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Further Confusion 2016

As I have been for the past several years, I’m serving as Further Confusion’s writing track lead, and I’m also on several panels. Here’s my schedule:

Day Time Panel
Friday 11:00 AM Telling a New Story
Friday 1:00 PM Power and Privilege in an Anthropomorphic World
Friday 5:00 PM Furry Writers’ Guild Reading
Friday 9:30 PM Furry Writers’ Guild Meet & Greet
Sunday 11:00 AM Brainstorming in Real Time

Yes, Friday looks booked pretty solid, doesn’t it? At the FWG reading panel, I’m going to be reading a scene from Kismet, my upcoming science fiction novel. I’m not quite sure which scene yet, which makes this all kind of exciting.

When I’m not on panels, I tend to be wandering around the convention space, or camped out with a laptop in a relatively public area. Unfortunately, FC doesn’t have a central bar area, which would be the natural habitat of most writers such as myself—although the chances are that I’ll visit one of the excellent bars very close to the hotel more than once. (Albeit not with the laptop in tow. Probably.)

(Originally posted at Coyote Prints)

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Inhuman Acts (a noir anthology)

Ocean Tigrox, up-and-coming writer/editor and one of the cohosts of the Fangs and Fonts podcast, has put together an anthropomorphic noir anthology called Inhuman Acts. It includes stories by Mary Lowd (Otters in Space), Alice Dryden, Ianus Wolf and more, thirteen stories in total.

Inhuman Acts will premiere at Rainfurrest 2015 (September 24-27 in Seattle), and is available for print pre-order now at FurPlanet. After it’s released in print it will be available in DRM-free ebook from Bad Dog Books.

My contribution is “Fixer,” set in the broad Florida daylight rather than LA or NYC alleyways at night—which doesn’t make it much less dark. Here’s the first scene.

Fixer

So I’d been thinking of leaving the business.

It wasn’t that work had dropped off, or gotten much more dangerous. It wasn’t that I disliked the area. I was a North Florida native, and I loved all of this crazy state, but the Gulf Coast was my particular paradise. The ocean breeze keeps summers from being too blistering and winters from being too cold, and there’s nowhere else in the world with sunsets like these. I lived a couple blocks from the water in St. Pete Beach, mostly surrounded by retirees. I’d turned forty nearly three years ago, and I admit I liked being the neighborhood spring chicken.

But the thing was: I’d turned forty nearly three years ago.

I started fixing things—tough things—for people the day I turned twenty-one, four years after V-J day, and I fancied my talents would make me a superhero. They didn’t. What they made me was the cleanup lady for people who stood square on the wrong side of heroic. Erasing stains. Masking scents. Giving the right people just the right gift at just the right time. That was thrilling for a while, too, but it wears on you. You know that even if you never cross any of your personal lines—and I had mine—the people you’re working with cross those lines every day, and you’re helping them do it.

Everybody else might retire to St. Petersburg, but I’d decided to retire away from it. Maybe find a nice little beach shack somewhere south of here, somewhere less built up. Maybe I’d be able to start helping the right kind of people. Maybe I’d just collect conch shells. I like conch shells.

To be fair, as far as criminals went most of the ones I dealt with around Tampa Bay were easy to deal with. Jimmy Espinoza, a recent transplant from Ybor City, wasn’t one of the easy ones. I’ve done favors for—and received favors from—a lot of lowlifes; Jimmy wasn’t the lowest, but he’d settled at a comfortable viewing distance from the bottom. He wanted to be a major drug lord and he had enough crazy to get there, but he didn’t have enough brains. He’d settled for minor. I’d met worse people. But I never liked the way he looked at me. I never liked the way he looked at any woman.

I caught him out of the corner of my eye as I paid for my Strawberry Shortcake bar, this morning’s nutritious brunch. I didn’t clue in that he was looking for me until I stepped out of the convenience store and saw him waiting halfway across the pitted asphalt lot. The wolf had hit fifty, but he had the body of someone a quarter-century younger, and dressed to make sure you knew it: tight jeans, tight T-shirt, unbuttoned casual blazer.

“Jimmy.” I raised my ice cream in acknowledgement.

He grinned in his more sly than sociable way. “It’s been a while, Miss Fixer. You’re as beautiful as ever.”

