making books: a blessing of monsters King Khan progress reasons i suck the auntie mame files
by Harry Connolly
Today was supposed to be a chill fucking day. My agent has the revised version of EPIC FANTASY WITH NO DULL PARTS. Last night I sent KING KHAN, my game tie-in novel, to Evil Hat. I hope they like it because Christmas is coming and I could use the money. Next I’m supposed to work on EPIC SEQUEL WITH NO DULL PARTS and a Twenty Palaces short story I’ve been kicking around.
But today was for relaxing, people. Today was meant to chill and read through an old manuscript.
It was just about a year ago that I put the “final” touches on A KEY, AN EGG, AN UNFORTUNATE REMARK and sent it to my agent. After reading my revised draft, she didn’t want to try to sell it; she didn’t think it was ready.
Some writers would be all outraged by that, but I shelved the book and worked on something else. I knew I could revisit it later after taking some time away from it.
Today, I took a printed copy out to the coffee shop to give it a read.
It’s really a failure. Like, full of an amazing amount of fail. It’s so off that I have a hard time reading it. It’s embarrassing.
What happened is pretty clear: I had something in my head that did not get onto the page. The tone is wrong, the POV has no specific voice, the important emotional moments glide right by without any effort to acknowledge their power…
Fuck. I had this idea for a book in my head and I thought I was writing it. I wasn’t. Maybe I loved the idea of the book too much, because I didn’t take the time to address the problems those ideas would present. Maybe I’m hadn’t studied other works with that tone carefully enough.
Maybe the problem was all that and more. I’m going to have to think on this carefully. Someday. For right now I’m putting this book aside and working on something else.
Damn. Just when I become too confident, I find new reasons for humility. What the hell. It’ll just make me a better writer tomorrow.
making books: internet man bites world publishing reasons i suck
by Harry Connolly
Well how about this, then? The Science Fiction Book Club’s omnibus edition of all three books has a page on line, and I think the cover is pretty cool. I look forward to receiving my copy, so I can see it a little bigger.
In other news, I have some pretty cool things coming up in two weeks or so, including an auction of an ARC of Circle of Enemies. The auction will benefit charity, of course, and I’m wondering what’s the best way to do this: Should I put it on ebay (do people still use ebay?) and turn over the money after I collect it? Should I have people donate, like, ten bucks and forward the receipts to me so they’re entered into a raffle?
I’ve never done this before, so I’m grateful for any advice you can offer.
making books personal: food reasons i suck the auntie mame files the boy the wife
by Harry Connolly
So Friday was my birthday. I woke up at my usual 5am work time and did my pages. What’s more, I added even more cool stuff to the end of A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark–it sounds self-serving to say this, I know, but I’m getting really excited about this book (and I can’t wait to be done with it and move on to a new thing).
What did I find when I arrived home? A giant gift-wrapped box on my dining room table. My son, naturally, was super-excited to have me open it, but I was exhausted from several long days and begged a nap (gift one).
After we had our fruit salad and I did the whole wish/candle thing, I tore it open. It turned out to be a George Foreman Grill (gift two).
Now, I’m skeptical of electric cooking appliances. I use our food processor and stand mixer all the time, but specific gadgets for cooking? Too fussy, too messy, too much trouble to take out and put away. Especially that last one. I use the crock pot about once a week, and even though it’s fine for the first two, it’s a pain in the ass for third. We just don’t have that much counter space or storage.
But this gadget? The cooking plates come out and fit in the dishwasher, it has no controls beyond an on/off switch, and it folds up pretty compactly.
What’s more, my wife had picked out a beautiful steak for me to have for dinner (gift three) and it cooked up beautifully. I can’t wait to try potatoes, asparagus, and (naturally) burgers in it. My son is eager to put a personal pizza in it, and I’m game for that.
One other birthday gift turned up at the end of the night. Google Alerts brought me this: Publishers Weekly gave Circle of Enemies a starred review. (gift four) That means I’m 3 for 3 for PW reviews. :) I’m seriously pleased about this.
