Know someone who’d like to read some fantasy this Christmas?

Here’s the skinny: This week I did the final revision on a novelette I’ve been writing off and on for several months. It’s available right now on my website right here:

Lord of Reavers.

The only place you’ll be able to buy it for the next month, at least, is right here on my website. Why? Well my landlord has just raised our rent and my son needs new glasses (we don’t have vision insurance). On top of this we have holiday foods, gifts, and travel, which we’d already budgeted for, but this makes it a little tight.

Luckily, the rent increase won’t start right away. But! I do need to make a little extra money.

Therefore, if you know someone (or several someones) who would like a short sword and sorcery tale for the holidays, let me humbly suggest the link above. I’m selling them in epub, mobi and pdf formats, which should work on every ereader from Kindle to Kobo. In fact, if you’re planning to give an ereader as a gift to someone who likes fantasy, this story would be easy to preload.

So! You can buy one copy and send it to everyone you know, or you could pay for each copy you plan to share. Maybe you’d be more comfortable with something in between. Whatever you think is best.

Sorry I couldn’t set the price at the traditional 99 cents, but PayPal insisted on tacking on a $1 S&H fee and I couldn’t get them to take it off.

Happy Holidays, folks. I hope you enjoy the story.

“If every other writer jumped off a bridge, would you?” (repost after WP problems)

Don’t mind me. I’m just hanging up this dirty laundry. It needs airing.

You know how I discover that the Hugo and Nebula nomination season has opened? Dozens of writers start listing their yearly sales to say “Here’s my eligible stuff!”

Which is fine. It’s important to them and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. And really, Pikachu forbid that I or anyone else tell people what they write on their own blogs, which I choose to read without paying a penny.

But I’m not going to do that, not this year or any, because the sort of books I write don’t win those awards. And that’s cool. I think of Hugo and Nebula awards as things of importance within the science fiction community and I’ve never really been part of that. [1] It’s like seeing the BAFTA winners, I guess; I’m happy for those people in that foreign country.

It does prompt me to look back over the year, though. Game of Cages came out at the end of August, of course, and it’s been doing pretty well. I also took part in A Glimpse of Darkness. But that’s it.

Many of the other writers I see out there had a couple of novels come out in 2010 along with a string of short stories. I envy them their productivity. Me, I had a tab open on this computer for three days which held an article about being productive and getting things done, but I couldn’t find time to read it, so I just closed it. (Not kidding).

So, my 2010? It’s been a frustrating year for me, writing-wise. The publishing end of things has been great–Del Rey has been doing a terrific job with my books, and I was glad that Child of Fire got a second printing.

But the first third of the year was spent finishing up Circle of Enemies, seven months past deadline. Yikes. I did not want to be that writer, and yet, there I was. I think it’s a solid book, maybe the best thing I’ve ever written, but it took so much time…

After that I spent months working on a proposal for The Buried King, a Harry-Bosch-in-fantasyland rhino killer, done my way. But there was something wrong with it–I’m not even sure what. I knew it would be difficult to translate a procedural to a second-world setting (a major part of the appeal of a police procedural is iron clad research and a glimpse into a privileged world, but how does that work when the author is making it all up?) but I guess I didn’t the the solutions in place. It didn’t get very far.

Then I went to work on A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark and… Jesus, what am I thinking here? Do people really want an urban fantasy with a 65-ish year old heroine? Who’s a committed pacifist?

I took a whack at the story once already, but none of it held together. right now I have, here beside me at the coffee shop, nearly 200 pages of manuscript for The Auntie Mame Files, about 30K words. I’m about to drop it into the mail for my agent.

If she can’t sell it, 2010 will have been a total wash, writing wise, except for the short chapter I wrote for A Glimpse of Darkness.

What the hell, right? It’s what I did. Hopefully, when the end of 2011 rolls around, I’ll be able to look back on a more productive year.

[1] That’s not meant as a condemnation. I’m just not much of a socializer

Bullet points make a post

* ‘Sfunny, when I’m writing a first draft, I sit down for a specific time to write, and when I’m done for the day I’m done. When I’m doing a polish, it’s like an all-day thing. I keep dropping back into the file, reading a few lines, tweaking sentences. It’s kinda annoying, especially since it makes me feel as though I’m not accomplishing anything.

