Happy New Year, and Skirmish Prologue and first chapter

Well. The end of 2011 was hectic, and I’ve been a little snowed under with work.

I’m an introvert by nature. People who’ve met me in real life often find this description a bit confusing, because in real life, I don’t generally strike people as shy. But introversion is not synonymous with shyness. I like interacting with my readers. Actually, let me rephrase that. I like interacting with readers for whom reading is a lifelong obsession, because that pretty much describes me, and it’s something we have in common.

But interaction, when I’m overwhelmed, takes thought, focus, and energy, and when writing is particularly difficult, that’s where all the mental energy goes–and it leaves me with very little left over. When I am in that state, it resembles this, except with more writing, less going outside, and no video store. Given that I am working, and that work frequently involves wholesale removal of the thousands of words I worked on with such hair-pulling difficulty the day before, I begin to feel like a bit of a fraud. If you are here because I’m a writer and I am obviously writing so badly that I need to throw out thousands of words repeatedly, how entertaining can I be?

Intellectually I know I will wrestle the book into shape. I know that four years from now, I won’t actually remember which words were the product of multiple attempts, and which words came naturally and effortlessly. I know this because that’s what always happens. Because I know this, I don’t want or need sympathy, and frankly, you are not coming here to pat a pathetic person on the head.

I think, a decade ago, it was less obvious when I underwent the inward-focused work collapse–but with online social media and its prevalence, it’s become much more obvious when I become entirely overwhelmed and have to shut down anything that’s not writing. I apologize for my absence; my New Year’s resolution is to make a daily attempt to gain control over an overflowing inbox, among other things.

I’ve noticed, as I’ve tried to catch up here, that there’s a sample of Skirmish on google books. It’s available to North American residents because DAW owns North American rights for this series, but a UK reader emailed me this afternoon to ask that I make it available for non-North American readers who are waiting on copies to arrive. I’ve now added the Skirmish sample, for those who couldn’t read the Google version. It’s the prologue and first chapter.

Final Skirmish Cover

I am hip-deep in revisions – which is better than the chin-deep I was a week ago. When I am writing, and writing is going (relatively) well, I tend to be on-line more; I’ll tweet or I’ll post. When revisions are problematic, they eat my brain, and I tend to disappear. I’m sorry =/.

But mail arrived from DAW which I wanted to share here: the final version of the Skirmish cover. The novel is slated for January 2012 release in hardcover, and I will–when revisions on Peril are done–begin work on a ‘story so far’, something I haven’t done before. I’ll post that somewhere on the site as the date approaches.

Without further comment:

 (Actually, there is further comment, sadly. I can’t adjust the image in WordPress at the moment, so the larger file is cut off no matter what I do. If you click on the picture, however, you’ll see the image in full size. Sorry >.<)

Steve Jobs

At Apple.com today is an obituary. It is absolutely done in the Apple style; it’s simple, it’s graphically arresting — and it is also startling, almost unbelievable.

Steve Jobs is dead.

When I heard the news that he had stepped down, I was almost in tears, something my mother couldn’t understand. She was happy for him; he’d worked so hard for so long, she wished him a happy retirement. That wasn’t my first thought; my first thought was: he’s dying, and he knows it; he literally can’t run the company any more.

Why was that my first thought? Because it’s exactly the way I’ll retire from writing. Writing is my job, but it’s also my obsession, my compulsion, my avocation. I will stop when they pry my rigor-clenched fingers from my keyboard. I will never reach the millions of people Steve Jobs did, but that’s almost beside the point.

Is writing always a joy? No, of course not. Neither are children–especially on the day after the presentation of a stomach ‘flu when you’ve done 3 loads of laundry at 2:00 a.m., you’ve gotten no sleep yourself, and you know you’re going to pay for it. But you love them anyway, and the worst thing that could possibly happen is that they could be taken away from you. There seems to be an idea that love is always joy. I don’t subscribe to it. I do, however, believe that it is the greatest source of joy–and of work, of pain, of longing, of peace.

This sounds amazingly melodramatic. I know it does. So let me explain what Steve Jobs’ start-up lab-in-a-garage company means–and has meant–to me.

My bedroom is shared, my office is shared, my closet space and dresser space–all shared. My books, to a lesser extend–the ones I bought, not the ones I wrote–are also shared. Food I buy is shared. Even the hours of sleep–especially when the kids were young–were not my own. But everybody needs a bit of privacy, even if they’re otherwise happy to be encased in a family home.

A computer is a room of my own. It is the only space I own that belongs entirely to me. It’s not a physical space, but I don’t have that, and never have. It’s a space carved out for my thoughts, my words, my email, my bits of trivia, even my music. It’s mine, it’s an oasis to which I retreat. It has a figurative door, and so many windows out into the world, and I can open or close them without asking anyone else if it’s okay.

