Friday, April 30, 2010

Free Comic Book Day!

I just want to remind everyone that the first Saturday in May (which this year is the 1st and, incidentally, tomorrow) is Free Comic Book Day. I learned a lot about pacing, tension, story and character (among other things, like where to order X-Ray glasses) by reading comics, and the writing & art in many of them is better than ever.

So, hie yourself down to your local purveyor of comic books tomorrow to get your free stash. And, while you're there, buy a few more -- a good story is always worth it. :)

Friday Cat Blogging

Again with the camera? I guess I am that beautiful.


Practicing form for Olympic catnip diving.


Two cats enter, two cats nap.


I'z so big I need two picturez to show my glory!


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

When You Love Enough to Hate the Very Best

I love to criticize my genre in all of its various and myriad forms. There's nothing I enjoy more than ripping apart a beloved comic book plot line, a series story arc, or yelling at the top of my lungs about some bone-headed character arc in a long-running novel series. This is why I attend cons, really. There's nothing more awesome to me than finding a group of people who have all seen or read something I've been dying to complain about, and hole up in a corner of the lounge and shout about it all night long.

This, however, should not be mistaken for anything other than what it is: love.

I know it doesn't look much like love from all the foaming and frothing, but it is. If I don't love something, it simply doesn't engage me. I could care less. But, the more I love something, the more wounded I feel when the story or characters betray my vision of it. The more important you are to me, the more I despise you. (You know who you are *cough* Star Wars, BSG *cough*)

I've been thinking about this because I've been ranting about my current favorite comic book title over on my LiveJournal, CAPTAIN AMERICA. No one has, but sometimes I get that classic, "Well, if you feel this way, why do you keep reading?"

Sometimes, as some of you know, I *do* stop. I quit BSG when they got to the first Earth because the spoilers I'd heard about would have made my head explode (please remember that in my other life I write about angels). When I consciously stop watching a show because I suspect the ending is going to disappoint, I call that Schroeder's Plot line. As long as I don't "open the box" the possibility exists that the plot doesn't suck -- of course, it could also be dead. But I'll never know unless I open the box.

But most of the time I keep going with a show or a comic book or a novel series because I wouldn't have gotten as far as I had if the author/writer(s) hadn't already won my trust. Once you've sold me, I'm actually pretty hard to lose. Oh, I'll complain, alright, but I'm extremely loyal.

I think this is also why I don't mind criticism of my own universe. If I've gotten under someone's skin enough to piss them off, I figure I've done my job as a writer. Because all of us have our "Quantum Bullet of Scott Evil" moments as writers. It doesn't mean I still don't love you, Ed Brubaker.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Money and Writing, a Thought

Money and writing is such a strange thing now that I make my living doing this crazy job. It seems that the stuff you plan for and budget around never shows up (certainly not until you've already spent it), but, every once and a while, an unexpected check comes in the mail.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Smart Things

Jay Lake saying smart things about motivation.

Margo Lanagan at Justine Larbalestier's blog saying smart thing about allowing yourself time to not write. I'm just coming out a long (for me) window of that and have three books on deck that need to be written in the next 18 months. I think it will be easier for having had the down time.

Jim Hines saying smart things about the literary costs of the American health care system. i.e. there are an awful lot of good books not getting written because most writers need to have a second job if they want to have health care.

Michael Damian Thomas saying smart things about new writers and convention going. Parts one and two.

Friday Cat Blogging



Yeah, I'm a cat. Deal.


I snub you foods that requires thumbs. I snub you.


I'm too sexy for…well, anything.
I'm just tooooo sexy, period.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wyrdsmiths Meeting Recap, 4.22.10

1. "What's your gender?" "Science fiction."

2. "L——, book me a jet!"

3. "Siege onions?!"

4. "My hunch would be mandibles."

Breaking Out

Lyda and I were talking about what makes a break-out writer.

I have some sense of what makes a mid-list writer: competent writing skills, reasonable production, the ability to listen to advice from agents and editors -- who may not always be right, but do have some idea of what's commercial. It's how they make their living, after all.

But I have not a clue what enables a writer to break out. Luck is part of the answer, I think. Another part is help from a publisher. Books tend to do better if they are promoted.

The agent Donald Maass gives classes on how to write break-out, bestselling novels. So he may know. There are apparently people who study the market and do write sucessful books. But more people try to do this than actually succeed.

I have been reading Diana Wynne Jones YA and midschool novels. She is a fine writer with a wonderful imagination and sense of humor. Her books are special. I wish I could be as successful (and funny and charming) as she is.

But I am pretty sure she was helped by the Harry Potter craze, though she was selling before that. I noticed it was easier to find her books in bookstores after Harry Potter, when midschool shelves filled with fantasy. And the one book of hers I can always find is Howl's Moving Castle, which was made into a movie by Miyazaki.

