Thursday, December 31, 2009

Publisher Presents 2

On this last day of 2009, I offer nothing profound. There's just too much. Too much.

So, instead, I'll just wish you all the best for the New Year. I have big things planned for it myself. Here's hoping I don't screw up. Tonight, I'll raise a glass of champagne to you. Actually, I'll raise a glass of this...

...which I recently received from my French publisher, Le Pre aux Clercs. They've got class, I tell you. Class.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Publishing Presents 1

Two of my foreign publishers sent me cool things recently. One of them I'll write about tomorrow, but for today I offer this...

And what's that? It's a hardback edition of the British The Other Lands (Acacia, Book 2). Why is that cool? Because they actually published the book as a paperback. This one is a special edition done for the Book Club Association. A book club! I didn't even know one of those was in the works. I'm chuffed, though. This one is rather small format, tight pages with some fine print. It's a mini - and hard - version of the book. I like.

And tomorrow, I'll tell you what my French publisher just sent me...

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays!!!!

This was our family Holiday postcard this year - a Maya Calypso Durham design, of course. If you're reading this, consider yourself a recipient of the card and of our best wishes for the Holidays and the New Year!

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

KGB Reading

Hey. I'm reading at KGB in NYC next month!

Just thought you should know. I'm planning on having a ton of fun, and, for once, I'm anticipating a packed house. Why? Cause I'm so awesome? Cause Acacia got that wonderful bump from io9? Just cuz?

Well, no. Actually, I'm reading with Lev Grossman, NY Times Bestselling author of The Magicians: A Novel and Codex, and the book editor at Time Magazine. Heavy hitter. And bald, just like me on a good day. That's okay, though. Fortunately, I have a tiara. I may have to use it. (Mary, would that you were still in NY! I may need Campbell-powered backup.)

The reading is on the evening of Jan 20th. Honestly, it's gonna be tons of fun. (Wait, I said that already. Repetition intentional, to reinforce my honest enthusiasm.)

There's information HERE.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Horseman

Each year for the last six or so I've gone into December with a sense of nervous expectation. Christmas? Holiday parties? The dawning New Year? The snow storm sweeping up the East Coast? Yeah, all that stuff too, but what I'm talking about now is related to Tinseltown...

This is the month that I learn whether or not the movie producer Uberto Pasolini is going to renew the option he holds for Gabriel's Story. He's been connected with this movie since at least 2003. He found it on his own, just browsing for a Western novel that hooked him. He likes to say that every producer should have at least one Western in their portfolio. Apparently, Gabriel's Story is the one that works for him, and he's willing to put in the time and money over the long haul to make it happen.

So here we are again, and I can say with real joy that Red Wave is renewing for another year. They continue to feel good about the director, Alan Taylor, and the screenplay they have. And it sounds like they feel the market for a film like this might look better soon. Uberto's been right before. I doubt Gabriel's Story would ever be a blockbuster surprise like his hit The Full Monty, but it doesn't have to be. I'd settle for a well-made movie by people that are passionate about the book and have a record of staying the course with the projects they love.

That's what I got. Cross fingers for me, please.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Red Haired Woman

Call me a proud father. Every now and then one of Maya's drawings really stuns me. This is the latest to do so (And as you look, remember that Maya's just ten years old!):

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009 as put up a list they call "Best Fantasy Series". I'm just saying. Just letting ya know. Might be of interest.

Oh, alright... Yes, Acacia: The War with the Mein is on it. I'm number 9.

I'm having a pleasant run at the moment.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Is This For Real?

Forgive me for wondering that. I should just be humbled and awed and right chuffed, but my innate skepticism keeps me stunned instead.

Take a look at the list of the 20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade, as compiled by io9.

See what I mean? The decade? The decade! And what placement! I know it's just alphabetical, but being at the top like that is way awesome. (Note to authors: try to title your books with letters early in the alphabet, like A, for example.)

Honestly, I can't say a thing about whether or not I deserve to be on such a list. I do appreciate it, though, especially as it's a really good list. Shows a lot of thought in its composition.

I will now go forth and be happy...

