Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Halloween's on a Monday, to which I say boo in the jeering fashion, rather than the scaring. When I was a child, it never mattered what day was Halloween, of course: if it was a school day, you might wear your costume there, and then get home and have dinner, and then get to trick or treating as soon as it started to get the least bit dark. Monday was as good as any other day. But as a grown person, you like your holidays to fall on the weekend: Friday and Saturday are the best nights for parties, you know. I used to throw Halloween parties, but there's just too much that happens, and over the years, the number of events going on has only increased, so that two years ago we threw our last party for the biggest dress up occasion of the year. It was sad, but we had far too many people showing up for twenty minutes before they ran off to another party (often three or four more parties). End result was a party of fifteen people with five or eight wandering through at any moment. Not awful, or anything, but the parties I once threw were big productions, so Halloween quit being worth it.

Now I'm an old fuddy duddy, and I sit in my apartment and look down at the streets below, thronging with costumed revelers wandering about. I do not, myself, get dressed up, but then, since I was a child, I seldom have. And I rather hope that there's no knocking at our door tonight (I think there are no kids in our building, or at least, I've never seen one, so we may be okay) because we don't have any treats to give out. A bit of a grouchy curmudgeon, that's me these days.

Truly, though, I don't object. Happy Halloween, and all that. Enjoy it, if you're able to do so on a Monday, or if you already did over the weekend. I'll be sitting at home, having some dinner, probably watching Cabaret because Netflix sent it along. Inappropriate, I know. Maybe we'll dig up a horror movie we can watch instantly? 

Happy Halloween in any case.

Friday, October 28, 2011

You. Yes, you. You're awesome.

Yes, YOU!

Thanks for coming to take a look at our humble - errr, arrogant blog. You may be here because of our current 20,001: A Steampunk Odyssey contest. Which is awesome, and we truly appreciate! Thanks for coming to look for a moment at what we do when we're procrastin - errr, busily planning our next novel. Leave a comment, say hi, tell us about your journey as a writer. Because that is REALLY awesome!

Or you may be here because you want to know where you can find us next (Orycon, Rustycon, Norwescon, etc) for signing and panels and such. Which is awesome, we would love to see you at any or all of our coming events! Come bug us about writing, about epub, about your next novel. We love to talk about stuff like that.

Or you may be here because you want to read what we have to say about Nanowrimo - in which case, check out the very next post - and yes, in that case you're completely awesome because you're a writer and you're considering that month of madness known to mere mortals as November. Hats off to you!

I'm sure there are plenty of other reasons you might be here, and those, too, are awesome. In fact, I'm planning to found an Awesome League of Awesome, and you will all be founding members. With t-shirts, and secret handshakes, and probably some kind of world domination agenda.

And cookies. Because that's how we roll around here.

So thanks again for coming by. We hope you enjoy, and come back soon. :)

National Novel Writing Month

There's this thing called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for shorter, which I do. Or have done. Or something. I think the first time I did it was in 2004, though I may be wrong, it might have been 2003. All records of the period have grown sketchy, and the computers I wrote on then, which might have contained such information, are corrupted and long dead. In any case, from that point I've given it at least a shot every year: try to write a novel of at least 50000 words in one month (November).

There's been a good amount of success. Two years ago I wrote Engines of the Broken World; a couple edits later, it got bought by a publisher, and looks likely to make its way to shelves in time for NaNo 2012 (or maybe 2013, the timing on publishing being not an exact science). 2006 was Daughter of Cleopatra, which I've epublished; 2010 was Never, which is probably my favorite of all the things I've written, and is also readily available. Other years brought Speech of Angels, being edited and polished, and the House of the Serpent, ditto (though it needs much more editing and polishing). There was the year I was at sea, and didn't finish anything (sad year for NaNo, but hell, I was sailing around the world, and I was pretty impressed that I even gave it a shot).

This year I'm getting married in November. That takes up, as you  may know and can certainly imagine, a goodly bit of time in the lead up, and then there's a honeymoon after. So it's not going to be the best month for writing a book. But I'm still going to give it a try, and see what comes. I suspect another failed attempt, and I won't much blame myself for it. One must, however, make the attempt. And so should you, dear readers, if the least hint of being a novelist has entered your head.

