Wednesday, December 30, 2009

District 9 review

District 9 came out on DVD last week. We watched it this week. I hadn't seen any previews and heard little about it, so I had no preconcieved notions.

I found the movie unique, engrossing and thought provoking. It's shot with a combination of cinematic and documentary style scenes and even some security camera footage. It was a daring balancing act, but it worked. The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield were different, too, with their seemingly continuous filming from a handheld camera. But I had no desire to watch the former and couldn't get through the latter.

Insect-like, intelligent creatures arrive in a disabled spaceship without a leader. They are like worker bees without a queen, lacking a sense of purpose or initiative. The ship is parked over Johannesburg, South Africa. A multi-national corporation, under the guise of humanitarian aid, takes charge and builds the malnourished refugees a camp beneath the ship called District 9.

The alien creatures were very convincing. The back story could have been more reinforced. It was all in the first 15 minutes of the film and only from one news commentator, whom I probably wasn't giving my full attention to since he was voicing only speculations. I expected the facts to be forthcoming later. Especially since the aliens and the humans seemed to understand each other after a fashion.

The main character, a Multi-National United agent named Wikus Van De Merwe, tasked with serving eviction notices to the entire alien camp, is an average guy, full of conflict, doubt and a strong sense of duty and righteousness. It wasn't until the next day after seeing the film that I came upon an explanation for his seemingly extreme contrary nature. I thought perhaps the writers couldn't make up there mind how they wanted him to come across.

My guess is that Wikus is playing for the camera. His participation in the eviction process is being recorded on video and he has a particular image he wants to portray for the documentation of the event. The most obvious example is when he smiles into the camera and talks about the popping sounds that the eggs make when they're incinerated. He compares it to popcorn. Yet he seems to make an attempt to treat the creatures humanely and wishes them no harm.

Another dicotomy was the tongue-in-cheek humor during the first half hour that drops off afterward. Rather like they decided to take a more serious approach, but didn't go back and delete the obvious laugh out loud jokes from the beginning. I'm all for comic relief, but it should be consistent, shouldn't it? I think a little sarcasm from the alien or Wikus during the latter half would not have been amiss.

When you make a joke about them liking cat food and then show a homeless alien pushing a shopping cart... you see what I mean. Two more funny references and then it goes all serious the rest of the movie.

Why do the aliens call their fuel "the fluid"? No English translation for what it is or does? And what do they call themselves? We still don't know.

There's certainly room for a sequel, and I'd be happy to go to see if they can keep the momentum and answer a few more questions earlier on.

The DVD extras are worth watching because this is such a unique approach. My hats off to writer/director Neill Blomkamp, co-writer Terri Tatchell and producer Peter Jackson for coming up with something truly different and entertaining.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cat Rambo on writing and Clarion West

I met Cat through Broad Universe. She's been REALLY busy lately. She's cranking out stories, anthologies and is managing editor for Fantasy magazine. Her stories have appeared in the best magazines, including: Asimov's, Strange Horizons, and Weird Tales.

She runs an online game called ArmageddonMUD, is a Clarion West graduate and a former tech writer for Microsoft's Visual Basic.

AW: Who encouraged you to write?

CR: My grandmother, Helen Francis, encouraged me to write as well as to read. She bought me my first typewriter when I was twelve or thirteen, as well as my first copy of The Lord of the Rings. Others included John Barth, Stephen Dixon, Grace Paley, William O'Rourke, and of course all the fabulous people I've been meeting since deciding to attend Clarion West in 2005. My mother supported me every step of the way and even paid the application fee for the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars where I got my MA. I've also been extraordinarily blessed in having a spouse who is supportive of my writing as well. He encouraged me to go to Clarion West, and has been shouldering the mortgage and household bills for the past four years. This also kicks me to be productive - I like working at home, and I'd like to justify his faith in my work.

AW: Do you have trunk stories or novels? Will you resurrect them or call them good practice and keep them for posterity? Do you pull them out to see how far your craft has come?

CR: I have several NaNoWriMo novels, one about a dimension-traveling dysfunctional family and another set in the game world of Zalanthas from Armageddon MUD. I also have a superhero novel, but it's buried on some media I can't access at the moment. I may pull them out at some point, but right now I've got plenty of projects to work on. I haven't taken those out to look at recently, but I was looking at my papers from grad school a couple of weeks ago. I still like some of the stories from then, such as "The Accordion," which recently appeared in my collection, but there are a few, like a story told in two parallel columns, one describing the players and the other describing the roleplaying game they're playing, that are so wacky and experimental that I find myself wondering what the heck I was thinking. I'm kinda amazed I got into Hopkins with that one.

: What can you tell my readers about Clarion West?

CR: I recently talked about writing programs for Jeff VanderMeer's excellent book for writers, Booklife, and I'll reiterate that advice here: A writing workshop can be great, but you need to go in not expecting it to be a magic key. You also need to go in with both a willingness to listen to others' opinions, and enough strength to be willing to stick to your guns if there's something you don't want to change. One of its greatest values lies not in the teaching, but in the networking opportunities it provides.

What I strongly suggest with any workshop is reading at least a little of the instructor's work beforehand. That gives you a sense of their strengths and weaknesses, allows you to see where they're pulling from their own experiences in teaching, and lets you ask intelligent questions. And pay attention to your classmates - keep in touch with the ones you feel some affinity to, because they'll be a source of critiques and suggestions for the rest of your life if you cultivate the relationship. As far as Clarion West goes, it's a six week writing workshop where the group has a different instructor each week. Most are writers but the fifth week is traditionally an editor. In 2010, the instructors will be Michael Bishop, Maureen McHugh, Nnedi Okorafor, Graham Joyce, Ellen Datlow, and Ian McDonald, which is a great lineup. It's an intensive workshop - you are expected to write a story each week, and one of the things it does is convince you that you are capable of writing a story a week.

I went through the program in 2005, studying with Octavia Butler, L. Timmel DuChamp, Andy Duncan, Connie Willis, Gordon van Gelder, and Michael Swanwick. For me, it was a terrific experience, and our class has produced a number of strong writers, who've gone on to do some great stuff. In that I'm particularly thinking of Rachel Swirsky, both a writer and an editor of the excellent fantasy podcast site, PodCastle, Katherine Sparrow, who I think will be our next Carol Emshwiller, and Heather Lindsley, who's had some terrific and wonderfully funny stories in the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, but there were so many strong people in our class that it's hard to do justice to it. I've kept working with Clarion West on a volunteer basis, and I participate in their fundraising Writeathon every year. I think it's a great institution, and I meet a bunch of great people each year. The locals in my class started a writing group that takes in a few new local Clarion West attendees each year, and that group is a source of inspiration and some terrific friendships.

AW: What's it like co-editing a spec-fic magazine? Does it help your writing? How do you still find time to write?

CR: It's fun! And it's hard work! I've learned a great deal from it. It helps my writing in that it forces me to read widely in the field, as well as to help sharpen my sense of what makes a story good. It hurts it in that it does take time away from writing. When I first started, Edmund Schubert, the editor of Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, kindly took some time to talk to me about it and warned that too much focus on the magazine and I'd find my writing failing.That's still a struggle for me, and probably will remain one. But I really enjoy working with the magazine.

: Has your sense of humor ever gotten you into trouble?

: All the time. I can't begin to say how many times I've stuck my foot in my mouth, thinking I was being entertaining. Luckily, people have been very forgiving. I have had a couple of people complain about my lack of formality in editing, and it's invariably been an occasion when I was being far less funny than I thought I was.

AW: What's your funniest or strangest convention experience?

: At ConFusion, where I was a writer GoH, I witnessed a showdown between pirates and a zeppelin crew. Unfortunately, they did not respond to the crowd's suggestion of a dance-off.

AW: What's your favorite story in the anthology you co-wrote with Jeff Vandermeer, The Surgeon's Tale and Other Stories?

