Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net


Work-In-Progress Report

April 26th, 2016

owlWhen I look back over the past year, I’m a little perplexed at what I’ve done with the time. I feel like I’ve been frantically busy, but I don’t have a lot of new material to show for it. Since turning in Going Dark, I’ve managed to finish only one short story, and a really rough draft of a new novel.

Part of the issue, of course, was that all three novels in The Red trilogy were released last year, and that meant a lot of time spent on publicity (and anxiety… I’m good at anxiety). I also had a really hard time letting go emotionally of the trilogy and moving on to the new novel. It’s a situation I’ve faced before. After finishing my novel Vast, it took a long time for me to really get into writing Limit of Vision. But I got there eventually, and I feel like I’ve finally hit my stride with the new novel.

What turned things around for me was getting an outside opinion. I don’t think I’ve ever before shown a partial manuscript to anyone, on the grounds that I don’t want to be so discouraged by a negative response that I abandon the project. But I’m older now, more experienced, thicker skinned — and besides, I’d reached the point where I was spinning my wheels. So in early March I sent the manuscript off to Judith Tarr, who edited all three volumes of The Red trilogy. She evaluated what I had, made some nice comments, and pointed out where she thought the story was most lacking — and the feedback has really helped. I’ve been writing steadily since then. I went back to the beginning, and started filling out the lean parts, and dealing with all the figure-this-out-later notes, and progress is being made.

Some of this involves new scenes, but some is just detail work. A few days ago I was dealing with the question of what size helicopter was needed, how many seats were available, and who was sitting where. Today I’ve been racking my brain to get the timeline right. Since I’ve got characters operating on opposite sides of the planet, I need to know the day/night cycles, and how long it takes to get from point A to point B. I’m not sure how concerned readers are with this sort of thing, but it matters to me. 🙂

Anyway, I’ve been making changes in my writing routine in the hope of writing more, and writing faster. One of those changes is to try to do frequent Work-In-Progress Reports like this one. Maybe that will keep me accountable to myself!

Edit: Speaking of Judith Tarr…I just found out she’s holding a sale on editorial services, among other things. Find the details here.

Japan Traveler’s Tips

April 25th, 2016

tree_and_bridgeI thought I’d post a few “travelers tips” in no particular order – just some thoughts and perspectives gleaned from the short time I’ve spent in Japan.

* Getting there and getting back
From Honolulu, the flight to Japan—on this most recent trip, our destination was Osaka—is around nine hours. The flight back is significantly shorter, maybe seven hours, a difference I blithely attribute to tailwinds and the direction of the Earth’s rotation.

* No one speaks English
Yes, that’s an exaggeration, but even at major hotels or at information desks that advertise English-speaking personnel, the amount of English-language help you can get is minimal. I find this very interesting because here in Hawaii, where we get many tourists from Japan, there are many guides and hotel staff who speak fluent Japanese.

Hikone_castleRon and I are lucky. While neither of us speaks Japanese, we always take along our daughter Dallas, who speaks a little and can read a lot more. We’d be lost without her.

* Some signs are in English
And that English is often very creative! The rail stations and trains post destinations in both kanji and in Roman characters, which is extremely helpful, and the Shinkansen has English-language announcements about upcoming destinations. Many restaurants have an English-language menu. If you’re not offered one, ask. People everywhere are very friendly and patient, and no one gets offended if you need to point and use gestures to get your meaning across.

* The JR Rail Pass
udonForeigners can purchase a pass that will let them ride the Japan Rail trains without the hassle of purchasing tickets for every ride. We bought seven-day passes that allowed us to ride any train in a large area around Osaka, including certain routes of the Shinkansen. Take only one smallish suitcase and pack light so you can easily lift your suitcase onto the luggage rack. Read the rest of this entry »

Japan Earthquakes

April 25th, 2016

This is Kumamoto Castle in spring 2013. The building and outer walls suffered extensive damage during the quakes.

This is Kumamoto Castle in spring 2013. The building and outer walls suffered extensive damage during the quakes.

Japan is an amazing, fascinating place to visit. My husband has been reconnecting with his relatives there, which has led to several visits over the past three years. Usually we go to Kumamoto, where his family lives. On this most recent trip we didn’t — and that turned out to be a very good thing as Kumamoto was struck by two serious earthquakes on the second and third nights that we were in the country.

Fortunately for us, we were far north and didn’t even feel the quakes. There was, of course, extensive coverage of the damage on the evening news—and we were very relieved when Ron’s family checked in on Facebook, reporting that they were well.

Many others, of course, lost homes and loved ones. There is little that is helpful to say in the face of such a tragedy, beyond that our best wishes go out to all those affected. May the recovery be swift.

A Problem with WordPress theme “Twenty Eleven” version 2.4

April 23rd, 2016

Edit: WordPress pushed through an update today — April 26, 2016 — that fixed the issue described below.

