Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Broken toe

I've broken my toe. It's a lovely shade of blue and purple--periwinkle, perhaps. So I'm even more gimpy than usual and very irritable.

In the general scheme of things, a broken toe is no big deal (I've done it twice before). The regimen is simple: ice, tape, elevate, NSAIDS. Rinse and repeat (though changing to alternating ice and heat after 48 hours). The thing is, icing and heating are wholly tedious, and mostly--it's a very small toe--I don't bother.

But, hey, if you want to send sympathy wine, truffles, caviar, pâté, flowers, rare first edition, or dancing girls, I won't say no...

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The literary agent, role and payment, plus more Clarion photos

There's an interesting conversation going on at the moment about the role of the literary agent and how they could/should get paid. (Colleen Lindsay, who started it, has a good summary here.) This, and the role of the editor and publisher in a changing publishing landscape, is something I want to talk about in depth at some point soon. But I thought you might enjoy the convo meanwhile.

Our friend Mark has posted more photos from Clarion. If you want to see me wearing glasses, hair still wet from the shower, if you want to see me and Kelley gazing in stupefaction at the t-shirts we had made, if you want to see Tim Powers, Lisa Goldstein, Chip Delany, Stan Robinson Kate Wilhelm and Damon Knight 22 years ago, go scroll through them.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

The Alisha Baker room in our house

We recently became the proud owners of "The Girls," an Alisha Baker painting.

The Girls, Alisha Baker

Alisha has a couple of posts (here and here) about painting and repainting this image. I first saw the original years ago. I really liked it. But the new one is much more layered. For one thing, there's, literally, much more paint. It's painted with bravura, big strokes. And it's contradictory: sunlit, laughing women, and behind them a louring winter wood. Very damn interesting. We put the painting up on Friday afternoon and I'm still being surprised every time I walk into the room.

We now have four Baker paintings. In fact, one room, the place we watch TV (the 'family room' as an American might say, or the 'pistachio room' as the real estate agent called it--it's green--or, as I say, 'in there'), is now, essentially, the Alisha Baker room.


I met Alisha eight years ago (I've blogged about this before) and bought my first painting from her, "Let's Imagine..." in 2003.

Let's Imagine..., Alisha Baker

It's been fascinating to watch her grow and change as an artist, seeing the experiments--the successes and failures. For example, the third painting in the room, "Samantha" (I don't have a better photo of it), involved using feathers. Something about those feathers delights me. Every time I look at it I grin. The subject's smile is utterly infectious.

In the living room we have a small chunk of slate, painted with a moonlit seascape, "Winter Pearl," propped on our mantel.

Winter Pearl, Alisha Baker

Alisha's getting into painting portraits now. One day I hope we can afford to get our picture done. (Perhaps for our 25th anniversary. We'll start saving now. Of course, the portrait will probably be done from a photo, and I know who I want to take that.) We're going to have to get a bigger house with more walls...

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Perb update

My Perbs (personal herbs, growing in pots on my back deck) are now two weeks old. Time for some gratuitous photo updates. (You can enlarge any and all by clicking on it.) If any of you know a lot about herbs and/or pot gardening, please (please!) feel free to chime in with tips and tricks. I'm pretty clueless about all this. All I know is that herbs taste good, enjoy sunshine, and require reasonably managed moisture levels.

This is the biggest pot, a mix of dill (which is growing like a weed--I've pinched of flowers a couple of times on the theory that this is, well, I dunno, it just seemed like a good idea), thyme, and chives (can't wait for the flowers, yum, love the taste of those things). They look as though they're doing okay. I think.

Parsley. This one looked very sickly when we brought it home, then it got dropped on its head--but it seems to be picking up nicely.

Marjoram. I think this is my favourite. Why? No idea. But if any survive the summer and indicate they might thrive over winter, I hope it's this one. (Though I kind of have hopes for the thyme, too.)

Basil. This smells the best but I'm a bit fretful about its long term prospects. It seems incredibly sensitive to moisture and lack of same. I'm thinking I should have put this in a bigger pot/more stable environment.

Sage. Better tasting than the stuff out front. It looks pretty sturdy, too. Next to it is some kind of mint--smushed close to the other pots in a vain attempt to give it shade. (That's what it's supposed to prefer but, frankly, I can't be bothered putting it somewhere else where I'll have to drag potting soil and watering can. So I'm thinking of this as an experiment.)

