Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Convention and SF News

I'm getting ready for SiliCon this weekend and World Fantasy Convention next month. They're both in San Jose, CA. Great for me. No airfare and I can stay with my daughter in the East Bay and commute in.

The theme for SiliCon is Heroes and Villains. I'll be paneling on Saturday, only. I have a wedding on Sunday and work on Friday. If you're local, consider going. Here's the guest list:

Media Guest: Ken Lally, from TV's Heroes
Writer Guest: Christy Marx
Artist Guest: Sarah Clemens
Costuming Guest: Shawna Trpcic
Science Guest: Patricia McEwen
Fan Guest: Hilary Ayer
Toastmaster: Kevin Roche

WFC is still working on their programming schedule, but a skeleton outline is available now on their website. Their list of guests includes Garth Nix, Jeff and Ann Vandermeer, Michael Swanwick, Lisa Snelling, California-based Richard Lupoff, and Zoran Živković.

One of my new Facebook writing buddies has a fun website you might enjoy. You know those "this day in history" things? Well, his is Today in Alternate History.

Speaking of Facebook friends, I'm starting to hit critical mass. I only need 2 dozen more to hit 600. will get you there. ;)

Heinlein awards went to Joe Haldeman and John Varley. Congrats!

My story, "Grey Drive" is still available over at Every Day Fiction. You can read it on a ten minute break with time to spare. Please do, and rate it. :)

So does everyone know about 42Blips? It's like technorati especially for SF fans.

OK, Heroes fans. What's Slow Burn???

vote it up!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Grey Drive" live, Darth Vader bummed and a geek going Greek

Have you ever wondered what will happen when our portable media storage gets so small that we lose it? Read my story, "Grey Drive" for one possibility. It's a flash fiction (1K words) over at Every Day Fiction.

Here an amusing look at Darth Vader in love at Fusion Filter.

Glendi was lots of fun last weekend. The foot and the back held up well enough. Teaching dance at midday in 97 degrees is really no on. Really. Must schedule them for later in the day next year. Good thing I'm the one that schedules the entertainment. The last class on Sunday I had about 45-50 people. It was great!

vote it up!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Reading, writing, viewing and reviewing SF

This week has been a *;*&@! On the plus side, I didn't forget my radio interview this time. I was interviewed by KRCB (Rohnert Park 91.1) for the upcoming Redwood Writers 2009 Conference. I think it went pretty well. Of course, I was just warmin' up. It was only a 5 min. spot. Last time, when it was just on me, I had a whole hour. It will air Oct. 13, 9AM. The conference is the 24th of October in Santa Rosa, CA.

I just finished Immortality Factor by Ben Bova yesterday. This is a re-release. His first version published in the 90s had to have parts removed. Bova says it's not SF. It's a contemporary novel. All the science has roots in today's scientific developments.

It starts off a bit slow, but as you get to know the characters, it gets more immediate and engrossing. Full review to follow at Mostly Fiction.

Speaking of not SF, in an interview on i09, star Sonya Walger says FlashForward isn't SF. Hmmmm. Could have fooled me. Anyway, it premieres tomorrow night and I plan to watch. I even got to plug it in that 5 min. interview.

The 2009 British Fantasy Awards were announced over at Locus.

I'm currently reading the post-apocalyptic anthology, Grants Pass. I plan to interview, editor and writer Jennifer Brozek to do the usual review/interview thing. This interview will live in a SF mag, however. Details to follow. So far I'm lovin' it. But it's kind of a downer. This the tandem reading. I'm also reading Jasper Fforde's First Among Sequels, the only one of the Thursday Next novels I haven't read yet. If you missed my interview with Jasper Fforde earlier this week, make sure to give it a read.

Writing? Must do more!

vote it up!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Meet new SF writing duo Dani and Eytan Kollin

I met brothers Dani and Eytan Kollin at BayCon in San Jose last year. We were fellow panelists on a panel about remakes of our favorite shows from our childhoods. They were a dynamic duo indeed, bursting into the room and scuffling over the one empty chair on the dais.

The premise of their book, The Unincorporated Man intrigued me so much that I asked him for a review copy. You can read my review at Mostly Fiction.

