SFWA: Throwing My Hat in the Ring

I believe pretty strongly that you should be the change you want to see in the world, and while we don’t have the time to do that for everything in our lives, we should pick our battles and go at them with all our hearts and strength.

So I’m running for SFWA VP. Here’s my platform statement. Wish me luck!

 

  My name is Maggie and I’m running for the office of SFWA Vice President, because there has yet to be an officer like me in SFWA’s history.

I am an indie writer. My career is a product of the new era of publishing. Every one of my successes has come to me by braving the uncharted waters of an industry in the throes of revolution, and my methods have often been so novel that companies like Kickstarter and ACX have called me to pick my brain about what I’m doing. If there’s some new way to monetize fiction writing, I’m either on it or finding out about it from people who are doing it, and I was crowdfunding fiction on the internet before ‘crowdfunding’ was a buzzword.

These are tumultuous times, but there is unparalleled opportunity in them for genre writers. And overwhelmingly, I want to help my hybrid and trad-published peers find the success they deserve in the new climate. In the past, SFWA was the organization for serious professionals to turn to for advice, help, and companionship on the journey. I want to make SFWA that organization again, now that so many things have changed.

Too, my indie peers are poised to enter the organization, and they need to know they have a voice they can trust among the officers. I’m a known quantity in the indie community, and my election to the VP position will assure them that despite any missteps we’ve made in the past, we are committed to welcoming them into the organization and giving them a voice in its decisions. They know I served on the committee that helped draft the recommendations for the new indie and small press qualifications; I think they’d be favorably impressed to see SFWA put an indie on the Board.

My platform, then, can be reduced to a single goal: I want to help make SFWA the premiere organization for science fiction and fantasy professionals, no matter how they earn their checks. I want to build the initiatives that help our trad and hybrid authors find success in their indie ventures, and help our indies with their experiments in hybrid careers.

Other than my post in both iterations of SFWA’s self-publishing committee and the other volunteer work I’ve done, I have yet to hold any formal position. But my experience as an indie author is invaluable to an organization going through its own sea change, and I’ve been running my own business for over a decade. I’d like to put that entrepreneurial energy to work for you, and I hope you give me the chance to do it.

To the future—

M.C.A. Hogarth

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Your Poem Name

Thief of Songs is doing well! I will selfishly remind you that if you enjoyed it, reviews and word-of-mouth to friends are hugely helpful. (There’s a 20-review minimum on some of the book promotion sites I like to use, so I’m hoping I get there soon so I can submit it!)

But in the meantime, I thought it would be fun to invite you to visit the world by answering a couple of questions!

1. In the Twin Kingdoms, you can be male, female, neuter, or hermaphrodite (all human). All sexes can work magic; hermaphrodites can “carry” the equivalent of mana around, and neuters can pull it out of them and re-distribute it to other people/things. (Women’s bodies use mana to prevent their periods, cramps, and miscarriages! Fun world to live in, I say.) What sex do you think you’d end up?

2. In the lowlands, every adult chooses a “poem name” when they come of age, a line from a famous poem that exemplifies one of the virtues of adulthood. This will be your adult name for the rest of your life, so the ability to choose wisely is considered one of the indicators that you’re ready for the responsibilities of adulthood! While the poem name is a single line from the poem, people will shorten it to one or two words, like “Clouds” or “Always Falling.” What do you think your poem name would be?

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Daughter Stories: Variety Show

Zoom! Child darts past me to her room. I am aware of her, but busy figuring out dinner. Zoom! Child darts out of her room, rummages around the table, vanishes again. So far, not getting into trouble, thinks Mom, and tries to concentrate on what she’s doing.

Clatter. Click. The printer starts printing. I frown and look up.

Zoom! Child darts past me to the laundry room. She hovers over the printer. Confused, I start heading that way. “What’s that?”

“My homework,” she says confidently. When I show no signs of understanding, she says, “My spelling homework for the rest of the week.”

“The rest of the week?” I ask, bemused. It’s only Tuesday.

