making books personal reading The outside world: internet man bites world publishing reasons i suck the auntie mame files the boy TV Twenty Palaces words
by Harry Connolly
n-6 ) I want to say thanks to everyone who answers my hypothetical posts. I don’t always respond to every comment mainly because I don’t want to do a bunch of “Cool!” or “That’s a great idea!” replies, but that’s pretty much what I’m thinking. However, my filmmaker friend Steve Barr left this comment, which probably deserves its own story seed spot.
n-5 ) “Then you are prejudiced, Timmy, because Steve is your filmmaker friend, and not your friend.” (I suspect that the only people who’ll get that reference are readers Of A Certain Age.
n-4) According to Twitter, ARCs of Circle of Enemies have been spotted in the wild. Yay! (gulp!)
n-3 ) Norwescon starts today but I’m not going. I have some stuff to do, and I have other plans for tonight. Here’s my schedule for the rest of the day: 1. Finish this post. 2. Email agent to let her know Twenty Palaces is on the way. 3. Walk to the post office on this chilly, sunny day to mail said book. 4. Go to library to drop off books and write a few pages of A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark. 5. Return home to have dinner (burger salad tonight!) 6. Kick back with a book and read for most of the evening. God, I’m so looking forward to reading again.
n-2 ) This deserves its own post, but R.I.P. Elisabeth Sladen. She was the costar of the first Dr. Who I ever saw, and every costar since has had to measure themselves against her. She was wonderful in the role, and I hope that she had good, happy, satisfying life. Too soon.
n-1 ) I’ve talked before about the Bookscan numbers Amazon.com shares with authors, and the fact that the numbers for my books were improving after I guest-posted at Charles Stross’s blog. Well, last week the numbers had nearly returned to the levels they were during my stint at antipope.org, and I wondered over it. This week, the numbers have jumped even higher. Like, much higher, about triple what they were before my guest blog. At this point, I don’t much care why. I just want it to keep going on.
n) I haven’t seen GAME OF THRONES and I’m not planning to. The problem with having a kid who’s a night owl is that I can’t spend late evenings watching grownup shows with the volume down while he sleeps. Instead, I spend them sitting beside him, gently suggesting he shut his damn eyes and lie back down. I’m seriously excited for the next book, though.
making books personal: internet man bites world reasons i suck Twenty Palaces
by Harry Connolly
Several full-time writers have been talking on their blogs about how they make a living. John Scalzi for one, Tobias Buckell for another, and Chuck Wendig for a third have mentioned that they make sure they have several pots on the boil at once.
I don’t have that. It turns out that I’m much too slow a writer for that. I turned in Circle of Enemies to Del Rey seven months late. That’s shameful, but luckily they were careful to set my real deadline quite a bit farther out, so I didn’t suffer the career disaster that, arguably, I should have.
And the truth is, CoE was a really difficult book to write. I don’t know if I’ve blogged about the book in this way, but it’s better than anything I’ve ever written. Briefly: Ray’s successes draw attention to him and someone strikes at him through the people he knew; he discovers that his old car-stealing crew has acquired magic–magic that may be killing them–and he has to return to L.A. to find out what’s going on. It gets deeper into the nature of magic, it reveals a bit more of the society, but most of the book is about his complicated relationship with these people who used to be his whole life. (Plus face-punching, as always).
And now I’m revising Twenty Palaces and let me tell you, revision is the sort of thing that expands to fill all the available time I have. I can write 500, 1K, 1.5K words of first draft and spend the rest of my day reading or being a human being, but when I have a revision in front of me it’s all I want to work on until I’m done. How the hell would I have a second income stream (assuming I could even think of what I could be writing besides fantasy fiction) when I’m so damn slow?
 Three dudes. Hm. I have quite a few female authors on my LJ friends list, but I can’t recall a woman talking about this subject. Have I missed something in my little window on the internet or is this a guy thing?
 There’s a powerful tension between “This is how I am” and “Argue for your limitations and they’re yours” that I have to continually adjust. I’m trying to increase my productivity (and I know it can increase, because it’s better now than it used to be) while keeping my expectations realistic.