In the early years of Mac OS, no two Macs looked the same–the desktop pictures were different, the icons, the system fonts, even the way menus were arranged. Mine was no exception.

It was my space. I could decorate it. I could fuss over it. I could look at it and think that the shelves were becoming too damn crowded, and decide, for purely selfish reasons, what could–or could not–be thrown out to make more room.

Much fun has been made of people who choose a computer for its external design sensibility. I don’t see why — people choose houses, clothing and cars for more than just simple functionality. A computer is not a simple commodity for me – it’s where I work. It’s part of where I live. It’s a large part of how I keep in touch with my various communities. The programs housed in it reflect my sensibilities across a broad spectrum.

There is nothing inanimate that I love quite so much as my tech, and this is why: it’s a room of my own. It’s a personal space, from which I create things that I can share. It’s part of the way I work and live.

Steve Job’s not-so-little company designed, engineered and sold millions of the stylish small boxes. They were mass-produced, of course, but the act of choosing one was the act of transforming everything about it that wasn’t fixed, that wasn’t engineered. Opening a Mac box and taking out all of the bits and pieces packed therein was almost ceremonial — but it was a gleeful, joyful, hopeful, personal ceremony. It was pure squee.

I never met the man. I never sent him email. But he has honestly had as much of an effect on my life, through his own work, as many of the people I have, so I am going to grieve in my own small way.

World Fantasy convention & Audio Book News

I will be attending the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego this year. It’s a slightly different convention than the norm, and while I’ll be participating in the big Author Signing (it’s usually Friday night), I won’t be on panels. I will be wandering around the convention, though.

I will also, the day before WFC starts, be attending an informal meet-and-greet with a number of other authors at Mysterious Galaxy, on Wednesday the 26th of October. Since WFC has been sold out for months and months (Neil Gaiman is the Guest of Honor), if you are in and about San Diego, come say hello :).

And the Audio Book News

When I was at the Word on the Street (and knocking over pizza boxes – it was an accident because I’m clumsy when slightly excited. Oh, who am I kidding. I’m clumsy, period), I met Tara, who, among many things, is one of the people at HLQ who deals with Audible.

She just sent me email to let me know what the current Audible release schedule for the Cast audio books looks like. The list didn’t come with list prices, so I’m not certain how things are priced at Audible–whether individually or as part of an audible subscription. I confess I don’t listen to audio books because, among other things, I don’t have a driver’s license, so I am not taking long drives in cars (a place that seems absolutely ideal for listening to them).

On October 1st:

Cast in Moonlight.

This surprised me because I hadn’t heard about this, but I’m happy to see it done. It’s still technically a novella, at 39.6k words (official break point being 40k).

On November 1st:

  • Cast in Shadow
  • Cast in Courlight
  • Cast in Secret
  • Cast in Fury

On December 1st:

  • Cast in Silence
  • Cast in Chaos
  • Cast in Ruin

So, by year end, all of the Cast books will be available as audiobooks. (ETA: This was actually also the first time I’d heard about Chaos and Ruin in audio book format as well, which is why this is the first time I’m mentioning them. For some reason, this seemed less surprising to me.)

Word on the Street 2011

This is, of course, short notice, but:

For those of you who live in Toronto, or alternately, for those of you who are attending the annual Word on the Street, I will be signing books at the Harlequin booth at 2:00 p.m., this Sunday, which is the 27th of September.

Oddly enough, I think I’m signing Cast in Shadow, because the I last time I did a signing, there were so many curious people roaming Queen’s Park that almost no one had read the first one. So…

Even if you don’t want to lug things with you, come say hello!

Cast in Ruin is Live – and this is the discussion thread

This is a New Idea (which I stole from Kate Elliott): This is the blog post on which discussions of Cast in Ruin, with spoilers, should take place. If you have questions that I can answer without spoiling future books, I’ll try to answer them here as well.

And now: two things.

First, I have to say that I have no idea what the actual on-sale date of the book is, and have been using Amazon’s, as reported to me by various people. In my mind, it’s an October 2011 title, and in my experience, new titles tend to ship and arrive the month before the publication month. Sometime. (It’s my suspicion that the release week is actually the week in which October 1st lands, because that’s the on-sale date for the ebook.)

September 20th – today! – is the day Amazon listed as release day. Some people’s books have already arrived, and I have even seen picture proof of its external existence.

Second: I know that the internet savvy among you will be aware that some authors are very concerned about when sales occur. They aim for ‘release week’, because they hope that sales during that week will land the book on the NYT lists, as the NYT numbers are compiled weekly.