I didn't get much opportunity to get to know either brothers at the convention. Further their bio on the jacket flap reads: Dani Kollin lives in Los Angeles, California, and Eytan Kollin lives in Pasadena, California. They are brothers, and this is their novel.

What better candidates for an interview? I invite you to get to know them with me.

AW: Whose idea was it to write books? Who came up with the premise for The Unincorporated Man?

It was my idea to write the books but it was Eytan’s premise. I’d been bugging him for years to get off his duff and write something (to fruition) because he was always presenting me with “what if” scenarios, they were always really cool but they were rarely followed through on. We both happened to be unemployed at the same time and so, with nothing better to do, we decided to put out heads and complimentary skill sets together and write a book. Eytan tossed me a bunch of ideas he’d written down, some of which had been collecting dust for over a decade. The second I saw the concept for The Unincorporated Man I knew it was a winner. I yanked it from the pile and said, “This is what we’re going to write.”

AW: I understand you've written three books together. Have you ever worked together on a project before the books? Who wins all the fights?

DK: Nope, we’ve never done any other projects together prior to this¬ one (done on a lark, mind you). Eytan won’t like it but I mostly win the fights and not because I’m a bully but because one of my main roles in the partnership is to separate the chaff from the wheat. Eytan knows the worlds, lives in them in fact. I know how to extrapolate on them in such a way as to make someone want to turn a page. Because our roles are so clearly defined there’s rarely if ever any of the competition or even emotional tiptoeing typical of other collaborative partnerships.

AW: What was the funniest thing that has happened to you at a convention?

DK: We were once guests at a conference up in Northern California’s bay area. One of the panels we were scheduled to give was called collaborative writing and our names were listed on the sheet as Dani & Eytan Kollin. Now if you’ve ever seen the two of us you’ll know we look nothing alike. At 6’4”, cutoff black t-shirt, scorpion laden doo rag, and biker glasses, Eytan looks like he could be a bouncer. While I’m 6’, wiry and own more shoes than my wife. Before the panel even begins a demure woman in the front row raises her hand and says, “Do you mind if I ask you a personal questions?” To which we both say, “Sure.” She then proceeds to inquire as to whether we’re a couple. To which I reply, “If it sells more books, we are.”

AW to DK: Has your background in the advertising field helped with promoting the books? Has it caused any head-butting with the publishers or their publicist?

DK: My advertising background has helped immensely because it’s a discipline that insists on strategic thinking, novel ideas and targeted messaging--from cover letters to email bursts, to website callouts to business cards. Not to mention that copywriting teaches economy of words, a skill set perfectly suited for my life as an author.

Re: head butting. There has been no head butting whatsoever with our publisher nor our publicist because A, they’re friggin’ Tor. You don’t get to be the biggest publisher of SF in the world without having a keen sense of what sells and how to sell it. B) Our editor is 3 time Hugo Award winner, David Hartwell so you tell me, what are we really going to argue with him about? Would Luke tell Yoda how to swing a saber? I think not. And C) There’s a huge difference between the disciplines of publicity and advertising. Since I know nothing about publicity there’s really nothing I feel I could offer. The bottom line is that Eytan and I are awed to be where we are and eminently grateful to everyone who’s worked so hard to get keep us here. That’s the difference between getting a book deal in your 40’s as opposed to getting one in your 20’s.

Do you still have the day job? Do you hope to be a full time novelist or do you enjoy the day job too much?

DK: I have day job as a freelance copywriter primarily in the broadcast entertainment field (I write movie trailers) and in the toy-packaging field (I name toys and write the copy that goes on the box). I would love to one day be a full time novelist. Not only because it’s less stressful but because my writing partner is my brother who also happens to be my best friend. Hanging out in an office all day getting paid to be dooberheads would be a dream come true.

Eytan sold his house in Stockton, California a few years back and moved to Pasadena in order to finish writing the trilogy. That task, for now, is his full time job (at least until the money runs out).

AW: Do you have other brothers? Any sisters? Does creativity run in the family?

Eytan and I have an older sister who lives in Irvine. Creativity certainly runs in the family but I’m pretty sure that Eytan and I are the first to have made inroads into the literary arts. Both my sister and I have Bachelor degrees in graphic design and our parents are both musically and artistically gifted. Our love of books and intellectual banter was inculcated from birth.

