Thursday, August 22, 2013

My WorldCon Schedule

I am so looking forward to going to WorldCon in San Antonio next week. Four straight days of hanging out with author-friends and fellow SFF fans is awesome enough, but as a parent I can't help but drool over the chance for FIVE WHOLE NIGHTS of blissful, uninterrupted sleep.  Even if that sleep starts at 3am after I leave the parties.  Because y'all, I can sleep in.  I...I think I've forgotten what that feels like!  

Better yet is the chance for uninterrupted writing time. Yeah, I'm at the con to be social, but I totally plan on locking myself in my hotel room for at least a short while each day to write.  It's amazing how much progress you can make when you've got the chance to sit down and really focus (again, without any cries of "Mommy!").

I'll have plenty of time for both socializing and writing, since this year the programming committee didn't assign me to any panels, readings or signings.  That's the way it goes with big cons; some years you're loaded up (at last year's WorldCon I was on a whole slew of panels), some years you get nada.  But despite the lack of official programming, I've still got a few planned events:

8pm Thurs Aug 29, Rivercenter hotel Suite #3436: The BookSworn & Friends Party

Those of us from BookSworn have ganged up with a bunch of other SFF author friends to host a truly awesome open suite party.  Free booze, free food, and LOTS of free books & other swag!  Well okay, you want a free book, you gotta eat a bug.  They're not alive, and they're heavily flavored - it's no sweat, I promise. Even if you cringe at the thought of bug-eating, come for the awesome company and conversation, because it's gonna be a blast.  Check out our official poster (design by the insanely talented John Hornor Jacobs):

11am-1pm Saturday Aug 31: group signing at The Twig bookstore

I'm joining fellow authors Scott Lynch, Myke Cole, Brian McClellan, Betsy Dornbusch, Mike Martinez, Kevin Hearne, and Drew Carpyshyn for a group signing at local independent bookstore The Twig.  The store's a short distance away from the con hotel, right in the middle of the San Antonio farmers market, so it should be a fun time.

7pm Saturday Aug 31: Drinks With Authors

The ever-awesome team of Justin Landon of Staffer's Book Review, Steve Drew of Reddit's r/Fantasy, and author Myke Cole put this event together.  I'm just one of many, many authors participating - I think it'll be standing room only, and you should see the stacks of free books Justin's already accumulated to give away!  Trust me, you don't want to miss out.

That's it for the official stuff!  Otherwise, I'll be hanging around, attending panels, maybe doing an impromptu AMA over at the Reddit r/Fantasy fan table, and having a generally terrific time.  If you're at WorldCon and you see me in the hall, please, say hi! I love meeting new friends.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag zu den Chroniken von Ninavel!

I may not have a book releasing this year in the US, but I've got a "book birthday" coming up tomorrow in Germany!  August 16 is the official release day for The Whitefire Crossing's German edition, a.k.a. Die Chroniken von Ninavel: Die Blutmagier.  My fingers are crossed that German  fantasy readers will enjoy Dev and Kiran's adventures!  Just yesterday I officially signed and sent back the contract for the German edition of The Tainted City, and I hear the publisher also wants to see The Labyrinth of Flame as soon as I finish it, so I have every hope the entire trilogy will be available auf Deutsch before too long.

Haha, and for any readers who wince at Dev's profanity in the Shattered Sigil books - you can always give the German versions a try!  When I took a peek at the preview my German publisher made available through Google books, I discovered to my combined surprise and amusement that all of Dev's f-bombs have been carefully translated out.  ("You've got to be fucking kidding me" => "Boy, you've got to be kidding me"; "Fuck you, Cara" => "Don't you talk, Cara"; etc.)  I've no idea of the publisher's reasons - maybe they want to aim for a younger readership, or maybe German fantasy readers are more bothered by profanity?  While it's true Dev's foul mouth was a deliberate choice on my part, I'm not upset over the change, since I figure the Germans know their market best.  (Besides, the English versions of the books are still exactly as I wrote them.  No harm, no to speak. :)  It does make me wonder if other foul-mouthed fantasies (e.g. Joe Abercrombie's) have been cleaned up in translation.  Perhaps I will dust off my rusty German and go read some to find out!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Hardest Lesson in Publishing

Been suffering from a nasty cold these last few days, ugh.  On the up side, my virus-related misery has been mitigated by reading some awesome books: namely, the conclusion to Mark Lawrence's excellent Broken Empire trilogy, Emperor of Thorns (link to my brief goodreads review here) and Catherine Fisher's Obsidian Mirror (my favorite YA read of the year so far! Link to my brief yet gushing goodreads review is here).

