This is the way football ends

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It’s been a few weeks since this news report came out, and I’ve been wanting to comment on it, but life keeps getting in the way. But here it is: NFL player’s retirement at 24 prompts new debate about football concussions.

Borland was the fourth NFL player age 30 or younger to retire in a week… the article states, and while age 30 is pretty old for a game where players have careers that average 3.2 years (although the NFL disputes that number) that’s a lot of people dropping out in a short time.

And this is the way that football could actually fade away: not by legislative ban, and not by organized activism. It’s by young men who decide that the damage is serious and can’t be ignored, viewers who change the channel, and parents who refuse to let their kids play.

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman, #15in2015

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The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax  (Mrs. Pollifax #1)The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book 8 of #15in2015.

I’m honestly torn about this one, because there are so many good things but the negatives are colossal.

Setup: Mrs. Polifax is an elderly widow so bored with her life of volunteering and middle class charity work that she’s on the verge of suicide, until she decides to revive her childhood dream of becoming a spy. So she slips out of her home in New Brunswick, NJ and takes a train to CIA headquarters in Langley to volunteer.

Of course, due to a mixup, an administrator actually meets her, is intrigued by her story, and just so happens to have a perfect job for her. A milk run. All she has to go is visit Mexico City as a tourist for a week, then buy a book in a particular shop (using proper code words) and bring it home. Easy, right?

Obviously, everything goes wrong and she ends up in deep shit, and just as obviously, her common sense, practicality, and basic decency helps her to save the day.

I heard about this book, which is the first of a popular series, from commenters on the io9 article about my own elderly protagonist, and I thought it would be only fair to give it a try. When I started this one, I really wanted to like it.

Yeah, some of the writing can be rough. It’s annoying that the protagonist’s thoughts are put in quotations, just like her dialog. But that’s minor stuff. The character work is terrific, and there are several lovely little grace notes in the narrative that I enjoyed very much.

Unfortunately, the book was written and is set in the early sixties, when readers might seriously see the CIA as heroic freedom fighters and the rest of the world as a little slower, a little more primitive or ridiculous. I can look past casual racism in older books (I have to do it in modern books, too) but when the supposed heroes reveal [SPOILER] that the man they saved from prison was a food scientist the Red Chinese government had kidnapped because they hoped his discoveries would help relieve famine in their country.

Character: “Can you imagine what the Chinese government could have done with him?”

Me: “Feed a bunch of starving people?”

But I guess those people don’t count, because fuck ‘em. Saving their lives would stabilize a communist government, and that’s not a price these characters are willing to pay.

Here I am fresh off a fantasy trilogy all about the seductive ideas of conquest and empire, and I just can’t go there.

So, good book, but dated in a way I just can’t abide.



Buy a copy.

I’m taking a short internet fast, sort of.

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Posting this today, on 3/31, because if it goes up tomorrow people might think it’s a dumb prank: I’m going to get offline as much as possible for the remainder of the week.

This has always been a tough time of year for me. Spring in Seattle is the winding down of impossibly long nights and dim, gray days, and it’s always made me feel out of sorts and unhappy. Combine that with traditional post-book blues (x4), burnout from writing 30K words of blog posts, and general life/health stress, I find I’m not engaging very much online.

And what’s the point of spending that time on Twitter (or whatever) if I’m not going to respond to people?

Is it wise to be offline so soon after releasing a bunch of books? Maybe not. Maybe I should still be out in the mix, trying to soft shoe on my blog about… something I care about, I guess. Trouble is, at the moment I don’t have the energy to care, not about Clean Reader, not about Hugo Puppies, not about tv shows or their hosts.

Probably, I will check my emails and social media notifications once a day and otherwise avoid the web until Sunday. That will give me more time for writing (still working on that Great Way supplement for Fate Core), reading, walking, and generally interacting in the real world[1]. By Sunday, I should feel better. Besides, that’s when my next G+ hangout rpg session will be.

Wish me… Huh. I don’t know. Wish me productivity.

[1]Interacting with the real world not guaranteed.

Randomness for 3/31

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1) Man trolls bookstore w/ fake self-help book covers.

2) A super-tall webcomic about unhappy stories.

3) Double space after a period? Single space? A history.

4) Arnold Schwarzenegger went to reddit to encourage a guy who had a rough day at the gym.

5) Joy Division + Teletubbies = This video

6) A businessman’s affair with his secretary, meticulously documented.

7) Thousand-year-old Anglo-Saxon eye remedy proves effective against MRSA and other drug-resistant bacteria.

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer #15in2015

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The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People HelpThe Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book 7 of #15in2015.

I liked this much better than I expected. I’m not a fan of Palmer’s music, I don’t read her blog or follow her on Twitter, so what I know about her can be summed up by:

Her TEDTalk
What people say about her online
Retweets

Which isn’t much. That said, as soon as she began to describe the experience of leaving college with no idea how to make a living as an artist, I was on her side.

What follows is a memoir mixed with personal meditation on her own need to connect with people on a personal level, to ask them for the things she needs, and to understand the nuances of a gift economy. Then, towards the end of the book, she broaches the subject of how that gift economy appeared to people who were outside it, and how much hate she got.

I found it fascinating, in part because her own worldview is so alien to mine, and in part because of the parallel thread structure the book uses. Recommended.



Buy the book.

In which I am interviewed in Publishers Weekly

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Right here.

If you ever thought “What does Harry Connolly think about the future of self-publishing?” well, there’s your chance. Space was limited so I didn’t have the chance to gas on the way I usually would, but it was nice to have one small opinion and express it in a small way. And, obviously, I talk about crowdfunding, too.

Also, I’m about to drop a note to the interviewer about the term “grimdark.”

