Friday, March 31, 2017

Marketing Across Political Factions

I recently had the experience of watching some internet brutality get inflicted on a leftish antagonist from my past by some rightish antagonists from my present. Right up to the point where I got queasy and had to alt+F4. The whole experience emphasized and underlined why I try to keep my political writings abstract and metaphorical. 

Sometimes this puts me in a bit of a pickle. One of my lefty friends posted a thread on Facebook recently, which started out asking “Why can’t I find a YA adventure story with an ensemble cast where only one of them is white, and the white guy isn't everybody's boss?”

And I thought, “Well, I wrote that book. However, it takes place in a world where race is a cosmetic choice unless you’re one of those genealogy buffs, so it probably doesn’t address all the issues you’d like to see addressed, plus you sound like the kind of person who would probably have other issues with it, such as why it doesn’t have a female protagonist. And I don't want to get converged on by people hating on me because I wrote a book with a non-female protagonist, so I'm not even going to reply."

It reminded me of the time when one of my righty friends posted on Facebook about wanting a story that didn’t have a lot of social justice warrior elements constantly bopping him over the head, wasn’t focused on sex, didn’t go out of its way to insult the usual array of conservative targets such as people of faith and involved an intact nuclear family that was functional and affectionate. In a setting that wasn’t too nihilistic.

And I thought, “I wrote that book too! However, there are quite a lot of brown people. And although they mention churches occasionally, they never actually go inside. The women characters aren’t subservient at all. Nobody says grace. There are occasional cuss words. Most of all, this is a book by a non-hot lady who lives in San Francisco with a cat, so it can’t be any good, according to conservative dudes, and I don't want to get converged on by people hating on me because I wrote a book as a female and then you put me on their radar, so I'm not even going to reply.”

I realize I’m going to have to get better at marketing eventually, and figure out how to offer both of those potential readers a pleasant few hours of brain candy bliss. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Future Conventions, Vacations and Novels

For a science fiction novelist, I’m terrible about planning for the future. I can manage to plan my own vacations, sometimes, when they don't have a bunch of variables. For example, right now either (a) I’ll get a Comic Con pass next weekend or (b) I won’t get into Comic Con so I’ll go to Hawai'i instead. Since (b) might even be more interesting than (a), I won’t be too disappointed if I don’t score a Comic Con ticket next weekend.

Comic Con would be fun, especially since … ZOMG! … the creator of the only mainstream comic book I actually like will be there.

Groo is, I suppose, technically a parody of Conan, but it’s so much more. The world’s dumbest barbarian swordsman (and his faithful dog, Rufferto) quest their way through a fantasy universe filled with unforgettable characters, screwing up everything they touch.  You can keep your Wolverines and your Batmen and your Spidermen and all those other oh-so-serious lantern-jawed paragons of testosterone and angst. I will take Groo, with a side of cheese dip. And his artist, Sergio Aragones, is the guy who drew all those little cartoons in the margins of Mad Magazine that used to enchant me as a child. It would definitely be worth heading into the belly of the lantern-jawed beast if I could spend some of it hanging out with Groo.

Whereas, if I go to Hawai’i instead, I can catch either HawaiiCon which is celebrating Star Wars this year, woohoo) or the Maui Comic Con in September (they’ve still got last year’s website up so I’m not going to link it but their Facebooking is current), both of which sound appealing.

Meanwhile, I’m also starting to think about what I’m going to write after the current series is done. 
At the moment it’s down to three different directions:

The present day medical thriller: a cure is invented for a brain disorder that formerly left its victims trapped in a world of scrambled information; now they’re much smarter (and more employable) than neurotypicals – how do they handle it, and can they defeat the asshole trying to get rich off the patent?

The Space Opera Series, which can go in several different ways, or all of them.

