Guess who’s joined PodCastle’s Editorial Team? (Hint: it’s me!)

Sometimes I keep forgetting that not everyone has Facebook or Twitter, so I forget to update things here at the Cafe. But I wanted to announce that I am now part of the editorial staff at PodCastle, the fantasy audio magazine that’s part of the Escape Artists family of podcasts (which includes EscapePod and PseudoPod, stories for science fiction and horror, respectively). Along with Ann Leckie, I serve as associate editor in reading slush and doing other duties for co-editors Anna Schwind and Dave Thompson (another Viable Paradise alum!).

Part of my new duties is that I get to narrate stories. And you can now hear my very first narration, "Georgina and the Basilisk" written by Leslianne Wilder. She was the third place winner of this past year’s flash fiction contest at Podcastle. This along with the other winners, "The Bear" by Taven Moore (2nd place) and "Wuffle" by Chantal Beaulne (1st place), can be heard in Episode 288: Flash Fiction Contest Strikes Back!

Go over and have a listen. If you like what you hear, let PodCastle know in its forum, or donate, or even become a subscriber (to do so, to go PodCastle’s page and click on the DONATE or SUBSCRIBE buttons on the right hand side).. It doesn’t cost much, and you get some awesome stories, some that might even be picked by yours truly.

I’m honored to be part of an awesome podcast, and I’m looking forward to this new adventure!


RIP, Roger Ebert

Back when I wrote fanfiction on the FanFiction Mailing List (FFML), I used to critique fanfics by writing "R&R Reviews", which had the characters Ranma & Ryoga from the anime Ranma 1/2 giving reviews just like Siskel & Ebert’s "Sneak Previews", but with more fighting. I even ripped the opening theme to "Sneak Previews" as a sort of homage.

That’s how iconic Ebert was–his signature style was instantly recognizable, even in anime fanfic.

I don’t write fanfiction anymore. I don’t watch movies all that much anymore either. But Roger Ebert was a great influence in my life. I appreciated his reviews. I also appreciated his written works. His writing had a wonderful, clear, humorous, deep quality to it that made nonfiction fun to read. Even when I had moved on and only kept up with him off and on through the Internet, I enjoyed his wit, charisma and insight.

So, for old times sake:

(The familiar whistling music from the tv show ‘Sneak Previews’ begins to
play. Ranma is seen coming out of the Tendo Dojo and casually walking up
the street. Next, Ryoga crawls out of a tent, stretches, stuffs everything
into his backpack, and begins walking. Ranma is seen buying rice balls from a
stand. Ryoga is still walking on the street. Ranma walks in front of a
theater and looks about. Ryoga is looking bewildered as he stands in the
middle of a forest. Ranma looks at his watch and frowns. Ryoga is talking
to an eskimo who points in one direction, and Ryoga begins walking the
opposite way. Ranma shrugs, goes into the theater, runs up the stairs, and
takes his seat in the balcony. Cut to the theater’s front again. Ranma
begins eating his rice balls. Suddenly the wall caves in and Ryoga emerges,
looking pissed. Ranma begins shouting at Ryoga, who shouts back. They get
into a fight and fall over the balcony, and the camera pans away to the movie screen, which displays the words: R&R REVIEWS.)

(The lights go off except for a spotlight, highlighting LaShawn, standing on the balcony.)

LS: Mr. Ebert, thank you. Your words and reviews will remain, but you will be sorely missed.

(LaShawn leaves the balcony. The spotlight shines on the empty balcony for a period of time.)

(Then it shuts off.)

The End of the Free Duotrope Era

Last Saturday, I returned from another zombie outing with my son to learn that Duotrope will be doing what they’ve been warning us would happen: as of January 1, 2013, Duotrope will be a paid site. Writers up and down the nets have been having their say about it, so what the heck, I’ll do so too.

I use Duotrope. Perhaps not as much as when I was a new writer, but what drew me to Duotrope was the saved search function. I could plug in genre, style, wordcount, for any written piece I wanted to submit and get a customized list of markets. Just recently I got the hang of the feature where you can run a search and exclude markets you’ve already submitted to. I found that pretty neat. I also made use of the submission tracker, which served more as a backup for me since I also keep track of my submissions through Outlook, which I have written about in an earlier post (I have since upgraded to Outlook 2007 and added a few more custom fields, like keeping track of previous markets I’ve submitted to). I mainly used Duotrope’s tracker so I could add my submission statistics to the response time reports.

But all that’s going away…or rather, as of 1/1/2013, we’ll now have to start paying for saved searches, submission tracking, the control panel, the deadline calendar, response statistics, etc. A lot of people are decrying that, saying Duotrope is charging too much per year, that limiting the response tracker will skew statistics, etc and so forth.

Me? I’m more like meh.

Since I’ve been focusing more on my novel, I haven’t been on the site all that much. I also know the market field much better now, so that I have a running list in my head of places I could send my subs to. The only time when I go on Duotrope is when I’ve exhausted those places or to see if a market is temporarily closed. I get my new market news and editor info off Twitter and other sources, I use the deadline calendar sparingly, and I don’t use the response statistics at all. And I’ll go back to using Outlook as a submission tracker. It’s probably better this way–I won’t be recording the same information in two different places.

This is not to say I won’t miss Duotrope. I think it’s a fantastic service. Personally, I think it’s ridiculous to spend $50/year on the site. If it was $20 or even $30/year, I would subscribe with no hesitation. But I’ve reached the point in my writing career where I can survive without Duotrope.

What I feel bad for are new writers. They will be the ones who would benefit from Duotrope the most, and there’s a good chance they won’t be able to afford it. Used to be, I’d suggest Duotrope as the only go-to source for market information. In 2013, I don’t think I’ll be able to do that. I can’t justify telling them to spend $50 a year on the service. 6 months, maybe, but not a full year.  Then again, Duotrope isn’t the only one giving market info. is still free, comes with a free monthly newsletter and can be found on Facebook. And there are tons of info on Twitter. For response times, The Black Hole at is, surprisingly, still around, so I can report reponse times there.

Edit: Since I wrote this, a new website has opened up that looks to be serious competition for Duotrope. The Submission Grinder includes many features that Duotrope has:–a strong search engine, the ability to do submission tracking– and some features Duotrope doesn’t have, like graphs. I’ve been very impressed with the site; it’s still pretty new, so try it out.

I’ve seen some people suggest a tiered payment option where they pay for certain features like only saved searches, and I agree. The way Duotrope has things now, there’s hardly anything left free to entice new writers to pay up, and there’s nothing to keep those who are familiar with the service from staying.

With that said, though, I’m not writing off Duotrope entirely. Ferrett Steinmetz goes into more detail about this with his post “A Failure of Duotrope,  A Failure of Their Audience: Thoughts by Someone Who’s Been There”:

The lesson in this is, “If you use a service that you like, and they’re asking you to pay for it, pay them.”  Doesn’t have to be much.  Like I said, if all you can afford is $5, then pay them $5.  If you’re flat broke and would pay them if you could, well, I’ll count those intentions as good.  But the world does not run on free labor, and at some point labors of love fail to pay for the labors of the stomach.

In the future, to avoid this sort of thing, give when you can.  Stop assuming that “free” means “a buffet for you” and start thinking, “How can I reward these people for their work?”  Maybe you pay it back by volunteering at their site, or telling about it to all your rich friends, or whatever.  But stop dining and dashing, and start helping the world be a better place by rewarding those who do good things.

This is very, very true. Duotrope was indeed a site I liked so much, I contributed to it. Several times. It wasn’t much, but I felt that it was a worthwhile service. And there’s a very good chance that I would do the same thing again down the road–pay $5 to gather some good searches, and then let the subscription lapse for several months. Duotrope did say that information will be kept on file (though I don’t know how intermittent usage work with response time statistics–probably not so well, I’m guessing).

So if you want to pay for Duotrope, go ahead and do so. Granted, the way they dropped this news reminded me of the Netflix fiasco earlier this year, but it’s still a good site. And if you wish to get an annual subscription, by all means, do so. And if you don’t, try some of the other free sites above. Keep track of your subs in a spreadsheet.

Heck, we’re writers. We’re supposed to be creative about such things.


An Eulogy for Borders (and if you’re expecting corporate ranting in this, you’re gonna be disappointed.)

So you heard the news, huh? Yeah, me too.