Speaking of sage, for comparison purposes here's what the sage and rosemary look like in the front garden: very butch, burly and territorial.

Here's a bunch o' stuff to the left of the front door that I can't name (apart from the roses). And, oh what the hell, here are the roses on the other side of the door.

If you want to see these roses from an entirely different perspective, see Kelley's blog, "What are the odds?"

Have a lovely Sunday.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Celebrating by losing in public!

Yes, I know you've seen this photo a zillion times but I like it. It's how we looked Back in the Day. Just cope.

Today is our anniversary. Twenty-two years ago, I met Kelley in the corridor of the sixth floor of Owen, one of MSU's graduate dorms. It was the first day of a six-week writers' workshop called Clarion. (I've described that meeting before.) But on our friend Mark's blog are some pictures you've never seen. (He says we were on the seventh floor. His memory is probably better than mine in this regard. Anything over two stories is unnatural as far as I'm concerned.)

The first photo Mark shows was taken in week four. Kelley looks beautiful, of course. (I'm not in it--perhaps I was passed out under a table somewhere). The second was taken just a couple of days before we all split up and went our separate ways. We're dressed up like this because, apparently, the Stupid Class Photo is a Clarion tradition: look like doofoids and see if you can get your picture in Locus magazine. Sadly, we succeeded. This is where I learnt that one shouldn't do Funny Fotos for publicity purposes. (Those big hammer things, by the way, are croquet mallets.)

Speaking of Locus, this afternoon I'll be at the Locus Awards here in Seattle, where I have every expectation of losing, hopefully with a modicum of grace. But, hey, it's always a blast to be nominated for something, and we can party afterwards. Life is good.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Links for writers

Over at Sterling Editing we have our usual weekly list of links for writers. There are tips on writing a difficult protagonist (I read this one nodding, remembering writing Aud), what to expect from and how to behave in your first critique group, generating story ideas, and more.

One post is all about how difficult it is to be an author these days. We included it, because it's one perspective--but I have to say my life, right this minute, doesn't feel difficult. A year or two ago, yes, because the Great Publishing Upheaval and Panic was beginning, but much is becoming clear to me now. (That will have to wait a week or two for a long and thoughtful blog post. For the next wee while I'm racing the clock and will only have time for drive-by posts like this.)

Perhaps tomorrow or Sunday, though, I'll find time to take some pix of the garden, give you and update of the Perbs and Herbs. (And, be warned, solicit advice. I'm new at growing things in pots. I'm not wholly convinced I'll doing it right.)

Meanwhile, hey, the weekend is coming!

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

A lovely review of Ammonite

I'm busy today, but smiling. Publishing life is going well (more on that another time).

Here's part of what's made me smile: a lovely, thoughtful review of Ammonite. If you like it, let the author know. (There are too few good reviewers in the world. Every single one deserves encouragement.) Meanwhile, I'm back to Hild. I hope you're having a fabulous day wherever you may be.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Clarion West Write-a-thon

From Kelley's blog:

The Clarion West Writers Workshop has begun, and the Write-a-thon is in progress! We have 79 writers signed up, and donations to support them are rolling in. Our goal is 200 donors. There are so many great writers to sponsor — please consider picking one and pledging. Any amount is welcome. Every single dollar helps. And we love our donors, and our love is strong (smile).

Here’s a particularly inventive and cool way to support the Write-a-thon and give a gift to yourself or someone you love. The fabulous Michael Swanwick is writing one piece of flash fiction every day for the next six weeks (I know, is this man awesome or what?). For a donation of $10, you can ask Michael to Tuckerize one of these stories for you or someone you know/love (no strangers, please!). What’s Tuckerization, you ask? Well, you provide your name and a few random details about yourself, and Michael puts you into one of his Write-a-thon stories. You can see the stories at Michael’s blog, and you can go to his Write-a-thon page to get on board the Tucker Train. It’s fun, it’s cool, and it’s in a great cause!

