Seething envy — uh, I mean, love and admiration!

Am currently reading Kate Griffin’s A Madness of Angels, start of a magnificent urban fantasy series that’s far more China Mieville than Jim Butcher. (No offense to Butcher, whose stuff I like too; just noting that he’s kind of more typical of the genre than CM.) The story follows an “urban sorcerer” named Matthew Swift on his quest through the magical underworld of London as he tries to find out who a) killed him, and b) brought him back to life.

And… (grr) it’s good. I mean (snarr) really good. So good that (gnash) I’m finding myself… well, a bit jealous. Because see (ARGH WHYYYYY), I like her writing better than my own.

Which is disingenuous. I started writing years ago because the kinds of stories I wanted to read just weren’t being published fast enough for my tastes. This book is that kind of story. And I’m happy. Seriously — you have no idea how happy it makes me to crack open a book unawares and be instantly hooked into a story, then be dragged along by those hooks, in bliss. But at the same time, I can’t help feeling a little professional competitiveness. This is the kind of prose I love to write, but can’t sustain for long periods of time. I don’t have the… hrrm, the endurance? I’m not capable of telling a whole story with this kind of chewy, dense prose. I would gorge myself into a stupor on the deliciousness of my own description, wander far afield from the plot, and never return.

So here’s a writer who does what I yearn to do. This is the kind of book I’ve always wanted to write. But I didn’t write it, so in addition to being delighted, I’m also insanely, giddily jealous.

Well, no biggie; I’ll get over it.

Anyway, in the meantime (rraarrgh), go buy Griffin’s book!

Describing characters of color in writing

Some examples from my own writing, submitted for your consideration. Not a claim of correctness or The Best Way or anything of the sort. Just my way. And yeah, this is in part inspired by a certain very lengthy discussion of race, representation, and respect in the SF/F community that took place recently in the blogosphere. But I also just felt like sharing.

ETA: And because this post continues to get hits months later, folks might be interested in Part 2, which was posted at the Magic District, and part 3, written a few months later.

Some of this is published, some forthcoming, some is not pub’d and never shall be. Taken from shorts and novels.

Across the park’s wide avenue stood a new figure. He had depicted himself as a tall middle-aged male, Shanghainese and dignified, dressed in an outdated business suit.

Continue reading ›

100K update

…I had kind of mentioned this to friends and in passing, but hadn’t posted about it yet because there was still some up-in-the-airness going on. Anyway tho’, the official release date for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is now February 2010. February 25, specifically, at least according to Amazon. (Quiet squee at the fact that MY BOOK IS ON AMAZON!!! …kinda. It’s not searchable on the US Amazon; I found it because it’s searchable on the UK Amazon and the US one is linked to that. Or something. Anyway, you might wanna bookmark that sucker; it’s slippery.)

As for why it got pushed back from Fall 2009, the date I’ve been shrieking at the top of my lungs since the book sold… well, here’s where my n00b ignorance of the book industry shows; see, it was never actually definite for Fall 2009. That was a tentative date. My bad. ::sheepish look:: So — rumor control — nothing shady’s going on, nobody’s dropping all their debut authors, no there’s been no prima donna-ing on my part (good grief, I’m a new author; you think I’m a moron?), all revisions and copyedits were turned in on time, everything’s fine. This is just how things go sometimes. And heck — just gives me more time to plan my launch celebration. =)

…Definitely a tattoo.

New Post on the Magic District…

…and behold, the Birthday Duck! (Which isn’t really what the post is about.)



The Fox network is making a reality show out of the troubled economy. An upcoming series titled, “Someone’s Gotta Go,” lets employees of a small business decide which one of their colleagues will be laid off.

Fox says it has no air date yet for the series, which is being developed by the company behind “Big Brother” and “Deal or No Deal.” Each week, a different company lays off an employee.

…because I’m frankly speechless with revulsion.

Authors… in… SPAAAAAAAACE!!!

…Well, not exactly. But as close as we can get without becoming astronauts or paying $5K for the privilege. I’m a-goin’ to Launch Pad!

Bwhuh? you say. To which I reply, from the Launch Pad website:

Launch Pad is a NASA-funded education/public outreach effort supplementing Mike Brotherton’s space-based astronomical research. Our budget allows us to provide a workshop that is essentially free to participants. Our primary goal is to teach writers of all types about modern science, specifically astronomy, and in turn reach their audiences. We hope to both educate the public and reach the next generation of scientists.