: I love "The Surgeon's Tale." It was a great experience collaborating with Jeff on that, and I think the story turned out amazingly well, with depths to it that I'm still figuring out. To me, it talks about love, and the expectations and assumptions that we surround a lover with. Plus it's funny and lovely, and features a disembodied, crawling hand. What could be better than that? I'm also very fond of "The Dead Girl's Wedding March," which was the first story I sold to Fantasy, and one of the reasons Jeff asked me to collaborate, I think. I had a lot of fun writing that story, and there are moments that still make me grin.

AW: When can we expect to see The Moon's Accomplice? Can you tell us about it?

: The Moon's Accomplice is set in a fantasy world, Tabat, which a number of my stories share. It's a world where intelligent magical creatures are assumed to be subhuman and there to be owned by the humans, and it is in part an exploration of how we both infantilize and demonize those we oppress. A story that appeared in the December issue of Realms of Fantasy, "Narrative of A Beast's Life", is actually a chunk of the novel.The main characters are: Bella, a disgraced gladiator; Skilto, a Merchant Mage who wants to be purely a scholar; and Teo, a young shapeshifter just arrived in the city and seeking shelter from the priesthood he's been promised to. Bella is offered a chance to redeem herself by spying on a strange circus for the Duke of Tabat, and Skilto and Teo find themselves drawn to the circus as well. There's centaurs, a sphinx, dead dryads, minotaurs, and a wide array of other creatures, all caught up in a moment that promises to be revolutionary for their world.

: What else are you working on now?

: I just finished a young adult novel, Phat Fairy, and I'm about to turn to a horror novel, Queen of the Fireflies, that I've got about 40 thousand words on so far. The first is in part my reaction to Twilight and how the young woman in that is somewhat...inert. The second is a response to several coming of age/horror novels, specifically Stephen King's It, Dan Simmon's Summer of Night, and Robert McCammon's A Boy's Life. All of those are boy's stories (yeah, I know there's some women in them, but they seem peripheral) and I'm a little troubled by the method by which the kids in It escape from the menace initially. So I wanted to do something with girls and coming of age. I'm sure I'm not the first, but I hope to do something interesting with it. It draws heavily on the experiences of growing up in a Midwestern town, South Bend, Indiana, in 1976, when the Freedom Train came through, and I'm really looking forward to writing a particular scene that takes place aboard the train. I still like writing short stories and among the ones I've finished lately is a sequel to "Kallakak's Cousins" called "Bots d'Amor." I've also written some dark fairy tale-type pieces, a horror story about television, and some urban fantasy.

Find Cat online at

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Avatar and Dr. Who

Sadly, David Tennant is leaving Dr. Who. Check out this video interview with him and Russel T. Davies conducted by Richard Metzger right after ComicCon this year. He will be missed.

I saw Avatar in 3D on Friday. All I can say is, "Wow!" OK, maybe I can say a bit more. I kind of went in thinking I'd enjoy the animation, but the plot would be a well-worn one. I was wrong. I've seen other movies where we're the aliens. In fact, I reviewed Battle for Terra last April, which had a very similar plot. That movie was animated and had many of the same elements. The military is desperate to terraform this other inhabited planet because ours is dead and we're wandering in generational ships looking for a home.

Avatar made that movie seem like a little cartoon. Avatar wasn't just a movie, it was an experience. It's a little long at almost 3 hrs, but it was exactly as long as it needed to be.

I was furious with the military general and my Cherokee blood did boil at the way white men were clearing the land of natives again. I'd like to think that by the time we can reach other habitable planets, we'll behave better. But don't you think that the African slaves or the American Indians in the U.S. of the 19th century thought we'd have learned by now? That kind of thing is still going on today. There are still slaves in the southern U.S. if you know where to look. There are still "ethnic cleansings" going on in Africa, the Balkans, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. I'm sure I've forgotten some regions here.

Well, hurray for Avatar for making us think and making us mad. Well done all around.

Look for an interview with Cat Rambo on Christmas day. Merry Christmas!

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Friday, December 18, 2009

SF/F author Jay Lake - for real!

I've been attending West Coast cons for five years now, and one name seems to pop up at all of them: Jay Lake. In fact, it seemed that everyone knew him personally but me. And they all had great things to say about him.

At BayCon this year I told Bob Brown, programming for RadCon and Promo Chair for Renovation (WorldCon 2011), that I thought he wasn't real. Everyone had just made him up. I wish I had a copy of the video interview Bob conducted with him on his cell phone in which Jay affirmed that, yes, indeed, he was real. I finally met Jay face to face at World Fantasy Convention in San Jose at the end of October.

I recently reviewed Grants Pass, a post-apocalyptic anthology edited by Jennifer Brozek and Amanda Pillar. His story, "Black Heart, White Mourning" was one of the best, and had one of the most interesting characters.

Now I can introduce him to the few people who haven't read him yet or met him at conventions. Jay Lake is a relatively new, yet successful (and prolific!) author and editor. He frequently appears at conventions and writing conferences, has been nominated for Hugos and World Fantasy Awards, and won the John W. Campbell award for Best New Writer. He published three books this year and has several in the pipeline. This in addition to over 250 short stories published to date. Find out more about him after reading the interview below, by visiting his website,

This interview was conducted in mid November. Photo © 2009 Roger Podva

AW: Who were your early influences for SF and for writing?

JL: I was born and raised overseas, in the days before VCRs were on the consumer market, and satellite TV wasn’t generally available. So I had little exposure to the broadcast media of the 1960s and 1970s, during the formative years of my childhood. What I had instead was access to an incredible number of books, of a fairly random selection and variety.

By the time I was ten, I’d settled in on fantasy and science fiction. My mother had sent me a copy of the Lord of the Rings box set, The Hobbit plus the trilogy, for Christmas that year. I’d begun reading my way through the classic Heinlein and Asimov juveniles, along with other random fare ranging from Andre Norton to Samuel R. Delany. It was a largely unguided process, wading through a library that would be recognizable to a fan fifteen or twenty years older than me, and it settled genre fiction around me like a mold, a base, a foundation.

I think that period of my reading was capped by discovering Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun when I was twenty, on a college roommate’s shelf. I read that and thought, “We’re allowed to do this with the language?” That’s when my ambition to be a writer truly began to gel.

AW: What was the best bit of advice you ever received regarding your writing?

JL: Ray Vukcevich once said to me, “cut out all the parts that aren’t interesting.” The trick is learning to tell the difference, of course. That can take a lifetime. I’m also pretty fond of “write more.” Everything else is just suggestions.

AW: Can you tell us a little bit about the three novels that came out this year?

JL: It has been a bit of a busy year, yes. Green came out from Tor Books this past June. That’s a secondary world fantasy, essentially a coming of age adventure story with gods, architecture and sex. One reviewer referred to the book as being about “teenage lesbian ninja nuns.” I’m not sure I’d have put it that way, but I’ll roll with it. There is a sequel, Endurance, coming out in 2011, and a third book, Kalimpura, in 2012.

In October of this year, Night Shade Books finally shipped Madness of Flowers. That’s my sequel to 2006’s Trial of Flowers. They’re both secondary world fantasies set in and around the City Imperishable, the decaying capital of a lost empire that mostly lives now off banking, manufacturing, and dreams of past glory. Publishers Weekly referred to the first book as “a grand Guignol of violence and seriously perverse sex.” (Both books received starred reviews there.) I prefer to think of it as meditation on urban planning and the processes of political succession, but to each their own.

Here at the end of 2009, MonkeyBrain Books is putting out Death of a Starship. This is a very short novel, 49,000 words, classic SF adventure involving mysterious aliens, lost battleships and a priest who conducts investigations for the X-Files unit of a future empire-spanning orthodox church. Think of it as Saturday afternoon space opera.

AW: When did you catch the public speaking bug and how?

: Well, basically, I’m what happens when the class clown grows up without being sufficiently suppressed by the educational system in the process. I’ve always been happy to yak it up in groups. My taste for formal public speaking – toastmaster work, charity auctions, that kind of thing – actually stems from an advertising job I had in the mid-1990s where our CEO believed that every employee should go through speaker training. This was to make us better presenters, and more effective communicators with our peers and our clients. I’m not sure his plan did all that much for its intended goal, but the training sure educated and formalized my inner ham.