* Yesterday I got word that my Russian language rights money was on its way. Hooray! I’m really looking forward to posting scans of the foreign language translations of my books.

* I’ve decided to wait 3 days (or 24+ hours of inactivity) before announcing the winners of the book giveaways. I’ll roll a die for the first one tonight, maybe the second, depending. Also, I’ll announce it when someone has won.

* I have a couple Sekrit Projects to work on. Those are nicer than my public projects, because I enjoy them just as much but you, blog reader, don’t have to listen to my complaints.

* I have a bunch of interviews and essays to write. If I owe you one, don’t worry I haven’t forgotten. I have an SP to breeze through and then I’ll be all over it.

* Thank you, Judge Walker. The ruling still needs to go through the 9th District and Supreme Court, but this is the right step.

* I’ve been contemplating a post about all the ways the Obama administration has disappointed me, but honestly, I have better things to do. I knew the administration would disappoint me when I voted for him, but I didn’t anticipate the manner.

And just how busy do I have to get before I accept that I’m honestly busy? My LJ friends list is currently at skip=120, and that’s only after a day of dedicated downtime-at-day-job reading. Really, Obama can wait.

* It’s now less than 4 weeks until the publication of Game of Cages, and I feel sick. There’s so much to do and (seemingly) so much at stake and the economy is still in the crapper and I may be laid off from my day job and I may have to stay at this day job and I’m not sure which is worse and I just want to stand up, go home, take a shower and go to sleep for a very, very long time.

But other than that everything’s great.

Head, meet wall

I’m trying to get a package together for my agent (sample chapters and selling synopsis, basically) and sweet mole sauce, have I been struggling. The last couple of months have been stressful–I don’t need to review, do I? Good.–and my daily word counts have been small. Now that I’m in the revision phase, I’m finding all sorts of repetitive and contradictory stuff in there. Characters are introduced twice, the protagonist discusses a clue with a character then decides to hide the info from him 50 pages later, the protagonist is confused by changes to a building he said he’d never seen before.

It’s a damn dirty mess. I really need to work faster on these early drafts, if only to save myself time and effort during revisions.

Anyway, I picked up a bunch of weird books at a yard sale today, and I’ll be slipping out of the library as soon as I dig up a movie for the family to watch tonight. We have a big afternoon of de-cluttering planned, although it remains to be seen which family members will be willing to get rid of some of their belongings (me) and which will not (them). Wish me luck.

Good thing I don’t have any hair to tear out

I swear to God, I have never sweated over anything as much as I just sweated over the “script” (really a shot list w/ dialog) for the book trailer for Man Bites World. Never. And believe me, I sweat. I’m a sweaty, sweaty man.

Remember when I realized that I had the same thirty people leave a building and then magically leave it again 20 pages later? That I was a third of the way into MBW without having introduced a vital subplot? When I was sweating my query/synopsis for Child of Fire?

Kid’s play.

The weird thing about trailers is that it’s so damn easy for a film (Okay, not easy but whatever) because the footage has already been shot. You look at what you have, what works, what tells the truth about the story but isn’t one-two-three in the film.

For a book, though, you have to decide what you’re going to film. Books aren’t designed to hand over the premise in a line of dialog. They’re more digressive and indirect (if they’re any good, IMO). Characters may kiss or punch or embrace or shoot, but that visual is not how the story is being told.

So I’m writing this trailer, knowing that some of these shots will be half a second long, and that it’s heavy on fx (too heavy. I know it’s too heavy. I did that deliberately–and at the request of the filmmakers–so the trailer can be dialed back to what’s possible rather than dialed up to what’s awesome).

And some of what I’m writing doesn’t match what’s in the books. The ghost knife is a piece of paper that can slice a steel girder in two. It’s also laminated. Is that going to come across in a book trailer? Is it going to be obvious what the Ray is using to, say, cut a padlock?

I suspect not. What’s in the trailer won’t match what’s in the books, exactly. I’ve been mulling over what needs to change and what absolutely can’t change, what portrays the essence of the story and what gives the wrong idea.

What’s more, the traditional script format that I’m used to doesn’t really work for this. I experimented with a bunch of ideas and kept it clear and under two pages. But Jesus, what a pain.