The fantasy excursion: I know there’s an emperor, and some pirates, mermaids, amazons on horseback and a snaggletoothed old lady who is kind of a cross between Gandalf and the Wicked Witch of the West.  I know there’s a posse of princesses trying to pull off a caper, and their success depends on whether they can overcome catty rivalries and work as a team. I’m not sure about the details, such as whether I really want to write fantasy in the first place. 

I'm forecasting about a ninety percent chance of space, but you never can tell.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Raccoon Adventures

Last Saturday I was peacefully meditating on my writing progress ... oh, all right, I was taking a nap, when suddenly I was awakened by the insistent yowling of my cat.

"OMG! Wake up right meow!!
 I reluctantly woke up, then noticed my neighbor was knocking on the front door. "Hey Charon, there's a huge raccoon on your fire escape!"

So I (very cautiously) opened the door that leads to the fire escape and found, as promised, a huge raccoon.

As you may have guessed from the fact that I have a fire escape, I'm strictly a city type. No lawn, no trees, no hedges, no wildlife. I enjoy nature, that's why I live within walking distance of it.

The raccoon looked right at me, fearless. It was trembling ... with exhaustion? Rabies? Poison? It wrapped one weary paw around the top of the stairs, seeming very disappointed with what it had found. No food or water, just uncomfortable slats. And some ancient linoleum, which will probably stay dusty now that the cat won't be spending any time catching breeze there this summer. Now that I know raccoons can get up there.

Raccoons are fierce fighters. My cat may be huge, but he has no warrior instinct whatsoever. Raccoons are loaded with warrior instinct.

I have heard many tales of woe from co-workers and acquaintances about raccoons mixing it up with their pets, resulting in vet bills and sometimes disfigurement and death.

I had a prior encounter with a raccoon once. I was picnicking with some friends on Angel Island, which is an island in the San Francisco Bay, like Alcatraz, except more nature-y. So I'm sitting there peeling an orange when I suddenly notice everybody is quiet and is giving me odd looks. I glance down at my lap and there, in it, is a raccoon.

It had two little raccoon feet on my thigh, and as I held extremely still, it advanced further, until all four little raccoon feet were resting on my legs.

Since I happened to have an orange in my hand I gave it a slice. It raised one front paw and delicately accepted it, and fortunately it was a nice sweet orange, since the raccoon waited patiently for me to feed it slice after slice instead of mauling me. My friends, meanwhile, had retreated to a safe distance to take photos and/or call the medics to airlift me out should the raccoon decide to eat my face.

But it didn't. It accepted many orange slices and then it wandered off, leaving sticky handprints on my jeans. Animals can usually sense that I'm a big softy that is more interested in watching them than harming them, and they take full advantage.

Even so, there is no way I'm going to approach a raccoon nutty enough to climb all the way up to my fire escape, and I'm not inclined to feed it either. Or touch it. Or get within airborne disease vector distance of it.

I did speak to it soothingly, telling it to chill for as long as it wanted and that I'd call animal control, and they finally caught up with it today, reporting that it had a runny nose and seemed very tired but otherwise looked okay. It's going to be released back in its own raccoon neighborhood. I am happy for it.

And I really hope it doesn't come back.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Pixel Scroll and Hugo Noms

ZOMG, I made the Pixel Scroll!! 

For writing a book of science fiction. Wow. I may not be a famous one or a rich one or even a good one (yet), but I am in fact a science fiction novelist, which is something I was born to be. Achievement unlocked!

I must say, I am really enjoying the science fiction community these days. I approached a couple years ago with extreme trepidation, expecting a vicious roiling cauldron of mean culture warriors, and while there's a bit of that, there is also a lot of book-bonding, which is a rare and magical experience that can overcome most political impasses and blood feuds.

I submitted my Hugo noms last night (below). I threw up my hands at short story, because there are so many of them, and I skipped plenty of categories, but I did manage to find plenty of excellent novels.

