Monday, November 30, 2009

Hild and more

Two pieces of good news: one, people keep sending me cheques for reprints of things. Free money, woo hoo! Two, I know how the first book of Hild ends. And it will make your jaw drop.

So now I know who kills whom, who marries whom, who betrays whom or just runs off, terrified--and when. The backbone is there. For the rest of the day I'll be filling in scene notes, particularly the settings. (Royals were peripatetic in those days; a few weeks here, a few weeks there; eating everyone out of house and home then moving on.) So I'll be having a delightful time imagining the River Calder (young, fresh, fast, full of stones, alders and birch, salmon and bream) and the River Aire (wide, slow, majestic, oaks and elms, otters and kingfishers). Nearly as nice as going to the park myself. Which I'll do tomorrow, I think.

Now it's time for tea and dreaming of bygone days and air that smells more of woodsmoke than diesel.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

what book's worth a prize this year?

The deadline for submitting nominees for the Lambda Literary Award is rapidly approaching (it's Tuesday). So this is your last chance to nudge authors and publishers to submit books for consideration.

The better the nominees, the better the reputation of the award, and so the better the reputation of quiltbag literature as a whole. So, you see, it's your duty to make these nominations happen.

What was your favourite f/sf book with LGBT characters this year? What memoir made you thoughtful? What queer poetry made your heart thump? Any YA fiction grab you?

As you know, I really liked Ash, by Malinda Lo--though, hmmn, should it go under YA, or bisexual, or f/sf? Tricky...

So, tell me, what would you nominate if you could? Let's see if we can make it happen for some lucky writer.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

I am thankful

This is my last post until Monday. I might do comments/tweets etc but no actual posts--unless something fabulous or terrible or excessively intriguing happens. Meanwhile I'll be being thankful (big 'T' for US citizens and ex-pats, little 't' for the rest of us).

I am thankful for my life. I am thankful for Kelley. I am thankful for the swarming flock of hot needle birds (I think they're a kind of tit, but their calls are high and sharp and hot) that flicked into the vine maples and hung upside down, chattering, while I exercised this morning. I am thankful for the colour of the leaves outside my window which are like claret and mango and redcurrant sorbet. I am thankful for Hild, who led such a very damn interesting life. I am thankful for my family, ditto. I am thankful for my friends. I am thankful for my readers (some of whom have become my friends). I am thankful for my tastebuds, which are getting a fabulous warmup right now with the scent of roasting root vegetables (oh, *drool*). I am thankful for all the writers who have been brave enough to let Sterling Editing help: for every single one who didn't flinch when we explained exactly how hard but how joyous, how exciting, their rewrite was going to be. I am thankful for the world that has all these people and things in it. May it never stop turning.

And may you, too, have many things and people to be thankful for.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Essays? Like them or not?

Zadie Smith talks about the essay in the Guardian:

For Samuel Johnson in 1755 it is: "A loose sally of the mind; an irregular undigested piece; not a regularly and orderly composition." And if this looks to us like one of Johnson's lexical eccentricities, we're chastened to find Joseph Addison, of all people, in agreement ("The wildness of these compositions that go by the name of essays") and behind them both three centuries of vaguely negative connotation. Beginning in the 1500s an essay is: the action or process of trying or testing; a sample, an example; a rehearsal; an attempt or endeavour; a trying to do something; a rough copy; a first draft. Not until the mid 19th century does it take on its familiar, neutral ring: "a composition more or less elaborate in style, though limited in range." Which is it, though, that attracts novelists – the comforts of limit or the freedom of irregularity?

I love reading really good ones--but there are so many mediocre essays in the world it's hard to find the gems. Does anyone have any recommendations? I like pieces that are willing to range across disciplines, particularly things like history, language, anthropology, economics and neuroscience. But I'll read almost anything if it's good enough.

I love writing essays, too. I write them less often since I began blogging. But I have a lot--and they're all over the map, but they always try to connect the dots of a variety of disciplines and/or genres. It's been interesting to work with Kelley on the last two, figuring out how to make our (very) different processes mesh. It's not just that our 'writing' process is different, it's that our personal non-fiction and fiction processes are different, too, and what I know about novel writing doesn't apply to an essay on, say, gendered language. (I need to rewrite that essay; some of it is wrong. I know more now than I did then...)

Anyway, as I say, I have a lot of essays now, a book's worth, and was wondering what the market might be like for a collection. Any thoughts on the matter will be happily received...

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Monday, November 23, 2009

miracle MS cure--uh-huh

From: Cebii

Nicola, have you seen this? CCSVI= Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency, the condition Dr. Zamboni is researching.

