Actually, not all that much that was knew. Too much of my online time is rat/lever/food pellet time. Twitter is most interesting and most fun but also most time-consuming. Tumblr is a site I never thought about except that I get to see my in-laws’ art there. Google pluse and Facebook are mostly interesting for the links I find on them.
Also, I get a fair amount of email but very little of it actually requires a response. Most of it I can skim and delete.
Yes, I did make a lot of headway on THE WAY INTO CHAOS but it’s not finished. Much more needs to be done. For right now, though, I’m going to post something stupid to Twitter.
While my internet fast continues…
Massive spoilers behind the cut, but let me summarize things quickly up front in a spoiler-free fashion: Season one is even better than I remember, with a few small missteps. The arc-long mysteries (Who killed Lilly Kane? Who raped Veronica on the night she was drugged?) are complex enough for the TV format but not as in-depth as you’d find in a novel. They’re also handled with more sensitivity than I would have expected from TV. It works. The short, episode-long mysteries are well-handled, varied enough to stay interesting, and humane.
But the real strengths of the show are the performances, especially Bell’s and Colantoni’s, and the way the relationships between the characters are handled. If you haven’t watched the show yet, you really should. The discs are on Netflix and WB is hosting the episodes online (provided you live in the “correct” parts of the world”. The pilot is a little heavy on the flashbacks, but the complex setup is necessary. Stick with it.
Let’s do spoilers: more »
While I’m on my internet fast, I give you this:
Yeah, I’ll be getting that. I’m still playing the hell out of LOTR, trying to be a completist, so I guess I have until next Giftmas to wrap it up.
making books personal: a blessing of monsters moi? progress publishing
by Harry Connolly
So, this is a little embarrassing and I just have to come out and talk about it.
I haven’t released a new book in a long time.
Duh, right? It’s not like you guys don’t know this. My last novel was CIRCLE OF ENEMIES, which came out Labor Day 2011. What’s more, I’ve already mentioned that I finished the first draft of CoE in 2010, before GAME OF CAGES came out.
So what the hell have I been doing?
Well, the first thing I did is write A KEY, AND EGG, AN UNFORTUNATE REMARK, which I had high hopes for but screwed up badly. I could probably whip it into shape in a month or so once I figure out how to manage the voice, but it’s back-burnered.
There’s also the Spirit of the Century novel I wrote for the game company Evil Hat. Kickstarter backers have already received their copies, but everyone else has to wait for this fall.
And there’s some short fiction, which I plan to collect and release as an ebook next month.
So what the hell? Where are the books?
Here’s the thing: When I started THE WAY INTO CHAOS (originally titled A BLESSING OF MONSTERS–you can decide which title you hate more) I’d planned to wrap up the whole story in 120K words. One volume.
That hasn’t happened. I’m at 270K right now and the end is in sight. However, I’ve stopped forward progress and gone back to the beginning for a major revision. It’s taking up a lot of my time and driving me a little nuts.
The whole thing is taking too long. I need to finish this and move on to another project; it hasn’t even sold and I’m sick to death of it. Also, it can take a year or more from the time my agent sells something to the time it’s released. Do I want my next novel to hit the shelves in 2015? 2016?
That’s too long.
So, in order to get more done and focus in on this project, I’m going on an internet fast. It’ll be at least this whole week, possibly longer. I will check my email once a day, but that’s it: no Facebook mentions, no Twitter replies, no LJ comments, nothing.
In the meantime, I will be doubling down on this book. I won’t finish in that time, but I plan to double my progress, at least.
I’ll also have some time to do some much needed chores.
In truth, I really enjoy social media but I feel over-committed at the moment. It’s become a bit of an obligation, so I’m shedding everything for w bit. When I come back I’ll take stock and see what I’ll need to change.
Funnily enough, just as I decided to do this, a guy hit the internet with his big “I just took a year away from the internet, and it didn’t solve all my problems” article. I understood the dude’s urge to change his routine, but is it really any surprise that his problems were internal rather than external?
Anyway, I’m not trying to fix my life here. I’m just freeing up time to work. There will be a couple of blog posts that will go live while I’m away, but you know.
Wish me luck.