 Never more than that. Not unless I want to ruin the next day’s work.
making books personal: food harvest of fire i look bad life is great! man bites world progress reasons i suck the boy the wife
by Harry Connolly
1) Quick question: Should I do another August book giveaway to promote Circle of Enemies? I’m not sure it did me any good last time, as far as drawing in new readers, but it was nice to give away cool stuff.
2) My wife and son are spending the day on their bikes, riding the Burke-Gilman trail as far as they can go. That means that, instead of spending the day writing at a Starbucks and the library, I’m going to work at home, sans interruptions. Kitchen floor: swept.
3) What have I been working on? I should be able to let you know very soon.
4) Taxes are nearly done. At this point it’s about printing them, e-filing and transferring the money to the correct account. Also, I was a complete idiot about them this year. Here’s why: I’d been stressing over the bill. Now, we had the money in savings, but I was stressing over it because it would cut quite deeply into our cushion. It was only last night, late, that I remembered that I had a CD with no early-withdrawal penalties set aside specifically for taxes–and it has triple what I need to cover the bill. Phew!
5) I’m not gluten-free anymore. I did lose a little weight, but it was mainly because we didn’t have food available when I was hungry. Me with low blood sugar? Not a good husband. Not a good parent. Besides, it’s unsustainable and unhealthy. Also, it didn’t stop the allergic reactions on my face. (This is an FYI: no diet advice, please.)
April Fools Tip: If you think it’s funny when someone gets worried, angry, or upset at a prank, you’re doing it wrong.
Personally, I can’t stand April Fools Day; too many people think saying hurtful crap qualifies as a “joke.” It doesn’t. If you’re planning April Fools fun, it should be a) cruelty-free b) clearly a joke and not c) actually funny. If you want to break one of those rules, you should remember John Scalzi’s advice: The failure mode of clever is asshole.
So, if you’re planning a post announcing an unexpected divorce/death/cross-country move/mass layoff/
new direction for your writing career, please reconsider. Please.
I will not be posting any pranks.
making books personal: progress reasons i suck words
by Harry Connolly
Sometimes being a writer is easy and fun. You know what comes next in the story and you’re excited to get it all down, all the nuance and confusion, all the sudden unexpected turns of plot that seem just right.
I don’t have a lot of those days, myself. I suspect I struggle more than most writers; I’m certainly slower. I don’t talk about it online as much as I used to but yesterday, as I was doing some revisions, I realized a major complex scene was completely wrong and ridiculous. It turns out I’d established a much easier solution to the Problem At Hand early in the book, and why were they going to so much trouble when they already knew the easiest possible solution?
Discovering this sort of plot hole so late in the process fills me with despair.
A week or so ago a bunch of Tor authors, including Beth Bernobich, were doing a chat on Twitter, and I offered up a question that I thought the readers might be interested in: paraphrasing myself because of poor memory, I asked: “What’s the most surprising thing that’s different now that you’re a published author?”
All three writers gave pretty much the same answer (“There’s an awful lot of additional work involved!”) but for me it would be different. For me, the surprising change is that, as far as the writing goes, nothing is any better.
In non-writing aspects of my life, things are absolutely better. It’s great to have readers, and incredibly smart pros offering me revision notes, and to see my books in stores, and the money, too. All of that is better.
But in terms of sitting down at my computer and putting words on the page, there’s no extra confidence, no sense of validation, no ease or comfort. If anything, the struggle has extra headaches added to it: deadlines, personal and professional expectations, so on and so on.
So this morning, instead of getting out of bed, I laid there under the covers for an extra hour, thinking about the characters, what resources they had, what they needed and what they would never, ever do. I think I have the scene ready, and it’ll be better (not so “Hollywood” if you know what I mean) and shorter, too. What’s more, it’s a less tragic ending than I’ve been writing, which makes a nice change.
I’ll write it out later today or tomorrow. I’m nearly done with this thing (which for me means… what? two more weeks of work?) and then I can go back to something more fun. And hopefully I won’t have to freak out on Twitter again.
making books personal: food i look bad man bites world progress reasons i suck
by Harry Connolly
Okay, really it is. After going to bed at 11 last night, I woke at just after 4 am and couldn’t fall back. No, I don’t feel all that well today. In fact, my joints ache, my eyes ache, and my stomach is feeling cautious.