One month. One book. It's a hard equation to master, but simple in concept.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Thousand Words

Some time ago - all right, it wasn't that long, but bear with me here - I wrote the Great American Novel. It wasn't set in America, and it may or may not be great, but it was, in very fact, a novel. Weighing in at roughly 111,000 words, it's arguably quite a long novel for the Young Adult Fantasy genre.

I find myself bemused to note that the name of the novel, Grimme, is very close indeed to an eponymous television series that just began serialization: "Grimm." The TV show is all about someone who suddenly becomes aware that his many-times-great grandfather was one of the original Brothers Grimm and he must now go fight monsters (I paraphrase wildly, but you get the gist I'm sure). Strangely enough, this too is modestly close to the ideas touched on by my novel - not precisely, but not so far off either.

And yes, this leads to bemusement for me. Am I, as has been the case several times this year, tuned closely in to the spirit of the times? Does my muse whisper to me what will be popular next season? (Would that were the case!) Perhaps. But in this time I am reminded that there are relatively few truly original ideas left under the sun, perhaps none at all; and that it is how we execute those ideas that makes our writing worthy of being read. The "great stories" are all great exactly because they speak to something universal in human experience, so it is natural that we would go back to them again and again, seeking the truths they contain.

Perhaps that is the case with Grimme, and the new television show Grimm. Or perhaps not. But in the mean time, you are invited to feast your eyes on the lovely map drawn for the alterate-Europe setting of Grimme. Done by hand by the multi-talented Jason Vanhee, it uses archaic or non-English names for many of the regions of Europe. I'm quite pleased by it, and grateful that my writing cohort has such a rich store of artistic ability upon which I may occasionally draw. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in this case it will help me summarize over a hundred thousand words - and my gratitude is commensurate with that ratio.

Look for more Grimme developments soon!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


We went to Steamcon this weekend. Both Peter and I were lucky enough to be invited panelists, meaning we got to sit in the front of various rooms and talk about topics that were, mainly, of interest to us. Peter talked about Confederate privateers. I talked about the Hollow Earth. We both talked about epublishing. We met authors, we met game designers. We were accompanied in all our endeavors by the delightful Bev Gelfand, who I finally met in person. We all saw incredible fashion, amazing inventions, stupendous accessorizing, and more squid folk than anyone would anticipate.

I had a great time. I'm going to go again next year, it seems almost certain. Steamcon kind of ruled.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Occasional Vocabulary

Not running at a very regular pace any longer, sadly. I'd love to post every day. It would be so easy to do so, too. And's not happening. Which brings me to today's word.

entropy: the tendency for things to decline into a state of inert uniformity. This may not actually be a thing that happens. It seems like it does, and the universe seems to suggest that it will, eventually, happen to everything. But we won't be around to see it, and definitely in our own lives, it will not occur. Until it occurs to each of us, singly, though perhaps in groups on occasion; entropy on a personal level isn't avoidable.

Perhaps also on a blog level? We'll see.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Curses, foiled again!

I wrote a while ago, in one of the early Daily Vocabulary posts, about gremlins. They're all over the poor EBM machine right now, and they can't be dismissed because the lovely and talented Anna, who runs the device and perforce must fix it, has herself been overcome by human-based gremlins, that is, germs. She's out sick. As we draw perilously close to zero hour for having copies of the 20001 Anthologie ready for sale, will our heroes make it? Too soon to tell, but tune in tomorrow for another breathtaking update.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Machines, and Troubles

We're getting ready the print version of 20001. This is exciting. Layout, formatting, cover, all done. Looks good, too. But its got to be printed up, and the machine on which it is to be printed is persnickety. It's a delicate device, one with lots of little widgets and parts. There's a problem as a result, which is that the binding process is off center. The spine is disturbed. So we're stuck in place while we try to get it fixed, and that's an issue. It wouldn't be a real problem, except that we have a convention coming up, and want to have copies to sell. So that's a serious concern. One that hopefully will be fixed tomorrow.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Walking off of cliffs, and climbing back up them

Having gotten bogged down in dissatisfaction with the current work in progress, I've done almost nothing on it in perhaps 10 days. Three pages, maybe, and I don't much like them. Or not that I don't much like them, but that, well, I don't much like the whole thing anymore.