“Yeah,” she says, nodding. “You know how I have to write out my spelling words every day?”

“Yes?”

“Well, I wrote them out. Then I took a picture of them and printed them out four times so I can turn in one a day for the rest of the week.” She displays her efforts: a grayscale print-out of a picture of her sheet of spelling words, her feet prominently displayed alongside.

She pauses, then adds, “Is it cheating?”

A tickle in my throat becomes a burble, and suddenly I am laughing. I am laughing so hard my ribs hurt. “Yes!” I say, holding my aching sides.  I wipe my eyes. “Yes, it’s cheating. But it’s very clever! You are a very clever girl. That was good thinking.”

She grins, but it’s a frustrated expression. She was hoping not to have to do her spelling. I give her a bear hug and reflect that she’s going to be one of those kids who has to be told why she has to do things, or she will think her way into solutions that don’t accomplish the actual goal.

***

fairy template

“I’m done with my homework!” she says another day. “So I’m going to do Classmate’s fairy!”

“Classmate’s fairy?” I ask, curious.

“Yes, she ordered one from my sheet.”

“Your sheet,” I repeat.

“Yes, see?” She brings out a sheet of construction paper she’s segmented into boxes. “See, there are choices for everything. Hair, and dresses, and wings, and where you want to live, and special powers, and other stuff…” She flips it over to show me the other stuff. “And then everyone picks one from each box, and then I draw it. So Classmate wanted to live in a mansion, and have this dress, and she wanted the ‘animal speaker’ special power, and she wanted a bird… so that’s what I’m drawing her.”

Child sits and promptly goes to work. It doesn’t take her long to complete this customized fairy and then she’s hopping off to play with Grandma. I look at it while she’s gone, staggered because she’s duplicated what looks like a paper-doll app… on real paper… and then used it as a template for commissioned artwork for her friends.

I ask her later and discover her commissions are apparently very popular. “But not with the boys.”

***

I thought I was on the mend from the sickness I’ve been fighting for a week–‘thought’ being the operative word there, because I come home from my first full day of work at the office and collapse at 6:45 PM and sleep all the way to the next morning. When I wake, I discover this note:I took care of it okay mommyI check, and she has packed her agenda in her backpack along with her homework, and has put together her own lunch and snack. All the food she’s included is stuff I would normally pack her–she didn’t take the tempting opportunity to give herself the All Cookie lunch.

She has not forgotten me either, or my habit of decorating her lunch bags every day.

Clouds for Mommy***

I am still sick, so we watch Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks again. This is the second time we’ve seen it. We sing along to the music together, and she doesn’t mind that I sound like a strangled frog.

Everyone told me all the hard things about parenting. I know why now. They wanted the amazing things to be a wonderful surprise. And they are, every day.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

My Twitter Word Cloud

Twitter Word Cloud - MCAHOGARTH

I am amused that my O_O face was so common. Hee. :)

Anyway! I work hard at keeping positive, and look how many positive words are in my cloud! Wow, happy, hope, love, awesome, rocks, glad, adorable… my twitter is apparently a fun place. It also contains coffee, chocolate, and food, and a lot of books, reading, and reviews.

I notice that my life as a mother is separated: daughter, child, kid, parenting are all present but diffuse, which probably reflects that I’m a little cagey about talking too much about her. Privacy for the adult-that-will-be and all that.

And no, Engineer Sam, I don’t want to hear about it that ‘work’ is the third largest word. >.<

Anyway, I enjoyed this exercise. If you want a twitter word cloud of your own, tweet to @wordnuvola, the Word Cloud bot, with the hash tag #wordcloud.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Characters from Laisrathera

I was talking with Mark the Medic on twitter (@medicmsh) about the Fleet characters in the third book of Her Instruments, Laisrathera, and I realized I had this super rough sketch of them lying around that I never uploaded. He seemed to like it despite how rough it was, so I figured I’d drop it online for those of you who enjoy peeking into writerbrain. :)

hold17

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Interview with the Author of Sand of Bone!