Below is a summary of your current nominating ballot:

- Arabella of Mars; David Levine; Tor
- The Raven and the Reindeer; T. Kingfisher; Red Wombat Tea Co.
- Spiderlight;  Adrian Tchaikovsky; Tor
- The Fireman; Joe Hill; William Morrow Paperbacks
- Lovecraft Country; Matt Ruff; Harper

- The Ballad of Black Tom; Victor LaValle; Tor

Dramatic Long:
- Moana; Disney
- Rogue One; Disney

Dramatic Short:
- Contrapasso; Westworld
- The Door; Game of Thrones

Fan Writer:
- Chuck Tingle; His website

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Review: Arabella of Mars by David Levine

Jury duty update: I was briefly juror number five until I got kicked out on a defense peremptory basically for hanging out with lawyers too much. Even though I can talk about the case now I won't, because the crime had a weird parallel to the end of my work in progress, and I've been struggling with it. The whole experience was completely awesome, however, because I spent the breaks reading one of the best books I have read this year:

Arabella of Mars

This book is sort of like what you'd get if you took one cup of Heinlein's Podkayne of Mars, one cup of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom stories, steeped them in a cask of Patrick O'Brien for a fortnight and blended them with some pure imagination.

Yes, this is a book lovers' book. If you like books -- such as the books I linked, or similar ones -- you'll adore this one. It's got everything!  Old fashioned retro adventure! Regency romance! Diversity and progressive gender roles! A strong female character who is nevertheless quite feminine despite impersonating a boy for a while, and who lacks superhuman powers, although she's very clever and at one point wins a fight due to a combination of luck and greater familiarity with gravitational adjustments. A swoony love interest from India. An amazing steampunk sailing ship that can travel to Mars, with a crew of weightless sailors floating around wearing ankle tethers.

The author gets Arabella's colonial childhood just right. Your parents came here thinking they were going to exploit the natives and live like kings, but then they gave birth to their very own native-born child, forever floating on the cusp between local and hostile invasive species. The Martians in the tale are a female-dominant proud warrior species (with a strong personal responsibility code) relegated to working for the English colonists as maids and nannies, and at one point there is a fearsome uprising.

I'm glad I was able to squeeze one more book into my eyeballs before making my Hugo nominations, as this one is going right to the top of the list.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

One Sunny Night – Now in Amazing New Paperback Edition!!!


So Amazon came up with an even better way to do paperbacks than the previous version from last year, as I found out when publishing Sieging Manganela earlier this year.

Even better – I corrected that pesky typo!  It now says “May” instead of “June” and everything is now chronologically correct and presumably perfect.

I’m sorry it costs so much. I set my prices at less than ten cents over cost for the paperback edition, but the fatter the book, the more dead trees are involved. It works just as good on an e-reader, in case you’ve been thinking about trying e-books.

Here’s what it says on the back cover (and I see Amazon's webpage has mutilated my formatting while the book cover wizard presumably kept it intact):

On March 20, 3748, terrorist clones in submarines made of bioengineered jellyfish attacked the stadium where fifteen-year-old Sonny Knight was watching the clashball championship game, kidnapping his family and his two best friends.

In volume one of his tale, One Sunny Night, he teams up with an international cast of characters and he makes his way home across the treacherous, volcano-strewn Caribbean Sea, over what’s left of North America, by way of some splendid futuristic cities and rustic villages and pliosaurs and tsunamis and cattle stampedes and train wrecks. While being pursued by more terrorist clones, and outwitting megalodons, and suffering a knee injury requiring surgery and physical therapy, and asking girls to rock concerts, and bouncing from one stressor to the next.

The Adventures of Sonny Knight series takes place in a post-dystopian future full of thrills, chills and marvels of bioengineering. It deliberately meddles with various classical storytelling systems and tropes while being highly saturated with esoteric symbology too.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Pending Adventures

I’ve moved on to the next phase of jury duty, which is called “can’t talk about it” (*waves mutely at any paralegals tasked with reading this blog as part of an actual work assignment*). And I never did get that dang Big Love Rocket in World of Warcraft despite 13x14 attempts. And I’m listlessly eyeballing my way through novels that I haven’t felt like reviewing, and I’m being too much of a wuss to assertively promote my novel that came out last month, because I feel it's only about an eight of ten, and the one coming out next month is much better. It’s like I’m wallowing in the swamps of entropy.

