Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Short Review: The Accountant

October 22nd, 2016

It’s been ages since I’ve been to a movie theater, but yesterday circumstances worked out and Ron and I went to see The Accountant, starring Ben Affleck. The film’s summary description begins:

Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a math savant with more affinity for numbers than people. Behind the cover of a small-town CPA office, he works as a freelance accountant for some of the world’s most dangerous criminal organizations.

Ron and I were still debating which movie to see while we were standing in line to buy tickets. I was Googling this film, the new Jack Reacher, and Deep Water Horizon, trying to determine which were filmed with “shaky cam.” Have I ever mentioned that I loathe shaky cam? I get motion sickness, watching it. The Bourne Ultimatum was the worst, and since then I’ve tried to avoid shaky cam, not always successfully. It’s my firm opinion that a well-written, well-made thriller does not require an unsteady point of view to keep the audience awake — and The Accountant is an excellent example of this.

Of the three movies, only The Accountant was clearly mentioned as not being shaky cam, so that’s the one we went to see — and I’m glad we did. Both Ron and I gave it an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

Fair warning: this is a violent, morally ambiguous story. That said, it’s not your standard, clichéd thriller. I found it well written, and I admired the way flashbacks were used to gradually bring in the back story — ultimately not in the way I’d expected. Filming, acting, and sound track were all well done.


Is it Better to Write a Series or…?

October 15th, 2016

court_of_fives_kate_elliottThis is a short post for writers…although I’m sure readers have opinions too.

Recently on Twitter (where I spend far too much time) Kate Elliott, author of many excellent fantasy series, was asked an interesting question. Paraphrasing here: For a first novel is it better to write a stand-alone, a duology, or a trilogy?

Kate’s answer begins here and continues through a series of thoughtful tweets. I urge you to go read it:

I just wanted to add that there is one more alternative to consider: writing “related” novels…or, in a dark-humor vein, a “fake series.” This is how I started my novel writing career.

In a real trilogy — the Red Trilogy, for example — each successive book relies on the one that came before. In each book the writer ought to make an attempt to refresh the reader’s memory about past events, but it’s assumed the reader will be familiar with what went before, and that the story will build directly on that. There will also be an overall narrative arc that runs from book 1 to book 3 (or however many books are in the series).

But when it comes to traditional publishing, there are a couple of potential problems with writing a trilogy. First, if books one and two don’t do well in the market, book three may never be published. Consider that there are readers who won’t begin a trilogy until all the books are out. What happens if a large number of readers follow this strategy? Then very few copies of the first and/or second book will sell during those crucial early weeks after publication, and if that happens, there’s a good chance the publisher will simply cancel the series before it’s done.

The second problem was more crucial in the days before ebooks, but it can still affect a writer’s career today. This is when the publisher is willing to go ahead and publish all three books in a trilogy, but allows the first book in the trilogy to go out of print. Yes, really. It’s happened many, many times, and of course this means that the series is unlikely to win new readers, because the first book is unavailable to read. This is less of an issue in this age of ebooks, because ebooks are forever. But (so I’m told) a lot of readers still prefer print.

My response to this, in the days before ebooks, was to write “related novels.” In those days, books would go out of print fast — under a year in many cases. Knowing this, I made a decision to write my early novels as “stand alones.” So if we look at the Nanotech novels, all four share the same story world and some share characters, but each presents a complete story and can be read by itself. In fact, in their Bantam Spectra editions, the Nanotech books were never sold as a series. Over the years I’ve had readers tell me they picked up Vast first, read it, enjoyed it, and never suspected that there were three earlier novels they “should have” read first. That’s how a stand alone is supposed to work!

Anyway, writing “related” novels is one more strategy in the writer’s toolkit.

Ordinary Citizens

October 15th, 2016

Curious about the process behind American elections? Click this tweet and then read the whole series:

And a big thank you to the ordinary citizens who participate in this process by serving as election officials.


October 10th, 2016

I just sent my agent the final-for-now version of the new novel. Naturally, as soon as I decided it was done, my writing mojo went on vacation…which is making it difficult to write a short story that I need to get done. :-/

Home Again + Progress Report

October 2nd, 2016

Road to Lassen NPHome again and happy to be here!

Oddly enough, the football season determined our travel schedule this year — the University of Hawaii’s football season, to be precise. Ron is an avid fan, so when he heard the UH team would be opening the 2016 season in Sydney, we decided that would be a fine time to revisit Australia. But we also wanted to visit family in the Pacific Northwest. The only time we could do that — without Ron missing any home games — was last week.

So we had two-and-a-half weeks between trips, with a friend visiting us in between — and that didn’t leave me much time to write!

What am I working on? Well, the same new novel that I’ve mentioned in recent progress reports, including that last, “final” report. (In this business, “final” is a relative term.)

At last report, I mentioned that I’d sent the manuscript to my agent. He read it while we were down under and gave it a very enthusiastic thumbs-up. But he also had a few suggestions that he thought would enhance the closing sequence. His ideas made sense to me, so I agreed to undertake one more round of revision — and I’m really pleased with the results so far.

I’ve got just a couple more items to address before I send the manuscript back. I’d best get on that.

More soon…

Flying out of Oakland

Book Quote Wednesday

September 14th, 2016

Nagata-hepen_the_watcher_BVC133x205I’ve participated in “Book Quote Wednesday” on Twitter for the past several weeks. Though the activity was created as a promotional tool, my experience shows it to be ineffective in that regard. I haven’t seen any effect on sales. Nevertheless, it’s kind of fun.

The idea is that a group of writers are given the same, simple word. They find an example of the use of that word somewhere in their work, and post the snippet on Twitter.