Anyway, I’m back to making donuts. At this point, it’s a sprint to the end of the draft. I just wish it wasn’t so damn gorgeous outside, which is like a gift I can’t play with. Local temp for July 2nd: 78F. Sunday the second is expected to be ten degrees cooler.
making books personal: food progress reasons i suck the auntie mame files
by Harry Connolly
Well, really it’s my not-birthday (ob repetitive explanation: My wife and I share a Bday, which sucks, so I bumped mine back a month). But that doesn’t matter, right? It’s just a date, and I’m supposed to celebrate the new year.
You don’t have to ask. I’m 46.
Anyway, I was up way, way too early to write, and write I did. After having almost zero idea how I was going to end A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark yesterday I bumped against the frontier of my synopsis and started brainstorming ideas. Within an hour, I had the end all worked out, and as I was smoothing it out this morning (connecting the plot points clearly, I mean) I had several more good ideas.
That’s all recorded, and at this point it’s a race to the end of the draft. I’ve already made today’s long-goal; hopefully I’ll be able to do another thousand words or so before I go home.
There will be no cake tonight. I don’t like it, and neither does anyone else in the family. We’ll be having melon-free fruit salad, instead, which is the tradition for my bday. What other efforts will be made on my behalf I do not know. I just hope I get a nap.
Anyway, I get a little more time to goof around online, then it’s back to the word mines. Have a great Friday and Happy Canada Day, you wonderful Canadians.
making books personal The outside world: film people politics publishing reasons i suck TV
by Harry Connolly
1. Congratulations to the residents of New York state! A while ago someone asked, if someone from the mid-1960s were transported to today, what would be the most surprised change, and I suggested the gay rights movement. Marriage Equality in New York and in other countries and states is the result of focused, dedicated political action; I admire the hell out of the work they’ve done and wish their work was finished already. It’s sad that they have to keep fighting.
2. R.I.P. Martin Greenburg. Thanks for all the stories.
3. R.I.P. Peter Falk. I never understood the appeal of Columbo when I was a kid–they always showed the killer at the start of the show! It was only later that recognized the class aspect of the show (like Kolchak) and started to get into it. Yes, he was wonderful in THE PRINCESS BRIDE, but I was honestly startled (pleasantly) by his turn in WINGS OF DESIRE. That role could have been smug and tedious, but he rocked it.
4. The Locus Awards have been announced. (no link) Like the Nebulas, they only reinforce my decision to ignore awards entirely.
5. Have I mentioned here that I’m working on getting my short fiction for sale on the Kindle, et al? I am. The rights to most of my Black Gate stories (except the one that’s out right now) have reverted, plus I have a number of Pald stories that I never sold or even submitted anywhere. They go further into the setting and background than earlier books did, especially how the city is run. I’m hoping to convince my wife and son to whip up cover art for them as a homeschool project. We’ll see.
Bonus, secret sixth thing: Because of travel, we didn’t celebrate Father’s Day last week. Instead we’re celebrating today. I get brunch at a really nice restaurant (Portage Bay Cafe in Ballard) then library/bookstore, and finally, after my wife has gone to work, a movie with my son. Yay!
In my previous post I mentioned that we’d already done the Empire State Building. One thing I forgot to mention is that the whole place still smells faintly of ape-feet. Neither time nor bleach can take out some odors, lemme tell you.
Afterwards, we couldn’t get into the American Museum of Natural History because it was going to close so we ended up chatting with people, eating pizza and generally taking it easy because Wednesday started early.
We’d been told to arrive by 7:30 at Battery Park to avoid the line for the ferry to Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty. This meant we got up at 5:30, found breakfast, rode the subway, etc etc. Of course we were there way early, and my son and I had a chance to wander around the park a little while my wife waited in line (the tickets were in her name).
Did you know there’s a labyrinth you can walk in the park? I do now. Turns out that walking the whole thing transports you to Amber, the one true city. Weirdly, Amber looks exactly like Manhattan, except that the souvenir T-shirts all read: “I [cloudy yellow block] NY”. Luckily, walking the pattern in reverse transported me back.
