2012

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I’m going to keep this short.

The most popular entry on this blog is the one where I dissect the reasons why my series was cancelled. I’m not what you’d call excited about that, but the fact remains. With luck, I’ll have a post in the new year that will finally draw more attention.

The year itself has been tough. I’d hoped to sell A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark but my agent was reluctant to send it out and I took her advice. Thank god. Last fall I took another look at the manuscript and realized I’d blown it. The novel needs major revisions and christ but the moment for it has pretty much passed. I’ll still finish it, eventually, but that leaves a big hole in my schedule. I put out no new work in 2012.

As for 2013, the only novel I expect to put out is King Khan, the tie-in novel for Spirit of the Century. If Epic Fantasy With No Dull Parts sells, it’ll probably be scheduled for 2014. In any event, life is short. I am working constantly. I don’t have a lot to show for it right now.

On a personal level, my family life has only been getting better. I am a very, very lucky ugly fat man.

And that’s it. I don’t do New Years’ resolutions, because they carry the cultural baggage that no one keeps them, and I never wait until Jan first to make the changes in my life I think I need. But I’m going back to work now, and I’m going to keep working on a sequel to a book that hasn’t even sold yet and which probably won’t come out until 2015.

I don’t even know what to say about this except that I can muddle through it.

Giftmas report

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Let’s start by saying this was a Card Kingdom Giftmas. Between the three of us, we must have dropped almost $600 there for card and board games, plus the never-ending Pokemon purchases.[1] Curious what we got? Here’s a pic.

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Except that’s not everything. We forgot to include HIVE, which is a two-player game best described as “nature chess” except with fewer pieces and no board. The other game we forgot is FRIDAY, a solo deck-building game about a Pacific Islander who finds himself saddled with a hapless European shipwrecked on the island. You have to teach him how to survive and defeat pirates (by building the deck) in order to rid yourself of him. [2]

Also, the pic does not include the Pokemon stuff we go, including an entire booster box which went over… well, see footnote 1.

We haven’t played all the games yet, but there isn’t a dud among them. Some of the new Dominion cards are brutal, Munchkin Apocalypse is just as funny as the base game, and Guillotine is a surprise favorite.

Dixit is great but will play better with four players. 7 Wonders promises to be great fun but we shouldn’t have tried to play it when we were so exhausted. And even though Gloom promises to be great fun, I would have never bought it if I’d known the cards smelled like perfume. It’s a sunny day today, maybe I’ll air them out outside.

We finally replaced our ailing 19″ CRT television with a 32″ flatscreen; that’s not as large as most families have, but to us it’s a huge treat. Naturally, the first thing we watched on the big screen was the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy (I received the extended editions last year)[3]

After that, we hooked up the Wii. My son got DJ Hero 2 and I got Lego LOTR. Yes, we’re hardcore gamers over here.

The two best-received gifts were (first) the Sensu iPad paint brush we bought for my wife. Theoretically, the art programs on her tablet should let her make art anywhere and anytime, but she hated using her finger because she couldn’t see the mark she was making. With the brush, that’s all changed. It will be a challenge for her to work on such a small surface, but that’s a challenge she’s willing to face.

The second gift was the laptop my son received for his birthday. He was born on Boxing Day, and we do our best to carefully separate the two celebrations. Anyway, his new computer is better than either of mine and he’s already pushing for Call of Duty or Skyrim for it.[4] In it’s way, this is also a gift for me, since he won’t have to do his schoolwork on my desktop all damn day.

So that’s why this blog has been dormant lately: holidays and birthday. Plus I’ve been working hard on EPIC SEQUEL WITH NO DULL PARTS. Sorry if I’m not around as much as I normally am but there’s work to do and fun to be had.

[1] Or is there an end? The boy is taking a break from Pokemon; he’s bored with his deck and bored with the game. As much as he likes the kids he plays against, it’s just not doing it for him the way it used to. We’ll see if he’s permanently moved on or if he just needs some time off.

[2] I’m convinced there’s another game that we left out, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what it would be.

[3] I’ve decided I prefer the extended editions. There’s more room for nuance in them. Boromir is not just this desperate, untrustworthy character, he’s also the hero who offers words of kindness to Frodo when their needed. And he has scenes with Aragorn, a ridiculous omission from the theatrical releases. However, I could have done without the avalanche of skulls bit and the orcs who use grapple attacks in the middle of a battle.

[4] As if his mom would let an 11yo sit in his room playing first person shooters. As if.

Gingerbread house exhibit that benefits Juvenile Diabetes (pics!)