Since I enjoyed Sand of Bone from the storybundle, I decided to pester blairmacg with some questions! I found her answers fascinating, so I’m sharing!

Knowing your background as a martial arts teacher, I wasn’t at all surprised at the authenticity of the fight and training scenes in your novel. What did surprise me was how well you captured the military culture! Do you have any background in that, or is it something you picked up in some other way?

     I’ve never served in the military, but those who serve and have served are a big part of my life. I work with National Guard families through my dojo, my adult students have included many military folks, and my late husband served in the Army.
     But the biggest military influence came from my father, who continued in the Naval Reserves for more than twenty years. I grew up watching war movies and documentaries, reading books by Ernest Gunn, and visiting military museums and battlefields. We talked frankly about duty, honor, commitment, and sacrifice.
     Martial arts also played a role. I teach and train within a tight-knit family system, so though we often socialize (including a week-long camp every summer) rank is still observed. Over twelve years, I’ve gained a small sense of what it feels like to function within a rank-based system—how to disagree and argue, how to find unspoken boundaries of etiquette, and how to immediately shift interactions from two friends to sensei and student when we bow onto the mat.
     When developing the culture for Sand of Bone, I knew I wanted a strong martial tradition, but didn’t necessarily want to recreate the expected military atmosphere. The Blades are most certainly ruled by rank and experience, but commanders are expected to cooperate as well as command. Since the command units tend to be small, the rank-and-file are expected to debate with their superiors, and to know when to instead obey without question. Personal relationships within and between the ranks—from platonic friendships to life-long sexual partnerships—are expected and accepted. Men and women train and work side by side. While the structure is solid, there is flexibility as well.
     But the questions of loyalty and honor and promises kept in the face of moral ambiguity, ethical questions, and brutal combat… All of those remain. No command structure can make them go away.

Desert fantasy: pretty rare! What inspired you to create a hot-weather fantasy?

     My grandparents owned a one-room cabin set in the middle of some acreage in the southern Mojave desert. Many childhood weekends were spent there and, since those weekends were in the 70s, I was permitted to explore the incredible landscape on my own. I got to peek into abandoned mine shafts, catch snakes with my bare hands, and swim in a hot springs oasis. In my young adulthood, I’d camp and backpack in parts of the Mojave and around Sedona, and in the dry mountains of central and southern California.
     Before moving to the Midwest, before I was surrounded by constant moisture and vegetation, I didn’t understand how much I loved open, dry, clean horizons. There is an incredible sense of freedom and isolation, standing on a rocky crest to gaze over an open and wind-blown landscape that is home to all sorts of tough and resilient life. It wasn’t the heat that attracted me. It was the quiet. The alone-ness. The crystal-dusted nighttime sky and the unshaded light of day.
     Deserts give you few places to hide and exceedingly thin margins of error. That atmosphere best suits the story of Sand of Bone.

As far as I know, all your work is indie-published. Can you tell us about your publishing journey? What made you choose the path you did?

