Friday, October 29, 2010

Acacia 3 Update

I've been quiet about how the third Acacia book is going only because it's such a long process and most of it, unfortunately, is lonely business. You can be assured that I've had my head down working on it, though. These past few months it's taken over as the fabric of my waking and sleeping hours. Honestly, I'm with it always, and it's with me always.

We've become very intimate.

That doesn't mean I'm done, but this week has seen things step a little closer. I've agreed to float the first 400 pages to my editor as a partial delivery. He's going to start working on it, and kick the pre-publication machine into production. I've agreed to have the rest of the book to him before Christmas. What this means is that I'm still officially on track for a Fall 2011 publication. I know, that's still a year away. Sorry. It's not, however, late. That was always the planned pub-date, and I'm very relieved that we're on track for it.

This doesn't, of course, mean that things couldn't still go wrong. Lots of things could go wrong, starting with my editor thinking the book is a stinker. One never knows. One really never knows...

I take some solace from the fact that my wife has read most of the book and thinks I'm getting the job done. And my kids have heard portions of it and haven't balked yet. So early signs are good.

I may even know the title of it now, but I'm holding off on disclosing it yet. Let's see if it sticks as the editorial process starts.

Wish me luck!

Labels: ,

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blog Love

I just noticed a nice Acacia: The War with the Mein review at ielerol's Interfacing blog.

Smart review. Glad she liked it.

Nice blog in general, really...

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Homeschooled Girl Makes Good On Her First In-School Quiz

That was actually the headline here in the Durham household a few weeks back. You see, for the first time in five years our kids, Maya and Sage, are attending the local primary school. Previously, we’d been homeschooling them. We enjoyed it very much, were challenged by it, always said we’d only do it so long as it worked for us all. This fall Gudrun and I decided that we couldn’t put as much time into it as we should, so we proposed that the kids go back to school.

They agreed, and a couple months in things are going wonderfully. The adjustment has been fairly seamless, as we figured it would be. Just so you know, homeschooling doesn’t need to mean that the kids are locked in a cabin in the woods getting only their parents’ warped interpretation of the world. In fact, we’d always been very social with the way we homeschooled, with lots of outside classes, music and martial arts, nature studies and writing and gymnastics and lots of friends in a large network of other homeschooling families. The kids had always been socialized, so going to school wasn’t a shock. It’s just different.

Including the fact that it includes quizzes! Maya, our sixth grader, had her first quiz a couple weeks ago. It was a combination quiz. One part was about identifying key cities/places on a blank map of Ancient Greece. The second part, should they accept the challenge, was to also make it a spelling test, wherein they located the sites presented to them verbally, so that they had to get the spelling correct as well.

The result? Perfection. Maya got 20 out of 20, all identified and spelled correctly.

That’s not a C on the paper. It’s a check mark! How did she study for it? Oh, with a little bit of home school cut and pasting and improvisation I’m glad to say...

She's also making a name for herself as a manga artist. Apparently, she does personalized drawings for 25 cents a pop. Stuff like this:

I'm thinking she needs to up her asking price.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Like Opera?

I’ve come to realize I’m a fan of space opera.

Why does that feel like a confession? It shouldn’t. The stuff I’m talking about is inventive and intelligent, engaging with serious issues at the same time as it’s adventuresome fun. Maybe it’s just the name. Opera. Soap Opera. Space Opera. Not, for me, the same thing.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve enjoyed novels like Peter F. Hamilton’s The Dreaming Void (The Void Trilogy), and John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, and Bright of the Sky (Book 1 of The Entire and the Rose) by Kay Kenyon, and I may have mentioned digging Hyperion by Dan Simmons. Realizing that I have good things to say about Iain M Banks’ The Algebraist and Alastair Reynolds’ Chasm City (Revelation Space)

Well, I’m seeing a trend here.

Are all these things Space Opera? I don’t know, but I’m thinking so. What they have in common is that they combine elements of science fiction interplanetary travel and theoretic possibilities with adventure on a grand scale. For a while, I thought of them as books that read like epic fantasy, but that were set in space. I guess the Dune novels would fit into this category too. I’m not sure where the boundary begins and ends, although I know it when I bump up against it.

For example, I read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars (Mars Trilogy) recently. That’s got adventure and romance off planet, but it’s different. It’s chained to our known world realities and near possibilities in a way that space opera isn’t really.

So what do I enjoy about these novels? Depends on the book, of course. A big part of it comes down to the combination of fine writing, with interesting characterization and thematic weight, combined with pure flights of the imagination. That’s a feature of good fantasy too, but only a handful of fantasy authors engage me intellectually - which is part of the attraction to these operatic authors. It’s sharp, fun, sometimes scary stuff.

Just thought I’d mention it.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Two Reviews

Daniel A. Rabuzzi has posted a terrific review of The Other Lands at Lobster and Canary.

And Allan Fisher has given Acacia wonderful treatment at the UK site Fantasy Book Review.

Very pleased by both of them.

Labels: , ,

Friday, October 15, 2010

Soup Revelation

My wife just revealed something to me. She said, "I don’t like having soup for dinner.”