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One of the things we do every year is pop down to the Sheraton hotel in downtown Seattle and check out the gingerbread houses. They’re always huge, beautiful, and intricately done.

And I never do them justice when I take pictures. My little one-shot camera can’t really capture the translucent sugars and…

Anyway, this year had a Disney theme. Here’s Beauty & The Beast and remember, everything you can see (but the lights) is edible.

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I have a bunch of detail shots on Flickr but the closeup of the candle guy didn’t come out.

Here’s the mastershot of Aladdin

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Those domes are gorgeous and look as delicate as cotton candy. Over at the set I have a closeup of the elephant and the genie.

Here’s a detail of Aslan and the White Witch in her sleigh pulled by polar bears.

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See more at the set.

Twenty Palaces: Supernatural Noir For Your Loved Ones’ Stockings

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Ho ho ho!

Many of the people reading this will remember that, for most of the day on Halloween, I gave away copies of Twenty Palaces. I know there are folks who grabbed copies (and even read them) because I received a few nice notes about it.

For first-visitors who aren’t familiar with my work, my debut novel Child of Fire, was on Publishers Weekly’s Best 100 Books of 2009, and the two sequels, Game of Cages and Circle of Enemies both received starred reviews.

Sadly, sales were not as high as expected and Del Rey passed on the fourth book, which was a prequel to the series. Luckily, this is the 21st century and I self-published that book myself.

Why mention all this? Well, from now until the day after Christmas, I’m going to reduce the price of Twenty Palaces to only $2.99. Three bucks. If you know someone who reads ebooks and who likes supernatural thrillers with a noirish touch, take a quick look at these links:

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords (These guys offer multiple formats for several different brands of ereader, like Kobo).

Unsure how to give an ebook as a gift? Open Road Media has a number of short instructional videos for several of the major ebook retailers, including iBookstore and Kobo. If you decide to buy from Smashwords, they have an instructional right on the linked page above.

Randomness for 12/18

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1) The largest iceberg break-up ever filmed. Video. Pretty amazing.

2)

13 Little-Known Punctuation Marks We Should Be Using.

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10 episodes that show how Buffy The Vampire Slayer blew up genre TV.

4) The Best/Worst Media Errors and Corrections in 2012. Mostly English language, of course.

5) The Five Most Disruptive Technologies of 2012.

6) Stephen King takes writing questions from writing students. Video.

7) Winning photos from this year’s Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition

Tobias Buckell revives his moribund series via Kickstarter

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Novelist Tobias Buckell posted a longish (5K) analysis of his own successful Kickstarter project; his Xenowealth books were not as successful as he and his publisher had hoped and he stopped writing them after three books. With the support of his fans, he Kickstartered (<-- new verb, just to annoy people) book four.

Then, being him, he analyzed it and shared the information.

Of course, having finished the post, I found an email in my inbox directing me to it, with the idea that I could do the same with the Ray Lilly books. That's not going to happen for several reasons.

His readership: My blog gets fewer than 10% of the hits that his gets. He has nearly five times the number of Twitter followers. Also, he’s much better connected with other pros who can spread the word about his books.

His series: The Xenowealth books were not sinking in sales, they were stagnant. In hardcover! Mine were mmpb and sales for each book was dropping by about 5K readers for each. Also, I have the ebook figures for the prequel, Twenty Palaces: while they’ve been okay for a book I already wrote, it’s not worth setting aside a year (or a large part of a year) for those sales. I’m planning a post on sales of the prequel, so stay tuned for that.

His productivity: Dude had major surgery and serious health issues, and yet he’s still way more prolific than I am. That matters because as I said: setting aside a year to write a book. Not to mention that, while he’s finishing his novel (and running his Kickstarter) he has short fiction coming out all over the place and blah blah blah.

Anyway, give his post a read. It’s full of interesting ideas and common sense. As for me, I’ll keep plodding along with EPIC SEQUEL WITH NO DULL PARTS.

Reforming U.S. Gun Laws Will Be The Work Of A Generation

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The shooting in Connecticut happened early this morning, but late enough that I was already away from home with my internet turned off when the news hit. It was only after work was done and I was connecting to the cafe wifi that I found out what had happened.

It’s awful and unbearable. That goes without saying. It needs to stop, too. That also goes without saying.

Remember MADD? That was Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Before MADD formed, drunk driving was a thing a whole lot of people did, and there was a “Let them sleep it off in jail” attitude, assuming the cops liked you. I remember reading editorials from men who didn’t understand why everyone kept talking about drunk drivers as if they were bad people. Gosh, it’s just friends out to have a good time!