     Other than the three short story sales from a few years ago (Writers of the Future, Speculon, Cicada), yes—I’m indie. It was a twenty-year journey. I’ll try to cut out the boring parts. :)
     I was fortunate to learn the craft of writing from some exceptional authors: Laurie Marks and Sherwood Smith, then Tim Powers and K.D. Wentworth through Writers of the Future, and (much later, at the end of the journey) the instructors and students of Viable Paradise. And they taught me what was then the only game in town—queries and synopses and exclusive submissions and long, long waits. I danced the submission-go-round for a decade, and have some of the most lovely, detailed, and flattering rejection letters you can imagine. Hearing again and again, “I love it, but it’s not right for me now, so send me the next one, and I won’t take so long to get back to you next time!” made my writing career seem like the can everyone had decided to kick down the road.
     Then along came The Years of Great Turmoil, when the personal life spent much time under a scorched-earth assault. Near the end of it, my husband urged me to resume writing if I still loved it. And I did love it! And missed it so much! So I applied to the writing workshop Viable Paradise and was accepted. But I still had a dilemma: I wanted to write stories, and I wanted readers to enjoy them, but the thought of dealing with trade publishers and the submission process again was… less than joyful.
     I stumbled onto Kris Rusch’s business blog, had a couple “Omigod, is this really a thing?” conversations with writers whose judgment I trusted, and had mostly made up my mind by the time I attended Viable Paradise. But what solidified my decision was a pro giving the standard response to authors querying or withdrawing a submission after an exceptionally long wait: “If you want the answer now, the answer will be no.”
     And very quietly, the last of my indie-publishing doubt settled. I wasn’t going to invest another two, three, or five years waiting for someone else to make a decision. My answer was no, and it pleased me.
     You see, life is short. Those years of turmoil I mentioned? They came to a crashing end. In less than five months time, my husband had three heart attacks, was diagnosed with end-stage liver and lung cancer, entered at-home hospice care, and passed away.
     Life is that short.
     So I set to work learning all I could about the new and evolving independent options, and attended the “Think Like A Publisher” workshop taught by Dean Smith and Scott Carpenter. It certainly helped that I’d been self-employed as an actor, speaker, and freelance writer since my late teens. I made a couple “practice runs” with short stories and novella. In late 2012, I published my first novel, and in 2013, participated in my first Indie Fantasy Bundle with StoryBundle. Sand of Bone came out last summer, and its sequel is scheduled for an April release.
     I have never once regretted the decision.

And now some silly questions! Animal that would best represent you:

I’d love it to be something sleek or exotic, but I’m a mutt dog. I’m made up of a jumble that somehow fits together, I believe in playing hard and taking naps in the sun, and while some folks might wander in and out of my life, my family pack is forever. And big, thick steaks are most marvelous things.

Favorite beverage:

In the morning, it’s coffee brewed with a dash of cinnamon or cardamom, then it’s water with a little lemon or lime for the rest of the day. For relaxing, it’s whisky. For the beach, it’s a mojito.

Pick a team! Ninja, pirate, cowboy, or alien:

I’m too klutzy to hang out with ninjas, get seasick too easily to be a pirate, and like the home planet too much to choose aliens. Since I love the open range and campfires, can still sit well in the saddle, am a decent shot with a rifle, and cried when John Denver died, I’ll pick cowboy.

***

So there you go. There’s still 7 days to pick up the storybundle with Blair’s story (and mine!), if you haven’t already!

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Indies Can Now Qualify for SFWA Membership

After much effort from multiple people (of which I was a vocal part), SFWA has gone through the arduous process of amending its own bylaws to allow indies and small press authors to qualify. You can read the press release here! I know it’s tempting to sneer at them for moving so slowly, and I’ve been impatient with them myself… rather a lot. But the truth is that few organizations of its size are agile, and though they did it slowly, they listened to us when we said that it was vitally important that we do this if we want to stay relevant. The change required a vote from the entire membership, and they overwhelmingly voted in favor of it. I think that’s a great sign. :)

Right now, I hold a volunteer position; I host discussions on indie topics on the internal forums. So if you’re thinking about joining, and you qualify, at least know that you’ll have one ally among the sea of strangers!

Related, it’s SFWA election time. While I’m not running for anything, I couldn’t resist having the badgers weigh in.

runnign-for-office-web

The honey badgers have appeared in two consecutive issues of the SFWA Bulletin, and UrsulaV and I are turning in our cartoons for the third this week. The Bulletin’s already full of useful articles, but… seriously. Badgers. Who wouldn’t buy it just for that. And you get it free if you join!

There. My pitch is done. *collapses*

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Poetry and Progress on Various Things

I’m still working on the final book of Morgan’s trilogy, and despite my nerves about whether I’m going to fall down on delivering the ending, I think it’s going well. At 132 pages, it’s probably about 1/3rd done, and I’m going to do my best to overshoot my daily quota so I can get it finished in the next two months (or less).

There comes a certain point in a narrative where I stop writing prose and start writing as if I’m making poetry, which is ridiculous because I’m not really a good poet. My first draft comes out dripping, more interested in rhythm than being restrained or dignified.

