Thursday, September 27, 2007

Anybody want an audio book of Acacia? Free...

I haven't listened to the entire thing myself - I've got other people's books to read - but I think this a great, unabridged recording, narrated by Dick Hill - he of the "Golden Voice". I got a handful of copies in my possession, and I'm willing to part with one. (That's at least a $59.99 value, although some of them list for $119.99. I don't know what the difference is...)

I'd hope that whomever gets one of these won't just resell it. That would suck. I'd much rather think you'll enjoy listening to it, and then - if you don't need to keep it - pass it on to a friend or donate it to your library. Guess I can't control that, though.

There's a catch, but it's a small one. If you want want one you'll need to visit my Forum. I've opened a thread under the Acacia: The War With The Mein category. Just sign in and leave your name there on the thread. (Joining the Forum does not, by the way, compromise any of your information or make your email public or set you to receive spam or anything like that.) I'll wait a while. When (if) there seem to be enough names to choose from I'll do some sort of random selection and pick a winner. I'll pay postage for domestic (and slow) US shipping. If you're from overseas and win I'd ask that we arrange some way to pay for the postage. Shouldn't be hard to figure out if that happens.

So that's the offer. I've no idea if anybody will be interested in this, but you never know until you try...

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Shout, and a bit of old news

I was surprised and pleased to be mentioned in an interview with Jonathan Messinger at Likely Stories, a book blog affiliated with Booklist. Jonathan is the books and poetry editor at Time Out Chicago and Editor in Chief of a Featherproof, an independent publisher.

He was promoting a forthcoming book of short stories called Hiding Out, but when asked about what he likes to read he mentioned taking Acacia with him on a recent vacation. Nice. That's always a treat to hear, but even better when it's said in public like that. I don't know Jonathon's work yet, but I'll be checking it out soon.

What's more, there's a link in the piece that goes to the Booklist review of Acacia. Strangely enough, it's a review I never read before. I knew it was good (starred actually), but I'd never gotten my hands on the text. Then I sort of forgot about it. You can read it here. Thanks to Sally Estes, the reviewer, for the kind treatment.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Check Me Out - I speak French!

After Sylvain directed me to the website and forums I ended up poking around enough to find a lengthy interview I did - in French!

For example, I was asked "J'ai note que le titre de la série est The war with Mein, Acacia est donc le premier d'une plus large serie?"

Nice question, I thought. Great to be able to elaborate. So I said, "Oui. Pour le moment, je suis sur une intrigue qui porte sur deux livres supplementaires. Je ne voudrai pas trop en dire – sur ce qui se passe dans ce livre ou le prochain - mais je dirai que les deux prochains livres impliquent des luttes beaucoup plus vastes qui mettent en cause bien plus de pays. C'est a propos du conflit entre le Monde connu et les Autres terres."

I was then asked, "Votre precedent livre etait du domaine historique. Qu'est-ce qui vous a amene a la fantasy?"
I always enjoy this question, so I quickly replied, "Je pensais a Acacia depuis 8 ans avant de l'ecrire. Et ceci seulement en ce qui concerne le scénario et les conflits du roman. Mon amour de la fantasy remonte bien plus loin. J'ai appris a aimer lire grace a la fantasy. Je n'etais pas un tres bon lecteur lorsque j'etais jeune. C'etait dur pour moi, mais lorsque j'ai commence a lire de la fantasy j'ai découvert des mondes, des personnages et des histoires si merveilleuses que j'avais plus qu'envie de m'y frayer un chemin. Je dois beaucoup a C. S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, Ursula LeGuin, et, bien sur, a Tolkien..." And on and on. I just couldn't shut up!
You can see the entire interview HERE. How interesting it is to be part of wired world... (Thanks to Jay Tomio and FantasyBookSpot for the original interview.)

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Robert Jordan

This is the briefest of posts just to offer respect for Robert Jordan (who passed away over the weekend) and condolences to his family and to his many readers. Obviously, he was (and is) an enormous presence in the world of fantasy fiction. He'll remain so for a long time.

If you're curious, here's what the Associated Press had to say about him. That's just one, though. Search for his name in the coming weeks and you'll surely find tons of thoughts and tributes to him.

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Vive la France!

I'm absolutely thrilled to be able to say that for the first time I'm going to be published in French! Considering that I wrote my first published novel, Gabriel's Story, while living in France, I've been waiting anxiously ever since to see when one of my novels would make an appearance in that wonderful country. Now, finally, the wait is over.

Actually, the wait is doubly over because it looks like both Acacia 1 and Acacia 2 have been snapped up. (Again, no, I haven't entirely written that second volume yet, but it's coming. It's coming!)