Did I mention we got up at 5:30 am? That’s 2:30 Seattle time, and my son, who went to bed way early the night before, still didn’t get enough sleep. You know how you get a whole bunch of people together, there’s always one family with a whiny, inconsolable child? That was us.
Anyway, the statue itself was pretty awesome–I have pictures I’ll post later. Being right next to it, looking up, was overpowering. What’s more, it’s gorgeous as a physical object. Sadly, we didn’t buy our tickets early enough to get up to the crown so we didn’t have a close-up view of the stunt show all the way up on the torch. We didn’t see the whole thing, since it started while we were on the ferry to Ellis Island, but some folks nearby told us it was about communists in some way and we saw the big fall, so that was cool.
Ellis Island was amazing (for grownups). I got to stand where countless immigrants (possibly my own) waited on line to be allowed into the country. Kids, it turns out, don’t give a crap. Not too surprising, I guess, but I was glad to be the one who kept him occupied while my wife looked into her ancestry.
Wednesday night was the KGB Fantastic Fiction reading. I met Rose Fox and Josh Jasper there. Also Nick Kaufmann and his wife Alexa (who may have a blog, but I don’t know what it is) were both there, as was Priscilla (known to me as @priscellie on Twitter).
Did you know New Yorkers are all eight-feet tall? Even sitting, they blocked my view of the readers, but that only helped me focus in. Both authors were terrific, but Glen Hirshberg was really startlingly good.
Me, I was feeling my usual discomfort about being in a large group of people I didn’t really know, but folks were very nice and helped me acclimate at both the bar (which was crowded and loud–but not as much as usual) and the meal afterward.
The big deal for Thursday was that we’d set it aside to simply walk around the city, and we were lucky enough to have Rose and Josh to show us around. If the first two days were for big tourist attractions, this was a chance to visit a particular Malaysian restaurant, shop at the last remaining pickle sellers on the Lower East Side, stroll through Greenwich Village and stopping at a little mystery bookstore where I was able to pick up Nick Kaufmann’s Gabe Hunter novel (I’d already read his Chasing the Dragon, but not this.) In the end we watched a routine by Organized CHAOS at High Line Park–and while that may sound like one of my jokes, it’s not.
The visit to the High Line Park and the Meatpacking District lead to a more general discussion of the changes the city has undergone since my wife lived there in the seventies and eighties. The places that used to be havens for prostitutes and drug addicts are now fancy parks and sidewalk cafes. We rode the subways for most of a week and never felt unsafe. Rose explained that the C.H.U.D.s all live aboveground now (making them “C.H.A.D.s” now). And while we were passing a wine bar, who did I see sitting inside at one of the tables? A half-dozen Baseball Furies.
I guess I stared at them a little too long while we were waiting to cross the street, because a couple of them started reaching for their bats. At that point I raised my fist and said “Jeeeeeettteerrrrrrr!” and then everything was golden.
Anyway, it’s a beautiful city, nothing at all like the hellhole of the movies of my youth. It’s filled with people, activity, and life. I saw young people of different races sitting together on the subway talking like close friends (something I almost never see in Seattle, I’m sorry to say). The public transit system is fantastic and comprehensive, and best of all the city isn’t built to accommodate cars; it’s made for people. Lots of them.
And everything they say about the pizza? It’s all true! Bagels, too, omg.
Friday I visited the offices at Del Rey. I stupidly forgot to bring the address with me, although I knew the street and general location. I told my wife “The address has a five in it,” which did not amuse her as much as I’d hoped. Luckily, the building had been remodeled into a gigantic replica of George R.R. Martin’s face.
Lemme tell you, the security there was something else. As we entered the lobby, some security personnel were standing over a bloody corpse with a crayon-scrawled manuscript scattered around it. The woman who checked us in explained several times how we should use our badges to keep the elevator gas vents shut, and the actual doors out of the elevator lobby had a machine gun next to it.