I finished it last night and sent it off. I expect to revise it thoroughly but it’s good to have a starting point, at least.

Immediately after, I sat down and wrote a selling synopsis for The Buried King. It’s good, too, if unpolished. Then this morning I fell right back into the text and made goal even with a shortened work time. The story is moving now and has momentum. I don’t know if others feel this way, but for me a book has momentum when the characters are pursuing their goals and Things Need To Happen. The text I write sometimes feels like a snowmobiler trying to outrun an avalanche.

And I’m there with this book, and it’s exciting. (Which of course means it’s time for my copy edit to show up.)

More great news!

Things have been crazy busy today (what with day-jobbing and solid progress on The Buried King) but I have to share this: Child of Fire is going to get a second printing!

B&N ordered several thousand more copies so they can shelve it with Game of Cages in a freestanding pyramid fixture. Both books will be available for new readers! It sold well enough for B&N to order more! Freestanding display for both books!

Damn, it’s been a good couple of days.

Five things for a Friday

1- You know what’s annoying? Being unable to find a link to an article that you wrote about in your own blog. [added later: found it!]

2- I have a brilliant idea for a multi-million dollar invention: the ultimate alarm clock. Here’s how it works. At the time you want to wake up, it uses orgone energy electromagnetic waves to stimulate the dream centers of your brain. You have a dream where you wake up after the time you were supposed to be at work, and the blind dream-panic wakes you up for real, even in the dismal hours of the morning. Multi-million dollar invention, I tell you.

3- In keeping with my usual computer game protocol, I captured Hill 400 in Call of Duty 2 earlier this week. Soon I can try out Prince of Persia. Maybe tonight. Or maybe I’ll watch movies. Or do both. It all sounds good, as long as my entertainments are all several years old and cheaply acquired.

4- Remember my previous post about stress and my recent inability to write? Well, on Wednesday night I heard Bill Clinton talking about the US World Cup victory over Algeria. He did sound seriously ill (I blame the vuvuzelas) but he praised the team’s “mental toughness.” To paraphrase from memory: Every high level competition, from a championship game to a big election eventually comes down to mental toughness.

I like that! I like “mental toughness” better than “discipline” because the latter sounds like a lot of hard work, but the former sounds like something you just have. I went to bed thinking about it, and woke up on Thursday morning trying to imagine myself as a writer who was also a tough guy–stress doesn’t get to me! I can sit down and do the work whenever I have to, just like a professional athlete! Professional!

Then I opened a book and started reading.

5- That book I mentioned in number four above? It’s The Ivory Grin by Ross MacDonald, and although I’m only halfway through it. Still, it’s FANTASTIC! Maybe what The Buried King needs is not some new mental attitude but a new mental model. Thank you, dead author!

6- Bonus sixth thing! I’m deeply annoyed that day job is too busy for me to read this article of social influence and obesity. Reading it at home is going to seriously cut into my time-wasting time.

Things that suck

Originally, I was going to write about this somewhere private where I know I could talk it over with a few people I’ve known a while… sort of run through the issues here, but to hell with that. I’m just going to put this out as part of my public face.

Right now, a lot of rotten crap has been going on. What’s the number one thing that sucks? Me.

My wife and son are still out of town dealing with the death of my mother-in-law. I’m here alone, feeling adrift without my family. I’m also stymied by some other problems that I can’t talk about because they aren’t mine. Add the petty time-wasting of my recent Qwest situation, the uncertainty of my day job, personal crap I don’t need to see on the internet and so on, and you have one writer who hasn’t been able to write.

Writers write, yeah? That’s what everyone says. I’ve been writing, too, but I end up cutting or deleting it by the end of the week. Then there are also days when I don’t write anything.

I know I have plot problems to solve, but my head is crowded with stress, worry, and petty resentments. Somehow I need to clear some space, but all of my usual recharging activities–reading, movies, games–are wildly time-consuming. When to I get the writing done? When do I solve the plot problem that’s staring me in the face?

Those look amazingly like questions, don’t they? They’re not. Not really. They’re just expressions of my personal dismay and confusion. I really do want to be a professional writer. I really do want to write. I really love the book I’m working on; I swear to Pikachu it could be awesome. What I don’t have but really, really need, is the mental toughness to fall into story space even when I’m depressed, distracted or upset.