Part of my commitment is to blog regularly about my progress, so here you go: I’ve begun my YA novel. Beginnings are always slow for me, so I can currently report only 577 words of draft. Which really means I’ve probably written 1,000 words and then deleted/revised/fussed them down to 577. Although I’m in “push ahead” mode on this, I still always find that I need to fuss with beginnings. On some level, the beginning needs to feel right before I can move on. The details of the scene aren’t important — in many (many!) cases, the opening scene changes dramatically over the course of several drafts. But I’m a writer of character, and I use emotional events as my primary story anchor points: and so I have to know where I am to begin with. It’s best for me to put the time in up front to get squarely inside my character.

So the real progress is that I know where my protagonist is in space, time, action and most importantly, in her head and heart. In a coy and thoroughly unhelpful teaser, it has to do with pennies…

It’s been all screenplay all the time for me for quite a while, and so I’m especially excited to be working on new fiction! And I hope you’ll support me and Clarion West. Thanks to all who have already donated — I really appreciate it.

Any amount $10, $100, $500 is welcome--every single penny goes to Clarion West. In my opinion, CW is the best writing workshop in the world. It's been going continuously since 1984 and has a stellar roster of graduates and teachers. Kelley is the current Board Chair. We've both taught there. I can't recommend the organisation highly enough. Trust me: any money you give will be very, very well spent.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I want this a lot

I want the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary. I already own the 20-volume OED and I can't tell you how much pleasure it's given me. Researcher Extraordinaire Lisa Gold tells us that online access to HTOED begins in December, and that if you have a library card, some library systems will enable access from home. That sounds fab--except that it would mean disabling Freedom. And I need Freedom. A lot.

(Freedom behaves like a nun with a ruler from my childhood. Everytime I reach out to mouse over to iGoogle, *whack*, the ruler comes down on my knuckles: You may not! I've started calling the app Sister Mary Joseph.)

Hey, perhaps my now-extreme productivity will lead to a sudden surge in income. And then HTOED will be mine, all mine...

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Hilary Mantel wins Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction

I love prizes like this: short lists provide me with excellent reading choices. I've read Wolf Hall already, of course--and, yes, it's good, very very good, go buy it--and the first book in Harris's series, but I haven't encountered Mawr or Foulds, so I'll be downloading sample chapters.

I'm also enjoying watching historical fiction's long, slow climb back to respectability. Hopefully that journey will be complete by the time Hild is ready for the world.

So, despite the rain (oh, yes, still), my Midsummer is beginning well. How's yours?

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Grey and rainy: happy Father's Day!

Tomorrow it's the summer solstice. Seattle still hasn't hit 75° this year. Today it's grey, with the promise of rain, which is a pity because this afternoon we're off to a barbeque in honour (or a barbecue in honor, as Blogger keeps shouting at me, tuh; and apparently the sky should be gray) of the 80th birthday of Kelley's stepfather, Arthur. Eh, there'll be good food and company and plenty of beer--and, as accomplished Seattleites, we all have umbrellas.

I'll be with Arthur in person this afternoon, but I hope Kelley's father, Larry in Nevada, and my dad in Leeds--he'll be 85 later this year, blimey--have fantastic days. (Well, Dad has already had a fab day. He told me so on the phone this morning while I was still half awake...)

Wherever you are, I hope you have a great day, either as a father or with your father. Or, hey, why not both?

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Freedom

Yesterday I downloaded a piece of $10 software that will change my life. It's called Freedom:

Freedom is a simple productivity application that locks you away from the internet on Mac or Windows computers for up to eight hours at a time. Freedom frees you from distractions, allowing you time to write, analyze, code, or create. At the end of your offline period, Freedom allows you back on the internet. You can download Freedom immediately for 10 dollars through either PayPal or Google Checkout.

I used it for 65 minutes yesterday morning, and two hours in the afternoon while I worked on Hild (you can set it for any number of minutes you like). Several times--I didn't even realise I was doing it--I tried to get online to 'look something up'. Each time, Freedom denied me access. I couldn't disable Freedom except by rebooting my entire system. I went back to work. In three hours, I wrote fifteen hundred words.

I think this might be the best ten dollars I've ever spent. Each time I would just 'bob online to check something' I'd end up looking at email, responding to blog comments, gobbling down RSS feeds, and generally wasting time. Not anymore. With Freedom playing governess, I think I might have a first draft of Hild done by the end of September--before my birthday. A lovely present to myself.

