Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Archive for March, 2011

Memory–For Kindle & Nook

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

I’ve really been looking forward to this one. Memory is the last of my traditionally published novels to make its way into ebook format. It’s also one of my personal favorites among the books I’ve written.

Memory is a science fiction novel but it’s been described as having a “fantasy feel”–the story is less concerned with how things work and very much interested in how people work. It’s very accessible even to readers who haven’t read a lot of science fiction.

There are two other unique aspects to Memory: it’s my longest book, and it’s the only one written in first person. I love the first person voice, and one of these days I hope to find another story where it’s appropriate.

If you’ve never read Memory, please give it a try. Sample chapters are free at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you’ve read Memory and you enjoyed it, please consider writing a review at either bookseller, blogging about it, or giving it a shout-out on twitter, facebook, or any other platform that you might use.

Memory didn’t receive a lot of support from its first publisher. I know there’s a huge potential audience out there who could enjoy this book, and with your help I might be able to connect with them.

Find the ebook here:
Barnes & Noble

Sample Sunday: The Bohr Maker

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Sample Sunday is a facebook event hosted by Pixel of Ink.

The Nanotech Succession is a collection of stand-alone novels by Linda Nagata, all set in the same story world. Book 1, THE BOHR MAKER, won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and is now available for Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook.


Just past dawn a dead man came floating down the river. The current carried him under the old river-straddling warehouse, where he fetched up against one of the fluff booms Arif had strung between the rotting pilings. Phousita found him when she came to gather the night’s harvest of fluff. He floated face down. His head had wedged under the fluff boom; his long black hair swayed like a silk veil in the current.

Phousita glanced nervously overhead. The trap door that opened onto the main floor of the abandoned warehouse hung open. She debated with herself a moment. It would be so easy to slip into the water, ease the dead man’s body off the boom and guide him back into the current before Arif discovered he was here. She would never have to worry about who he might have been or what bitter spirits still haunted his flesh. Let someone else farther down the river have him!

But her conscience wouldn’t let her do it. Even in the dusky light under the river warehouse she could tell he’d been a wealthy man. Such fine clothes! And he might have money on him, jewels. The clan was hungry. She glanced again at the trap door. “Sumiati,” she called softly.

The termite-eaten floorboards creaked, then Sumiati peered through the door. She had an empty bucket in her hands, ready to pass it to Phousita. “So fast today! Did you fill the first bucket already? It’s about time our catch improved!” Her dark eyes widened when she saw the body. She sucked in a little breath of surprise. “Phousita, he’s still got his clothes! Hold him! Don’t let the current take tuan away. I’ll come down. Look how beautiful his robe is. Oh, do you think we’re the first to find him?” She put the bucket down, then turned to climb through the trap door, moving awkwardly as she bent over her pregnant belly. She hung for a moment from the insulated wire rope, looking like some rare, ripe fruit. Then she dropped gracefully to the narrow metal plank that Arif had lashed between the pilings. It shivered under the impact.

Phousita reached out a hand to steady her. Sumiati was a small woman, but even beside her, Phousita was tiny. She stood no taller than a petite child of seven or eight, though she was nearly twenty five years old. Despite her size, her body was that of a woman: slender and beautifully proportioned, endowed with ample breasts and rounded hips, but on a scale that seemed unnaturally small. With her pretty round face, her dark eyes, and her thick black hair carefully coiled at the nape of her neck, she might have been a diminutive spirit out of some forgotten mythology.

Her unusual appearance had once attracted many clients after-hours in the business district. But she’d promised Arif she wouldn’t venture down there anymore. She was hungrier these days. The clothes from this dead man would buy a large quantity of rice.

And yet she hesitated. Easy wealth was so often cursed with misfortune. “I don’t like finding the tuan here,” she told Sumiati, instinctively using the traditional honorific. “There’s no telling what evil influences tuan carries with him. Let’s work quickly, then I’ll shove him back into the river.”

Sumiati looked suddenly concerned. “Maybe we should call Arif.”