In a bit, I’m going to close my internet for a few hours, and I’m going to be less active online for a while. I need to find that hook inside my mind where I can hang a story.

This doesn’t work

This is one of those complaining posts, because sometimes shit just doesn’t work out. There will be one positive note included at the end, just so you don’t think everything in my life is petty annoyance. People who hate to read griping should skip to the end.

First: My modem at home has died. I emailed a link to myself from work at 5pm. When I got home at six, the email was there, but I couldn’t connect with the web. After more than an hour with tech support, they decided that I just need to buy a new modem.

I’m counting that time as my “cleaning” time for yesterday. Grrr. Today I need to take a bus clear across town to buy a replacement. Maybe that will be my… I don’t know. Maybe I can’t follow my guidelines today.

Second, after a night of leg cramps and nightmares, I completely overslept. I hate oversleeping, especially on day-job days, because that’s my writing time. So not only was I nearly an hour late for work, but I have written nothing today.

Third, (just to bury the lede) I may be losing my day job. It’s not an ideal job, but I need to be part time on these particular days, or I can’t work here. The company is “reorganizing” (iow, trying to drive out a union for a different dept) by combining all its call centers into one. I will go from being employed by a non-profit to a state employee, which means I’ll be doing the same job, but starting over as a new employee.

That means: new benefits, six-month probation, loss of accrued sick time, an end to my retirement plan, new bosses, new office, new co-workers, etc. Will I still be part-time? Will I keep my same shift? That “hasn’t been decided yet.” They still have to “examine the work flow.”

Did I leave my wife alone in upstate NY to deal with all this family crap because I didn’t want to lose a job I was going to lose in two months anyway? Shit.

Anyway, here’s the upbeat news. I’ve received permission to post Chapters 2 and 3 of GAME OF CAGES online. Chapter 1 is already here, of course, but the next two won’t go onto the internet until closer to completion date (especially considering the work I have to do to get them ready).

How not to be lonely.

No, this isn’t actually a plan for avoiding loneliness.

As I mentioned before, my wife and son are in upstate NY for the rest of the month, dealing with the death of my m-i-l. That means I’m home alone for that time.

Normally, I’m a complete ass when it comes to productively using private time, especially when I have a lot of it. For these two-plus weeks, I have to be better. Therefore! I have made these resolutions:

1. No fancy cooking. I can’t be spending hours and hours prepping foods that I eat in 15 minutes. Sandwiches, salads, pastas, etc. Simple stuff.

2. Exercise every day. I have time for it, therefore I have no excuses.

3. Clean kitchen at the end of every day. No going to bed with dirty plates in the sink or crumbs on the table.

4. Spend half an hour each day cleaning the apartment. The kitchen doesn’t count toward this goal. Vacuuming doesn’t take long. Neither does a quick sweep/wipe down of the bathroom. Making bed: 15 seconds, tops. If I set aside this time and try to rush through it, it should be a huge burden or time sink.

5. All writing goals will be increased by 500 words a day. That doubles the quota for day-job days, and increases the day-off day quotas to 2K. I’d like to try for 3K, but that’s a lot of story for me. This isn’t listed fifth because it’s the fifth most important, but because it’ll be an easy goal to meet.

6. Only drink beer on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Moderation is the key.

7. Watch grown-up movies. Because of the boy’s screwed-up sleep schedule, the only time I have to watch movies for adults is the morning, and morning is writing time. As a result, I pretty much haven’t seen any R-rated movies for a couple of years. At this point, I don’t even care if they’re all that good, I just want to watch some. I may even go to (gasp!) a theater.

Of course, none of this works without:

8. Sensible amounts of internet time! Like many people, my time online expands to fill the amount of time I have. I can’t keep doing that. Therefore, I resolve to follow fewer links, join fewer discussions and let my email program chime to let me know new messages have come in, rather than check over and over.

Hmm. Maybe I should add: Write shorter blog posts.

edited to add: Oops! I forgot one: 9. Eat fruit and vegetables every day.

Day jobbing today

During yesterday’s lunch break I had to hustle all over downtown picking up things I needed (toner cartridge! new bed sheets! large envelopes! tickets to see my friend’s movie at SIFF!) and returned to the office a bit… misty.