AW: What's the one question you wish an interview would ask you? What's the answer?

DK: Question: What is the best thing about being an author? Answer: The knowledge that ideas you created and stories that had meaning to you resonated with others to such a degree that even after our deaths our lives will continue to have meaning for people we have never met and who may not even be born yet.

AW: I love the character Omad in The Unincorporated Man. Do you use real people or composites of several to come up with these well-rounded characters?

Most of the characters are composites. We will see little pieces of ourselves and others we are familiar with. Rarely is any character taken whole cloth; with one exception. There is a character in book two who was taken from a friend of ours. Not only his mannerisms, but his personality and appearance is as accurate as Eytan could make it.

What do you do when you're stuck?

DK: Play computer games and watch lots of science fact and fiction television. Something usually gets jogged free after a couple of days. Plus it’s a great excuse to watch tv and play computer games, (hey, I’m working over here!)

What do you like most about living in (LA/Pasadena)?

DK: Although Eytan would be very happy living in a cabin by a lake, right now he prefers to be with his parents so that he can help out.

As a surfer I love that I’m ten minutes from the beach, as an endurance cyclist that I’m minutes from steep gradient hills and as a people watcher that I’ve got a plethora of characters to be inspired by. Also the air is such a pleasure to breathe.

AW: If you could live anywhere on the planet in any kind of house, where and in what would you live and why?

DK: Eytan would either like the cabin by the lake or a condo in a culturally worthy city, like New York, Boston, London, San Francisco or Haifa.

There are two places that come to mind for me.

A beach house in southern California parked right in front of a point break and an apartment with a stunning view in the greatest city on God’s green earth, New York City.

I’d choose the beach house for the easy and immediate access to fun, rideable surf and because there’s nothing quite like waking up to the sound of waves splashing against a shoreline.

I’d choose New York City because you can’t help but feel energized and alive in an epicenter of so much passion.

AW: Can you tell us anything about the other two books? What are you writing now?

DK: Our second book, due out in May of 2010 is called The Unincorporated War and takes the story of The Unincorporated Man to the next level. Whereas The Unincorporated Man deals primarily with the idea of freedom as viewed through the twin lenses of economics and sociology, the second switches over to viewing the idea of freedom through politics and military. We also delve quite deeply into the resultant byproduct of most wars--a renewed interest in religious faith. However, in our case we get to view said faith from the perspective of its having lain dormant for over 300 years. As such we get to ask, what for the both of us, is a wonderfully tantalizing question: What would a newly emergent Islam, Christianity and Judaism look like and how would it be received?

The third book deals with the issue of how far should a civilization go to secure their right to freedom and more importantly how far is too far?

vote it up!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Too bogged to blog

I've been playing catch up after having my back betray me. This is the first time I've had to do the 8-5 thing with my back out. I'm finally on the mend just in time for the huge festival my church puts on every year.

If you live within 100 miles of Santa Rosa, CA, you simply must come. The Glendi Ethnic Food Fair features two days of live music, dancing, performances, church tours, and FOOD! Oh the food. Where else can you get Eritrean Zigni (spicy beef) served hot on engera (sponge bread)with lentils and alitcha (spinach dish)? They also serve up delicious culinary delights from Greece, Russia and the Balkans such as gyros, piroshki, sarma and spanikopita. You can wash it down with Sonoma County wines or local micro-brews. Follow it up with Greek or Eritrean coffee and a pastry from one of the their two bakeries. Is your mouth watering yet? And just think, if you get out there and dance like a Greek, you can work off the calories. Guilt-free binging! Find out more at If you don't know how to dance like a Greek, no worries. I'll teach you! I'm teaching two classes each day.

OK, the commercial portion of my blog is done.

For those of you who join me in mourning the loss of Douglas Adams and regret the end to his zany space adventures, I have news for you. Eoin Colfer has been granted permission to extend Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "trilogy". The sixth book in the series, And Another Thing..., debuts on October 12, 2009.

In the meantime, you'll want to check out the cool interactive site that Block Interactive and Penguin launched for all things HHGG related, at

No fiction writing will happen this weekend. Not even in the universe of Awesome Lavratt, my novel that has been compared by some to HHGG. I'll be too busy dancing. I'm so glad the back and the foot are doing better.

