Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Tainted City heads to Germany!

So I finally get to share some good news!  (I hate the part of publishing where you hear something exciting and then have to sit on it for weeks until everything's official.)  From Publisher's Marketplace deal announcements:

"German rights to Courtney Schafer's THE TAINTED CITY, to Lübbe, by Whitney Lee of The Fielding Agency, on behalf of Becca Stumpf of Prospect Agency."

Bastei Lübbe is the German-language publisher of The Whitefire Crossing, which releases there on August 16 (coming up soon! woo hoo!).  I'm delighted they've now bought The Tainted City too - not the least because I'd hate for German readers to reach the end of Whitefire and be left hanging!  (There's no official publication date yet for the German edition of Tainted City, but it's my hope there won't be too long of a gap between books.)  I confess I'm also very curious to see what Bastei Lübbe does for Tainted City's cover, since I quite liked what they did for Whitefire.  

In case anyone's curious how the author-publisher relationship works for a foreign deal...doubtless it's different depending on country and publisher, but in my case, I've been amused to see how hands-off the whole experience is (and how laid back I am about it, in contrast to my dealings with my US publisher).  Communication is like a game of telephone - if Bastei Lübbe needs something, they ask the foreign rights agent, who then asks my agent, who asks me.  I've heard that sometimes translators will contact authors directly to ask questions, but I've had no contact with the German translator.  Basically, I send Bastei Lübbe (via agent & foreign rights agent) the final version of the book, and then, poof!  One day it shows up on Amazon.de with a new title and cover.  And I just nod and go, "Cool."  Without ever looking at preorder rankings or worrying over publicity or sales.  I only wish I was this blase' about the US version.  Here's an example of the difference:

Night Shade: *puts up descriptive blurb for Whitefire on Amazon that contains something I consider a fairly significant spoiler (the exact nature of Kiran's identity and his reasons for leaving Ninavel)*

Me: AUGH!!!!  NOT OKAY!!!  Frantically contacts agent, brainstorms new cover copy with her help, begs Night Shade to take down and replace old copy.  Agent demands NS run future blurbs past us first.

Bastei Lübbe: *does exactly the same thing as Night Shade*

Me: *shrugs* Oh well.

I rather suspect the second relationship is the more healthy one.  Maybe one day when I'm a jaded veteran of the industry I'll be all zen about US versions of my books, too.  (Everyone who knows me: HAHAHAHA not likely.)      

Anyway, I'm thrilled The Tainted City will join The Whitefire Crossing auf Deutsch.  To celebrate, I shall leave you with a picture taken on a lovely dayhike my husband and I did in the Austrian Alps:

My husband enjoying a rest break on a trail near Hintertux, Austria.
One day I will climb in the Alps again.  And who knows, maybe I'll even be able to spot the German editions of my books in a shop!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

My two cents on Women and SF

As you might guess from the silence here, I've been a busy little bee these last weeks, working on The Labyrinth of Flame.  But a few things have been stacking up on the mental radar that I wanted to mention:

1) Last week I participated in an SF Signal Mind Meld discussion on "What are the most overdone/useful/damaging tropes and stereotypes in SF/F?"  Don't go read it for my answer, but for everyone else's: many of my fellow authors had excellent, insightful takes on the subject.  

2) If you're involved in the world of online SF/F fandom, doubtless you've heard about the recent brouhaha sparked off by sexist remarks in a column in the SFWA bulletin.  (If you're not aware, Jim Hines has an extensive list of links to posts discussing the issue.)  I haven't said much on this because I feel many other people have already said what I might want to say in far more articulate and eloquent style.  (See Mary Robinette Kowal and Kameron Hurley's posts, for example.)  But one article I read particularly affected me: Ann Aguirre speaking out about the horrible treatment she's received as a female SF author at SF/F cons.

I read Ann's post and just boggled.  I have been working as an engineer in the male-dominated space industry for fifteen years now and NEVER ONCE been treated with scorn or dismissal - so what the hell is wrong with SF?  I've seen people say, "Oh, the guys who dismiss female authors are just old.  Also, they're geeks; they've got no social skills to start with, you can't expect them to act professionally."  I'm sorry, but that is no excuse.  Aerospace is chock full of Old White Guy (tm) engineers and scientists who were raised in the 50s and have all the social skills of Dr. Sheldon Cooper on Big Bang Theory...and yet they manage to behave in a professional manner at conferences and company functions.  If I can go to a day job meeting in which I am the lone woman in a sea of fifty men twenty years my elder, and still have my contributions respected, valued, and acted upon, then why is SF - supposedly the literature of imagination and intelligence - such a toxic environment?  

