Calling all poetical/artistical types

I have a favor to ask!

For Sekrit Projekt R&R, Alyc and I have some divinatory cards we need to name. The catch is that we want their names to more on the metaphorical side, rather than directly literal, and neither of us is exceptionally good at thinking in those terms. Example: one of the cards represents travel and journeys. The obvious thing would be some kind of name involving roads or paths or whatever. But our placeholder name for it was “Horizon,” and now it’s “Dawn and Dusk,” because the city where the story takes place sits in the middle of a major trade network that extends east and west. That’s one we’re very pleased with . . . but we need a bunch more.

If you would be willing to help brainstorm card names, drop me a line. We’re especially interested in suggestions from people with a poetical bent, or people with a visual bent who might think in terms of what the image on the card would be, and then come up with a name to describe that image. I’ll send you a rundown of what the cards are that need naming, and also a little information about the setting to riff off in terms of knowing what details might be appropriate. There are thirty-four that need names; you’re welcome to suggest more than one for any given card, and you don’t need to suggest things for all of them if you don’t have ideas that seem fitting.

We’d like all suggestions to be in by the end of the month.

So if that’s something you can help out with, let me know. We’d be very grateful for the assistance!

Bicep curls for the brain

Once again, I’m trying to get back into the habit of meditating. Or maybe just into the habit, since I’ve never quite made it firmly stick.

Two things are helping this time, though. One is telling myself that it’s okay to just go for ten minutes: I don’t need to push to increase that to fifteen or twenty or thirty. Maybe once I’m really and truly in the habit of ten minutes every day, but not until then; it’s a lot easier to declare “for crying out loud, it’s only ten minutes” and then just sit down than it is to mark out a longer block of time.

The other is akin to the epiphany I had some years ago about balance. I stopped thinking of it as a state (I am balanced) and started thinking of it as a process (I am balancing) — which had the effect of making me better at balancing, because I no longer thought of any deviation from the center as failure. It’s just part of the process of balancing, and the rest of the process is bringing yourself back to center.

Same thing here. Meditating isn’t the state of having my mind clear and focused on my breathing. It’s the process of noticing when my thoughts have wandered, and bringing them gently back to my breathing. At least in mindfulness meditation — I don’t have much experience with other kinds. I’ve started thinking of it as bicep curls for my brain, strengthening my mindfulness every time I return my attention to my breathing. Except that bicep curls are an effort, and this isn’t supposed to feel like heavy lifting; the metaphor breaks down after a while. Even so.

Process, not state. Understanding that wobbles happen. Not giving up, but trying again, and accepting that “trying again” is how it goes. As the most recent newsletter from 10% Happier said, it isn’t about not having thoughts, but about not getting caught up in them. Letting them pass by. I keep telling myself, “I can think about that later.”

Less than ten minutes later. Maybe someday I’ll get back to longer stretches, but for now, ten minutes is a good workout.

New Worlds Theory Post: World as Palimpsest

One of the funding goals the New Worlds Patreon hit very early on was a fifth bonus piece in the months that have five Fridays. I use these to talk about how to worldbuild, rather than what to worldbuild about, and this month I get metaphorical: thinking about your world as a palimpsest, containing the incomplete and half-erased layers of different social structures and practices.

Remember, the New Worlds Patreon isn’t just the essays: it’s a photograph every week for patrons (themed to that week’s topic as much as I can arrange), ebooks at the $3 and above, the ability to request topics at $5 and above, a bonus essay on how I’ve approached worldbuilding in my own work at $10 and above (which lately has focused on Sekrit Projekt R&R, to show the process more or less “live”), the ability to ask me questions about worldbuilding in your own work or someone else’s at $25 and above, and at $50, a critique from me every month. If that sounds appealing, or you’d just like to support the project, you can do that here!

Awards eligibility post

I don’t have a large amount of stuff to announce for this year in terms of awards-eligible material — no novels this calendar year, and my only short story was “At the Sign of the Crow and Quill” — but I do have something to mention, which I realized while I was at Worldcon.

Most if not all of the time, the individual episodes of a Serial Box season are novelette-length. And at least for the Hugos (because I talked to someone involved with the Hugo rules about this), they are certainly eligible to be nominated in the novelette category, in much the same way that individual episodes of a TV show are eligible to be nominated in Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

Which is interesting because while the novella category is booming these days, thanks in large part to Tor.com, but also more generally to the way that digital publication has made a novella a useful size of thing to publish . . . the novelette category has really been languishing. They’re too long for most magazines to tackle, except maybe at the very short end — 8K or so — but too small to really sell well on their own, even in digital format.

But Serial Box is over there putting out dozens of novelettes every year. Yes, they’re installments in longer stories — but I can vouch for the fact that the Serial Box approach really emphasizes making them act like episodes in a show more than chapters in a book, i.e. each one is designed to have its own distinct shape, rather than just feeling like a slice taken out of the middle of something bigger. So nominating a Serial Box episode makes sense, in a way that nominating a chapter out of a book wouldn’t.

My three episodes for Born to the Blade are “Fault Lines” (1.02), “Spiraling” (1.06), and “Shattered Blades” (1.10). The season is eleven episodes long in total. If you particularly enjoyed one or more of them, or if there are stand-out episodes in some other Serial Box project you’ve read, then consider nominating them in the novelette category. Let’s get some fresh blood in there!

NEW WORLDS is now in print! and other holiday gift news

I didn’t actually plan to have this ready just in time for Cyber Monday, but that’s how it’s worked out.

NEW WORLDS, YEAR ONE: A Writer's Guide to the Art of Worldbuilding

New Worlds, Year One is now available in print! You can get it from Amazon (US and UK), Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, Book Depository, IndieBound, and Indigo (in Canada). You should also be able to get your local store to order it in.

Speaking of local stores: if you would like a signed copy of anything from me, the way to do that is to contact Borderlands Books in San Francisco. They’ll notify me, I’ll head up there and sign it, and they’ll ship the book to you.

And finally, if you’d like to order a photo, feel free to browse these galleries and let me know what catches your eye. I can order prints on normal photo paper, but also on a wide variety of other media: acrylic, glass, aluminum, canvas, wood, and so forth. Prices vary depending on the medium and the size you want, but drop me a line and I’ll give you an estimate.