“No!” Sumiati jerked at the sharp tone of Phousita’s voice. Phousita hunched her shoulders; she looked across at the dead man. “No,” she said more gently. “No need to wake Arif. We can do it.” Pulling the close-fitting skirt of her sarong up above her knees, she eased herself into the water until her tiny feet touched the clean gravel that cushioned the river’s concrete bed. The current swirled in cool streams around her waist, gradually soaking her faded blue breastcloth. She reached back to help Sumiati down, then grabbed the empty fluff bucket and started wading towards the dead man, one hand on the fluff boom for balance.

Arif had constructed the boom shortly after he’d moved the clan into the abandoned warehouse. He’d gathered rare old plastic bottles, the kind that didn’t disintegrate in only a few weeks. He’d cut them in half and then lashed them to a plank stripped from the warehouse. They floated half-submerged in the water and when the fluff came floating down the river they trapped it, like huge hands grasping at the feast. The system had worked well for many months. It would still work, if only there were more fluff in the river… or fewer hungry people. Her gaze scanned the thin line of brown foam bobbing against the boom. A dismal catch. Not enough there to feed three people and there were thirty-nine empty bellies in the clan. Forty, counting Sumiati’s soon-to-be-born. Phousita tried not to think about it.

Fierce rays of yellow light lanced under the river house as the sun leapt up over the city. Phousita touched the dead man’s head. Bright white flecks of bone and torn, pink flesh could be seen through his black hair. The back of his skull had been caved-in by a blow. The current still washed dilute puffs of blood from the wound. He must have been only minutes in the water. She lifted his head carefully by the long hair. His face was pale, nondescript European. His eyes were closed. A single kanji glowed in soft, luminescent red on his cheek. She couldn’t read it. “Look, tuan was robbed,” she said, pointing at the torn lobes of his ears where earrings must have been. Sumiati peered over her shoulder.

Out of principle Phousita touched his neck, checked for a pulse. It was a ceremony the Chinese doctor insisted upon, even when the patient was obviously dead. Perhaps it helped ease the frightened spirit still trapped within the body. Sumiati looked on, a worried pout on her lips until Phousita shook her head. Sumiati smiled.

“Even if tuan was robbed, he still has his clothes,” she said. “Maybe the thieves overlooked something.” She quickly checked his pockets, but found nothing. Phousita worked at the fastenings on his robe. In minutes they had the body stripped. Phousita stepped back in relief.

Sumiati’s eyes glowed as she held the fluff bucket stuffed full of fine clothing. “Push him off the boom,” she urged. “Let’s hurry. We have to take these to temple market. It’s a long walk, but we’ll get the best price there. We can take some water to sell too. And then we can buy rice. Enough for everyone to eat until their stomachs complain! And clothes. Henri and Maman need new clothes. And medicines, of course. You’ll know the ones to buy. And the Chinese doctor is always glad to see you….”

Phousita smiled at Sumiati’s nervous chatter. The dead man had indeed brought them good fortune. And now she could send him on his way. She reached for the dead man’s arm. Twisted it gently, to ease him off the boom. Hurry now. In a moment he would be gone.


Her hands jerked back in guilty surprise. She looked up as Arif dropped through the trap door. He landed on the metal plank. His slim, hard body — clothed only in worn shorts — was poised in a fighter’s stance. Arif was always fighting, she thought bitterly. And he’d do anything, anything at all to survive.

He stared at her, cruel violet eyes so out of place amongst the swollen, exaggerated features of his laughing, yellow, bioluminescent joker’s face. Sumiati, blind to his moods, started to bubble forth in her good-natured way with the tale of their find, but Arif cut her off with a gesture. “Phousita,” he growled softly. “What are you doing?”

Phousita glanced at the nude body of the dead man. Without his clothes he seemed a pale, ghostly thing. “Take the basket up, Sumiati,” she said softly. “Arif will help me now.”

Sumiati nodded, confused. Arif helped her out of the river and onto the plank, then stepped back, out of her way. She climbed the rope. “Close the door behind you,” he said. He still stared at Phousita. In the harsh shadows under the warehouse, his ogre-ugly face glowed brilliant yellow with its own generated light.