But don't take my word for Freedom's efficacy. Read what the Economist has to say Give it a go. It will rock your world.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Links for writers

Today is a nothing-but-work day, so instead of writing something here I'm going to point you to our post at Sterling Editing [link fixed] and the links for writers there. Perhaps the most interesting piece is the interview with Ed Viesturs, the mountaineer, who talks about making mistakes. Here he talks about his thinking regarding one mistake he make climbing K2:

What kept you from acting on your knowledge that it was a mistake?

You know, I was so torn. Part of me was thinking, "Is this really as bad as I think it is?" Here you've spent two and a half months of your life trying to achieve a goal, and you're within 1,000 feet of getting to the top, and it's one of the worst times to have to make these choices. You think, "Arrrrghhhhh, you know, if I turn around right now, we'll have to go home, we've spent all this time and energy, and we won't have made it to the summit." So that's pulling me in one way, and then the other way is going, "Jeez, Ed, it's going to be terrible, just turn around, just go down."

But you didn't.

No. I kept saying, "Well, let me go on for another 15 minutes and then I'll decide." And then after 15 minutes I'd say, "Let me go on another 15 minutes and then I'll decide." And I just couldn't make a decision, and I put it off so long that I got to the top.

Economists call that sunk costs—when you've poured so much money or effort into something that it's hard to extricate yourself, even when you should.


Right! I can see that. In fact, I've seen it many times. And I'd always thought, it doesn't matter how long you've been there, how much money you've spent, how much energy you've expended. If the situation isn't good, go down. The mountain's always going to be there. You can always go back.

This notion of sunk costs is a vital one when it comes to writing. So many beginning writers plough on even when they know they shouldn't, when they know they've taken a wrong turning. We've all done it. But as we get more experienced we learn to trust ourselves more We learn to cut our losses earlier. I literally can't remember the last thing I finished that I didn't sell. I don't waste that kind of effort anymore. There again, what is a waste for a professional is learning for a beginner.

Go take a look. See what you think.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pimped-out bee

On Tuesday afternoon, during a brief break in the clouds (sun! I saw it!), I sat outside on the deck to contemplate my Perbs. I'd been working on Hild, but couldn't quite get into it. I was trying to imagine York in the early seventh century, the dark stubbled fields and migrating birds of early November. But it's June here (no matter how wet and cold), very green and lush, and in my office I'm surrounded by blinking technology--white shiny Apple-ness--and polished wooden floors. Bright lights. Comfortable ambient temperature. Utterly removed from a world of pigs, disease, fear of war and childbirth and famine. (This kind of weather wouuld have spelled death for communities back then.)

I'm a working novelist. If I relied upon, y'know, feelng it before I wrote it, I'd never get anywhere. But this day, unusually, I felt as though there was a pane of glass between me and the time/place/people I wanted to be with. Everything I wrote was facile and superficial.

So when the sun popped out, so did I. I turned my mind off and just absorbed the day. After I pinched the flowers off the dill, a bird came and sang at me. A junco, I decided. Two jays in the ravine started a screaming match. Then a honeybee landed onto the table right by my hand and went through the most extraordinary routine. I'd never seen anything like it.

For someone born in the late 20th C the analogy was obvious: it behaved just like one of those pimped-out cars with hydraulic suspension that pump up at the front, then the back, then jack down one side, then the other, then light up all over, then shake and jump.

The bee stuck its abdomen in the air, jammed its head down so it was at about a 60° angle to the table, and smoothed itself with its two hind legs. Then it tilted the other way, waggling its front legs. Then, pop, it tucked in its wings and zizzed its middle legs up and down its thorax. Then it vibrated all over like the water in a glass next to a subwoofer. Then it skipped. Then it flew off.

The whole thing happened so fast--fast-forward speed--that it wasn't until it had disappeared that I understood it had simply been cleaning itself.

How would I describe what I'd just seen in 7th C terms? That's part of my dilemma. How do I forget my modern experience? What do I replace it with? I've never relied on a visceral connection to the land for survival. For my daily bread, my clean water, my fuel, I don't rely on experience/expertise so ingrained that it could be mistaken for instinct. I rely on money--one of those systems that, in Hild's childhood culture, didn't exist.

