October 24, 2014
MileHi Con, Colorado’s longest-running SF convention, is in Denver this weekend! I will be there, doing programming and stuff! I also have a new costume, which I will be debuting tonight. I’m excited because there was a point this week where it was not coming together at all and I didn’t think I would have it done. But it’s done, and the lesson I learned is it’s really really hard turning 2-D anime outfits into 3-D wearable objects. Massive respect to cosplayers who do anime cosplay on a regular basis.
Will I see you at the con?
Next item: Let me tell you about the time Kevin Hearne sat me down and asked if I had accepted the Holy Taco into my heart as my personal savory. What choice did I have at that point but to join the Holy Taco Church, a group of authors who like food. Hey, I like food! My first post is up here.
In other news, my health insurance sent me email about what I should do if I think I have ebola. Better safe than sorry I suppose.
October 22, 2014
We truly live in an age of riches, don’t we? At least on TV. I can’t keep up with it all, but here’s what I’m trying to keep up with.
Castle: Well, that’s a strange little storyline they’ve picked up with the season cliffhanger. I’m glad they’re pretty much ignoring it for now and going back to fun one-off episodes. This may not be my favorite show anymore, but I’m still enjoying it and the characters, and it hasn’t actively pissed me off yet, and I’m starting to wonder when that’s going to happen.
Arrow: Still love it, but they’re not giving us a break, are they?
The Flash: It’s just so goofy and earnest I kind of love it. One thing I’m really liking: setting Barry up as this very young, naive hero with two mentor/father figures who know who and what he is, who are protective of him (for different reasons) and at odds with each other. I’m liking that dynamic. They’ve also nailed the look and attitude. Sometimes, voice overs work.
Sleepy Hollow: I’m just along for the giant WTF ride.
Agents of SHIELD: Yeah, the standard for superhero TV seems to be “Just throw everything at the viewer all the time yay!” and that’s okay with me. I’m loving Kyle MacLachlan’s character, and loving that he’s on the show at all. Adrienne Palicki has given us a hint of what that Wonder Woman TV show that failed to launch a few years ago might have been like if the people making it had known what they were doing. I’m really liking her (and not just because she was also Lady Jaye in the last GI Joe movie). In an alternate world, the makers of Arrow worked on Wonder Woman instead. And now I’m sad about the whole thing all over again.
Face Off: Still watching, it’s always pleasant watching good art, but this season has been low key and kind of predictable. I will love it if the former cake decorator wins.
What I’m not watching, not caught up on:
Doctor Who: I keep telling myself I want to watch this, then keep not watching it. I know I saw the first episode with the new Doctor. I can’t actually remember anything about it. Oh — dinosaurs, right? I think what I remember about it is that I really want a show starring Madame Vastra and Jenny.
Justified: Fifth season is spun up and ready to go. No spoilers!
Penny Dreadful: This is out on DVD now, and it’s the one I really want to see. Victorian Gothic, with literary references? This should be called “Carrie, Here Is Your Show!”
October 20, 2014
This is the front stone of the neolithic passage tomb at Newgrange:
I saw it, and felt like I was looking at one of the greatest pieces of artwork in the world. Perfect abstraction 5000 years before actual abstract art became a thing. (I usually try to take pictures of things without people in them, but I’m glad now that people ended up in this one so you can see the scale of it.)
The tours I took in Ireland were good because they put a lot of history in context for me — especially prehistory, because I kind of had no idea. Newgrange is old. Older than Stonehenge. I kept thinking about the level of organization and sophistication required for a society to be able to put these things together, and it blew my mind, because I realized that there are thousands of tombs, forts, stone circles, and monuments scattered over Britain and Ireland, and that this extensive culture existed to support all that — some 3000 years before the Celts came along. Everyone thinks of the the Celts when they think of Ireland. But there was so much more going on before then.
Yeah, I kind of got obsessed. And yeah, I wrote a story already. We’ll see what more comes out of this obsession.
Hey! So it turns out the first of the string of Wild Cards stories I have coming out went live this week! “Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza” is up at Tor.com. Check it out! I’ve been wanting to do this topic for a while now: deal with the Wild Card virus being passed along through the DNA of victims — people who’ve inherited the virus rather than been newly infected, and what it looks like to have a family with a Wild Cards heritage. (Very rare, granted, given the fatality rate. But still, it happens.)
In other news: I made part of my niece’s Halloween costume this year:
I’m thinking back to when my Mom made me a Wonder Woman costume when I was about 5, and it was all felt because that’s what was available. Now, we’ve got gold lamé, sparkly stickers, all kinds of fancy fancy things to make costumes with. I’m wondering how much of the cosplay revolution is due to the availability of great materials — or if cosplay is driving the availability of great materials? I don’t know.
Speaking of cosplay, I’m making a Thing that I hope to have finished by Mile Hi Con next week. I decided to try to adapt an existing pattern, and it’s kind of kicking my ass — it’s just ever so slightly beyond my skill set. Which I guess is good, because I’m learning something. We’ll see if I can figure it out this weekend. If I can just get the collar to work, the rest will be cake. *rolls up sleeves*
October 15, 2014
This gig is always changing, and sometimes I can’t decide if that’s good or bad. Good, I think — if it’s changing then I’m changing which means that maybe I’m evolving to keep up, which would be nice. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how the way I send out short stories and pursue publication for them has changed.
