Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Suvudu Interview

New interview, just up at Suvudu!

I'm not sure, but this may be the first time I discuss changes I've made to Acacia in preparation for the trade paperback editions. I don't think it has anything spoilerish in it. Mostly, I talk about GRRM and about the new stuff I'm working on.

Take a look HERE!

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Range of Ghosts

Wanted to mention a book making its way into the world!

Just yesterday, Tor published Elizabeth Bear's new novel, Range of Ghosts. It's the start of an ambitious series, one that essentially dispenses with Europeans and looks elsewhere for inspiration.

Here's a great piece Bear wrote about the process of writing the book at Black Gate. It doesn't hurt that she mentions me, but that's not the only reason it's an interesting read! She wanted to write a fat fantasy with maps, but she also wanted to strike out in new territory.

Has she achieved what she was after? The notoriously cranky people at Kirkus Reviews seem to think so. In a starred review, they wrote:

"This lean, sinewy, visceral narrative, set forth in extraordinarily vivid prose full of telling detail, conveys a remarkable sense of time and place, where the characters belong to the landscape and whose personalities derive naturally from it. Though the book is not self-contained, Bear provides this opener with enough of a resolution to satisfy while whetting the appetite for more. Gripping, perfectly balanced and highly recommended."

Frame that and put it on a wall.

I've got my e-copy, trying hard to clear the decks so I can actually read it...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Shadow Is In Play!

As of today, my middle grade novel - The Shadow Prince - is seeking a publisher.

Last week I got the last round of editorial suggestions from my agent and a couple of other readers at ICM. I penned responses where appropriate over the weekend, and yesterday I sent back my final manuscript. Sloan approved, and he's going to work with it.

We have a rather specific plan in place. I shouldn't blab too much about it, but certainly if it works out I'll let you know all about it.

Funny thing is that this - my first kid's book - is heading for consideration after more editorial input than any novel I've done so far. My wife and kids read it. Several beta readers (all former MFA students of mine) read it. My agent and at least three over people at ICM read it, and some folks at Curtis Brown (my UK agents) read a portion too. Mary Robinette Kowal read a little bit, as did my neighbor (an Egyptologist). Even my librarian read some! All gave feedback and helped shape the novel. I'm sure it's much stronger for it, and in the process I've learned a great deal about writing for kids.

Among other things, I've learned that I really, really enjoy it!

Will post here when I have good news...

Labels: , ,

Monday, March 26, 2012

So What Does A Guy With a New Children's Book Want to Hear?

Exactly the sort of good-vibe about the status of children's books that's been coming out of the Barcelona Children's Book Fair.

To quote from the article:

 “I’m going to wrap up a number of deals here,” said agent Marcia Wernick of the Wernick & Pratt Agency. “That hasn’t happened for me in at least 15 years.” Overall, attitudes were positive throughout the show, with strong interest in both middle-grade and young adult fiction... 

Nice. I'm not saying that The Shadow Prince was doing the rounds there, but it's nice to know there's optimism in general!

Full story HERE if you want to take a look.

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Neth Speaketh

Seems like the Acacia Trilogy is getting a flurry of series-wide reviews.

Neth Space has another one up, in which he says interesting things like:

"Durham wants to show what a progressive message in epic fantasy can look like. Not the conservative, nostalgic end so common and not a cynical response to that conservatism. He presents a truly progressive move forward rather than backward or a simple reestablishment of a status quo – a vision of hope that could translate into our own lives and society."

 Agree with that? Check it out HERE for more.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 23, 2012

One Book After Another

There's a very interesting piece on the Acacia Trilogy over at the blog One Book After Another.

It not so much a review as it is a wide-ranging critical/philosophic/political examination of the books.

Take a look HERE.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Some Thoughts on a Young Man's Murder

Trayvon Martin. His story tears me up. It's hard for me to know how inundated folks are about news stories in the States (since I'm in the UK), but clearly this story has been getting much play.

If you don't know much about the story, you could read about it HERE, at the good old BBC.

Or HERE at the Guardian.

Or you could listen to the On Point show about it HERE.