Folks who follow me on Twitter might have heard this already, but sales for TWENTY PALACES, the self-published prequel to CHILD OF FIRE, have dropped to the point that they are genuinely disappointing, so I’ve dropped the price to $2.99.
That price is already live at Amazon and B&N, but I’m still waiting on places like iBooks to update. I publish there (and to Kobo along with others) through Smashwords, and it can take a while for the prices to propagate.
The old $5 price point made sense when CHILD OF FIRE was still being offered at the promotional price of 99 cents, but that ended a while ago and I haven’t made the time to change it.
I also have short fiction for sale on those sites, but come June I’m planning to wrap them all up (along with a few new stories) in a single collection. You can buy those short stories and novelettes individually for now or get them all at once later. Your choice.
One other thing: the prequel has “lending” enabled and it makes a cheap three dollar gift. If you read and liked the books, would you mind sharing them, in some fashion, with others who might like them?
In response to the Strange Horizons analysis of male/female review statistics (spoiler: books my men get more reviews than books by women) a number of folks on Twitter have been contributing to a #WomenToRead hashtag. It’s meant to be a way to get female authors’ names in front of readers who have a habit of only buying books written by dudes, but I’m not sure how effective it is.
Reading through, it seems more like an exercise in frustration than genuine recommendations. In the better tweets, someone will say, “If you like [male author x], try:” followed by a number of names, or else writers will be listed by genre.
Unfortunately, while it’s great to point out what sort of books these women have written, they don’t really tell readers why they would fall in love with any particular writer’s work. When I see a laundry list of authors’ names scroll past, my eyes glaze over very quickly, especially when so many of them are Twitter handles.
Still, I understand the frustration: I personally feel invisible within the genre; I continue to get very nice emails from people who love my books but only discovered them well after the series was cancelled. My sales were so shitty that I don’t deserve to call myself “midlist.” To most people, I’m barely a hanger-on.
And yet I still got reviews in a number of places, and nice critical attention, too. Imagine how it must feel to not even get that much. Imagine how it must feel to work like crazy on a book for a year knowing that no magazine anywhere is going to bother reading it, let alone devote column inches to it.
There’s also this (please imagine replacing the word “math” with “writing.”)
People (mostly guys) have this weird idea that fiction written by women are all one sort of thing, as if it can all be lumped in as one type. There’s also the idea that, if a subgenre has a lot of women writers and readers, it has a yellow “Caution” tape around it to warn guys away.
For instance, two years after it was posted I still get traffic from this Tor.com article: Urban Fantasy and the Elusive Male Protagonist (let us turn away from the issues around the blog post itself, which I tried to address in the comments) and the comment section can be instructive/cringe-inducing/hope-for-humanity-destroying. To quote (copy & paste, so sic):
its come to the point where i wont touch a book with a female on the cover unless its been recommended by some friends or an author i respect.
it seems as if its all about alpha werewolves and master vampires in a three way relationship with an independant ass kicking woman, the majority of it could also be classified as soft-core porn.
For a lot of people, men write books in a genre (or in a tradition) while women all write the same book over and over with a few proper nouns switched out. What’s more, That Same Book is usually considered Someone Else’s Thing.
Anyway, I’ve been pretty up-front in the past that I don’t think reviews have much of an effect on sales figures, but it’s not just sales we’re talking about here. We’re also talking about the critical conversation within the genre (such as it is): how it changes, what’s becoming old hat, what’s offensive or wrong-headed. When women are left out of that conversation, their contributions become ignored.
So, to wrap up I want to make two points: First, if you’re recommending female authors, a long list of names, even if you break them down to five or six in a genre, are just going to make people skim. Pick one or two, give a good reason why for each. Make a specific pitch. Yes, that means people you know will be left out, but this isn’t a one-time thing, right?
(To that end, I’ll recommend Sarah Monette’s The Bone Key. I bounced off Monette’s epic fantasy series, but this story collection blew my mind. Kyle Murchison Booth is nothing like Ray Lilly, but the setting and tone of these tales are a fantastic antidote to the tentacle monster stories that dominate so much of the dark fantasy genre. And this shows why I’m crap at giving recommendations, because I’m always reading years–or decades–behind, so I’m never up on the current stuff.)