There is a bright and shining future, however, and here’s what I plan to do with it:

One Sunny Night: the new paperback edition.
Amazon has gifted us self-pubbies with the ability to make even better paperbacks, as I discovered when publishing Sieging Manganela. I plan to give One Sunny Night the same treatment, maybe even this weekend.

Coming Very Soon: Retrograde Horizon
This is one that I’m going to assertively promote. Master artist Brian Allen is making the cover right now, while I’m typing away at that pesky last chapter with maybe 40 pages left before I stitch everything together and apply that final coat of primer and buff out the plot holes. RH is about how sometimes the faster you go forward, the farther behind you get. I am very proud of this book, which is the middle of the Sonny Knight trilogy, and I promise to tell you more about it soon.

Chilling at Conventions
I’ve already mentioned aiming towards San Diego Comic Con, and we’ll see if I pull it off. I’m also probably going to show up at SiliconValley Comic Con in April, Baycon in May and San Francisco Comic Con in September. Maybe more!  I’m not doing anything as formal and organized as getting a booth since first I need to write a bunch of books so as to have something to occupy all that booth space.  I’ll mainly be chilling, and throwing promo bookmarks and business cards around, and fangirling, and maybe doing some low impact cosplay … hmm, there’s gotta be a character somewhere that wears jeans and converses and a plain black t-shirt.  I won’t be attending Worldcon this year, since Helsinki is farther than I feel like going, but I’m definitely going next year in San Jose.

Coming Next Year: A Dark and Stormy Day
The last of the trilogy, in which all outstanding plot threads are resolved.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Review: The Final Reconciliation by Todd Keisling

Lately I've read a few good novels inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. I've mentioned a couple already, and today I finished The Final Reconciliation, which is a Lovecraftian take on rock and roll.

It's about Aidan, guitar player in a band called the Yellow Kings.  The kind of music they play isn't described in detail but I imagined it as being somewhere between metal and punk and art rock, maybe like Motorhead meets Blue Oyster Cult. The band is originally from hardscrabble Kentucky. They hit enough of the big time to record in Los Angeles, where they meet a mysterious and scary groupie who talks them into playing a mysterious gig, and Lovecraftian highjinks ensue.

As you know from reading my review of Wylding Hall last year, I'm a sucker for a rock and roll book, and this one is definitely enjoyable. I also seem to be a sucker for Lovecraft-inspired books lately, or maybe they're just fashionable. I have funny associations with Lovecraft. My first interest was acquired from a boyfriend, so I tend to associate Lovecraft with bucolic boat rides and bedtime stories as we smugly giggled over crazy pretend-uncle Howard, ranting at the clouds in isolated New England. Sure he's racist and nihilistic and bleak, he's also as comforting as a warm bath. It's nice to see the bath has grown big enough to encompass rock bands and black people and it seems like it just keeps getting bigger.

This is some particularly nice Lovecraftiana, very visual, with lots of implied-sexy as opposed to graphic-and-gross.  You can find the Amazon link via this link from the very awesome Speculative Fiction Showcase (which coincidentally also has a little love for Sieging Manganela).

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

San Diego Comic Con

I'm going to try to get a ticket to San Diego Comic Con this year.  It'll be my first time, and I understand there's only about a 6% change of getting through, but there's a zero percent chance if you don't try, so I might as well.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Hundreds of Cousins Appear From Nowhere

I’m reporting for jury duty tomorrow, which is probably a good thing, because I tend to get emo on March 7th, for personal reasons, and spending most of it lounging around a jury room reading books on my phone until the nice lawyers kick me out of voir dire sounds like a comparatively low impact day. And just in case they don’t think my decades of litigation-related experience merit kicking me out of their pool, I just spawned over two hundred new cousins, many of which have introduced me to apps that seem capable of tracking seven or eight generations of relatedness with random strangers, so maybe I can get out on the basis of being related to one of the witnesses or lawyers or victims or even the perp themselves.