Luckily, we were approved to pass through. Much Secret Writer Talk went on, and then we snuck out to Central Park for a picnic lunch and a ride on the carousel.
Actually, come to think of it I met my editor, her boss, and one of their marketing folks… and that’s it. There was, like, no one else there. Remember that Star Trek episode when Kirk beams a space gangster to the Enterprise and the gangster is all “I only saw one guy!” Well, I think about that big office building and that handful of people and… Nah, that’d be crazy!
After that we spent some time at the playground, then tried the natural history museum again. We got in this time, and I learned that Ben Stiller movies truly do not prepare us for the awesomeness of the real world.
We did other things, too, of course. I had lunch with my agent, saw something strung between midtown traffic lights that I took to be fishing line but which I now realize was Spider-webbing, ate incredible smoked salmon, signed copies of my books on bookshelves (btw reader of this post: buy my books), and sweltered on subway platforms waiting to be let into the cool, comfy subway cars themselves. God, it’s the first real vacation we’ve taken in years.
It’s a fantastic city. I wish we lived closer so my son wouldn’t get violently ill on the long plane ride.
Pictures in a future post.
making books The outside world: film internet publishing reasons i suck
by Harry Connolly
I’m way behind on this, but the Moby Awards were just given out a short while ago. What are Moby Awards? They’re given to book trailers, of course.
This may seem a little silly (and it is) but the award givers seem to understand this: Here’s a list of the winners over on the Galleycat site. They’re fun to watch, especially the bad ones. The winner of the “Worst Small/No House” is particularly special, what with the delightful animation, the empty corner of an attic repurposed as a secret waterfront back room, the pirate costumes made from what appears to be shower curtains, and of course “Dubloooooooons!”
And when they give an award called “Most Monkey Sex” they aren’t kidding. Jeebus.
I don’t really understand the “Worse Music” selection. The song isn’t to my taste, but it seems to be a mediocre version of that sort of song.
Anyway, you may have heard that I’ve hired some friends to make a trailer for the Twenty Palaces books (since I’ve only mentioned it about a billion times, but I enjoyed watching these. They’re basically commercials, I know, but some are clever.
It’s the funny ones that work best, don’t you think?
making books personal The outside world: harvest of fire people progress publishing reasons i suck the auntie mame files Twenty Palaces words
by Harry Connolly
Let’s make this a quick list of items of interest, okay?
First of all: Hey New Yorkers! I’m going to be in New York City next week, visiting Manhattan with my wife and son. Yes, I’m also going to meet up with my agent (first time face to face) and my editor (not first time). And others, too, if things go well.
Publishing people! Who use the subjunctive correctly! And who probably also know how to use the nupative, even though that doesn’t even exist, except in last night’s dream about condescending NY grammar fundamentalists. (See subject header)
Anyway, I’m also planning to attend the KGB Fantastic Fiction Reading Series on June 15th. I don’t know either of the authors who’ll be reading there, but that just makes it more exciting.
Are you in New York? I’d like to meet there, and maybe do something after. I look like this. If you see me there, don’t hesitate to introduce yourself.
Second: I mentioned this on Twitter last week, but haven’t here; Twenty Palaces, the prequel to Child of Fire, is 100% done! Well, unless Del Rey buys it and my editor has notes. And except for the copy edits. And galleys. And another polish, if I want to give it one, (and I always do).
Still: One. Hundred. Percent. Done. I’m back at work on A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark (aka: The Auntie Mame Files). I like this book, although I suspect it’s going to be a stand alone. We’ll see.
Third: On the advice of a friend, I’ve started polishing up some old short stories to self-publish them. I mean, why not? Several have been published before and several will need substantial rewriting, but it will be nice to have something new to put out into the world.
Fourth: Look what came in the mail over the weekend?
It had this in it:
I’m going to assume he meant “this book,” to mean “the book for Harry Connolly.” Seems obvious, right?
I sorta expect a significant proportion of this text to be right out of his LiveJournal, but with luck I’ll pick up some extra tips for writing short work for small checks, rather than doing these months-long projects on spec, which sucks.