I couldn’t help but snort. At my age, five foot five and two hundred pounds, I most assuredly wasn’t as beautiful as ever. I was still cute—fox squirrels stay cute until their fur starts falling out—but that’s about it. “How’d you know I’d be here?”

“I didn’t.” He shrugged, turning around and waving for me to follow. “But I know you live somewhere in the area. People see you around here.” He waved a hand expansively, taking in the corner shops around the intersection. “And, they see you at this bodega almost every morning. So I waited.”

“It’s a Seven-Eleven, Jimmy, not a bodega.” I followed at a casual pace, doing a quick sweep of the area. Nobody who looked like they were watching for either him or me. “What’s up?”

“I have a problem.”

“I figured. But you’ve heard I’m retiring, right?”

“Yeah, I have.” He spread his huge hands wide, tail wagging, and flashed me a vixen-bait grin. “But retiring isn’t retired, and I have a little emergency I know you can help with.”

Of course. People didn’t come to me with non-emergencies. I just gave him a raised brow and waited.

“It’s my wife.” He lowered his voice. “A party last night at her beach house got kind of wild. Too much booze, maybe a little too much snow. A mink girl decided to go for a little post-midnight swim and drowned.” He sounded genuinely surprised, like he’d never have guessed that you shouldn’t take a refreshing swim when you’re drunk and hopped up on coke.

Wife? I didn’t know he’d remarried after Gina’s boating accident a few years ago. And “her” beach house? I’d heard Jimmy lived in a penthouse overlooking the Bay, and I’d wondered how he paid for it, since his business didn’t seem that good. I guess he’d married into money. “Pool or ocean?”

“Ocean.”

“Who knows about the body?”

He snarled. “I found out about this shit-fest when she called me a couple hours ago because the cops were banging on her door. They’d already found it.”

“So much for just dragging it a half-mile down the beach, then.” I sighed. “How much have they seen?”

“Just the body. I think. They didn’t have a search warrant so my guy didn’t let ‘em in, but one’s gotta be on the way. Ed should be doing some cleaning, but…he ain’t a pro. I can’t get anyone else in there with the police hanging ‘round.”

“You want me to find a way to get a bunch of incriminating evidence out of the house while it’s under surveillance.”

“You got it.” He nodded. “And get Marie—my wife—out of there, too. The cops didn’t see her, so I want you to make it look like she was never there.”

I knew a Marie, once, a decade ago. I knew her very well. I shook off the memories and sighed heavily. “Better and better. Were you at this party?”

“I left early.”

“You don’t think it’s going to be suspicious if you make it look like neither of you were at this beach house when this went down?”

“Nah.” He shrugged. “There are people there all the time even when we’re not. Politicos and celebrities down on vacation, hangers-on, professional houseguests. You know how it is.”

I knew how it was in the abstract. I used to have a reputation for being very detail-oriented, and I suppose I am, so I knew some particulars of the lifestyles of the rich and infamous. If the surviving guests were too plowed to remember much, we could just say Marie left with Jimmy. Did I want this to be my last job? I could use the money, in the way we all can use money. But I didn’t need the money.

After I failed to respond in a few seconds, Jimmy nudged me. “Look, we both know you’re not retired yet. You still fix the kinda problems that police can’t.”

I sighed. “I mean this in the nicest possible way, Jimmy, but I’ve stopped fixing them for people like you.”

“I get it. I don’t want you to fix it for me. I want you to fix it for Marie. I love her, I need this done right, and you’re the only one who can do it.”

“I don’t know Marie, but if she’s married to you, she’s—”

“Yeah. Yeah, you do. You know her.” He looked at me with narrowed, calculating eyes.

I felt my tail droop, the blood drain out of my face. I don’t honestly remember saying yes. Maybe I just nodded.

(Continued…)

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Journaling

In early May (2015) I wrote a piece I published on Medium called “Blogging about not blogging,” in which I mused on my near-abandonment of my tech blog as well as my failure to keep my “writing journal”—i.e., this blog—up to date.

What do I want to write about, and where do I want to write it? Frankly, I don’t know. I finished the first draft of [my first] novel, Kismet, on April 26th. I could write about that, but I won’t. The internet is thick with unpublished novelists writing about their writing journey. They all mostly say the same set of things, and those things are, unless you are also an aspiring novelist, mostly not that interesting.