But, eh, figuring out how to sidestep one's own cultural (and individual) programming is part of the job. Today I'll get there--though I'm thinking I might allow myself a snippet of dialogue: Hild, observing a passing cart, shouts, "Yo, sharp wheels!" I can fix it later...

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The blood jet is poetry...

The Guardian has a piece pondering whether adversity and unhappiness are the font of art.

The poet John Berryman once told an interviewer: "I do strongly feel that among the greatest pieces of luck for high achievement is ordeal. Certain great artists can make out without it, Titian and others, but mostly you need ordeal. My idea is this: the artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he's in business: Beethoven's deafness, Goya's deafness, Milton's blindness, that kind of thing."

For the future of his own poetry, Berryman said he counted on "being knocked in the face, and thrown flat, and given cancer, and all kinds of other things short of senile dementia. At that point, I'm out, but short of that, I don't know. I hope to be nearly crucified."

This is what Sylvia Plath was getting at, too, more concisely and with less ironic humour, when she wrote: "The blood jet is poetry." It's what Auden was getting at when he wrote of Yeats: "Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry." And it's what Yeats was getting at when he said: "The intellect of man is forced to choose/ Perfection of the life, or of the work/ And if it take the second must refuse/ A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark."

My instant response was exasperation: what bullshit! But I realise that almost all the novelists whose work I really love had some terrible trouble in their lives: illness, or exile, or grief. Or all of the above. I wonder if contentment saps the will. Why do you need will if you're not striving for anything? My my opinion creating art requires will.

Do I think writers need to be unhappy to write good stuff? No. But we do need to want. We need to yearn. We need to long.

What do you think?

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Expanded voter packet for Hugos

The lovely people at AussieCon 4, the 68th World Science Fiction Convention (September 2nd - 6th, 2010 - Melbourne, Australia), have announced an expanded Hugo voter packet:

Aussiecon 4 has expanded the electronic 2010 Hugo Voter Packet containing works from 2010 Hugo Award and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer nominees. The packet is available for download by supporting and attending Aussiecon 4 members to help inform them about the works under consideration before voting and is available until 31 July 2010 23:59 PDT.

The expansion adds Girl Genius, Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm, art by Sue Mason, additional links by Frederik Pohl and additional file formats in the novel, novella, novelette, short story, and related work categories.

Best of all, it provides additional choice of formats (RTF, .doc files, etc.) to make it easier to read all the nifty free stuff--about 40 novels, stories, novellas, graphic novels, and more--on your screen (mobile, desktop, dedicated reader, whatever). Fantastic value. Sign up for Worldcon membership today. (Supporting membership, which entitles you to all the freebies, and to vote, costs only $50.) Go vote.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Novelists: how young is 'young'?

In the New York Times, Sam Tanenhaus ponders the notion that the best fiction is written by people (he mostly talks about men) under 40.

“Writers are not scholars but athletes, who grow beer bellies after 30,” as Updike (then well into his 30s) wrote in “Bech: A Book.” He was jesting, but only in part. Not every major fiction writer is a natural, but each begins with a storehouse of material and memories that often attenuate over time. Writers in their youth generally have more direct access to childhood, with its freshets of sensation and revelation. What comes later — technical refinement, command of the literary tradition, deeper understanding of the human condition — may yield different results but not always richer or more artful ones.

To which I respond: Patrick O'Brian, Mary Renault, Sigrid Undset, Daphne du Maurier (I like her short work better than her novels), Charles Dickens... I could go on.

The novelists I admire, the ones who write rich, plotted stories with a deep understanding of humankind, do their best work as they get older. A lot of them write historical novels. (Or, as Hilary Mantel might say, contemporary novels set in other times.) Their primary focus isn't autobiographical navel-gazing, nor the flash and fiddle of pushing the form--no second-person present tense musings from the point of view of a tablespoon. They're expanding their understanding, and ours, of the most fascinating subject of all: people. They play with culture and politics and love and war, the ebb and flow of society and civilisation. They look at people and the systems we create (and destroy).

The Times (not the NY but London) has an article by Sarah Dunant regarding the new Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. The writers she names are all at the top of their game, all in their fifties (except Simon Mawer, who is sixty-something). I've read and enjoyed most of them. (Thorpe and Mawer are now on my list.)

