Wednesday, March 31, 2010

iPad guided tours--check out iBooks

Some links relating to Apple's book plans.

Start with this nifty wee guided tour of iBooks (you'll have to pick iBooks out of the left column menu).

The there's Apple's attempted end-run around Kindle and self-publishing. Unlike BNET, I don't think this is a big deal. Amazon has many arrows in their quiver. Just wait.

Also, some stuff about Apple's e-book pricing. As I always knew it would, most pricing is going to go where Amazon first pointed.

It's all getting very interesting. The literary future is, as I've said a zillion times, all about e-publishing. The trades (the Big Six) are struggling to keep up. They're failing, in my opinion. Oh, some of them will still be around for years to come (because economies of scale work, and most people still read paper books). But how many? Something's going to give in a couple of years. Amazon is, I think, the only retailer of any size currently growing. (Apple will make two, of course.) As we've seen, Amazon and Apple don't like to play by Big Six rules.

In other words, publishing is unstable. Fault lines are shifting. Earthquakes are coming. As always, I'll be watching with interest.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The miracle of chocolate

We had rain rain rain all day yesterday--but I didn't care, I had chocolate cloud cake with whipped cream (and dusted with powdered Scharffen Berger) for breakfast. Yes, breakfast. It was dark and rainy and I couldn't face another egg, we had no bacon, and I couldn't be bothered to make my fish and rice and veggies thing that I like so much. Chocolate cake (it's flourless, full of egg white goodness, as well as, y'know, chocolate) seemed like the answer. And it was perfect.

So perfect that after lunch (a properly cooked meal of pork chop and steamed baby carrots), I had another slice. And, damn, it was even better--and, bonus, the sun came out. I took two pictures as proof. Here's the lilac:

See how it's grown in just six days? Lilac. In March. Does my head in. And here's the neighbour's plum (more blossom) and the torture tree (more leaves).

Sunshine on a stormy day: the miracle of chocolate.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Books save lives. Queer books save queer lives.

Dear Friend:

Books change lives. Sometimes books save lives. Queer books save queer lives.

My first novel, Ammonite, was a mass market paperback about a women-only world, one of those cheap disposables with a spaceship on the cover. It should have come and gone unnoticed—but it won a Lambda Literary Award. Because of that, it got picked up in many languages (Polish! Chinese!) and went on to win the Tiptree Award and the Premio Italia. Because of that, my second novel Slow River was a hardcover and reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. Both books were—still are—read all over the world.

A woman in Australia, married with two children, read Ammonite and wrote me a letter to tell me that my novel had shown her what the empty space inside her meant: she was a lesbian. Two years later, I got an email from the same woman, saying she had read Slow River and as a result had found the courage to do something about it; she now had a girlfriend. At a bookstore reading in the South, a man told me Slow River had made his job bearable during a truly awful period in his life. A woman in the Midwest approached me at a convention: No, she didn’t want to chat, but she thought I ought to know that Ammonite had literally saved her life: she had been planning to kill herself but instead, for six months, read the book cover to cover, over and over, endlessly, immersing herself in a world of women until she knew it was okay to be a woman, to stay alive and become herself.

I’m not special. Any queer writer, whether of memoir, YA, or f/sf, or romance, has similar stories. We don’t talk about it much—these are private, heartfelt gifts from readers, not meant for public consumption—but we know how important our books are.

Stories shape us. Stories show us possibilities. Without them we have to reinvent the wheel, again and again, believing we’re the only one in our Australian city or Southern job or Midwest town. With enough stories, we can create culture and build community. For decades, LGBTQ and feminist bookstores have functioned as de facto community centers, places for us to meet others like ourselves, to know—by seeing real live writers and readers, by touching actual books, by laughing and crying in recognition at authors' stories—that we aren't alone.

The Lambda Literary Foundation’s sole purpose is to champion those stories, to nurture, celebrate, and preserve queer literature.

Without LLF there would be no Lambda Literary Awards. Without those awards, Ammonite would not have been noticed, and I wouldn’t have a career. Several people might be dead. And that’s just one Lambda winner. Multiply this by all the categories—23 this year—and all the years we’ve been holding the awards (2010 will be our 22nd anniversary). So many stories. So many lives…

Without LLF there would be no Lambda Literary website—which, less than one month after launch, is already shaping up to be the premier online destination for queerlit-loving readers worldwide.

Without LLF there would be no Writers’ Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices, where new writers of all ages can come to find their people and learn their magnificent heritage. They arrive uncertain; they leave burning with a sense of purpose. As one Fellow told us, "If you ever had a doubt that you have done something to change the world, don’t."