I don't know.  All I can say is that hearing tales like Ann's deeply upsets me, on behalf of Ann and every other female SF author who's been made to feel unwelcome and unwanted.  (I should note here that my own convention experiences have been uniformly good to date, as have all my interactions with male authors and fans.  But I write fantasy, not SF, and haven't attended very many cons - only WorldCon, World Fantasy, and my local convention MileHiCon.)  

In my more vindictive moments, it makes me want to write a hard SF novel...just so if some panelist at a con tries to dismiss me because of my gender, I can be all, "Hey, buddy, I went to Caltech at age 16.  I studied under some of the top scientists in the world, graduated the youngest in my class (male or female!), and since then I've sent projects to other planets and created algorithms to do things in remote sensing nobody even thought were possible - so don't even think about telling me I can't write science."  But that would be foolish, even counterproductive.  SF isn't about credentials, it's about imagination.  Look at C.J. Cherryh's novel Cyteen, which remains the best treatment of the ramifications of human cloning that I've ever read, despite Cherryh being neither a molecular biologist nor a geneticist (so far as I am aware!).  The real issue here is that authors of fiction should be judged on their books alone, not their gender or race or their perceived expertise.

I have no answers, no magic wand that can bring change.  So instead, I fall back on my old standby: I try to talk loud and often about my favorite SF books by women, especially when people ask for recommendations.  The more visibility women have in the field, and the more readers get a chance to discover their books, the more likely it is that change will come (or so I hope).  Discussions like the ongoing one over the SFWA bulletin also help - because problems can't be solved without the community acknowledging they exist.  


Friday, June 7, 2013

Thursday Adventure: Quandary Peak, redux

Last year I did a Thursday Adventure post talking about 14,265 ft Quandary Peak and showing off some pics from a mid-summer ascent.  But Quandary deserves another Thursday Adventure post, because yesterday I had a particularly special visit to the peak: I took long-time blog reader (and book reviewer, SF Signal Mind Meld Curator, and all-around awesome genre commentor) Paul Weimer on his very first attempt at summitting a 14K peak.  Paul lives in Minnesota and this was his first visit to Colorado.  For the last week or so he's been driving around Colorado visiting all manner of parks and wilderness areas, and photographing them (he's a terrific photographer - for a sampling of his Colorado pics, check out his Tumblr account!).  I offered to take him up a 14er, and he was foolish brave enough to accept.  

At the Quandary Peak trailhead: Paul Weimer (right) is ready for the challenge!  On the left is our other hiking companion, my friend and fellow 14er enthusiast Dustin Putnam.
I chose Quandary because it's one of the easiest 14ers to summit.  But as Paul found out, there's no such thing as an "easy" 14er!  Especially in the early season - we had a lot of snow in Colorado in April, and so Quandary's upper slopes currently remain covered in deep, slushy snow.  We had to wear snowshoes to prevent postholing (sinking thigh or waist-deep into the snow).  No big deal, but snowshoes add pounds of weight to your feet, making an ascent an even greater challenge for a novice.  The weather was another source of trepidation at first - yesterday morning dawned cloudy and rainy in Boulder, and I worried the visibility would be nil on the peak.  But thankfully, once we drove through the Eisenhower Tunnel and crossed the Continental Divide, the clouds vanished and the day beyond was beautifully sunny and warm. 

The Quandary trail starts off with a nice gentle ascent through pine forest.  But soon, the pines thin, and the views expand: 

Paul taking a rest break and enjoying the views
Paul with Quandary's east ridge in the background.  (You can't quite see the summit in this picture, as it is blocked by the bulk of the ridge.)