I have to say, looking at other people's goodreads reviews of Obsidian Mirror brought home to me once again just how subjective reader taste is.  To me, Fisher's writing is everything I want in a YA novel.  Haunting, tense, dark, compelling, with characters I'm dying to figure out, plenty of adventure and action, and no angsty teen romance - I flat out loved the book, same as I did Fisher's earlier novel Incarceron.  Yet plenty of other readers apparently read the very same pages and go "meh."

Which just goes to illustrate the hardest lesson of all in publishing: you can write the story of your heart, and craft it to near perfection; other people (agents, editors, readers) can love it too - yet unless that story happens to be the story of a LOT of other people's hearts, it's not going to sell in big numbers (no matter how much those readers who adore it wish it would).  Whereas a story that has all kinds of craft flaws yet strikes the right chord with a large number of people will sell like crazy.

The real kicker is that you as an author can only write what's in your own heart; try to write a story that you're not passionate about yourself, and readers will notice the lack.  Plus, for all that publishers try to predict what will speak best to people's hearts, nobody really knows until the book gets into readers' hands.  Every author deals with this uncertainty in their own way.  Me, I like to keep my expectations low.  If my book reaches even one other person's heart, then writing the story was worth every moment at the keyboard.  (I'm well aware this is far easier to say when writing is a well-loved hobby, not a means of putting food on the table. Reason #1,001 why I have no dreams of giving up my day job.)

But really, doesn't matter what your coping strategy is, so long as it lets you a) keep writing and b) have fun along the way.  I'll admit, some of my fun comes from things like this:

But mostly I love the joy and challenge of writing a story unique to my own heart.  In honor of that, I'll finish off with a picture that'd go well with the chapter I'm currently working on for The Labyrinth of Flame:

Near the junction of Buckskin and Paria Canyons.  Picture doesn't do the grandeur and beauty of the slot justice.  Flash flood's a serious risk, but at least (unlike Dev and Kiran!) canyoneers don't have to worry about demons or blood magic.  

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Illustrated Guide to Writing A Novel (Grand Canyon edition)

I was realizing the other day that while I've shown off plenty of pics here of the Sierra Nevada, the Rockies, even Utah's canyon country, I've neglected one of my other favorite haunts: the Grand Canyon.  Ever since I first hiked rim to river and back on one memorable February day back in the early 1990s, I've been returning to backpack the canyon's many trails and explore its majesty.  I did something like eight backpacking trips there during the years before my son was born, but my favorite adventure of all was a 3.5 week rafting trip in which we floated the entire length of the canyon, rollicking through North America's largest navigable rapids and scrambling up scores of rugged side canyons along the way.

It occurred to me that writing a novel is a lot like that rafting trip.  You start out typing your story all perky and excited, knowing the journey will be long and arduous but confident you have the strength to make it.

Day 1 of our Grand Canyon raft trip: wheee, rowing is fun!
  Gradually, you become aware the boat you're rowing is really damn heavy.  Also, there's a headwind.  The perkiness fades, replaced by determination.

Day 3: rowing is hard work.
You pause, take a look at the bigger picture...and realize exactly how far you have yet to travel.

Looking down the Colorado River from the Nankoweap overlook.
Then you hit the rapids. They are bigger than you imagined.  You master your fear and face them head on.

Helloooooo, big rapids.

Sometimes you fall out of the boat and get a bit more of a ride than you bargained for.

Swimming the rapids of the Little Colorado River. (This, we were doing for fun. I don't have any pics of the people who fell out of the raft in the real rapids, because we were too busy rescuing them.)

Other times, you take a detour and end up someplace surprising.

Me exploring a lovely little side canyon.
There are other people on the same journey who understand the trials, tribulations, and joys.  If you feel a little overwhelmed, you can always get silly with them.

River guides pretending they are scuba mice. (Long story. You had to be there.)
No matter how arduous the journey, there are times when you're overcome by its beauty.  

Gorgeous Grand Canyon landscape.
And so, day after day, you forge on.  Knowing that even when this journey comes to an end, there will always be another story waiting for you to explore it.

The Little Colorado River beckons.