I am not one of these authors. It’s my (possibly erroneous) belief that the momentum for a book has to be large enough on its own to achieve list status (any list), and also my certainty that many more people read these books than read my various on-line ramblings.

Also: I have two sons. They were once two small sons, and in the case of the elder one, I could not remain on the inside of any store for longer than ten minutes before he melted down. Going to a bookstore was a luxury, and remaining in the bookstore while he started to ratchet up the volume was…not a courtesy to anyone else who happened to be trying to browse. I love books. I want their authors to sell well, and continue to be able to write them. But being practical? I had no idea when the release date/week was, and there was no way, if I saw a book I wanted to read — while bouncing restive baby and praying for another thirty seconds of silence — that I was going to put the book back and come in a week later.

Given this experience, I am happy that people are buying the books at all. I have no idea what the right week even is. I don’t care if you buy the paper book or the ebook; I do ask that you buy a legal copy of some sort, where at all possible, because any other venue doesn’t reach the publisher, and if the numbers aren’t there – publishing being a business – it makes it harder for them to justify continuing to publish the books. Plus, they give me covers I love, and editing.

And while yes, the opportunity or possibility exists to now write the books and put them out on my own, it’s not really possible to get the paper versions down to a reasonable price at their length in PoD; in order to get it into any stores/Amazon at all, a book the length of Cast in Ruin would cost a minimum of 20.95, as opposed to the 14.95 retail Luna charges.

Ebooks are a growing market, it’s true – but as of Cast in Chaos, they’re just over 20% of my readership. Which means, in order to self-publish, I would be walking away from 70% of my readers (I’m assuming that 10% of the paper readers would find the PoD on-line, and buy it there).

Wow, long again. I’m sure this will surprise no one.

ETA (because it is late and I have had no coffee): If circumstances are such that you can’t buy a copy, I understand that; books are luxuries. But in that case, can you find a copy in your local library? Libraries do buy a copy, and the more people that pass through the doors, the greater the likelihood that their funding won’t be nuked to zero in the coming years.

Shadow of a Change, For the Love of God, and Hunger

I have finally managed the last little bits and pieces of associated formatting & ISBN retrieval and back-cover blurb writing (which I am not terribly good at, sadly), and have finalized three short stories. As decided by general consensus, the shorts are being released in chronological order.

One of the things that really strikes me, rereading them, is how much technology has changed, because two of the three are set in the theoretical now, which would really be the now of the early ‘90s. Honestly, sometimes it is very hard not to revise everything.

Shadow of A Change is the first of the three (or the 9th of the sixty, depending on how we’re counting). It was originally published in Dinosaur Fantastic, edited by Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg, and then reprinted later in Dinosaurs!, a reprint anthology edited by Martin H. Greenberg.

It’s contemporary. (This is me trying not to say very much else about it).

It’s in the queue at Amazon and iBooks, and is now available at Smashwords.

For the Love of God is my first attempt at alternate history. It’s not my last attempt. Originally published in Alternate Warriors, which was edited by Mike Resnick (in the early years, you’ll see his name frequently), it’s the story of Thomas Beket and Henry; in this short, Henry does not have Thomas killed (or, Thomas is not killed by outraged followers of Henry, depending on how you choose to read history).

It’s in the queue at Amazon and the iBookstore, and up at Smashwords, where it is also in the queue for eventual B&N, Kobo, Diesel and Sony stores.

Hunger is the last of the three. It’s told in first person, and was originally published in Christmas Ghosts, edited by — surprise! — Mike Resnick & Marthin H. Greenberg. Not surprisingly, it is about a Christmas Ghost, sort of. I still really like this one.

It’s also in the Amazon and iBookstore queues, up at Smashwords, and from Smashwords, in the queue to reach the other etailers.

News!

Wendy Good, in the comments to the previous post, asked: How many more Cast books are you currently contracted for with Luna? Will you seek contracts for further Cast books or is that too far reaching of a question? I dare to ask because I don’t want them to end. I know all good things must eventually, but would love some reassurance regarding the next few years, if at all possible. : )

The answer was: The one I’m working on now (which is Cast in Peril).

The answer is now: The one I’m working on now (which is, oddly enough, still Cast in Peril) and three more Cast novels, none of which have titles.

Some of the questions about various elements of possible future books – the Dragon Court – are affected by events in the almost available Cast in Ruin. Which is all I’ll say for the next few months, because anything else is so heavily into spoiler territory I will get hate mail at the very least.

I try very hard, with the Cast novels, to start with a very, very simple statement about the book before I begin writing. Cast in Silence was: Kaylin confronts and finally accepts her past. No, really. Cast in Chaos was: An influx of refugees causes panic and fear in Elantra. No, really. Cast in Fury was: In the aftermath of the panic caused by the tidal wave Kaylin must deal with an artiste — while Marcus Kassan is relieved of his duties on charges of murder.