I’ve collected all my quotes from one novel — Hepen the Watcher — book 2 of my under-read and overlooked fantasy duology, Stories of the Puzzle Lands. The two books in this set are totally unlike anything else I’ve written. They’re straight up fantasies with magic — sardonic, violent, and darkly humorous. Sword-and-sorcery maybe. Of the first book in the duology, Fantasy Review Barn said:

“…It is the amount of heart this book has that really sells it for me. It is a book that falls into the gritty fantasy label for sure, but with a certain amount of sweetness. I will be reading the second of the duo in the near future, and have no problems recommending this one.”

So, back to Book Quote Wednesday. Each participating writer is asked to include the hashtag #bookqw in their tweet, so readers can check out other participating writers. Since I couldn’t fit a decent-sized quote within Twitter’s character limit, I started by posting simple screenshots of text.

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Links, News, and Recommendations

September 4th, 2016

It’s easy to tell when I’m trying to catch up on my nonfiction reading — that’s when I start posting links here.

At USNI News, Megan Eckstein has an article titled “CMC Neller: Marines Now Training to Battle Drones, Fight Without Comms”, which is a pretty interesting look at exactly what the title says, and has some intersections with events in The Red trilogy — particularly the last action sequence in Going Dark.

And on a completely different subject, “The Cost of Holding On” is a short post at The New York Times by Carl Richards, offering some excellent advice on letting go of grudges:

“There is an actual cost to holding onto things we should let go of. It can come in the form of anger, frustration, resentment or something even worse. The question is, can you really afford to keep paying the bill?”

I’ve seen people hold on tight to the memory of slights, and to grudges that are twenty, thirty, forty years old, or more. It’s not worth it, folks. All that energy spent on resentment could be so much better spent in positive ways.

Recommended Audiobook
My latest audiobook rave is Bruce Schneier’s Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Capture Your Data and Control Your World. This is a nonfiction read, exploring the remarkable extent of government and corporate surveillance and data collection in the modern world. The book was originally published in 2014. In the realm of technology a two-year-old book might be suspected of being dated, but this one felt utterly relevant. I found it fascinating.

Rebis edition - Polish language - The RedNews
The Nanotech Succession Omnibus is an ebook that includes my first four novels, all taking place in a shared story world. The omnibus has been available at my webstore, but it can now be purchased from Kobo if that’s your preferred vendor. Find it here.

The Red now has its second translated edition. The first was Italian. This one is a Polish-language edition by the publisher Rebis. I like that red font on the cover!

Final Work-In-Progress Report + Various

August 22nd, 2016

Work-In-Progress Report
I haven’t been posting much lately, have I? That’s because I’ve mostly been writing, with time off for workouts — but even the workouts stopped a few days ago as other chores intruded.

Anyway, as noted in the title, this is my last work-in-progress report for the new novel, because that novel is officially “done.”

Of course, in this business there are many phases of “done,” and there will certainly be more revisions to come, but it’s now with my agent, so that’s a draft!

John W. Campbell Memorial Award
The Hugo Awards, given out at Worldcon this past weekend, were casting shade, but the winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award was also announced during the convention — and no, it wasn’t me. The award went to Eleanor Lerman for her novel Radiomen. Congratulations to Eleanor! As it turns out, Going Dark was tied for second place alongside Adam Roberts’ The Thing Itself.

Follow this link for details.

Recommended Audiobook
Malka Older’s Infomocracy is a near-future look at politics and the way a global system of “micro-democracies” might work — and of course how people, being people, will attempt to game the system. The story takes place during a world-wide election, held every ten years, in which “centinels” — geographic divisions of a hundred-thousand people — are each choosing new leadership, and there is a lot of competition among the various political groups to pick up these new centinels.

The world building behind Infomocracy is absolutely brilliant and at times some of the observations made in the story are quite funny — but be aware that there is a lot of detail as the characters discuss statistics, voting, and political platforms. Think of Infomocracy as a bureaucrat’s thriller. I won’t be at all surprised to see it on next year’s Campbell Memorial list.

The audio narration is by Christine Marshal and I thought it was very well done.

Book Rave: Red Rising

August 12th, 2016

Red Rising by Pierce BrownI don’t remember hearing much about Pierce Brown’s novel Red Rising within the SFF genre, but it’s been a hugely popular book, with 3,200 Amazon reviews averaging 4.5 stars. Even after I finally noticed it, I assumed it was a YA novel, and I’m not particularly interested in YA, so I didn’t pursue it. What finally persuaded me to take a serious look was an enthusiastic recommendation from @alexvdl0 on Twitter. (See? Word of mouth really does work!)

I started reading the sample and was hooked almost immediately. Red Rising is set on Mars, in a highly stratified society. It’s the story of a young man named Darrow, born into the lowest strata. It’s told in his own words, and in some sense it’s a study of how a very skilled writer can employ standard tropes and make them fascinating again.

I was swept away — which doesn’t actually happen all that often anymore.

(Some slight spoilers follow…)

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Work-In-Progress Report

August 6th, 2016

In my last Work-In-Progress Report I said that I’d sent the new novel off to beta readers. I’ve heard back from two so far, and the reports are hearteningly positive, while also including some very useful suggestions.

I’ve already incorporated most of the suggestions from my first beta reader. I’m holding off on the rest to see if the noted issues are a concern with anyone else. That will give me a better idea of how to address them. Later today I’ll start going through the second reader’s suggestions.

I’ve also had a friend read a section of the manuscript for authenticity of place. He made a couple of suggestions, but overall gave it a thumbs-up.

I’m waiting on one more beta reader, as well as that most intimidating personage, my freelance editor, Judith Tarr. I’m sure the feedback won’t be quite so positive from Judy! She’s strict.

It’s all to make the final work the best it can be. For now, I’ll enjoy the praise.