Or just do a search. Plenty of stories out there. They'll tell you about a teenage boy that got shot to death while armed with Skittles, a bottle of iced tea, and a cellphone. He got shot because a paranoid neighborhood watch vigilante seemed to really be afraid of black males he didn't know. Despite the fact George Zimmerman weighs 250lbs and had a handgun (compared to Martin's 140lbs and convenience store items) he claims to have felt his life was in danger. With gun in hand, he shot. An irreversible action. The local cops accepted that. Didn't even arrest him.


When I was a teenager I looked much like this boy. (I would post a photo of me at the same age if I had one with me.) He could be me. He could be my one of my friends. He could be Chris, or Omar, or the other Chris, or the other David, or Dwayne or... I could go on. Neither I nor any of my friends ever did any crime more serious than teenage mischief. None of us got arrested. None of us were a danger to anybody.

Like Trayvon... accept that we were luckier than him.

There was a time in college when I - influenced by eye-opening African-American history and literature courses - went a bit Afro-centric in my look. Grew my hair out a bit. Wore a knit cap with a Rastafarian vibe. Sported t-shirts with African themes. The more convincingly I grew into my African appearance, the more I noticed how differently people looked at me. Librarians that I'd known for years didn't recognize me. People seeing me approach them on the street grew clearly nervous. And...

I will always remember one time on campus, when I came out of the stairwell in the English Department. It was late in the day, maybe 7pm or so. I came face to face with one of my professors, a middle-aged white man with whom I'd taken two courses the year before. Apparently, I'd changed enough that he didn't recognize me. He flinched, and slid to one side of the hallway and... bolted passed me.

I stood there thinking, "What just happened?" Not only had he been my professor for two courses, he'd given me A's in both of them. He knew that I edited the college literary magazine. He'd been in the jury that awarded me the college fiction award. At least, if he'd recognized me he would've known all those things. But that evening he didn't see the young man he knew. He saw a black youth that scared him. Instead of saying, "Oh, hi David. You gave me a fright," he bolted like his life was in danger.

That's what concerns me. This professor had no reason at all to think his life was in danger. He should've recognized me from hours in his classroom - hours in which I consistently earned top marks. I was on campus, entering the department in which I had an office (as the magazine editor). And yet he ran from me because I looked - in that moment - like someone he thought was scary. How was I scary?

I had puffy hair and a funny cap. Oh, and I was black.

I've never forgotten that moment, but I hadn't thought about it for awhile. I hope that anyone reading this will have sympathy for Trayvon Martin's family. I also hope you'll ask for actual justice to be applied to his killer, and to the police that didn't feel this boy's death merited criminal examination.

If a law says you can shoot someone because you're afraid - as the Florida law apparently says - innocent people will die (are dying). Being outraged by the misguided act of an individual is one thing. Being outraged by organizations and politicians that facilitate irreversible violence in another.

I'm angry at both right now.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

L’alliance sacrée

Quite pleased to see another nice review of L’alliance sacrée (The Sacred Band).

Since I'll be heading over to France for Imaginales in a couple of months it's nice to know a few folks over there like it. ;)

The review is HERE.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Shadow Prince

I have something to announce.

I've just finished a new novel.

It's not what you might think, though. It's not the Spartacus novel. That one's going to take awhile yet.

No, what I've completed is a middle grade fantasy set in Ancient Egypt. A kid's book called The Shadow Prince. It grew on my by surprise, took over, beat Spartacus into submission, and then asked for a few dedicated months of my time. I'm so glad it did.

What's it like? Well, if I had to give it a sub-genre it would be "Solar Punk". It's not a very historical novel. Instead, it's one that takes all the funky stuff of Egyptian mythology and spins it playfully into a full-on fantasy. Weird shape-shifting gods with crazy powers? Yep. A demon fighting voyage into the underworld? Of course. A group of kids that have to save the world against impossible odds? Totally.

It's not exactly like any one series in particular, but I think of it as being similar in ways to a number of series. The demon fighting element was influenced by Jonathon Stroud's Bartimaeus novels. I tried for the playful, mild-peril of Angie Sage's Septimus Heap books. I wanted to keep the pacing brisk, like Kai Meyer's Wave Walker's books. And I have to admit to wanting my Egyptian setting to have some of the exotic - and yet contemporary - feel of the anime series Avatar: The Last Airbender. (Not the film based on it, and not, of course, the James Cameron Avatar movie either.) I'm not saying I achieved the quality of any of these artists; I'm just saying I tried.