Please help us to keep changing the world.

Please give to help us build this community, and provide resources to writers and readers worldwide. Five dollars, fifty dollars, five hundred, five thousand—every single dollar will but put to good use.

Books change lives. Queer books change queer lives. You can be part of that change. Every dollar helps queer writers be heard and queer readers find more stories to make them laugh, cry, fight, hope, and be proud.


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Sunday, March 28, 2010

My Friday night

Château Léoville Poyferré, a delicious 1995 Saint Julien. One of those practically perfect Bordeaux: fruit, dust, sun-warmed dirt, but with structure. I am very happy right now. (Yes, a good bottle of wine really does make me happy for days.)

We also had walnut wrapped in date wrapped in prosciutto and baked, for nibblies (with champagne of course), followed by butternut squash soup finished with a swirl of cream, spring lamb stew, and chocolate cloud cake--which I always mean to take a picture of but always forget. (Probably something to do with greed, not to mention all the wine.) For once we didn't have any after dinner drinks, but settled for some truffles and tea.

But the best part of the evening was the company: Kelley, of course, and two new friends, one Belgian, one Colombian, both brilliant scientists. Much exciting conversation. Our current agenda: to get them both to move to Seattle. Yes, they've been warned...

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Future of the magazine

Paid Content has an interesting article about the iPad and the future of the magazine. I was particularly struck by this:

Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

(via @Weegee)

It's time for people to stop imitating the page on the screen. It doesn't look or feel right; it's not useful.

Anyone here planning on buying an iPad? I might, in the future, but I think I might wait for 4G. Or perhaps I'll wait for some hack squad to build one with an optional pen-based interface. I want to be able to take notes by hand. I want to be able to draw.

FYI: more here (via @wordisup)

And some more here--an interview with Wired's creative director on designing for the iPad.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

I'm judging a writing competition

Over at Sterling Editing we have our usual weekly round up of links for writers, including mention of a competition I'm helping to judge, the Science in My Fiction contest for Crossed Genres. If you like science and like writing, this one's for you.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lost Man Booker Prize--vote for Mary Renault!

Via Lambda Literary:

The shortlist for The Lost Man Booker Prize — a one-off prize to honor the books published in 1970 that were not eligible for consideration for the Booker Prize — was announced today and includes two LGBT authors: Mary Renault and Patrick White.

As many of you know, Fire From Heaven is one of my all-time favourites (scroll down to 'Thirty or Forty Excellent Books'). Go vote now!

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I'm struck by some news today

I've been struck by several items of news today, but before I get there, let me urge you to go to Locus online and vote for the Locus Awards. No purchase or subscription necessary, though you do have to complete a survey. You'll recognise a name or two--like, y'know, me, and Malinda Lo--in some of the categories. Even if you don't vote, I can recommend using the titles as a reading list. There's some very cool stuff.

So, now, on to the odd news of the day. First up, there's a macaque loose in Tampa, munching people's grapefruits, falling in their swimming pools, and getting high on the tranks constantly shot at it. This, in and of itself, isn't that surprising: lots of idiots keep exotic animals without permits then 'release them into the wild' when they get bored or the beastie is too much to handle. (And macaques are big and fast and fierce. I most certainly wouldn't want to meet one in a dark alley, or my backyard.) What really struck me was that there's a whole wild breeding troop of these primates about 150 miles from Tampa, 'leftover' from the making of Tarzan movies in the 1930s. Wow.

Then there's the island in the Bay of Bengal, the one being squabbled over by India and Bangladesh. Except that fight has been rendered moot: the island has sunk. Vanished. Climate-change diplomacy.

The most jaw-dropping thing this morning, though, is the article about the possibility of a new (new to us) species of hominin, discovered via DNA testing of a single finger found in a Siberian cave. This brings the number of people-like species walking the planet at the same time (40,000 years ago) to four. The hypothesis is, of course, disputed. If the notion of four us-like species at once doesn't make you blink, the article in the Seattle Times would--riddled with errors, such as 'hominid' instead of 'hominin' and 'floriensis' instead of 'floresiensis'. Tuh. So go read this article instead.

Then there's some good news: Robert Gates has announced new regulations for the enforcement of DADT. From now on, only a general or admiral can initiate an enquiry and the standards of evidence have been raised. So I'm guessing the dismissal rate will plummet. It's a good interim measure until they throw the whole ill-conceived law out.