All right, I was totally sweaty. Hey, I’m fat. It happens. (It used to happen before I was fat, too, but never mind).

So, self-conscious! Meeting with my boss in which I had to explain an error I made, while completely sweaty! A full afternoon spent fretting over body odor. Great day.

Last night, plans to shower were thwarted by a severe shortage of hot water. We didn’t even have luke warm water, dammit. I took an Irishman’s shower (I’m Irish–I’m allowed to make that joke) and went to bed early.

Which meant I woke up early. Hey, I had time for that shower now!

But hold on a minute. I was up early enough the catch the very first bus of the day. Taking the 5:20 instead of the 6:10 means I get an extra (mumble mumble carry the two) fifty minutes extra minutes of writing time. Do I take advantage of that extra writing time, or should do I make a concession to my co-workers’ delicate sensibility? Book or B.O.?

You know I chose book. No one has complained yet, but what the hell, some of these folks are heavy smokers, with all the stinkiness that implies. Plus, the person who sits closest to me claims they can’t smell me. I’m not worried about it.

I met and exceeded my daily word count goal, though.

The dreaded “nice guy.”

Today’s writing session was cut short by a “nice guy.”

As I’ve mentioned several times, I usually do my writing out of the apartment–fewer distractions and it helps to get my work finished if I have a set time I have to stop. There’s a Starbucks close to my house that I used to visit all the time, but it became a pain in the ass. A lot of folks with serious issues began hanging out there. Sometimes they would carry on loud conversations in that small room. Sometimes they would do wound care right there next to me. It was distracting and gross.

Today I thought I’d give it a try again. Unfortunately, someone sitting nearby decided that he and I should have a pleasant chat. He kept trying to start a conversation with me, even after I told him several times that I was sorry, but I’d come to work and didn’t want to talk. It would go like this:

“Nice computer you have there. Apple right? Is it an eye-something? A MacBook?”
“Yes. I’m sorry, but I can’t talk. I really need to work.”
“Work? You’re working, huh? I got my Master’s degree at the University of Minnesota. Where did you get your Masters in Computer Science?”
“I never said I had a Masters in Computer Science.”
“Oh, so insurance or bank, huh? Which bank do you work for? Wells Fargo? B of A?”
I don’t answer. Three minutes of silence.
“You get movies on that thing? What’s your favorite movie?”

For an entire hour. He managed to keep a wide-eyed and polite tone through the whole thing, almost to the end, as though he was being perfectly friendly and polite. But there was something off about the guy. I still managed to meet my small word count goal, but not my usual Sunday goal. I’m not going back there again.

Also, yesterday I received a really crazy PM on LiveJournal from a complete stranger. He was trying to enlist me in this project to do something nice for a Third Party (who shall remain nameless). If this had been a quick “So and so needs X. Would you like to help?” I would have been tempted. Instead it was 800 words of how Third Party irrationality and inability to make sensible decisions, and how Third Party wasn’t letting the stranger offer the necessary help, so stranger wanted to do it through me as a proxy.

Ugh. It was creepy as hell, and a perfect example of the “nice guy” who thinks they’re entitled to steal someone else’s agency because they know better and they’re being caring and polite about it. It didn’t have the undertones of a criminal looking for a mark, but it made my skin crawl anyway.

This morning, in the Starbucks, the creep eventually became irritated with me. “I’m trying to be nice, here!”

“No you’re not!” I answered. He looked surprised. “I’ve been asking you not to interrupt me while I work, and you’ve been interrupting me anyway. That’s the opposite of nice.”

(added: Sadly, I’m pretty sure this isn’t parody.)

I haven’t been online much for the past few days

Busy with crap I can’t/won’t talk about. I’m about 3,000 words into The Buried King and I feel like I’m spinning my wheels–and I’ll be damned if just typing that didn’t give me the idea I needed to revamp the opening of the book.

That means I’ll be restarting this thing for the fourth time, but what the hell. Whatever it takes, right?

It doesn’t help that my brain has been consumed by all sorts of personal shit. How do we change our lives for the better? What’s the next step? Do we move? To another city? Dump a bunch of our crap? Buy a car so we have more mobility?