AW: How does your editing compliment your writing and vice versa?

JL: In simplest terms, the writing always comes first. It can’t be any other way for me. But I love doing editing work, because that gives me a lot of insight into the processes and mechanisms of story, in ways I could not achieve from reviewing my own work. I can’t detach from my prose the way I am already detached from anyone else’s. It’s like trying to see the faults in your children.

Editing work also lets me see what writers are doing right now. This isn’t a case of “spot the trend”, but more like a spot check on craft, on theme, on styles as they evolve in the marketplace. Remember that anything you see in print is somewhere between three months and three years old before it appears. Quite often on the long side of that. So reading manuscripts gives me a different relationship to what my fellow writers are up to, one I don’t have any other way to create.

All of that, of course, feeds back into my writing, both directly and indirectly.

AW: How have your struggles with cancer affected your writing?

JL: Profoundly. I’m right now working on a cancer story. Framing my fears, my feelings, my experiences, on the page is certainly therapeutic for me in some obvious ways. But I already know from my work over the past eighteen months of blogging my cancer experience, and being publically frank about things that are far more often left unspoken, that it can be therapeutic for others.

Even getting away from that kind of immediacy, cancer is absolutely affecting my themes, my literary concerns, my voice, my style. I am being remade. Ask me in a few years what it all means, and I might have a glimmering of an answer. Right now I am simply embedded in the journey.

AW: I understand you have done a bit of globe trotting both growing up and as an adult. If you could live anywhere (money is no object, family can come with or not, you can afford a private jet to get to all the conventions, etc.) where would you want to live? And why?

JL: I would live everywhere! A house in Yorkshire, an apartment in Hong Kong, a houseboat in Johannesburg. Why not? The world is as small as your resources can make it, and there is literally nowhere I wouldn’t want to go see, go spend time in. A dream job of mine would be to be sponsored to go photograph and blog around the world, keeping enough bandwidth for my fiction, and seeing everything I could.

But even then, I think I would still call Portland home. I’ve been in all fifty states, and several dozen foreign countries on four continents, and Portland is the place I like best for just everyday living.

AW: Social networking has really taken off recently. More people communicate via email and cell phones, and don't even have a land line. What do you think communication will look like ten years from now?

JL: Hah! If I could answer that question, I’d be living the life I just described. I mean, who foresaw Twitter? Or blogging? Or the Web? Or email? Or cell phones?

To give you a slightly more serious answer, and to maintain at least a shred of my SF writer cred, I have to say that message platform convergence is nearly certain. Look at Google Wave for an example of precisely that effort. Or how Google Voice is thoroughly virtualizing the telephone experience, after well over a century of a fixed model which even cellphones essentially emulate.

Email has a completely different rhythm than chat, or SMS. The social networks like Facebook have yet another rhythm. But clients, and protocols, that can combine or multiply access across divergent channels will provide immense convenience to users, and therefore power to whoever controls those clients and protocols.

AW: What are you currently working on?

JL: A cancer story called “The Specific Gravity of Grief”, for Fairwood Press. I want to get that done before my upcoming surgery. I had also planned to spend the rest of this year revising a novel jointly authored with my life partner, Shannon Page, but the current cancer issues are probably going to delay that. The book is Our Lady of the Islands, and is a fantasy about a middle-aged woman with grandchildren, a bad marriage and a moderately successful business, who gets sucked very unwillingly into the business of gods and politics.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Clash of the Titans, awards and honors

This looks fun!! A remake of Clash of the Titans!

Here's the latest review of Awesome Lavratt.

My friend and fellow writer, whom I just guest blogged for, mentioned me on her guest blog on One Hot Mess. Her topic is attending sf conventions as a writer.

David D. Levine won the Endeavor Award for Space Magic. Congrats to him!

And here I am mentioning Joe Haldeman again. He was one of the Endeavor Award judges and he was just named Grand Master of Science Fiction Writers of America.

I finished Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde. Loved it! Review to follow on Mostly Fiction Book Reviews. I'll post the link when it goes up. Feel free to read my interview with Fforde while you wait.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Squeezing out words and slicing words out

I had an interview planned for yesterday that had to get bumped to later, so here I am on Saturday struggling to wrestle more words out of my brain. I just finished a guest blog post for my friend and fellow writer, Sue Bolich on word economy at Words from Thin Air. It was a very timely topic for me since I had just whacked 1100 words off a story last weekend.

I'm also chasing my muse for a good speculative flash fiction idea -- with a deadline looming.

My review of Brian D'Amato's In the Courts of the Sun went up yesterday at MostlyFiction Book Reviews.

I received another ARC today. Joe Haldeman's Starbound. I'm thinking that interview might be better done in person. I'll be seeing Joe in February at RadCon. He's billed as the "Husband of the Fan Guest of Honor." That should be a fun interview.

Next Friday, you can feast your eyes on my interview with Jay Lake.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Need your eyes and SyFy review

Getting over a cold. Yes just a cold. And I didn't even get a flu shot. A friend of mine sent me a series of videos of this Dr. Baylock on the flu vaccine. Look at his surroundings. Yeah. If I were him I would invest in a projector screen or folding room screen for conducting interviews at my computer. Notice the duct tape around the door and the stacks of newspapers. He does drape a cloth over some of them.

I just joined Library Thing. They have my book listed, so I figured I ought to join. Like I needed another site to feed with my time. I get a shiny author button after I load up the books I'm reading and send them an email. Too bad I can't import them from Goodreads to Library Thing and Amazon.

There's a contest over at Rose City Sisters for best flash fiction. My story, "Your Smiling Face", gets a vote for each unique page view. So, you don't even have to read it, just open the page. But you'll definitely want to read it. It's a chilling love story loosely inspired by actual events.

For those of you who watch Stargate Universe and for those have wondered if they should, listen up. The episode before last can be summarized by: They find something cool, someone's been lying, they can't use the cool thing because it's too dangerous. The rest was a bunch of soap opera stuff.

In the next episode: Oh, look a murder! Or is it? Of course someone uses the cool, dangerous thing. We knew he would. Then the loose cannon leaves the other loose cannon stranded on a planet with a ship the team didn't have time to crack open and a working stargate. Yeah, we'll see him again.

Well, at least more stuff happened this time.

So, with all the hidden agendas and short tempers on this vessel, are there any good guys? How about a good woman? It's starting to play out like Lost. How appropriate, I guess. Personally, I'm ready for an alien or strange world with exotic creatures. Enough of the soap opera all ready.

I enjoyed SyFy's Alice. Especially Kathy Bates, Tim Curry, Andrew-Lee Potts (Connor Temple from Primeval) and Matt Frewer (Taggert from Eureka, but more importantly, Max Headroom). But I can imagine that the creator of this and Tin Man, SyFy's remake of the Wizard of Oz, sat down with SyFy execs and marketing guys who told him, "You have to throw some romance in there. Not enough chicks are watching the SyFy channel." And he did just that. Also, reminiscent of The 10th Kingdom. Very. And by the way, if you want this chick to watch the SyFy channel, lost the monstor movies and just plain BAD made for tv movies. And the ghost buster and searching for monsters shows. Give me real SF, and try to manage some that isn't military. I can definitely live without romance. Honest.

Alice did have certain oddities that drove me nuts. Alice's coat is lost along the way and suddenly she's wearing again. The White Knight and the Hatter have horses to follow Alice and the prince, but there's no explanation as to where they got them. They just suddenly have horses. If it's magic, fine. But then you have to say it is. It's just sloppy.

Here's an extra goody. The White Hare's Mad March in New York.

And because I can't get enough of him. Here's a Max Headroom Coke commercial. Again. ;)

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Awesome Lavratt and current projects

I have a couple of new reviews of Awesome Lavratt. They're both on Library Thing. I love it when people take Awesome Lavratt for what it is rather than expecting it to be deep or serious. It's just plain fun. It was certainly fun writing it. The second review is repeated on Goodreads. In answer to a comment there, the reviewer adds that Awesome Lavratt is quirky. I consider that a victory. It takes talent to pull off quirky. Right?