By his own admission Arif had been a wicked child. His mother had sold him to a sorcerer who poisoned him with a spell that exposed his sins upon his face. With his ridiculously elongated nose and chin, his cheeks as round and full as over-ripe guavas, and his glowing yellow complexion, he resembled one of the comical servants of the wayang theater. Except his eyes.

His gaze flickered upward as the corrugated metal door closed with a creak. Soft footsteps moved off across the warehouse floor. When Sumiati was out of earshot, Arif spoke: “He’s food, Phousita.” He walked to the end of the plank. “Why would you throw away food?”

Suddenly Arif dove, slicing like a sunbeam through the water, his thick black hair, tied up in a short pony tail, trailing behind him. He surfaced next to Phousita, startling her with an explosion of bubbles. He threw his swollen yellow head back and laughed, then hugged her tiny figure quickly, his arms encircling her waist. “Don’t be afraid, Phousita,” he crooned. “The old witch filled your head with all kinds of lies. It’s just a body. Tuan’s spirit is gone.”

Phousita was trembling. She sank into Arif’s arms while the cool river water rushed past. “You don’t know what kind of man he was,” she whispered.

“It doesn’t matter.”

“It matters if we take his body into ours.”

“Not his body. Only the fluff that grows from it. You helped me plant them before. You ate the fluff.”

She laid her head against his chest. He’d dismissed her reluctance then, too. “Sutedjo and Piet were part of our clan,” she said. “We knew them; they would wish us no harm. But this man is a stranger; we don’t know what evil he’s done.”

“It’s gone with him.”

“His spirit clings to the body.”

But Arif’s patience had eroded. “Spirit rides in the head and his head’s smashed in,” he snapped. “Stupid country girl, he’s gone!” He ducked under the water. A moment later, he surfaced on the other side of the boom. Grabbing the dead man’s wrists, he twisted the body roughly off the boom. “I wish you’d never met that old witch! She chased your brains away. You want to be a sorceress like her? Fah! She was just a stupid old hill woman. I’m glad she’s dead. I wish I could have planted her too!”

Phousita slapped the water. “Stop it, Arif. Stop it! You pretend you know so much. You don’t know! You hear rumors on the street and you think they’re true. Shiny new magic. But even the new sorcerers don’t know everything. Arif!”

He wasn’t listening. He’d turned his back on her, hauling the dead man up the river. She took a deep breath and ducked awkwardly under the boom. Fear filled her as water swirled past her face. Then she burst to the surface, gasping and splashing for air. She didn’t know how to swim. Arif had promised to teach her. Oh, why did she get angry? It did no good. Arif only wanted the best for her, for everyone in the clan. It hurt him when she let her doubt show.

“Arif.” She caught up with him; helped him drag the body against the current. They reached the edge of the river house. Arif stopped. Phousita glanced down through the clear water to the gravel beneath her feet. Scattered there she could still see the remnants of Sutedjo’s bones, bright white slivers that hadn’t yet turned to fluff. She glanced up. Arif studied her with violet eyes. “It wasn’t the old witch who cured you, Phousita. It was the Chinese doctor. The old magic is dead.”

He ducked under the water, hauling one leg of the dead man with him. Phousita used her tiny body as an anchor to keep the corpse from drifting downstream while Arif secured the man’s foot to a mooring stone on the bottom. He surfaced, took the other leg, hauled that down too.

Over the next few days the body would slowly dissolve into a rich harvest of fluff that would float to the surface and gather downstream against the fluff boom. The clan would never know the reason for their good fortune. They’d attribute the abundant harvest to luck.

Fluff hadn’t existed when the old woman was alive. That was only a few years ago. Phousita could remember it easily. She’d been perhaps twenty-one, still trapped in a child’s body. The river had been a stinking sewer then, a deadly thread of water draining the city’s filth. When the fluff first started collecting on the river’s banks, they’d paid no attention to it, assuming it was just a new kind of pollution. Then Arif had seen the rats eating it….

Now the river ran clear. The water was clean, drinkable, though the city’s filth still washed into it with every rain.