I don’t know. There’s a lot of uncertainty in front of us. Hell, we’re taking a trip in September, but we can’t even decide where to go. What makes things worse is that I can’t even work out the plot of my WIP on long walks; my thought are consumed with problems big and small, especially the petty annoyances.

More later.

Today

It’s gorgeous outside. Sunny, warm and inviting in the way that only Seattle can be. So of course I’m stuck inside trying to finish today’s pages.

With luck, I’ll finish a little early and have time for a walk and some reading. Then it’s a trip to the library and lunch in Fremont with an old friend I don’t see often enough. Later this afternoon I’m sure I’ll be playing a little Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich.

But only if I finish these pages. Logging off.

ETA: Done!

14 May 2010, 7:57am
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The Buried King

Finally started chapter one of the new WIP today. Here’s the rough draft first paragraph:

As the sun rose over the ocean, the chirps keened in their aerie. Joad lay on his cotton mat, staring at the timbers overhead. He could never sleep through that sound, faint as it was. To him, it always seemed that the lords of the city were mourning the start of every new day.

I made my goal, too. I’ll probably end up deleting it all, but it’s an auspicious start.

Nicholas Christakis: The Hidden Influence of Social Networks

This is fascinating:

It’s 18 minutes long, but like a lot of TED Talks, it’s interesting as all hell. The speaker turned his experience working in hospice care to study how common human conditions spread through social networks. Not only does he talk about emotions like happiness and anger (and how those feelings seem to have a life beyond the individual expression of them) but obesity as well.

One thing I wish he’d addressed (and I’m almost tempted to write him a letter to ask him about it) was whether there was a biological component to the spread of traits through social networks. Some recent studies showed that obesity has bacterial/viral components to it, and his work suggests that there’s a way to study the way it spreads from person to person.

And what if there are certain bacterial “cocktails” that promote happiness or dissatisfaction? Those might spread by human contact, too, couldn’t they?

In any event, I’m going to use his description of human social networks in The Buried King. It’s perfect for a scene where non-humans discuss the irritating incomprehensibility of human beings.

Internet! How did I ever get by without you!

11 May 2010, 6:28am
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Long walks = writing

After several rather cluttered days, I’m taking this morning for The Buried King. First, a long walk to work out some plotty knotty goodness. Then, coffee and my laptop. We’ll see if I’m finally ready to tackle chapter one.

Five Things for a Friday

1. After weeks of trying to figure out how to fit exercise into my schedule (“What do I give up?” and “When would I have the energy?” being the most important considerations) I suddenly realized that I could squeeze a long walk into my schedule after I finish my shift at my day job, but before I come home. This week I’ve been walking the bus route toward home for 30-40 minutes, and it’s working well. Soon I’ll bump that up to an hour. It means giving up some reading time at the bus stop, but it’s worth it.

2. My feet and leg pain is back. See number one above. I haven’t told my wife about it because it freaks her out, but it’ll soon be obvious because…

3. Our Mothers Day jaunt will be a trip to the park. Lots of walking. Lots of greenery. She loves long walks outside and considers them an essential part of her spiritual self-care. Unfortunately, our son only ventures outdoors after an hour of whining and misery. But we’re doing it, for her. I expect to be in a lot of pain, and to be stuck in the middle.

4. Also this weekend, a very good, very old friend will be in a nearby town. Will he be able to visit? Will I be able to go visit him? No clue.

5. I’m pretty much committed to making a book trailer for book three. Nothing much is going to happen to it at least until the fall, after Game of Cages (aka book 2) comes out. No rush. I will, however, be watching a ton of trailers in the meantime to see what I like and don’t like.

Surprising 6th item: The pre-writing for The Buried King is at the absolute worst part–I have all the characters set and what they want. I know how they’re going to try to get what they want. What I don’t have is a clear idea of how all the conflicts are going to play out.

Truthfully, I don’t need to know this exactly, but I have to have enough information to be sure that the protagonist is going to have conflict with each of the antagonists, and I need to know that each conflict is going to be different. I’m not there yet, which means I’m ready to start writing chapter one but I’m also not ready. Frustrating.

There was supposed to be a surprising seventh thing, too, but I can’t remember what.

 
  • The prequel to Child of Fire: see here for more details

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Named to Publishers Weekly's "Best 100 Books of 2009" list. Get the audiobook here.

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