I'm really excited about it. My wife read the new pages aloud every night to my kids (aged 10 and 12), so I got immediate feedback from the target audience. (I also got to hear it brought to life by a lovely Scottish voice...) I've had several beta readers look it over, with very positive responses (and useful feedback!). It's now in the hands of my agent. Hopefully, we'll soon be talking to publishers.

I really hope this works. I'd love for this to grow into a series. I'll still write historical works and adult fantasy, but writing for kids scratches a different itch. And, for once, it's just plain fun!

Wish me luck!

Labels: ,

Monday, March 19, 2012

Writing Excuses 7.12

Pleased to get a mention at the very cool Writing Excuses podcast.

This is a project that combines the talents of the fantasy novelists Mary Robinette Kowal and Brandon Sanderson, the cartoonist Howard Taylor and the horror novelist Dan Wells. They dispense writing advice in 15 minute audio discussions, with humor and professional insights. Good stuff.

Acacia: The War With the Mein gets mentioned as their Audio Pick of the Week.

If you'd like to hear more, click HERE.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Something Remembered

In the process of ordering a birthday present for a certain young man (keep that quiet, though) I recalled something.

It's from a few years back. Sage had fallen in love with Naomi Novik's Temeraire books from listening to the first couple on audio. Later, he picked up a copy of the third book at the library, anxious to read it himself. He got home and dashed up to his room, book in hand, ready for some dragon action.

Time passes.

I go up to his room at some point, and find him in bed, red-faced and teary. Crying.

It took me a little while to get out of him what was wrong. It was that he couldn't yet read the book himself. The sentences were too long, vocabulary above his reading level, words too small on the massmarket pages.

Much hugs ensued. My boy, brought to tears because a book he so wanted to read was, at that point, hard for him.

I've been there too. Haven't we all?

I don't mind saying that he chews through big books now with nary a tear. Times change. Kids grow.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 15, 2012


It just joined Goodreads.

My profile's HERE, if you're part of the club. (Or want to become part...)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cory Boosts My Library!

I'm very pleased to post this link to BoingBoing, wherein Cory Doctorow helps out my home town library in our fundraising drive! Go take a look. The Video is terrific!

It's HERE at BoingBoing!

Thank you, Cory. And thank you Neil Gaiman for tweeting about us!


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Flash Ad!

I just got my hands on the code for the Flash Ad Anchor made for The Sacred Band. It's been up on a few sites. Why not on my blog?


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Zombie Academy

My daughter, Maya, recently had a school project that involved coming up with a story board for a short film. It was supposed to be something that all the students in her class could be in.

After a little back and forth, we came up with a zombie story. Maya put her artistic skills to work, and before long she had what I think is a tight little film sketched out.

Now, the idea was that all the students would show their story boards, and then they'd vote on the one they wanted to actually film. Problem is that Maya finished hers on time. Others took a few extra weeks. And then today, when it was time to show the story boards, Maya couldn't find hers.


She had to describe it instead. Needless to say, that put her project at a disadvantage. A different one got chosen for filming.

Frustrated and yet proud parent that I am, I'd like to offer her story here, for your consideration. It's called Zomberfeldy Academy.

Take a look, and let me know what you think!

First Day At School
Strangely Empty Hallways
Mr. Grave's Classroom
Her first view of her Classmates
When they turn around...
She bolts out of there.
Heads for the loo.
Contemplates her options.
Gets light bulb.
Film and music montage.
Her triumphant return to the classroom.

Labels: ,

Monday, March 05, 2012

Imaginales 2012

Bienvenue aux Imaginales, avec l'affiche de Christophe Vacher!

I've known this for a few months now, but I can finally say it publicly: I'm going to France again for the Imaginales fantasy conference! This is major awesomeness. It's a great event that takes place in the lovely city of Epinal in northeastern France. In a way, the conference takes over the town, with attendees walking out along the lovely lanes, going to great restaurants, just generally enjoying things French. And books! And writers! And readers!

And lovely people wearing full body paint... It is France, after all.