Novels by mature writers hold a mirror up to culture. Let the eager, dewy people play the finger-exercises of experimentation. Grown-ups are doing the real work. Grown-ups have the wit, wisdom and patience to get magisterial.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Perbs and Ferbs

As of yesterday, my new project is the growing of herbs. I've started planting them in pots on the back deck. So far I have sweet basil, marjoram, dill, thyme, and sage. I'm hoping that the sage and thyme grow well enough to get planted permanently in the front--where we have thriving rosemary, lavender, and oregano (also some variety of sage that isn't massively tasty), courtesy of the previous owners.

I can already tell that I'll be fussing over my pet herbs proudly every morning. Kelley calls them my Perbs for short, to distinguish them from the front herbs, or Ferbs. Right now they are of course tiny.

You can expect regular updates on their progress. It might be premature but I'm pondering delicious pasta salads with chive flowers, salmon with dill, tofu and basil dressing for greens. For whatever reason, I've been constantly hungry the last two or three days, despite eating enough for two normal human beings. I think the sun has driven my metabolism crazy.

Just so that the Ferbs don't feel left out, here are some pix of the front garden taken literally from the doorstep (that strange object to the left of the first pic is the handle on the white screendoor). This is what I see every morning. Roses to the left of me, roses to the right, more roses rising like periscopes from behind the rosemary. The grass needs mowing; eh, one thing at a time.



I think this might be the most lush I've seen our garden in June. One benefit to all that rain.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about books.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Same sex marriage, and other linkage

The Althingi, Iceland's parliament, has just voted unanimously for same-sex marriage. Unanimously. This makes me happy. In case you've forgotten, Iceland is the only country with an out head of state, Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir.

The New York Times ran an editorial in favour of same-sex marriage:

After a nearly three-week trial in January, and a lengthy hiatus while lawyers fought over documents, closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage. No one expects the ruling from Judge Vaughn Walker in Federal District Court to be the last word. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, will have its say, and so, eventually, may the Supreme Court.

The testimony made abundantly clear that excluding same-sex couples from marriage exacts a grievous toll on gay people and their families. Domestic partnerships are a woefully inadequate substitute.

Over at Sterling Editing we have our usual weekly roundup of links of interest to writers, including the New Yorker's look at the current taste for dystopian YA, and a toe-curlingly true video of what it's like for some writers when they venture into publicity.

And yesterday in Seattle we had sunshine--actual yellow feel-it-on-your-face-it's-not-a-dream *sunshine*. I was so amazed that I forgot to take photos. The weather people are promising more--more more more--of the same for the weekend. Woo-hoo! I'll be planting a little herb garden on the back deck and perhaps I'll remember to take photos of the heretofore mythical summer. I hope you have fantastic weather wherever you are, and that you laze about in it a bit. I am now going to spend some time fondling inappropriately the .jpg on my screen:


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Friday, June 11, 2010

Strangely heartwarming

The first bazillion times Google Alerts brought me the latest 'Women in SF Meme' link I got cross: so many people who'd never heard of me! (Tiptree award? Old news! Nebula Award? Who cares! Arthur C. Clarke and Locus and BSFA finalist? What does it matter! Premio Italia and six Lambdas? Eh, who cares who what foreigners and queers think!) I'm not complaining--well, not much. It's my own fault. "It Takes Two" is the first SF I've written for fifteen years. Most readers these days don't know who I am. So when "It Takes Two" was published, none of the anthologies put me on the cover, because no one knows who I am. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: no one knows who I am because they don't put me on the cover. The perils of not sticking to one genre...

But today, at the latest batch of links, I grinned. So many potential readers who have never heard of me! Now I just have to work out how to, y'know, reach them. But I'm not in a hurry. Slow River and Ammonite (and Bending the Landscape, and With Her Body) aren't going anywhere. Clearly, though, I need to put together that collection of f/sf stories I've been muttering about for ages.

I know, I know, I'm always talking about it and never doing it. I won't be getting to it immediately this time, either. But it's going to be my top priority when I've finished a first draft of Hild.

So what, in your opinion, is the perfect size/page number for a book-length collection of stories? And do you like Complete Collections, including the slightly weaker pieces, or do you prefer Selected Stories?

Something to muse over on a dark, rainy day. (Yep, still raining. No summer for Seattle. Yet.)