The CTV W5 report: "The Liberation Treatment: A whole new approach to MS" can be seen here: http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20091120/W5_liberation_091121/20091121?s_name=W5

Multiple Sclerosis Society statement on CCSVI: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/news/news-detail/index.aspx?nid=2206

List of Dr. Zamboni's research: http://www.fondazionehilarescere.org/eng/pubblicazioni.html

CCSVI in Multiple Sclerosis on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/CCSVI-in-Multiple-Sclerosis/110796282297#

If you search CCSVI Zamboni in YouTube you'll get 7 pertinent results: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Zamboni+CCSVI&search_type=&aq=f (procedures included)

Thank you, yes. I read about the theory some time ago, and saw some initial video at the end of last week.

It makes sense. To a degree. It ties in with recent research on Crohn's which has obvious implications for other autoimmune disease. It ties in with my notions about vitamin D. It offers--for the first time--a possible causative agent, a trigger for MS.

But.

In the past, possible triggers offered by the medical community didn't ring true to me, especially the numbers. Take for example the Epstein-Barr virus trigger hypothesis. Most people with MS have antibodies for EBV, researchers said, talking fast, their eyes sliding away. Not a 100%? I asked. Well, no, but most. I said, Okay, then, tell me why a significant percentage of the general population is also EBV antibody positive, yet they're healthy. No answer. The theory is bullshit.

So now we have someone who comes along and suggests that 100% of the people with MS he has tested suffer CCSVI. One hundred percent. Every single one.

CCSVI involves the stenosis (narrowing) of veins, such as the jugular and azygos, that drain the central nervous system. When the CNS is insufficiently drained, iron deposits build up. The iron deposits do two things: kill axons (nerve cells) and trigger an autoimmune response. That is, the person with CCSVI gets MS.

If you fix the CCSVI, that is, reopen the veins and keep them open (remember that part; I'll get back to it), the blood flow is restored. The CNS is properly drained. The iron build up goes away.

With the iron deposits gone, the autoimmune component of MS will eventually go away: no more sickness. The damage already done, both by the iron and the autoimmune response, will not. So if you're blind, you'll stay blind. If you're crippled, you'll stay crippled. But here's the thing: the body is brilliant at recruiting alternate pathways for various tasks, so who knows what function could be regained in unorthodox ways? Especially without the on-going iron toxicity and the autoimmune disease.

So how does this tie-in with my notions that vitamin D, specifically, vitamin D deficiency, lies at the roots of MS? Well, vitamin D not only influences the immune system but it plays a role in the formation and maintenance of a healthy venous system. Double whammy.

I could go on, detailing at length why this makes sense to me (the new Crohn's info ties in with my experience of immunomodulation and -suppression and the tuning-up-the-immune-system effects of using LDN, and this info doesn't contradict anything in the CCSVI hypothesis) but that's not really the point of this post.

The point, for me, is that I don't want anyone else to tell me about this: I know. And I'm having a hard time. A little hope is a terrible thing.

Do I want it to be true? Yes, maybe. Because if it is true, then, oof, I not only have a lot of work ahead, but it might not make all that much difference to me.

If it's true, I have to figure out how to get treated. It will be years and years before the medical profession accepts this. Even longer before the health insurance industry will. So I will have to find a skilled vascular person to map my veins (jugular is easy: it's just non-invasive Doppler sonography; some of the other veins, eh, it can get complicated). Then find someone to fix the veins. Then maintain the veins. The fixing is done with balloon angioplasty. Balloon angioplasty tends to fails after two or three years; you have to have it done again. It's not cheap. (And, remember, right now I wouldn't be able to persuade insurance to pay for it. Frankly, I'm not sure I could persuade anyone to both mapping my veins, or to operate, either, even if I came up with the money.)

Add to that the fact that the study numbers so far are very, very small.

Add to that, the fact that veins freak me out. Seriously. It's not the needles--I've injected myself subcutaneously so many times I've lost count, four figures at least; intramuscular isn't a problem. It's not the blood--hey, I'm a woman. It's the veins. I have to lie down to get blood drawn because I pass out, whap. If I even see vein stuff on TV my stomach lurches and I have to look away (I have to mute it, too, because just the sound of someone slapping a vein makes me want to throw up). I am phobic.

The one thing--one thing (spiders, snakes, bats, whatever, not a problem)--that bothers me and it might be the key to my salvation.

Or, y'know, it might not. This might all be bullshit. I might get my hopes up, exhaust myself bullying doctors, beggar myself paying for it, end up with a psychiatric bill because it freaks me out so much, and it might not really work. It might stop working after two years and I'll have to through it all again. It might halt the disease but make not difference to my current function. Or all of the above.

