Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Archive for October, 2011

Divided Loyalties

Monday, October 24th, 2011

So last night, on the way back to Maui from Honolulu, an idea for a new novel came walking into my head. Right now it’s feeling like a Trey Shiels novel — fast, dark, and a little over the top — but science fiction not fantasy.

Of course I’m already writing a novel, one that I’m sure will ignite! catch fire! start writing itself! at any moment now.

And I’m partway through a short story that I’ve spent a lot of time and effort on, and I really ought to get that finished.

And for years I’ve had a rule that I have to finish the current project before starting the next.

But of course 2011 has been a year for changing the rules.


Why Science Fiction Short Stories
Are Really Hard to Write

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Your assignment: write a science fiction short story set off Earth, in another time.

Your story should do the following:

(1) Present to the reader an unfamiliar storyworld that is internally consistent and coherent, including an implied past and future.

(2) Present to the reader a specific setting within this storyworld, making sure it includes unfamiliar yet reasonably plausible technology.

(3) Utilize two or three unique and interesting characters. If not human, describe both the general and specific appearance of these characters, as well as their origin and biology. Please avoid caricature! If human, you need only describe your characters’ specific appearance, relying on the reader’s knowledge for general principles. In either case, communicate your characters’ motives and personalities in a manner relevant to the mood and tone of the story.

(4) Develop a fast-paced, action-packed story arc suited to the motives and personalities of your well-developed characters and utilizing the story’s plausible technology as an essential element. Be sure there is an external plot: something must happen. Equally important, include an internal plot: your primary character should have an issue or two to overcome!

(5) Include a theme that adds layers of meaning to your story.

Your assignment should be accomplished in 3000 words or less. Bonus points are awarded for stories achieving levels of “cool,” “awesome,” or “mind-blowing.”

Competitive Productivity

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Well over a year ago, before I was truly “all in” on making a return to a writing career, I was having a rare, face-to-face conversation with another writer who made a comment roughly on these lines: “So many younger writers these days seem to make a living by writing book after book after book, staying alive by constantly producing.” I think I groaned, said that I could never do that and wouldn’t want to; that writing was just too damned hard, and I needed at least a year to finish a book.


Times change and it’s good to be adaptable. My writing speed has picked up and I’ve produced a good amount of work this year, but nothing close to the output of some of the writers in my twitter stream. Mind-boggling daily words counts, revision, copyedits, conventions, blog postings, book promotions and contests, charitable efforts, social media . . . I stagger in fatigue just thinking about it.

It’s fairly clear that I’m a slacker. On the other hand, I’m also inspired. Let’s call the phenomenon “competitive productivity.” If so many other writers (even some with day jobs!) can spend so many hours every day on writing-related tasks and produce results then what’s my excuse?

No excuses.

Thanks for the inspiration, y’all.

Special Promotion: $2.99 for The Bohr Maker

Monday, October 17th, 2011

The Bohr Maker is Book 1 of The Nanotech Succession. It’s straight-up science fiction–a fast-paced adventure in a nanotech-saturated world, and also a Locus award winner for best first novel.

If you haven’t read it, now’s a great time to give it a try. For a limited time only the ebook is priced at $2.99 at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

If you’ve already read it and you enjoyed it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help spread the word about this promotion to anyone you think might be interested. Tweet it, like it on facebook, mention it on G+…whatever works for you.

And there’s more…

Book 2 of The Nanotech Succession, Deception Well is also on special during this time, with the ebook priced at only $3.99.

Find the ebooks here:

Barnes & Noble

Amazon USA

Amazon UK

Amazon DE

Amazon FR


Book Rave: Bio of a Space Tyrant, Vol 1: Refugee

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Rating books from one to five stars is useful for developing a quick consensus on how good a book is, and every author loves to get four and five star ratings. But as a reader I find star ratings problematical. I can greatly admire a book without loving it. I can be utterly intrigued by a book while feeling ambivalent about it. Should I give such a book three stars? Four? Five?

