Ditch Diggers #36: Cassandra Khaw and Lack of Self Preservation

Matt and Mur come to you live from Morgan Freeman’s Harry Potter-themed Escape Room with special guest co-host Cassandra Khaw!

  • Morgan and JK Rowling have dueling Escape Rooms based on each other’s work and Cassandra is very perplexed.
  • Matt and Mur talk to Cassandra about developing her first video game, She Remembered Caterpillars, which encourages parents to talk with their kids about mortality and has been nominated for Best Children’s Game of the Year.
  • Matt makes it clear Mur is NOT encouraging parents to leave their kids in funeral home escape rooms to teach them about death.
  • Cassandra talks about her sophomore year writing and publishing fiction ranging from cthulhu noir to paranormal romance involving were-bears.
  • Breaking into video game reviews and tech writing, the Ditch Digger way.
  • Mur, Matt, and Cassandra discuss the mentality it takes to drop everything and physically relocate to pursue your writing career.
  • Long term vs. short term goals and motivation.
  • The Ditch Diggers discuss how technology has and will alter both of those things.
  • Mur reaffirms the DD commitment to discuss politics when it’s relevant to the show, whether you like it or not.
  • Twitter/email Q&A! Topics include finding freelance work, taxes for writers, pandas, non-fiction books vs. online markets, organizing multiple projects, and much more.
  • Cassandra Khaw on Twitter: https://twitter.com/casskhaw
  • Cassandra’s website: http://www.cassandrakhaw.com/



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ISBW #372: Metacast: State of the world, state of Mur

(I know Friday evening is probably the worst time ever to release a podcast. But I wanted to release one more Hugo nomination reminder! Deadline tonight!)

I discuss where politics fall within the topic of this show, what I’ve been up to, some challenges, and some future stuff. Little bit of catching up.

Also, it’s the last night to nominate for the Hugos! Please consider Ditch Diggers for Fancast, and I’m also eligible for Best Semi-pro zine (Mothership Zeta) and short fiction editor (Also for Mothership Zeta). And then I have to put in my plug for Splendor and Misery for Short Dramatic performance because WOW. (I’m not associated with Clipping at all, I just love it so much and would love to see an album on the ballot. I don’t usually endorse because I know how crappy I feel when others endorse and I’m not included in the endorsement, or when people flat out tell me that they purposefully didn’t vote for me, so I keep most of my votes private.)

Remember: Thanks for your support, listening, and patronage. And if you decide not to do those things after this podcast, it’s your call.

It’s still looking a lot like…

I’m one of THOSE people. When Christmas decorations/merchandise start going up in September and everyone begins groaning, I am secretly thrilled. I like looking forward to Christmas. I like the anticipation. When I was a kid, I used to listen to our old Christmas records in August, much to my parents’ annoyance. Nowadays I’m a little less tolerant of constant carols, but otherwise I have the same child-like joy when those decorations go up and the merchandise comes out.

I am fully aware I’m like one of three people in the whole world who thinks this.

However. I am trying to figure out why my neighbor had their Christmas tree up — AND LIT — on January 31 this year. When I went to visit my dad in the mountains, Banner Elk, NC still had the city snowflakes and reindeer decorations hanging downtown. When I went to Pigeon Forge, TN this month, they also had lights, decorations, and more just up and twinkling away.

Yesterday (March 10) I passed a car with a Christmas wreath on the hood.

Shel Silverstein didn’t know he was prophetic.

Here’s where I’m confused. I don’t like this and I have no idea why the world isn’t whining and complaining now as much as they do in September. Because in my mind, anticipation is awesome. Let’s look forward to Christmas! Food and family and presents and carols and love and stuff! But afterward it feels like keeping your ex-boyfriend’s stuff around after he ragequits your relationship. You miss him being there so you keep his t-shirt lying around, you don’t remove his loving voice mails, you still look at the Pinterest board you two were building for the trip to Italy you were going to take one day.

Christmas detritus feels so sad. Like we have to hold onto the limp tinsel in order to try to hold onto the feeling instead of trying to move forward and enjoy the year.

Part of me wonders if it’s a sort of post election depression, that as a society (the Christmas-celebrating people, anyway) we are hanging onto the last bright spot in our collective memories: Christmas was here, Obama was president, and they year from hell was almost over. Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds were still hanging on to life. And that present under the tree looked like a new PS4 instead of a new stew pot, which is what it turned out to be.

It’s so widespread – mountains and city, at least three states – I don’t know if anyone can put their finger on exactly why Christmas is lingering so much. You might say it’s societal laziness/depression, but I know some places that are still lighting their lights (Although I haven’t seen a Christmas tree since mid-Feb.) which requires some action.

But damn, I wish they would clean it up and look forward. If we’re still focused on last Christmas in March, then we’re really not approaching the new(ish) year in the proper assertive mindset.

But if anyone wants to talk Christmas, 2017, let’s talk in August.

For your Hugo Consideration (Best Dramatic Presentation: Short)

Tony-winner Daveed Diggs (from Hamilton and the hip hop group clipping.) is a science fiction fan. He’s a fan of Afrofuturism, having studied works by N.K. Jemisin, Octavia Butler, and Samuel R, Delaney. After he left Hamilton he began work on a concept album called Splendor and Misery.

Splendor & Misery is an Afrofuturist, dystopian concept album that follows the survivor of a slave uprising on an interstellar cargo ship. As he struggles alone and lost, the AI on the ship falls in love with him.