I'll try to get some Glendi pictures up next week. Maybe even tomorrow. We'll see...

Next interview, this Friday with Dani and Eytan Kollin, authors of The Unincorporated Man, with a review of same available concurrently at Mostly Fiction.

vote it up!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Meet fantasy author, Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde, after 19 years in the film industry, shifted to novel writing. His first book, The Eyre Affair, hit the bestseller list in no time. In his first series, the Thursday Next novels, Fforde takes the the worlds of classical literature, no not the worlds in which they were set, but the particular fictional worlds that those authors created and turned them on their heads in a most fantastical and appealing way. Thursday Next works for SpecOps in the real world and goes to live in the bookworld to work for Jurisfiction, the policing body for that realm where characters in novels go about their lives when the pages in which they're featured are not being read. Trust me, the result is a thoroughly entertaining fantasy adventure filled with humor and mayhem. Since then he has penned the Nursery Crime series. His latest book, Shades of Grey, will be released in December. (photo by Mari Roberts)

AW: When you first started out, did you struggle with readers and editors who didn't get your sense of humor?

JF: When I first started out, no-one would even read my sense of humour. I was writing for ten years before I was published and in that time submitted six novels for publication, none of which were ever read. What you do is this: send off a (short) letter with a (short) precis and then a (short) sample chapter and wait for the reaction - hopefully, a request to see more of the book. That never happened. Or at least, not until my agent decided to ignore the precis (which is very odd, as you might imagine) and read the manuscript. She loved it and sold it on word of mouth to my publishers. They understood the humour and the off-kilter approach immediately, and that was it. Most importantly, this sense of humour isn’t uniquely mine; if it was, no-one would find it funny except me. It’s a sort of Muppets-Python-Highbrow-Fartjoke-Sitcom-Radio-Airplane! type of humour that I think has universal appeal.

AW: What advice can you give to writers about writing with humor?

You have to be able to see odd connections; make disparate ideas come together. It’s not something that is fantastically easy to pinpoint or to teach - like creative writing itself. But if you can tell a joke and laugh at something inconsequentially droll, then you’ve got a good chance of being able to get it on paper. Humour is complex stuff, and it’s difficult to say what is funny and why - or even if we should attempt to explain the mystery. Here is a joke that I like which makes no sense at all, but is, to me, very funny:

Two hippopotamus in a mud wallow. One says to the other: ‘Do you know, I keep on thinking it’s Tuesday.’

So advice for writers writing humour? Be funny, but don’t try and be funny in every sentence. Go for the long slow burn of a good set-up and payoff. The rapid flare of a one-liner can be great fun, but after a while, especially in a novel, they can be wearing, and jokes that aren’t funny - or become unfunny because there are too many of them - can rapidly send a reader off a book. I would suggest keeping a book light with occasional chuckles is better than trying to get people constantly rolling in the aisles.

Your website is fantastic. I mean, who needs the interview? (Well, me, actually. Web traffic and all. ;) ) How much time do you spend on it? Does someone help you with it?

JF: The website has grown and spread and darkened since inception in September 2001. We began it without a clear idea of where it should go and we’re still not certain where it’s headed. I simply add to it as and when I feel like it. Mari used to help me with it, but she’s busy with the baby these days, so I do all of the updating, and she does Goliath Merchandising and any specific coding I need I ask her to do, since she’s a lot better at native code programming than I am. Most of the website is written in simple HTML, which makes it very easy to update and correct. Any web-savvy readers will know how dodgy the code can be; one of these days I’ll get someone to go through and correct all the coding. One day. Cost? Hosting only, and my time. We use Goliath to offset production costs of any specific images we want, and also to offset the huge amount of giveaway postcards and stuff.

Do your characters ever wake you up in the night or interrupt you at inopportune moments?

JF: They don’t wake me up, but ideas, notions, scraps of dialogue and various thingumajigs do crop up all the time. I have to write them down or I forget them.

What do you think of social networking like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace? How valuable do you find it to be as an author? How much do you use it to promote your work?

