Archive for July, 2011

Week nine of #PoetrySummer, with bonus thoughts on ebook publishing

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Sorry for the late post, but I’ve been busy; we’ll talk about what I was busy with a little later, but if you read the title of the post I bet you can guess.

First, though, let’s talk about Poetry Summer! Last week’s poem was “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” by Lewis Carrol, which was awesome and fun and kind of long and made me hungry for oysters. Alas, the next time I will feasibly eat any oysters is…October, maybe? At World Fantasy in San Diego? I’m brave enough to eat sushi in Utah, but oysters are another matter altogether; When I put them in my mouth I want them to still be dripping the seawater from when an old bearded man in a sou’wester pulled them out of the ocean.

My friend Brian, with whom I’ve been doing this, has been aiming at (and missing) “Ulysses,” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, almost every week, and he has sworn in his wrath that this week he will finally do it. Given that Tennyson is awesome, I’ve decided to memorize a Tennyson poem as well, but I haven’t picked one yet. I’m kind of hoping to avoid “Charge of the Light Brigade” just because it’s so obvious, but on the other hand “The Lady of Shallot” is really long (plus, if I memorize that one I’ll have to recite it while floating down a river, and then Gilbert Blythe will see me and I’ll feel SO EMBARRASSED). So anyway, I’ll do something Tennyson this week, and then, because theme weeks are fun, next week will be Shakespearean sonnets, and the week after that will be Harlem Renaissance. If you want to join us in our theme-ishness, plan accordingly.

Now, let’s talk about ebooks. Last week I asked for advice on how to put together an ebook: how to format them, how to post them online, the whole shebang, and I got a lot of good advice, and I’ll be compiling that advice into a post sometime soon. Now, let me tell you why I was asking.

Many years ago I wrote a book, which I thought was pretty good; it was actually the first book I ever submitted to Moshe Feder, the man who would eventually become my editor at Tor, and he rejected it; this was smart of him, because it was not very good. I really liked that book, though, and I’ve revamped it a few times over the years, and last year I got it to the point where I thought it was good enough to finally get published, so I sent it to my agent and she loved it, and we sent it around and found a lot of editors who loved it, but we only managed to actually sell it in one place: Germany, obviously, since that’s my main market. The story in every other market, and every other publisher, was inevitably some variation of this: the book is very weird and quirky, and one editor would fall in love with it’s quirkiness, but could then never convince any of the other editors to take the risk and publish it. This told us that there was obviously some kind of market for the book, just maybe not a very big one and certainly not a mainstream one. This, we decided, sounded exactly like the kind of situation where a self-published ebook would be the perfect way to go.

I’ve been fascinated by the ebook revolution, and I’ve wanted to dip my toe in the water for a while now, and this was the ideal opportunity. There is still a chance that we can sell it to a traditional publisher, especially with the renewed interest brought on by the German sale, and I’ve given my agent a few more weeks to see what she can do. Once we hit WorldCon, however, I will officially launch the book and start selling it online; I’ll be pushing it very heavily at WorldCon and DragonCon, and of course online. If we manage to land a traditional publishing deal for it later on, huzzah; the state of ebooks right now does not preclude the possibility of a print deal after the fact. What I’m interested in seeing, though, is whether or not a self-published ebook, for an author like me who already has a pretty good platform to sell from, can mimic or outright replace the income from a traditional print book. Obviously it can, because it’s happened before; my goal is to see how duplicatable that kind of success really is.

And what book, you ask, will I be selling online? I’ll post more info in the future as we get closer to the launch, but if you’re a Writing Excuses listener and you’ve heard us talk about “the vampire bunny book,” well…it doesn’t actually have vampire bunnies in it. See? Even the nickname is quirky.

My Hugo Votes

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

You have about 10 days left to submit your official Hugo ballot, which I have just done. I didn’t vote in every category, but here are my picks:

Best Novel: FEED, by Mira Grant
I loved FEED, and the author herself articulated exactly why: “I tried to write a horror novel, but it came out as hard SF.” She also tried to write a zombie novel that came out as a political thriller, and it is that combination of cool, traditionally disparate themes, executed so perfectly, that made me love this book. You’ll see that that’s a strong theme in my picks today–I love what I call “audacity,” the writer’s willingness to pull out all the stops and show me something wild and creative that I’ve never seen before. FEED did that for me in a way the other nominees didn’t, which a pretty amazing feat in a collection of science fiction and fantasy books.