Many of the songs have Diggs’ signature rapid fire lyrics, and I found it helpful to read the discussion at Genius.com to catch all of the lyrics and find some of the more obscure literary references. And there you can learn about the baffling coded track “Interlude 02”:

Foxtrot, Uniform, Whiskey, Romeo
Whiskey, Charlie, Oscar, X-Ray
Echo, India, Uniform
Delta, Lima, Quebec, Foxtrot
Echo, India, Quebec, India
Foxtrot, Uniform, Whiskey, Romeo
Whiskey, Charlie, Oscar, X-Ray
Echo, India, Uniform
Delta, Lima

The key to decoding this is hidden elsewhere on the album.

It’s an amazing experience to listen to, and I haven’t grown tired of it yet. So if you have any slot open on your Hugo ballot for Best Dramatic Presentation: Short, I fully think this is worthy of a nomination.

Mothership Zeta Issue 6

I just made live the final issue in the current run of Mothership Zeta, Issue 6. We’re featuring stories about murderous mechanical bears, spirits of mango trees, a sphinx that has relocated to Montreal, and a disgruntled worker’s diary. Our nonfiction includes movie reviews and, of course, the very talented James Patrick Kelly giving us a story doctor report on one of our stories. You won’t find this kind of column in any other magazine.

I am very proud of this one, and proud of how we ended this run.

MZ is going on hiatus now, where we will figure out how to make it sustainable. We will be back. Promise. In the meantime, please check out our previous issues.

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Ditch Diggers #35: MASSIVE Feedback Episode

  • Mur and Matt come to you live from Morgan Freeman’s sauna to handle “Old Business” from 2016 (it’s our long-awaited, oft hyped listener feedback episode!)
  • A brief tangent on eucalyptus saunas.
  • The Ditch Diggers both have new books out! And have turned in others!
  • Marta from Poland asks about short story English language rights and reprints.
  • Stefana from Johannesburg asks in what other jobs genre fiction writers might have an advantage.
  • DevoSpice suggests recording special time capsule episodes.
  • On contractual agreements between writing partners and writer wills.
  • Thomas asks about finding an agent when you’re with a publisher who has right of first refusal on your next book.
  • Michael asks about finding a publisher for a novel set in the same world as your published short stories.
  • Doing a show about older mid-list authors struggling to find new ways to get their fiction out there.
  • A Swedish author asks if you should submit a novel to agents/publishers when you know something like physical illness will prevent you from working on rewrites immediately.
  • Cassandra asks at what age should you start submitting fiction for publication?
  • Nicole asks if you should or should not resubmit stories you’ve completely rewritten to markets that rejected the first version.
  • What helped the Ditch Diggers most when they were learning to write, a book or a lesson?
  • Should studios make two versions of movies like Star Trek, an intellectually driven version and an action driven version?
  • Sean asks about building an audience of readers who make you uncomfortable.
  • Authors who don’t want readers to point out typos in their published works to them vs. authors who encourage readers to do so.
  • Todd responds to our Godparents episode on the difficulty of building an audience through crowdfunding.
  • How do you find cons that are fan-focused and allow you to speak to authors vs. cons that are pro focused.
  • Not wanting to promote an anthology you’re contractually obligated to promote (Matt goes off on abusive small press contracts).
  • Beth asks how you keep writing when your government is killing your soul and your healthcare?
  • Having caught up on Old Business, Matt and Mur plug their books and ask you to support their Patreon and for your vote for the Hugo Awards.
  • William Noble’s Conflict, Action, and Suspense: http://a.co/hTxkBbN
  •  Stephen King’s On Writing: http://a.co/7Su5QHm

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ISBW #371: Writing as a relationship // Bookburners Interview

I usually use the boxing metaphor for writing, but I’ve been thinking it’s more like a relationship. Plus Six Wakes and Bookburners both launched! Then I talk to my fellow Bookburners authors, Margaret Dunlap, Max Gladstone, and Brian Francis Slattery.
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Japanese Cover of The Shambling Guide to New York City

This just in! I received the art for the Japanese translation of The Shambling Guide to New York City, and it’s amazing. I love how the city and Morgen are highlighted on the cover.

When I scaled it down, the fuchsia border color changed (I don’t have a good image editing program on the laptop) so here’s a link to the larger version  so you can see the color and detail.

RESIST with 90’s technology

If you have paid any attention to me at all in the past 10 or so years, you can probably guess I’m in the RESIST side of the current administration.

However, I am bad at confrontation. I clam up. All of my arguments evaporate and my throat goes dry. This doesn’t mean the other person won; it’s rare I’ve been convinced otherwise. I just suck at presenting my case.

I know when it comes to calling your representatives’ offices, you can have a script, and there are several suggested ones you can find so you don’t even have to write one yourself. Which is great. But when I actually get up the courage to call, and get a busy signal (YAY all you people who aren’t afraid to call!), it’s hard to ramp up that courage again.

I did it, though. I tried. I never got through. I felt even worse; I was ready to fight in my own small way and I couldn’t get through the first door. Then I found out that Washington DC is about 20 or so years behind with regards to technology (and a bunch of other stuff that I won’t get into here). They have fax machines. And there are free fax services online. And shit, I can write a letter. Writing is what I’m good at. Talking/debating/arguing, not so much.

So every day I open up Google Drive and update the letters I want to send to my representatives. I use faxzero.com, which allows five free faxes per day. I send them off (I have all the phone numbers and fax numbers I need in my shiny new bullet journal, which I’ll talk about on another day.) I get confirmation emails. And I’ve done something.

My senators are Thom Tillis (R) and Aaron Richard Burr (R) (yes, relation) so I really doubt they will listen to a fucking thing I say. But I will still say it. I usually try to be polite. Sometimes I am rude (ie I called them both “silencer of women” after the Elizabeth Warren shutdown the other night). But I will still contact them.

Thank you, 90’s technology.