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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

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Hugo Voting Deadline

Hey, are you a Hugo voter? Just in case, don't forget that ballots must be received by March 13th!

Here's the Writertopia website that features information on the Campbell Award, both on past winners and on folks that are eligible for it now.

Yes, as of today it features a photo of yours truly, blissfully holding on to the Campbell plaque and sporting wee tiara. What can I say? Campbell thoughts still make me very, very happy...

Of course I'll be watching the Campbell category with interest this year, but there are all those other categories to consider. My votes are in - are yours?

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

La Guerre Du Mein For Your Pocket!

It's always fun to post a new cover treatment. This time, it's for the Pocket edition of Acacia in France. The lovely Benedicte Lombardo recently sent it along to me, along with the announcement that it's scheduled for publication in May!

Didier Graffet did the artwork once again.

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Saturday, March 06, 2010

An Impromtu Writers Cabal

I had a very enjoyable evening the other night - something of a surprise get together of fantasy writers.

I'd headed out to South Hadley to see Jedediah Berry and Paul Tremblay read at the Odyssey Bookshop. On arrival, I see Robert Redick is there too. I happen to be reading his Redwolf Conspiracy - and enjoying it very much - at the moment, so it was great to reconnect with him and say so. Also in attendance was Holly Black of Spiderwick Chronicles fame! I'd almost crossed paths with her a bunch of times, but this was the first time we properly met. Lots of chatting ensued.

Of course, we were there to hear Jed and Paul read. That they did, and an engaging reading it was. Paul went first, opening with - I kid you not - a Powerpoint presentation that had mostly to do with his treatment for sleep apnea and resulting severing of his uvula from his body. Strange? Yes it was, but in a tangential way it had everything to do with the protagonist of his weird boiled novel, the narcoleptic private investigator Mark Genevich. Paul then read a bit from No Sleep till Wonderland: A Novel. Good fun.

Jedediah began with a reading from his Crawford Award winning The Manual of Detection. Terrific stuff, also of a detective nature but with a healthy dose of hard to categorize fantastical elements. After that he read from another story he's been cooking up. It was on a pack of cards, which he shuffled and had audience members cut, etc. He then read the segments of the story on the cards in that random order, creating a surreal, comical, strangely cohesive narrative.

That's how readings should be - fun, interactive, playful but still honoring the words and the readers of them.

And then we all went out for food and beer! Now, I've been at a table filled with accomplished - famous even - writers before, but it's also been part of some event like a con or festival or award ceremony. The cool thing about this was that it just happened one Thursday night, pretty much on home turf.

A good time was had by all, I think. Holly didn't even seem to mind being asked several times if she liked the film version of Spiderwick. (She does.) And I learned which of these authors always gets emotionally upset (as in tears flowing) while writing, which one never does, and which one just did so for the first time and considers it a troubling development.

Of course, having tempted you with that, I'll offer no more details. You'll have to join us next time to find out...

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Ten Rules For Writing Fiction

I like this piece from the Guardian (which Mike Kimball pointed out to me). It starts with Elmore Leonard's tips, but then goes on with a grabbag of other authors, including Richard Ford, Margaret Atwood, Geoff Dyer, Neil Gaiman, PD James, Phillip Pullman, Michael Morpurgo, Zadie Smith, Jeanette Winterson and many others!

Take a look HERE.

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Monday, March 01, 2010

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Here's a fantasy publication I've been looking forward to for a long time. N.K. Jemisin's debut novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, (The Inheritance Trilogy), is out now. I haven't read it yet, but I've known Nora for a little while I expect wonderful things from this book. The response so far seems to have been great, and I know that Orbit invested in her with enthusiasm.

Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say in a Starred Review:

Convoluted without being dense, Jemisin's engaging debut grabs readers right from the start. Yeine desires nothing more than a normal life in her barbarian homeland of Darr. But her mother was of the powerful Arameri family, and when Yeine is summoned to the capital city of Sky a month after her mother's murder, she cannot refuse. Dakarta, her grandfather and the Arameri patriarch, pits her against her two cousins as a potential heir to the throne. In an increasingly deep Zelaznyesque series of political maneuverings, Yeine, nearly powerless but fiercely determined, finds potential allies among her relatives and the gods who are forced to live in Sky as servants after losing an ancient war. Multifaceted characters struggle with their individual burdens and desires, creating a complex, edge-of-your-seat story with plenty of funny, scary, and bittersweet twists.

Sounds good to me.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

On Saying No

I find it quite hard to.

In particular, I find it a constant struggle to turn down or step away from offers of employment. Seems reasonable, doesn't it? Look at the unemployment situation out there! Why would anyone turn down work, especially when it's teaching work at the college level? At the best of times these jobs are hard to get. And now that's even more so. When I accepted the Associate Professor job at Cal State Fresno a few years back it was in an attempt to take a bite of that security pie.

Problem was, my family wasn't happy in Fresno. They wanted back to our house in the woods in Western Massachusetts. It was hard for me to leave the job for a variety of reasons, but when I did it was with plans to return to a near-fulltime writing life. That's what I headed toward in late June...

