Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Word From Poland

I've not actually got my hands on the book yet, but I'm thrilled to hear the someone is reading Akacja, the Polish version of Acacia: The War With The Mein. A very kind Olga Michalik said lots of lovely things about the book: HERE. (I think.)

Take this, for example:

"W dobie wszechobecnej marnej, często nawet prymitywnej fantasy "Akacja" Davida Durhama stanowi prawdziwą perełkę. Z zalewającej nasz rynek powodzi nędznych podróbek Tolkiena "Akację" wyróżnia przede wszystkim bardzo oryginalna i dobrze dopracowana koncepcja świata."

Oh... Thank you Olga.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Maggie Wasn't So Sure

We finally have snow here in Western Massachusetts. Very nice. Fluffy stuff. Dog running around, big puppy that he is, nose in the snow. We're liking it. I hope that things are good were you are, and that you're enjoying whatever holiday you celebrate this time of the year.

For some random reason, I'm offering a wee story that my daughter, Maya, and I wrote together. It's a bit absurdist, a bit surreal, and it may not be at all funny. We think it is, but our perspective is skewed because after we wrote it we listened to it being read by the computer voice on my computer. If you get a chance, try that. Pauses all wrong. Pronunciation off. Flat notes... and then moments of hilarity.

But that may just be us. Here's the story...

Maggie Wasn’t So Sure

Maggie woke up one morning to discover that her feet were gone. They had totally vanished and instead of feet there were flowers. Water lilies to be exact. She tried to walk downstairs to tell her mom, but she couldn’t walk so she rode her dog.

When she told her mom, her mom said, “Oh well, dear. Let’s just buy you some new feet then. They’ll be way better than your old, boring feet.”

Her mother snipped off the water lilies and put them in a vase, and then she carried Maggie to the car. They drove into town to buy some more feet.

On the way to town her mom pretended to be a horse. She was kind of a scary mom.

At the foot store they saw many strange feet. Some had cat faces tattooed onto their toenails. Some were covered in warts, and the warts were sprouting mice. Some were covered in sesame seeds.

Maggie’s mom said, “Oh, would you like some of those, dear?”

Maggie thought for a minute. “How about mismatched feet?”

A salesperson dropped out of the ceiling. “We have a special on mismatched feet today,” he said. “One foot looks like a tadpole and the other is really, really huge and the toes are all upside down. I know it sounds kind of random, but it’s the new style from Venezuela.”

The mom bought them for half price - $500. The new feet attached with hooks. Maggie realized that when she stepped with the tadpole one her hair would squeak. When she stepped with the other one she would fall on her face.

Maggie’s mom crossed her eyes. “Those feet should be really useful for playing volleyball.”

Maggie wasn’t so sure.

They went home. Their house was so happy to see them that it licked them. Maggie’s goldfish, Susan, wriggled along the floor toward her and ate one of her new feet. The tadpole one. Maggie’s mother got very mad. She squished the goldfish.

Maggie began wailing. “You always do that to my goldfish. Remember last Halloween?”

“That wasn’t a goldfish, dear. That was a zombie apricot. It had gone bad. And mad. I’m always looking out for you.”

Maggie wasn’t so sure.

Just then, Maggie’s dad came home. They explained the story of the day to him. He said, “Oh well, you only need one foot anyway. Two feet are overrated. When I was a kid I only had half a foot.”

Maggie said, “But how do I walk with just one foot?”

“You don’t walk. You hop.”

“But if I use this foot I fall on my face.”

“Really? You got one of those,” the dad said, excitedly. He bent to study it more closely. “A somersault foot! You’ve just got to learn the special way to tuck and roll.”

Her mom said, “We’ll sign you up for gymnastics class. I’m sure you’ll live happily ever after with that foot.”

Maggie wasn’t so sure.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010


No, this isn't a post about my wife's knitting success. (Although you're always free to check her stuff out over at The Shetland Trader.)

This Yarn refers to a new novel by Jon Armstrong, the Campbell Award Nominated author of Grey. I'm very glad to hear Jon has a new one. Haven't read it yet, but here's what Publishers Weekly said in a Starred Review:

Armstrong's stand-alone prequel to his 2007 debut, Grey, is set in the same superficial, dystopic near-future ruled by fashion and consumerism. Cities like Seattlehama are towering bastions of "sex and shopping" where "saleswarriors" and "salessoldiers" battle for customers. Most people live in the sprawling agricultural areas called slubs. Tane Cedar, one of the world's top fashion designers, is confounded when his former lover Vada, a fugitive revolutionary, inexplicably appears near death in his showroom and asks him to complete the impossible task of finding illegal yarn and making a coat of it in just one day. Tane's quest confronts him with the tyranny and hopelessness of the world outside of the cities while answering his questions about his nightmarish childhood and enigmatic father. Armstrong's stylized tale is a profoundly moving fusion of visionary images and compelling social commentary.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gabriel's Story, The Film

About this time last year, I wrote this:

"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 dwindling wood pile? 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 Redwave Films 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."

