Tag: writing

Power, Allies, and Friendship in Hoshi and the Red City Circuit

Protagonists are defined as much by their interactions with other characters as they are by their own actions. Work-shopping the rough “draft zero” of Hoshi and the Red City Circuit through my writing group, a first-chapter comment went: “That Hoshi chooses to work for a police department that once owned her makes her relationship with Inspector Sorreno really complicated.”

Yes, it does. They are friends, and there is mutual respect. But Sorreno is ever in a position of power as both Police Inspector and normal, and the chasm of lived experience has Hoshi ever-cautious of the distance between them–distance which Sorreno, due to her privilege, is oblivious to. Interacting with allies is often like this in the real world–equals in some ways, but in other ways there will always be a chasm more visible to one side than the other.

About a third of the way through draft zero, my writing group had a new comment: “We’ve seen Hoshi interact with people who have more power than her, and with people who have less power than her, but we haven’t seen her interact much with anyone who is a peer, a friend on even footing. What’s that like? What’s would that reveal about her?”

Kelvin always appeared in the second chapter. Thinking about the peer comment though, I ended up including him throughout the story. Kelvin isn’t an Operator, but he’s not entirely a normal either. He’s like my neurodivergent-but-not-autistic friends, or my friends who would be considered an “autistic cousin” as they are closer to my end of the spectrum. He’s an amalgam of a bunch of people I like, and was named after the only person at my baby sitter who was ever a friend to me. His engineering whimsy delights me. He has been marginalized for his occupation, and for his borderline Operator-ness, and for where he chooses to place his loyalties. The chasm of lived experience doesn’t divide them, although they are maligned (and revered) for different reasons; Kelvin is a fiercely wise choice of a friend.

Paperback and ebook available from autpress.com; free ebook with paperback purchase! Also available in paperback and Kindle from amazon.com, from Powell’s City of Books, or ask at your local bookstore.

Reading at Another Read Through 9/20/2018: Neurodivergent Queer Heroes

Join me at Another Read Through for a reading from my science fiction mystery novel Hoshi and the Red City Circuit, as well as conversation about my neurodivergent, disabled, and queer heroes; cool tech; systems science; and cantankerous detectives. I’ll have books available to sign and buy.

Date: 9/20/2018
Time: 7:00 PM
Place: Another Read Through, 3932 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR

Here are links to the venue’s FaceBook event and event calendar.

Stop by and support a lovely local bookstore!

Accessible Detectives and Recasting the Noir Investigator as a Tiny Espresso-swigging Woman

I created Hoshi Archer because I was in trouble. I wanted to write the two-part epic of the end of Operator enslavement, narrated by an unreliable, drugged-up, mega-star anti-hero, but after ten years of wanting I still couldn’t write narration anyone understood, let alone liked. So, in an equal an opposite reaction of frustration, I thought, Fuckit I’m going to create a reliable first-person narrator who is easy to love.

Hoshi Archer began as an exercise in what makes an accessible character with a reason to tell their story. Detectives are great because they notice things–accurately–and they have a reason to deliver exposition. It’s easy to sympathize with nice people who have been through mean circumstances, yet retain their niceness. Sympathetic characters love something. The reader shares their aims. And they have humor–or at least a voice that is delightful or beautiful to read. The glitch being that as an Operator Hoshi isn’t wired like most readers; she’s neurodivergent and that makes her less straight-forwardly like them. But at least I wasn’t also dealing with heavy anti-hero stuff on top of that. Maybe I could learn something.

Hoshi is a re-imagining of the hard-boiled detective as a small woman who downs espresso instead of whisky, and has little social privilege. How would Sam Spade have been different if he’d had to worry about being the victim of a hate crime? How would Mike Hammer have been different if he had a stigmatized disability? How would Philip Marlow have been different if he relied on assistive technology to survive?

After growing up with little power over her life, shifting social policy “allows” Hoshi to be a detective instead of a programmer. She is in love with her city, despite its cruelty toward Operators. She can manipulate information systems with her mind, and lives in constant fear of losing everything. She shares my hatred of furniture. She’s the first character I ever had readers love as much as I did. Because doing so is in her nature (whether she’ll admit to it or not), Hoshi got me out of trouble.

Paperback and ebook available from autpress.com; free ebook with paperback purchase! Also available in paperback and Kindle from amazon.com, from Powell’s City of Books, or ask at your local bookstore.