Why did I spend so long reading news this morning? Well, it's raining, and I feel sleepy, and it just seemed like the thing to do.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ravine World

I've been sitting on the deck in the sun, watching, listening, comparing today's garden and ravine sights and sounds with those of September. (Yes, it's really been six months since it's been warm enough to spend happy nothing time out there. It's Seattle. I expect it'll be a while longer until we need to unfurl the sunbrella.)

There are more birds, many more birds. When we first moved here, five years ago, there were no Steller's Jays around here. Three years ago, one pair arrived. Last year there were, I think, two pairs. Now there are many. And they're loud. But, ah, they're so very very blue I'll forgive them anything. There was a pair of tits playing a mating dance--or perhaps a cross your-turn-no-your-turn parenting squabble about bringing home the worms; hard to tell--around the neighbours' blossoming plum tree. It needs pruning (that rust-and-wine tree behind it might be dogwood):

There's a new species of new bird in the ravine. I didn't see it, but I heard it: something between the metallic wah-wah of a jay and the high, falling kiii of a hawk. I haven't a clue what that could be. Also new: someone in the hood has started keeping chickens. I heard, from far, far away, a rooster cock-a-doodledo-ing.

Woodpeckers are out in force, flickers mainly, and a couple of sapsuckers, drumming their manly brains out to attract the girls.

No sounds of construction. Yet. Though lots of lawn mowers all fired up--plus the first tourist seaplane of the season scaring the shit out of paying customers by flying low over the sound (or the Salish Sea, depending).

The crows were clearly off about their business somewhere else--hey, all weather is kegger weather.

The torture tree has the faint beginning of blossom--way early. Early, too, is the lilac. Here's a pic of the mishmash of trees fighting it out in the neighbour's yard: lilac, bamboo, laurel, and at the top right, curly willow. It's all blooming madly, and I'm really allergic to tree pollen but, weirdly, I was fine out there today.

Yep, if it were up to me I'd prune all those trees, but it's not, and I kind of like seeing the wild profusion and ecological struggle. Sadly, I don't think the curly willow is doing as well as I'd like.

The alders--usually late to leaf, though not as late as the torture tree--are turning green at the crown, but it looks as though two of them are dying gradually from the top down. They're old, and tall, and magnificent. Ah, well, they look good for another year or two.

I didn't see any squirrels; perhaps there's a new cat in the neighbourhood, or perhaps the raccoons have been hungrier than usual. Or, if they're desperate, I suppose it could be the coyotes. They were out in force last night. After Kelley fell asleep I opened the bedroom windows and listened to them yip and yowl--I think they might have pups--and fell asleep lulled by the cold, briny scent seeping up the ravine and the rustling of some small rodent in the rosemary bush.

Two changes I'm not happy about. There are already too many bugs: lots of wasps, flies, and tiny spiders; I think it might be skeeter hell here this summer if we get any rain. The Douglas firs in the commons running down to the ravine look awful. They were planted years ago--long before we got here--but a troop of Boy Scouts. Unfortunately, the scouts planted them right by the power line that runs across the ravine. The city come out late last year and, despite protests, brutally topped all four trees. We're not going to have as much shade this summer. Our A/C bill will be insane. Perhaps we should paint our roof white as one of our neighbours did last summer.

At some point, too, we'll have to do something about the moss around here--pressure wash the concrete driveway, regravel the walkway along the fence, scrape it off the shed roof--but, eh, not today. Today is for blinking and smiling and falling in love, all over again, with Ravine World.

I hope your day is proving as lovely as mine.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Impatience is not our friend

On Friday, over at Sterling Editing, we did our usual weekly roundup of links for writers, including this one about how, sometimes, not being published is better than being published badly.

I imagine some of you are now folding your arms, glaring at the screen and muttering, "Ha, easy for you to say!" You would be right: it is easy for me to say because I've faced that decision. In 1991 I turned down the first offer made by a US publisher for Ammonite.

I was thirty years old, living in constant anxiety about immigration, broke, and ill. A stranger in a strange land--the only person I knew on the whole continent was Kelley. She had a badly paid job. Legally, I wasn't allowed to work. We had no health insurance. I really needed that book published--and the offer was for a respectable sum from a more than respectable publisher (St. Martin's for the hardcover, Avon for the paperback). But my agent told me the offer was contingent upon a change of title and cutting about a fifth of the book.

I phoned the editor at Avon and asked, "Why do you want to change the title?" "Not everyone will know what an ammonite is," she said. "They can look it up!" I said, exasperated. Silence. "Now, about these edits you want. Which are the bits are so weak that they have to go?" "Oh," she said, "we don't care what you cut, we just have to lose 20% to make it the right page count." Another, lengthier silence. "So. Let me get this straight. You want cuts solely in order to fit Avon's notion of product size?" "Well, yes," she said. "It is a first novel, after all." "I'll have to think about this," I said, and put the phone down gently.