So how do I feel about this? Pretty fucking mixed.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

by the Salish Sea

from Wikimedia Commons

It's official. Kelley and I now live by the Salish Sea. We still live by Puget Sound, of course--it's just now acknowledged to be part of an ecologically coherent system that ignores the Canadian border. So, hey, all you British Columbia folks: we live by the same sea. I like that. I like thinking of us sharing our wee ecosystem. I won't throw rubbish in it if you don't; I won't wash the car at home if you don't; I won't spray the roses with anything evil if you don't. (Actually, last year we finally found an organic oil spray that kills the black blight stuff that destroys our roses, so this was the best rose summer ever at our house, and No Salmon Were Harmed during their production.)

Speaking of salmon, they're back at Carkeek Park's Pipers Creek. I haven't had time to go look recently but will most definitely make time to go next week. I'm feeling a bit cabin-feverish: it's been all work work work this month. But Thanksgiving Week will be a time to play.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

two more links--my sweetie is awesome!

Kelley gives some writing advice at io9.com. "Your awesome novel is firing on all thrusters... except one. A major character, who's important to the story, isn't clicking. She's dull, or he doesn't play well with others. We asked some great authors what to do about this quandary." Kelley explains how to fix it.

Over at Sterling Editing, the weekly round-up of links for writers, including how to write a fabulous book proposal, why you need an evil word-slashing $&9^%@# editor, and more...

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weekly linkage

Just three things today because I've been too busy to futz about in the creaking bowels of the interwebs. But they are good things, very good things.

Very, very fine idea here from @mdash: social PayPal to support artists. I can't wait to see where this goes.

In the Los Angeles Times, notice of legal blow to DOMA. "A federal judge today ordered compensation for a Los Angeles couple denied spousal benefits by the federal government because they are gay men./ U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt deemed the denial of healthcare and other benefits to the spouse of federal public defender Brad Levenson to be a violation of the Constitution's guarantee of due process and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which is prohibited by California state law." I think this is going to turn out to be very important.

Review of Eclipse 3 at io9.com by Charlie Jane Anders. "The best story in the book, though, is Nicola Griffith's 'It Takes Two,' the jaw-dropping story of freakish biochemistry experiments, venture capital, and a lesbian lapdance that goes much further than anyone expects. It's reminiscent of the thrilling leap-in-the-dark feeling of her novel Slow River, but feels even more intense and weird, maybe because nothing could be weirder than a strip club in Marietta, Georgia." Woo hoo! So, hey, go buy the book and experience the leap-in-the-dark thrill (ooh, I like that) for yourself.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

all boys, again

Another set of book awards, this time the National Book Awards. And, goodness, what a surprise, all boys again. I think I might stay in Hild world.

But before I go, here's an additional thought: the juried awards hierarchy.

women writing about women = cooties
women writing about men = good
men writing about women = better
men writing about men = genius for our times

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

share day

The day is...well, it's here. I've got nothing. At some point I'll have, y'know, something, but right now not so much. If you have anything--anything you want to share, links you want to point to, pictures or videos you think will brighten the day, go ahead: link, post, share. I'm happy to chat, I'm just not feeling like originating anything but Hild today.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

surreal learning and...awesomeness x 3

Oh, wow, so this is why teens like surreal fiction: it helps them learn.

According to research by psychologists at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) and the University of British Columbia, exposure to the surrealism in, say, a book by Franz Kafka or a film by director David Lynch enhances the cognitive mechanisms that oversee implicit learning functions [Psychological Science, 20(9): 1125-1131].

It all makes sense now--why I bothered to read Naked Lunch and Kafka when I was 15, loved Anna Kavan's Ice at 19, was stunned by 'experimental' sf at 20 but suddenly dug my heels in at 26 and said, Enough of that weird shit! Interesting. (Many thanks to Karina for the link.)

Clearly, I don't need assistance to learn anymore, because I'm so, y'know, awesome. Which reminds me, the "It Takes Two" awesome quotient gets better and better. Here are some review snippets from Locus:

Rich Horton says:

“It Takes Two”, by Nicola Griffith, is more explicitly based on SFnal extrapolation. Richard and Cody are friends, their friendship unencumbered by the burden of sexual expectations, as they are each gay. They each work in tech industries, until Richard takes a more academic job – and convinces Cody to act as a guinea pig for a new product. A bit later we meet her trying to land a major contract that will make her career, and part of that involves being “one of the guys” at a strip club. Which all unexpected leads to a great night with one of the strippers … Wonderful, right? Until Richard springs his secret. Solid near future biological/neurological extrapolation, with a thoughtful and moving meditation on the nature of love to ground it.

Adrienne Martini says:

When set between diamonds like Maureen McHugh’s “Useless Things” and Nicola Griffith’s “ It Takes Two,” even the best stories read like cubic zirconia.