Cast in Peril was a small paragraph. Some of which I can’t detail, because it follows from Ruin. Cast in Peril is not the book I planned. Which is to say, it is the book I planned, but in planning, I seem to have forgotten that plot takes words, and the more plot there is, the more words there are, and at some point, there are too many words, because clearly I thought I could fit everything into one room. An apt analogy would be furniture: the fridge is now sitting in the hall and the dining room table is the TV stand, and there’s no room for anything but the couch because you can’t get past the table, and for some reason I thought it would all fit in one room.

In this, I absolutely blame Teela; it is entirely her fault. Well, actually, that’s possibly not fair. It is also the fault of another character I can’t name yet.

What I really want to do is post Chapter One of Cast in Peril. And no, of course I won’t, because it will make no sense if you haven’t read Cast in Ruin.

ETA: I think Cast in Peril will make sense to a reader who hasn’t read the previous books, in as much as that’s possible, but readers who have will immediately say: who the heck is (character name redacted)?

State of the Writing, September 2011

I’ve been revising Silence, the first of the DAW Sagara trilogy now called The Queen of the Dead. It has now returned to my long-suffering editor at DAW.

While working on the revision, however, I have also been writing.

Cast in Peril is almost finished. Which is good, because it is due Soon. I have author copies of Cast in Ruin, and author copies of the mass market of Harvest Moon, which contains my 39,600k word novella, “Cast in Moonlight” (yes, it’s still a novella; it hasn’t broken the 40k word mark which would put it in short novel territory). These go along with the author copies of the mass market versions of Cast in Fury and Cast in Silence, but without toe stubbage.

My husband decided to build a steel shelf in the basement on which to put author’s copies of the various books. He managed to get everything on the shelf, and it all fit perfectly — until Cast in Ruin and Harvest Moon arrived. While he is always happy to see the finished books, because they are totally real, I think over time his enthusiasm for them has waned a bit…

War, the final volume of The House War, is not finished. It is not close to being finished. It is, I think, just under half done. But it does progress. I admit I am dying to know how people feel about Skirmish. Yes, I will post sample chapters, but I’m waiting until we’re closer to the publication date (which is January 2012). Also, waiting for the finished cover, so I can post that.

On my plate now:

1. Redesign the web-site a bit so that it looks more modern. When I say “redesign” what I really mean is find someone who does not have the graphic design acumen of a brick to hire to do it for me. But to do this, I will need to visit a photographer to get an author portrait. And before I do that, I might as well replace the glasses that are slightly broken, and have been for mumble mumble time.

This redesign is supposed to help people who have no idea who I am or what I write find information about both who I am and what I write in one easy page load. Since I demonstrably know who I am and what I write, it’s not always clear to me when things are hard to find, and since I’m the one arranging the links and pages at the moment, I also know where everything is. I have a blind spot. Or more than one.

But…I do frequent some author blogs, and I hate the flash screens that basically pop up a picture which says “click here to enter” or something similar. The things which make a blog useful for people who read and comment on it aren’t always useful for people who just want information – and vice versa. There are one or two which I really, really like, but one is very slow to load (which, being me, I really really dislike).

This will not happen overnight (I can’t even see the optometrist until the 13th), so if you have any comments, suggestions, or requests, I’d be happy to see them.

2. Proof, format, and put out the other fifty-two stories. This is also not going to happen overnight, sadly. It’s the first work-related activity which I set aside when I have writing related work arrive in my inbox. I try to always write new words on a daily basis, but to do things like copy-edits, page-proofs and revisions after that. If there are no copy-edits, page-proofs, or revisions, I use the “after” time to proofread and format. I will be doing that for the next week or so.

3. Continue to write Cast in Peril and War, of course, and this should probably have been number 1, but I take for granted that it’s the high priority of each day.

Cast in Ruin Chapter Two

I hope people aren’t getting tired of seeing this cover, because it’s one of my favourites in the series to date. Which is not, of course, why I’m posting it again.

No, I’m posting it because so many people have asked, here and in email, if I could just possibly post Chapter Two before the book’s release date. I can’t think of any harm it could do, and yes, Chapter One ended in an unfortunate place — which was honestly not my intent, because I didn’t really write Chapter One thinking of it as a separate entity, the way a short story is.

Here, without further preamble, is Cast in Ruin Chapter Two. Enjoy!

I will be sitting here at my computer working on the other half of today’s writing, which has been going very slowly thanks to allergies and the type of sleep allergies sometimes cause. I am certain my children are grateful that I spent time preparing Chapter Two instead of being cranky, grouchy mom <wry g>.

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