Bio of a Space Tyrant, Volume 1, Refugee by Piers Anthony is the present example. Someone, somewhere–on twitter or G+ or facebook–mentioned this book and, wanting to read some older science fiction, I picked it up. The copyright date is 1983.

I’ve never read anything like this before. The story takes place on and around the moons of Jupiter. Science and technology are often carefully and clearly explained in a style that feels dated and yet works very well. Bio is a first person tale, told from the point of view of a fifteen-year-old refugee fleeing political oppression, and has clear parallels to real-world stories of refugees fleeing Cuba or Haiti.**

At its core, Bio is a brutal, horrific tale, made readable because of the detached, analytical tone of the young narrator as he comes to terms with the worst of human nature and struggles to retain a belief in the best of human nature. There is an obsession with rape and male violence throughout, with every bit of it discussed and analyzed, and none of it remotely titillating. Despite all this, the book is not nihilistic. It’s very much concerned with love, loyalty, human relationships, and doing what you have to do to survive.

Still, with a book like this I can’t say, “Go read it! You’ll love it!” because it’s not that kind of book. But I can say that I was fascinated by this story almost from page one and that I knew I’d be blogging on it long before I finished. Oh, and I’ll be starting in on volume 2 very soon.

So if you’re up for something powerful and different and, yes, grim, go read it–and let me know what you think.

** This paragraph was written before I had quite finished reading the novel. In a postscript within the book, Piers Anthony confirms this was the case.

Goddesses @ 99¢

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

Let the price experiments begin!

Ninety-nine cents is the lowest price allowed by Amazon and Barnes & Noble for an ebook.** For a novel, 99¢ is basically a giveaway price, a means to try to move a lot of copies in the hope that a book’s ranking will improve and that the author will develop a fan base, but–given that the author gets only 35% minus a penny or two for a transaction fee–it’s no way to make a living.

(Full disclosure: ebooks priced at $2.99 and higher pay 70% to the author, which is why you rarely see anything priced between rock bottom and $2.99–you’re either giving it away or you’re not.)

For a short story though, especially a reprint, 99¢ is a reasonable price from a reader’s perspective, and useful to the author if a sample of a higher-priced work is bundled with the short story.

Short stories have a word count up to 7,500, according to standards set by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. My story Goddesses is not short. In fact, it’s a 30,000 word novella, but it still makes a good subject for this price experiment. I’ve had it at $2.99 for most of the year, to take advantage of the 70% royalty, but yesterday I dropped it to 99¢ just to see if it makes any difference at all. Frankly, I’m not expecting much, but if anyone is interested in the statistics let me know and I’ll try to remember to post them here as time goes by.

So if you haven’t seen it yet, check out the Nebula-award-winning novella Goddesses–just 99¢ and available from these vendors:

Barnes & Noble
Amazon USA

Prices may have not filtered through to Amazon’s non-USA markets just yet, but here are the links:
Amazon UK
Amazon DE
Amazon FR

** Yes, there are free ebooks, but an author can’t set the price to free. The only way to do it is to figure out how to sell the ebook for free somewhere else and hope Amazon’s search engines find out. Then Amazon will automatically reduce the price of the book to match.

One Year In—Was It Worth It?

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

It was one year ago, October 2010, when I started “indie publishing,” determined to get my backlist out into the world again, and hopefully make a little income on the side to support my writing habit.

That first month began with a stint of designing book covers for The Nanotech Succession novels. I started with the covers because I figured that would be the hardest part of the ebook creation process. I spent a lot of time, had a lot of fun, and then later tossed them all out and replaced them with the vastly superior Bruce Jensen covers that the books now enjoy.

In the year since, I’ve published ebook versions of my six backlist novels, one novella, two short stories, and two original novels. I’ve also done print-on-demand versions of the four Nanotech Succession novels, The Dread Hammer, and my young-adult novel Skye Object 3270a.

Was it worth all the time and effort?

Looking only at return on investment thus far, the answer has to be “No.” Whatever pixie dust it takes to get sales rolling has not been sprinkled on me yet. I could have made far more money putting in the same hours at a minimum wage job.