Check it out!

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig #15in2015

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Blackbirds (Miriam Black, #1)Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book 6 of #15in2015

One of the many ways you can categorize urban fantasy is whether it leans toward the fantasy stakes or crime stakes. Is the character on a quest to recover the ancient fang of Curlique before The Bad Guy can use it to take control of the were-lions of Little Rock? Or has someone you care about gotten into debt to/stolen something from/slept with the wife of A Very Bad Person and need to be saved?

Or, is this going to be a story about a threat to the succession of some made-up organization of magical beings, or is it going to be a search for the truth behind the death of a single person?

Both of these are fictional conceits, of course, but one is not grounded in the concerns of real people and one is, and I suspect you can tell by the tone of my comments which I prefer.

BLACKBIRDS falls into the crime-stakes end of things, and I’m glad of it. Premise: The first time Miriam Black touches someone, flesh to flesh, she knows how they’ll die. Then, one day, she touches the hand of a truck driver who helped her out of a tight spot and discovers that he’ll die in one month, while saying her name.

Aside from some vision/dream sequences that might be advice/harassment from Mysterious Entities, that’s it for the fantasy elements. The rest is lifting wallets, roadside harassment, blackmail, a mysterious suitcase, and criminal psychopaths.

Miriam herself is profane and damaged. Not only does she have this awful gift, but she knows that she can’t prevent the deaths she foresees; any attempt to save the doomed person only ensures events will play out as prophesied. Throw in an abusive childhood and you have a cynical fatalist who lives like a vulture. She never kills people, but she’s nearby when they die so she can lift their cash.

And of course the events of the novel destroy all that.

The tone is very gritty, a sort of rural noir that almost reminds me of JUSTIFIED (without the dialog). It’s a powerful story, especially if you’re a fan of low thrillers, which I am. Good stuff.



Buy a copy.

The Blog Tour Continues, Part Nexter

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Continuing from the previous blog tour link farm

1. Like every writer, I sometimes I have to write a synopsis. It will surprise no one to learn that I have a system.

2. Here’s a post about genres, protagonists and exposition at SFF World.

3. Advice you won’t hear from sensible authors: Always Blame Yourself.

4. The way that studying screenwriting helped me as a novelist, and the way it didn’t.

5. Self-publishing vs traditional publishing, with an agenda to push one over the other.

6. He Always Runs While Others Walk: Pacing in Fiction. My ideas about pacing aren’t what I hear from so many other writers.

7. God is All Loving (Some Exemptions Apply) Religious Magic in Horror and Fantasy. I talk about vampires, crosses, and dehumanized enemies.

8. King Queen and this Three Seasons: ARROW and the Challenges of Long Term Narrative.

9. SF Signal Mind Meld: which series got better after the first book?

10. I Search the Body: What Role-Playing Games Taught Me About Writing Fiction.

11. Helpless in the Face of Your Enemy: Writers and Attack Novels.

— 11a. That Black Gate post was linked at io9. Comments are interesting.

12. The Loneliest Student: Writing as a Subject of Study. Applying education research to the process of learning to write.

And that’s it for my blog tour. It’s Dee Oh En Ee, done. I hope you find these interesting; please share if you do.

Sometimes it helps to clarify your goals

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When I’m writing, sometimes my goal is as simple as “Finish this day’s work so I can have finished this day’s work.” Sometimes it’s as complex as “I don’t know how to solve this problem.”

Then there are times like right now, when I have a list of odd tasks that accumulate around a writing career, and I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do, except cross off everything on this list. And then I have to wonder why I’m doing any of this.

It’s not money, despite what some “fans” might say. If I wanted money I wouldn’t have become a writer. It’s certainly not awards; that’s someone else’s concern. And if I wanted writing-style fame, I’d probably do readings or conventions or whatever. So, what do I want, then?

It was this article that reminded me: How Terry Brooks Saved Epic Fantasy.

Regarding the article itself, I don’t think Brooks gets a bad rap. He wrote accessible, commercial fantasy fiction, and was lucky enough to hit the NYTimes bestseller list when other fantasy writers couldn’t. Even now, 35+ years later, his books are gateway fantasy to bring middle-graders into the genre, and as comfort reads for older fans. And if you think I have something against comfort, you haven’t seen my Goodreads page or my waist line.

However, the article itself reminded me of What I Want: I want people to be still talking about my work, decades after it was published.

That’s not to say I want people to think I “saved [genre]”. I don’t really think about genre as a unified thing that could be/needs to be saved. Fantasy is certainly doing better now than it has in a long while.

But I want to have an impact. I want people to look back at my work and believe that it mattered in some way. I want to be remembered.

Which is not nearly the same as winning awards or hitting bestseller lists. There are plenty of award-winning novels that nobody reads, and the thrift store shelves are packed with forgotten bestsellers from “#1 New York Times” authors that few remember.

I mean, awards would be nice, and money would make things easier for my wife and kid. I’m not saying those things don’t matter at all. But the number one thing is to be remembered because things are different because of what I’ve done. I’m not even sure it’s possible, but it’s what I want.

Randomness for 3/15

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1) Movie posters redesigned using only circles.

2) Completely amazing: All the silences in an episode of Dr. Phil. Video.

3) An analysis of one of The Dark Knight’s action sequences, to examine why so many people found it incoherent. Video.

4) Concepts With Which Boys at Parties Have Asked Me if I’m Familiar: a Spreadsheet

5) Best OKCupid profile ever.

6) A brand new thirteen-story apartment building in Shanghai tipped over. Only one death, because the building was so new it was unoccupied.

7) Ten “Things You Didn’t Know” about Led Zeppelin IV.