
  • trying to talk to Twitter Support, and
  • posting about the situation on this website (Shadows in Mind).

I’ve removed the “Hiding in the woods” joke in my location, because that’s not funny to me at this time.

Choosing to hide away is different from being forcibly hidden away, and I feel that with the horrific stealing of rights happening in the world these days, that difference should be respected.

By the way, I do see notifications from those of you who are responding to my pre-lockout tweets and trying to get Twitter Support’s attention for me. Thank you for thinking of me! ❤️ ❤️ ❤️