Second, if you’re one of those readers who glances at their bookshelves, sees nothing but books by dudes, then shrugs it off, it’s time to break a bad habit. There’s a wide world of great books out there to be enjoyed and no reason to hide from it. If you like awards, start checking out books written by women that win or get nominated for them. If most of your reading is off the bestseller list, start trying some of the female writers there.
The truth is, your results will be mixed just as with anything. Some writers you’ll hate, some will be meh, some will be new gotta-read favorites. Of those books by “gotta-read” authors, some will also have “a female on the cover.” Take chances. Grab things from the library or try the sample chapters on your ereader. It may take a while before you start finding new favorites, but if you’re like me, the favorites you have now took a lifetime to collect. Don’t give up quickly. Keep stretching.
Added later: As pointed out on LJ by user martianmooncrab, RT has a review section for SF/F but their numbers are rarely included in these surveys.
Added later: The Revenge: The author who started the hashtag explains her reasons.
It’s a shared-world anthology and I’ve promised to write a short story for them if they’re funded. Check out the premise and the other authors. I think it’s pretty cool.
making books The outside world: comics publishing
by Harry Connolly
C.B. Cebulski explains how a noob can get hired to work at Marvel as a writer or an artist.
In fact, if you’re published traditionally, they make it super-easy. Super-duper easy. If I had the money to keep current on the Marvel U, I’d mail one of my Twenty Palaces books in.
Check it out.
Apparently there’s been a bit of controversy surrounding Neil Gaiman’s speech at the Digital Minds Conference at the 2013 London Book Fair. Instead of hearing about it second-hand, you can watch it here:
Actually, you can probably just listen while you do other things, since it’s Gaiman talking at a podium. There’s no RSAnimate stuff going on, and no flow charts.
There are a lot of interesting ideas in there but nothing revolutionary: Try new things, be generous, accept that sharing without payment is how people find new things they love, books are great, books might not last, maybe people won’t be able to make a living as a “novelist” in the near future.
However, the big thing I take away from it is his talk about about “dandelion seeds.” The idea is that you release your work into the world and some of it goes nowhere and some lands in a fertile place and leads to something great: Fans, more work, new opportunities to connect with people, and so on.
That’s all fine, but I should say that it works best once you already have the sort of much-deserved fame that Gaiman has. He can stick a drawing under a rock and fans will run for blocks to fetch it. I can publish a book in every store online and off and few people would ever know. So, his perspective is his, and it works for him, but I’m not sure if he understands how different things are for low-level mooks like me.
Why does it matter? Because it’s not just creators who are blowing dandelion fluff into a strong wind. It’s also publishing companies who do this. Some of those little seeds represents a year’s worth of work for authors trying to make a career for themselves, and damn, if it doesn’t give me a chill to know that my toil and hope is someone’s offhand experiment.
Let me link to this article in the NY Times: Richard Jewell, 44, Hero of Atlanta Attack, Dies
When the name of the person arrested has been released, do not rush to Facebook to harass people with the same name. Do not start digging into the personal lives of complete strangers to see what dirt you can find or what political prejudices you can confirm. Jewel was harassed for months simply because a newspaper said the FBI was investigating him. Police asked him to sign a confession they had written up as a “training exercise.” In truth, his life was ruined.
The modern news media may be in a headlong rush to share every rumor or minor development, but we don’t have to follow. We’d be better off spending time with people we love or writing to our members of Congress about pending legislation. The last thing this country needs is to crowd-source our criminal justice system.
Now that season one of Veronica Mars is over, the family finally had a chance to play RACE TO ADVENTURE, which I backed as a Kickstarter.
Here’s the layout near the start of the game. Of course I played Prof. Khan.
You can see I’ve collected the passports for the USA and Switzerland, while to the right my son has collected USA and GB. However! I am about to collect Nepal in that very turn, while my son was hoarding clues at the Library of Congress.
Yeah, that’s my kid giving the thumbs up.
My wife… I’m not sure what she was doing. Let’s just say she had a busy day and wasn’t concentrating too well.