So, my French publisher is to be Hors Collections, part of Le Pre Aux Clercs. The cover images here are from a few of the folks they already publish: Guy Gavriel Kay, Stephen R. Donaldson and Naomi Novik. Good company to be in, huh?

I don't have an exact pub date yet, but it looks like they're planning on unleashing it on the French populace in 2008. Really, I couldn't be happier about it. Sounds like the publisher feels very good about the book, really likes it and has great plans for how to promote it. I'm also chuffed that Le Pre Aux Clercs wasn't the only publisher going after it! Good to feel wanted.

And this just when I was starting to think things were slowing down... Oh, by the way, this isn't the news I can't talk about yet. I should probably stop talking about not being able to talk about that and stick to the things I can talk about...

Wonder what the cover will look like?...

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Random Things

Hello. I was blogging almost daily for awhile over the summer, but I've slowed down a little now. Part of this is that there's less news coming in. Things have mellowed out a bit. (Feels like the next big thing will be when the German Acacia pubs in January - but I'm not sure I'll do anything with that other than observe what happens from afar.) Another part of it is that I'm teaching again, and that takes a good bit of my free time.

A third factor, though, is that I'm also writing again! I'm making some decent progress on Acacia 2. Still a long way to go, but I'm getting the rhythms back and getting reacquainted with the characters, seeing how they've changed or remained the same, how they've grown for the better - or worse - or something in between.

Other things... I did just notice this brief review in the Romantic Times. I don't have real grip on just what the Romantic Times means in terms of who reads it, etc, but I do note that they wrote a lovely wee review. It's not so much a review, really. It's more of an endorsement. Works for me.

I was also pleased to note a thoughtful post by Reggie H at Noctuary. He has generous things to say about me - which I'm grateful for - but he ruminates a bit on the color blind thing from his perspective, including discussing J.M. Coetzee's new book of literary essays.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Man, things take forever...

A note on how long things can take... Way back in May I posted the news that Torn Sky Entertainment had optioned Walk Through Darkness. You might expect that the contracts were signed ages ago and my big fat check (joking, joking... seriously) had been cashed and spent, and that by now there would be a screenplay hanging out poolside at various actors homes, etc... You'd think I was writing here because I had NEWS! Right?...

Well, no. Not. Actually, I just signed the paperwork yesterday. Yep, just signed it. Put it in the mail and now I'll wait some more. These things are excruciatingly slow. I'm sure the guys at Torn Sky are on it, but still - patience is more than a virtue for a writer. It's an absolute necessity!

I actually "almost kinda" have another piece of news, but I've "almost kinda" had it for a few months now and I still can't say what it is! Maybe, maybe in a few months more I'll be able to shout about it... Believe me, when I can announce it you'll be the first to know!

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Friends in High Places...

Ya know, a strange and rather enjoyable thing has been happening lately. I've found myself corresponding more and more often with other authors - authors that I've read and respect and that (surprise!) have also read and respect me. I guess the internet makes this a lot easier, and I'm thankful for that. Of course, it took me a minute to get over my initial skepticism in this case...

You see, a couple weeks back I woke up to find two emails from people whose names were suspiciously like some famous authors that I'd read. A new form of span perhaps? Some marketing campaign? Was I going to be inundated with fake emails? Or was there some other explanation?...

Happily, there was. The emails actually were from the authors themselves, and they were writing to tell me the dug my work! This was particularly awesome because I dug their work, too. And thus I entered into a mutual-admiration correspondence with both these guys. I don't suppose they'd mind if I mention them here, especially as the mention takes the form of recommendations.

The first email that morning was from Kai Meyer. Kai is a German author of lots of books for adults and children. He's sold millions worldwide, but has a quite modest American profile. What I read of his were the first two installments on his Dark Reflections Trilogy: The Water Mirror and Stone Light. They're great. Very unusual. Chock full of imaginative flares and unexpected turns and images that are original and often unnerving at the same time.

It begins in an alternative Venice, one patrolled by stone lions, with canals filled with mistreated mermaids. The city is besieged by the Egyptian Pharaoh, with his army of floating barges powdered by magicians that harvest bodies from graves and turn them into walking dead soldiers.

The second book includes an extended trip to Hell. Not quite the Hell we're familiar with from our lore, though. This is an entirely different Hell at the center of the earth, a place in turns vastly empty and thronging with life forms on a massive scale. I've never read anything like it. Phillip Pullman comes close, but I'd say that Kai's imagination works at an altogether different pitch.