Best Novelette: THAT LEVIATHAN WHOM THOU HAST MADE, by Eric James Stone
I’ve raved about this story many times, but let me put in context of my “audacity” theme: it’s the story of a Mormon minister in the center of the sun, helping a congregation of tri-gendered plasma entities deal with a cultural acceptance of rape. This is a writer who doesn’t pull his punches or shy back from big topics. Great stuff, and superbly written.

Best Short Story: FOR WANT OF A NAIL, by Mary Robinette Kowal
An SF story that starts like a techno-thriller on a generation ship and ends up being a story of Alzheimer’s and euthanasia, in many more ways than one. Maybe it’s because I used to live with my grandfather while he had Alzheimer’s, taking care of him and making sure he ate and got dressed and didn’t hurt himself, watching him slowly erode into a hollow shell, but I really responded to this story. An easy pick for best of the year.

Best Related Work: WRITING EXCUSES, SEASON 4, by Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells
I voted for this one because it’s me, obviously, but also because it’s super awesome. To the max.

Best Graphic Story: SCHLOCK MERCENARY: MASSIVELY PARALLEL, by Howard Tayler and Travis Walton
A long-form space opera with great characters, a solid SF story, and a punchline every day? Every SF fan should be reading this.

Best Editor, Long Form: Moshe Feder
Moshe is my editor, and he’s done a great job with the books. My number two pick in this category is Lou Anders, who’s pretty much single-handedly made Pyr into a genre powerhouse. Both excellent editors.

Best Professional Artist: Daniel Dos Santos
This was a very hard choice for me, as I’m also a big fan of Picasio and Martiniere. In the end it came down to Dos Santos as my favorite, with the other two as 2 and 3, respectively.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD
Yes, I know that INCEPTION is going to win, and it’s definitely a great movie with a powerful SF concept. But SCOTT PILGRIM, again, had the audacity and the newness and the balls-to-the-wallness that I love to see in fiction, and in genre fiction especially. INCEPTION is a great thriller, but I’ve seen thrillers before; HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON was as good a version of the hero’s journey as I’ve ever seen before, which is saying a lot, but it was, at the end of the day, something I’ve seen before. SCOTT PILGRIM was nothing I’ve ever seen before–nothing even similar to anything I’ve seen before. Everything about it was fresh and new and exciting and jubilantly creative. Huzzah.

Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Dan Wells
I bet none of you saw this coming. Dan Wells’ books have literally changed my life, and it’s a pleasure to be able to vote for him. My runner-up choices in this category were Larry Correia and Lauren Beukes, both excellent writers and great people. And if they beat me I can make their corpses disappear forever.

Week Eight of #PoetrySummer

Monday, July 18th, 2011

I have conquered Prufrock! It was gargantuan, and it was kind of spread out over two weeks, but I memorized the whole text of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” In your face, modernism!

As always happens, memorizing the poem helped me to understand and appreciate it better. That’s such a wonderful poem. I’ve read it half a billion times, and memorizing it I swear there are parts I’d never even seen before. weird. Also of note, and I bet most of the Poetry Summer participants would agree, memorizing the poems has gotten easier every week. Hooray for exercising your memory!

This week’s poem is similarly long, but much simpler because it’s divided into discrete stanzas, it has a solid rhyme and rhythm, and I’ve already got about half it: “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” by Lewis Carrol. I won’t post the whole text here because it’s huge, but you can read it here.

Warning: Extreme Sports Geekery Ahead

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

It’s virtually impossible to make Americans care about soccer, and even harder to make them care about women’s sports, but seriously: you should all be watching the Women’s World Cup. Many of you watched the World Cup last year, and really got into it, and in many ways the Women’s version is even better: the games are thrilling, there’s no vuvuzelas, and the players look like this:

That’s not just eye candy, that’s Hope Solo, one of the best goalies in the history of the game–of either gender (plus her name makes her sound like a descendant of Han, which is awesome). On the American team, she’s backed up by two of the three top scorers in the Cup, giving us one of the strongest teams in the world and a favorite to win the whole tourney this year. The other top scorer in the Cup is Marta Vieira da Silva, leader of the Brazilian team and also heavily favored to win. On Sunday they played each other in the quarter-finals, and it was one of the best, most exciting, most maddening games I’ve ever seen.