On top of that, being gluten-free is a gigantic pain in the ass. Gi. Gan. Tic. There’s no carb to be kept on hand to eat quickly, when a meal is delayed or no one is home. If you cook rice and stick it in the fridge, each grain gets all hard like little pills. Potatoes just get soggy. And yeah, we have quinoa, but you know what? Quinoa sucks. Don’t tell me what a complete protein it is; I’m an American in the 21st century, I could build a whole new person with the protein I eat in a month.
You know what’s quick and convenient? Bread. You know what tastes like shit? GF bread.
Ah well. I’ve done fasts before, and they always challenge me in ways I don’t expect. I’ve been trying to stay on top of the meals and calories–even with the extra cooking time
wasted spent preparing these more labor-intensive foods, but I’m still seriously hungry for most of my day.
Yes, I know about “bodies holding onto fat when they think they’re starving.” My body doesn’t think it’s starving; I fed it two eggs with potatoes, cheese and black olives this morning. It has fuel, just not always when it needs it. There’s a lot of mental self-sabotage involved with food denial, and I just need to be aware of it.
Time for me to send an email to my agent, then get back to work on The Project That Must Not Be Named. I want to get as far as I can before I return home. I’m expecting the galleys for Circle of Enemies to be there, waiting for me.
Also, no, I’m not wearing green (or orange); I’m green on the inside.
personal The outside world: food i look bad life is great! mac love reasons i suck the boy the wife
by Harry Connolly
The new iPad has had unexpected benefits: In landscape orientation, the keyboard is a good size for my son’s hands and he spent much of last night writing a story. The software eased some of his usual anxieties about writing anything–mainly spelling and penmanship–and he completed over a thousand words of an absurd story called “The Tooth Fairy.” It also helps me see what we need to work on in his schooling. I thought he had quotation marks down, but no.
It’s (past) time to do our taxes and this year I got a recommendation from a successful local writer for an accountant she uses. There are three main problems: One is that it looks like I’d be filling out forms for him that are like Turbo Tax forms which he, presumably, will then enter into his own version of tax software. Assuming we’ve been doing our taxes correctly (more on that later) this seems like paying for data entry–is there any real benefit to using a professional? Two is that they don’t quote a specific rate. This is what they say:
Tax return preparation fees are based on a per form fee or an hourly rate schedule; whichever is most appropriate, on a client by client basis. Hourly rates vary depending on the staff member performing the work and the complexity of the work itself. In addition, direct expenses may be charged when applicable.
That’s as specific as it gets. We didn’t earn all that much last year, so I have no idea what they’ll actually charge us, but it’s likely that we can’t afford it. Third is that my wife thinks problems one and two are bullshit and we might as well Turbo Tax again this year.
Me, I’d hoped to uncover some extra deductions and go over quarterly taxes with him. See, I don’t do quarterly taxes, preferring to take the relatively minor penalty (about a hundred bucks) to avoid all that estimating and paying early. That should probably change, though. Does Turbo Tax even do that for me? It’s not like I have a lot of money coming to me this year beyond the on-publication payment for Circle of Enemies–I need to sell another book or two, and I have no idea if that’s even going to happen.
Sigh. It looks like another year of Turbo Taxing, unless someone has better advice
Exactly one week ago I had an egg sandwich for breakfast… and I immediately started sneezing and my nose started running like crazy. When I told my wife, she gave me a finger-wagging and blamed it on wheat gluten.
She’d seen a nutritionist two weeks earlier and came home to tell me we were going to be giving up wheat flour. She’s done it, too. Her body shed ten pounds very quickly and the weird red, rough skin… thing that’s been troubling both our faces for a long while immediately cleared up for her. Now she’s making scary noises about giving up wheat for good.
The sketchy thing is that her nutritionist has told her that the gluten clogs the spaces between the villi in your intestine. Me, I’m doubtful about that, but the results are there even if I’m doubtful about the mechanism.