I've talked about a sequel, but I think, at this point more stories in that universe will happen before that. I love writing short stories. Of course, there's the instant gratification thing. Well, not exactly instant. But compared to the two and three years it can take for a book to come out, it is.

Meantime, I have three stories I'm working on. One is finished. I'm just cutting it down from 5100 words to 4000 for a venue that has that word limit. I think it will be stronger for it. All that flash fiction writing comes in handy when I have to cut a story by more than 20 percent.

Another is in rewrites and the last one is half done. I'm also determined to pull out a new sci-fi flash piece before Christmas.

My company had its Christmas lunch today complete with gift exchange with the whole steal a gift game. I scored a beautiful set of wine glasses. Time to get rid of the unmatched ones.

I did my first ever IM interview at work today. The company President I was to interview was in Mexico for a convention and his cell phone was in the bag that the airline lost. It was great. Especially the fact that I didn't have to transcribe the interview. More especially since the sound card on my work computer wigged out this week.

Pretty interesting topic, actually. Twitter folks have probably heard about Square, the founder's new company that launched this week. It's a new way to accept mobile payments. The article is up now and will be updated once Square gets back to us.

Next up for interviews for SFOO are Cat Rambo, Jay Lake and Kage Baker.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New for me, in the news and let the sales begin

There's nothing like the buddy system. I just joined a critique group again after almost 2 years away. It's helping me to prioritize my time better with regard to my writing. That's a very good thing. I'm actually finding time to write spec-fic again. Woo hoo! I'm currently cutting a 5100 word story down to 4K for my next target market. Only 350 words left to chop. ;)

I also joined a local MeetUp for Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fans. As the Mystery Science Fictionator, how could I resist?

I finished In the Courts of the Sun by Brian D'Amato and will be reviewing it at Mostly Fiction soon. I'm still chewing on it. That's a good sign. ;)

I receive a number of emails about new issues of magazines coming out. Just in case you're not on the same lists that I am, SF Crowsnest and Ideomancer have shiny new December issues available.

And these publishers are having holiday sales:

Five Senses Press
Mundania Press
Phaze Books
Awe-Struck Publishing

(For the last three, enter the code SANTA when you check out and receive 20% off your entire order.)

Looking for spec-fic books for yourself or for gifts? Try starting with the Beyond Reality shelf at Mostly Fiction. You can read reviews (many by yours truly) and click through to Amazon (which helps support the site) to purchase.

On my TBR shelf is Jack Skillingstead's collection, Are You There and Other Stories? Here's an interview with Jack at Locus. I became a fan after reading his stories in Asimov's. I'll have to hit him up for an interview here. He gave me a blurb for Awesome Lavratt.

71 more days till RadCon in Pasco, WA! I think I attend as many cons in the Pacific Northwest as I do right here in the SF Bay Area. It's great to see my PNW buddies.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Brenda Cooper - writer, futurist, speaker

I first met Brenda at OryCon last year where she received the Endeavor Award for her novel, The Silver Ship and the Sea, the first volume in a series. She just launched the third in the series on November 10th entitled Wings of Creation. The second volume is Reading the Wind. Brenda has also published numerous short stories which have appeared in major science fiction magazines and a number of anthologies. In addition to her own series, she co-wrote Building Harlequin's Moon with Larry Niven, whom she also collaborated with on some of her short fiction.

In addition to writing science fiction, Brenda is a technology professional currently working as Chief Information Officer for the City of Kirkland, WA., a futurist and board member on the futurist board for the Lifeboat Foundation, and a public speaker.

But this busy lady still had time to drop by SFOO for a chat. (photo by Joe Merkens)

AW: When and how did you first become fascinated with the future?

BC: My father is a rocket scientist – literally. He worked at Douglas Aircraft during the Apollo program, and that got me interested in science and rockets. I’ve always been interested in how the world works, and that led to wanting to understand how we would use science in the future. Then in the mid-90’s, I met the professional futurist Glen Hiemstra, and he has been a bit of a mentor for me on this. He has a site up at with some interesting articles and a great blog if anyone wants to check it out.

AW: What advice can you give to a new writer about producing three-dimensional, complex characters?

BC: Watch people, listen to them. When I get stuck and wonder what a character might do in a situation, I often write a first-person journal entry from their point of view. I don’t keep lists of character traits, but I do imagine my characters in different situations and sometimes I talk like them when I’m writing.

AW: How did your collaborations with Larry Niven come about?

BC: Steven Barnes, who has also collaborated with Larry, has been a strong influence in my life since the 80’s when I met him in California. I met Larry when he came up to work with Steve on Saturn's Race, and had various opportunities to talk with him at other conventions. Eventually I showed him a story and he knew how to fix it. That became “Ice and Mirrors” which was our first published collaboration. Most of our work was in email and from a distance, and a lot of our early email exchanges were captured in the book Scatterbrain. I was truly lucky to have that opportunity.

AW: How do you find the time to write while still holding down a full time job?

BC: Well, I only write about an hour a day most of the time. Sometimes I get whole days or whole weekends, but most of the time an hour is all there is. But that’s two to four pages, and two to four pages a day adds up. I always have my computer with me, and a journal, and usually some pages I can edit, so if any time does show up, I can use it. Lunches, the hour before work, an hour in a coffee shop on the way home (Yes, it’s a cliché, but it works). I don’t let myself sleep until I’ve written at least 500 words a day, which is 2 pages. Most days I do more.

AW: Can you tell us about your involvement with the Lifeboat Foundation?

BC: The Lifeboat foundation is essentially a large group of people gathered from science, science fiction, politics, futuring, and other disciplines that is hoping to stave off the kind of event that might lead to the current movie “The Road.” So the group looks at everything from asteroids to climate change to disease. My part is much smaller than I’d like it to be – primarily because of my time. So mostly I read lists and sometimes comment, but I would like to do more.

AW: I noticed some of your works now have a Kindle version. Do you own a Kindle and find it helpful?

BC: I love my Kindle. I don’t buy everything on it yet, but I like the portability and the idea that I can hear about a book and be reading it five minutes later. It’s very easy to read on, and disappears in my hand the way a book does.

I belong to a reading group (not writers – just readers) and they try to make sure all of the books they choose are on the Kindle. I think the transition to ebooks is happening pretty fast, faster even than the move to digital music (I can’t remember the last time I bought a CD). I still love the physical form of a traditional book, especially a really pretty one. I just got Leviathan and practically swooned over the cover. So I love my Kindle, but I don’t like the idea that we will eventually lose physical books.

AW: Where do you think we're headed with information and media storage?

BC: It’s all going to be on the net, and we’ll make our own backups on our devices, but the net will be the primary. Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook – hard to tell where. Maybe a blend. But we want information to be always available and that’s the place to achieve that.

AW: Is there a dark side to this glut of information at our fingertips?

BC: Yes. That’s a very insightful question, by the way. There are so many inflows of information in my life, that it’s hard to decide where to put my focus. Personally, I find it really seductive to skim along the intertubes and not really think about a problem. I’m easily distracted between Twitter and Facebook and my iPhone and the internet and and and … and so I sometimes don’t focus enough on the hard problems. This scales from me the individual to the society at large. Right now we have a lot of opportunity, but we have problems like climate change and population and nuclear weapons and the pending clean water shortage that take actual focused thinking. They are enriched by the available information, but I feel like we’re an ADD [attention deficit disorder] society right now, and sometimes I’m not sure we’ll find the focused thinking to solve these foundational issues. That’s really scary.

AW: What are you working on now?

BC: I’m having great fun with a new book series based loosely on the life of Eva Peron. I have a strong female character in a generation ship in the far future, and I’m using that closed-loop environment to play with the idea that one person can be so influential, and also so grey. Eva did great things for Argentina, and she also made awful choices. So I’ve created a society with that kind of class divide, a working class, and a certain ripeness for change. This is different than my other series, which is squarely all-ages adventure science fiction, since I’m working with more adult neurosis and politics and sexuality. It feels like a really big and slightly scary project.

