Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Archive for August, 2011

Blog Roundup

Monday, August 29th, 2011

I saw three great blog posts this week on writers and publishing.

First, Tobias Buckell explains why writers are crazy, and makes a few suggestions on how to hold on to what sanity remains to us.

This failure to pay attention to what we can control as authors and what we can’t leads to a form of Cargo Cult neuroses in writers out of a desire to recreate milestone successes that were never in their primary power to recreate.

If you’re a struggling writer (and how many of us aren’t struggling?), read this post. It will give you an entirely new way to look at things.

Second, Chuck Wendig has some very useful thoughts on social media.

You are not a brand. Social media is not your platform… see it instead as a place where you can bring all the crazy and compelling facets of your personality to bear on an unsuspecting populace your audience. People want to follow other people. People don’t want to follow brands.

I’ve come to this conclusion too, mostly because there’s no way I can “act” as a “brand” no matter what social media gurus tell us we should do. Read the rest of the post if you have a chance. We all need to do self-promotion, and Chuck has a lot of suggestions that make sense to me.

And finally…

A few people have asked what I think about the “agency model.” This refers to a requirement by certain large publishers that their ebooks shall not be discounted by retailers such as Amazon. So if a publisher specifies that a new ebook by a big name author shall be priced at $14.99, that ebook will be sold for $14.99 and not a penny less.

So what do I think of the agency model? I love it! Because it’s surely helping to keep ebook prices from dropping through the floor. Mike Shatzkin feels the same way. Here’s part of what he has to say on the subject:

All writers, whether they’re among the fortunate ones that have a publisher pushing them or whether they’re trying to do it themselves, should be grateful that publishers are doing their damnedest to maintain prices and the perception of value for writers’ work.

Very, very few writers will ever make a living selling 99-cent ebooks. Personally, I want to make a living writing so I can keep writing–and the agency model makes my books a really good deal, while still allowing me a reasonable profit on each sale, as well as “a perception of value.”

Reading Aloud

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

When I’m revising and polishing a manuscript, I read it aloud. Not just once, either. I’ll go through it paragraph by paragraph, and when something gets changed, I’ll go back and re-read the changed section along with the preceding and following sentences. If I’ve done a lot of changes, I’ll re-read the whole chapter again, aloud. (Obsessive? Moi?)

Hearing the words lets me hear the rhythm, and usually makes the clunky repetitions really stand out. It also reveals the sentences that are fine if they’re read with the correct expression, but which don’t work so well if one is just “reading through.” Those usually get changed.

Being curious how many other writers are read-alouders, I did what anyone in the modern world would do: I queried twitter.

Writers: when revising & polishing, do you read your work aloud?

Only one of those who replied confessed to not reading aloud at all. Most who answered read aloud to some degree or in some way. Here are some samples:

* Only reading dialogue aloud

* Only reading dialogue and difficult passages aloud

* Reading aloud to a significant other. (This one boggles me: to have an SO with such patience!)

* Having a computer read back the manuscript.

I’m intrigued by this last one. The way I work, I would need to read and re-read with my own voice, because I go over the same words so many times, but I can definitely see the advantage of hearing a computer reading back the manuscript on the last go-through. First, because its “eye” isn’t going to skip over the repeated words or incorrect verb tenses, so you will hear them. And second, because a good human reader can make bad writing sound decent, but I don’t think the flat voice of a machine is going to do that.

I’ll read expressively when I start revising, but at some point I try to go over things in a flat, non-expressive voice to see if the flow is still there.

Thanks to all those on twitter who responded! I’m heading off now, to read and revise.

Notes to Self

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

I was looking ahead a week or two on my Google calendar and saw an entry that read: “Follow up w/Hawaii [Whatever]” (name changed to protect the innocent).

My first thought, of course, was “Who in the world is Hawaii [Whatever]?

So I clicked through to the entry and read this:

Originally emailed them on May 17. If this is all a mystery, try contacting again.
http://Hawaii [Whatever] domain name

Evidently my past self fully anticipated the mystified state of my present self. I admire that.

Short & Long

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

One of my goals in writing The Dread Hammer was simply to write a short novel. I aimed at 60,000 words, and ended at 65,000. This was very satisfying, because up to this point every adult novel I’d written had been longer than the last one, with the one exception of Limit of Vision, which still managed to be significantly longer than my first two novels.

The sequel to The Dread Hammer is called Hepen the Watcher, and I’ve been working on it over the summer. I wanted it to be no more than 70,000 words, but my basic nature is reasserting itself, and so far I’ve exceeded that by 8,000 words. As I do the revision I find myself reluctant to add scenes, background, or more explanation because that will make it longer (gasp!).

I think it’s a matter of pride, and a need to believe that I can write short, but worrying about length is slowing me down. So, stop worrying right? And just do the thing right.

I’ll console myself by knowing that even if it goes to 85K (and that’s not at all likely), it’ll still be 11K less than my shortest adult SF novel–and less than half of a lot of epic fantasies.

Word Counts for the SF Novels
The Bohr Maker – 96,000
Tech-Heaven – 111,000
Deception Well – 121,000
Vast – 130,000
Limit of Vision – 118,000
Memory – 132,000

Chesley Awards

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Publishing my own books has made me a lot more conscious of book covers and forced me to think more about what book buyers like–though I’ll admit this continues to be a deep mystery to me!

At any rate, has a post on this year’s winners of the Chesley Awards for science fiction and fantasy artists, just announced at WorldCon. Go on over to to check it out. Once you’re there, don’t forget to click on the category header to see all the nominees.

There are a lot of impressive illustrations, but the winner of the “unpublished color” category is one of my favorites, Julie Dillon’s “Planetary Alignment; digital” which is the second image when you click this link.