JF: My publishers are always on at me to promote my books through those sites and I do have twitter and facebook accounts, but I don’t use them on a day-to-day basis. It’s all a bit ‘me-me-me’ isn’t it? I try to use them when I have time, and may use them for the publication of ‘Shades of Grey’ in the winter. I have planned a 140 word teaser story for ‘Shades’ - if I can think something up.

AW: Can you tell us about your most memorable convention experience?

JF: Probably at the Ffirst Fforde Ffiesta. Saturday night was Fancy Dress with everyone dressed up as characters from my novels, and there I was surrounded by people from inside my head. It was very odd. I went as Jasper Fforde and came third.

vote it up!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bad news / good news

Lovely vacation to San Diego canceled. :(
Lovely wish come true: A whole week to work on MY FICTION! :)

And no, I didn't sacrifice the former just to have the latter. I'm making lemonade.

My review of The Triumph of Deborah is live on Mostly Fiction. It's not SF, but I'm throwing it out there anyway.

This labor day weekend I carried out no labor. I did however make more work for my family. I put my back out on Saturday morning. I'm still walking around like Frankenstein's monster, but at least I can now dress myself except for the shoes.

Note to self: If it can in any way be avoided do not, I repeat, do not schedule appointments for the Tuesday after a Monday holiday. You KNOW you will forget about it thinking that it's Monday on Tuesday. Ugh! Spaced a radio interview, no less. Of course, the aforementioned back thing might have been distracting as well.

I found lots of goodies, or rather my unwittingly obliging Facebook friends have. Yeah team!

Here's a flash fiction contest for those like me who like tight prose:
Eric Beetner and JB Kohl are hosting this contest to kick off the release of their new book, One Too Many Blows to the Head.

Here's a listing of foreign markets for your spec-fic reprints that are languishing courtesy Douglas Smith.

Seems that we may have proof positive of the legendary Chubacabra. Watch the CNN video.

Lastly, Japan's soon-to-be first lady is an abductee!

This coming Friday, I'll be posting an interview with Jasper Fforde.

vote it up!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Meet SF author Juliette Wade

Juliette Wade went straight to the top of the science fiction short story ladder when she made her first sale to Analog. I'm not jealous, honest. >blushes and fidgets<. She's a talented author who brings a unique perspective to her stories because of her academic background, travels and curiosity. Her novelette, "Cold Words," is in the October edition of Analog and she has a blog entries on the new - and way cool - Science Fiction Writers of America website.

AW: What science fiction writer has most influenced your work?

JW: Ursula K. LeGuin, definitely. I remember being impressed with the thoroughness of her world concepts, and also with the simplicity that she used to get those concepts across. Her worlds feel so real, without a word wasted on infodumping! I've actually analyzed her prose (as those who've visited my blog know), and written a paper about the way she takes the strange and makes it feel familiar (ALSC [Association of Literary Scholars and Critics] Conference, 2006).

AW: What first sparked your interest in linguistics and anthropology?

JW: I've always been interested in languages. I learned French as a child, and traveled in Europe with my parents; there was a time when I wanted to learn every language in the world. I took every language I had time for - French and Spanish in high school, and Japanese in college. One of the things that always impressed me about the languages I studied was the way that aspects of culture were revealed in the language, so that was why I ended up going into Anthropology and Linguistics. Whenever I studied foreign language, I had this awesome feeling like my brain was expanding. That's my ultimate test for any language I create - if I can write in an alien perspective and feel my brain expand, then I know I've gotten it right.

AW: Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when you opened that first acceptance letter?

JW: Yes. I was running out the door, late taking my kids to their gym class, so I didn't open it. I was afraid I'd crash the car; I almost opened it at every red light. Finally I opened it at gym, and had a complete conniption right in front of everybody. When I told them why, they didn't mind.

AW: What was the most valuable advice you've received from a writer?

JW: The most valuable advice I've received came from my best friend, Janice Hardy. She told me that the first thing you have to do is to make your reader care about the story. Without that, it doesn't matter how well it's written in other respects. So I pay a lot of attention to establishing my protagonists, their goals, and what they stand to lose if they don't achieve them.

AW: What defense do you offer when you get the always dreaded, you write science fiction? Really? I used to read it when I was a kid.