I couldn’t join in right away, because I’d just gone grocery shopping and I wasn’t about to throw out all that damn bread. Still, the last shop was pretty much wheat-free and it’s time for me to join in. And I will. With luck, my face won’t be red and inflamed, and I’ll drop some of this extra weight. Weighing less will hopefully mean less pain and therefore more exercise. Current goal: live long enough to see my son graduate from college.
Anyway, the iPad is going to be recruited to this effort–I just need to find a good calorie counter/wellness app to download. (Suggestions more than welcome–accuracy and ease of use are my top considerations). The thing about giving up wheat is that I’m hungry all the time. I can eat a big bowl of curried rice, veg, and chicken but it will never be as satisfying at the same amount of pasta. I don’t mind being hungry–I’ve done some pretty severe fasts in my time–but it’s important for my wife to know she’s getting all the calories she needs, even if they’re more complex than they used to be.
So… any thoughts on going gluten-free? Any iPad wellness apps to recommend? What about those writerly tax problems? (No advice on the boy and his story, please; it’s still too new.)
personal reading: reasons i suck the boy the wife words
by Harry Connolly
The family is heading out to the Apple store and Barnes & Noble so my technophobic wife can test drive some ereaders. She won’t like them, I already know it, but what the hell, right? I get to check them out, too. What I really suspect will happen is that my son will fall in love the the iPad and want one for himself, and that’ll get him off my damn computer every day.
Frankly, we’re more likely to come home with a bag of books than a gadget.
(And yeah, I though the iPad 2 was going to drop yesterday, not tomorrow. My wife doesn’t care about size, cameras or gyroscopes, though–she plans to be disappointed by it no matter what.)
Update: My son tells us that we will also be visiting The Gap so he can buy some new Tshirts.
Me: “All right, son. If you want to, we’ll take a look. Is this about a girl? It’s totally cool if it is.”
Son: “No. I just don’t want to look ramshackle.”
Me: “God dammit! If you’re going to be a member of this family, you’re going to look ramshackle!”
Followed by much laughing. Considering the glasses frames he chose (kinda fancy), the shoes he likes and the pants he asks his mom to make, it’s pretty clear that he’s going to be a dress-up person. It’s like Alex Keaton being born to hippie parents.
I often talk about how I don’t have a cell phone, and this morning demonstrates why. My son had a problem with a piece of software I bought for him, and damn if he didn’t throw a fit at me like I’m his personal tech support. When I had an office job I routinely got personal tech support calls from home–long, involved conversations in which I had to say things like “What do you see in the upper left corner of the screen?” and “Don’t pound the keyboard!” while sitting at my desk.
This is why I don’t have a cell phone; if my family wants to struggle with the computer, let them. Either they’ll learn on their own or they’ll do something else with their time. But constantly calling me to explain the same things over and over? No.
It might be different if there were other people who called me occasionally, but there aren’t. And I’m okay with that.
When I revise, I accomplish a word count that other writers would do when writing a first draft.
making books: internet progress publishing reasons i suck words
by Harry Connolly
It was unexpected, but unavoidable. I’m trying to figure out how to fix it within pre-established parameters, and I think I just about have it handled.
It’s funny, though. I used tear my hair out over this stuff, but today it looks to me like a pleasant little puzzle (more fun than the Minecraft obstacle course my son designed for me, at least) and I know it’ll be stronger for being fixed.
Anyway, I put up a couple of posts over the weekend. I suspect you guys saw my joke post about Pat Rothfuss (I’m just trying to help the guy get his name out there), but I’m surprised no one wanted to talk about the super-low pricing on ebook backlist titles–prices set by a publisher, not an author who’ve had their rights reverted.
I think it’s potentially a great thing for midlist authors and may cement price windowing as a professional publishing business model. It could also hit very hard against indie authors who have been hoovering up all the ultra-low priced impulse-buy ebook sales.
If you are writing a series, would you ask your publisher to release an ebook of book one for $0.99 to help promote book four?
Uncategorized: internet life is great! reasons i suck
by Harry Connolly
First, we were due to get 2-6 inches of snow last night, but something crazy apparently happened and the snow fell and stuck everywhere but right here in Seattle. I know there are some of you out there who are sick of snow, but I have a little boy here who wants to slide down a hill on a flattened cardboard box. We need some kid weather.