I’d love to show you the work-in-progress for the new book cover for Limit of Vision, but since I haven’t cleared it with the artist, I suppose I’d better wait.

A Good Day Revising

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

A good day revising is when

* you don’t care how many times you’ve read a passage; you’re willing to read it again and play with it some more until it’s right.

* the gaps get filled in and the story starts taking on a respectable shape after all.

* you cast warning looks at anyone who dares to interrupt you.

* you can’t be bothered to spend any time online.

A Little Handwaving

Monday, August 15th, 2011

I don’t know how many times, during out usual post-movie analysis, I’ve turned to my husband and said, “Why didn’t they explain [insert current subject here]? It would have taken like two lines of dialog to let us know /why/how/a reason for/ this seeming silliness, but as it stands, it makes no sense.

Movies seem to commit this sin more often than books, but maybe that’s because when a book starts seeming absurd I just drop it and start another.

Madeleine Robins has some great advice on this very subject that’s definitely worth reading for those who are writers:

A little handwaving in those first scenes, a sentence of dialogue to smooth over the issues that snagged me, and I would have eased right into the story and enjoyed it. If there’s something that you think is going to snag your audience, address it in some way, then go right on past (“move along, folks. Nothin’ to see here.”)

Read the whole post here.

Sometimes, just a few lines of explanation can make all the difference.

Maui Geological Feature #1

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

On Maui there is a 10,000-foot high volcano called Haleakala. At the top of the volcano is this geological feature:

Haleakala Crater - photo by Ronald J. Nagata

Haleakala Crater - photo by Ronald J. Nagata

This feature is part of Haleakala National Park, and is known as “Haleakala Crater”—or it was until recently.

The rest of this post is about semantics, culture, and strange bureaucracy.

The National Park Service is apparently in the process of unilaterally changing the name of “Haleakala Crater” to “Haleakala Valley,” which strikes many of us as a heavy-handed and poorly thought-out decision.

First, the disclaimer: I love the National Park Service. I used to work as a seasonal employee at Haleakala National Park, and my husband, now retired, made his career there, which is the reason we live on Maui. The National Park Service is one of the finest, most worthy government organizations out there, staffed with dedicated, hard-working people.

But re-naming the Crater is a mistake. It disrespects the history of a name that’s been in use for nearly 200 years, and it disrespects the culture of this island, which has used the name for all those generations.

Why does the park service want to change the name? According to Mary Evanson in her Maui News opinion piece,

“the National Park Service and the Hawaii Natural History Association (which runs the park shops) were implementing a program […] to educate the public that Haleakala Crater is not a true volcanic crater.”

I’m going to assume that a “true volcanic crater” really refers to a caldera which, according to is

“A large crater formed by volcanic explosion or by collapse of a volcanic cone.”

But Haleakala Crater is not a caldera and no one’s calling it “Haleakala Caldera” so this is a non-issue.

The Crater was formed by the erosion of two large amphitheater-headed valleys whose headwalls eventually coalesced at the summit of the aging volcano. A period of extensive volcanism followed and the depression was filled in with lava flows and spotted with cinder cones.

Back to

1. A bowl-shaped depression at the mouth of a volcano or geyser.
a. A bowl-shaped depression in a surface made by an explosion or the impact of a body, such as a meteoroid.
b. A pit; a hollow.

Hmm, definition 2b seems right on. Colloquial? Maybe, but so what? It’s accurate, traditional, and lyric.

As Mary cites in her viewpoint piece, at one time the term “erosional depression” was considered as the new name for Haleakala Crater, presumably because it was recognized that “valley” just didn’t do the job. Of course “erosional depression” doesn’t take into account the following volcanism, so that term doesn’t work either.

Just for fun, let’s say we agree that “crater” and “valley” and “erosional depression” are all inaccurate and therefore can’t be used. By the same logic, we can no longer call the mountain “Haleakala,” a word usually translated into English as “House of the Sun.” I’ve spent a lot of time in the Crater and I can tell you for a fact that the sun doesn’t actually live there. So just to be sure we don’t mislead anyone with an inaccurate name, maybe we should drop the “Haleakala” and instead call the feature “Maui Geological Feature #1” and leave it at that.

Or maybe we should just stick with the traditional and reasonably accurate name of “Haleakala Crater,” and encourage the National Park Service to spend its very limited money and personnel on more important issues.

Central crater, Haleakala National Park

Central crater, Haleakala National Park

Book View Café–New Release

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Just out from Book View Café: the first digital edition of Judith Tarr’s classic historical fantasy, THE DAGGER AND THE CROSS: A Novel of the Crusades.

In this magical tale of love in a time of war, immortal Prince Aidan, whose tale was last told in ALAMUT, has finally won his beloved Assassin. But the world and the Church are determined to tear them apart. Bound by oaths and honor and sundered by their opposing faiths, they find themselves on opposite sides of a bitter war.

Available DRM-free in epub, mobi, and pdf formats.

Just $4.99 at Book View Café.

Read a free sample.

The 808

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Hawaii is a small state. Small enough, that we have one area code, 808, to cover all the islands.**

This has been the case for as long as I can remember, but in recent years people have come to celebrate it, and “The 808” has become a slang term for the state of Hawaii.

You’ll find “808” on t-shirts, bumper stickers, and business names like our own “Cafe 808” here in Kula, Maui.

This explanation, and post, is inspired by my son-in-law’s latest tweet:

Happy #Hawaii Day, everybody! Today is #808! 😀

So…Happy Hawaii Day! August 8th, 2011.

**Not that this means no long distance charges between islands.