Also, I’m gearing up to work on marketing a new book that will be coming out in about a year. If you remember, when I saw you at World Fantasy, I said that I might have some news. I do. Sean Wallace from Prime Books purchased Mayan December. This is a Mayan 2012 book, but very different from the movie that’s out now. The Yucatan Peninsula is one of my favorite places, and I’ve actually set a number of stories there (including one available now in Steampunk Tales #2). I created an adventure in the Yucatan across two timelines, and mixed it up with a little science, a little magic, a little legend, and a lot of research. I’m really excited that Sean liked the book, and so I’m trying to decide how to gear up to tell people about it and help them see it’s different than the apocalyptic 2012 books and movies I’ve seen out so far.

Learn more about Brenda and her works at

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving grab bag

Calling all Jericho fans! Jericho, the comic is now available. If you're local, go to the Comic Book Box to get yours. Tell Kathy I sent you. :)

I just joined the SF Browncoats. If you don't know what a Browncoat is you're seriously Firefly deprived. Better fix that pronto!

Had a great time at the last Redwood Writers' Odd Month Reading right here in Rohnert Park. Here I am reading from Awesome Lavratt. I also emceed the event and managed to actually introduce myself this time. I keep forgetting to do that. I'll introduce the club and forget to give my own name. Doh! Anyway, I think I've broken that cycle.

Next author interview is with award-winning author, Brenda Cooper.

I'm almost done with In the Courts of the Sun by Brian D'Amato. I'm enjoying it, but I have to admit that these big 700-page books make me wonder if e-readers might not be a bad idea after all. They're hard to hold up when you're horizontal.

This isn't SF, but an excellent book I recommend, especially for women. I read it over my last vacation and it really touched me. It's Anna In-Between by Elizabeth Nunez. You can read the review and interview I wrote last month over at Mostly Fiction.

Now that I'm off-topic ... I discovered Rodrigo Y Gabriella on Friday. Wow! They play acoustic guitar and provide their own percussion with the guitars. Their fingers fly! Here's a clip from the Letterman show a few years ago. Their latest CD is 11:11, and it's amazing.

Now to start those pies. They won't bake themselves. Here's wishing everyone a wonderful holiday. I'm thankful to God for my family, friends, and freedom. Oh, and the food. The four Fs.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

A conversation about SF/F conventions with M.H. Bonham

M.H. Bonham's new book, Howling Dead just came out on Halloween. It's in my TBR pile and will be reviewed eventually. Maggie's had 30 books published and seven of those are speculative fiction novels or anthologies. She's been everything from rocket scientist to animal behaviorist. When she's not sitting at her computer writing, editing or promoting, she's racing sled dogs or hiking in the Montana wilderness where she lives. And she's a ninja!

I met Maggie at a convention this year and we were instant friends. I thought it would be fun to have her share some tips about getting the most out of conventions. We considered collaborating on a full-on little SF convention survival guide, but alas, we're both too swamped for such an endeavor at the moment. This will have to do – for now. Who knows, maybe we'll surprise the world with a Con-going for Dummies book one day. ;)

A conversation about SF conventions

AW: Do you have a special SF convention packing list?

MHB: I used to be pretty haphazard in packing until a friend at another convention told me how to pack for a writing convention (how much clothing, etc). I now know what I need to pack so I have set things I pack. I do about 8-10 cons a year so I have to have everything more or less down to what I need to bring. Basically, I'm there for three or four days. That requires two pairs of jeans, three or four shirts, socks, under things, etc. And my traveling clothes.

AW: What do you put in the suitcase for conventions that you don't for other trips?

MHB: Do I have other trips? (Add maniacal laughter here). I usually bring my costume (the Chi'lan warrior thing) and my con jacket (the red and gold one with the dragons). I drag books along much to the rampers' chagrins.

AW: Do make plans for networking while you're there?

MHB: Yes, but it's not formal.

AW: Do you google other panelists?

MHB: No, I'm too egotistical and too busy.

AW: Other Guests of Honor?

MHB: Half the time, I don't even know who the GOH is unless I know them, and even then, it's a crap shoot if I remember who it is before I get there. Are you sure you really want me to answer this? I sound unprepared, but I'm not. The reality is that I'm not there to run into a particular writer or play fan girl. I know certain people will be at a con and I know I'll have a chance to chat with them, but my number one job is to do my panels, meet with my fan base, and promote my books. If I don't do these things, then I shouldn't be there. This is just part of my job as a professional author.

AW: Do you read books by them? Bring them to get signed?

MHB: I sometimes read books by other authors at the con. Usually, I read them after I meet the person, but yes, there have been books I've read before I met the writer. But I usually won't read their books beforehand just because they're at a particular con. They've got to impress me personally, and then I'll buy their book at a con and read it. As for bringing books to get signed, that's nuts for me. See, I'm carrying my books and I'll buy books at the con, which means I'm going to break my arms lugging books around. So, no. Even if I have a book by an author, unless I buy it there, I don't bring them to get them signed.

AW: Do you make plans for visiting nearby attractions?

MHB: Usually not, but I have gone to the Space Needle and the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle. I've had a fan take me to Pike Place Market too. That was cool.

AW: What about room sharing with convention friends?

MHB: Most of the time I don't, but lately I have to save on costs. I suggest if your readers want to do that, pick some folks you get along with, otherwise you will all go nuts.

AW: Does your husband join you?

MHB: Not out of town. He gets to take care of the pups. He enjoys the local con. I know he has a lot of fun there. He's met the folks around town, and he's taking a class on fencing. He also has a lot of fun going to panels.

MHB: If he did come with me out of town, he'd probably do the con, and we'd probably go see the local attractions.

AW: What about the green room?

MHB: I wish all cons had green rooms. Unfortunately, they don't, but I've dealt with it. It's nice to have a green room just to collapse in and decompress. Norwescon and Radcon have wonderful Green Rooms.

AW: Worst food?

MHB: I would say that the worst was when the green rooms weren't stocked or were under-stocked. Otherwise, I have had no bad experiences with food.

AW: Best food?

MHB: I'm holding out hope someone comes up with really awesome food in a green room. Probably Radcon is the best thus far.

AW: Do you pack energy bars just in case?

MHB: Energy bars are a must for travel in general. So, yeah, I have some 3 year old energy bars rummaging around my bag.

AW: Worst hotel experience?

MHB: The Freddie Krueger sheet episode. I was staying with some friends at a con. Naturally we got in the room at about 2 am. Being the mistrustful sort, I looked in the bed first. I found drops of blood on the sheets. My friends looked at their sheets after they got in bed and found tons of makeup on the sheets. So, we call to the front desk which was totally apathetic. We had to change our own sheets at 2 - 3 a.m. The whole story went around the con and it became known as the Freddie Krueger sheet episode. Yes, we did get a discount on the room at the end.

AW: Best hotel experience?

MHB: Any one I won't remember, because there were no issues!

AW: Do you bring a lap top and write during the convention?

MHB: I bring a laptop but the muse has yet to strike at a con. Usually, I'm using it to get online and feed my damn Hatchlings. (If you don't know what Hatchlings are, join facebook and accept an egg from me). I've known other authors who can sit and write at a con. Not me.

AW: Do you bring money for the dealer's room and art show?

MHB: I bring some money for the dealer's room. As for the art show, I have no idea how to bid and how the auction works so I stay away from that. Plus I don't want to try to bring a piece of art home.

AW: Do you bring costumes? Mending materials just in case?

MHB: Yes, I do bring a costume, but it's for promoting the book.

Mending materials? Ha! I didn't make my costume, so it's unlikely I could mend it.

AW: Do you dress for comfort or to impress?

MHB: Comfort. I can't impress anyone if I look uncomfortable.

AW: Books – do you sell them through the dealer's room, at the signing, both? How do you find out?

MHB: Depends. If my publisher is there, they sell them. I know vendors in the dealer's room at cons I go to, so I bring some copies just in case, but they usually have copies of my books. I'll bring a few books to the signing if the publisher isn't there.