And Gary K. Wolfe

...And the stories that are as close as we get to hard SF also come from unexpected
quarters: Nicola Griffith’s powerfully erotic “It Takes Two”—another of the strongest tales here—resolves into an SF scenario in a thoroughly unexpected yet credible way
[...] it’s a delight to discover a comparatively rare new story by Molly Gloss or Nicola Griffith

Get used to me crowing about the most minute praise for this story. I don't publish short fiction often and have to get my jollies when I can.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

web producer/editor job at LLF

Here's today's big news: the Lambda Literary Foundation is looking for a web producer/editor for the website in development. This is a brilliant opportunity. If I didn't have so much to do, I'd jump on it with both feet. It's the chance to influence the sphere of queer literature.

JOB OPENING:
Web Producer/Editor, the Lambda Literary Foundation

The Lambda Literary Foundation
The Lambda Literary Foundation rewards and promotes excellence in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender literature. Our programs include the Lambda Literary Awards, the Lambda Book Report, and the Emerging LGBT Writers' Retreat. We are building a new website to celebrate, support, and connect the varied constituencies of the LGBT literary community.

The job
We are looking for a tech-savvy lit-lover who wants to be at the the nexus of the burgeoning online LGBT litscape. The web producer/editor will help put the finishing touches on the new website, then take responsibility for 1) commissioning and posting immaculately edited content which is refreshed on a reliable schedule, 2) promoting the site through social media, 3) ensuring smooth and uninterrupted operation of the site. Essentially, the web producer/editor will be monitoring the weather in the LGBT literary landscape and providing the community with the content they need before they even know they need it: reviews, opinion, interviews, community interaction--in written, audio, and video formats.

In addition to recruiting and assigning freelancers and volunteers, the producer/editor will solicit advertisers and oversee forum moderators. S/he will report to the Executive Director, with whom s/he will consult.

The ideal candidate

  • has a solid grasp of the LGBT literary landscape, preferably with connections to publishers, agents, booksellers, writers, editors, readers, artists, etc.
  • is at home with social media--FB, Twitter, blogosphere--and associated technologies such as podcasting and video streaming
  • is proficient in Adobe Photoshop, basic HTML and Javascript, selected CMS (WordPress), and working knowledge of CSS, and CMS plug-in installation
  • has experience with recruiting & managing volunteer and freelance content providers
  • posseses great writing and editing skills, design flair, an instinct for and delight in community-building, and the demonstrated ability to innovate, plan and execute
  • loves to solve problems, make things work, and get things done

The rewards
You will meet and work with the giants of the LGBT literary world. You will help grow the careers of emerging writers. You will be loved and admired the world over. You can work from anywhere with an internet connection (though as LLF is based in Los Angeles, the West Coast would be an advantage).

This is currently a half-time salaried position which we anticipate will grow to be full-time. Pay dependent on experience. Please send CV and cover letter to jobs@lambdaliterary.org. Review of applications will begin Nov 30 2009.

Download the PDF. Pass it along.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

sex and sf symposium

FoAN Jennifer Durham pointed out to me that the Science Fiction Studies Symposium on Sexuality in Science Fiction, edited by Rob Latham, is available online. So you can go read my wee rantlet for yourself. We had a word limit of 'under 400 words' but I was one of a minority to colour between the lines. Academics. Whatcha gonna do?

The essay I mention, "Writing from the Body," is available here.

Enjoy.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

my awesomeness grows

My novelette "It Take Two" has just been selected for a Year's Best anthology (more on that another time) and here's the most recent mention of it, from Abigail Nussbaum:

The best story in the anthology is Nicola Griffith's "It Takes Two," in which a female executive for a high tech company struggling to overcome the boys' club atmosphere in her profession ends up hacking her brain to get ahead in business. Despite a shaky premise, "It Takes Two" is a meaty story that comments intelligently on several thorny issues.

Also, I'm feeling very pleased because the cheque for that story arrived yesterday. If you want to add to my royalties, go buy Eclipse 3, the book it's in. I'll be grateful (but probably not as grateful as you...)

Also just out (I think--haven't actually seen it yet, but I'm guessing that's because I haven't been to the PO Box for a week) is my wee squibbish rant about sexuality in science fiction, "Hard Takes Soft, Again," in Science Fiction Studies. I'll talk more about that when I see it.

Why am I so full of myself today? Well, being awesome agrees with me, but what agrees with me even more is sleep, and I spent half of Thursday and most of yesterday just nodding out. Plus I slept hard both nights, so now my batteries are topped off and the air around my head is crackling.