Spoilery Example

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Launch: Thief of Songs, My First Romance!


thief-of-songs-ebook-cover
Amazon | Apple | B&N | Kobo | AllRomance

The lowland conquerers have taken everything from him, or so the composer Amet Emendexte-ilye was taught: prestige, autonomy, wealth, and most importantly, magic. But when one of them steals his fiancee, Amet avenges himself on them all by writing music and giving it away in defiance of the lowland laws. It is a very satisfactory vengeance, or so he thinks, until he discovers the kingdom’s royal composer is planning to debut Amet’s work—as folk music!

So he’s riding east to set the record straight. But he has no idea how compelling a decadent lowland hermaphrodite can be, and before it’s over, this thief of songs may be stealing more than his music….

My first romance novel has everything you’ve come to expect from one of my novels: culture clashes, rich world-building, and lyrical voice. It’s also got my trademark complex gender spreads, which is why I’ve written a hermaphrodite/male relationship with a poly asexual third! If you’ve enjoyed my other novels, I encourage you to let Dancer and Amet take you into their world….

     “His name is Amet,” Always Falling said after I’d handed my violin to Sweetness in Summer.
     “Amet?” I repeated, surprised.
     “Amet Emendexte,” it said. “A nephew of River of Songs Running to the Heart.”
     “I thought he was a composer—”
     “He is.” I thought the quality in Always Falling’s voice… peculiar. Not pity, and not disapproval. Wariness, perhaps. Anger? There was a protective streak in my beloved that it was rarely called on to express, but one was wise to fear it, given its family protectors were cousins to dragons. At my look, it said, “He is Iglinta’s court composer.”
     “Iglinta,” I repeated, startled. “You mean Mountains Wishing Fastness? But we were just there. The concertmaster told me their composer had taken ill, so ill he had to travel to the healing baths over the border.”
     “He seems to have made it over the border,” it remarked. “But he doesn’t seem very sick to me.”
     My skin had contracted with dread. If the stranger—Amet—hadn’t been ill, then he’d chosen not to receive me on my stop back through Mountains Wishing Fastness. I had used his music room to arrange the songs I’d heard in the taverns on the second night of our stay. I had used his piano! Had he heard me there? Is that how he’d found out? Had he been lurking in the castle, as he was lurking now, at the edge of my concert? But why?
     “Iglinta,” I repeated, tasting the foreign sounds, and the realization that my accuser had no poem name crashed on me like a stormsurge. I sucked in a breath. “No. Oh no. He’s a highland patriot?” I looked at it, found its face grim. “Are you sure of all this?”
     “I had it from Beautiful,” it replied.
     And Beautiful would not lie…and probably would not tell us how it had found out, either, if it had not already divulged that information to Always Falling, with whom it was particular friends. Like the magic it was charged with overseeing for the entirety of the kingdom, information flowed toward Beautiful with breathless ease, which is what made it such a superlative Phoenix Sage. And because it had told Always Falling this information, I knew it was issuing me a gentle warning.
     “What will you do?” Always Falling asked.
     “I don’t know,” I admitted, pained. “I stole his music, and something is owed him for that, and I have no idea what.”
     “And the kisses?” it asked, quieter.
     “I don’t know,” I said again. Squaring my shoulders, “But I will find out.”

A note since several of you have asked: this is not an explicit novel! If you enjoyed the romantic subplots in my other novels, this is more of the same, just a lot more of it. Someone on Twitter called it “one of your more soothing works, at least so far. There’s conflict, but mostly it’s like bathing in magic and snuggles.” Since that’s what I was aiming for, I think that’s all that needs saying…!

I hope you’ll check out my first foray into a new genre. I really do. Because magical acupuncture. And music. And adorable children. And a billion other things that are waiting for you in its pages. And as always, if you enjoy the book, tell your friends, and leave reviews if it pleases you. You all are awesome and I am forever grateful for your support. :)

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment