News: Guess who’s reviewing books over at Lightspeed Magazine? Me!

If you’re a Lightspeed Magazine subscriber, maybe you noticed a familiar name listed in the nonfiction column section of the February ebook edition. I am happy to announce that, starting with the February issue, I will be joining Amal El-Mohtar and Andrew Liptak in reviewing books for Lightspeed Magazine!

Four times a year, I’ll review the latest fantasy and science fiction books that will be released around that time. This month, I review Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty, The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley and A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson. It’s available in Lightspeed’s ebook edition now, and will be going live on Lightspeed’s website on 2/21.

If you like what you read and want to support Lightspeed Magazine, subscriptions are just $35.88/year.

And yes, this is now my second gig with Lightspeed after slushing for them from 2009 through 2013. Guess I can’t stay away, huh?

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.

LINKS…OF…INTEREST! (Interest…Interest…interest…)

This post is dedicated to Futurama, which just got a deal for 26 new episodes on Comedy Central. Sweet!

As you noticed, this blog’s got a spiffy new look, and I’ve been making small improvements (like the new Twitter feed). What spurred on these changes? I’m subscribed to the website "31 Days to Build a Better Blog." If you sign up on the email list, you get an email once a day that gives you great tips on how to improve your blog. Some of the tips deal with cosmetic issues and housekeeping, making sure your links are up to donate. But it also gives tips on making your presence known on other blogs and forums to bring more readers to your site. And best of all, if the emails get to be too much, you can always save the emails to do the tips at your own pace. There are also great tips shared in the comments section and in the forums. For those of you who want to become bloggers, or if you’ve hit a plateau and don’t know how to bring new readers to your site, this is a great email list to be on.

Having just attended Oddcon and Wiscon, I found this article in Strange Horizons called "Let’s Stop Conning Ourselves" by Patience Wieland which talk about cons that aren’t as successful, and what the con world in general can learn from these failures. I liked it because near the end it lists some good advice getting the most out of attending a con, and how to avoid being scammed.

If you’re a writer wondering how to boost your creativity, Writing World has an article called "Lateral Thinking for Writers" by Ahmed A. Khan. It lists three thinking techniques one can use to create a story. I’m sure there are other techniques out there, but for basics, it’s a good article.

Moving from writing to writers: K. Tempest Bradford is doing a Clarion West Write-a-thon to raise funds for both the Clarion West scholarship and the Octavia E. Butler scholarship. This is a great opportunity to support the fantasy/science fiction writing community in general. If you haven’t read any of Bradford’s work, Podcastle recently ran a short story of hers called "Change of Life". Hop on over and have a listen, then head to her website and donate!

Finally, if you want to read a good online comic that mixes African-American folk history with the stylings of, say, The MaXX, check out Bayou at Zudacomics. This is a wonderfully drawn tale of a little girl named Lee who travels to an alternate, creepy Jim Crow South to prove her father’s innocence. Her protector is a hulking green man named Bayou who appears meek and simple, but when pushed can fight like the devil. It’s a scary wonderful read that’s still in the works, so come back over and over for updates.

You read it. You can’t unread it. Tune in at a future date for…

TALES…

OF…

INTEREST! (interest! interest! interest!)

More thoughts on the closing of Realms of Fantasy & Year’s Best…

So I’ve been doing some thinking. Serious thinking. And I’ve come to a startling revelation.

Realms of Fantasy closing and The Years Best Fantasy & Horror Anthologies no longer being printed? Their ending don’t affect me at all.

It’s startling because I consider them the highest levels a writer can get in writing. When both of them folded, I was devastated, yes, in learning I won’t be getting any more stories from them. Which is sad, because from those venues I learned about Kelly Link, Theodora Goss, Nalo Hopkinson and other writers who inspired me to write.

But the startling part that got me was this: when was the last time I read either of those?

The Year’s Best Anthologies I haven’t picked up for a while because, well, I’ve been pretty busy; not to mention that my local library doesn’t have them on hand (actually, they do, but I’ll probably have to get it on loan from another neighborhood library, which could take a couple of days—not exactly self-gratifying if I have to put in an order for it instead of just taking it off the shelf I used to do in Chicago. Then again, I could always drive to another library that’s better stocked, but geez, that means that I wouldn’t be able to gripe about here…). And the last time I bought a copy of Realms of Fantasy was…ummm…hmmm…

Nowadays, I’m getting my short story fix online. There are a dozen of websites I go to on a monthly basis, and several more that I download to my mp3 player. (I swear, I will update my blog sidebar to show them) And these are all really good stories; perhaps not as the same caliber as what was in Realms of Fantasy, but I would’ve nominated them in a heartbeat for Year’s Best.

Yes, I’m still bummed that these venues are gone. But there are other markets out there. Markets that are easy to access. Markets that you don’t have to pay unless you want to. Markets that allow everyone to read, yet still have editors to filter out the really good stuff from just your average mediocre story.

This got nailed home to me this Sunday when my short story “The Liberation of Roscoe White” got put up at The Town Drunk. (What do you mean you haven’t read it yet? Stop what you’re doing and go read it! Go! Go now!). Some very good stories are on that sight (besides mine, of course). It’s nice that that I can give people a website and they can go and read my story for free, but it’s extra nice when an editor who runs a ezine tells me, “I like your story so much, I’ll pay for it to put it on my site.” That is nice.

The publishing world is changing. What does that mean to me? Well, it just means that I keep on writing and keep on submitting. I keep my eye on what markets are considered the best and send my best stories to them. And then I’ll keep writing. Granted, I’ll have to look to a new market to set my high standard bar to–

Then again, maybe I’ve already done that.

I just finished reading the Writers of the Future XXII Anthology. The first story was so-so, but there were other stories in there that blew me away.

One of these days, I’m going to get a story in there. Just you wait…

Speaking of which, congratulations to all the winners of the 4th quarter contest. You can find the winners on the WOTF website. The next contest deadline is April 1. All you writers better get writing.