Though my first novel/trilogy is fantasy, I do write some science fiction, so I’m seriously psyched about going to this. On top of that, I’ll apparently be there with a whole lot of other cool people, some of whom are Big Names (::wibble::). First off, the event is organized by noted skiffy author Mike Brotherton; then the guest instructors this year will be Phil Plait and Joe Haldeman. Then my fellow students will be:

  • Julie V. Jones
  • Gord Sellar
  • Marc Laidlaw
  • Owl Goingback
  • Scott Sigler
  • Tara Fredette
  • Brian Malow
  • Pat Cadigan
  • Carolyn Clink
  • Robert Sawyer
  • Andy Duncan
  • Ed Lerner

The coolness!! OMG the coolness!! ::hyperventilates:: I’m all aflutter.

I can’t wait. Going to have to seriously motor on book 3, though, because I suspect that if I haven’t finished it by the time I go to this workshop, my head will be so full of sciency things that I may not be able to write fantasy for a bit. =)

You are likely to be eaten by your unfinished wordcount.

This. Is too funny. Go read it. My only regret is that now I get to follow this awesome post with my own tomorrow. -_-

Since I never got to play games like this as a kid (no computer, though the family did have a Pong unit, go figure), I figured there had to be a way I could experience the awe and majesty of Zork online, now. And lo and behold, there is! But now I’ve been playing for an hour and haven’t gotten any writing done. And f#@$ing grues keep eating me…

Mon livre sera disponible en français!

Ooo-wee!! French rights to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms have just sold to Calmann-Levy! Laissez le bon temps roulet!

(…Suddenly I’m craving a po-boy and some beignets. Ah, I do know what it means to miss New Orleans…)

Copyediting and Agents and Gardens, oh my!

Been awhile since I posted here, so now I’ve got “diarrhea of the mouth”, as my grandmother used to say. Here’s what I’ve been up to lately:

Received the copyedited version of Book 1 last week and have been steadily working my way through it, checking to make sure all my i’s are dotted and t’s crossed. I’ve never seen something professionally copyedited before, so it’s fascinating to see how someone who really knows their English has interpreted my sometimes loosey-goosey language. I’ve learned two things from this: a) that I overuse commas and hyphenated compounds like no tomorrow, and b) I’m not too shabby at self-editing. I really expected this copyedit to be covered in red marks and notes from the copyeditor that said stuff like “DEAR GODS, WHAT DID THIS WOMAN DO TO OUR LANGUAGE?!” Instead, there are relatively few marks, and I’m actually learning a lot from this about my own bad habits.

I was always told (by published writer-mentors) that a good copyeditor is a valuable resource in the publication process, and I can see why they say that now. I really like this guy.

Going to have to hustle, though. For long-story reasons involving FedEx’s stupidity and some cluelessness on my part, the copyedit got to me late, and it’s due very soon, so I’ve put Book 3 writing on hold in order to concentrate on it. That’s cool, though — I’m a classic procrastinator who tends to shift into high gear at the last minute. ::starts humming Bowie’s “Under Pressure”::

On another note — I’ve raved here and elsewhere about my phenomenal agent, Lucienne Diver. I saw her again this weekend past at Lunacon, where we had lunch and she talked me down from a minor panic re The Future Of My Career, etc. Now, I don’t know if all authors want an agent who can do things like that for them — offer emotional support along with mad contract-negotiating skillz, etc. But for me, as a new author who’s still very unsure of herself professionally and still trying to figure out how this crazy business works, the personal touch really helps. Case in point: on the day I got the first offer for 100K and its sequels, I was at work, which she knew, but she also knew how anxious I’d been about whether there would be an offer, so she called anyway. She asked me, “Are you ready?” then told me the amount of the offer. I excused myself, got up and closed the office door, then shouted, “ARE YOU F%#KING KIDDING ME?!” I don’t actually remember what else I said after that, though I do recall it involved a lot of gibbering and giddy squealing. (Best. Day. Ever.) Then, over the next few days as three different publishers bid on it in an auction, L called to give me periodic updates. Things happened so fast, with so many details involved, that my head was soon spinning. L always took the time to explain who was offering what, what the various configurations of advance meant, how the royalties would work, etc. When I asked questions, or simply babbled in excitement, she was never too busy to deal with it, and she gave me her honest opinions about all of it — but still made sure the decision-ball was in my court. When the final deal was made, she introduced me to my new editor and walked me through the next steps. Seriously, I can’t imagine how any author, especially a new one, could function without an agent like this.