That's all true again this year, as well. We're going into our Eight Option period for the book! I love that. These folks really do believe in the book and the film they'd like to make of it. Tenacity has to pay off eventually, right? Hey, Jaden Smith isn't even old enough to play the lead yet. But he will be soon...

Also, looks like they spent last year working hard on getting a film called Bel Ami made. It'll be out next year, starring some guy called Robert Pattinson, along with Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Colm Meaney.

Okay, now I'm going to go splash my face with cold water...

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Frontal On The Russian Cover

Hi. Somebody asked for a clearer image of the Russian version of Acacia: The War with the Mein. Here it is from a scan:

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Monday, December 13, 2010

From Russia With... Numreks

Hurrah! Ethan Iktho came through for me. He managed to get me a copy of Acacia: The War with the Mein in Russian! It came via France, so it's truly had an international journey to arrive in Western MA. I'm very pleased. Honestly, I like the way this book looks and feels. They definitely went for the barbarian duel in the frozen north vibe. It makes me chuckle every time I pick it up.

That's a good thing.

The truly weird thing is not be able to read any of it, though. To my English-speaking eyes Russian is utterly unfathomable. Sage seems to have no problem with it, though...

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Why I Think The Stonecoast MFA In Popular Fiction Is Awesome

So I've been teaching at the Stonecoast MFA (a low-residency program) for about five years now. When I began there, I came in partly to teach in the Popular Fiction (Genre Fiction) part of the program. I hadn't actually written much genre fiction at the time, but I guess Pride of Carthage being historical and fairly popular got me in. I'm so glad it did.

Back then, the Popfic students were a small part of the program, sometimes residing a bit uneasily with the other concentrations (Literary Fiction, Non-Fiction and Poetry). Well, that was then. In the years I've been involved the Popfic part of the program has thrived. We've had terrific students come through writing sff, crime, historical, horror, romance, YA and urban fantasy and more. While they worked within those genres, they still did the scholarly work to earn a Master of Fine Arts, and to leave the program with the credentials to seek teaching work. Moreover, though, they left as writers with a body of work behind them and - to my mind - a clearer understanding of the market process they have to navigate to find readership.

I've taught in a lot of programs, but I've never felt more at home than I do with the students I have the pleasure of working with these days. Take this semester. I have five students that I correspond with on a monthly basis, both on their fiction and on critical work. Their projects include: an epic fantasy based in a Norse world post-Ragnarok, a horror novel in the Stephen King mode about a "haunted highway" in Montana, a century-spanning historical novel featuring an immortal character who begins his tale in ancient Rome, a Bond-like space opera with strong overtones of Richard K Morgan and Alastair Reynolds, and a short-story writer working in that peculiar slipstream part of the literary/genre borderlands that Kelly Link and Aimee Bender occupy. Am I pleased? You bet. Very little navel gazing here, but lots of fun writing. Some of it serious. Some of it not. As it should be.

Look, teaching in any program is work. I read these pieces with all my critical faculties holstered and ready to shoot, but I couldn't be happier with the material, the enthusiasm of the writers and their potential to actually make a name for themselves as publishing writers in the years to come.

And they're not just working with me. The current popfic faculty includes:

Elizabeth Hand, Nancy Holder, James Patrick Kelly, Michael Kimball, Alicia Rasley, Elizabeth Searle, Scott Wolven. Kelly Link was once a part of the program (We miss her!), and I'm very pleased to learn that Catherynne Valente will be visiting with us this winter.

A while back the program asked me to revise the write up about the Popfic concentration. HERE's a link to what I came up with. And it's all true.

Just thought I'd mention it.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Questions For Writers #3

I was just cleaning up my desktop and I noticed this exchange I'd had with a kind fan/aspiring writer last spring. I can't for the life of me remember if I posted about it (forgive me if I did already), but I figured I might as well toss it up here.

Here, in part, is what the individual wrote to me:

"I was wondering if you could tell me how you got published/learned how to write well. I'm a freshman at Duke and am completely and utterly confused about what to do with my life. I know I want to do something that correlates with my passions, and writing does that, but I don't know how I could get published so that I could sustain myself by writing."