In writing circles, there are those who plot out carefully, often called (surprise) plotters, and those who work best on the fly, often called pantsers (as in, seat of the pants). I fall strongly into the pantser category, preferring to just write, and thinking that everything will work out. That's usually true, but sometimes you realize partway into something that you've got it all wrong. You realize, perhaps, that the church in your world should not be just a pale shadow of the Catholic church with a few extras and accessories to make it different. Perhaps it should be vaguely modeled on that most ancient of churches, but with vast and varied changes. All of which only occurred to me 75 pages into the story, and which would require a complete reworking of almost everything to incorporate them.

Thus, I realize I've done myself a bad turn. I've rendered the story lifeless and silly in my eyes, and have walked off a cliff of my own making. Or flung myself off it, really, so that I'm now plunging into an abyss of stupid prose.

Two choices exist (three really, but the third is starting a new work, and that's out for purposes of this discussion). I can either go back and make the changes (long, tiring, liable to mistakes), or I can start all over again (frustrating to have to do, but potentially vastly liberating). I'm choosing the latter: the mothball the current WIP and leave it as is, under a drop cloth in case I need anything from it; at the same time, I'll start the new WIP, which is the old one transformed using my new ideas and knowledge. I'm casting off 20000 words, but if I do it write, they'll come back quickly enough. I have characters I enjoy, and they can come with me, as can much of the setting. But the culture, that's what I'm changing, and it needs the change to give the piece some life. Life, and internal consistency: there's no way a pale shadow of the Catholic church would be sufficient to the needs of this world, or that such a church could have even really evolved.

So, I look up from the abyss, and set to climbing out of holes of my own making. Hopefully I've got the correct gear for it. More updates as I succeed, or perhaps even fail. Failure, though, also has value. Lessons will be learned either way. But here's hoping for success all the same.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

blight: something that impairs growth, withers hopes and ambitions or impedes progress and prosperity. Urban blight is one such thing we speak of: when a city is decayed due to infrastructure problems for instance, or due to poor governance or high crime rates. Plants get blights of various sorts all the time, and entire books are devoted to trying to get rid of them. Sometimes people or peoples are referred to as blights as well, because they're noxious or annoying. Whatever the blight is, though, I'm really very fond of this definition. "Withers hopes and ambitions" is the key phrase for me. Withers hopes. A rather poetical and metaphorical phrase for a definition, taken in this case from the American Heritage Dictionary. Someone at the AmHer slipped a nice turn of phrase in here and there. It's delightful to me.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Why Not Detroit?

Forty years ago, give or take a few years, New York City went through a wondrous renaissance. While there had always been artists there, the low rents and empty spaces, the vague element of danger and lawlessness, all made sure that Manhattan became the center of the arts in America. Fashion, photography, painting, music, writing, everything had a place in the city in those days, as artists were able to take a chance, move to the city because they could afford to, and scrape by until they either drifted home, or in a surprising number of cases made it big.

I speak only of Manhattan. Nobody in those days, I'm given to understand, went to the burroughs, or thought much of them. Only on the island was there much in the way of life and culture; the Bronx and Brooklyn and Queens went on as working class sub cities, homes to immigrants and industry. While there were probably a few exceptions, the vast majority of the artistic rebirth in New York was concentrated between the Hudson and East Rivers.

Four decades on, New York is safe, prosperous and above all expensive. Not that there was ever a time when you couldn't find vastly pricey properties in Manhattan, and hugely high rents. But back in 1970, you could still also find broken down corners where no one went, where urban decay had taken hold, where you could get a big loft for a couple hundred dollars, or a rundown walkup apartment on the fifth floor of a rickety building. Now every spot in Manhattan is gentrified, expensive even if doesn't look it, and still somehow full of artists, now piled six deep in a tiny space fit for one, struggling to pay rent and eat in ways they never did before, unable to have a workspace except out in the very sub cities that were once shunned.

So what now? Articles are being written about how New York's creative boom years are ending, or already ended, because of the problems of rent and space. And perhaps there's no need for a city of artists any longer. The internet brings together writers, photographers, painters, designers, in ways that "mere" proximity never could, right?