Soon enough, the trail vanished into a snowbank, and it was time to put on gaiters and snowshoes.  In the summer, the trail switchbacks up the ridge, often staying to the south side.  When the ridge is snowcovered, you simply stomp straight up the ridgeline.  Direct, but strenuous.  
At this point, Paul is beginning to curse my name.  (The slope is far steeper than it appears in the pic. And people unacclimated to altitude soon find that the air is very, very thin!)
But look: he's still willing to smile!
The never-ending snow slope to Quandary's "false summit."  (You reach the top of this snow slope and then see the REAL summit looming beyond.)
Paul and I, onward and upward
The real summit at last appears in view: so close, and yet so far!
Valley south of Quandary.  The infamous Cristo Couloir drops straight down from the summit to the mining road at the base of this valley. Glissading or skiing the couloir, you can drop 3000+ feet in 5 minutes.
Approaching the saddle before the final steep slope to the summit.
Paul at the saddle.
Paul was a real trooper, stubbornly trudging onward despite his need for frequent rests to gasp for air.  The weather was perfect, not a thunderstorm in sight, meaning we could stay on the peak much later than is typical for Colorado.  I'd been hoping Paul could reach the summit, but alas, my friend Dustin had family coming into town and needed to get back home before evening fell, so we had to turn around before it grew too late.  (It's always important to remember on a peak: uphill only takes you halfway, you still need the energy and time to safely get back down!)  

Paul and I at our turn-around point.  Paul: "Like Caradhras and the Fellowship of the Ring, the mountain had defeated me."  Me: "Just means you need a rematch."
Dustin and Paul, snowshoes on and ready to descend
On the way down, we did get to do a brief little glissade: the slope wasn't steep enough to need an ice axe for speed control, so trekking poles worked just fine.  (The snow was so soft & slushy it was actually hard to get going!)  

Sequence of Paul glissading down (Dustin standing beside the glissade track).
We might not have made Quandary's summit, but in my view there's nothing better than a gorgeous day spent in the mountains with friends!  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Publication update for the Shattered Sigil books

The news is out: Start and Skyhorse Publishing have closed a deal to acquire Night Shade Books.  Or rather, to acquire the contracts of those NS authors who agreed to sign them over and accept new terms.  And yes, I'm one of the folks that signed.  It wasn't an easy decision for me, for a variety of reasons specific to my personal situation.  But I'm hopeful going forward that I've made the right choice.  It's definitely a relief to know that The Whitefire Crossing and The Tainted City will remain easily available to readers.  Plus, I will actually get paid for Tainted City.  (That's right: the book has been out & selling for 9 months now, and I haven't yet seen a cent for it.  This is why it's good to have a day job.)

So far, Start and Skyhorse only own the rights to the first two books in the Shattered Sigil series, since that's all that was contracted to Night Shade.  The fate of the final book, The Labyrinth of Flame, is still up in the air - but as I've said before, if things don't work out with a publisher, I'll suck it up and put out Labyrinth myself.  Right now, I'm just concentrating on finishing the story (and having fun doing it!  Yesterday, I had one of those wonderful moments that make all the hard work of writing worthwhile: after ages fiddling with a troublesome chapter, I figured out how to make it work.  Not just work, but really shine: and oh, how amazing it feels when you read a scene back over and know you've made it a thousand times more awesome than it was before!  Did I mention that I love to revise?)

Anyway, now that the whole Night Shade mess has been resolved (more or less!), I want to thank some people for their help in negotiating it.  First and foremost, thanks go to Mary Robinette Kowal of the SFWA,  who spent countless hours answering questions by phone and email and worked tirelessly to advocate for all of Night Shade's authors (whether SFWA members or not).  Due to confidentiality issues, her efforts over the last few months have been very much behind-the-scenes, but she deserves a ton of public credit.  Thanks also to fellow NS author Kameron Hurley, who organized a safe online space for all of us to discuss the offer, share information, vent our frustrations, and maintain our sanity.  And thanks to all the NS authors who participated in that forum, for being so generous with advice and support.  Publishing might be a crazy, crazy business, but it's full of awesome people.    

One final thing I'd like to say: while the ride with Night Shade was pretty bumpy, I do remain eternally grateful to them for taking a chance on The Whitefire Crossing in the first place.  You could have self-published, some people say.  But you know what?  Back then, I didn't have the confidence (or desire) to self-pub.  And after the painful experience of having Whitefire get so-close-and-yet-so-far at bigger publishers - to have editor after editor say, I love your book! and all the marketing departments say, This will not sell, I wasn't so sure I had the mental fortitude to write a whole different series and try again.  Thankfully, I didn't have to agonize.  Night Shade was willing to take the risk; and they gave Whitefire a great cover, and got it into readers' hands, and I got to share my story with people who loved it, just as I'd dreamed of doing.  Sometimes I still can't believe how lucky I am.  So it's my firm hope that the new Night Shade imprint at Start/Skyhorse will take the best part of the old Night Shade (their excellent taste in books!) and combine it with better business practices, and all of us, readers and authors alike, will win.