So now you, too, have the opportunity to get a phenomenal agent like mine — maybe even L herself! L’s agency is The Knight Agency, and they’re running an online pitch contest! To quote L:

Here’s a chance to have your project reviewed by one of the agents at The Knight Agency. Submit three compelling sentences (150 words max) about your completed, unpublished manuscript to submissions @ (delete spaces). Write BOOK IN A NUTSHELL in the subject line or it will not be deemed elligible. One submission per project, please. Twenty of the best submissions will be chosen and requested by various agents who will then give feedback on your work…and it may even lead to possible representation. Hurry, the deadline is April 20, 2009. Winners will be notified by May 1, 2009.

My agent search involved sending out large-envelope packets in waves of 10, each containing a letter, synopsis, sample chapters, and so forth. Cost a lot in time, paper supplies, and postage, and was a general PITA. I wish it had been as easy as sending an email. So if you’re looking for an agent, hop to it!

And in other news, I have begun preparations for a balcony garden:

Snapdragon, lavender, tigridia, peppers, collards, and more.

…And no, I’m not planting The Tough Guide to Fantasyland.

Shall post updates on what, if anything, grows.

Observations… theory?

Got the copyedit of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms today! I’ve never done this before, so I kind of boggled when I started flipping pages and saw all these little squiggly things on it. The folks in my writing group helped me decipher the first few pages, and the stylesheet included with it helps too. It looks like it’s going to be fun to work on this — and I needed to re-read it anyway, now that I’m working on Book 3, for congruity’s sake — but there’s definitely going to be a learning curve involved. Wish me luck.

And in cross-promotional news… over at the Magic District, fellow author Greg van Eekhout has some interesting observations about the state of the science fiction field. He’s got me thinking, and though I’m not ready to put forward a full-fledged theory yet, I do have a few hypotheses:

  1. “Science fiction” is increasingly perceived as just fiction, and just one particular subset of fiction — spaceships and rayguns, basically. This is despite the efforts of people within the field to treat it as a wide literary umbrella (e.g., the Science Fiction Writers of America, whose organizational name includes “and fantasy” even though the acronym hasn’t changed to reflect it, and which also incorporates some horror, YA, etc.).
  2. Science fiction (meaning here all the stuff supposed to fall under the wide umbrella) as a genre is failing to draw in constituents beyond its original target audience — the now-aging white males seen in Greg’s Observation 1. This lost audience includes young people, people of color, international readers (e.g., China), women, and fans of related media like games and anime. There are several factors involved with this failure — issues within the genre itself, an overall decline in book sales, other media’s perception of themselves as unrelated (e.g., video games = entertainment industry, even when the content is science fictional), etc.
  3. For 1 and 2, if the terminology is the problem, then SciFi/SyFi’s decision makes sense.

It’s 1 that interests me most right now, because that’s the new idea for me. I use the term “science fiction” to represent lots of things — science fiction, fantasy, sometimes horror; films, video games, books; the hardcore fandom and the casual watchers who’ve only seen the occasional “Star Trek” episode. But I do tend to use the term “sci fi” only among knowledgeable fellow genre fans, mostly because non-fans don’t seem to use it for fantasy, etc.

For example, when non-genre people ask me about 100K, I say, “It’s a fantasy novel,” or “I’m a fantasy writer.” And I usually further clarify: “You know, like Lord of the Rings or Narnia?” But all my life, I’ve thought of myself as a science fiction writer, and with genre fans I say that. There’s no need for clarification. I write anything that falls under SF’s broad umbrella: spaceships and rayguns, magic, monsters, black holes, dragons, things that go bump in the night. “Sci fi” is the easiest way to say that, among people who read and write the same thing.

But how did it happen that people outside the genre don’t think of it that way — if it’s true that they don’t? This is an hypothesis, after all… but I can’t think of a way to test it. Ideas, anyone?