Fourth: Is it completely ridiculous for me to record all the Bookscan numbers I get from Amazon.com into a spreadsheet? I mean, I can’t even keep my characters’ names straight, but I’m fastidious about this?
Fifth: I still have a lot to do before I head to NY. Good thing I finished those Dungeon Quest books (by Joe Daly). Now that the hilarity is over, I can get some shit done.
making books personal: internet progress reasons i suck words
by Harry Connolly
(I’m posting this to share my experience, not to solicit advice. If others want to share their experiences, too, I’d love it, but no advice, please.)
“It’s called willpower,” Colson Whitehead says in this PW article about… well, about many things, only one of which is the need some writers have of hiding themselves away in a hostage pit because they can’t handle distraction.
I’m one of those writers, and I freely admit that it embarrasses me. When the writing gets really difficult, I find it very difficult to focus on the problems and opportunities there, and all too easy to check my emails, or Twitter, or my LiveJournal friends list.
It used to be that I could hide at Starbucks. They charged for wi-fi and I’m too cheap to pay for my procrastination… then they backed down and offered it for free. Soon I was checking my emails, just in case something important came in, and are there new posts on LJ? Oh, what crazy shit has so-and-so said about books this time? An article on health care reform! It’s my duty as a citizen to stay up-to-date on politics, and besides I can read it while this funny video loads.
And don’t forget that I need things to blog about other than the usual I’m-tired-my-butt-itches crap. Links for the Randomness posts! Op-eds to disagree with! Movies to pick apart!
Except that I didn’t really need any of that. What I needed was time and quiet space to work. I don’t need a physically quiet space, but I do need one where my jump-around brain won’t latch onto something interesting and easy, like my Twitter timeline or the book I’m reading.
There was a Radiolab from a while back that talked about the bargains creative people have to make. It’s worth listening to, maybe while you’re doing dishes or something. For me, it’s helped me work out a new plan to increase my productivity: just like all those people who put A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE in their Netflix queue as something they’ll watch someday way out in the future while continually picking THE HANGOVER or DRIVE ANGRY for what they want to watch right now, it’s easy for me to plan virtue way in advance, but nearly impossible to grasp it in the moment. If I could be trusted to back up my own material manually, I’d crack the case of my laptop and pith my wi-fi connection. Since I can’t, I use Dropbox.
So I turn my laptop on the night before and set Mac Freedom for six hours. Maybe eight, but usually six.
That’s long enough for me to do my pages, then revise one of my old short stories for a self-pub collection I’m considering, and that’s it. I can reboot if I want to check my email at the library or whatever, or I can come straight home and wait for the timer to run out, at which point the household wi-fi handles all the backing up.
But that’s the best work around I can come up with at the moment. My brain has a hard time staying on task, and talking about willpower misses the point. If I’m hungry, tired, cold, or depressed, I can write. Adversity I can handle. What I have a hard time with, apparently, is fun, luxury, pleasure, and comfort. Those are the things that will ruin me.
making books personal The outside world: food harvest of fire internet reasons i suck
by Harry Connolly
Friday on Twitter, I joked that once Child of Fire received 300 ratings on Goodreads, I would eat 3.64 out of 5 cookies in celebration. Well what do you know. It happened! Last night I bought some Pepperidge Farm Nantuckets (no limericks, please) because I knew I wouldn’t have time for the preferred option, which was baking fresh.
And I took pictures:
making books: internet progress reasons i suck Twenty Palaces
by Harry Connolly
I’ve been a little unproductive lately. I’m not sure exactly why, but the pages have been difficult. Revisions have been difficult. Polishing has been difficult.
Yesterday I deliberately got a late start, set Freedom for 3 hours, and focused. It was good.
This morning I made sure to be up by 5 am. I set Freedom for the max: 8 hours. I hit the Starbucks and the library and tore into the notes (and polish) for Twenty Palaces.
And I finished more than half the book.
