Tag: VD

“Immersion” published in Clarkesworld


And you can now read my story “Immersion” at Clarkesworld. This is the rant against globalisation, tourism and cultural imperialism that I wrote in a single sitting (but after 3 weeks of intense reflexion 🙂 )

It’s dedicated to the awesome writer and friend Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, without whom this story wouldn’t have come to be (and I also owe massive thanks to her for suggesting I flesh out Quy a little bit more). Thanks are owed also to Glen Mehn, who volunteered to read it in spite of my warning that it was unkind to white men [1]; and to the Villa Diodati crew: Ruth Nestvold, Sylvia Spruck Wrigley, Floris M Kleijne, Stephen Gaskell, John Olsen, Nancy Fulda.

It’s, er, another of those ambitious pieces where I’m unsure if I succeeded or fell flat on my face; if you have a minute to read it and comment, I would love feedback on how it strikes you.

In the morning, you’re no longer quite sure who you are.

You stand in front of the mirror—it shifts and trembles, reflecting only what you want to see—eyes that feel too wide, skin that feels too pale, an odd, distant smell wafting from the compartment’s ambient system that is neither incense nor garlic, but something else, something elusive that you once knew.

You’re dressed, already—not on your skin, but outside, where it matters, your avatar sporting blue and black and gold, the stylish clothes of a well-travelled, well-connected woman. For a moment, as you turn away from the mirror, the glass shimmers out of focus; and another woman in a dull silk gown stares back at you: smaller, squatter and in every way diminished—a stranger, a distant memory that has ceased to have any meaning.

Read the rest at Clarkesworld!

The issue also includes fabulous writers E. Catherine Tobler, An Owomoyela, and non-fiction by VD co-conspirator Stephen Gaskell, Daniel Abraham and Jeremy L C Jones. Quite an impressive lineup!

[1] I mean, it does contain the line “their faces an unhealthy shade of pink, like undercooked meat left too long in the sun” 😀 😀

Villa Diodati 10 report


So, Villa Diodati turned five this year, and we had our tenth workshop in Southern England, courtesy of Stephen Gaskell. Wow. It doesn’t certainly feel like five years, but it’s been an awesome set of meeting points–like Ruth said, in many ways we’ve become each other’s support network and writerly family.

Participants this time were John Olsen, Sylvia Spruck Wigley, Ruth Nestvold, Nancy Fulda, Stephen Gaskell and Floris M Kleijne.

As usual, I’d taken an early train, though I hadn’t realised that I’d have to get up at 5:00am in order to catch it (prompting the new “zombie shuffle” twitter status–it turned out Steve and a couple other people had also got an early start). I arrived very early in Brighton, which means Steve and I had a chance to catch up in a bar by the beach (which was awesome. Bit colder than Brittany, but sand and sea and seagulls? Brings me right back to my childhood). Then we picked up Floris, and headed to the house to wait for the others–who trickled in throughout the afternoon.

I had, er, enthusiastically volunteered for cooking the Friday night; and discovered, not so enthusiastically, that the house had no cooking equipment. By which I meant, no spatulas, and no decent saucepans or frying pans that could conceivably be used for 7 people. I had to improvise quite a bit–thank God Floris was there to calm my panic attacks. My new resolution, by the way, is that next time I travel to a VD and propose to cook, I’ll pack chopsticks in my bag.
Still, it mostly went well, and the banana coconut pudding had its usual striking success (even though I screwed up the coconut cream preparation by misreading the packet Steve had bought for me).
Other stuff we ate at VD included Nancy’s homemade pizza, yum, Sylvia’s chocolate caramel cookies, and Steve’s lasagna with cheese, spinach and pine seeds (mmmmmmm, creaminess). As mentioned before, it’s a cooking and writing workshop!

The house was very nice, located by a fishing pond (which had plenty of geese), and with plenty of walks available a short distance from the house. That it was also quite near Gatwick was a definite plus.

Like Ruth says, this was easily the most productive VD we had: in addition to the crit circles in the morning, we had work sessions in the afternoon, where we’d tell our goal for the 2 hours, and come back and report on what we’d done. I managed to return almost all my OWW crits of “The Two Sisters in Exile”, and edit the draft for submission. And edit my outline for the urban fantasy. Phew.

We also had the submission party, which was awesome–we sat around a table and sent things out (I didn’t have much to send out, so I stuck to a query for something), a total of thirty queries and subs were sent out, and we got our first acceptance before the workshop was over!

I headed back on the Tuesday afternoon, spent some time at the airport with Nancy where we talked ebook covers and marketing, and then got my train back to London and my Eurostar (and 500g of cheddar. Yes, I bring back souvenirs from abroad. Grand family tradition: food is the best kind of souvenir, because it gets eaten and doesn’t clutter the house).

