Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Shutesbury Library

Democracy in action? On the town/community level? It's a good thing, but it can get ugly...

While I'm nestled in on the hillside in Scotland, lots of things have been going on in my hometown back in Massachusetts. The latest one is a very big, community-dividing debate about whether or not to approve funding for a new library.

We're a small town amidst other small towns, population under 3,000. Not big, and we have a tiny library to serve us. Thing is, the library gets used a lot by the community. It's packed full of books and cds and dvds, making use of every bit of space. It's an old building, with no running water, and no place to sit inside. They made the improvement of a composting toilet a few years back, but that hardly makes the building a comfortable space to hang out in.

So there's been a lot of support for building a new library. The town applied for - and got - a grant worth something like 2.1 million. The folks in the town need to come up with another 1.4 million, that would be paid for through... taxes. Oh my. For that, we'd get a much bigger, modern facility that would include all sorts of space inside for events, meetings, classes, as well as just tables to actually sit at and read! It would be great. I'd be in there everyday.

It had seemed like things were going forward smoothly, but in a late round of voting (there have been a number of votes throughout the grant process) a majority of NO voters emerged. They mobilized at the last minute, and caught the YES voters off guard. The YES folks argued that there should be a revote because the NO folks had campaigned with a lot of misinformation - and there hadn't been time to respond to that before the last vote. After a very fractious meeting, the council that decides such things voted to allow the revote. Since then, both sides have been on a full-out campaign to win the Jan 10th vote.

Here's an article about it.

It's been tense. I'm an ocean away, but I feel the tension. I'm also, of course, a huge supporter. I want this library, and believe it will be a great addition to our community - a progressive one that looks to the future and creates prosperity for us. Many people have rallied with donations to the new library fund and by making pledges of donations over the long term. But the vote is going to be close.

If you have any interest in donating a few dollars to this effort at community library building you could do so here. Every dollar helps. You could consider it an investment in helping me write my future books - since the new library will be a big part of writing them!

I recently wrote a letter of support that's posted on the YES for Library! website. Here's what I wrote:

I’m an ocean away from Shutesbury right now. My family and I are living in Scotland this year, spending time reconnecting with Gudrun’s homeland. It’s great, but we miss our home on Old Egypt Road. We watched with concern as you guys faced the hurricane, and also when that crazy Halloween storm came through. Now we find ourselves worrying about the debate over the new library. We support it with all our hearts, and it troubles us deeply to learn that it’s in jeopardy.
Over here, we get asked a lot about the place we call home - especially as people know that for a while we’d been intending to make our move to Scotland permanent. Considering all the places that we could (and have) lived, what makes us so sure Shutesbury is the place for us? We provide them lots of reasons. There are many things to love about life in Shutesbury, but one that comes up every time is… You guessed it - the library! Whether it’s here in Scotland, or in California or in Colorado or any of the many places we’ve spent time in during the last few years, nothing reminds me more acutely of how special our home is than stepping into what passes for libraries in other places. I find direct parallels between a region’s quality of life and the quality of their libraries.
If I’m honest, though, when I praise “our” library I’m really praising the area’s libraries collectively. I’m combining what Spear offers with what’s offered by Leverett and Wendell, Amherst and even Sunderland. I use all of those libraries often, but only because they offer the space and facilities that the Spear Library doesn’t. I’d much rather be spending my library time in a similar facility in Shutesbury. (I’d do a lot less driving, too!)
We are rather heavy library users, I’ll admit. I’m a novelist. Gudrun’s a knitwear designer. We both work from home, and for a number of years our kids were homeschooled. For us, the library is an integral part of our lives. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it would be like to be someone that wasn’t a big library user, or even just someone that’s satisfied with the way things are now. Should they be asked to chip in for something they’re not going to use, or don’t feel is necessary?
Perhaps not, but I don’t think that question really gets at the heart of this situation. The new library would offer so many things for all of us. Many people that don’t currently frequent Spear would do so in the new one. People that like Spear well enough would find myriad things to love about the new library. New things. More people than ever could use the facility, and they could use it on their own terms, for the things that are important to them.
How would you use the new public spaces? What things will the library offer that will save you money? What programs would you want to see created? What clubs or groups interest you - and need an awesome facility to come to life? What courses do you want to take close to home, or which ones would you teach? The new library provides an incredible opportunity to offer whatever it is that you want it to. You can demand that it provides services that make it relevant for your life. By doing so you’ll help make it a place for all of us.
Personally, I would love to be able to offer writing courses, especially ones for teens. I’ve published six novels and taught at various universities and writing seminars, but something about teaching within my own community has a special allure to it. I can also imagine hosting visiting writers in the new library. The Odyssey is a great bookshop, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to have some authors come to us every now and then? They would if we asked, and if we provided the space to make it possible. Gudrun - knitwear designer extraordinaire that she is - can envision teaching knitting-related courses. She gets invited to teach everywhere from Maine to New York, Iceland to Scotland to Italy; why not gather with people and talk knitting right on home turf?
Variations on all of these things are possible without the new library, but there’s something about the right space that makes things happen, that serves to concentrate energy and shape notions into realities. There’s something about the space being ours that brings it to life in a more vibrant way. That’s what I think this library could do for us. The gains we can all get from it can far outweigh any costs.
Think of the possibilities! Get excited about them! Though we’re an ocean away, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing as we dream of returning to Shutesbury and as we envision the future prosperity of the town.
-David Anthony Durham