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Friday, December 11, 2009

The Year of the Flood

I recently finished Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood: A Novel. I liked it. It's her follow up to Oryx and Crake, her earlier novel of the genesis and effects of a human-created pandemic. I guess you could call it a sequel, but it's not quite that. It's more of a companion novel. It covers the same time period, many of the same events, with some of the same characters, but deals with it all from several different perspectives. For one thing, the main characters in this one are female, whereas Oryx and Crake had more male voices.

What I remember liking about Oryx and Crake (although "like" is probably a strange word for it) is that it dealt with a recognizable present, a reasonable near-future, and a catastrophe of a sort that seems... uncomfortably plausible. It just all felt possible. That would suck, except that Atwood manages to infuse all the horror with humor as well.

This new book does the same, although perhaps with more emphasis on the day to day survival challenges facing her female characters. In some ways, that's starker than the time spent with the guys in the earlier book.

I did find it a little convenient that so many of the people the main characters know before "the flood" happen to be around through it and beyond. It allows closure and resolution to some relationships, but it also makes the world seem awfully small, like it revolves around this particular handful of people just bit too much...

But I digress. I'm not here to review. I'm here to recommend. The bottom line is that Atwood brings her usual fine writing into play here. The fact that she does it in firmly sf territory is wonderful.

I wonder if she would turn up for the Hugos or Nebulas if she was nominated?

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A Couple Of Reviews

Noticed a pretty nice one in the San Jose Mercury News today. They slipped me in after Cory Doctorow, but I don't object to that. Actually, I think Cory had tails on his tux at the Hugos, so think of me as sliding in on them... The reviewer does want me to write faster than two years between books, though. Hmmm. Sorry. Not happening this time around.

The other one is from a web journal called Alexander's Philosophy. There's not a thing for me to complain about. Seems a perfect reading of the book and things I was hoping to do with it. Thank you much.

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Monday, December 07, 2009

Fortnight +

My two week + adventure as a solo dad comes to a close today. We've made it. Pulled through. Have the same number of fingers and toes. Did lose one tooth, but that's legit. Oh, and I dropped our car keys in the snow down at Rattlesnake Gutter. (I'm not kidding.) Lost em. Maybe if we get a melt I'll go hunting for them. Good thing for spares.

The kids and I are now off to Logan to pick up mom and grandpa. Let the Holidays Begin!

Or... actually, let the end of semester grading, preparation for the Stonecoast MFA residency and seriously get into gear with Acacia 3 begin. Oh my. There's work to do.


Sunday, December 06, 2009

A Reader Question

A while back I got an email from a very kind person - one that liked my Acacia books! It began rather interestingly...

Hi David,

Excuse the personal nature of this email, but having finished your second book in the Acacia trilogy, something has awakened inside of me, a realization I've been waiting many years for.

Ah... Interesting beginning, the kind that could actually go anywhere. In this case, though, he went on to describe his college life and education, how he ended up with a very useful degree from a wonderful college, and then felt totally lost on graduation. He's now gainfully employed in a foreign land, but...

I still feel lost, incomplete and totally unsatisfied. Something's been tugging at my core, every day reminding me that I should be doing more, that there's a talent going to waste (like Dariel!)...

And what might that be?

Well, I finished The Other Lands (Acacia, Book 2) last night, and suddenly felt this connection. A spark was ignited and I sat there, trying to understand that feeling (perhaps you'd woven some spell from the Song of Elenet in there somewhere!?). It was more than just the thrill of having read such an amazing book, with characters that were so deep, so interesting, so much like me yet living in a richly fantastic world. It was the realization that I had parallel worlds like that living inside my head, with characters that had stories that needed to be told, that had been there all along, they'd just never met anyone like them before, like Corinne or Mena or Dariel.

Hey, I know the feeling. Actually, that's just why I started writing. I did have stories in my head that would come and go, and at some point it occurred to me that if I wrote them down they might stay and grow into something. They did.

What D is saying, essentially, is that he wants to be a writer.

I hope this is not too much to ask, but I was hoping for some guidance in terms of how to pursue this calling. I would love to pursue an MFA, so what are your thoughts on this. Is it necessary? Where could I go?...

More than anything though, I'd just like to thank you so very much for writing these two amazing novels. They are beautifully human, enticing and wholly absorbing works of literature that have inspired and awakened me to follow a new career path. I have no idea how to follow this path, but I see it now, and that's the most important thing. Thank you!