AW: What's the best thing that's happened to you at a con?

MHB: I got to talk to a number of publishers who are interested in my work at World Fantasy.

AW: What was the worst thing that's happened to you at a con?

MHB: A bunch of my books got lost in the mail going to Worldcon. A missed opportunity. Oh well.

AW: Funniest con experience?

MHB: A friend of mine didn't get her badge in time because of glitches and ended up going through panels without it. That evening, we're sitting at a party and con security came up to us and demanded that she leave. I said "Don't you know who she is?" like I meant it. They apologized and scurried off.

AW: Luggage horror stories? How do you avoid them?

MHB: Two words: Carry on. Seriously. If you can't fit everything you need for a con in a carry on, something's wrong. Also consider shipping items via UPS, Fed-Ex or even the US Mail.

Read more about Maggie and Howling Dead, a techno-thriller "with a bite."

Excited about conventions now? Finding one near you is easy. The following websites have searchable databases of regional and world conventions. You might find there are more flavors of speculative fiction conventions than you realized.

Upcoming Cons
Containment Convention Finder

And here are the home pages for World Fantasy and Worldcon (SF).

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Overheard, underheard and misheard absurdities

We've all walked in on a conversation at an inopportune moment, catching a bizarre phrase or sentence out of context. Or maybe we've misheard something that made us laugh.

For instance, at the writing conference I attended in October, I was walking in a group of people all headed for the door to go to the next session and I heard, "She's a cow," said in the most matter of fact tone. I figured out that what she really said was, "She's at Cal." My version was funnier because it was so out of context.

A friend has been adopted by a homeless rooster that wandered into his yard one day and never left. I knew this, yet I didn't know he'd named it. I walked into the room to hear him talking to someone about Chicken Butt.

And kudos to a fellow staff writer, who had just been advised to trick his computer into doing what he wanted. Without skipping a beat, he said, "Computer, look, your shoe's untied." That wasn't half-heard, but it made me chuckle.

I'm seriously considering running a column for people to post their half-heard and misheard snatches of conversation. Go ahead and place your affirmative vote for such a column by adding a misheard or half-heard funny snippet to this post.

And I need to name said column. Suggestions welcome.

What does this have to do with writing or science fiction? Writer's need to be more than people watchers. We should be picking up dialog ideas, too.

In my inbox this week was an email directing me to this article on 15 Inventions Inspired by Science Fiction. See what you think and leave a comment there. Feel free to say Ann Wilkes at SFOO sent you. Unless of course you want to leave a nasty comment.

As I may have said before, I'm now running three interview per month now, with an occasional fourth. This Friday, you'll meet M.H. Bonham, author of Howling Dead, who will give us a sort of sf convention survival guide.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Meet SF authors G. David Nordley & C. Sanford Lowe

I met Gerald and Candy at local SF conventions. I've enjoyed their writing in the pages of Analog Science Fiction and Fact. As I'm about to embark on a collaborative effort of my own, I was anxious to hear what they had to say on the subject. I sent them interview questions separately, but asked them some of the same questions. They even collaborated on this interview at the pub over beers. Gerald is pictured here on a trip to Antarctica. You can read more about his travels on his website.

AW: How much time per week would you say you devote to writing and research?

GDN: Over the course of a year, I probably devote half my time to writing and writing related activity. Of that half, maybe a tenth is given to writing new material. The rest is rewriting, reviewing other people's writing, marketing, follow up. My research time is split between research for specific stories, and general research supporting my future history as well as simple curiosity about the world around me.

In one sense, I'm working just about all the time. In a strict sense, however, I maybe spend 5% of my time drafting new material for publication. I intend to increase this because I have a lot to say and, at 62, not too many years left to say it. I also have time-intensive volunteer activities, which I'm afraid I need to scale back a bit.

AW:What's the most rewarding thing about collaboration?

GDN: Getting the job done! Left to my own devices, I let stories lie around for years before actually sending them out. Having a commitment to another living, breathing person makes me do the work
and get the work out the door.

AW: How much do you rely on writer's groups for feedback?

GDN: Almost entirely. Just about everything I've done since 1991 has gone through my writer's group. I have them pretty well calibrated; I know who I can rely on for what.

AW: What was the strangest convention experience you can safely share with my readers?

GDN: At the last Worldcon in Montreal, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer's of America's suite was closed down right in the middle of the Asimov's readers award ceremonies. I was in the quiet room in the SFWA suite when a phalanx of Delta Centre-Ville Hotel security personnel burst in and, very impolitely, told our hostess we were making too much noise, to get all but three people out of the suite,
and that we were not allowed to have "parties" on this floor, and so on. They were extremely rude and intransigent, with raised voices, accusations and everything short of baton blows.

The people assembled complied, sort of. After assurances were given, a large number of non-essential people left, including myself. The doors were closed, and the Asimov's rewards were quietly completed.

The next day, SFWA volunteers (including myself) moved the suite to a "party" floor suite, provided courtesy of the convention organization which had made the original arrangements. Needless to say there was a great deal of irritation, bad feelings, and simple wonder that such a thing could occur.

An explanation of sorts emerged; apparently there had been a news article saying that one of the publisher parties on an upper floor was open to everyone, and there was a fear that all the riffraff of Montreal would descend on the hotel. Therefore, the hotel management decided to restrict all party-like activity to two floors and control admittance very strictly. None of this was the fault of the SFWA which had arranged the suite through the convention staff, who had made the arrangements for the non-party floor suites with the full knowledge and understanding of the hotel's marketing staff.

Anyway, this was a very disagreeable, strange, and surreal experience to go through, and unlike anything I've every encountered at a convention before.

AW: Tell me about the Black Hole Project.

GDN: That could take a great deal of space, so I'm just going to give the essential details on the novel and then talk about writing it. If people have more questions, they can start with the "Black Hole
Project" page on my website;

The Black Hole Project is the name of a five part novel that Candy "C. Sanford" Lowe and I wrote about a mammoth interstellar project to make a black hole by accelerating billion ton rods up to relativistic velocities and arranging for them to converge in an implosion that results in a black hole big enough not to vanish through Hawking radiation. The rods are accelerated from five star systems which
happen to form an approximate tetrahedron. Now, that's all I'll say about the plot and background.

Candy and I wrote the novel as five separate novellas, each taking system that sends a billion-ton rod "impactor" to the implosion and at the implosion site itself. This took us eight years from concept and initial notes until publication as a series of five novellas in Analog Science Fiction and Science Fact. During that time, Candy's husband had a serious automobile accident which rendered him paraplegic and Candy a caregiver and sole breadwinner for their family. She fought her way through all that and got the job done!

While she drafted some of the scenes, most of the initial drafting fell to me. After the initial draft, we went back and forth with the material until neither of us can tell who wrote what in its final form. Some reviewers claim to be able to tell, which we find very amusing. What do they know that we don't?

The scientific basis for the story is as good as we could make it, but keep in mind that it takes place a couple centuries plus from now. We didn't throw out any laws of physics that we know today. We do anticipate some new physics discoveries--such will occur--but they aren't game changers and the plot doesn't depend on them. We've made a brave attempt at projecting future engineering developments that can be done with the physics we have. This includes biological developments such as genetic engineering for immortality and ease of communications with the cyber world. These are part of the "furniture" of the story, they aren't what the story is about.

The main theme is the struggle between fear and curiosity, between reactionary politics and vision, between striving to discover and striving to control and suppress. Our people are villains, heroes, and in-between. There is sacrifice, there is cowardice, there is tunnel vision, and even a little humor here and there. We set out to write an epic story about a big dream, and hope we got there.

AW: What are you working on next?

GDN: With Candy Lowe, I'm working on a young adult series that takes place on an artificial space colony in the L4 resonance area of the Moon's orbit.

With my wife's copy-editing help, I'm rewriting a novel based on my novellas, Crossing Chao Meng Fu and Into The Miranda rift.

I'm drafting, when I have time, a novel about a terrorist bombing on a space liner bound for Saturn.