I was there when they opened the one on the Magnificent Mile, right across from the Water Tower. I remember big. I remember shiny. I remember balloons.

And I remember books.

Lots and lots of books. There had never been a bookstore with so many books. And this was during my roaming around downtown Chicago days, so I had been to many bookstores. Borders was different. Borders had levels.

I remember the next Borders I went to. It was right off Clark and Diversey. I remember taking the bus there and staying there, reading and wandering the aisles, until the sun went down and I realized I had missed the 6:00 train back to the suburbs, and the next one wouldn’t come until 9:30pm, which meant I had three more hours to wander around the bookstore.

Almost missed that train, too. Almost.

I remember when they opened a Borders in Matteson, a good seven or eight years after I left it for good, and I thought, if I ever become a famous writer, I can hold a reading there, and I will be the first ever black fantasy female writer, and all my family would come. And I made plans. But I wasn’t writing back then, so at the time, it was moot.

I remember when Daniel was born, and by then, Borders were everywhere, but not in the suburb I was in. You had to drive twenty minutes north to the one in Schaumburg, right next to the mall, or thirty-five minutes east to Oakbrook, near the mall there too. Or 45 minutes to Wheaton, right off Butterfield Drive. That one was comparatively smaller than the others.

When Jon and I were able to get away on the rare occasion for a date, we always went to that last Borders. Always. Because we could never think of anything else to do. We didn’t want to sit next to each other saying nothing at a movie. No restaurant we wanted to go to stayed open after 8pm. And sometimes, the Border’s had people singing in the cafe. It was the furthest away from the poetry slams and the celebrity signing hoopla and three-storied levels (four if you count the basement) that the Michigan Ave bookstore offered, and it was also the closest.

When I began writing professionally, I met with a writer’s group at a nearby Barnes and Nobles.

Now, when I drive down Midvale and the empty Borders looms in front of me, I feel sort of sad, but not really. I suppose I’m one of the millions who took it for granted that it would always be there. It was there when we moved to Madison. And when we drove around, seeing the sights, I had spotted it and thought, cool. And my hubby and I continued to have dates there. But there were other places to go. Other things to do. Actual places that we could actually go on a date. And let’s face it, if I’m going to buy a book, well, there’s this cool bookstore near downtown, where I know people and I could chat to them and they have the coolest readings.

So I look at the empty building. I feel sort of sad. Then the light changes and I turn the wheel, and I drive off in another direction, leaving the empty store behind. Just like everyone else.

New Writers of the Future Website Launched | L. Ron Hubbard presents Writers of the Future Contest


New Writers of the Future Website Launched | L. Ron Hubbard presents Writers of the Future Contest

Yes, this is what I saw in my inbox. But this is what really caught my eye:

We are pleased to announce that you can now submit all of your stories and illustrations online. So take a look around, submit your contest entries, join our forum and sign up for our newsletter.

No more mailing in by the deadlines? No more paper? WOTF doing online submissions?


‘Course, it does also mean more competition. All those people who refused to mail their stuff in can now say, "Sweet! Now I can send my story in for free!"

Then again, if all that was stopping them from submitting was a couple of stamps, then one would question if their stuff is good enough in the first place.

Now, if you excuse me. I need to get back to writing my story.


I subscribe to Google Alerts. It’s a great writer’s tool: you give it a certain set of keywords, and it scours the internet, looking for those words. Great way to find out if someone plagiarized your story, or if your name gets mentioned anywhere.

My name popped up on a Barnes and Noble blog, so I took a look. It turned out to be an interview of N.K. Jemisin on her debut novel "the Thousands Kingdoms", which I also did a review about here at the Cafe. It’s your standard talk about your book and its influences article, but then the interviewer asks why aren’t there more African American women writing SF/F.

Her response:

“I’m not really sure how to answer that question, because it starts from what I think might be a false assumption. I know plenty of African American women (and men, and Asian Americans, and Latino/a Americans, and so on) who write SF/F. Offhand I can mention Nisi Shawl, Nnedi Okorafor, Nalo Hopkinson, LaShawn Wanak, Alaya Dawn Johnson, K. Tempest Bradford, Helen Oyeyemi, Tananarive Due, L.A. Banks, Ibi Aanu Zoboi, Carole McDonnell, Linda Addison, Sheree R. Thomas, Jewelle Gomez… I’m probably missing quite a few. And those are just the ones who’ve published short stories or novels; I know many more who are on the hoping-to-get-published track. Octavia Butler left behind a lot of children, spiritually speaking."