I'm going to need that energy: Hild is heating up and Lambda Literary Foundation will have a big announcement on Monday. Watch this space.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

sleepy day

It's a sleepy day for me here in Seattle, so I'm just going to point you to two Sterling Editing posts:

NaNoWriMo Second Draft Special: we're offering up to 40% off our usual rates for anyone accepting the National Novel Writing Month challenge.

Links for emerging writers: including a list of agents open to new writers, and a Devil's Dictionary-type look at publishing terms.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

historical fact vs. fiction

Most of you already know I'm writing a novel set in seventh-century Britain. This, of course, makes it an historical novel, though I tend to think of it as A Novel. (I thought of Slow River as a novel, and The Blue Place; publishing doesn't always agree with me.)

There are many ways, apparently, to approach writing historical fiction. There's the hey, anything goes, just use the period as window dressing around a fab story camp, and there's the never, ever, don't evereverever, contravene what is known to be known people. (There's an article in MACLEANS.CA that lays this out by illustrating the difference between the attitudes of Hilary Mantel and Kate Pullinger.)

Here's an even more interesting piece from Magistra et Mater: an historian explains why she no longer reads historical fiction.

Me? Well, I love getting things right. I've done a lot of research on Hild and her time (some casual, some deep and complex). But I'm a novelist; I also occasionally can't resist just fucking with things. Sometimes, though, it seems I fuck with things in just the right way--and those are fabulous moments when I know I'm really beginning to get a feel for the period. (At least in some senses.)

Right now I'm deep in contemplation of a letter from Pope Boniface to King Edwin (as recorded by Bede). Figuring out that the 'cloak from Ancyra' is probably a mohair cloak, and therefore sleek and lustrous (and therefore a very fine present to an Anglisc king--they loved shiny things, like jackdaws), created a whole scene in my head: an infuriated king, cursing the Pope for trying to play him--but accepting the cloak anyway because, well, it's shiny.

In other words, I'm having enormous fun. Just wanted to share.

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linkage

Mostly book stuff, with a poke-fun-at-those-wacky-Catholics moment at the end. (Which I'm allowed to do because I'm a Catholic born and bred.)

NaNoWriMo Revision Special, from Sterling Editing: a reward for writers who are working hard. The more you write, the bigger you save!

Charles Tan guest posts at Ecstatic Days and names "It Takes Two" on his Best Of 2009 short list, woo hoo!

Three Reasons Why You Should Read Debut Novels. "I've been reading debut novels for years. In fact, I've made a specialty of it. I have read so many debut novels over the years that I decided to make discovering debuts the focus of my blog." Go on. Take a chance.

Carina Press, Harlequin's new venture, aims to publish "a broad range of fiction with an emphasis on romance and its subgenres. We will also acquire voices in mystery, suspense and thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, erotica, gay/lesbian, and more!" I'll be watching this--I think it could be a fabulous opportunity for some novelists.

Kindle in Color - As Long As You Read on Your PC. From Richard Curtis, a review of the non-Kindle Kindle experience: meh. Plus, "Just remember you don't have to wet your finger to swipe to the next page, as yours truly unconsciously did on a friend's iPhone. I left a nice wet souvenir on the screen. Twentieth century habits die hard."

E.T. Phone Rome. From the Seattle P-I: "Four hundred years after it locked up Galileo for challenging the view that the Earth was the center of the universe, the Vatican has called in experts to study the possibility of extraterrestrial alien life and its implication for the Catholic Church."

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

reinventing bookselling

Here's a Guardian article, nominally about Waterstone's, a UK book chain ("When it started, Waterstone's was a breath of fresh air. But as it got ever bigger, many say it lost its soul. What effect has that had on publishing?"). Read it. It's a condensed history of how book selling changed.

There's a parallel story, too, of course: how publishing changed (mergers and acquisitions in the 80s leading to greater expectations of the bottom line from corporate masters) but we'll leave that for another day.

For now I'd like to focus on the bright light in this article: the new generation (well, okay, not a generation, yet) of independent booksellers. I suddenly had a vision of a corporation--probably a non-profit umbrella corporation, funded by the giving arms of multi-nationals--partnering with independents like Elliott Bay, Bailey/Coy, Seattle Mystery Books, Powell's, Book Soup, Tattered Cover, Mysterious Galaxy, Vroman's, Malaprop's, Charis, etc. to strengthen negotiating positions with publishers and distributors, pay for the little comforts that make a big difference to customers, and so on. Yes, I know this is what IndieBound, the independents' trade association, is supposed to do, but clearly it's not working. (Bailey/Coy just announced its closure. Elliott Bay is in deep trouble.)