HERE's a list of this year's invitees.

Other than my humble self, the US will represented by Mercedes Lackey, Naomi Novik, Brent Weeks, Jaye Wells and MaryJanice Davidson.

I know a lot of French writers from my last trip there, and I very much look forward to reconnecting with them. And I'm thrilled to finally get to me the German writer Kai Meyer. My whole family are fans of his. We read his Wave Walkers and Dark Reflections books for younger readers, but Kai has written many books for adults too. He's sold like a million and a half copies just in Germany, with lots more in translation all over the world. The best part about all this is that we've been internet friends for some time now! It'll be great to finally meet him in person.

Considering that - and that I'll be hanging out with Naomi Novik - my kids are seriously jealous!

I'm so grateful to my publisher, Le Pre aux Clercs, and the festival and the town of Epinal for bringing me back. It will be fabulous. I've no doubt about that whatsoever.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, March 04, 2012

A Trio of Reviews

Last week Jessica Nani of wrote a very nice review of Acacia: The War with the Mein. She promised to continue with the other two books of the trilogy. And she has!

Her review of The Other Lands is HERE.

And her conclusion with The Sacred Band is HERE.

It's quite a treat to see all three books reviewed in short order - as a package!

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Artic Rising!

How about this for an awesome thing? Alan Cheuse reviewing the hell out Tobias Buckell's new thriller, Arctic Rising. Love this.

Toby's not only a terrific writer, he's a friend. It pleases me greatly to have him get this sort of recognition.

Alan has reviewed me a couple of times before, but that was for my literary/historical novels. Toby is breaking into new territory for sf work. Congrats to him!

Have a listen:


Friday, March 02, 2012

Give Us A Look

A few weeks ago, a former student of mine wrote asking me about a particular low-residency MFA program. It was a different one than the one I teach at. She was particularly interested in the genre fiction possibilities, as she writes in the paranormal arena.

In responding to her, I mostly ended up talking about my program. I didn't mean to make it a hard sell, but I honestly believed the stuff I wrote. Makes me feel like saying it publicly, to. So that's what I'm doing.

Here's what I wrote:

Hi S,

Let me begin by saying I've nothing against the program you're interested in. I don't know that much about it, except that it exists and does popular fiction. I do know a bit about low-residency programs, though, and I think they can be really great for professional writers. I'm a bit advocate for them.

That said, I have a vested interest in another low-residency program. Do you know of the Stonecoast MFA Program? It's a based in Maine. I teach there. Have for the last seven years or so. I was more part-time with them when I was at Fresno State, but I'm back full time now and loving it. The program has a VERY strong popular fiction concentration. It's grown like crazy over the last few years.

Our faculty is terrific. Award winning, actively publishing authors. Since it's SFF that you're interested in, I'll mention that we have James Patrick Kelly (multiple Hugo and Nebula winner) and Elizabeth Hand (multiple award winner and this year's main guest of honor at the World Fantasy Convention and Nancy Holder (who writes horror, YA romance and lots of things in the Buffy universe). Catherynne Valente currently mentors some students too. We've also got other faculty working in other genres!

We're having the paranormal romance writer XX (X's added because I'm not sure if I can ID her yet) visit this summer, and we've had the likes of Nalo Hopkinson and Jeffrey Ford visit recently. Our students are terrific, many of them actively publishing in their genres - or preparing to.

Last year, we ranked eight in Poet&Writers rankings of Low-Residency MFA programs. Most of those programs don't even accept genre fiction. I've no doubt at all that Stonecoast is number #1 for popular fiction.

What else? Um... Our residencies happen on the rocky coast of Maine. Everyday we're in a historic building, the Stonehouse, with views of the ocean. Our winter accommodation is in an awesome, rambling historic inn - the Harraseeket Inn. In the summer we stay at Bowdoin college's campus. Not quite as nice, but we may soon move the summer residencies to an inn as well.

Yeah, I'm very enthusiastic about the program. It's the most honest, useful, supportive and welcoming graduate program I've ever been a part of. (Fresno is high on my list of welcoming programs too, but Stonecoast, for me, exercises both my literary and my popfic inclinations - and that's hard to beat.)

So, if you're looking at low-residency MFA's... do give us a look!