I get the feeling American publishers don't know exactly what to do with him. He's been described as "very European", but I don't know what that means except that he's different in a way they can't easily categorize. Many of his protagonists are young, resourceful girls, and there is a dark streak to the material that just doesn't feel like Kansas. But I enjoyed them, and I look forward to the concluding volume.

The second email was from David Liss! He's the author of several very popular historical novels. A Conspiracy of Paper (about the early days of stock speculation in 18th Century London, featuring a former pugilist - um, boxer I guess you could say - Benjamin Weaver, who is hired to retrieve an item a gentlemen unfortunately lost to a prostitute and finds himself caught up in rather a complicated web of deceit), The Coffee Trader (about a Portuguese Jew in 17th Century Amsterdam that tries to make a killing in the exotic, "Coffee-Fruit" market), and A Spectacle of Corruption (again returning to Benjamin Weaver as he finds himself accused of a murder he didn't commit - mind, now, he does commit some murders, but not the one he got convicted of - which is bound to be a bit annoying).

At this point I've read several of his novels and enjoyed each one. In a way I feel the comfortable structure of good crime writing in them, but they're also marvelously detailed historical studies as well. These are books that you enjoy and learn from at the same time.

His lastest book is a contemporary crime novel set in Florida, The Ethical Assassin. This last is a little bit Carl Hiaasen and little bit Elmore Leonard and... well, a good bit of David Liss as well. It's interesting to see him working in the contemporary realm (if the 1980's can be considered that). He does it well, but I don't think he plans to stay here long. Seems like he has another historical novel in the works for next year, and then another Benjamin Weaver for the year after that.

That's productivity you can take to the bank. Wish I had more of that. I don't go to the bank nearly as much as I'd like... When I do I'm making withdrawals... That's not quite the way I want it to work...

Anyway, though, if any of this sounds interesting to you please check them out.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Paperback Contact, and A Cover Issue...

I just spoke for the first time with my Anchor/Vintage editor. He's a new guy for me, as my previous editor for the first three books has moved on from the company. It's way early days to start thinking about the paperback, but they do these things way ahead of time. Looks like they'll be aiming for an early fall publication. So this time next year Acacia should be hitting the shelves. (If that seems like too long and you've yet to read the book - the hardcover is lovely, good quality, won't fall apart on you, pages smell nice, etc.)

Man, these things take a long time. My hope, though, is that the folks at Anchor will do a terrific job with it, and that a little extra time will help that happen. If they can build interest that rolls toward Christmas all the better...

About the only thing semi-concrete that was mentioned was that they quite like what Doubleday did with the cover. I've always like it too, but I've been very aware of the cover art issues in the fantasy genre. Seems like a contentious issue, really. I know some people didn't care for Acacia: The War with the Mein's cover because it didn't seem to represent a fantasy novel well; others said they like it because... well, because it didn't represent a fantasy novel in the most familiar ways.

As we head for a second shot at this I'm wondering what folks think? Should we stick with a version of the hardback cover? (When this works well it helps to brand the book, making it familiar straightaway to people that had seen the book but not picked it up earlier.) Or should we try something new - roll the dice and see what we come up with as a fresh take?

With that in mind I'd also ask you to consider the differences between the only two Acacia covers in existence so far. Here's the US one beside the forthcoming German one. Which floats your boat more? (I'm not suggesting, by the way, that my US publisher is considering using the German cover. I'm just tossing out there as an example of what alternatives can look like...)

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Monday, September 03, 2007

In Praise of the Colleagues

So, here I am. Fresno, CA. 109 degrees today - the first day of autumn. Hmmm. I'm not without my issues... BUT I came here to join what I think is a vibrant, growing, vital community of faculty and student writers. Fresno has its great literary tradition: William Saroyan, Philip Levine, Lillian Faderman and Liza Wieland all being part of it. The current faculty of the MFA program is also quite rich. I like these folks. I like their writing. I like hanging out with them. I like it that several of them have pools. I wanted to take a posty moment to say so, and to tell you a little bit about them.

CORRINNE CLEGG HALES is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Separate Escapes, winner of the Richard Snyder Poetry Prize (Ashland Poetry Press, 2002). Her previous books are Out of This Place (March Street Press, 2001), January Fire (Devil's Millhopper Press), and Underground (Ahsahta Press). Her poems have appeared in Hudson Review, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Southern Review, and many other journals. She has received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and won first place in the River Styx Poetry Prize competition for 2000.