Heroes Like Me: Neurodivergent Protagonists in Hoshi and the Red City Circuit

Growing up, the closest thing to a hero like me was Charles Wallace in Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time. Outsider characters sometimes came close–psychics and rebels, like Katie in Willo Davis Robert’s book The Girl with the Silver Eyes, which I re-read into pulp. Of course there were many heroes I loved–like Ged in Ursula LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea–but none of them were like me. They were like the majority of readers, and I am…not.

I cannot overstate the psycho-social impact of having no heroes who share your race/gender/ethnicity/religion/sexuality/abilities. Sometimes, maybe, if you’re lucky you’ll get a villain, a “magical cripple,” or some poor, unfortunate stakes character whose purpose is to pity or turn a plot point. But never a hero. The underlying message is: people like you are never heroes. And then, the usual cascade of oppressions: you have less value, less agency, less virtue, less power, less less less. You will never be the hero in your own story or anyone else’s, but here’s a penny for your cup, now don’t you go scaring us you hear?

So, um, fuck that? I want stories with heroes like me. Preferably written by people like me. And since there really aren’t m/any, I will make them.

Hoshi and the Red City Circuit is set in a world where neurodivergent characters experience both immense power in their ability to control the interstellar network of quantum computers, and immense disempowerment through centuries of institutionalized oppression. Although the neural kink experienced by my characters is fictional, it is based on the way some of us experience autism. There are a number of complex reasons why I wrote this book, but one of the heaviest drivers was the need for neurodiverse characters in fiction to be taken from the margins into the center. Not as villains, not as charity or magical-cripple plot-points-of-convenience, or as faddish literary devices (I’m looking at you oh Curious Incident and all the harm you bring), but as protagonists.

In Hoshi and the Red City Circuit, the story’s hero, her best nemesis, and her worst frenemy are neurodivergent. They are heroes like me.

And maybe like you too?

Paperback and ebook available from autpress.com; free ebook with paperback purchase! Also available in paperback and Kindle from amazon.com, from Powell’s City of Books, or ask at your local bookstore.

My Novel is Released!

OMG YOU GUYS!

I released a book today!!!

I am HOLDING a copy of a novel I wrote and some fabulous people (thank you Autonomous Press and Argawarga Press!) liked enough to edit and put into print. I am more proud of this than anything I’ve ever done.

I hope you enjoy it

Paperback and ebook available from autpress.com; free ebook with paperback purchase! Also available in paperback and Kindle from amazon.com, or ask at your local bookstore.

Hoshi and the Red City Circuit: Serial Murder & Cyberpunk with an Alien Psychic Twist

In a far future, on the cusp of a major civil rights movement, a private investigator whose disabilities aid her in her investigations must stop a serial killer while political forces manipulate her for control of her beloved city.

It’s said, “write what you know,” but I say, “write what you love.” Hoshi and the Red City Circuit is a love song to my favorite stories, from early devourings of Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew, to later walks down William Gibson’s Sprawl and Blade Runner’s gritty, neon streets.

It is a full-hearted call-out to the silenced and the weird, to the people like me who never see themselves the hero of the book because they are disabled, or queer, or otherwise pushed to the margins and told to stay. It is a love song to those of us who say, “no, I won’t stay; I have something beautiful to chase beyond your walls!”

It is an ode to cities where I’ve wandered: from the towers of New York to the parks of one Portland and the seaports of another.

As far as the alien psychic twist…Anne McCaffery imprinted me early with her alien psychic dragon companions. But mix that with darker companions, echoes of Madeline L’Engle’s ecthrohi, Ged’s shadow in A Wizard of Earthsea, and the utter alienness of Lovecraftian horrors. My beloved cities, too, have spirits, each a unique, flavored personality. What if we could talk to our cities? What might my city, constant companion who enfolds me, say? Would she be light or dark, or, likely, both?

Lastly, Hoshi and the Red City Circuit is a love song to a world I hope we are still trying to build, one which is unafraid to explore power and privilege, and dis/ability and social norms, as both Hoshi and the city–as we–struggle to come to terms with a more justly integrated society.

Paperback and ebook order through autpress.com; free ebook with paperback order! Also available on amazon.com.

Hoshi and the Red City Circuit – Pre-order Available NOW! Instant free ebook!

Hooray! My science fiction mystery novel, Hoshi and the Red City Circuit, is available for paperback preorder through autpress.com! Ebook available now for immediate download; free ebook with paperback preorder.

