This is the beginning of the Days of Repentance in the Jewish tradition, starting today with Rosh Hashanah (Yom Ha-Zikkaron) and ending ten days from now with Yom Kippur.
I am mostly, as I often say, a forgetting-to-practice Jew. But there are a few traditions I hold fast to, and the High Holy Days are among them. Not from any religious compulsion or obligation, not because of guilt (ok, maybe a smidge of guilt, that I haven’t yet found a synagogue and honestly haven’t been looking that hard), but more because they…well, they make sense.
The Days of Awe are a time to pause and reflect on the previous year, to consider the actions done by and to us, and to search and find forgiveness. In these days, we are taught, God inscribes our fate for the coming year… but that inscription can be altered by our actions within the next ten days. If we are honest with ourselves, if we seek forgiveness from those we have wronged, and forgive those who have wronged us, the judgment will be lightened, the inscription be kinder.
To quote Nick Cave, I don’t believe in an interventionist god. I don’t believe in an omnipotent God with pen and gradebook. But I do believe in balance, in forgiveness, and in fresh starts. Coming in September – a time of seasonal change and the beginning again of the academic year – it always made perfect sense to me that, along with changing our closets, we could change our approaches.
Yom Ha-Zikkaron is our chance for cleaning slates, for letting go of the impossible demands we have placed on ourselves and on each other, for letting go of the harms caused not by malice but carelessness and inattention.
It is not a free pass. It is an invitation to self-reflection, an opening to ask forgiveness, and the opportunity to give forgiveness to those who come with heartfelt regret.
I am far from perfect. There are careless things I have said in the past year, and past that, that still weigh heavily on me. Things done – and not done – I would change now if I could. I cannot. By intent or omission, I am sorry. I can only ask those that were harmed by those words and (lack of) actions to forgive me, and set myself to do and be better in the coming time. And to the world I say: if you have harmed me, either by intent or omission, by act or by word, and regret your actions, you are forgiven.
L’shanah tovah tikatevi v’taihatem. May we all be inscribed and sealed for a good year. And may we learn better, together.
*and stop casting sins into the seas, we’ve thrown enough shit in there already.
I’m handing the desk over to ZNB editors S.C. Butler and Joshua Palmatier, so they can talk about their newest anthologies, and what they’re looking for…. Readers and writers, take note!
Thanks to Laura Anne for inviting us to guest post today here at her blog. We appreciate the opportunity!
The small press Zombies Need Brains is currently running a Kickstarter for three all new SF&F themed anthologies called APOCALYPTIC, GALACTIC STEW, and MY BATTERY IS LOW AND IT IS GETTING DARK. You can check out the details at tinyurl.com/ZNBApocalypse, but I thought I’d let the editors talk in more detail about what we were thinking in terms of the theme for APOCALYPTIC. Since we’ll be doing an open call for submissions once the Kickstarter funds—meaning anyone can submit a story and possibly end up in the anthology—it might be a good idea if potential writers have an idea of where we’re coming from and what we’re looking for.
Let’s start with what editor S.C. Butler has to say about what he’s looking forward to seeing in APOCALYPTIC:
S.C. Butler: “One of the things I love about the new Zombies Need Brains Kickstarter, featuring the APOCALYPTIC anthology, is that apocalyptic fiction has been around forever. (Ragnarok, anyone?) Apocalyptic fiction embraces almost every genre you can think of, from horror to humor, science fiction to fantasy. Apocalyptic romance? I love it already.
“What I’m trying to say is, anything goes. For this, and every other ZNB anthology, you never know what you’re going to read, both in the open call and from our anchor authors. Sometimes it’s the unsolicited submissions that blow us away; sometimes it’s the work of our better-known authors. And though we might perhaps find a wider audience (and easier Kickstarters) if we stocked our anthologies solely with stories from the frequently published, I don’t think the anthologies would be nearly as interesting. Or have nearly as much humor. Though I’m far too lazy to do the necessary analysis (Josh is the math guy) I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that the majority of our funny stories come stomping in through the slush. Hats off to writers who can do it every time (we have some of those!), but generally I think it’s a lot easier to write a funny one-off than to do it whenever you open your keyboard.
“And really, is there any better feeling for a writer than selling that first, or second, or even third story? Perhaps it gets a little old by the seventy-eighth, or maybe the hundred and third. (Nah.) And though the feeling of having bought that first, or second, or third story may not be quite as piquant as having sold it, it’s still a feeling worth savoring. Which is why I’m asking you to please, please fund the latest ZNB Kickstarter, and our three newest anthologies: APOCALYPTIC, GALACTIC STEW, and MY BATTERY IS LOW AND IT IS GETTING DARK. Not just for the fifteen or so great new stories you’ll read in each book, and not even for the six or seven great new writers you’ll discover in each one either. I’m asking you to do it for me (and maybe Josh, too), so we’ll get to read (and publish!) all those great new stories in the first place!
“Fund! Fund! Fund!”