What I’m considering doing circles back around to where I started: journaling. Twitter replaces journaling the way a drive-thru replaces having a pleasant lunch at a quiet café—you get what you want out of it, mostly, but it’s hardly the same.

I mentioned that my “writing blog” could become a journal again merely through declaration, and so mote it be. That, of course, still leaves me with what to write about.

There’s work, of course. That’s always a popular topic. Going through my LiveJournal shows an unfortunately recurring theme: my jobs don’t last too long. On occasion that’s been my own doing, like the short-lived fiasco I described in “You can’t hire a new Bill,” in which I realized fairly early on that the job they actually needed done wasn’t the job they’d hired me for. More often than not, though, the situation’s been much less clearcut: contract positions that weren’t expected to go on forever, tiny startups running out of money, and so on.

I recently passed my one-year anniversary at RethinkDB, this time working as a technical writer rather than a web developer. They’re high-profile and well-regarded, and generally really neat people. I’m hoping to stay at the company for a long time, although that depends as much on what happens with their funding in the future as it does with my performance.

I hope to stay as a technical writer rather than a developer, too. I want this career change to stick. The Medium article talks about my tech burnout, but to put it in more starkly emotional terms, at some point during the “consulting phase” I was in from 2011 through early 2014 I was discovering that I’d grown to absolutely dread working with computers. I got angry as web development moved more and more to the front and onto an ever-faster Cool Framework Of The Day cycle. I got angry that new development tools that were supposed to be making things easier were making things more and more fragile. I got angry that everything I loved about computers was becoming so wretchedly complicated. I got angry worrying that I’d finally hit a wall in my understanding of computers and programming, that I’d become the proverbial old dog (coyote) who can’t learn new tricks and that despite being in the midst of a new tech boom, I’d find myself unemployable.

Last but certainly not least: as I mentioned in the quote from Medium, I’ve finished the first draft of Kismet. (It’s at what I’ve dubbed a “1.1” revision: not at the point I’d want to send it to a publisher, but ready for critique.) I’ve been thinking about just what I want from creative writing, and haven’t come to any solid conclusions yet. That’s probably worth a journal post of its own later, though.

(Originally posted at Coyote Prints)

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Going Concerns nominated for a Coyotl

While I'm going to be trying to get back into blogging a little more here, now that I've gotten a spiffy new setup on Coyote Prints and what I hope will prove to be a more user-friendly blogging editor setup based around BBEdit, this is just a quick update. My novella "Going Concerns" has been nominated for a Coyotl Award, the writing award from the Furry Writers' Guild. Voting is open until mid-August. This is a really good batch of nominees---I've always been inclined to wave the "furry literature" flag around, granted, but if this group isn't going to convince people there's some great stuff being written with anthropomorphic animal characters, both from within the fandom and without, I'm not sure what will.

And! In honor of the nomination, I'm making "Going Concerns" free online. I'm hoping the story may end up being the first of a series of novellas with those characters, although I don't have anything to announce about that...yet.

Right now the story's available exclusively on my web site, although I'll likely post it to the popular archive sites as time permits. (Frankly it's a lot easier to post to my own site, and it's probably a lot more readable here...)

http://cprints.ranea.org/going-concerns/

(Originally posted at Coyote Prints)

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Twitter, LiveJournal and navel-gazing

I've observed in the past that LiveJournal has been disrupted more by Twitter than any traditional "blogging" platform--like it or hate it, Twitter's perfect not only for status updates (its original use case) but for just about any quick "hey, I'd like to share this with friends and followers" impulse. Tumblr is something of an extra sucker punch: while there are things that LJ does that Tumblr doesn't, nearly everything they both do--from following your friends' posts to providing a safe haven for teen-to-twentysomethings to get righteously angry about the state of the world--Tumblr does objectively better.

But one of the things that LJ does better than nearly anything else is right in the name: journaling. A typical LiveJournal post was obviously much longer than anything on Twitter, but it also tended to be more personal than what we usually see on Tumblr. (Which isn't to say that there aren't a lot of Tumblrs with surprisingly personal stuff on them, but the platform has a very different character that tends to be far more anonymous than LJ. This is both good and bad, which I'll circle back to.) The only thing that's ever matched that is, well, blogging: WordPress, Blogger, or something wacky like Octopress, which is what I'm using here.