I have a long delayed fourth science fiction detective novella in the Trimus series in work, featuring the whale like detective Drinnil'ib and his human companion, Mary.

I have numerous pieces of short fiction in various stages of completion, which I pull out and work on when I'm sick of working on other stuff. I'm as busy as I want to be, which is a good thing. My resolution is to be more efficient and productive next year!

And for C. Sanford Lowe...

AW: Do you start with a 'what if', a character or a place?

CSL: Generally, I start with a character, usually inspired by someone I have known. I put them into a situation and let the character evolve.

AW: What or who sparked your interest in science fiction?

CSL: It started with Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. I was in flight school at the time, studying to become a commercial pilot. Our instructor brought in the book and it went through our class like wild fire. Gerald's stories have been a tremendous influence as I've been so inspired by the science and "his world".

AW: Who's your favorite character that you've written and why?

CSL: Every current story is my favorite story and every current main character is my favorite. The one that comes to mind (besides the current main character) is the Scottish professor, Bruce Macready, in the Black Hole Project story "Loki's Realm". He was so charming and self effacing. He was fun to set up against the loud and raucous Dagger especially in the scene where they are abandoned on a half-finished modified Bernal's Sphere talking about sex to stave off the horror of their impossible situation as their little space runabout tumbles away
from them.

AW: Speaking of your collaboration with Gerald (G. David Nordley), if one of you was the right brain and the other the left, which are you?

CSL: I forget which is which. We both have strong creative juices. Gerald's theory of writing is to make an outline and then start the story at the beginning and go until you get to the end. I was born on the cusp of Virgo and Libra, so on even days I write in a logical manner and on odd days I write with abandon - here and there and everywhere in the story. That's the draft version. The rest of the drafts (and there are many) must, of necessity, get seriously left-brained.

AW: Do you argue over plot points, dialog,story arc, etc.? Who wins more of the battles? Why?

CSL: Of course we do! The winner is usually Gerald's wife, Gayle, who settles them. She's our disinterested 3rd party and one hell of a clear-eye reader.

AW: What is the most rewarding thing about collaboration?

CSL: Without a doubt, getting the work finished and sold.

AW: Where can we find more information about your works?

CSL: I'm in a couple of places on the web. As C. Sanford Lowe, I can be found on Gerald's web site that has lots of info on the Black Hole Project. By myself, I write under Candace S. Lowe. I wrote "Dead Metal" and won first place many, many years ago with the New England Science Fiction Writer's Association. I also collaborate with my composer/husband, Ron Alford. We have performed his experimental electro-acoustic music in Europe, Stanford University and most currently at UC Santa Cruz.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Writer resource time

Okay, so he's not playing chess. Know why he's on the TV? Why he's covering his mouth?

It's been a while since I've done a writer's resources post. Perhaps you'll find something helpful herein.

Here's a blog post from literary agent, Rachelle Gardner on How Book Royalties Work.

I may have given this one before, but this is chock full of helpful tips: Writer's Advice.

And a write-up on Jeff Vandermeer's, Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer - A different kind of guide for writers at Swivet.

I found this blog and added it to my feeds. You might want to as well. The author is former Editor-in-Chief of Writers Digest Magazine, Maria Schneider. Her blog is Editor Unleashed. This post offers a no-fee writing contest.

I have another double interview lined up for Friday. Come back to hear about G. David Nordley and C. Sanford Lowe, aka Gerald and Candy. If you read Asimov's Science Fiction, you're familiar with their fiction.

I'll be boppin' some stories back out the door this weekend and doing LOTS of reading. Many books to review. If I'm lucky, I'll get around to rewriting a story that still hasn't entered the fray.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

New ventures

I'm still digging out from WFC and had an eventful week. I did receive two rejections for stories this week. Ah well. It's all a process. I just have to kick them back out there. I've also rejoined a critique group and met with my new business partner in yet another endeavor. I'll be team teaching workshops on developing an online presence with Jennifer March of JMA Services.

My review of The Owl in Daylight by Philip K Dick's widow, Tessa B. Dick, got posted last month while I wasn't looking. My editor forgot to send me a heads-up. Here it is at Mostly Fiction.

And I received a royalty check for Awesome Lavratt.

Here's a list of humorous sf/f from Jim C. Hines. Hey, if you want to suggest a certain funny sf novel... :)

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

SF TV - Attack of the remakes

Well, if you're East of the Rockies, you can already tell me how the remake of the series "V" is. If not, check it out with me. ABC 8PM PT.

I received this article link from Christopher Farley, editor of the culture blog for the Wall Street Journal.

Firefly fans will want to take note. Morena Baccarin was Anara on Firefly and the movie Serenity. She was also a nemesis on Stargate SG1.

I also just heard that The Prisoner is getting redone in a miniseries. It's on AMC and begins Nov. 15 starring Jim Caviezel as number 6 and Lennie James (Jericho) as number 147, the content villager who drives a taxi and has a family. It's supposed to have a more satisfying conclusion than the original.

Here's the complete list of the World Fantasy Award winners.

That's it for tonight. I have books to read, shows to watch and interviews to write questions for.

Here are some of the interviewees I've lined up for your reading pleasure:

  • Jeff VanderMeer (2009 WFC award nominee)
  • Ann VanderMeer (2009 WFC award nominee)
  • Kage Baker (2009 WFC award nominee)
  • Tim Powers
  • Jay Lake
  • Ellen Datlow (2009 WFC award nominee)
  • Kij Johnson (2009 WFC award winner)
  • Louise Marley
  • Nisi Shawl (2009 WFC award nominee)
  • M.H. Bonham
  • Madeleine Robins
  • G. David Nordley & C. Sanford Lowe

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Monday, November 2, 2009

World Fantasy Convention report

The Friday post didn't happen for a very good reason. I was at World Fantasy Convention. I didn't have time to blog and I opted to leave the laptop at home. I'm sure all the panels were great and I would love to tell you about them, but my back and the hotel chairs didn't get along. I couldn't sit for more than 30 minutes in them before I had radiating pain down the leg. I only managed to sit through one and a half panels.

Friday night, during the mass book signing, I sat between Shauna Roberts, author of Like Mayflies in a Stream. And Wendy Delmater, managing editor of Abyss & Apex. It was nice to get to know them both. Meanwhile I sent my friends off looking for Dorothy Hearst so I could get Promise of the Wolves signed for my husband, who enjoyed it at least as much as I did. Sue Bolich, my writing buddy from Spokane, WA found her finally. We'd been sitting with our backs to each other that whole time! Too funny.

I got up to stretch my legs for a while and secured many an interviewee. In fact, I came home with commitments from 13 authors and 2 editors!

I enjoyed seeing friends I only see at conventions: Sue Bolich, Felicity Shoulders, Maggie (M.H.) Bonham, Juliette Wade, Andrea Howe and Irene Radford. Sue and I had dinner with two writers whom I shared a spec-fic critique group with years ago: Camille Picott and Stephen Gold. Camille and I will be teaming up for a book signing in Healdsburg, CA next month.

I also made some new friends and met some facebook and Broad Universe friends face to face at last. There were 13 readers for the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading.

I met Brian Rathbone, who interviewed me about Awesome Lavratt for on BlogTalkRadio. He also interviewed Maggie and one of my new friends, Lizzy Shannon. They both had books launched during the convention: Howling Dead and Time Twist respectively. I'll keep you posted with air dates.

The parties were lively with intelligent conversation, readings and refreshments. Two of them even had single malt scotch. Yum! Locus magazine, Weird Tales and Edge publishing were among those throwing the parties. The most memorable one was in the Corvidian Aeroscaphe Adventures Lounge and featured this fabulous chocolate cake with raspberry filling:

I hung out in the dealers room for a while on Sunday. Apparently, there was a bit of a flood the night before from a crack in the swimming pool above. Really! Con goers sprang into action and moved the books just in time. On the side doors to the banquet room that served as the dealers room, were these signs. Of course, spec-fic writers can come up with all kinds of interesting ways the signs might actually be telling the truth.

Strolling the dealers room was enough for anyone to realize that zombies have not yet displaced werewolves and vampires. I snagged two new books (Like I needed more!): Howling Dead by M. H. Bonham and Soulless by Gail Carriger. You so need to read the jackets of these. That's all it will take. You won't be able to resist the fun.

Meantime, a new Greg Bear novel, City at the End of Time, came in the mail on Saturday.

Sunday, I left the con early to celebrate my grandson's first birthday. I have my priorities. :)

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Conferencing, conventioning and reviewing

The 2009 Redwood Writers Conference was a big hit. My presentation, Developing Your Online Presence (as an author), aside from technical difficulties out of my control (including the hotel's wifi quitting), went well. I had over 40 people in attendance. I met a fellow tech presenter in the bookstore and we're laying plans to collaborate on future efforts and invest in our own digital projector. Very exciting. It's not writing, but it's fun stuff and it will pay. :)

Last week, I hopped onto the Writing Mafia group on LinkedIn and asked for examples of author blogs in which the subject was not necessarily writing, but related to their work to add to my visual aids.

Here are the ones I used.
  • Freelance writer and photographer Betsy S. Franz has several blogs. I used this one: The Nature Lady.
  • Lynne Butler writes books on law. She writes on law on her blog as well: Estate Law Canada.
  • Laurel Zuckerman's Paris Weblog doesn't have as tight a focus, but she doesn't shy away from hot topics, she embraces them.

You have no idea how hard it is for me to be sitting here blogging when I just received an ARC of Jasper Fforde's new book, Shades of Grey. Can't wait to sink my teeth into that one. :)

But first I'm off to learn some Romani dances at Sonoma State University taught by Sani Rifati of Voice of Roma.

World Fantasy Convention is this weekend. I can't wait! I'm going to try to post a couple of times from the convention. I'm also going to line up authors for interviews for the next six months.

If you read the interview with Jennifer Brozek in the previous post before the review of Grants Pass was live, it's up now at SFReader. Grants Pass is an anthology of post-apocalyptic tales edited by Jennifer and Amanda Pillar. It was a deliciously dreary collection of complicated people dealing with the aftermath of plague and quakes.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Jennifer Brozek, dark speculative fiction writer /editor

I met Jennifer at BayCon. We were instant friends when we shared a panel. Cons are like that. And Jennifer has so many interesting, helpful things to say, I asked her for an interview.

She also has a book, Grants Pass, a post-apocalyptic anthology that came out this year. I read it and reviewed it over on SFReader. I gave it the glowing review it fully deserved. The wide range of foible-ridden characters represented in the stories made it very compelling. Those characters could have made a trip to the grocery store (pre-apocalypse) riveting.

AW: What attracted you to editing anthologies?

JB: It wasn't something I decided on specifically. I never thought, "I want to edit an anthology now." My first anthology, Grants Pass, was simply a project I wanted to do that happened to be an anthology and I needed to be the editor of it. I went into the project blind and learned a lot along the way. After doing the first one, I got bit by the bug of what an anthology is and could be. I got hooked. I enjoy creating something that is more than the sum of its parts—which is what an anthology is.

AW: Do you consider yourself foremost an editor or a writer?

JB: Definitely a writer first (at least at this point in my career) and an editor second. Most of my projects are writing based. Actually, now that I think about it, about 60% of my projects are writing based with the other 40% in the editing, proofing and publishing category. I still have stories I want to tell. I still enjoy writing fiction and RPG worlds.

AW: How has editing helped your writing and vise verse?

JB: Editing out the same mistakes over and over again has taught me to not make the same mistakes in my own writing. Reading stories I know I will have to edit later has taught me to use "active voice" much more often than "passive voice." At the same time, writing has helped my editing by allowing me to recognize my past mistakes that much quicker in someone else's work.

I really believe that doing more than one job in the writing industry improves all of a professional's skills. Writing improves editing and slush reading. Editing improves writing and slush reading and slush reading does amazing things for writing and will give an editor an idea of how much work is involved in editing/copy editing a story.

AW: How much work goes into shaping a cohesive anthology after the stories are chosen?

JB: It is a huge amount of work. After the stories are chosen, there is a series of back and forth that goes on between the editor and author for edits (rewrite requests) and copy editing (technical corrections). For my anthologies, I like to have an afterward from each of the authors about the story itself and, of course, a biography. Getting a single story in shape for an anthology takes hours of work and coordination between the editor and the author.

After that is a series of processes – story order, book layout, getting ARCs out to reviewers in order to get the needed book blurbs for the cover of the book, getting the cover to approve, proofing the ARCs for any stupid spelling error and the list goes on. You must be very detailed oriented: who owes you what, who do you owe something to, when is your deadline and a thousand other details. Finally, you need to give your publisher a completed product for production and hope you didn't forget something silly like your own bio or the introduction.

AW: I know you write role-playing games by day. Most recently you had a writing contract with NC Soft for Aion. What did you like most about writing for it?

JB: It is an amazing experience to be in a room with a dozen highly creative writers all working on the same product. You have some area experts and some jacks-of-all-trades that you can talk with. I spent about half of my time just editing another author's work and the other half writing original content. Everyone writes. Everyone edits. Everyone needs the edits. It is this fabulous gestalt of creative writing. If you have a question about something, you can easily call it out and someone will answer you. The best part about it was being able to really dive in and create something new for a game that millions of people will eventually play.

AW: Are you an avid gamer yourself?

JB: I am a gamer. I don't know if I can say "avid" because I tend to stick to a single video game for a long time until I'm done playing with it and then I'm done-done. No more. I do spend my Saturday nights pretending to be a bloodsucking creature of the night at a local LARP. When I'm not running that LARP, I tend to have one tabletop game a week as well. I guess I'm a well rounded gamer – tabletop, video games and LARPing. My newest video game addiction is Aion. But I need to be careful because if I'm playing the game, I'm not writing.

AW: What's the story you've written that you are most fond of? Why?

JB: That is an evil question. It's almost like asking "Which one is your favorite child?" I'll break it out. Grants Pass is my favorite anthology because it was my first and I would not let it die. Five years from conception to publication—it was the little anthology that could. Regresser's Evolution is my favorite novel because it is the first novel I completed that I was willing to show anyone else. It is about to be completely rewritten as a serial for a possible upcoming project. It really does need to be rewritten. So, whether or not the project pans out, it will still be for the best. Finally, my current favorite short story is "Eulogy for Muffin" because it's about kids running a Wild Hunt with their family pets and what's not to love about that? It also had the best reaction from all of my 1st Round Readers.

AW: Can you tell us about the new anthology you're working on?

JB: The newest anthology I'm working on is called Close Encounters of the Urban Kind. It has already been sold to the Apex Book Company and is due out in the Spring or Summer of 2010. It is a mash up of urban legends and alien encounters. Some urban legends caused by alien encounters. Some urban legends used by aliens in an encounter and some alien encounters based around urban legends retold. I'm very excited about this anthology. I have a fabulous set of authors for it. The author list will be posted in October on the Apex Book Company website. I am in the final stages of story selection and I can see just how good this anthology is going to be. Scary, too, as I have a preference for the darker side of life.

AW: What are you writing now?

JB: Right now, I am working on a new PDF setting for Colonial Gothic – a horror RPG based in 1776 – called Colonial Gothic: Plymouth Rock. This should be out in time for Thanksgiving. I have a new website fiction project for Colonial Gothic that should go live at the beginning of 2010.

AW: What do you mean when you say PDF setting?

JB: It is a PDF only release of a product that describes a location setting in the RPG world. It describes the location layout, major features, canon people/places/events/mysteries. Then in a Gamemaster section, all of the location's secrets are discussed for use in an RPG campaign.

I have also just agreed to a monthly project involving the Pathfinder RPG as well as agreed to be the lead writer on a new Talisman Studios product set in the Suzerain universe. In my spare time (hah!) I intend to start the rewrite of Regresser's Evolution. My writing cup is full and this makes me very happy.

Read more about Jennifer on her website.

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