This BooksellCorp wouldn't expect profits, as such. They would be paying forward, building a pool of better educated, well-rounded applicants for their future positions. Seriously. The war for talent has already started in corporate HR world (the recession is just a blip). This would be a way for huge corporations to ensure there are competent, empathetic, and civilised (readers are civilised people but, again, that's a discussion for another time) potential employees to choose from. It's also, of course, an opportunity to brand themselves favourably in the eyes of those potential employees.

So that's my reinvent-the-world dream for today. I'm curious as to how others see this. If you don't like it, what's your dream today?

Addendum: wow, it looks as though someone else thought of this--or a version of it. (Thanks, @bookavore.) This is exciting!

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Monday, November 9, 2009

twenty years ago

Twenty years ago I was watching the Berlin Wall coming down, beginning a five-week process of selling my stuff, saying my goodbyes to family and friends, and preparing to leave England forever. I felt lonely and forlorn: going to a country where, if they knew I was a dyke, they wouldn't even let me enter the country, where the only person I knew was Kelley.

Last night I shared a lovely little bottle of Barbaresco with Kelley in front of our fire to celebrate being Everything But Married in the fine state of Washington. Now, instead of worrying that the government won't let us be together, I know that if Kelley and I want to split up, we'll have to petition the court. (It's Federal vs. State laws we're talking about, of course: apples and oranges--but still.) The wine was a gift from our friends and neighbours, Vicki and Ron, who went out and beat the bushes for votes, who talked to their friends and colleagues--who, in other words, are partly responsible for helping get this law on the books.

Who knew, twenty years ago, that pinko commie queers would be taking over the world by...blending in, by being welcomed. Germany in stronger for reunification. I think this country will be stronger once it stops limiting its citizens. Our neighbourhood is stronger for its inclusiveness.

How about yours?

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

for the nose!

Yesterday lunchtime I was sitting idly at the kitchen table waiting for the vegetables to finish steaming (carrots and cabbage, to go with the leftover braised steak and sausage with onion from the night before, if you must know) when I was struck by the label of this nasal spray:

I tried to imagine being an alien who had to interpret this message for her people:

You, sir, are an asshole!
Thank you. Here is a friendly grenade.
Now I will slam this spray into your eye by the most efficient route.

Who do they get to design these things?

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editing questions and answers

From: Donna Collier

That was an almost orgasmic response. It was indeed, very, very good. Please accept my apologies for the length of my response and hopefully, no questions are too stupid to ask?

Right now, I have three irons stirring in the fire and I want Sterling Editing to handle the appropriate one at some point. One of my irons is a novel that I have been working on for yonks. It is with an editor now (a friend of a friend). I have no idea how many red marks it will accrue or what type changes will be suggested. That one, already has a bunch of cooks stirring the pot - so may not be the best candidate.

From that novel, I want to write two more - using the same character. Well, at least one more, for sure. I haven't started the second novel yet (which is my second iron) but I have written a few notes about where it happens, who she meets, etc. Will having SE step in on the second novel defeat the purpose of making the character and the book(s) flow because I should have used SE in polishing the first novel?

The third iron in the fire is a fantasy short story for young adults. I had it critiqued and was told that I should query a publisher and ask if they would be interested in my growing the short story into a novel or even a book of short stories - based on that particular character. Several other people have said that they see it as a series. (Perhaps they are telling the truth) Anyway, I don't know of any publishers or even an agent who accepts a short story based only on an idea to develop it further. I believe this means I have to write the entire novel before I can send it to anyone?

I'm sorry I’ve taken the long way around to ask you all these questions. More > At what stage of the project does SE want the manuscript? 1.Completed and double checked by other editors so its good enough to go through Sterling Editing 2.several chapters done so SE knows what the author is aiming for 3.one chapter done and the book will grow as SE works with the writer.

Maybe other readers have a similar question.

At Sterling Editing we will edit whatever you want help with. I'll edit a short story for submission and publication. I'll edit a novel that's a mess--a developmental edit--or one that needs just a little soothing and smoothing and pointing to bring out its best--a line edit. I'll give you a developmental edit of a few chapters and coaching sessions on how to continue it. I'll be your mentor on a book length project for forty weeks or 100,000 words, whichever comes first. (All those rates are listed here.) I prefer to work on something that is burning a hole in you, that you will move heaven and earth to perfect, to get to the point where it says what you need it to say. I don't care what length it is or what stage it's at.

But you get to choose the project.

Judging by your comment, though, you're having a hard time deciding where your heart lies. This is just the kind of dilemma we deal with in coaching sessions. We begin by asking a lot of questions.

My first question would be: how do you feel about these works? Reading between the lines (not recommended for coaching--hence the questions--but this is a public comment and response so I'm just going to go with it), you sound a bit fed up of the novel. You sound as though it's been pulled this way by too many hands and that and you're no longer sure of its integrity.