So, a lot of talent, a unique voice, steady production, and two pieces of luck.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wednesday Cat Blog (the Big Cat Edition)

Lounging tiger lounges!

Pacing leopard paces! or, "Tasty morsels just beyond glass! Grr!"

Yes, I really am this beautiful.


Brought to you courtesy of a field trip to the Minnesota Zoo.

Monday, April 19, 2010

George Scithers RIP

George Scithers has left the building and it makes me very sad. He was one of the editors who bought my first story along with Darrell Schweitzer at Weird Tales. He's also the editor who is a part of one my all time favorite writing anecdotes which I call: Same story same editor different day.

You see, I was an idiot once (well more than once, but I'm just talking about in relation to George here). At World Fantasy a number of years ago George asked me why he hadn't seen anything of mine recently so I hallway pitched him a story called FimbulDinner and he asked to see it.

The problem was that he had already rejected this particular story a couple of years previously, but I'd forgotten that, and apparently so had he.

Anyway, I sent it, then realized he'd rejected it, and sent a note apologizing for the mistake. My note crossed the acceptance in the mail, and the story was published by Weird Tales.

There are two lessons in that anecdote. First, don't do this if you can possibly avoid it. Second, all that any rejection means is that that editor didn't buy it on that day.

George was a splendid old fellow and I'm going to very much miss knowing he was somewhere in the world.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Radar Image of Volcano

The face of Surtur? Or three caldera?

Things Smart and Interesting (Updated)

Lilith Saintcrow saying smart things about dealing with rejection.

Don't be the guy in this post by Teresa Nielsen Hayden, and do click through to see Colleen Lindsay's original post.

Michael Stackpole saying smart things about making your fiction more visible online.

Via Jay Lake, Carrie Vaughn being smart on initiative. The post was inspired by another post that Carrie linked to. It's by Kurt Busiek and it's a really interesting article on the same subject plus rule breaking as a natural mode for breaking into comics because, fundamentally there are no rules. Much of what he has to say is also applicable to books, though not all, and it's always important to remember that certain sorts of rule breaking are counter-productive.

What Lynne Thomas said in re: the idiot at the new Dr. Who special screening.

Interesting guest poster Milena Popova over at Charlie Stross's blog. Talking about why content is a public good. I find her economic arguments about the nature of content to be fairly convincing on some levels. I'm much less in alignment with her conclusions. In part because she cites Cory Doctorow as evidence and well, I don't think that Cory's generalizable, no matter how much he protests otherwise. I think that some of what he does can be made to work for other writers, but an awful lot of it works because he's Cory Doctorow and he has self-publicity skills and platform building skills that the vast majority of authors simply don't. Updated to add:And C.E. Petit also has problems. Very interesting rebuttal.

Friday Cat Blogging

Call me the napper…zzzzz


Dark cat sits on the edge of darkness, darkly.


Intrepid explorer cat explores intrepidly!


Why yes, I am devilishly charming, why do you ask?


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Nice News

The short novel I have coming out in late May got a small but positive review in Publishers Weekly.

This is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick or a flash flood of melted glacial water...

I suppose this means I buy coffee at the next Wyrdsmiths meeting...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What Is Science Fiction Good For?

"Viewed in this light, the science fiction genre appears as neither anomalous nor marginal, but rather as prototypical of imaginative literature, generally. From this perspective, all imaginative literature, including even novels of contemporary realism . . . , can be seen to function, like science fiction, as a kind of thought-experiment in the sense of projecting a world rather than merely modeling a received one. To parody the Russian Formalist critic Viktor Shklovsky, science fiction appears from this perspective to be, not an outlier in the system of genres, but rather the most typical genre of world literature."
—Brian McHale, "What Is Science Fiction Good For?"

From an excellent essay by Brian McHale at the New York Foundation for the Arts website. Alfred Bester, Howard Chaykin, Darko Suvin, Samuel R. Delany, jaunting, the novum, and more.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Smart Things

Mike Shatzkin on the coming disruption in publishing due to the changing dynamics of the market and ebooks.

Charlie Stross's misconceptions of publishing series continues with covers, and clean up.

Dean Wesley Smith on the pluses and minuses of the traditional agent/author relationship. I don't entirely agree with Dean about agents because I think that what is true for Dean is not the same as what is true for me which is not the same as what is true for someone who's just trying to break in now, but his killing the sacred cows of publishing series is a must read.

Laura Resnic's collected series on book covers. This is something I read originally as she was putting them out. Very worthwhile reading.

Kristin Nelson with a rant on some idiot unethical agent who's managed to screw up electronic contract flow for everybody who deal with Penguin.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Friday Cat Blogging

Why am I always in the giant cat bed?
That's a pretty personal question, don't you think?