As usual when coming back from a VD, I then had the zombie shuffle, accompanied by a desperate need to sleep, because I had a wedding on the following weekend. Not much productivity; though I did set a world record by selling “Immersion” a scant few weeks after the workshop was over!

That’s all from me. Happy five years, Villa Diodati–you’ve been awesome so far, and I have no doubt there’s more in store.

Morning bleariness


The bleariness is mostly a ref. to doing Vietnamese early in the morning, which always makes me feel inadequate as a language learner (but offset by the fact that I think I’m getting somewhere with the latest short story brainstorming, yay!).

However… this is also offset by the fact that I’ve sold two short stories–one sale I think I can’t announce yet, and the other… Sheila Williams let me know she was taking “Starsong” for Asimov’s. Doing the Snoopy dance here. Many thanks to the November 2010 Villa Diodati crew for reading the first version of this (Ruth Nestvold, John Olsen, Jeff Spock, Steve Gaskell, Ben Rosenbaum, Nancy Fulda, and Christian Walker); and for my last-minute awesomely fast beta-readers (Mark Hünken, Tricia Sullivan, Chris Kastensmidt, and Kate Elliott [1]). You guys all rock.

This is the Xuya story with the Flower Wars in space (and, in a bit of an Easter egg, the origin story of the Minds, my ship-bound AIs borne in human wombs–though it will take many, many decades of work before the incident described in “Starsong” leads to the creation of Minds).

In other news, I just discovered I’m a little under halfway through the Vietnamese lesson book. I certainly don’t feel halfway proficient, but I have faith…

Back to brainstorming a story. See you guys later…

[1] The market I had in mind originally for this (and which set the punitive deadline) turned out not to be a match for the story, so I emailed it to Sheila.

Sale: “Exodus Tides” to IGMS


So it would appear I’ve sold my short story “Exodus Tides” to Edmund Schubert at IGMS. Many thanks to everyone who took a look at it when it was still titled “Siren Song”: it went through VD6, and it was up on OWW for a while, where it was Editor’s choice [1]. People who helped include Pete Aldin, Larry Pinaire, Karen Meisner, Nancy Fulda, Sara Genge, Ruth Nestvold, Ralan Conley, and Stephen Gaskell. And many many thanks to Douglas Cohen, who took a look through my rewrite in record time; and to Edmund for the awesome suggestions.

Contrary to most of my fiction nowadays, it’s set in France, in a nameless Parisian suburb; and it’s got mermen, and the sea and the Abyss. Sort of urban post-apocalyptic fantasy, I guess, if you really want to pigeonhole it…

Mother never spoke about the sea.

She’d been very young at the time of the exodus, Aunt Albane said: a mere smolt, able to swim on her own but not yet ready to mate or bear offspring. Father had dragged her from the depths as the Dark King raged, and they fled together, ahead of twisted, shadowy shapes with harpoons and tridents–never stopping till they reached the safety of the seashore.

“But how did he swim?” I asked. I couldn’t imagine Father–small and portly with a shock of pale white skin, out of breath when he climbed the stairs–as someone who had ever been at ease in the sea-depths.

[1]This is going to be one of those embarrassing posts, because while I distinctly remember putting it up on OWW about a year ago, it appears I forgot to save the crit into a file, with the net result that I have no list of who contributed to improving the story. A thousand apologies if your name isn’t in the list–it reflects on my bad memory and screwy processes more than on anything else…

Back from the land of snow and delayed trains


So, apparently the high-speed trains run slower when there’s snow (makes sense, but it does break my heart to have to pay high-speed fares and then have the train go extra slowly). Took me 8 hours to come back from Mulheim in Germany, where the latest VD workshop was being held. OK, part of the journey is nonsensical, since I have to take a first train to go south from Mulheim into Switzerland, and another north from Switzerland back to France (and then a further train from Strasbourg to Paris). And part of it was the delayed train on the last segment of the journey. But still–got plenty of time to write 🙂
Apart from that, I had a great weekend in Villa Diodati, away from Internet and the phone network. Wrote a ton, critted awesome stories, and ate extra good food as usual (full report forthcoming, but I need to grab some pictures first).

Novel wordcount: +6000 words, and an odd Aztec ritual.
Movie count: watched last episode of Sherlock, The Great Game. Much better than episode 2. And Moriarty was awesome.
Misc: copies of Galaxies arrived, with the French translation of “Butterfly, Falling at Dawn”. Definitely odd to see myself translated in print, but kind of cool too.
Misc 2: apparently, the internet says I should expect a really negative review of SoU sometime soon, aka the kind that has claws and uses them freely. It will be… interesting (the wise thing, knowing myself, is also probably to ignore it until after I’ve finished book 3. I’m not sure I can count on myself to be that wise, but I’ll try).

VD6 report


So, I am back from Villa Diodati 6. No volcanoes were spotted during the making of this workshop, which was all to the good. (Stephen Gaskell and I did have a bit of a communication problem because my phone insisted on sending text messages to his phone in binary, but that was sorted out really fast–I stopped sending texts and used the good old-fashioned voice method).