So Sam is looking for apocalypses with a variety of tones—humorous, dark, thoughtful, fun. ZNB is always trying for variety in its anthologies. I’d also emphasize a variety of TYPES of apocalypses as to what I’m looking for as the co-editor. Yes, I want the variety of tones, but I also want to see some unique apocalypses. We’ve seen the zombie apocalypse, the flu apocalypse, the meteor strike. We’ll probably include a few of those in the anthology (well, maybe not the zombie apocalypse; we haven’t published a zombie story yet, despite our name), but we’ll shy away from putting in TWO flu apocalypses. I’d rather have a flu apocalypse of high quality and then some other apocalypse instead. So don’t just go with the standards, try to be more creative with your apocalypses.
And one other thing—I’m much more interested in stories in which the apocalypse is either happening or has already happened and we’re looking at the survivors. A story in which the characters avert the apocalypse in some way isn’t what I’m going for. Mitigating it, but still suffering through the consequences is fine, but not something where the world doesn’t collapse in some way. I want an apocalypse, not just the threat of one.
So that gives you a better idea of what we’re hunting for with this anthology. But we can’t do the open call unless we get funded. So if you can, swing on by the Kickstarter at tinyurl.com/ZNBApocalypse and check out our reward levels. We’ve got the basics ($15 for ebooks, $48 for limited-edition paperback), but we also have a ton of special reward levels where you could get signed copies of books by your favorite authors, Tuckerizations, and swag bags. Hopefully you’ll find some reward level that suits you and you can help us reach our goal!
And if you are submitting a story, good luck!
– Joshua and S.C.
Zombies Need Brains LLC, focuses on producing SF&F themed anthologies, the most recent being Portals, Temporally Deactivated, and Alternate Peace. Find out more at www.zombiesneedbrains.com. You can also find them on Facebook under Zombies Need Brains, and on Twitter at @ZNBLLC.
Let’s take a seat in the Wayback machine, shall we?
The year is 2011. I’ve just handed in the 4th PSI novel, DRAGON JUSTICE, and my agent and editor are in discussions about what I’m going to do next. We’re told that Luna/Harlequin doesn’t want another Cosa Nostradamus novel, they want me to do something else. Something with more romance and fewer dead bodies, something a little more in line with the HQN brand.
(someone other than my editor over at HQN had finally read the PSI books and realized I was subverting their beloved “destined love” trope, I guess…)
I panicked for a moment – asking me to write a trad love story has never ended well before. But then I have An Idea.
OK, I say. How about…. a modern retelling of Tam Lin, only Tam’s “Janet” is now Jan, a very modern geek girl living in Connecticut? Only her love can save her boyfriend, now called Tyler, from the grabby hands of elves!
That, my editor said, sounds perfect. Can you make it into two books?
Oh yes, I said. I can do that.
I should note that my editor has at this point been working with me for a dozen novels and several novellas. She totally could hear the evil cackle in my voice. But with this proposal, she had plausible deniability should The Powers That Be raise an eyebrow. After all, I was going to write about the magical power of love! How much more on the HQN brand could I be?
I don’t think they were expecting me to throw in a (kinda) serial killer hero, slightly graphic descriptions of torture and psychological manipulation, adult discussions of infidelity, or a realistic look at what happens after the daring rescue. Ooops?
(I mean, come on. Had they met me? Spoiler: they had.)
That said, I stand by the fact that this is very much a love story. It’s just not…traditional.
But anyway, despite a lot of really nice reviews, HQN wasn’t amused, and we parted ways more or less amiably, me going on to write a few historical fantasy novelsyou may have heard of for Simon & Schuster, and them… well, they got sold to Harper Collins.
And that brings us to 2019. Having, like Jan, fought to retrieve my books from the elves, gotten the rights reverted, I decided that yes, I did love these books, and yes, they deserved another go of it, out from underneath the expectations of a sales force that never quite ‘got’ fantasy.
When the Dublin WorldCon was announced, I was determined that if I was going to haul there from Seattle, I was by god going to go over for more than four days spent in a convention center. Which is why I’ll be heading out a few days early with friends, and spending time in a Place Undisclosed, doing non-working-things.
My meets-and-drinks schedule is still being put together (so now’s the time to email me if you want a sit-down!), but I have my programming!
(all details subject to change at the whim of god and the dublin worldcon concom)
Introduction to steampunk
15 Aug 2019, Thursday 12:00 – 12:50, Wicklow Hall 2B (CCD)
Steampunk is a sub-genre of SF influenced by the technology and aesthetics of 19th century steam-powered machinery. Stories are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century but can also be about future or fantasy worlds in which steam power plays a large role in society. There is a wide range of steampunk literature, art, and fashion, and this panel will serve as an introductory overview of steampunk as a whole.
People of the Book: Jewish fantasy and mythology
16 Aug 2019, Friday 12:00 – 12:50, Wicklow Hall 2A (Dances) (CCD)
In 2010, an article entitled ‘Why There is No Jewish Narnia’ caused a stir by suggesting that Jewish authors didn’t write fantasy because Judaism ‘is a science fiction religion … collective, technical, and this-worldly.’ This was widely argued online, but where are we now, nearly a decade later? The panel will discuss fantasy inspired by and drawing on Jewish cultural traditions, themes, and myths.