And, frankly, Twitter has been disappointing me more and more as a company. I know a bunch of LJ users all got up and left because they didn't like the direction they thought LJ was going, but folks, compared to Twitter LJ is owned and managed by the best people on the planet. I'm one of the ones who "moved" to Dreamwidth, but I've gotta admit that not only has nothing bad happened to or with LJ in years, the changes they've made make it feel a lot more modern than DW.

Lately I've been missing journaling in a way I haven't for years. I'm not sure why, but I've noticed I've been tweeting less, checking Twitter a little less obssessively, and being quite inattentive to Tumblr. My tech blog, Coyote Tracks, is hosted at Tumblr and has a somewhat staggering following, at least by my standards--but my burnout with web development has left me less interested in keeping up with tech trivia and more interested in writing.

That's why I turned my LiveJournal into an echo of an ostensibly writing-focused blog, "Coyote Prints." All well and good, except for two things. First, there's not that much to say about writing for me.

Second, what do I do with the posts that aren't about writing, aren't about tech, and are too long and/or introspective for Twitter?

For years the answer has been "nothing," but I'm not sure that's really the right answer. I feel like I should, at least occasionally, actually be... journaling.

What's interesting--and also embarrassing--is how much I realize I'm missing on LiveJournal. I don't think to check my Friends page more than once in a blue moon, and a lot of stuff happens that I'm not paying attention to. Friends I (clearly) don't stay in good touch with moving across the country, that sort of thing. I'll try to be better about that, but it's not easy to get back into that habit once it's broken.

I'm not sure whether to post journal-ish things solely to LiveJournal or to keep doing the slightly pain-in-the-butt "manual echo" between Coyote Prints and LJ; I'll probably stick with the latter for now, although LJ's wonderful ability to do "friend-locked" posts largely only exists on LJ.

(Originally posted at Coyote Prints)

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Quiet around these parts

Updates since my last post, all the way back in April:


I did attend the novel writing workshop, and it was fantastic. The point of the exercise was, in a lot of ways, to tear down everyone's novel outlines and reconstruct them in stronger fashion. I was told that Kismet was too "thin" in the version I brought with me, which wasn't at all surprising--I'm good at novellas, and had more of a novella's worth of plot than a novel's worth. I ended up with new tools for visualizing plot structure, and with a stronger plot in its reconstructed form than what I had before. I'm still adding to that plot, and have started the rewrite of what I had. So far it's easier; in large part that's due to the workshop, and to some degree it's simply because I know more about the story now than when these scenes were first written (which I think was in 2012).


In my last post I was job hunting; now I am, in fact, employed full-time as a technical writer. I like this. It may give me enough distance from programming to start liking it again, too, which would be terrific.


Something I didn't mention, but should have: I have a new Ranea novella called "Going Concerns" in the FIve Fortunes anthology, which is five unrelated novellas from authors Phil Geusz, Renee Carter Hall, Mary E. Lowd, Bernard Doove, and me. It's nominally a mystery, although in a lot of ways it's more comedy. You can buy it from FurPlanet, and as near as I can tell nowhere else right now, and only in physical print form. I'll make an update here when the distribution expands.


I don't have any announcements about upcoming stories at this point; I'm long overdue at getting older ones into ebook form, and I'd like to say I'm working on that, but it's more fair to say I'm thinking about working on that. A Gift of Fire, A Gift of Blood is overdue for an ebook release, for instance, and there are some other Ranea stories that could be polished up. (Maybe. Most of the old ones really aren't all that good, to be honest about it, but maybe they can form the basis of new ones.)


(Originally posted at Coyote Prints)

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Novel workshop and etc.

I haven’t mentioned this here yet, but I’ve been accepted into this year’s Novel Writers Workshop at the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction. The novel I’m workshopping is a hard sf novel (tentatively) called Kismet. I’m excited and a bit nervous about it–I’ve never actually finished a novel before. (Not that there’s any guarantee I’ll finish this one, but I’d like to think this will make it substantially more likely.) I’ll be attending with a friend, Tim Susman, who’s finished a fair number of novels–and who met the workshop’s instructor, Kij Johnson, when she was teaching at the Clarion Workshop he attended a few years ago.