Due to their unique neurology, only the enslaved Operator caste can program the quantum computers that run 26th century Red City. When three of the caste are ritually murdered, it’s up to private investigator Hoshi Archer—herself a recently liberated Operator—to help the police solve the case. Things get complicated when one of the victims turns out to be Hoshi’s ex-girlfriend, power-hungry bureaucrats and old rivals stir up new problems, and an immortal, amoral alien may even be involved. To unwind the plot to take over the city, Hoshi must decipher a deadly computer program and learn to communicate with the alien, before it’s too late for the next victim—and the city.

No time to read the first page? Try the animated version! (WARNING – some images flash by quickly)

Short Story in Spoon Knife 3 Anthology

I am jump-up-and-down-flappingly giddy to announce that I’ll have a SF short story, “Heat Producing Entities,” in this year’s Spoon Knife Anthology! The anthology is likely to come out in May.

If you haven’t picked up copies of the previous anthologies, they are large, diverse, and wonderful–written by-and-for those of us who are neurodivergent, queer, non-gender-norming, disabled, mad, and often excluded from literature. I reviewed last year’s here. I am so excited for anthology #3, and so thrilled to be a part of it this year!

Lessons Learned for Writing Groups that Last

I have a book coming out next year. I never would have been able to say that without the support–artistically and emotionally– of my writing group. During this year’s NaNoWriMo, some writers asked me how the group works, and how it’s lasted for so many years. Here’s what I’ve learned from being a writer, and then leader, in a long-term writer’s collective aimed at growth and publication.

Trust. This is the foundation of every effective collaboration I’ve been a part of. Everyone has their own histories, traumas, triumphs, and vulnerabilities, and these are so often tied to the motivation to write, and to past experiences with the art. Respect, listening, getting out of the way and sharing power–any way you have to build trust, do it. This takes the most work, but it has the greatest long-term pay-off.

Safe but Not Comfortable. I participate in a critique-like space for research at my university. That group’s leader once described it as “safe but not comfortable.” In order for the writing to work, it’s necessary to dig into what’s making it not work, whether that’s a boring plot, awkward prose, or the writer’s reluctance to be vulnerable on the page. The space needs to be safe for exploring both failure and success, and safe for asking the hard questions and hitting the bruised places.

Shared Goals. The original group I entered had an explicit goal: to support each other in preparing manuscripts for publication. This means more than looking over query letters; it means going through growth to create the words readers will want to devour. Your group doesn’t have to have this goal. What has sustained and cohered us  that we have a shared goal at all.

Equal and Complementary. The most successful, sustaining chemistry in our group has always been with writers who are at the same level of ability (both in writing-craft and in the craft of giving critique), yet have different strengths and challenges. This has made for equitable, reciprocal relationships, with each writer giving as much as they get from the process. As an interesting side-note, by chance, we’ve never had two authors writing in the same genre at once. I think it has helped that we’ve never been competing for the same market.

Commitment. To the writing. To the reviewing. To growth and getting the words out into the world; to our shared goals. To each other.


Mechanics. The group I entered nearly a decade ago now used the following structure. It worked so well I’ve not much changed it. Here are the basics. YMMV

  1. Our optimal number is 5. This gives enough opinions to form consensus, but there are still few enough participants to give everyone deep feedback.
  2. We meet every other week. This gives enough time to work up copy and read deeply, but not so much time it’s hard to keep focus and commit.
  3. Drafts for reading are due, at the latest, one week from meeting; copy on the day of the meeting is preferred. Copy can be anything the writer needs help with, whether it’s big-picture feedback on a first draft of a new novel, final nitpicks before sending off to an agent, feedback on a query letter, or even reviewing a story timeline. A writer may also use their time for discussion of things like “which offer from a publisher should I go with?” (we had that awesome conversation recently!) or “I need to talk through some ideas.” Copy is limited to up to 7000 words per writer unless previously cleared by the group.
  4. Every writer reads everything and does detailed commentary. In our group, everyone has some background in giving feedback (see Equal and Complementary; for example, through education in the literary or other arts, or from professional experience with journalism, tech com, etc.), and we tend to approach commentary from an “educated reader” perspective. “I had this reaction; I think it was because of X. Some thoughts for how that might not have happened are Y.”
  5. We go around in a circle with each person’s piece and talk through more complex comments (i.e., those that aren’t just typos or obvious line edits). Whoever’s piece was last reviewed gets to decide the next piece to review until done.
  6. We meet in person. (note: this helps with building trust–I say that as a committed introvert who will do nearly anything to avoid face-to-face in-person interactions most of the time)
Theme: Overlay by Kaira 2020 Dora M Raymaker
Portland, Oregon