In almost ten years of being published novelist, I’ve figured out that while I’m writing novels I can also write about 5-6 short pieces a year. That includes anything under about 12,000 words. Before about 2007, I wrote short stories and sent them to magazines (online and print) on a regular basis. Quite a few sold. Quite a few didn’t. When the novel-writing really picked up, I wrote fewer shorts, sent out fewer, and eventually only sent stories out sporadically because something strange was happening: I started getting invited to submit stories. This was a weird and wonderful thing — it meant I could write a story and pretty much be guaranteed that it would have a home (maybe with rewrites, but still). Some of the uncertainty went away. Huzzah!
For a few years there, I said yes to just about every anthology invitation that came along. This is pretty normal — as a newish writer, it’s really awesome getting asked to write for anthologies. Plus, there’s a common neophyte worry that if you say no, you’ll never get asked again.
After I hit the NYT bestseller list for the first time in 2008, the anthology invites increased — it turns out editors look for authors with “NYT bestseller” in front of their names when they pitch anthologies because it’s a selling point. Turns out, the sale of an anthology to a publisher can depend on having a couple of NYT bestsellers in the table of contents. I felt a huge amount of pressure when I first found this out, like I would be letting people down if I didn’t say yes to anthology invitations.
But remember that 5-6 stories a year? That includes all the stories I promise to anthologies. This is one of the reasons that around 2007-2008 I stopped sending things out to magazines almost entirely. Magazine editors were asking me for stories (and wow, was that a shocking switch after some 10+ years of collecting rejection slips), and I simply didn’t have anything to send them because all my new work was going to anthologies.
I found this to be a frustrating situation. The anthology invites are most often for theme anthologies with specific guidelines — like, say, werewolf Christmas stories — that I would never have written about if I hadn’t been invited. Meanwhile, I was collecting a whole stack of story ideas I just didn’t have time to write.
Short stories can be a playground. It’s where I can experiment and try new things and explore ideas I can’t do anywhere else. Novels are a big investment of time and energy, but short stories? Not so much. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to have more time to work on my story ideas instead of writing to assignment, so I started saying no to most anthology invitations. Remember, I only have a few short story slots per year, and I wanted to keep some of them for me, because that makes me happy.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that over the last 3-4 years I feel like I’ve written some of the best short stories of my life. Since 2010, I’ve landed stories in “Best of” reprint anthologies for the first time and got a Hugo nomination. Harry and Marlowe came to life and are going like gangbusters. I think this strategy of making sure I reserve a few of my short story slots “for me” is paying off, and it feels really validating. (I’ve also collected more rejection slips in the last couple of years than I did in the couple of years preceding, but really, that’s okay.) At the same time, I’m pretty sure that those years of writing “on assignment” probably helped make me a better writer as well, because they taught me how to better craft and structure a specific idea into a story that will stand out.
So, what does it take for me to say yes to an anthology invitation these days? 1) The theme is something I already have an idea for and I’m looking for motivation to write said story, 2) I want to work with the editor, or 3) Some other undefined really good reason.
I’m at a place now that would have astonished me 10-15 years ago: I can be picky. I have options. And I wonder what changes are going to happen over the next 10-15 years?
October 13, 2014
Books in the Basin was a hit, I believe. Next up, in two weeks: MileHi Con, which sometimes feels like it doesn’t really count as travel because it’s the local “hometown” convention. But it’ll be the last big gig of the year — promotion for Low Midnight starts in January. Until then, I’ll be able to kick back for a little while.
Hey, have I mentioned recently that Low Midnight is out on December 30? Just in time to use the gift cards you get for Christmas!
A couple of other things are due out before the end of the year: I’ll have a Wild Cards story up on Tor.com in a week, and the next book, Lowball, will be out in November. Oh, and the re-release of Wild Cards 4: Aces Abroad will be out in January, it looks like — I have a story out in that one, too. An embarrassment of riches!
A couple of other short stories should be making their way to the world soon. More news when I have it.
I may also have a couple of surprises. We’ll see if I can make it happen. (This has been a busy year, but I’ve spent much of it in a holding pattern, waiting for news, waiting for delayed releases to happen. But progress is happening. Excelsior!)
In the meantime, I’m working on a third Golden Age book. It passed 50,000 words last week. Now is the part of the writing when I’m trying to tie all the threads back together. Fingers crossed that I can make it happen.
October 10, 2014
This is Terry Gilliam’s latest. Gilliam is his own genre, and a new film from him is always cause for celebration. This is probably not one of his best, but it is fascinating, with some incredible performances from some of my favorite actors. (“Wait, who is that guy?” I asked. “That’s Matt Damon.” “WHAT?! WAAAAAAAH!” He’s so great!) Visually, like all Gilliam films, this thing is splendid. But I could have wished for an ending that more resembled an ending and not the petering out that it was.
What really fascinates me about this movie is that it’s cyberpunk. Maybe one of the better cyberpunk movies there’s ever been. Through the first half, I rather suspected it was cyberpunk — but then there’s that Matrix reference smack in the middle, that totally cracked me up, and yeah, this is cyberpunk, full stop. A great chunk of the movie is about how much of life is mediated by technology, and how abstract and sometimes baffling that technology can seem. There’s a party where everyone is dancing and smiling and having a great time, and holding a glowing tablet. Everything from dates to therapy sessions happen via computer, and main character Qohen’s job as some kind of mathematician/programmer is pretty much incomprehensible, except that it looks very much like a video game. Everything looks like a video game, and everyone’s being watched. Qohen definitely doesn’t feel a part of it all — but he also doesn’t ever really want to leave his claustrophobic world. This is cyberpunk without the adventure/messianic tropes that usually show up in cyberpunk, and I think that’s cool.