Castles, horses, and knights are the building blocks of European epic fantasy literature, but are we on the verge of having dredged these tropes dry? Is there still a sense of discovery for readers who are browsing the shelves of Eurocentric fantasy, especially in light of the exciting selection of epic fantasy literature from around the world? And how do we revive and/or reshape new epic tales that are rooted in Europe’s fantastic past?
From fan to pro
17 Aug 2019, Saturday 16:00 – 16:50, Liffey Room-2 (CCD)
The transition from being fan writers, artists, and content creators to making a living from your passions can change how you interact in fan spaces such as social media and conventions. Our panel of professional fans and fans-turned-pros discuss their experiences.
I’d very much like to pretend that it’s still June, but the fireworks going off in my neighborhood last night suggest that nope, we’re into July.
After a few false starts and emotional walk-throughs, I’ve sent off the latest “Mom Files” essay to beta-readers, this one on the storytelling brain, liminal spaces, and filling in for loss. It will be up on my Patreon in the next few days, along with the Monthly Rant.
Up next: getting HEART OF BRIAR into production, starting the reissue revisions for SOUL OF FIRE, looking into getting DUCHESS, PI into print, updating the website, art-directing covers for the reissue program, and oh yeah, getting ready to head out to CONvergence in Minneapolis this weekend!
Back in 2004, my very first original novel, Staying Dead, came out from the then-brand-new imprint Luna at Harlequin. I was among the first of their authors – and one of their last. My final book for them came out only a little while before Harlequin — including all of its backlist — was sold to HarperCollins.
In that time, I wrote twelve urban fantasy novels, ten of which were set in the world of the Cosa Nostradamus, the often-uneasy alliance of fatae (supernatural non-humans) and Talent (magic-using humans).
(yes, new readers, that’s right: I made my breakout with urban fantasy, not historical!)
The series had a damn good run, but all runs end. Fifteen years after the first book came out, HarperCollins has reverted the rights back to me, both for the Cosa books and my stand-alone Portals duology.
Which means I now get to do with them as I wish.
Look for the Portals duology (Heart of Briar/Soul of Fire) coming this fall from Book View Cafe, then the author’s preferred edition of Staying Dead will kick off the Cosa Nostradamus soon after…..
I look forward to introducing new readers to Wren and Sergei, and Bonnie and the PSI crew…. and PB. Of course, PB!
(for more info about the Cosa Nostradamus, check out the FAQ!)
Looking for a little fun summer reading while you hang out at the beach, pool, or air-conditioned cave?
Or maybe you’re in the Southern hemisphere, looking for a cozy, by-the-fireplace read?
May I introduce you to Duchess, PI?
The Alley is no place for the innocent, the unwary, or the just plain foolish. But if they didn’t exist, Duchess would be out of work. For a fee, she can solve your problem – or make it go away. When trouble’s on your tail, and you can’t go to the cops, Duchess is the cat you want in your corner.
However, not even the best PI can solve every case, and her connections – from an up-and-coming police dog to a would-be thief-in-training – get her into trouble as often as they get her out…
The Case of the Tom in Trouble Spark to Tinder The Case of the Feckless Ferrets Scales of Justice The Case of the Seaside Swindle
Heading out to Minneapolis over the 4th of July weekend to partake of the crunchy goodness that is CONvergence once again! I look forward to seeing folk there, and yes, I will have books to sell and sign!
Well, that was special. I just saw someone on Facebook, who probably thinks of themselves as a perfectly decent and good Christian, dismiss all of Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism, among others, as ‘just tribal laws.’
Honey, it’s ALL just ‘tribal laws.’ You’re just prioritizing your tribe over everyone else’s, and the name for that ain’t pretty.
In other happier news, yesterday I spent the morning working on a mostly-deserted, cloudcasted beach up on Lake Samammish, which was delightful and productive but also entertaining AF, because a particular bald eagle had decided that his goal that morning was to harass a duck innocently minding its own damn business on the water, because Eagles Are Assholes. No fish were involved, far as the observer could see.
It was less entertaining for the duck, who occasionally would lift its wings and shout “fuck you! fuck you!” at the top of its lungs, as the eagle swooped up and out of reach. Poor duck.
I then had a long, interesting, and very useful working lunch with a cohort, something we do every few months. We both came out of the Trad publishing scene, but she has transitioned entirely to indie publishing, and doing quite well at it. So I am taking copious notes, and incorporating them into my own short- and long-term planning. Some of it’s fun stuff, some of it’s necessary minutia, and some of it’s stuff nobody really enjoys but needs to be done anyway.
It helps, I pointed out, if you enjoy the “small business owner’ side of things as well as the ‘writer-person’ side. We both do, but I understand how someone who doesn’t have that in their mental makeup might choose to stay entirely Trad, or throw up their hands and give up entirely. :-(
(note: the small business mindset helps a great deal in Trad, too. You just don’t need it to survive).