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

A message to Americans

US citizens seem to be fond of using tea symbolically in their political activism. But many of you don't know how to make a simple cuppa. Here's some advice:



(Via, well, sadly I can't remember where I found this. One of my medieval bloggers perhaps? If you recognise it, please let me know so I can give credit where credit's due. Speaking of which, listen to that drumming...)

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Anyone read The Lacuna?

Photograph: John McDonnell/Washington Post/Getty Images

Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna has just won the Orange Prize.

I used to love Kingsolver's work (The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven, Animal Dreams...), but The Poisonwood Bible didn't work. It didn't engage or challenge me in any way. It felt superficial or a bit off, or something. I can't say what, exactly, because I read the first few pages and just didn't care to continue. One day I'll grit my teeth and read the whole thing and then I'll be able to explain. Right now, though, I'll just have to flap my hands inarticulately.

The Lacuna sounds a bit more solid. I own all her other work but I'm thinking I might order this from the library. (I feel a bit burnt and paying for Poisonwood.)

So has anyone read it? What did you think?

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Awards, Woolf, momentous events and useless facts

At some point soon I'll start talking about of-the-moment stuff, but a lot happened out In The World while I was away so I thought some of you might like a book-related recap of some of the things that struck me.

From Mike Shatzkin's Idea Logical Blog comes news of a benchmark event in publishing. There's going to be a lot more of it. I think this is the most fluid I've ever seen the industry. Exciting times.

The Nebula Awards were announced.

And the Lambda Literary Awards. (I need to get me one of those nifty gold badge things. Though, umph, they look a bit lopsided to me. Is it just me?) I find award lists handy for potential reading material. I hope you find something too.

Want to know what Virgina Woolf sounds like? She sounds, well, creepy and weird, but I'm guessing most of that is a product of her milieu and the technology. (Odd to think of tone and timbre as cultural artefacts, as well as accents.) Timmi, over at Aqueduct, ran this clip of Woolf reading from her own work:

Oh, and while we're on video, here's something from The Cliks, "Dirty King."

Nope, it's nothing to do with publishing but I got the link from j.s. over at the Yahoo group I run, so it's kind of (oh, okay, not very) connected. It turns out that The Cliks have just gone through a big lineup change, so don't get too attached...

And, finally, here's a useless fact: more than 5% of this blog's traffic is now coming from mobile platforms, e.g. iPhone, iPad, Blackberry. If you're one of those users, drop me a line and let me know how this blog works on those platforms--what would you change?

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Monday, June 7, 2010

While I was gone...

After a lovely 3-week break full of unplugged goodness, I'm back.

It was delicious. I went out for lunches and dinners and drinks. Read novels (several! all the way through!). Went to the movies. Went to the park. Spent some serious time doing nothing at all. Found myself smiling a lot. Played with Hild. Threw a party. Pondered stuff--then thought, ah, fuck it, and went back to enjoying myself.

I can recommend pulling the cable, turning off the wifi and just...being. Seriously, give it a try.

Anyway, while I was gone there was lots of news. I'll talk about the world and all that other stuff another time. For this post I'm going to stick to, y'know, me. And Kelley.

Kelley first because she is, after all, better looking.

Dangerous Space, Kelley's truly awesome short fiction collection is now, finally (and yay!) available as an ebook. Check out K's post on the matter here, or just bob right over to Amazon and buy it.

Also from the Beauteous K, news that she'll be participating in the Clarion West Write-A-Thon. This is a fabulous scheme that helps everyone: the writers set stretch goals and CW gets money. Both are great causes so, please, go read Kelley's post, and make a pledge. Plus, wow, Kelley's going to write a YA book!

Okay, now me. Three things. One, which you've probably already seen (but hey, it's my blog I can repeat myself if I want), is that Christie Yant narrated the whole of my novelette, "It Takes Two," for the podcast mag, Starship Sofa. I think she did a good job. What do you think?

Two, the editor of Before They Were Giants, James Sutter, got taken to the woodshed over the fact that I'm the only woman in the anthology (and for the cover). I think he handled himself well and I know for sure he's learnt his lesson.

Three, I am Ytterbium! Kind of. I think. Go read Cheryl's blog, she explains everything. Or watch this video. But I like the notion of being silvery, rare, conductive and ductile...


Now back to happily deleting all the email in my inbox...

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