Monday, November 28, 2011

Neil Gaiman's Record Label

I just noticed a piece at that I found quite interesting: Neil Gaiman's Audiobook Record Label.

And then I got an email asking me about pronunciation for the upcoming audiobook of Pride of Carthage. The two things together prompted me to blog!

So, read up on Gaiman's audiobook publishing venture. It's cool, and certainly good news for audiobook fans. I don't have any connection to Neil on this, but the audiobook of Pride of Carthage that's going into production is related, in a way. and the ACX program are trying to make it easier for writers to connect directly with narrators to get audiobooks made that might not otherwise. That's exactly what's happened with Pride of Carthage. It's the only one of my books without an audio version. That had always bothered me. I mentioned this to Dick Hill - the narrator of my Acacia Trilogy - a while back, and he proposed that we partner on the audio version and publish it ourselves on Audible. So that's what we're doing.

If all goes well, an audio version of the book will be available sometime in the spring! It'll sound just as professional as any other version. It's produced in the same way, really. It's just that the "risk" of production is shared between us. As are the eventual sales. (Hoping that there will be some...)

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Few Wild Cards Things

First, I'm very pleased to have just completed my first draft of the three part story I'm contributing to the next Wild Cards book, currently being called Lowball. It went off to George RR Martin and Melinda Snodgrass yesterday. Here's hoping they like it...

Second, did you know Wild Cards has finally gone audio? Yep, they have. There's a new audio version of the first book, Wild Cards 1.

Here's a review of it at The Guilded Earlobe.

And here's the forthcoming Wild Cards II: Aces High!

Third, Tor Books is offering a special on ebook versions of several Wild Cards titles. Here's what Tor says:

Tor Books is pleased to announce a special Wild Cards promotion in anticipation of the impending release of Wild Cards: Aces High (Dec. 20th) and the exciting news that Wild Cards is in development to become a movie. From November 16th until December 14th the following four Wild Cards titles will be available in the U.S. for $2.99 each wherever eBooks are sold!

Wild Cards I
Inside Straight
Busted Flush

Suicide Kings

Basically, that offers two good starting points. Wild Cards 1 is the first book, where it all begins. Inside Straight begins one of the newer sequences of books, followed by Busted Flush and Suicide Kings. So many ways enter the Wild Cards world! What are you waiting for? Give us a try. Before the movie comes out...

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Did You Know? Pizza Counts As A Vegetable!

Okay, true enough, not many thinking adults would accept that as reasonable, but the House of Representatives does. I wonder what convinced them?...

Here's a short NPR piece on it.

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Monday, November 14, 2011


I came across a fun post over at Stomping on Yeti. It's the site's fiction picks for October.

Nice selection of books. I'm particularly pleased to have made the cut as one of the two "Picks of the Month".

And I'm even more pleased to see the Aliette de Bodard is the other pick, for the conclusion to her trilogy, Master of the House of Darts: Obsidian and Blood Book 3.

I met Aliette a few years back when we were both up for the John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer. I'm very pleased that she's concluded her trilogy. I haven't read it yet, but it sounds great. Looking for an Aztec mystery/fantasy? If so, you're in luck. If not, consider it and check her out. I will.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

N. K. Thoughts

N.K. Jemisin has some further thoughts on the interview she and I did with
The original article is HERE.

Nora's blog post is HERE.

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The League Platforms?

A kind reader, Mark, just wrote alerting me to an article he said reminded him of the league platforms from the The War with the Mein. It's about a Silicon Valley billionaire - a Paypal creator and early Facebook backer - that is working to "create floating libertarian countries in international waters... The idea is for these countries to start from scratch--free from the laws, regulations, and moral codes of any existing place".

She's quotes a longer profile in Details magazine, saying the experiment would be "a kind of floating petri dish for implementing policies that libertarians, stymied by indifference at the voting booths, have been unable to advance: no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons."

Oh my. That does sound like a place the Sires might think up...