In fact, it’s snowing right now but nothing is sticking. I should probably bring him home a treat.
Second, I’m working on this thing, and it’s taking way longer than it should. Even when I devote hours and hours to it, I only plod through a couple thousand words. Tim Pratt, on the other hand, just kicked out an 8,000 word day (yes we are supposed to compare ourselves to other people, so hmph on you). It’s frustrating and annoying.
Third, with regard to the second point, I’m seriously considering a week-long internet fast. It wouldn’t be enough to finish this project, but it would help. Has anyone done it? What did you think?
Inspired by James Nicoll’s regular D&D posts, I thought I’d write up the session of Truth & Justice I just GM’ed. I’m doing it now because it’s late and I’ll forget if I wait until tomorrow.
Truth & Justice is a superhero paper-and-dice rpg. The heroes were:
- Pressure, a gadgeteering scientist with the ability to control air pressure. The player is a 9yo boy.
- The Black Monkey, a primate scientist, engineer, window-washer who was bitten by a monkey that he himself irradiated and who can now transform himself into a big, bulky human with a monkey tail, except that his eyes are glowing green and his body is a silhouette. Powers: Super-strength, -agility, -speed. The player is a 9yo boy.
- Shait, a 12-year old daughter of archaeologists who is possessed by the spirit of the goddess of the Nile/flooding season/all water everwhere (courtesy of a shabbily-researched web site. If the GM had known they were looking up mythological figures, he would have advised them not to rely on a site with green text on a black background). Powers: Super-armor, Immortality, Water Control. The player is a middle-aged woman and non-gamer.
The player running The Black Monkey had never played any kind of rpg before, which put him one session behind Shait’s player and two behind Pressure’s. The session started where the previous had left off: Pressure had slipped out of his university lab and Shait had climbed out the window of a fleeing school bus and had defeated a villain called Nemesis. They were standing over the unconscious body when Black Monkey ran up, too late to join the fight.
Introductions were made, and Shait informed the other two that she was a goddess searching for lost relics. She also informed them that they would be helping her in this task. Despite their inexperience with gaming, I thought the expressions on their faces pretty closely matched the expressions the adult male characters they were playing would have. Sirens approached and all three left the scene, confident the police would be able to contain the villain.
Shait, of course, discovered that her school bus was long gone, having fled the appearance of a super-villain. She rolled well, found a discarded transfer and took a city bus back to her school. Her parents were called and she was grounded. The life of a pre-teen superhero is never easy, and it was going to get worse. more »
You know how you are stuck on something, so you sit down to blog about it, and in the process of complaining that you can’t figure something out, it suddenly comes to you in a blinding revelation?
making books reading: internet reasons i suck words
by Harry Connolly
Charles Stross asked me to guest blog on his site while he is traveling across the Atlantic to attend Boskone and accomplish various other things. (True fact: the first time I heard about it, as in: “How was your weekend? I heard Boskone was great!” I assumed it was some kind of pastry).
Anyway, my first post is live over there. It’s an expanded discussion of low and high thrillers. Check it out.
making books personal The outside world: publishing reasons i suck words
by Harry Connolly
The Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers puts the brakes on expectations for ebook growth. Not to say that ebooks aren’t a growing segment of the market–that’s obvious on its face. But the audiences are so large (even for something as supposedly marginal as books) that each percentage point of change represents a whole lot of people, all of whom seem to rush to the internet to proclaim their love/disdain for their new readers.
But the people still reading in print still make up the bulk of the book buyers and they will be for years yet. As Nelson mentions above, more than 50% of music buyers still buy their music on CD.
I’m one of those people. I don’t buy very much music, but when I do it’s not through iTunes or other download sites, and I don’t put it on an iPod or other mp3 player. My wife has an iPod, but she uses it to listen to TED Talks, Planet Money podcasts and other NPR shows, when she uses it at all. There’s no music on it at all.
But I’m a dinosaur. I admit it. I don’t even have a cell phone. I don’t have anything against Kindles, et al; in fact I love them, because they allow my sister, the person who turned me into a sf/f lover, to read my novels. Her stroke had left her unable to hold a paper book open, but that’s not a problem with her new Kindle.