JW: Defense? I never really thought about it like that. But then again, I guess I have a rather kid-like enthusiasm about what I do. So my response is usually, "Isn't it COOL?"

AW: What has helped you the most in learning to create truly alien aliens?

JW: Two things, both of which I learned in graduate school. The first is qualitative research, or field notes, which taught me about paying attention to the details of social situations and describing them without passing judgment, allowing my readers to share my observations (and thus my conclusions). In that context I also learned about paying attention to the details of how individuals express their alignment with social groups, and particularly how they describe groups in which they feel like they are insiders. The second is discourse analysis, or transcribing sequences of talk and breaking them down into pieces. This taught me to look for the linguistic sources of the subconscious emotional impressions I got while listening to what people said, and it's helped me immensely in the planning and editing of my alien speech.

AW: Do you have someone you bounce ideas off of?

Definitely. I have a tendency to bounce ideas off anyone who will tolerate them, but my staunchest writing partners are Janice Hardy, Dario Ciriello, and Lillian Csernica. Each one of them has distinct complementary areas of strength, and I wouldn't be where I now am without them.

AW: What was your best convention experience?

It's hard to say. One really great one was when I was on a panel about the Seven Wonders of the World at Baycon a few years ago. I was on the panel with Deborah J. Ross and Paul Chafe, and it was Deborah who introduced me to Sheila Finch (author of The Guild of Xenolinguists), who first suggested I send a story to Analog. I was also privileged this July to be on a panel with Sheila and with Dr. Stanley Schmidt about designing alien languages. It was amazing to be on a panel with people who were both knowledgeable about language and cared deeply about its place in science fiction.

What are you working on now?

I've been designing a new story, tentatively titled "At Cross Purposes," in which humans encounter aliens with a very different view of technology. I'm also working on a collaboration with Sheila Finch about a deaf linguist. And I've just finished revisions on a fantasy novel, so I'll be heading into submissions very soon, and I'm hoping to turn my eyes to a novel-length project that takes place in my multi-caste Varin world. So I've got a long to-do list! It's very exciting.

Learn more about Juliette at her blog,TalkToYouUniverse.

Next Friday, I'll be posting an interview with Jasper Fforde.

vote it up!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Science fiction haps and lists

This just in -- Publishers Weekly posted a list compiled by John Ottinger of blogs that review SF. Now were was this list before I started mine? I haven't had a chance to compare yet. Here's both.

Publisher Weekly
Ann Wilkes' SF Reviews list

Mine's not just blogs and is still growing. Let me know if you have suggestions, though I think I may have my work cut out for a while.

Broad Universe just held some birthday parties for Mary Shelley. Get a load at the refreshments at one of them. And here's an article about another birthday party they held.

Wired posted a list of their favorite SF movies--pre Star Wars.

Here's my tentative schedule for Silicon in San Jose:
Saturday, October 3rd, 2009
11:30 am - 12:45 pm in San Jose Room: Joy of Research
4:00 pm - 5:15 pm in Carmel Room: Writer's Block
5:30 pm - 6:45 pm in Carmel Room: Harry Potter is Over...Now What?

This Friday I'll be posting an interview with SF author, Juliette Wade. You can peek at her blog in the meantime.

On the writing front, I'm polishing a first draft of a book review and facing rewrite number 9 of a SF story. I'm currently reading Mortality Factor by Ben Bova and Grants Pass edited by Jennifer Brozek. The Japanese SF was good, but very military. Review to follow at Mostly Fiction.

I'm being interviewed on the radio again next week. This time regarding the Redwood Writers Conference in Santa Rosa this October. I'll be presenting on the topic of building an online platform as an author - go figure. ; Redwood Writers is one of 17 chapters of the California Writers Club which claims to be the oldest writing club in the nation. Jack London and Ina Coolbrith were founding members.

It's September, the beginning of fall, kids are back in school and -- best of all, the latest edition of quarterly and tri-annual mags are heading our way.

The latest edition of Ideomancer has just gone live.

Abandoned Towers released their sneak peek at their next issue coming out November first.

More quarterly mags to look for new issues from are Abyss and Apex, Aoife's Kiss, The Pedestal, and Darwin's Evolutions.

vote it up!