We did the usual crit mornings, the afternoon sessions being devoted to writing questions for Saturday, and a buck-your-habits workshop for Sunday (the goal of the latter being to write an exercise completely at odds with the rest of your writing. If you really want to know what I had to do–I was supposed to write from the point of view of a white angry male. I failed.)

Also, there was gorgeous food: chicken enchiladas, spaghetti bolognese, curry, orange-and-chocolate scones, and Mexican brunch. Mmmm. I always eat too much at those things. I’ll post the recipe for the scones later on (gotta save stuff for another post 🙂 )

Didn’t write much, though I did solve one important plot point for book 3, and discussed a variety of marketing tactics. Also watched way too much soccer (the Brazil-Ivory Coast match was priceless. Only game I’ve seen where it looked like there would be a riot on the pitch). Soccer isn’t really a sport I enjoy, for a variety of reasons–the first and foremost being that I don’t like the rules (the “no touching another player” combined with the lack of video replay means it encourages players to simulate wounds and damage, which is a disgrace).

Came home refreshed, though that feeling lasted about 1 hour–the time it took me to get my luggage back and exit the airport. Ah, France…


The house

The house

The crit circle

Our crit circle, complete with baby

Group Shot 2

Group shot: from left to right and top to bottom, Stephen Gaskell, Ralan Conley, Ruth Nestvold, Nancy Fulda, Sara Genge and me.

More pictures here.

Move along, move along…


Not much to report here, apart from the occasional bout of cooking (Cantonese rice, Vietnamese fashion, courtesy of my grandma; and some sliced marinated beef that went great with the experimental tomato rice).

Research for book 3 continues apace; I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that I need to hit the American Library in Paris and their JSTOR subscription for the info I need. If all goes well, I shall be near Schleswig (in Germany, up near the Danish border) from Friday to Monday, in order to attend the Villa Diodati workshop (aka the retread of the one that lost against the Icelandic volcano). Cross your fingers for me.

Tis official…


The April Villa Diodati workshop, aka Volcanic Dust workshop, has been successfully rescheduled for June.

*happy writer*

I will now go back to the trenches of impending-deadline novel-writing…

Villa Diodati 5


So, a quick Villa Diodati report…

The VD5 house

The house

This one was a Dutch co-production, courtesy of Floris Kleijne and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. Floris sadly had to bow out for personal reasons, but he kindly stayed around to ferry us around, and we enjoyed his company for Friday evening and Sunday morning.

The living room/crit room

The crit room, filled with food

The weekend was, as usual, filled with good food, cooked by Jeff Spock, Benevolent Dictator Ruth Nestvold, and Stephen Gaskell.

Incidents included: a plugged sink (fixed by the heroic Jeff), a rallye outside the house which boxed us for Saturday afternoon (watching cars zoom past the house was somewhat disturbing), and a fall of several tiles following a rather strong storm. Otherwise, though, it was made of awesome. As Ruth remarked, it’s funny how you can throw several writers together and have them get along like a house on fire.

Surrealist Oracle #2

The Surrealist Oracle (random questions, random answers). Highlight: Stephen: “What was your worst pick-up line?” Ruth: “I am the master of the universe!”

The writers present were Floris Kleijne (partially), Ruth Nestvold, Jeff Spock, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Sara Genge (who is steadily taking over the world), Deanna Carlyle, and Stephen Gaskell. We workshopped stories, ate good food, and discussed novel processes. Also, we made a second attempt at producing collaborative fiction, this time with more success (the key, I think, is that the more people there are, the shorter the piece you should try to produce. In this case, a 350-word piece looked about right for 7 of us).

Sara and Deanna at crit session
See, the crits aren’t so painful after all…

Overall, tremendous fun, and as usual, looking forward to the next one.

This weekend…


Time for Villa Diodati again: starting from tomorrow, I will be sharing a house with Sara Genge, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Stephen Gaskell, Ruth Nestvold, Jeff Spock, and Deanna Carlyle
(and Floris Kleijne, albeit briefly, as Floris is currently awaiting the birth of his first child and can’t make the whole weekend). As usual, we will eat like princes, share gossip and learn from each other.

However, the house does not come with an internet connection, so expect to see very little of me on the web until Monday (there might be a brief interval of connectivity while I’m in the Thalys, as they have wifi). Blog’s going dark again.

Meanwhile, if you happen to be anywhere near London on Saturday, my publisher Angry Robot is having their UK launch party at Forbidden Planet from 12:30 onwards. Authors like Colin Harvey, Dan Abnett and Andy Remic will be there to sign books and answer questions (the AR crew will be there too, as well).

(I only found out about this after VD was already booked, otherwise I would have had to think long and hard which of the two events I was going to…)