When Kelley got home from work we ate dinner and then went for a long, long walk in the summer dusk. We talked for hours, back and forth. Pros: hardcover publication (St. Martin's!) and a big cheque (equivalent to about four months' of K's salary), not to mention the line on my CV necessary for my immigration application. Cons: the misnaming and brutalisation of my beautiful first book.

It was quite, quite dark, and we were hungry again, by the time we got home. As we closed the screen door behind us and put the kettle on Kelley said, "Whatever you decide, I'll support you." The next day I called my agent and turned down the offer.

Everyone thought I was mad. The phone rang off the hook. (This was before email.) I stuck to my guns. I told my agent (and both editors involved in the offer, and Clarion peeps--teachers and fellow students) that I would rather Ammonite was published ten years from then rather than maimed and mutilated.

I meant it. I knew it was a good book. I knew it had the right title. I knew it was the right length. I knew that, one day, someone else would figure that out. I was right. One month later, Del Rey offered me nearly twice as much as St. Martin's/Avon, and they published it uncut and with the right title. And it was either the first or one of the first mass market paperbacks ever reviewed in the New York Times Book Review.

I made exactly the right choice. It turned out brilliantly. But it could have gone horribly wrong. I had no way of knowing.

And half a dozen years later, I had to make a similar decision, again involving Avon. This time it was about The Blue Place. Only it wasn't called that, then. It was called Penny in My Mouth. Everyone hated the title. My agent kept asking, "But who's Penny?" So, after much agonising, I changed it. I was surly about it--but I had a sneaking suspicion they were right. Maybe. We'll never know. My editor (the Executive Editor at Avon) then wanted me to change the ending. I said no. She got cross, and dumped me onto her Senior Editor. She then resigned (not just from Avon but from publishing altogether) just before publication. My publicist then quit two weeks before the book came out. The book was orphaned--went out with no quotes, no publicity, no one to hold its hand. Terrifying.

But I knew it had the right ending, the ending that would break Aud's--and the reader's--heart. And again everything turned out well. Mostly. It won awards; it's in its umpth (tenth? haven't checked for a while) printing; it found its audience--it is still finding its audience.

I'd make all those choices again. I think. It's impossible to say for sure. All I know is that patience and willingness to dig in for the long haul are the most essential tools in the writer's box. Psychotic self-belief also helps. There again, being able to listen to others ("Who is Penny?") is also vital. But if you don't know what do when faced with a decision, wait until you do know. Just wait. The answer will become clear. There is never any reason to rush. (People will try to tell you there is but there isn't.) Impatience is not our friend.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

The future of publishing

Penguin are beginning to figure out that the trick to business success is to listen to your customers. That is, the end user--that is, the reader. This video is from an internal sales conference. Do watch past the halfway point:

(via Word is Up)

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I'm back!

On Monday I informed the board of the Lambda Literary Foundation that I will be taking a leave of absence until the end of the summer...

...and it's spring! I made a wee slideshow (complete with cheesy but, y'know, heartfelt music) to express my joy but, huh, I couldn't figure out how to share it. (I'm new at this Mac stuff.) So here are two photos, of things (no idea what--but don't they look all springy and fresh and downright luscious?) growing right in my front garden, which will have to stand in for the rest:

In practical terms, this means I can now get back to Hild. I can spend some time with Sterling Editing. I can have a life again! Life is just damn good.

Oh, also you'll be seeing more of me around here. Threat or promise? You decide...

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lambda Literary Award Finalists

Lambda Literary has the news:

The news you’ve been waiting for: after four months of reading, deliberating, and consulting, 87 dedicated (and eye-weary) judges, assessing 462 LGBT-interest titles nominated by almost 200 publishers and authors, have selected 112 finalists in 23 categories.

“This has been a record year for queer books,” said the 2009 Lambda Awards Administrator, Richard Labonté, who has been associated with the Lammys since their inception in 1989 as a judge and consultant. “The number of titles nominated and the number of publishers represented is in both cases about 10 per cent higher than last year.”

And, for the first time, the single catchall Bisexual category – after reaching a threshold of 10 nominated titles in both fiction and nonfiction – has matured into two distinct categories, Bisexual Fiction and Bisexual Nonfiction.

Read who is moving forward here (you'll see FoAN Malinda Lo's Ash, yay!). Congratulations all.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Robin Hood trailer

New Robin Hood trailer:

(thanks Dianne)

Can't wait for this. Meanwhile, I'm still learning to type...

