I just picked up a link to an article of advice on seeking a literary agent (Mike Shatzkin on Idea Logical) via my friends at MWA Northwest and I think this is solid advice for writers seeking representation as a step to commercial publication. Some people may get skittish over the apparent anti-self-pub statement early on, but that’s really not what the article is about, nor is it truly a slam on self-publication–it’s an industry observation meant to help the writer evaluate their needs and the industry’s likely response to their offering. The bullet list at the end is pretty much the same advice I give to writers. Use the Publisher’s Marketplace or Literary Market Place database to find agents who suit your needs, then winnow down to a handful. AgentQuery.com and Writer Beware are good places to check what’s up with those agents, if they are reputable, ethical, and looking for what you’re offering. Then seek an agent who is reputable, has contacts and sales in the genre or field you want to publish in, and who is a comfortable fit. You’ll get along better and longer with an agent you like who makes you feel that your work is good and exciting and worth their time than a lukewarm relationship with the biggest name in the business. Get the agent who suits you and your work and be prepared to work hard and even put your favorite project aside in favor of something fresher.
April 28, 2015
March 24, 2015
Interesting news on the post-cancer-surgery front: things continue to improve bloodwork-wise, but I keep forgetting that the nature of this particular disease being what it is, I shall actually remain “a cancer patient” for life. MRIs every 6 months or yearly… forever. Seems strange when, aside from the massive scar and all that goes with that, I feel mostly normal. Weird world, this….
February 15, 2015
I have finally completed the first 50% of the Work in Progress revision. It stands at 75,000 words for this half alone and it’s finally found a title. While I think it’s much better than the rough draft, it’s still just too damned big. But I have to stop for a while because I’m going to Rainforest writers’ retreat this week and I have a short story due March 1 that’s only 3/4 done. I’ll have to get back to the revision afterward. Which is too bad, because… well… I’m kind of liking this monster….
February 2, 2015
Tonight’s culinary experiment is: Slow Cooker Stout Lamb Stew!
2 pounds lamb, cubed
2 bottles (24 oz total) stout (Deschutes Obsidian Stout in this case)
1.5 pounds small, whole red or “new” potatoes, cleaned (any small, waxy potato will do, actually, but they need to be bite-sized or close to it.)
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 pound small white mushrooms, whole (also bite-sized or close to it), cleaned and with the stems trimmed
2 springs fresh Savory (original recipe called for rosemary, but I can’t stand the stuff)
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tbs canola oil
16 oz/1 small carton beef stock
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp hot paprika
to taste: kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, cayenne pepper
Start a large slow cooker on High, pour in the contents of both bottles of stout and add the garlic.
Heat a large pan to medium-low, add oil and sauté the onions until they start to turn golden.
While the onions are cooking, put the flour salt and black pepper in a clean, food grade paper bag (lunch sack is great). Shake about 6 pieces of the lamb at at time in the bag and set aside the floured chunks on a paper plate until you’ve dredged all the lamb bits in the flour mixture.
When the onions are nearly done, sprinkle with about 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture from the bag. Toss the rest of the flour and the bag away. Stir the onions with the flour and then dump them into your slow cooker with the beer and garlic.
Add the Savory, Paprika, and Cayenne to the broth in the slow cooker and stir.
Brown the lamb in the pan the onions were in. If you need more oil, add a bit. Put the browned (not cooked!) lamb into the slow cooker. (You’ll have to do this in two batches unless you have a seriously industrial-sized pan.)
Deglaze the pan with the beef broth.
Add the mushrooms and potatoes to the slow cooker.
Pour the warm broth from the pan into the slow cooker, making sure the meat is covered (add more broth or water if you have to.)
Put on the lid, let cook for 1 hour, lower setting to Low and let cook for 4-6 more hours or until the meat is tender and the potatoes are done.
** Tasting the broth after an hour, I realized I’d made several mistakes: the Obsidian was too hoppy and the paprika too hot. So we poured off the broth and had to restart with plain beef stock and sweet paprika and no cayenne. Next time, I’d use a cream-style stout like Guinness, no cayenne, sweet paprika only and go very light on the savory (leaves only, no stems.)
January 14, 2015
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 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!