Praise for Corrinne Clegg Hales:
"A deft, musical poet, Hales has the voice of Biblical character, passion, restraint, courage, fear, charm, endurance, the very metaphor of desire, here the numinous shadow of what is lost and hungered for and evident in each thing so small and fading against that largeness." - Dave Smith

TIM SKEEN earned a Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska in 1993. His collection Kentucky Swami, winner of the John Ciardi Prize, was published in 2001 by BkMk Press at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Skeen's poems have appeared in such journals as New Letters, Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review and the Antioch Review. He's a winner of a grant from the Kentucky Arts Council and the Award for Innovative Excellence in Teaching, Learning and Technology at the tenth Annual Conference on College Teaching and Learning.

Praise for Tim Skeen:
"The excellent poems in this collection set us down in a place where scars are... In the tradition of James Wright, they speak of defeat, in a flat voice. They also tell the sometimes astounding stories of our grace and humor and dignity, and how we might be redeemed through an astringent love." - Michael Burns

STEVE YARBROUGH, the James and Coke Hallowell Professor of Creative Writing, is the author of seven books. The End of California, his recently completed novel, was published by Knopf in June 2006. His novel Prisoners of War (Knopf, 2004) was a finalist for the 2005 Pen-Faulkner Award, and his 1999 novel The Oxygen Man (McMurray & Beck) won the California Book Award, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Fiction and the Mississippi Authors Award. His other books are the novel Visible Spirits (Knopf, 2001) and the story collections Veneer (University of Missouri Press, 1998), (Missouri, 1994) and Mississippi HistoryFamily Men (LSU Press, 1990). He has won an NEA fellowship, and his work has been translated into Japanese, Dutch, and Polish and has appeared in such anthologies as Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories and the Pushcart Prize Anthology.

Praise for Steve Yarbrough:
"The End of California' is artfully crafted, sensitive and observant, with characters who stick with you. But what makes it really shine is the undercurrent of thoughtfulness about who we are and what we're becoming." - Charles Matthews, The San Jose Mercury News

ALEX ESPINOZA was born in Tijuana, Mexico, and raised in suburban Los Angeles. He worked as a used appliance salesman, a cashier and egg candler on a chicken ranch, and a retail manager while pursuing his BA in Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside. He went on to earn his MFA in Writing from the University of California, Irvine, and served as editor of their literary journal, Faultline. His first novel, Still Water Saints, (Random House, 2007) which has been released simultaneously in Spanish, has been named a Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection for spring, 2007. Alex is currently at work on his next novel.

Praise for Alex Espinoza:
"Espinoza vividly brings a small Southern California town to vibrant life in his magical debut centering on Perla, the proprietor of the town's botanica, and the customers who come to her for help... Espinoza sends an intriguing melange of townsfolk to her door... Espinoza is a refreshing new writer." - Deborah Donovan, Booklist

JOHN HALES has published essays in numerous journals and anthologies, including Georgia Review, Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, Southern Review, Hudson Review, Ascent, and On Nature: Great Writers on the Great Outdoors. His work has been cited numerous times in Best American Essays and in Best American Science and Nature Writing, and has twice been a finalist for the Missouri Review Editors Prize and was recently awarded a Pushcart Prize. His book Shooting Polaris: A Personal Survey in the American West was published in 2005 by the University of Missouri Press.

Praise for John Hales:
"This is creative nonfiction at its best, this artful union of fact and experience and memory. . . . Line by line, the writing is wonderful, and individual sections are as fine as any from writers such as Edward Abbey or Annie Dillard.” - Lee Martin

STEVEN CHURCH was born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas. He earned his BA in philosophy at the University of Kansas and his MFA in Creative Writing from Colorado State University. He has worked as a fry cook, a tour guide, a Bobcat operator, a maintenance man, a housepainter, a barista, a conflict mediator, an academic adviser, a teacher, and in Fall 2006 he will join the faculty of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at CSU, Fresno. His essays and stories have been published or are forthcoming in the Colorado Review, The North American Review, Interim, Fourth Genre, River Teeth, Post Road, Quarterly West, and others. His work has been thrice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His first book, The Guinness Book of Me: a Memoir of Record, was released in 2005 by Simon & Schuster.

Praise for Steven Church:
"Church examines many powerful memories—of his father speeding through a cornfield to gather ears of corn in the bed of a pickup truck, or of the author himself blowing off an important interview to watch a basketball game with a professor's 10-year-old son—that mark him as a rigorously observant and emotionally perceptive writer likely to stay on readers' radar." - Publisher's Weekly

We've got some very interesting things planned for the program. And - lest these bios all seem to "literary" for your tastes - remember that they also hired me, a fantasy novelist! (Wicked laugh... Fade to black...)