The Men’s World Cup was famous last year for having bad calls, leading to accusations of corruption and, eventually, a public apology, which NEVER happens. The game this week between Brazil and the US was similarly riddled with questionable calls, but they happened to both sides and, in the end, the refs seemed like they were doing a fairly good job. The game started with Brazil accidentally knocking the ball into their own goal just 1 minute and 17 seconds into the match–the second earliest goal in World Cup history. I know I just said that the Brazilian team was awesome, and now I’m saying they started the match by giving away a goal; well, this was that kind of match. The US fought long and hard and crazy, finally scoring their second goal a full two hours later, the latest goal in World Cup history, giving them, in the process, the longest gap between goals in a single match in, as far as I know, the history of soccer. That’s a weird record to hold, but there you go, and it’s not one likely to be beaten anytime soon since most matches don’t even go that long. It was, as I said, that kind of a match.

The US held Brazil to zero for the first half, and then in the second the ref went insane and called a red card on a US player who fouled a Brazilian while blocking a shot mere feet from the US goal. There was no way that kind of foul was red-card worthy, but because it happened inside the goal box a yellow card gets automatically upgraded to a red card, so I suppose it was kind of excusable–if you believe that it was even yellow-card worthy, which some of the commentators didn’t. So it was a suspect call, but not a ridiculous one depending on who you talk to. The next call, on the other hand, was awful. See, when a player gets a red card two things happen: first, that player is ejected from the game, and the team is not allowed to replace them, so the US were now playing with only ten people on the field instead of eleven. Second, because the red card happened in the goal box, the Brazilians got a penalty kick: one kicker versus one goalie, with no outside help, at extreme close range. It’s incredibly hard to block a penalty kick, so this was practically like giving the Brazilians a free goal–except that the US goalie is Hope Solo, who can block anything. She deflected the shot, the crowd cheered like mad, and the ref blew the whistle and said it didn’t count because Solo had moved too early. The commentators, at this point, went back and ran through the footage over and over again, looking for any sign that she had moved early, but she was steady as a rock. The ref was determined to give Brazil a goal. For its second attempt Brazil sent in Marta, the top scorer in the world, and got the point. The game was tied, there was half an hour left to play, and the US was down a player. Things looked horribly unwinnable. But the US team never gave up.

When you’re short a player you have to choose: you’re going to have a weak spot regardless, so do you put it on attack or defense? With the game tied, the US couldn’t afford to slack on offense, so they put all their strength up front and trusted Solo to pick up the slack. She did so more than admirably. The second half finished with a tie, sending the game into two 15-minute blocks of overtime. Marta managed to land the craziest shot I’ve ever seen, kicking it over her head and backward to hook up, pass the defenders, and drop into the top corner of the goal like magic. She really is an amazing player, and if she’d made the shot just one minute earlier it would have won them the game, but overtime had already started, and they had to play the full 30 minutes. 30 minutes later, after almost a full hour of 10-vs-11 desperation, the US landed a crazy goal of their own, with a Hail Mary pass from Megan Rapinoe turning into a gorgeous headshot from Abby Wambach, the US team captain.

Not only did this goal happen after the normal time had ended, it technically happened after the overtime had ended, in what’s called stoppage time. See, in soccer, there’s none of the constant time-outs and whatnot that you see in games like American football; if the players stop playing for any reason, like a substitution or an injury or even a pause while the ref makes a call, the clock keeps running, and the refs keep track of all this wasted time and then add it on at the end. After Brazil made it’s overtime goal they decided to slow the game down as much as they could, playing around with the ball and keeping it away from the Americans as much as possible, on the theory that every second they don’t have the ball is a second they can’t use to score. This reached a ridiculous extreme toward the end as two different Brazilian players, within about five minutes of each other, collapsed in apparent agony and called for medics and stretchers to carry them off the field. If you can find the footage somewhere (I searched everywhere, but it’s not up yet), the second Brazilian to do this was awesome: she’s standing near the back line, twenty yards from the nearest opponent, and just keels over for no reason. The medics come out, the refs go over, they strap her into the stretcher, and about three minutes later they finally get her off the field, at which point she jumps up, runs to the bench for a drink, and then COMES RIGHT BACK ONTO THE FIELD. In a game renowned for its cheap “ow I’ve been hurt” fakeouts, this was the fakiest fake of a time-wasting improv show you will ever see. The refs didn’t call a penalty on her for it, but they added the full three minutes to the end of the game, and that is when the Americans finally scored their second goal. When you score in the 122nd minute of a game that’s only supposed to be 90 minutes long, that’s pretty much the definition of “never giving up.”

