Items! of! Interest!

First, Alec and I have a story in the September 2014 Analog, “Calm.” The author copies arrived late last week (making the fourth pro magazine I had a piece in last week, eep, what a week!), so it should be hitting stands soon-ish.

Next, my Fourth Street schedule. I’m one of the people doing the pre-convention seminar, along with Steven Brust, Elizabeth Bear, and Seanan McGuire, but that’s already closed, so if you’re doing that, you already know about the times and topics. For the convention itself–for which you can still get memberships! June 20-22!–here are my panels:

Saturday, June 21, 2014 11:00 AM – The Influence of Anxiety How do our fears and worries affect our work, and what we can do about it? How does that change when our anxieties are rooted in brain chemistry and the usual run of nostrums and advice to writers prove ineffective?
Sherry Merriam (m), Stella Evans, Scott Lynch, Marissa Lingen

Saturday, June 21, 2014 5:00P – In and out of frame In fantasy, as with stage plays and magic tricks, a key skill is directing the reader’s attention. What are some examples of successful (and less successful) attention direction and sleight of hand and the motivations behind them? Are there certain topics it’s easier or harder to guide readers toward (or away from)?
Marissa Lingen (m), Catherine Lundoff, Liz Vogel, Maurice Broaddus, Pamela Dean

At least, that’s how it was listed when I got the initial email from the programming chair. I believe that Maurice Broaddus had something come up so that he couldn’t make it, and the programming chair was going to ask a member who had bought a membership after he first figured out panelists to take Maurice’s place. As far as I know, the program has been set but has not been posted to the website–but when I saw that Catherine had posted her panels, I thought, yes, what a good idea, so here are mine.

Various things from Minicon weekend

First, I am pleased to say that my essay, “The Apple and the Castle,” will be appearing as one of the supplemental materials in the book, The Reader: The War for the Oaks. Get yours through the Kickstarter if you’re interested in gorgeous photos or me talking about what makes for a lasting fantasy classic, especially in the handling of setting.

Other good stuff happened besides me selling an essay. I was on a map panel that went pretty well, I thought, despite everyone on the panel being pro-map. (Panels often have a little extra frisson if the panelists disagree a bit more.) I want to particularly point out that while three of us writer panelists were traditionally published at one length or another, the two who were self-published-only were models of how self-published authors should conduct themselves on convention panels. They confined their remarks about their own books to the relevant and interesting, and they talked about other people’s work in on-topic ways, just as a good panelist ought. Later in the convention I encountered both of them, and one didn’t try to sell his book to me at all, while the other did–at a launch party I attended of my own free will, knowing that it was a launch party. Going to a launch party expecting someone not to be trying to talk up their book would just be dumb; that’s what they’re for. So as a result, I came away from it with warm positive feelings about both self-published authors, while I have no idea about the contents of their books, and I’m going to link them both here: Ozgur Sahin and Blake Hausladen. Well done, guys; that’s how to do it right. If this is what the rise of the self-published author brings programming at future cons, it’s going to be awesome. (I expect that this is not actually the case and self-published authors are as much a mixed bag as traditionally published authors. Ah well; at least I had a good panel.)

The middle-grade panel was less focused than the map panel, but several good names got discussed–Mer, everybody likes you–and our surprise last panelist got through her first panel ever without too much difficulty. (She was 14. First panels ever are hard.)

Alec’s and my reading went beautifully–not a huge crowd, but not a tiny one either, especially given that it was scheduled over the dinner hour. Timprov was a hero of the revolution in bringing us hot soup so that we were fortified before the reading.

A question came up in conversation at the book launch party, and I wanted to address it here, and that was: why don’t I post reviews of the books I get sent for review but do not finish? The dual entity known as James S. A. Corey was on Twitter just yesterday saying, “Writers: if people are bashing your work online, rejoice. It means someone has noticed it exists,” and I think that was the basic premise of the writer asking why I don’t post negative reviews: that negative press is still better for the smaller writer than no press. This is probably true. An individual post saying, “I stopped reading this on page one due to clunky prose,” or, “Rape scene chapter one, quit reading,” would still bring at least some attention to the book, and not everybody has the same taste in prose or the same distaste for chapter one rape scenes that I do.

However. I do not get paid for my reviews. My time is valuable, and my time is my own. Any time that I spend on writing reviews is my choice, and I don’t choose to spend that on books that didn’t hold my attention to the end. I am not long on time and energy. I would rather spend that time on my own writing, or on reading something else, or on staring at the birch tree outside my office window and willing the leaves on it to bud out, or on making my godson brownies, or…yeah. Things. “How long could it take?” Oh trust me. I bounce off a lot of books. It could take quite some time. Adding in discussion with people in the comments section, especially if those people want to try to talk me into reading a little further? It could really take quite some time.

Reviewers are good for writers, but reviewers do not exist to be good for writers. Reviewers are good for readers, but reviewers do not even exist to be good for readers. It is awfully nice that people send me free books to review. I am grateful. But what they are buying with the free book is the chance at my attention, and if they can’t hold my attention, they don’t get my time in the form of my reading or in the form of my review. Even if it would be useful to someone else.

The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza, by James Kochalka (and a few other things)

Review copy provided by First Second Books.

You know how I said that Zita the Spacegirl could be enjoyed by all ages? The Glorkian Warrior…is not so much all ages humor. If you think peanut butter-clam pizza is funny, then this will probably be about your speed. It is silly, it is extremely silly, it is sillier than that. It has a Super Backpack who is the voice of reason–the Super Backpack Super-Ego, if you will. It is entirely possible that my seven-year-old goddaughter will be too mature for this book. I feel sure that it has an audience, because this kind of alien goofy banana joke humor always has an audience, but it’s the kind of audience that likes Gonk-goes-bonk jokes.

Ah, but! If you are looking for something for a small relative who has that sort of sense of humor, and you don’t want it to be toilet humor, this is not generally scatalogical. It’s very silly, and it’s sometimes gross, but the places where it’s gross are neither sexual nor scatalogical, so you can go forward with it, confident that the parent will not kill you for teaching the kid new poop jokes.

I read this very short graphic novel in something like ten minutes flat after sending my agent the latest draft of my latest novel and doing the page proofs for my latest Analog story with my latest writing Alec–wait, no, same Alec I’ve always written with. I just got caught up in all the latests. I also read my latest (arrrrgh! but it’s a good latest along with all the other good latests in this paragraph) story in the latest (I CANNOT STOP) issue of On Spec, also collaborative with Alec. This one is “The Young Necromancer’s Guide to Re-Capitation,” and we’re pretty pleased. You can get it from the nice folks at On Spec, I expect.

Anyway, after all those latests, I am feeling a bit like a puppet with cut strings, so a very silly, very short graphic novel was much more what I was up for than the large and heavy biography I was otherwise in the middle of reading. More when I can. Stay warm; that’s my big goal tonight.

first of the year

Yesterday Alec and I sold our short story, “Calm,” to Analog.

I am always relieved when I make my first sale of the year, even though I know that the turning of the year is entirely arbitrary. Still, just as my grade school friends and I would greet each other melodramatically in January (“I haven’t seen you all year!”), I have a bit of “I haven’t sold a story all year!” until I do. So now I have! Onwards.

(Also Alec and I have such fun writing these things together that it’s always nice when someone else enjoys them too.)