Paper and electronic books will eventually reach a balance, and no one posting to the internet right now knows when we’ll reach it. They’re only able to guess (and claim prescience if they hit the target) and the final figures will be determined by factors that no one can predict.
making books personal The outside world: reasons i suck
by Harry Connolly
A while back on Twitter I told this joke: “How is Google Analytics like a pair of tight jeans? Both make me feel inadequate.”
Both Elizabeth Bear and John Scalzi spent part of their weekends talking about “auctorial constructs” or, as they put it, the tendency that people have to create an image of the author based on their books and blog posts– a fictional character, in other words, with the author’s name and face–and how difficult that can be to deal with.
Luckily, I don’t have to deal with it. Most (all?) of my interactions take place online and I have a very low profile. Daily hits on this blog? About 32 people per day. LiveJournal gets about five times that. I have twice that many followers on Twitter but many of them are marketbots.
In other words, my online footprint is vanishingly small and that’s okay. Pretty much the only people treating me as if I’m the pretend person in their head are my wife and son.
For me, this is the problem with going out and meeting people in person. I’ve avoided readings and only do one signing (at the local shop) when each of my books comes out. And I’ve been putting off things like conventions. This is because I know myself well enough to know that I do not do well in large groups of strangers. I struggle to figure out people’s body language, I get overwhelmed by too much input, I can’t think what to say and end up staring at people instead of answering their questions.
But that’s not the real me, either. I’m not like that with people I know (or when I have a very close RL friend nearby). I can also psyche myself up to deal with strangers pretty well, but this is iffy.
That’s why I’m seriously tempted to be one of those hermit writers. Not to be, you know, weird about it, but to basically stay at home and write, hang with friends (must start hanging with friends again), and avoid going out to do those promotional things that so many writers do.
personal: life is great! reasons i suck the boy the wife words
by Harry Connolly
Last night was “date night”, the biweekly ritual in which my wife and I suddenly realize, at about three in the afternoon, that our regularly scheduled baby sitter will be there in an hour and a half and what the hell are we doing to do together all on our own?
My wife wasn’t keen on yet another restaurant trip and I couldn’t blame her. Instead we went to the Henry Art Museum in the U District: The PanOptos exhibit was pretty damn cool. This is one of the photos I took. I’m not sure why, except that I like the imperfections.
And James Turrell’s Skyscape sculpture, Light Reign, was wonderful (and I immediately tried to think of a way to build it in Minecraft, which only shows you what a saddo I am). I would have spent much longer in there if it hadn’t been so chilly (it’s installed in the courtyard).
Dinner came immediately after (and, since we had it in the U. District, the less said about it the better) and then we hopped over to the UW Bookstore to catch Cherie Priest’s reading of Bloodshot. I’m dubious about vampires, but her excerpt sounded pretty good, and when she talked about the book afterward she tempted me even more. Still, vampires. Hmm.
From there we took the crosstown bus to Ballard for dessert in a nice Italian place we found. My wife’s cannoli (she loves cannoli) had a chocolate coating on the shell, unfortunately, but my tiramasu was pretty dang good. Then it was home to watch the Lego animation my son had worked on.
In short, fun. And of course we spent a good deal of time talking about Important Things. For instance, we have a trip to Lisbon that we’ve been wanting to take forever, but when I bring it up it turns into a flight to Amsterdam, then a train trip to London, followed by a tour through Barcelona and Madrid and finally…
Me, I just want to go to Lisbon and check it out (we have family there). My wife thinks she’s being restrained because she’s ready to put off Paris and Rome until the next go ’round.
On top of that, I’ll be going to Readercon this summer (Hello, convention-going people. I’ll be at Readercon this July. If you’ll be there too, please introduce yourself. It’ll be my first sf convention and I’m not entirely sure how I’ll do). For my wife, this is a chance for all three of us to fly out early and check out historical sites. While I’m at the con, she and the boy would tour around the city, learning about the American Revolution and so on.
Nevermind that I’d miss out on those tours. Nevermind also that she’d like to immediately fly from Boston to Amsterdam, etc. Jeez, give that woman a transcontinental flight and she takes a month-long international jaunt.