But looking at it emotionally? Then the answer is “Hell, yes, it was worth it!” I feel like a writer again. I’m proud of the work I’ve done, I’m happy to have it available, and I have a lot more confidence in my future as a writer than I had last year. Confidence is a good thing. I don’t write well when I’m stressed, worried, and unhappy.

If you’re a midlist writer putting up your backlist and you too are feeling underwhelmed by sales, remember this: all this prep work is an investment, and investments don’t necessarily pay off in the first year. Being set up, poised, and ready for the day the buzz starts murmuring your name (or your pen name) is a good position to be in.

My goal now is to write more and try to generate that buzz. Part of that strategy is to knock on the doors of traditional markets and try to get back inside—but with eyes wide open this time. My newly adopted buzzword for the upcoming year: “Hybrid writer”—a combination of indie and traditional publishing with the united goal of making a living wage.

Aliens Among Us?

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Along the little country road down to South Point, on the island of Hawaii, are isolated homes surrounded by windblown pastures–and then there is this:

We’ve all seen eccentric homesteads, but this looked like a bit more than even the most devoted communications hobbyist might come up with. Fortunately for our curiosity, there was a small sign on the corner of the property identifying it as part of the “Universal Space Network.”

Being a science fiction writer I’m inclined to take such claims literally. Naturally, my first comment was, “Wow. Impressive. The Universe is a really big place.”

Sadly, the Universal Space Network does not seem to be truly Universal. The network doesn’t seem to include alien worlds, but only this familiar one. According to the website, it’s a US-based company, evidently specializing in satellite tracking…which makes a nice cover story anyway! Personally, I find it more fun to imagine aliens huddled inside that little green house, communicating with their home worlds across the star lanes.

South Point

Monday, October 10th, 2011

At South Point, Hawaii. Notice the rock wall behind us, and the lighthouse in the background. I forgot to bring my hat on this trip, thus the bandanna–which worked quite well in the extreme wind.

The farthest point south in the United States lies at latitude 19°–slightly south of Mexico City, on the parallel that passes through the lower Yucatan Peninsula and Haiti/The Dominican Republic. This is the southernmost tip of the Big Island of Hawaii, and is known simply enough as “South Point,” though sometimes it’s called by its Hawaiian name Kalae which is an equally simple nomenclature meaning “the point.”

Over the weekend the husband and I visited South Point as another “bucket list” item. Getting to South Point isn’t a difficult trek–the road from the main highway is narrow, but it’s smoothly paved most of the way. Part way down there’s a “rough road” sign. Being from Maui, this made us laugh. At the end, the road is “patch paved” but it’s still not bad.

This is me, about as far south as I could go:

The area is hot, dry, and extremely wind-blown with severe offshore currents.

Farther down the coast there’s supposed to be a green sand beach. We didn’t venture that far, but we did see patches of green sand strewn on the shore. I can only guess that the density of the olivine particles is different enough from the lava and coral bits that they tend to drop out of the waves at the same time to make these patches. At any rate, I’m fascinated by the close up view of sand:

Several people were fishing from the top of a cliff, using scaffolds to (I presume) raise and lower the lines. The lines are held by floats, which seem to be pulled out to sea by the current.

The wind blew powerfully from the shore out to sea. Standing at the top of the seacliff, the ocean did not look flat, but looked much higher just a tenth mile offshore–a very strange effect.

The Nanotech Succession: Print Version

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

I just wanted to announce that all four books of The Nanotech Succession are now available as trade paperbacks–at least in the USA. Three of the four are presently available in the UK and Australia, while the fourth–Tech-Heaven–will hopefully show up in those markets in a week or two.

The books are print-on-demand, produced by Lightning Source and published under my own imprint, Mythic Island Press LLC.

I was so very lucky with these books to have Bruce Jensen prepare the front covers. They are beautiful!

Here’s the series, all together:

Prices vary by vendor, but here are general links to my print books: USA
Amazon UK
Booktopia (Australia)
Barnes & Noble (USA)
Powell’s Books (USA)