When I was in college (at Cal State Long Beach) there was a restaurant, called Hamburger Henry’s, that lay on the route between my apartment in downtown and the campus on the east side. They frequently put animal shaped loves of bread on the glass “sneeze shields” above the salad bar. They looked a lot like this:
January 14, 2015
January 12, 2015
Hi there, folks. Quick reminder that it’s coming up on the end of nomination period for the Nebula Awards and a lot of other 2014 awards (like HWA). So: if you’re eligible to nominate or vote for a literary award, now’s the time to speak up for the stories and books that really stood out to you. Sometimes it just takes a single nomination for others to remember a book or short story they also enjoyed. Yes, REVENANT is my only qualifying work for 2014, but my purpose is to remind you to *Nominate* or *Vote*, no matter who or what for. If you think a story deserves recognition, YOU have to speak up. Lots of good work goes unrecognized because no one thought to nominate it.
December 29, 2014
I am suffering from a relative of “Book Hangover”–that inability to start a new book because you’re still lingering in the world of the last one. See: I’m trying to work after almost two months of being unable to (and coming out of a year that was utterly terrible after three previous bad years) and yet I’m also trying to take it a little easy and catch up on my reading. But… I just finished a couple of fantastic books (Big Fish by Daniel Wallace–yes, I know it’s old–and Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal) and have started (finally) on Django Wexler‘s The Shadow Throne and it was hard to pick these up at all because I have a terrible fear (OK, two, but I’ll get to the second later): disappointment. When I’m facing a book in a series that I’ve adored so far, I am always conflicted: dying for it, but scared of starting the next one… What if it’s not as good as the last one…? What if it’s good, but also rather depressing (Arrgh, Scott Lynch!). This is true also for a new book by an author I admire so much they make me cry (hello, there Nicola Griffith‘s Hild) and sometimes I let the better books sit on my shelf for a long time because I just can’t face them. I want to love them, but I’m afraid Something Bad Will Happen…. And so I often read easier, less-challenging books (note I don’t say they aren’t good, they’re just good in easy-to-take ways) instead of the ones that are sitting prominently and patiently on the TBR shelf awaiting my full attention.
This is complicated by my other Terrible Fear…. Let me start by saying, as a writer I know I’m not in the same class as these folks. (No, don’t pat me on the back here–I’m a talented hack, but that’s the truth of it. I am not a brilliant writer, an artistic writer, or great writer–I’m good and my craft is adequate to the task, but it’s not the same thing as being Really Good, much less Great.) I want to read better books by better writers because I want to be a better writer and you can’t improve without both action and example. So these are among my examples. And the action is to write–to write harder, better, more personally-challenging work. But man it’s hard to write my own stuff when someone else’s prose lies sparkling and compelling before me and my own is… well… not.
In the past, I’ve always avoided reading books in my own genre sub-niche while I was in the rough- or revised-draft stage because I have another funny little fear: inadvertent plagiarism. I’ve always tried to avoid copying other people’s work or details. That means regulating those influences. And I do, but it means I miss a lot. Alas I would miss a lot anyhow–there’s too much to take in. But that’s a different problem and at the moment there aren’t very many writers working in the odd little sub-niche I seem to have fallen into with the current Work in Progress, so I’m not worried on that score.
Still… There is always the problem of “I’ll never be as good as X,” which is stupidly crippling. Of course I won’t, because I’m not X and even were I “as good” comparison would be impossible–the apples and oranges problem–but still tempting. Very tempting….
As a group, writers don’t seem to be very objective. We all think we suck (well, many of us do) at one thing or another or that we’re just not doing very well, or that we’re not doing something right. Everything we read that isn’t complete dreck hints that we’re not as good, or not doing all we could. A writer can’t work in a vacuum, but sometimes the dazzle of other work is difficult illumination.
December 15, 2014
Jack says “Have a merry little dogmas!”
And if you’re in the Bellevue Washington area, I’ll be signing books with my friends Dave Morrison and David Davies at the Bellevue Barnes and Noble (the one on 106th St) on Friday, December 19 from 4 pm to about 6pm. Hope to see you guys there.