With overtime over and the game still tied, the game goes to penalty kicks, which as I said are incredibly hard to block. Each team gets five shots, and whoever makes the most wins the game. Once again, Hope Solo showed us just how good she really is, and managed to block two of them. One of the blocked shots, in a sad/ironic coincidence, came from Daiane, the same Brazilian player who scored the own-goal at the beginning of the game, more or less ensuring that she’ll spend the rest of her life blaming herself for Brazil’s loss. I also imagine she got a few wedgies in the locker room, assuming women give wedgies. Sad Daiane aside, the US team won the match and moves on to the semifinals tomorrow, playing France. you can bet I’m going to be watching.

So: one of the best teams in the world gives up an own-goal and loses to a team that doesn’t even have all its players. The game goes into overtime even though one team has technically never made a goal. The refs are inscrutable and the players are deceitful. Why did I love this match so much? Because it embodies everything I love and hate about soccer. It was thrilling, start to finish, and the players involved are just so dang GOOD. Yes, most of the goals came from what looked like pure luck, but it takes an incredibly talented team to create those lucky opportunities and then capitalize on them. Either of those teams, on that day, in that zone of excellence, would have demolished any other team they played against, but because they were playing each other the skill and the zaniness were catalyzed into a ball of chaos, and the fun came from watching both teams give it everything they had and somehow manage to control the uncontrollable. It’s like watching a bull rider: the slightest mistake will get them killed, but they hang on and do their best and make it work.

I love this game. Time for a soccer party tomorrow evening.

Week Seven of #PoetrySummer

Monday, July 11th, 2011

So…. Why did the updates stop on day 2 last week? Because I went camping and forgot to take my iPad with me. We had service (it wasn’t far enough from civilization to ruin the 3G access), so I could have updated if I’d brought it, but I didn’t, so no updates and no Prufrock (the poem was also on my iPad, so without it I had nothing to memorize). (I rely on my iPad for pretty much everything, if that wasn’t obvious.)

So sorry, no Prufrock for you. I managed to save last week by memorizing something else, and I’ll be doing Prufrock again this week. What did I memorize last week? One of my favorite childhood poems, “Disobedience” by A. A. Milne:

James James
Morrison Morrison
Weatherby George Dupree
Took great
Care of his Mother
Though he was only three.
James James
Said to his Mother,
“Mother,” he said, said he;
“You must never go down to the end of the town,
if you don’t go down with me.”

James James
Morrison’s Mother
Put on a golden gown,
James James
Morrison’s Mother
Drove to the end of the town.
James James
Morrison’s Mother
Said to herself, said she:
“I can get right down to the end of the town
and be back in time for tea.”

King John
Put up a notice,

James James
Morrison Morrison
(Commonly known as Jim)
Told his
Other relations
Not to go blaming him.
James James
Said to his Mother,
“Mother,” he said, said he,
“You must never go down to the end of the town
without consulting me.”

James James
Morrison’s Mother
Hasn’t been heard of since.
King John
Said he was sorry,
So did the Queen and Prince.
King John
(Somebody told me)
Said to a man he knew:
“If people go down to the end of the town, well,
what can anyone do?”

(Now then, very softly)

J. J.
M. M.
W. G. du P.
Took great
C/o his M*****
Though he was only 3.
J. J.
Said to his M*****
“M*****,” he said, said he:

if-you-don’t-go-down-with ME!”

Day 2 of Prufrock

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Yesterday’s section was easy. Here’s the next one, more than twice as big:

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

Week Six of #PoetrySummer and Day 1 of Prufrock

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Last week my friend and I memorized Spanish poems, both of us choosing Pablo Neruda. Memorizing the poem was surprisingly easy, either because I’m getting better at this or because Neruda is a really awesome poet. I think it’s mostly the latter. The fun part about memorizing these poems has been seeing for the first time the underlying structure of each one. “Puedo Escribir Los Versos Mas Tristes Esta Noche” has been kind of daunting to me, because it repeats a lot of lines and thoughts, sometimes exactly and sometimes with a slight twist, which makes the poem very cool and dreamlike but, by extension, kind of hard to wrap your head around. Memorizing it forced me to find all of the inner logic, and I like the poem even more now. That’s kind of becoming a theme with every poem I memorize.

This week’s poem, as previously announced, is “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” This is a huge poem, and memorizing it in a single week is going to be really hard, so I’ve broken it down into seven pieces. If you’re playing along at home, here’s the piece to memorize today; it’s nice and short to make it easy on the holiday.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question . . .
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

I’ll come back tomorrow with part 2. If you’re memorizing something else this week, let us know.