Here we are at the end of the game, when I had returned to the Century Club, said (house rule: no shouting) “I have returned!” and won the game.
The others also collected all of their passports (and rescued the prisoner from Atlantis) but, having saved Egypt for last, they were still cursed. They were also way behind. Mwah-ah-ah-ah!
As for the game, it was terrific. I think I’d like to play it once or twice more on the tan side of the tiles before flipping them to the more advanced “shadow” game. We stumbled a little bit with the rules at first, like we do with every game, but by the end the turns were flying by. This might be the first game ever that says it takes 30 minutes to play and really means it.
The nice thing is that there’s no luck involved (no blowing your plans because of a lousy roll of the die) and the strategy elements were light but still effective. It’ll be a good fast game when we just want to play something fun without a ton of calculation.
On a day when the news was filled with blood, horror, and people coming together to help each other in dire need, it was good to sit with my family and play a game.
No links here. I just want to send out good wishes to everyone affected by the double explosions at the end of the Boston Marathon.
Also, keep in mind that early news and social media reports are likely to be wildly inaccurate. It’s probably best to disconnect from things like Twitter at the moment and give first responders a chance to do a thorough investigation.
making books The outside world: people publishing
by Harry Connolly
I want to follow up on Friday’s Hugh Howey post without actually talking about Howey (much). I briefly mentioned the idea of “punching down” in that post but Tobias Buckell talked about it more extensively in his post on the subject.
It’s worth clicking through to read what he’s written, but for those that won’t: “Punching down” is attacking someone who is weaker, more vulnerable, or has less power than you. “Punching up” is attacking someone who is stronger, more powerful, and more influential than you. Mocking a rich guy who locked his keys in his Audi is punching up. Mocking a single mother who’s just been evicted because she was laid off is punching down.
Needless to say, punching down is what villains do and I’ve talked about it here on the blog more than once as a way to make sure the sympathetic characters are actually sympathetic. That’s the context of a fictional narrative, though. Most of the time, when people talk about punching up, they’re talking in terms of politics.
Leaving aside the question of whether the offending conversation Howey described actually happened (which I hadn’t considered at first, but Nick Mamatas brought it up and now the whole incident seems just too perfect), Howey is a best-selling author with a serious movie deal and six-figure print-only contracts. He’s doing well. The person he slams is, according to his story, a social climber trying to make herself seem important by offering to connect writers with agents. What’s more, he makes her sound desperate and a little delusional. Is his story, as he himself tells it, punching down?
Absolutely. And yet, I’d bet Howey himself would be surprised to see it this way. I imagine he still imagines himself as the upstart self-publisher, the guy who has to do it all himself, with no help from anyone. I’m sure he sees that scorn, whether it actually happened or not, as the “punching down” he endures every time he goes online or meets someone uninterested in his books.
I’m sure that, to him, this woman had aligned herself with the supposed gatekeepers of NY publishing, and he felt free to take a swing like any hard-pressed hero.
I can’t speak for Howey himself but in my experience putting out a book, either by yourself or through a publisher, feels nothing at all like becoming powerful. Just the opposite, really: We do a shitload of work and then, finally, this thing we made goes out into the world alone. All our hopes for success and praise are mixed with the expectation that everything could collapse, that people might be bored or dismissive or contemptuous. Worse, they might not even know we’re there.
And readers often treat writers as though we’re faceless corporations, like Bounty paper towels or something. They tweet insults directly at the author and act amazed that a real writer with a publishing deal would react angrily.
Readers need to have the freedom to say whatever they want about our books–they deserve it–and a book culture where everyone is nice all the time would be toxic. So when people are kind to my work I’m grateful. When they’re cruel to it, I shrug it off. I tell myself it’s not personal even when it’s clear from the review that it was meant to be. As Toby says in the blog post linked above, when people talk shit about your work, it stings.
So, writer as a position of power? It might be for some, I guess. Maybe if you’re Guest of Honor at a lot of conventions, or you teach writing to eager young folks, or getting a movie deal with a profile in the WSF, or something, that might feel like power.
But the publishing part of being a writer, when you send a book out into the world, whether it’s through a publisher or on your own? That feels like vulnerability.