First off, it's wild and kind scary to get letters from folks asking for life advice. If you knew all the things that I've screwed up over the years... Although, I guess that's how someone gets the bumps and bruises and later emerge as advice.

Second, I couldn't possibly answer the entirety of that question. But I did take a brief crack at part of it. Here's what I said:

Hi M,

Thanks for writing. Your question could lead to pages and pages of thoughts in answer to it. For both our sakes, I’ll try to be brief instead.

Here are three things about a writing career I can say with certainty:

It’s a long road that almost always takes much longer and requires more work than you think is fair. (Case in point, I took tons of writing courses as an undergrad, got a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and wrote two complete novels before getting beyond them to write the third, Gabriel's Story. That’s the first one to get published, and it took me about nine years of thinking of myself as a novelist before I truly became a published novelist.)

There is no one best way to do it, except that...

Becoming a writer requires years of reading and writing.

That last one should be obvious, but you wouldn’t believe the number of times people tell me, “Oh, yeah, writing… That’s cool. I might write a novel. I don’t really read much, but I have this great idea…” Honestly, that happens quite a bit. There’s something about the arts that makes a lot of people think they just pick up a pen one day and write a bestseller. I don’t know why. I don’t think that I could build a house without studying to be a carpenter, learning the tools, techniques, improving through trial an error. I don’t think I could pick up a musical instrument and just know how to play it. I know the fact that I can imagine a stellar acrobatic dunk doesn’t mean I’ll ever in my life be able to perform one. But people do seem to think they could write a good book without practice or work, if they sat down when day and cranked it out.

That’s not intended as a lecture to you. Obviously, you are reading and you are writing. That’s exactly what you should be doing, and if you want writing as part of your career for the long run you should be doing it a lot! I think the way to go is to try everything in pursuit of writing. Writing classes? Absolutely. They’re never perfect, but you’ll always learn something. It’s crucial that you do have others read and respond to your work. Sometimes they’ll say helpful stuff. Sometimes they won't. Sorting through it and finding what works for you is essential, though.

I also think it’s important to live an interesting life too. I can’t imagine being the writer that I am if I hadn’t traveled, lived and loved and made lots of mistakes and seen lots of cool things. Because that’s the other thing about the long road of becoming a writer: in many ways, it’s not a young person’s game. Writers that make a splash in their twenties are very rare. Much more likely to happen in your thirties, forties. Hey, fifties and into sixties can be many writers’ most productive times! Makes sense if you consider that all those cumulative experiences build wisdom and perspective. Writing well requires that.

So, yes, sign up for some writing courses. Keep writing. Keep living. All of this is geared just at encouraging you to become a stellar writer. The publishing side of it is another matter. It’s complicated and frustrating and involves too much for me to give you any quick suggestions. You might want to check out 2011 Writer's Market. It comes out every year, and there’s lots of useful information in it. Also, I quite liked How To Be Your Own Literary Agent: An Insider's Guide to Getting Your Book Published. Good book, which is really about why you should get a literary agent.

All the best,


And that was it.

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Saturday, December 04, 2010


No, that's not the name of a Polish vodka. (Although if it was that would be awesome.)

It is, I'm happy to say, the title of Acacia: The War with the Mein in Polish. It appears the book is out! Hurrah! This is my second appearance in Polish, and I'm thrilled.

I'll get over their one day, I hope. And when I do, I'll see if I can find this:

What do you think? My wife thinks it looks Scottish...

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Clarion Application Period Open!

You may recall that I mentioned I'll be teaching at next year's Clarion Writers' Workshops in San Diego. Thrilled about it. It will be awesome. I've no doubt about that. On several occasions I've been waylaid but groups of former Clarion students running wild at some con or another. They're always enthusiastic, and always serious about their work, and seem to be having a scarily good time with each other. I'm in.

Oh, and if you look at their list of "Distinguished Alumni"... It's mind blowing.

Go take a LOOK if you don't believe me.

Want to join us? Well, things are just getting underway now. The application period has opened, and I want to make sure you know about it! Here's the info:

Clarion is widely recognized as a premier training ground for aspiring writers of fantasy and science fiction short stories. The 2011 writers in residence are Nina Kiriki Hoffman, John Scalzi, Elizabeth Bear, David Anthony Durham, John Kessel and Kij Johnson. Each year 18 students, ranging in age from late teens to those in mid-career, are selected from applicants who have the potential for highly successful writing careers. Students are expected to write several new short stories during the six-week workshop, and to give and receive constructive criticism. Instructors and students reside together in UCSD campus apartments throughout the intensive six-week program.

Application period: December 1 – March 1. Applicants must submit two short stories with their application.

Workshop: June 26 – August 6, 2011.

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