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Brainfail: digital version

Last Monday Lambda Literary went live. Tuesday, I rested. Wednesday, my computer got weird. Thursday, my hard drive failed. Utterly.

I run Carbonite, which backs up data (mostly; it doesn't back up video or anything over 4 GB, unless you remember to tell it to do so, sigh). But I've been working so hard the last couple of weeks and my old computer was under such strain that I kept pausing Carbonite to coax extra performance and cut wait times. (Note to self: never, ever do this.) Most crucially for me, it doesn't appear to back up settings and log-ins and all that fiddly stuff.

I swore that my next computer would be a Mac, so that's what I'm typing this on. A naked Mac Mini: no software, no video, no settings, no customised keyboard (no printer, not even Carbonite yet, because it's literally fresh out of the box).

And let me tell you, typing is hard. I've been using the same wildly customised ergonomic keyboard for nearly fifteen years: splayed, spread, curved, and raised. Using this thin and skimpy (quite beautiful) keyboard is like trying to speak another language. I think with my hands. My hands are currently inarticulate. That plus a brand new OS and none of my files (yet) and none of my settings (ever again) is making me feel a bit snappish.

I do not, not want to run Windows on this machine, so the next week or two will be full of hunting for serial numbers and negotiating with little software companies to get discounted Mac versions of their apps and.or figuring out how to pay for other software. And learning how to use it. And all I want to do is work on Hild. (I didn't lost any Hild. I back that up obsessively.)

So, yeah, snappish. On the other hand, this machine is bee-yoo-ti-ful. And Lambda Literary is up and looking good. And Kelley made oatmeal and craisin biscuits. Doesn't suck.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

The woman on the cover of The Blue Place

From: Penny Love Struck

First of all I would like to say I love your work. I enjoy the way your descriptions are so plainly realistic. I see things in the same way, or rather I find myself feeling the same way in certain situations (in other words it all seems very believable); however, I actually wrote you to ask about the photograph on the cover of The Blue Place. I recognized that the woman in the photograph looked a lot like or in fact is Kam Heskin. I know this seems a little random, but I am sure you haven't been able to find an answer before, right? I hope that at least you can sympathize with me. It is driving me crazy, I have tried to look it up but I can't find it anywhere... I just need to know to know. Unfortunately I have no other pressing subjects to broach or inquire about. I hope this hasn't taken up too much or your time or annoyed you to madness. Thanks ever so much, pLs

I've been asked this question a hundred times over the last twelve years and, sadly, my answer remains the same: I don't know who the model is, I don't have her phone number, and I can't get her email address.

Having said all that, Kam Heskin certainly looks like a possibility. But your guess is as good as mine.

It's odd, I haven't published an Aud novel for three years, but I've had a surge in email about TBP (and Stay and Always)--including yet another enquiry from a Humongous Huggywood Agency regarding film/TV rights. It must be spring...

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Game of Thrones: HBO order full series

According to The Hollywood Reporter, HBO has just greenlit a full ten-episode series based on George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones. All say, 'Oooooh!'

Apparently each season's episodes will be based on each of Martin's books. (No word on what they'll do when they hit the split-book narrative later in the series.) Photos and cast list here.

I think they've already shot the pilot, but the rest starts production in Belfast, in June, for 2011 spring release. The Griffith-Eskridge household is going to have to get its televisual act together before then. (We hate Comcast, hate them, refuse to pay their premium cable prices, but have been too busy to investigate streaming options. Now we have not only a goal but a timetable. Tick tock.)

I don't want to miss this one.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A fish with no name

I love this fish:

It’s not just what you say from Word Is Up on Vimeo.

Why? Dunno, I just do. And it's a goldfish. (Geddit? Goldfish? Sterling? Ah, never mind.) Perhaps this is how teams feel about their mascot. But here's the thing: a mascot needs a name.


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Monday, March 1, 2010

GalleyCat story on Lambda Literary

Woo-hoo! GalleyCat runs a story on Lambda Literary. (Many, many thanks to Jason Boog and particularly to Colleen Lindsay, proprietor of The Swivet, Twitter Manager extraordinaire, and all around Good Egg.)

And look at their nifty Scribd widget. Might have to get one of those.

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World-changing awesomeosity (and dancing words, and lesbian words--and gay and bi and trans words--and books and books and more books)

Lambda Literary Foundation from Word Is Up on Vimeo.

Do I really need to say anything? Go look. We'll talk later. Oh, yes.

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