But by late July I'd accepted offers that meant I was doing as much teaching work as before. (I was even getting less money for it - though we were back in our chosen home, so that counts for a lot.) Instead of making daily progress on Acacia 3 I was only nibbling at it, and spending the bulk of my work life reading, critiquing, planning lectures, grading, etc. Don't get me wrong. Teaching is very good work. In particular, I enjoy the teaching I do for the Stonecoast MFA Program. That could easily be part of my life for a long time. Problem is that I'd added other stuff to that and allowed it become the center of my work life, instead of a just a component of it. How'd that happen?

Several things. There's the old notion that I still have to build my resume, get more credentials, more respectability. There's the dire economy. There are fears about the future of publishing. There's the understanding that as a writer I have very little control over my publishing prospects. (So, so much of it is out of the writer's hands. This is something I know aspiring writers don't understand.) There's the quantifiable numbers on a contract, compared to the ever changing mystery of royalty statements. There's the lingering desire to do right by my mother. As much as she supported my writing, she herself leaned toward steady, dependable employment. There are a lot reasons. I can see and understand how it happened, and I can recognize the virtues of it.

Thing is, I didn't become a writer to secure a teaching job. I became a writer to write and to be read by an audience of readers. The thing is... the longer one doesn't write, the more doubt creeps in that one ever will write again. That's not acceptable.

So I recently said no to a new offer of employment. No. It means I'm scaling back the teaching a bit, and hopefully pushing forward on the writing throttle. (By the way Stonecoasters, this changes nothing about my relationship with the Stonecoast MFA Program. That I'm quite happy with.)

Do you approve?

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Go To The Next Room

Random post, this one.

Okay, so you know I'm writing for George RR Martin's Wild Card series, right? A month or so ago, he responded to my three part Infamous Black Tongue story. Lots of edits, lots of things to change. My story has to jive with the work of like six other authors - and none of us have read the other author's work! Just George. Master of it all, he is. And good thing, too, because he's an awesome editor. Everything he asked for - either to fit with other stories, or just editorial in general - made sense to me. So I rewrote.

Thing is, as I approached revising the end of one of the climatic scenes, I realized I had to make a change that George hadn't mentioned. When IBT has beaten down a particular baddy, he punches him one last time. Seeing him go unconscious, he says, "Go the next room."

Go to the next room.

Made complete sense to me, but I doubt it would make sense to anybody else. Why'd I write that line? Well, let me take you back...

When I was a young, spritely, twenty something Outward Bound Instructor living and working in Baltimore I spent one summer doing a long course that was urban based. We worked in partnership with the Yale School of Forestry. Basically, I spent the summer doing urban forestry with at-risk kids from inner city Baltimore.

On one of those days, we worked at some sort of men's home/shelter. We were given a tour of a the facility by a charismatic, talkative resident of the place, a guy that had lived his own hard life to get to the relative stability the home offered him. He had a great cadence to his speech as he led us around, a combination of street-smart slang and no nonsense gruffness that he somehow delivered with spiritual equanimity.

When he was done talking about a room, he would always say the same thing. "Alright? Got it? Good. Go to the next room." It seemed a strange, loose, kinda funky mantra at the time. And over the years it's come to have spiritual significance for me. Like, he wasn't just saying move your body into the next room so we can carry on with this tour. It's become an invitation to a higher plane. "Go to the next room, where rewards - or karmic retribution - await you." I've never forgotten it, and every now and then that phrase pops into my head.

That, in some strange way, was what Infamous Black Tongue was laying down on the villain in question. But without context I understand that it would mean nothing to anybody but me. Oh, and you - now that you've read this far.

Still, though, it doesn't make that much sense in that moment, so I cut it. Perhaps one day I'll write a story in which I can build that line and let someone deliver it in context. Here's hoping, cause I need to get it out of my system...

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Nebula Awards Final Ballot

It's just gone up! The titles in the novel category (where my attention always goes) are:

The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Nightshade, Sep09)

The Love We Share Without Knowing, Christopher Barzak (Bantam, Nov08)

Flesh and Fire, Laura Anne Gilman (Pocket, Oct09)

The City & The City
, China Mieville (Del Rey, May09)

Boneshaker
, Cherie Priest (Tor, Sep09)

Finch
, Jeff VanderMeer (Underland Press, Oct09)

For the rest, take a look HERE. Congrats to them all!

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Locus: Three Out Of Four

Locus has just come out with their list of recommended titles from 2009. Alas, The Other Lands (Acacia, Book 2) isn't on the list. Sigh. Not that I'm surprised. I don't think Locus reviewed me this time around, and that kind of precludes later inclusion in a "Best Of" list. Such is the way it is, though, and one must remember that you can't have everything. In this case, there's a balance that still leans in my favor.

Locus did, for example, give me a doozy of a great review for Acacia: The War with the Mein. And this year they also published Jeff VanderMeer's reaction/list of his own. The Other Lands features nicely on that one.

And... I'm to be featured in an interview in an upcoming issue! So I'll get to have my say within their pages in my own words. All in all I'm quite happy about it.

Now, if the New York Times would just remember how much they used to love me…

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