What especially thrilled me was that I knew many of the names she mentioned, and even met several authors in person. And I felt so honored to be listed among them. I’m a spiritual child of Octavia Butler. WHEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

So it was especially interesting when the next day, I mean the very next day, this popped up on Asimov’s and caught the SF/F world’s attention. I read most of it—at least the parts that weren’t rambling, but basically, in a nutshell, the guy basically says that there’s no such thing as an African Science Fiction  writer. Which at this very moment is being disputed by many wanting to set this guy straight.

As for me, however, it caused me to think back to N.K’s interview.  The interviewer pretty much expressed the same thing—albeit it far more eloquently and less…um…racefailly (good grief, is that even a word?) than the Asimov column. It does seem to be the opinion that while we are out there—there are many, many people who are unaware that there are people of color SF/F writers. In one of the interview’s comments even asks: "Where are these people?"

So, how do we address this? It just proves to me that we need to not only pimp ourselves as writers in our careers, but other people of color as well. Spread the word. Jump up and down, continue mentioning such groups such as Carl Brandon Society and Verb Noire, and magazines like Daybreak Magazine. Keep putting forward our names. Get more people talking about us.

Wish I can write more but I got to run. But what else can we do? Any ideas? Let’s brainstorm, and then let’s act.

It happens in the Christian world, too.

The above article gives an interesting coda to what’s been happening for the past month in the Christian publishing world. It shows that, yes, even in the Christian world, RaceFail lives. It also shows that while we still have far to go, changes can be made, both graciously and lovingly. Here’s another perspective. The writer, Al Hsu, was one of the main people who put together the Multiethnic publishing seminar at InterVarsity Press this past March.

At that seminar, I had the pleasure of meeting Professor Soong-Chan Rah. Great guy, reminded me a whole lot of the Angry Black Woman in that he is passionate about bringing racial injustices on Asians to light.  Of course, it’s interesting to read the comments on Rah’s letter to Zondervan asking them to remove the Ninja Viper materials. Lots of different perspectives, mostly support for Rah, but also those who felt that Rah was reading to much into it and to lighten up, in fact–an Asian could have written a same thing. My favorite rebuttal to that came from Irene Cho:

"The statement was meant to imply that most Asians who are familiar with their Asian culture/heritage/language, would not have mixed up the cultures like the authors did. In fact, it’s one of the grievances that’s high on the list. It’s insulting when you’re constantly asked, “Oh you’re Asian. So you’re Chinese? Ah so you know Karate?” Many of us have spent much of our lives answering these questions: Yes, I’m Asian. No I’m not Chinese. And no I don’t know Karate and Karate is Japanese by the way. So what I meant was that in my opinion, most Asians wouldn’t publish a book that treats Karate, Kung Fu, and Tae Kwon Do as if there’s no difference. A book would not have been published that doesn’t specify the difference between Chinese, Korean and Japanese writings. And most of all, most Asians wouldn’t have written that someone’s name sounds like a disease. AND even if they did, it’s one thing to make fun of yourself, it’s quite another to have someone else of a different ethnicity say that my language sounds funky or like a disease and mix everything up and treat all the cultures as if they were the same."

You tell it, sister.

So how do I feel about all this? I feel good that the creators of Ninja Viper and Zondervan did offer an apology and pulled back the books. I feel sad though for all of those who said that it was a shame because it was a legitimate leadership source. And that is true, it is. I just wished the creators researched it better. I do feel that we need more multiethnic people involved in publishing, which is why I support Verb Noire and black writers like Nisi Shawl and Nnedi Okorafor. And goodness knows I’m trying my hardest to add myself to the list. But I also feel what we do is a mere drop in the bucket—that nothing will change, and that those in the media will continue to put up what they like because, hey, they’re the majority and there’s more of them in the media industry than there are of us…

And then I read blog posts like this one which talks about getting minority teens to think about entering the publishing industry, and then I get the December issue of Parents Magazine, which has an article that strives to teach an even younger audience about race relations, and well, we’re trying. Most of us are working on it. It’s just a matter of time.