Assuming it goes anywhere I’ll talk more about Kismet later. I’ve realized that since college, though, I’ve been toying around with Big Ideas for stories involving humans and animal-like aliens. That started as a story called “Only With Thine Eyes” that was supposed to turn into a novel (it didn’t, but the story’s collected in Why Coyotes Howl). A later attempt made the aliens into genetically-engineered animal people in a novel called In Our Image that got roughly a third of the way through before collapsing under its own weight. This one… well, it’s not a reincarnation of Image, definitely, although it touches on some similar thematic points.

Meanwhile, I’m working on other various projects, both writing and not-so-writing, as well as engaging in the boring but necessary project of finding more stable employment. I’m in the unenviable yet somewhat amusing position of being in Silicon Valley in the middle of a frenzy for tech developers… and increasingly burned out on the whole endeavor. I don’t want to keep competing with developers who are twenty years younger than I am, better at the kinds of programming brain teasers that interviewers (who are also twenty years younger than I am) seem to love, and perfectly happy with hour-plus commutes (each way). I think I’m trying to aim for a tech writer or developer evangelist type position at this point; failing that I’ll settle for the kind of “boring” corporate programming position that twenty-somethings sneer at but that sound like they might be just fine for me.

Oh: as of this writing there’s still two more days to vote for the Ursa Major Awards!

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Ursa Major Final Ballot

I’m very happy to say that Indigo Rain made the Ursa Major ballot this year!

If you haven’t read it, “Indigo Rain” is a novella in FurPlanet’s CupCakes line. It’s got a bit of fantasy, a lot of suspense, and a helping of romance.

Roulette, a young raccoon dancer, dreams of moving to Ranea’s capital city-state and marrying into a better life. But a horrifying encounter plunges her into a momentous political struggle—one that will turn tragically violent unless she and her companions can stop the mysterious Brothers of Atasos. And as if things weren’t complicated enough, Roulette may be falling in love with an activist who’s as far from her dream husband as she could get.

There’s a free two-part preview:

You can purchase it from several online stores in both print and ebook:

And, of course, if you like it, please cast your vote in the Ursas. There’s a lot of other good stuff nominated this year, from several works by Mary (Otters in Space) Lowd to the Hugo-winning Digger omnibus by Ursula Vernon. (The first issue of Claw & Quill was also nominated, which is immensely flattering, but I’d really like to get the damned second issue out. I didn’t know it was going to be a biannual. Mea culpa. As long as it doesn’t turn into a biennial.)

(Originally published at Coyote Prints)

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Indigo Rain and the Ursa Majors

Nominations for the 2013 Ursa Major Awards are open through February 28th, and my novella “Indigo Rain” is eligible! This is the first time I’ve had something in the running since Why Coyotes Howl in 2005.

The nomination form is online; the process is a little clunky, but still fairly fast. This is for nominations only, not the the final voting; the top five stories will be on the final ballot.

You can read the first few thousand words of “Indigo Rain” in a two-part preview:

And, you can buy the whole shebang here:

The ebook is also available from Amazon, Apple iBooks, the Nook Store, and Lulu.

And, last but not least, Sabretoothed Ermine’s cover art is also eligible for a separate Ursa Major nomination as a “published illustration.” Just, you know, saying.

(Originally published at Coyote Prints)

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A digression on Cyberpunk

I was listening to Fangs and Fonts‘ most recent podcast on cyberpunk, and—

Okay, let me back up. “Fangs and Fonts” is a podcast about writing, hosted by four writers in (and out of) furry fandom: Roland Ferret, Yannarra, Tarl “Voice” Hoch and Ocean. So far the episodes have mostly come across as structure-free conversations about a given topic. There’s a lot of spontaneity and liveliness to it, although I suspect they’d benefit from spending an hour or so before recording making a list of Things To Cover.

Anyway. While it was fun listening in on the conversation, my impression was that none of the four hosts had read much of the genre past the Wikipedia entry. They’d seen movies with cyberpunk tropes to varying degrees, but… well. There’s no way to say this without an implied tsk tsk, but you guys, it’s a writing podcast!

So let me back up more. Specificially, to the early ’80s.

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