MADD changed all that. It took time. They argued with people who wanted the status quo. They spoke about lives lost. They talked about common sense.

Nowadays, drunk drivers are treated like people who put other people’s lives at risk. The culture changed. We need to do the same thing with guns.

A friend of mine suggested that the idea we could regulate (or even eliminate) guns in a nation with an estimated 300 million of them was an impossible task. It sure can seem that way, even to pundits writing about the success of buy-back programs in other countries, but if we don’t start now, we’ll never finish.

Maybe it’s the novelist in me, but the way to finish a long, difficult task is to begin immediately and work hard for an extended time.

A good place to start would be these facts about guns and mass shootings in the U.S.

A good thing to do would be to write to your representative and your senators. Write to your governors. There are many simple, sensible things the United States could do to reduce the endless string of gun deaths in this country: Every gun must be registered. Every gun must be insured. If a person is caught with an unregistered, unlicensed weapon, that should be a felony.

The first time it happens wouldn’t have to involve jail time, if there were no other laws broken. A fine and suspended sentence would be enough. And of course, felons in most states lose their right to vote during their sentence and in a few states for long after that. Maybe that would finally end the practice of denying former convicts of their voting rights.

It won’t be easy and it won’t be perfect. No system ever devised by humans can function perfectly. The real choice here is what flaws we’re willing to accept. Are we going to continue with mass murders all over the news and 30-some thousand gun-related deaths a year? Or are we finally, finally going to start changing things.

Added: Per a suggestion on the LiveJournal mirror for this blog, consider also supporting the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

“Your Next Big Thing” Book Meme

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I’ve been tagged by S.K.S. Perry to do this meme and while I normally ignore tags, I was planning to do this anyway. You can read his here.

What is the working title of your next book?

EPIC FANTASY WITH NO DULL PARTS, but it’s also probably going to be called THE WAY INTO CHAOS.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I wanted to do an epic fantasy, and the idea for this book came from a particular visual/event that occurs early in the book.

What genre does your book fall under?

Epic Fantasy, but it’s not medieval.

What is the synopsis or blurb for this book?

A sentient, contagious curse brings about the collapse of an empire.

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

It’s a sign of my old age that I don’t know much about current movie stars. No clue.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Are those the only two options?

Agent.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I started it in October of 2011 and finished on the day THE AVENGERS came out. (May 4th?) I rewarded myself with a matinee.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Heh. So.

I homeschool my son and I wanted to start him on a long writing project. To that end, I bought a copy of Adventures in Fantasy by John Gust, which is a set of writing exercises to help kids think up and finish a fantasy “novel.” It also includes a number of terrific language lessons.

Because my son would never consent to do all those exercises by himself I did them with him, creating the basics of my book through those kid-oriented exercises.

Now, the way the book works, you create certain archetypal characters and put them through certain specific paces. To keep my own interest high, I fussed with and undermined the formula, sidelining the putative “hero” early and turning the sidekick and mentor characters into the actual heroes. We’ll see how well that works.

For his part, my son wrote a comic fantasy. I paid him a penny a word for it and published it on my blog. For such a young kid, he has a great voice.

I also wanted to deal with the idea of people who come from an empire, who don’t feel like they are particularly powerful within their culture nor do they think it’s fair that others see them as partly culpable for what the empire does, and what happens to them when they venture beyond the frontiers.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Good question. No clue.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Humans are not the only intelligent species, but the other creatures are not the usual humanoid monster/elf/dwarf types. They’re different enough that the characters at first don’t even realize they’re intelligent.

The book also has a number of magic portals in it, but they aren’t a source of excursion for the protagonists to explore other lands. They’re a source of incursion. The humans are being invaded here.

Finally, the tech level here is pre-medieval. The warriors are not knights, they’re more like hoplites (although the setting isn’t ancient Greece).

No tags! If you want to do this yourself, go for it.

Randomness for 12/11

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1) A motorcycle with a track instead of wheels, from 1939.

2) Do people gain weight during the holidays? Science says no, not usually.

3) A six-year-old tries to guess the plots of classic novels by their covers.

4) How much we care about Star Wars, graphed over time.

5) Look at this Instagram (Nickelback parody) Video. Not only have I never knowingly heard Nickelback once, but I have never been to Instagram. I still laughed at this.

6) Why is ‘w’ pronounced ‘double u’ rather than ‘double v’?

7) Author Christopher Priest shares his opinion of Robert McCrum, an associate editor of the Observer.