If this is true, then you have a couple of choices. One, throw it away. Two, go back to your first draft, the one only you have touched, and read it: remember what drove you to write it, what thrilled you, what the core of the story is for you. Then put your hand on your heart and ask yourself: is this worth fixing? If it's your very first effort it might not be. It might be time to begin something new. Only you can say.

Regarding the series: sometimes a story can begin in medias res. If you want to write a series about one character, perhaps you don't need to begin at the beginning. Perhaps you could begin with what you currently believe is Book 2. Only you can say.

Regarding the short story: I don't think you've had very good advice. First of all, one queries specific editors at specific publishing houses. Second, it's usually an agent who does that. Third, in today's market, querying a book editor with a short story is almost always a waste of time. Whoever gave this advice might be a great writing teacher but it might not be wise to listen to them regarding the marketplace.

So, to recap: I will work with you on any piece of writing you are burning to make great--any piece of writing at any stage. Only you can say. For writers, the real trick is telling the truth, especially to ourselves.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

ambition

In an AOL author chat many years ago, the moderator asked me, "What kind of writer are you?" I said, "A good one." No doubt he meant, What genre do you work in?, but that's a question I've never been interested in answering. I write good novels. I aim to write great novels. Sometimes the publisher calls these novels science fiction, or lesbian fiction, or crime fiction, or historical fiction. I call them good books.

As a writer, I am ambitious. I've never been shy about that. (See my rant on the subject, You've been warned.) But I hadn't consciously considered my ambitions as an editor (though I have thought about why I edit), until a writer asked me the other day, "What kind of editor are you?" I said, "A good one." But that's not the whole truth. Here's what I would say today:

As an editor, I am extremely ambitious--for you. It is not enough for me to help you polish your sentences, punch up your plot, and hone your characters. It's not enough to strike out your adverbs and adjectives. Not enough to point out your clich├ęs and remind you to be specific. I will do all those things, of course--it's where we must begin--but they are only stepping stones to my real goal.

I want to help you change the world.

To do that, I'll help you write the best story of your life. I will look at your draft and I will ask you questions; I'll help you find out what you really want to say. Most writers begin by stepping around their story. I will help you drive straight for its heart. I will help you find the right words, the right scenes, the right settings and characters, the right POV, the right tense, the right trouble. I will stand sternly at the entrance to the road labeled The Easy Way Out and urge you back to the true path.

I will not shrug and let you get away with less than your best. I will keep you working until the wide way to the centre of your story opens before you. You will walk that way to the very best thing you've ever written (so far). When people read it, they will be changed.

That's what great writing does. That's the point. Oh, it entertains us, yes, it delights and amuses us, but it changes us, just a little. It widens our perspective, just a degree or two, increases our understanding, sharpens our vision. If your work changes one tiny thing in one reader, you change the way that person approaches the world. That changes the world.

Hundreds of readers have told me my work has changed their lives. A handful have told me my work saved their lives. One told me my work eased someone's death. That's why I write. That's why I teach and edit: so you can change the world, too.

Do you want to change the world? If you don't, what do you want to achieve with your writing?

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

linkage

Still in Hild world, so here's some linkage instead of a real blog post. (Though I'm considering making this a weekly feature, if I can work out how to make the time to be organised about it.)

Secret copyright treaty leaks. It's bad. Very bad. Cory Doctorow opines on BoingBoing. The title says it all.

Leaked Courier Video. This just does my head in. Again. If I win the lottery, I won't know whether to buy this or wait for the Mythical Apple Tablet. Oh, wait, if I'm richrichrich I could get both. (Thanks, Timothy.)

Oh for a tricorder! L. Timmel Duchamp discusses current ethical implications of astrobiology. "This lecture focused chiefly on the search for "Life 2.0," looking at each of several sites in the solar system and evaluating their promise for delivering Life 2.0 or evidence that it once existed in those sites. Will anyone be surprised to hear there were quite a lot of references to sf, mostly Star Trek, most notably a picture of Spock and a quotation: "Jim, it's life, but not as we know it," and, later in the lecture, in answer to the question "How do we recognize alien life?" the reply "Use a tricorder" accompanied by an image of a Star Trek tricorder."

Modern Architecture - Stunning Whale-like Structure Can Float Away Wow. "Designed by Melbourne-based Peddle Thorpe Architects, Fluid is a whale-inspired pavilion that is sure to be a showstopper at the much-anticipated 2012 World Expo in Yeosu, South Korea." (Thanks, Evecho)

PoetrySpeaks.com "This is not just another poetry site. PoetrySpeaks allows you to experience poetry in a host of interesting ways." Brought to you by the brains behind Sourcebooks. This is going to corner the poetry market from producers to consumers to academics. Very, very smart move. Go learn.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

good in Washington, bad in Maine--updated

As of 10:14 pm, the vote to approve Referendum 71 is leading by a thin margin, 51% to 49%. Many votes still to be counted.