Or wrong. There is nothing so stimulating to art as meeting with and talking to other artists, gathering and speaking together, looking over each other's work. There is nothing that makes art as possible as spaces for it to exist in, studios and theaters and galleries. New York for long and long has been that place, but it can be that place for at best a little time longer.

Why not Detroit, then? It might sound ridiculous. But examine the case. Detroit is in many ways very similar to Manhattan in the 60s: broken down, with crime and urban decay as massive concerns, population decline, cheap rents. It's a city ripe for rebirth. right now you can find places like this, slightly smaller than my apartment in Seattle and a third the price. This is for a city that, until a couple of decades ago, was the third largest in the nation, a proud and mighty metropolis.

I can hear the objections. It's Detroit! people will say, as if that matters. New York? They'll kill you! was what they said in in the Nixon years, and into the Reagan years even. People still went. Nobody wants to be the first, someone might say. Well, perhaps not. But there's a very attractive level of availability there, isn't there? Cheap rents, opportunities for everything, close proximity to the great outdoors (no, really) and to Canada (really? yes!). The climates even match pretty well: muggy and hot in summer, and chill and snowy in the winter.

Is this a real possibility? Can people go to Detroit, make it a city of art, and get it going as a reborn, growing city again? I don't know. But there's historical precedent, and there's no reason not to give it a shot. The place can use artists. As for me, I'm freakishly sensitive to weather change, being from Seattle, so I don't know that I could make it.'s tempting, isn't it? To try to be the explorers, the settlers, of a new place (an old place made new, in this case). What might not be accomplished.

Why not Detroit, then?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

per cent.: In modern, American usage, each percent is one hundredth of the whole. Fifty percent, for instance, would be half. But there is an older, more interesting usage, most common in England, and not even that long ago in common use, which was per cent., split in half and with a period at the end. Cent. stood for centum, the Latin for hundred, so that it was properly per centum, out of a hundred. 5 per cent., in the proper British sense, would be 5 per centum, five out of a hundred, exactly as it would be here. But we don't think of it in the original, the per cent. that is delightful and strange. I very much like the per centum. I wish we still used it here.

We Are The 99% (of writers)

I'm not talking about finance here. Or in a sense, I am. I'm talking about writers. And I am, Peter is, you are if you're reading this, one of the 99%. I can say this with confidence, because I know Stephen King isn't reading this; I know J. K. Rowling isn't reading this. We lowly working class writers, the ones who make little or no money, who can only dream of anything like success, we are the majority. The vast masses of those who work with words.

What does this have to do with protests, with opposition to Wall Street, with anything that would make it worthwhile to co-opt a slogan for a title? Well, the main thing is this: we all of us want things to change. And we none of us know exactly what we can make change. Do we have goals, do we have dreams, can we even, to some degree, express them? Of course. But there's nothing exactly we can do, right?

That's no more true for a working class writer than it is for a working class American, though. We can get out there and make some noise: call attention to ourselves and to others like us, try to shed some light on our problems and on our accomplishments. We can band together, because a group of voices can be heard more than one lone crier in the wild. We can hope for improvement, that we'll be heard and results will happen.

The odds of success seem slim, of course. But we each of us have some this far: we've written a book, or more than one. We've decided to put it out there. That's the hardest part. The rest is just luck, or fate, hard work or determination.

We'll never be the 1%. It's not going to happen. But we can, just maybe, succeed better than we might dream.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

evacuation: to empty or remove the contents of a place. Often done in the case of disaster. Fire, flood, earthquake, gas leaks. Sometimes some of all (Japan, we are still sorry that it happened to you.) Just tonight I've had to leave my home because of fire alarms; I was sweating onions on the stove, and though I had the fan on, I thought perhaps I had set off the alarms. Living in an apartment building, I climbed on a chair to turn off the alarm, but it failed. So I moved to the other fire alarm (a new building, they are very thorough) and turned it off as well. But still it blared. So I fled the building in flip flops and coat, and went for a drink with my fiance, and returned rather a bit later. The evacuation had ended.