Arif surfaced again, took the dead man’s right arm. “Help push him under,” he said gruffly. Phousita nodded. Arif stretched the arm of the corpse beyond its head, then reached underwater for the mooring stone. He found it, and glanced over his shoulder at Phousita. “Now.” She placed her palms flat against the cold, slippery chest and leaned hard, forcing the body under.

Something gave way beneath her right hand. She could hear it more than feel it, a sharp metal snick! The chest opened like a blinking eye. A golden needle shot out of the black orifice, to bury itself in Phousita’s breast. She reared back in horror, swiping at the spot of blood just above her breastcloth that marked the point where the needle had disappeared. She stumbled through the water. Her chest was on fire. She could hear herself bleating like a terrified child: “Unh! unh! unh!”

The corpse twisted in the current, the shoulders rolled. She saw a little white tear in the dead white chest before the corpse turned face down again. Her gaze shifted to Arif. The horror in his eyes must have echoed her own. Help me. She tried to say it, but her mouth had gone dry. Her tongue grew puffy and swollen as the needle’s poison spread through her system. The bubbling song of the river seemed to rise in volume, building like a wall around her before it collapsed into a chaotic buzz. Her vision blurred. She could see Arif reaching for her. But the current was swifter. Her eyes closed as its cold hands caressed her face and swirled through her hair.

The Bohr Maker is available for Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook.

I Do Print Books Too

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

And here’s the first one: Skye Object 3270a.

This one is a young-adult original, in print for the very first time. Read the first chapter here. Despite what Amazon says, there is a Kindle edition, so you can sample that way too.

Most bookstores should be able to order it, but here are some online links:

Barnes & Noble
Powell’s Books

The list price is currently a low $7.99 for a lovely trade paperback, just to see if I can get some copies sold. Do be aware that Powell’s is charging more than the list price. Honestly, that’s the only way they can make any money on it, but I thought I should point it out.

Update: click here to see a review Skye Object at Hawaii Book Blog.

Ebook Pricing

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Ebook pricing and sales have been hot topics lately. For those not following the issue, here’s a quick summary:

The top end: mostly books by traditional publishers; usually $9.99. Sometimes more for big new releases; sometimes less for older titles.

The middle: lots of midlist writers who are republishing their backlist, plus confident newer writers: $2.99 – $5.99

The discounters: novels priced at 99-cents. Yes, you read that right.

Disclosure: as I write this, my books are priced between $2.99 and $5.95. I’ve shifted the pricing around and haven’t noticed any change whatsoever in rate of sales, which continue at a slow trickle. This makes sense to me, personally, because of who I am as a reader, and here’s why:

I’ve paid $9.99 for several books and been happy to do it because I’ve gotten good books out of it, and a book will keep me entertained much longer than a movie. I haven’t yet been persuaded to pay more than $9.99, but at this price point, the limiting factor is not so much the cost, but my time. Offer me a 99-cent ebook and my first suspicion is that you’re asking me to use my very limited reading time to read crap.

(I’m not saying that a 99-cent ebook IS crap. I’m saying that it’s natural to suspect that it is.)

Well, I don’t want to read crap, even if it’s free. I’d rather pay to get something that isn’t going to annoy, irritate, or bore me. So it wouldn’t matter to me particularly if I paid $4.99 or $9.99 for an ebook, if the sample chapters showed it to be good.

But one thing I’ve learned in life is that I am not very representative of “most people” (whatever that means). Lots of 99-cent ebooks have sold well enough to bring in a lively income to their publishers, sometimes an eye-popping income.

And once a book starts selling on Amazon, the Amazon algorithms kick in, promoting the book and generating more sales.

So a lot of indie authors drop their price to 99-cents to try to generate sales that will kick their book into the reach of the promotional algorithms. Fair enough.

Today I encountered a new strategy: pricing your book at 99-cents and then giving it away to people who are willing to accept it. Assuming that Amazon’s algorithms do not discriminate against multiple purchases of the same book from one account (and I have no idea whether this is the case or not) this is a very cheap and efficient way of buying your way onto a bestseller list. Imagine it: $500 will buy you 500 sales, and you’ll eventually get back 35% of that as a royalty. And 500 sales over a short period of time will get you onto a lot of lists. And once you’re on the list, people who have never heard of you will be buying your book. And if they like what they read they might go back and buy your more expensive books, and if they don’t, so what? You haven’t lost anything, because they would never have bought your books anyway.