Sadly, it looks as though we lost in Maine. My heart goes out to you all up there. Except you fuckers who couldn't be bothered to vote. You I shun.

More tomorrow.

So now it's tomorrow.We lost in Maine--53% to 47%. Close enough to be both a terrible and a hopeful result. My hope is that folks keep chipping away at the prejudice and eventually it will be close in our favour.

Here in Washington, unless something truly bizarre and unforeseen happens, we've won. Yes, it's only 51% to 49%, yes there are still votes to be counted--but most of those votes are from the more liberal counties around Puget Sound, so I wouldn't be surprised to see our percentage rise a point or even two.

This is pretty astonishing when you consider what happened here just 12 years ago--the rejection, by 60% to 40% of a basic anti-discrimination bill. Think about that. We have won one percent per year to our side. One percent of voters, every single year, have gone from thinking we don't even need to be protected from discrimination to believing we deserve equal rights when it comes to family law. That, right there, is worth taking a moment to ponder.

I wish it were happening more quickly but the fact is, it is happening. At some point soon our quiltbag nation will have federal rights--something very similar, I think, to Washington's everything-but-marriage law, i.e. marridge. Then no one will be able to do what Jackson Memorial hospital did to Janice Langbehn and her partner, Lisa. No one will have to spend years fighting immigration, as I did (scroll past the sharks' virgin birth--oh, just go read it). No one will be stuck in legal limbo like the people who got married in California and now find themselves with no mechanism for divorce.

I'm going to go make a cup of tea and ponder the good things in life and work out how I can help to make them ever better.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

the changing publishing landscape

Kassia Krozser and Lev Grossman talked to Jeffrey Brown on NewsHour recently about 'the shifting world of book publishing', and 'how technology and readers are changing the industry'. I've only just got around to reading the transcript (thanks, Angelique). Most of what they say makes sense, apart from this statement by Lev Grossman:

And it sounds a little technical to say, also, but people have not really figured out how much an e-book should cost. Amazon tends to sell them for $9.99, but Amazon takes a loss on each book. And $9.99 is -- it's not enough for publishers to recoup the cost of producing an e-book. (My emphasis.)

I disagree. If publishers can make money on mass market paperback originals with a price point well below $9.99--many have and some still do--then they can make money on a book with no shipping, warehousing, printing or picking-and-packing costs. They just don't make as much money. Publishers (by which I mean the Big Six) must adjust.

Books delivered electronically at low prices are already a huge part of the reader-writer landscape. (For example, around 30% of my royalties are now from sales of e-books.) If the publishers want to stay in business, they are going to have to figure out how to make money for the long terms at those prices. Those that don't will fail and fade into the west. Newer publishers, writer-agent coops, and other strange agglomerations of stake holders, will take over. After all, the only two truly indispensable parts of the literary landscape are the writer and the reader. In my opinion.

What do you think?

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Roomba girl, Raul Castro, Angela Merkel...and me

Newsmakers: The People Behind Today's Headlines, is just published by Gale.

"Newsmakers – published quarterly in softcover – provides timely and informative profiles of the world's most interesting people. A hardbound annual cumulation makes Newsmakers a permanent reference source on 200 newsmakers of the year. Four indexes help readers locate entries by name, nationality, occupation and subject. Separate obituaries provide concise profiles of recently deceased newsmakers."

I'm quoting in full from their website because, well, I'm fascinated by all this. Click this table of contents and you'll see what I'm talking about:


The world's most important people include: the Chancellor of Germany, the President of Cuba, Maeve Binchy, Rachel Maddow, the Governor of Washington State, the co-inventor of Roomba, the Chair of the National Republican Committee...and me.

Life is very, very strange.

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vote

If you live in Washington State, here's your last reminder: if you don't vote on Referendum 71, you are no longer welcome in my home, real or virtual. No excuses. No exceptions. I'm deadly serious about this. It matters. Lives depend upon it. The lives of me and mine. Do your civic duty.
This also applies to folk in Maine: go vote.

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

another beautiful day in Seattle

The trees outside my office window have dropped most of their leaves. The ones left look as though they're made of peach and wine sherbert. The grass is green again. The sky is blue. There are so many birds flicking through the garden on the way to the ravine that I can't keep track.

It's the kind of day that makes me laugh out loud. I can't stop smiling. I hope it's just as beautiful wherever you are.

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