We still have no idea why it happened. That's the way of it, sometimes.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

squall: a sudden violent gust of wind or localized storm. I got caught in one today walking home from a movie with my fiance. What had been a gentle drizzle turned into pelting rain, and in a block we were each half soaked through, sharing one inadequate umbrella. I'm not afraid of getting wet, mind you; I grew up in Seattle, and water falls from the sky all the time. But lightly. Very lightly. Squalls are unusual, dare I say unnatural, here. We ducked into a restaurant and had our dinner, and when we were done, so was the rain. Drippy awnings and slick streets and the cool, crisp air were all the signs of what had happened, that and one drenched shoulder each. Not a bad price to pay for a word.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Successfully Faking It

Steamcon is coming up in a couple of weeks. Both Peter and I will be there doing a talk about ebooks and Steampunk, which I feel perfectly comfortable doing, as it's focusing in large part on ebooks. I know that topic pretty well now. Somehow it grew into me being an actual pro at the convention, though. I don't mind being a pro: you get a nicer badge, and access to the greenroom, and you're in the program if all has gone well. That's all kind of neat. It's been a while since I pro'ed at a con, like more than a decade of a while, but the process seems to be almost unchanging. The real problem comes in the fact that it was needful for me to sign up to do more panels (wait, they expect me to work?) and thus, I need to fake it.

Panels are great: people who know a thing or two talking about that thing for interested audiences. The problem arises when the audience (Steampunk enthusiasts) knows more than the panelists (me, in this case, a Steampunk dabbler, interested in the topic but really not deeply sunk into it.) I tried to pick panels that I at least knew something about, mostly from a historical perspective rather than a genre one, and that's worked out okay. But as so often occurs in ordinary life, I'm now obliged to fake it. Fake knowledge that I halfway possess; fake confidence that I should be up in front of people many of whom are more gifted and talented than me; fake ability to moderate a panel involving just me and this guy. So that's a problem.

On the other hand, I'm a writer. A writer of fiction, no less. My job is to fake it: to make it seem like I grasp what it's like to be in the 18th Century, or a woman, or slowly dying of blood loss. Or even to live in a city other than Seattle, which is about all the experience I have in that particular field. And I think I do pretty well in that regard. This is just the same thing, for an hour, with help, in front of people who will drift in and out of rooms as their level of interest and boredom dictates. Not even necessarily interest and boredom in me and what I'm talking about in a panel, either. I've walked out of perfectly good panels because I thought maybe there was something else going on. So it's easy, I know that. Easy to fake it, easy to put out an impression of knowledge, of competence. And really, I'm not underqualified or anything, I just know there are very expert persons attending who aren't panel participants at all, and never will be, and it makes me feel a bit of a fake all the same.

Doesn't matter though. I'm committed now. So let's get to the fakery. I suppose the night before, I'll have to be a busy bee at writing something different and odd, so that I really feel successful at making it up as I go along. But that's all right. It's what I do. It's what all writers do.

See you at the con. I'll be smiling, real or not. Hopefully by that point, it'll be hard to tell.

Daily Vocabulary

format: the way in which something is arranged or set out. As in, the DVD format, or the Kindle format. That's if we're using it as a noun, of course. As a verb, it means to prepare something to be presented in some particular style. So one can format one's book. I'm doing that right now, adding bells and whistles. I ponder, as I do, all the years in which this process has occurred, and all the ways it has occurred. A thousand years ago, monks would have spent their time illuminating pages, working on massive capitals to start chapters with, rubbing gold leaf here and there and worrying that their lapis lazuli was running out, so how would they make a proper blue? That sort of thing isn't quite gone as of yet. A fellow is working on finishing a hand bound and illuminated copy of the Silmarillion. In more recent centuries, it's been a matter of typesetting at the printers, hand laying your letters in a carefully chosen font and then printing up pages before moving on. And then full on printers, which still had some of that typsetting for the longest time. Now, of course, it's all computers, and so you format on your laptop or what have you, and a really fancy printer masters every font and type, including hundreds and thousands you can just download. It's neat, and it's very fast and sleek compared to former versions, but there's still something about all those scribes, mapping out their individual pages, working for months or years, that's terribly exciting to me.