I’m posting this in case it’s helpful to anyone out there who runs into the same problem I did.

My online bookstore is based on the WordPress theme “Twenty Eleven,” modified with a custom child theme. After updating to theme version 2.4, the child stylesheet was loading only on the front page. None of the styles from the child theme were being parsed on single posts or on pages. Also, the styles directly included in the header were not being parsed.

After much poking around, I finally narrowed down the issue. The child stylesheet was failing to load when the body tag included the class “singular”. I looked at the parent stylesheet, but could not find any obvious error that would cause this to happen. In the end, I simply eliminated the class from the body tag. So far I have not noticed any negative effect on the website–YMMV.

To eliminate the class, I included the code shown below in the custom function file in the child theme. The function is from the WordPress Codex. This is a hack, and it’s meant only for a very specific situation. Use at your own risk:


// Removes a class from the body_class array
add_filter( 'body_class', 'remove_class' );
function remove_class( $classes ) {
// search the array for the class to remove
$unset_key = array_search('singular', $classes);
if ( false !== $unset_key ) {
// unsets the class if the key exists
unset( $classes[$unset_key] );
}

// return the $classes array
return $classes;
}

Back from Japan.
Did anyone miss me?

April 21st, 2016

This is a post about partially disengaging from social media—primarily Twitter.

Lake Biwa, Hikone, JapanYesterday I returned home from a nine-day trip to Japan. We had Internet while there, but I didn’t post anything on Twitter or Facebook, and only briefly checked what others were posting — and it was nice to take a break.

Twitter can be fun, and it can be a fantastic source for links to cutting edge science, technology, politics, or whatever you might be interested in. For writers like me, with strong hermit tendencies, it’s also a means to interact on occasion with fellow humans…or perhaps just to lurk and observe the interactions of fellow humans.

But for me, more and more, Twitter has gotten to be about what it shouldn’t be about: measuring my own popularity — or lack thereof! 😉

Welcome to Insecure Writerland!, where the brain becomes absorbed with such critical questions as:

* Who’s following me?

* Who’s not following me and WHY? (Always the more important question!)

* Why has no one responded to my beautiful sunset picture? It’s been five minutes …. ten … thirty. Not even a like? WTF? I have over two thousand followers! Clearly I’m not on any special pay-attention-to-these-people lists! I’ve been filtered out! Maybe even muted!

* Should I take that sunset tweet down? (Yes, I have taken down sad and lonely tweets.)

Aside from social validation, the other great illusory promise of Twitter for hermit writers like me is that it offers a means of influencing the course of a career. Back in the old days, a book was published and either magic happened and sales took off or, more likely, magic didn’t happen and the book quickly went out of print. Sure, you could go to conventions and try to push the book to target readers and maybe that would get you some momentum, but from a return-on-investment perspective, money spent on conventions will never be made up in book sales, unless you are already a big-name writer. (This is especially true if you live in Hawaii, and have to fly to the mainland.)

So social media feels empowering because it’s a way to promote your work, and maybe survive as a writer, without emptying the bank account. I do think social media is helpful. For writers with skills at this social stuff I think it helps a lot. But you get what you give. (Maybe. Sort of. If you’re lucky.) In any case, growing an audience takes time and talent that might otherwise be spent writing.

So yesterday when I reappeared on Twitter and asked:

…it was something of an experiment, a means of checking my Twitter footprint — and at first it didn’t look like I had one! 😉

In the end though, I got some likes and some responses, and it’s all good.

Still, I am a hermit writer. I do better work when I’m focused on the work, rather than on whether or not I’ve managed to get a response out of Twitter.

So I’m going to try to blog a little bit more and check in on Twitter a lot less. My time away taught me that it’s at least possible to disengage from social media. We’ll see how it goes long term.

Oh, and expect a couple of brief posts on Japan!

Occasional reminder about reader reviews

April 10th, 2016

If you’ve enjoyed The Red, The Trials, Going Dark, or any book by any author — do consider leaving a customer review at Amazon or at the Barnes & Noble website. Those reviews really do contribute to the success of a book, and successful books keep authors in business. Some readers write intricate reviews, but others just leave a quick comment and that’s fine. That’s all it takes. THANK YOU!

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The Heroine Question

April 3rd, 2016

I wrote this last year, as part of a series hosted by writer Alyx Dellamonica called The Heroine Question. Participants are asked three standard questions, and one bonus. I meant to re-post this on my own blog LAST YEAR, but…I seem to have forgotten. Here it is now.

(1) Is there a literary heroine on whom you imprinted as a child? A first love, a person you wanted to become as an adult, a heroic girl or woman you pretended to be on the playground at recess? Who was she?

So many details of childhood have faded into the mists of time, but one literary heroine I clearly remember is Laura Ingalls Wilder. I loved the Little House On The Prairie books and read every volume our library had on the shelf. These were adventure stories, telling of a life alien to me but one that I could understand—and I’m still drawn to adventure stories. But I didn’t dream of being Laura. Though the Little House books were based on real life, it was another real-life woman who truly captured my young imagination.