I dunno, you guys. Do you think the internet might by harming my productivity?
making books: progress reasons i suck Twenty Palaces
by Harry Connolly
This morning I spent about half an hour on the phone with my agent going over her notes for Twenty Palaces aka “book zero” aka “the prequel.” They were mostly pretty straight forward and will not require much work to fix. One note, though, was a biggie. It gets at the heart of Ray’s actions and motivations in the last part of the book, and it’s yet another example of me failing at the craft because I wanted to make a point rather than keep to the characters.
Still, I took a long walk in the hot sun and I think I have a solid, sensible way to address it.
Now I just have to get to work. Good day.
making books personal: reasons i suck the auntie mame files
by Harry Connolly
It’s almost seven am, I’m freshly breakfasted, the hummingbirds are floating outside my window, the stellar jays are squawking, and the sun is shining.
I’m going for a walk.
But it’s not going to be a “fun” walk; it’s going to be a vigorous exercise/plot walk. A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark has been a bit difficult lately and I’m not sure where it should go next. This walk will be a chance to plot a course forward. Which I need.
Also, did I mention that the sun is shining?
Hopefully, I won’t see you guys around the interwebs for a few hours.
personal The outside world: beautiful reasons i suck
by Harry Connolly
I know I’ve said I was going to Readercon, but Stuff I Can’t Talk About has come up, and I’m backing out. Maybe I’ll get to go some other year.
making books The outside world: internet people reasons i suck
by Harry Connolly
It’s the sort of extreme running event that extreme running events think goes too far, an event where people literally lose their minds while running it. They start hallucinating, get amnesia, totally lose themselves. It’s a race that’s almost designed not to be finished.
It reminds me of a profile I read some time ago about a distance runner and his training methods. He’s from Eastern Europe somewhere, and he does the same thing: runs until the pain is too much and the exhaustion made him hallucinate and go mad. The quote that stuck with me (which I’ll have to paraphrase) is from his trainer, who believed that when the runner was telling them the pain was too much, when he hallucinated, thought he’d gone blind, couldn’t remember where he was or why he was running, that was the point at which the trainer thought he’d given about 50%.
There’s a temptation to turn all this into a lesson for my own life. Maybe you feel that temptation, too. I mean, what’s the analog in my life for a long project that makes me crazy? Not writing a novel. I may complain about it (because I’m a crybaby, but you knew that) but it never drives me to the point of hallucinating. Maybe if I wrote something as long and complex as George RR Martin’s series, I’d have something comparable. I mean, seriously, writing a novel is not that hard.
Of course, there’s also parenting, but the rewards of that are self-evident, no matter how grueling it can become.
But it’s interesting to me, to see what people can achieve. It’s strange to think of something as the upper limit of human endurance, only to discover other people blow past them regularly.
1. Shiny new idea!!! Must think about ways to make it good.
2. Think think think think.
3. I can’t stand the wait! Must start writing!
4. write write write
5. Holy crap, I’m just about at the end of the book and it’s only 34,000 words long? Why didn’t I think more before I started? If I don’t figure something out, I’m going to have to ditch all the work I’ve done on this shiny idea!
6. Think think think self-recrimination think think think.
7. Hey… what about [completely obvious thing]? Oh! Think think think think.
personal The outside world: publishing reasons i suck
by Harry Connolly
Short version: No.
Long version: I’ll be spending tomorrow at the library, writing my new book.
I will say that I saw more ass crack than I’m personally comfortable with, and while people were perfectly nice, the folks I did manage to chat with did not share any of my interests. No, I’ve never seen the Matt Smith “Doctor” (and I’m not all that fond of Tennant, either). No, I don’t know what “GNOME” is, let alone what it’s doing on my MacBook (“running” apparently).
Actually, it was pretty much what I expected: a place for folks to connect with their friends and blather about things genre.
It does require me to ask myself: What the hell are my interests? What could I talk about at a con? The nuances of the ACA? What the hell do I know about now that I’m a stay-at-home dad who spends most of his time working on books and trying to get his son to flush the damn toilet?
At least I know what programming is like.