Wow. That's quite something to hear. I've had the "should I get an MFA" question before, but never framed with such specific mention of my own work. I'm honored. Although, with that, comes a certain sense of responsibility. Like, I don't want to be the cause of D leaving a good job for the perils and poverty of a literary career. Or do I?...

I checked with D that he didn't mind my sharing our interaction, and herewith I include my response.


Wow. Thanks for writing. I'm very pleased to hear how much you got from my books - and how it's prompted you to consider a new path in your own life.

You remind me of a very good writing student I had when I taught at Cal State. He was one of our top candidates, writing great stuff about his experiences in the military. I had no idea he had an interest in fantasy, but we were talking one night and he admitted that it was reading The Lord of the Rings (as an adult) that made him go, "Wow. Hey, this is amazing. This writing thing is what I want to do with my life." And he's doing it. Still in the MFA, but still writing and reading good stuff. (And, yes, he got a full fellowship, so it's his job for about three years.) So, that can happen...

I don't think anyone has to do an MFA to be a writer. The most important things are 1) that you write, 2) that you get feedback on what you write, 3) that you read and read and read, 4) that you persevere with it and stay patient. Getting a writing career going is usually a long endeavor. Even authors that may appear to arrive fully formed have likely been writing for six, eight, twelve years before the manage to break through in print. Patience is a must.

And it's also a must that you be able to live with uncertainty. There is no one best way to go about being a writer. There's no guarantee that it will happen, or that it will happen soon. I do, however, think that anyone that devotes enough time and effort to writing can make a life out of it. That may mean being a bestselling author, but odds are very much against it. It may mean being a modestly read author. It may mean being a teacher and lover of literature. It's impossible to predict ahead of time, but all those paths can lead to a rewarding life.

So what do I suggest? First off, I can't suggest that you quit your job and totally change your life around. That may be a great idea, but I wouldn't want you writing me in five years saying I hadn't warned you that making a life in the arts can be really hard. If you do really need to make a change, though, I mainly suggest that you find a way to make reading and writing nearer to the center of your life. That may mean doing it late at night after a day of work. It may mean joining some sort of writers group to get feedback from others. It may mean getting a different job, one that somehow allows you the free time to write. Or it may mean going for an MFA program.

MFA's offer three things that I think are important. 1) Joining one makes it clear to you and everybody else that you're going to focus on writing for at least a few years of your life. It's proof you're serious. 2) It means you'll get feedback and interaction with other aspiring authors. That's a good thing in lots of ways. 3) It gives you the credential to apply for teaching jobs. That's a path many writers take - teaching while they write.

If you're interested, start looking into programs. They all have websites these days. Look for programs that sound good to you. Apply to a variety, I'd say, in different areas and with different levels of competitiveness. The top programs are great, but you can also get a lot from more modest programs too - including financial aid. I wouldn't want to suggest any one program, because there are so many and they offer so many different things.

Best of luck with it all!


And that's that. What's the latest word on what D's going to do? Well, apparently he's going to get cracking on his writing and wade into the research about MFA programs. All good. I wish him the best.

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Friday, December 04, 2009

SFX Review of The Other Lands

SFX magazine, which I believe is the foremost mag for all things science fiction and fantasy in the UK, recently reviewed The Other Lands. They'd been nice to Acacia: The War With The Mein, a couple years back - with quotes like "this could be the start of a fantasy classic" - and they've been very kind to the second installment also. Actually, they've upped the star count by one.

This time around they concluded with:

"Durham combines that portrayal of sharp political manoeuvring with some breathtaking action sequences and equally sharp prose. He writes with great clarity, sweeping you up in the grandeur of his epic vision."

Well, that's lovely. I don't see the review online, but if you like you could click on the wee pdf on the side here. I think you'll be able to read it in a bigger version. Just on the off-chance you're a new arrival and are looking for some encouragement to start the series...

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Wild Cards Contest

Mr. Martin just emailed asking me to pass on word about a giveaway of Wild Cards books at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist. So that's what I'm doing!

The last two books in the most recent series are up for grabs. Click over to HERE for a chance to get your hands on them.

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