Now I may have mentioned before that I’m an adoptee, and I have personally met a grand total of one biological relative face to face. I have some internet-buddy cousins that I found on 23andMe, and some of them are into the hardcore geneology stuff, like, but I’ve never gone that far.  I just keep a light burning in an upstairs window, so to speak, so that people can find me. For instance, it would be cool if I ran into my Polynesian and Japanese half-siblings.

Well, just recently the light attracted a cousin of mine in Arizona, who rounded up a whole bunch of us into a Facebook group for what she’s calling an online family reunion. These are all my cousins, typically in the fourth-to-fifth cousin range. The originator of the group is a fifth or sixth, but she bears a strong resemblance to me, which feels weird considering that I’ve gone through much of my life without ever seeing a genetic resemblance, and now I’m bombarded with it -- men, and kids, and young girls, and mature ladies, all with features kind of like mine. I repeat, it feels weird.

This, incidentally, is one of the reasons I’m self-published. There is a strong prohibition in many literary spheres against genetic behaviorism, due to a belief that associating genes with anything other than superficial qualities can lead to genocide and bigotry, and a corresponding belief that if writers avoid talking about concepts they’ll cease to exist.

I was over thirty when I first made contact with blood kin. I prepared through it by spending about a year attending support groups and getting therapy and educating myself and preparing myself for whatever eventuality happened. Kids these days can just click the interwebs a few times, sheesh. I grew up with the same liberal faith in remaking society into utopia as those literary sphere buddies, but then I was also witnessing and hearing about adoption-reunion stories, in bulk. The first time you hear about blood relatives who haven’t met sharing a profession or a sport or a musical taste, you think “oh wow, what a coincidence!” The hundred and fiftieth time, you come to expect it.

And yet, having had this very unusual experience, I can’t not write about it. For instance, my current series revolves around a nation comprised solely of clones They even have the same upbringing, with virtual mothers who assure each one that s/he’s the favorite. While they’re alike in many ways there are also differences subtle and large – in character, in fields of interest, from the experiences they’ve had pursuing their interests.

I already wrote one long blog post about discovering a 23andMe cousin with the same name – and skin tone – as a character I was writing about. Well, coincidentally – or maybe not – I encountered my 200+ cousins right while I’m writing the part where my narrator finds himself surrounded by clones. I really couldn’t ask for better writing conditions.

My bloodkin like music, and science, and good food. We have warm smiles. While some of us are conservative, quite a lot of us lean the opposite way, which was a breath of fresh air considering that I grew up around mean-spirited ignorance-worshipping religious-right silliness (it didn’t take). 

Speaking of things that don’t take, coerced cross-fostering was something that happens a lot in a colonialism-type sense. That’s another book I’d like to write someday, in the spirit of Rabbit-Proof Fence, about kids raised on one planet meeting their interplanetary bloodkin.

Cross-fostering was also something that happened a lot in “high fantasy” cultures. King Arthur was fostered elsewhere, possibly contributing to his not thinking of Morgan Le Fay in a sibling-like way. In Game of Thrones, Theon Greyjoy was fostered with the Stark household as a sign of a political bond – “I trust you so much I’ll let you raise one of my kids.”  That’s yet another story I’d like to write, one where a fostered noble comes back to rule the kingdom surrounded by unfamiliar bloodkin.