On the pages of National Geographic and in Time/Life nature books I read about the biologist Jane Goodall and her work studying chimpanzees in their natural habitat—living in the rainforest and becoming accepted by these creatures that were so much like us but so different. That, I decided, was what I wanted to do as an adult. And while I ultimately went in a different direction, Jane Goodall’s presence in my imagination surely encouraged an interest in biology and natural history that I still possess.

(2) Can you remember what it was she did or what qualities she had that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly? Read the rest of this entry »

Story Contest:
Envisioning the Third Offset

March 25th, 2016

Last fall I participated in a free ebook anthology sponsored by The Atlantic Council’s Art of Future War Project. Now I get to be a judge in the next Art of Future War Project story challenge. If you like to write short stories, this might be for you.

The competition is looking for unpublished short stories on themes relating to the US Department of Defense’s “Third Offset Strategy” which is concerned with human-machine collaboration within the military. Check out the website for all the contest details, and note that “The winners of the best written and best visual art entries will receive a $500 honorarium.” Not bad, for a 4,000-word story.

The due date is April 18, less than a month away, so no procrastinating…

Other judges in the contest are Chris Martin, author of Engines of Extinction and Modern American Snipers, and Andrew Liptak who edited the War Stories anthology. Max Brooks, the author of World War Z, will be the final judge.

Hugo Nominations

March 24th, 2016

Going Dark: book 3 of The Red TrilogyThird post within 24 hours, because apparently I blog in flurries…

The deadline for Hugo Award nominations is March 31, just a few days away. For those eligible to nominate, I hope you’ll consider Going Dark in the best novel category when filling out your nomination ballot. The Trials is also eligible, if you’re truly enthusiastic. 😉

Another suggestion is a vote for my editor, Joe Monti, in the Editor/Long Form category — but not just because he had the courage and enthusiasm to publish me. In 2015, Joe launched Saga Press, a rapidly growing and much praised line of science fiction and fantasy, at a time when other SF imprints are disappearing. Click here to see some of the books published by Saga Press in their first year, 2015. Scroll through the pages and you’ll be able to see some upcoming titles.

Saga Press is an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

Middle-age Fitness

March 23rd, 2016

Every now and then, I post on fitness. I’m into weight-lifting, although I live far from the gym and don’t get there as often as I’d like. I also run. I used to run on the road, but around fifteen months ago, Ron and I got a treadmill, which we use a lot.

Anyway, I wanted to share my new strategy, in case it’s helpful to anyone else out there interested in middle-age fitness. (I’m fifty-five years old.)

Over the summer and into the fall I was having issues with running. I didn’t visit a doctor, but I’m sure I had plantar fasciitis in my right foot, some achilles tendon problems in the same foot, and an aching left hip. The hip was helped by stretching, but long periods of rest did not seem to help the foot, which was immensely discouraging. Eventually I visited a running store and got shoe insets for high arches. Since then, things have improved a lot. I’m not feeling perfect. I don’t think the aches and pains will ever be entirely gone, but they’re minuscule enough to ignore for now, and I’ve also changed my routine to minimize impact and wear-and-tear on the body.

My new routine calls for a run on the treadmill only once or twice a week, aiming for five miles at a 9:30/mile pace. I’d like to push this out to an hour of running, but that hasn’t happened yet. At any rate, I listen to my body. If I’m hurting more than a little, or if I’m just not feeling it, I’ll stop. Oh, and I keep the treadmill at a very slight incline, hoping to reduce the impact on my feet.

On other days — as many days as I can manage — I raise the treadmill to a fairly steep incline (usually level 10 on my treadmill) and I walk at a fast pace for a full hour. This was surprisingly hard when I first started. I was walking at a 3mph pace, and I’d be fine until forty minutes or so, and then I’d get really tired or really hungry. But I kept at it, and now it’s pretty easy even though I’m walking much faster, covering over 3.4 miles in the same time.

With running and walking both, I always start fairly slowly and gradually add more speed.

I’ve found several advantages to walking fast on an inclined treadmill:

(1) I CAN READ OR LISTEN TO AUDIOBOOKS WHILE WALKING. A whole hour of uninterrupted reading/listening is a huge gain for me, and I can’t do either when I’m jogging.

(2) Walking is much easier on my body, so I can still get an aerobic workout while recovering between running days.**

(3) Walking absolutely helps with my conditioning for running, without all the wear and tear.

So there you go. If you have access to a treadmill, incline walking provides a great respite from running.

If you have any advice for me on how to up my running game or make the aches go away, please let me know.

** An exercise bike would also reduce impact of course, but I don’t like exercise bikes! Also, women my age need load-bearing exercises to stave off osteoporosis.