The brief article is HERE.

The longer Details article is HERE.

Should I laugh? Or be afraid...

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

L'alliance Sacrée

L'alliance sacrée pubs today in France!

(That's The Sacred Band in American.)

I'm so very pleased - and thankful - to Le Pré aux Clercs for the wonderful way they've published and supported the books. It makes me hope the series is a long-term hit for them. (Not to mention for me.)

They've created a new website dedicated to the book. If you'd like to practice your French go take a look!

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In The Salon

I'm very pleased to have been included in a article by Laura Miller. She features N.K. Jemisin and myself in a discussion of our books, fantasy, and cultural identity. It was great talking with her, and terrific to be included with Nora!

Take a look HERE.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Assassin Of What?

A while back I had a strange experience with a student. While reading her paper on some literary topic or another, I got the feeling that the words weren't hers. I took a few samples and googled them, and sure enough I found that she had copied them - probably from the same source it took me a minute to find. Not only that, she had taken whole paragraphs from lots of different sources. I kept finding them. An hour later... I was amazed at how much stuff she had cut and pasted - and from how many different sources she had stolen from. It must have taken hours to put it all together. She wasn't lazy! Why didn't she just write the thing herself?

When I confronted her on it, I got a different sort of surprise. I came away believing she was genuinely shocked to learn that cutting and pasting other people's ideas wasn't the same as writing similar ideas in her own words. She had spent all that time seeking out things she agreed with. When she found them she just kinda said, "Yeah, that's what I think!" and inserted them - without any attribution whatsoever. It was weird. It's like nobody had ever explained to her what writing an essay entailed.

I doubt that Q. R. Markham could even try to make the same claim in regards to his debut novel, Assassin of Secrets. Have you heard about this? The book was just published by Little Brown - a publisher I respect a lot - as part of a two-book deal. It entered the world with starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, and was set to hit foreign markets too. Heralded as some awesome reboot of the spy/espionage genre, a "dazzling, deftly controlled debut that moves through familiar territory with wry sophistication."- (Kirkus)

Sounds good, yes? Only problem is that it appears to be a cut and paste job of massive proportions. Here's the Guardian's version of how it's unraveled. And here's a blog post that has side by side examples of texts from Markham's book and from the various originals. Take a look.

I don't take any pleasure in posting about this. I just find it so strange, so hard to understand, so inevitably headed for exposure and life-changing failure. Weird. Very weird. People seem to be rushing to buy his book on Amazon right now, even as the publisher pulls it and tries to get copies back. Was Markham caught making an awful mistake? Or is this the revelation of a hoax perpetrated on the publishing industry? I would say "on readers" as well, accept that it seems like in this case it's readers that caught the fraud.

What do you make of it?

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Monday, November 07, 2011

Some pics from a trip we did up to Rattray Head on the Northeast coast of Scotland a little while back. It's supposed to be the sunniest spot in Scotland, and during our stay there it lived up to that. We stayed in a hostel made from converted buildings from the lighthouse. Had the place to ourselves and exploded throughout it!

Saba was welcomed with a dog bed, biscuits and food dishes. He was much pleased. He was even more thrilled when he got a view of the sand dunes. Here he is positively hovering with joy...
Stretching his legs...
Us acting silly...
An old shipwreck...
And a bridge we crossed over on the way home...

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Saba Portrait

Maya (age 12) has taken to doing realistic drawings in the evenings. She came up with this one the other day, a portrait of a sleeping Saba:

Pretty cool, huh?

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Friday, November 04, 2011

Pedacinho Literário

I've been watching with interest the reaction to the first volume of Acacia (Ventos do Norte) in Portuguese. From what I can gather, it's looking pretty good.

Here's a lovely review at Pedacinho Literário. The author says lots of nice things about the book, and then concludes with a complaint I've heard a few other times. Apparently, folks aren't that happy that the book (The War With The Mein) was divided into two parts. They don't blame me, but they rightly point out that things are just starting to take off at the point at which the book ends! Hopefully, they'll stick with it when the second part comes out.

Does make me wonder... Will my trilogy become six books in Portuguese?...

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

I've Joined Him Again

Jon Armstrong has kindly posted a podcast interview he did with with me for his ongoing series If You're Just Joining Us. He gets me talking about Acacia, YA, writing rituals and Scotland.

If you'd like to have a listen you can do so HERE.

Jon's a great guy, and a wonderful writer himself. We first met when we were both in competition for the John W Campbell Award. We've kept in touch since.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Arms of Nemesis

I have a short piece up at Campaign for the American Reader. They asked me what I was reading at the moment, and I told them: Steven Saylor's Arms of Nemesis.

If you want to know why, the answer is a click away: HERE.

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