She said, "I like it for lunch, but not for dinner. It makes me angry."

Twelve years of marriage, but there’s still so much to learn…


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

National Book Award Finalists

Another bit of award news. This year's National Book Award Finalists have just been announced.

Peter Carey, Parrot and Olivier in America

Jaimy Gordon, Lord of Misrule

Nicole Krauss, Great House

Lionel Shriver, So Much for That

Karen Tei Yamashita, I Hotel

I've read earlier novels by Carey and Krauss, but the others are new to me.

More info HERE if you want it.


Labels: ,

Sunday, October 10, 2010 représente le visage de la Fantasy en France !

Well, it is, isn't it? According to me, in French, it does. I quote myself:

"Dix ans? C’est merveilleux. J’espère que vous aurez encore dix ans de plus et beaucoup d’autres encore! Personnellement, je ne peux imaginer publier un roman de fantasy en france sans Le site a été particulièrement favorable à l’égard de mes romans à l’occasion de leur sortie. En visitant régulièrement le site, j’ai acquis une certaine compréhension du marché de la fantasy en France. Pour moi, représente le visage de la Fantasy en France!"

Yep. That's what I said.

Original to be found HERE.



Thursday, October 07, 2010

Nobel For Mario

Hey, so Mario Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize for Literature today. Don't know if you've read him, but I was a big fan of his as an undergraduate. I loved his early stories and novels. He was a big influence on my early writing efforts. I haven't been as much of fan recently, but I'm still happy to hear of his Nobel win.

I wrote about him not too long ago, a short piece in The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books, edited by J. Peder Zane. Here's what I wrote:

Appreciation of The Green House, by Mario Vargas Llosa

I remember wandering through the world literature section of my university library, feeling a bit lost, recognizing few names. On the recommendation of my writing instructor I was searching for a Peruvian novelist named Mario Vargas Llosa. I found a coverless edition of
The Green House, one with no blurbs, no review quotes, no author photo or biography. The surprises found inside, then, were complete and unforgettable.

The Green House Vargas Llosa began to explore the ongoing battle that started the moment European culture collided with that of the Americas. The novel is populated by all segments of Peruvian society: people of Latin origins, Indians indigenous to the country, immigrants cast ashore on Peru for myriad reasons, from nuns and Fathers to prostitutes and pimps. There’s even a Brazilian rubber-baron-warlord-leper of Japanese ancestry. It ranges from the depths of the rain forest to windblown desert outposts. It’s a novel in which crimes are committed without remorse, conveyed with the brutal honesty of an author confronting the duplicitous exploitation tainting his nation.

This is rendered in prose as varied as its cast: inner monologue, assimilated dialogue, objective third person or an omniscient point of view, with multiple time lines, concurrent plots and scenes repeated in layering montage. Honestly, it’s rarely an easy read. One can see the influence of Faulkner, of Sartre and Flaubert, but the manner in which Vargas Llosa transmuted Western influences to enrich his tale remains remarkable.

And – I wondered – if this Peruvian writer could do this what else might be happening out there? By inspiring that question
The Green House drew me into a much more complete world of literature. I’ve been grateful to Vargas Llosa ever since.

Here's a brief Reuters article, if you want some biographical info. (

And here's a longer Huffington Post piece. (

Labels: ,

Friday, October 01, 2010

Questions for Writers #2

Second crack at briefly answering some questions a student sent to me a while ago. He wanted to know:

How do you vary your style when the occasion calls for it? And how do you know when?

And I said:

You’ve answered your second question with the first. You know when when the occasion calls for it. How do you know that you know? Well… because something doesn’t sit right. Because you’re feeling a phantom pain. Because the “notes” of the story don’t ring as clearly as they should…

I tend to believe that one of the things that separate “real” writers from wannabe writers is that the real ones don’t ignore their own instincts - including responding to feedback from others. Responding to your own instincts can be hard, and scary, and be a lot of work.

But there’s absolutely no reason you have to get everything right the first time. Just the opposite. It makes much more sense that you won’t get everything right and that the rough diamond of a story you dug out of the ground will only really sparkle when its cut, polished, weighed and shaped and turned under a microscope. Too often, though, writers are so happy that they’ve found the diamond at all that they don’t do the necessary hard work thereafter.

As for how to vary your style… well that’s going to vary with each instance. Trial and error. That’s the only real way. Try it. Write it. Read it. Sometimes it’ll work; many times it won’t. It’s all part of the process, though, and only you can find the way that will work for you.

Added thoughts?

Well, just to stress that part of what it means to really become a writer is that you develop the capacity to honestly follow your instincts. So often, I see aspiring writers listen to feedback, maybe even agree that this or that thing really needs to happen... They might even admit that they knew that character or scene or point of view choice was a problem to begin with, and then... they don't do anything about it. Or they nibble around the edges, changing a few things, but not addressing the heart of the thing that might make their story really awesome. Why? Because writing is a bitch. It's hard getting the words on the page in the first place. Who wants to mess with them once they're there?

Writers do. Not because they want to, but because sometimes they have to. And, bottom line, it's up to you as the writer to come to terms with it.