As to whether all this genetic interest has to do with racism, my answer is that it tears apart racism. There are a lot of black people involved in genetic ancestry groups because their family trees were forcibly disrupted, and now that we have this technology we can fill in the gaps. There are a lot of people out there learning about their ancestors’ races. There were times in history when it was a lot easier to misrepresent yourself but these days you can spit in a cup and find out if your great-granny really was cheating. I have to say that after finding my black cousin I’ve taken a greater interest in black history – because now I have stakes. The more knowledge we share about the cold hard facts of our interconnectedness, the harder it is to distance our blood relatives as other. 

But anyway, yeah, all this is why I’m self-pubbed. I’ve been in some big arguments over it. Some people really want the needle to be all the way on the nurture side -- I tried to be one of them once, but it didn't take. Other people have 200+ spontaneously-appearing cousins. Either we all get to tell our stories or there’s no point in storytelling at all.

I’m diving back in, finishing up that last chapter of Retrograde Horizon, where Sonny’s life depends on being able to tell the honest, loyal clones who totally have his back from the other kind. Maybe my cousins will plan a big party while I’m immersed. If there is one and I go to it, I’ll report back. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

For True Gatekeepers Only

Today I came across another one of those lists of books every true science fiction fan should read, which had a few decent books on it that I haven't read yet, so I'm saving it here for the next time I find myself having a conundrum about what to read.

Yet again, I am reminded that I am not a true science fiction fan despite decades of reading science fiction, and all because my reading tastes don't mesh with those of some gatekeeper. At least the gatekeepers are biased in favor of female authors now.

Meanwhile, every true gatekeeper knows that the absolute best gates are:
1.            The Golden Gate Bridge
2.            Bill Gates
3.            Watergate
4.            Gifted And Talented Education
5.            Lionsgate Films
6.            Brandenberg Gate
7.            Heaven’s Gate (the film, not the suicide cult)
8.            Number 8 will shock you!
9.            Piper at the Gates of Dawn Devil Gate Drive
10.          Gateau au chocolat

EDIT: Actually I'm going to replace Pink Floyd with Suzi Quatro (because I've listened to it more times).

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Review: Borderline (The Arcadia Project Book One) by Mishell Baker

"... nothing pisses off a Borderline quite like the truth."

This book is an urban-fantasy-detective story, where people can cross back and forth between Hollywood and fae-land. The narrator, Millie, was chosen for this role because she contains a lot of metal, which negates bad magic, thanks to being reconstructed from a suicidal plunge off the roof.  This book also does a pretty good job of explaining why I can be bigoted against people with borderline personality disorder [BPD]. 

Personally, I really like books about people with health challenges.  I like people with health challenges, and have spent a lot of my life working with them and lending a hand when I can. Writing realistically about injury and recovery is one of my main focuses, and I have to applaud this book for throwing some light on the details. Millie is an amputee who fusses with prosthetics. She has suffered a brain injury, but she can use coping skills she learned in rehab to ride through her moments of cognitive disorganization. She has some self-esteem issues relating to her scarring and beneath all of that is her BPD.  She’s a bright and knowledgeable patient who is self-aware enough to notice all her conditions and reflect upon them, and I have to say she’s probably one of the more positive renditions of BPD I have encountered, even as she honestly describes some of the ways that BPD people can deliberately antagonize others.

My own experience with BPD has to do with people who suddenly flare up into loud dramatic hailstorms, and take offense when I subsequently avoid them. Then again, I’m kind of quiet and introverted. BPD is another reminder of the many reasons it benefits us as a species to study innate personality variations. I don't wish BPD people any sadness or suffering -- frankly, I'd love it if everyone in the world were content and solvent with good medical coverage. It's mainly an incompatible brainware issue, which is why it's cool for a low affect person like me to be able to read about a BPD person's life without having to stand too close and risk hailstorms.  

If you like urban fantasy detective tales, this is a well-written and unusual one. If you don’t, but are nevertheless interested in general neurodiversity or specifically BPD, this is a terrific book chock full of infotainment and insights. Narrator Millie is very hard and truthful with herself, but she’s not a whiner, and sometimes she even uses her unusual emotional facility as an asset in getting along with others (or getting information out of them).