Oh look, a camera. Joy.


Hold still, I eat your face.


Can you help me untie my legs?


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Mark Your Calendar (aka Shameless Self-Promotion)

Come say good-bye (and merry meet again) to Garnet Lacey!

On Saturday, May 8, 2010, in my persona as Tate Hallaway, I will be signing HONEYMOON OF THE DEAD, the last in the Garnet Lacey series, at Uncle Hugo's in Minneapolis starting at 1:00 pm. The Uncles are located at 2864 Chicago Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55407. You can call for directions or more information (612) 824-6347. If you are not able to attend, but would still like a signed copy of the book, you can find information on how to mail order on the bookstore's website:

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Facing the Blank Page

When I began writing, I felt I could not write unless there was inspiration, a sudden descent of the muse or whatever. In more recent years, I feel I can push along without the muse. However, it's hard to start without something: an idea that interests me, a compelling image.

Ring of Swords began with an idea or maybe a question. Could I write a military space opera, considering that I have no use for the genre?

A YA I am working on now began with two images: a baby, wrapped in a blanket, left on the lip of a fountain; and a boy climbing out of second story window on a rope or knotted sheets, while a girl stands in the street below and watches him.

Sometimes a story begins with nothing except a sentence that is somehow evocative. If I'm lucky, other sentences arrive.

When I first began writing, I would feel my way to the end of the story, having little idea of what lay ahead. The advantage of this was: writing was interesting to me, because I didn't know what would come next. The disadvantage was: I got stuck a lot. Sometimes I got stuck for long periods of time. A Woman of the Iron People took thirteen years to write, because I stopped for years in the middle.

Nowadays, I am more likely to have at least a partial plot. It may make the writing process less surprising and interesting, but it's easier to move ahead if you know where you are going.

I usually have several stories going at once. If I am not able to continue one, I move to another. Right now, I have a novel that's in the revision stage, plus the openings for two YAs, plus five works of short fiction in various stages of completion.

I don't recommend this. I suspect it's better to have fewer projects and work on them consistently. But I rarely have to face a completely blank page, because there is always something that is begun or partially done.

Philip K. Dick Winner

From the PKD committee:


2010 Philip K. Dick Award Winner Announced

It was announced on Friday, April 2, at Norwescon 33, in SeaTac, Washington, that the winner for the distinguished original science fiction paperback published for the first time during 2009 in the U.S.A. is:

BITTER ANGELS by C. L. Anderson (Ballantine Books Spectra)

Special citation was given to:

CYBERABAD DAYS by Ian McDonald (Pyr)

Monday, April 05, 2010

Catch of the Day

"When I talk to people with MFAs who are now working as editors for literary publishers, they say, 'What we learned in college is a kind of writing that our current bosses do not want to let in the door.' They want nothing to do with 'good writing.' These are places like Random House; Harcourt Brace; Knopf; and Farrar, Straus & Giroux, who are the epitomes of literary publishing in this country, yet they're willing to say, 'I'm sorry. That's not what we're interested in anymore. We have a couple of slots a year for novels like that.'

"This is not a healthy situation for writing in general. It's not healthy for science fiction, not healthy for anyone. I think we have five publishers left in New York, and 25 years ago there were 79! So when we're talking about 'commercial' versus 'art' publishing, we're using a leftover vocabulary. We're still looking at the world through 1955-colored glasses."

—Samuel R. Delany, Locus, March 2010

Sunday, April 04, 2010


I went to Minicon Saturday and Sunday.

The con felt pleasanter and more interesting than in prior years. I liked the programming and the dealers' room, especially Dreamhaven's books and Elise Matthesen's jewelry.

I told Greg Ketter of Dreamhaven I had a couple of small press books coming out; Greg said he would get them for the store; and I tried to set up a meeting with Moshe Feder, who edits for Tor on a contract basis. I wanted to hear what's going on in the New York publishing scene, since I am way out of touch. However, he was tied up for lunch, and I had to get home in the afternoon to finish making corrections on the chapbook manuscript, due at the publisher's today.

The con remains fairly small, around 400 members, which makes it larger than Diversicon, smaller than Marscon and Wiscon, and much smaller than Convergence.

My sense is, the long transition from a large regional con to a small local con has been mostly -- maybe entirely -- completed.

2010 Hugo Nominees Announced

The nominees for the 2010 Hugo Awards were announced today.

Boingboing: 2010 Hugo Nominees announced

Friday, April 02, 2010

Friday Cat Blogging

Spring cat is very happy with the weather.


Does this canyon make me look too skinny?


To scratch or not to scratch? That is the question.


Now that you've found me, I'm going to have to kill you.
You know that, right?


I think I broke my yin-yang.