Given the competition in ebooks, by tomorrow tens of thousands of authors will probably be giving their books away. I’m very, very tempted to try this myself.

Why am I hesitating? Pride, I guess, but really, it’s no different than giving away copies of print books to generate buzz.

So what do you think? Is this a good idea? And in the long term, is there really a future in this ebook business?

Ebook Formatting Does Matter

Monday, March 7th, 2011

I’m here to nag. I’m good at it. I had twenty-plus years of practice as a mom. So sit up straight, stop playing so many video games, and make sure your ebooks aren’t loaded with errors!

And I’m not just talking to you, Indie Published Author, who prepared your Kindle edition yourself. I’m also looking at you, Traditional Publisher. You’re older, you should know better. The younger kids are watching you, you know.

Here’s some of what I’ve seen since venturing into ebook reading last fall:

A traditionally-published historical novel, newly released, with loads of copyediting errors and missing most blank lines between scenes.

A traditionally-published fantasy novel that has been a huge publishing success, but certain sections of it (not the whole thing) are full of copyediting errors.

A traditionally-published fantasy novel, very recent release, with a table of contents that shows the first line of a preface, then a dedication, then the stuff at the end of the book, then the “sections” of the book—which is incredibly confusing if you happen to be a reader like me who looks at TOC’s. This book also had a few random sections with multiple blank lines, but the copyediting was good.

A self-published, currently 99 cents ebook that has been getting a lot of publicity in the last couple of weeks, and which starts off with “Chapter 1” centered and set off in big type, and then immediately under it “Chapter 1” left aligned and in standard type, as it must have appeared in the original manuscript. This one also has lots of funky characters sprinkled throughout. I like to think of them as WordPerfect errors-in-translation because I had the same thing in my older manuscripts but I hunted them down and killed them.

Yes, I’m being a scold, but my point is that ebooks should not be looked at as the poor cousin of print books. Editing and formatting matters in ebooks too. Shoddy goods eventually fail in the marketplace. And besides, it’s a point of pride to do stuff right. Right?

That said, if you discover copyediting or formatting problems in my ebooks, please let me know.

The Sadness of Memory

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

I finally started working on the manuscript for my novel Memory, getting it ready for conversion to ebook and print-on-demand. The process involves cleaning up the styles, converting manuscript punctuation to print punctuation, and adding in the copy editor’s changes—which means going through it page by page.

In the process I’ve been re-reading a lot of the story and it’s left me feeling very sad today. Not because it’s a sad book. Memory is poignant at times, but it’s not written to leave you weeping. The dedication sums it up: “A quest, a puzzle, and multiple lives.” This is an action story set in a unique story world. My sadness is for the book itself. Memory may well be my best book and I think it deserved better than it got. I’m also sad because I honestly can’t see myself ever attempting to write anything on this level again. There just doesn’t seem to be any point to it. Here’s why:

Memory was originally published in April 2003 by Tor. Below are the most recent sales figures I pulled out of the file, as of June 2007. (I’m sure I have more recent figures, but they were probably sent as PDFs and I didn’t bother to print them out and I’m not going to look them up. The figures likely just got worse anyway as more returned books came in.)

Hardcover: 1822
Ebook: 50
Trade paper: 1574
Mass Market Paperback: 7097

That’s 10,543 total units four years after publication—a spectacular market failure by any measure. (On the positive side this means there’s a huge potential market that could still be persuaded to buy the book when it’s resurrected by my publishing company Mythic Island Press.)

I used to want to write a great novel. Now I just want to write an amusing one.

I truly respect the person who wrote Memory, but—you knew this was coming right?—that earlier version of me is just a memory now. I’ll be writing shorter, simpler books for the foreseeable future, hopefully in more viable genres.

I still can’t bring myself to write about zombies though.