December 1, 2014
Here’s the deal: Just Got home from the hospital after major surgery for a tumor. Why didn’t I say anything about this surgery/cancer thing earlier? Well… Frankly, the Internet has a tendency to be invasive, hysterical, and overly “helpful” and that was the last thing I could deal with after the totally out-of-the-blue news that I had a cancer. So I didn’t discuss this in public until now.
What I had: a neuroendocrine tumor of the ileum. Basically a rare tumor in my intestine, found on a routine medical test in mid September–right after DragonCon. It was a slow-growing cancer with a very low-impact which, initially, looked like no big deal. Later it looked much worse, then not so bad, then maybe not so good… so you understand why I didn’t make this public–there was so little that was really easy to understand or explain. Also, after a lot of tests and discussion, it looked as it the whole thing could be resolved with a fairly aggressive surgery and lightweight follow up. Which still appears to be the case.
That doesn’t mean I’m not still a cancer patient–I am. This is something that, even on the best case scenario, will have to be kept an eye on for life. But it’s not going to shorten my life terribly. Survival stats for this form of Neuroendocrine cancer are in decades, not months or years, so when my doctors and I talk, it’s about what may be coming up in 10-20 years and since I’m already 50, this isn’t going to affect me a lot more in the future. I’m pretty much done with the hard part, now that the surgery is over and I’ll be around for a good, long time. There will be follow up, there may be specialized treatment which has a very low impact and isn’t traditional chemo (since this stuff doesn’t respond to traditional methods worth a hoot.) Also, there’s no genetic link or causal trigger for this form of cancer, so it’s not something other people in my family or those I’ve worked with in specific circumstances or lived near have to fear–it’s not caused by radiation or chemicals or weird genetic experiments by clandestine government labs. It just happens. And NEC in all forms makes up only 2% of all cancers diagnosed in the US–of which my particular subtype is slightly less than half, or about 3,600-4,000 total patients in the US right now. There is a more aggressive form of NEC skin cancer that’s pretty terrible and mostly strikes people over 70, but that’s not what I have. I have the very boring, “indolent” variety that lurks about thinking bad thoughts and not doing much about it–like the world’s laziest supervillain.
The only reason this situation became a major surgery was that “Tumore´,” as I like to call it, had been quietly supervillaining away for a while and had sent some troops off to visit my liver, which meant the surgeon had to do some serious combat there and it’ll be a while before I’m really back on my feet. But it appears that we’ve won the major battle. So now I’m going back to take some pain pills, drink a lot of water, and get a nap.
Be well–and see your doctor regularly!
November 17, 2014
I had a lovely time at WFC and B’con and saw lots of old friends, met some new folks, inflicted myself on a great many people, went to amazing places, eavesdropped on great conversations, chatted up writers, editors, archivists, and museum docents, and slept less than I should have, but more than I wanted. Now I shall make up for all that lost sleep–I shall be having surgery on Wednesday and thus, be absent again for a little while. Be good while I’m gone!
November 11, 2014
I’ve just arrived in Long Beach for Bouchercon after a week in Washington DC for World Fantasy Convention to discover…. Oh my *Squeeee*! My book has been nominated for an RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice award for Best Urban Fantasy Worldbuilding! And look at the company I’m in (Jeaniene Frost, Anne Bishop, Jenn Bennett, C.E. Murphy, Kim Harrison, Stephen Blackmoore, and Jennifer Estep)! *kermitflail* Oh boy! Oh my gosh. (they’re right: it really is a thrill just to be nominated. *squeeee*)
November 10, 2014
After WFC, Stina Leicht and I went to look at the Smithsonian and other things around the National Mall in Washington DC. First we were greeted by a horse playing The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby” (quite well) on electric cello at L’Enfant Metro station.
On the way back to the hotel, we saw the capitol dome–undergoing renovation and looking rather like a Lego construction under its scaffolding–just as the sun started to set.
We noted that the capitol reflecting pool is behind the building so the statue of Columbia is facing the other way (toward the Library of Congress), which prompted me to wonder if she was thinking, “Does this building make my butt look big…?”
November 6, 2014
I’m in Washington DC for World Fantasy Convention and yet… here I am, blithering away about Greywalker and Harper Blaine and things Kat while at DragonCon this year.
November 2, 2014
I’ll be reading aloud at World Fantasy Convention in Washington DC on Thursday November 6 and I’ll be on a panel at Bouchercon in Long Beach CA on November 14. See the Tour page for details.