Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Archive for March, 2012

Newsletter #2

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

And I just sent off my second author newsletter!

My first newsletter went out last October, so as you can see, I don’t email often. So if you’d like an easy way to keep up with my work, I encourage you to add your name to my email list. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever send out an email more than once a month, and very likely it will be less than that–and of course if you ever want to be taken off the list, just let me know.

Follow this link for the sign-up form, and to see what both newsletters look like.


Hepen the Watcher
Print Edition Now Available

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Book cover for Hepen the WatcherThe print edition of my latest novel, Hepen the Watcher: Stories of the Puzzle Lands – Book 2 can now be ordered from Amazon US and UK, and Barnes & Noble. In the next few weeks it should also be listed at in Australia, and at Powell’s Books’ online store in the USA.

Here are the links so far:

Barnes & Noble

Amazon USA

Amazon UK

Books By Gender

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

I like to read adventure novels. Science fiction, fantasy, historical: I enjoy them all. The important thing for me is a good, meaningful story, which by definition requires well-drawn, interesting characters. I like to think that it doesn’t matter to me if an author is a man or woman. I choose particular books because people whose opinions I respect have recommended them, or because I want to see an example of an author’s work, or just because I happen to stumble on a book that sounds intriguing.

But it’s always a good idea to pause now and then, and check perceptions against fact. Inspired by discussions around the web about reviewers paying more attention to books written by men than by women, I decided to check my own reading record. So I went over the books I posted as “read” on over the last year.

(I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a slow reader.)

I recorded eleven books written by men, three of them by the same author, and six written by women, again three by the same author. I started a lot more books than this, using downloads of sample chapters, but these are the books I finished. All but two are science fiction or fantasy—and clearly, in this past year, I’ve been reading more books by men.

What does it mean? I don’t know that it means anything—but here’s another interesting statistic. (Interesting to me, anyway.) Of these seventeen books, only three had female lead characters. I find that … startling. Several of the books had strong and prominent female characters, but they were nevertheless secondary to the main male character.

At this point, I can’t help going back and taking a look at my own novels. Out of nine, three have male lead characters, three have female leads, and three have shared leads—though these last three are probably weighted toward the male side.

Why do I choose the characters I choose? I’m not entirely sure. I choose characters I like. I choose characters that take up residence in my head. Sometimes I debate with myself on what gender I should choose.

Memory was written in first person, from a female point of view. I wanted to do a first-person novel, and I have a vague recollection of being put-off by the idea of writing an entire novel as male first-person. Fast-forward to today: the current work-in-progress happens to be first person from a male point of view. I’ve recently discovered there’s a term for this: “cross-gender narration.” I wonder if it’s a mistake, from a marketing perspective, but it is what it is.

Over the coming year I’ll continue to sample books from a spectrum of authors and genres, and now and then I’ll make myself read a book just because I think I should. But mostly, I’ll continue to read just what I like and maybe next year the tally will look different.

Snakes in Hawaii

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Mostly you’ll hear there are no snakes in Hawaii, and it’s true that there are no native snakes, and other than the occasional illegally imported and escaped pet — usually a python or boa constrictor — there are no introduced snakes here either. Except for one very interesting species: the island blind snake.

I grew up in Hawaii, but I never saw one until a few years ago when I was digging out a new garden. I turned over a shovel-full of soil and two tiny creatures, best described as looking like earthworms on steroids, went into a wriggling frenzy.

They were island blind snakes: tiny, burrowing snakes, with vestigial eyes, “almost always under eight inches” according to A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians in the Hawaiian Islands by Sean McKeown. They prefer “slightly moist soil or leaf litter” — so it amazes me that they live here in Kula, because we have suffered so many years of ongoing drought and dry soil. They’re believed to be native to the Phillipines and likely arrived here in soil around the roots of plants. They’re considered harmless.

Three more turned up today, and I took some pictures before we let the snakes go:

Island Blind Snake

This photo is for scale. The white cloth is the little finger of a work glove.

Island blind snake--overview

This is a slightly closer view of the entire snake; the head is at the bottom.

Head and tail of an island blind snake

Here's a closer look at the head (on the bottom) and the tail. Note the snake's scales.

Vestigial eye of the island blind snake

The arrow points to what I think is the dark spot of the snake's vestigial eye.

What’s An Ebook Worth?

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

I don’t pay close attention to new releases, but lately I’ve had the feeling that the price of ebooks from traditional publishers is going up–or maybe it’s just the prices of particular books? I presume this is the result of agency pricing, but I’m okay with that.

I think I’ve mentioned here and there that I’m not averse to paying $7.99 for a novel that I really want to read and I’ve bought several in this price range. I even bought one or two for $9.99 when I first got my Kindle in the fall of 2010. I think prices dropped for a time after that, and I didn’t think I’d ever be lured into paying more than $9.99 for a novel.

But I was wrong.

Yesterday I set aside my principles on ebook pricing and paid $10.99 for the third Sandman Slim novel, Aloha From Hell, because I really wanted to read this book now. And you know what? The author, Richard Kadrey, deserves to make some real money on this series. I hope he’s doing just that.

I would have felt better paying less, and I suspect there aren’t very many books that I have to have right now — but as I’ve said before, when it comes to reading, it’s my time that’s the limiting factor. If I have to pay more to read the books I really want to read in the time I have available, well, evidently I will.

New At Book View Café

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

The ebook version of Hepen the Watcher is now available at Book View Café, so if you’ve been waiting to get a copy, now’s your chance! It’s available in both epub and mobi formats.

Special note for those of you outside the “Amazon countries”: there is no download fee if you buy from BVC. You pay a straight $4.99 USD like everyone else.

And to everyone, if you want to wade in cautiously, BVC also offers free sample chapters in epub and mobi formats.

Today though is not just about my book. It’s mostly dedicated to BVC’s newest member, Lois Gresh, the New York Times Best-Selling Author of 27 books and 45 short stories. Her books have been published in approximately 20 languages. Lois has received the Bram Stoker Award, Nebula Award, Theodore Sturgeon Award, and International Horror Guild Award nominations for her work. She debuts at BVC with her collection Eldritch Evolutions, her first short story collection.

And that’s not all! Also debuting today at BVC is a fantasy novel, Swords Over Fireshore by Pati Nagle. Pati’s stories have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Cricket, and others. She was a Writers of the Future and Theodore Sturgeon Award finalist. Her novels include the Blood of the Kindred series (The Betrayal, Heart of the Exiled), and urban fantasy Immortal.

Please stop by and visit us at Book View Café.

So Nice…

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Mostly, I’m a nice person. Odds are excellent that I won’t cheat you, sabotage you, or stab you in the back. I’m not very good at holding grudges either. Frankly, grudges, old hates, enemies, that sort of thing, just take up so much emotional energy, why bother? Unfortunately, this attitude sometimes gets in the way of my writing. While I find that it’s not all that hard to destroy worlds in the course of a story, allowing my characters to behave badly, or inflicting true tragedy on them — that takes work!

In one of my early novels I reached a point, maybe two-thirds through, when I just couldn’t write anymore. This went on for some time until I realized the problem: I was conflicted about the fate of a beloved character. The plot called for one ending, while my heart longed for another. Eventually, I skipped ahead and wrote the necessary ending. After fate was set, finishing the draft was easy.

My tendency toward “nice” also gets in the way of developing secondary characters — I do so like reasonable, thoughtful people! In the current work-in-progress I was developing a secondary character who was nice: logical, reasonable, considerate—but I wasn’t making any progress with the section and finally it occurred to me that maybe nice wasn’t what I needed. I can assure you the character isn’t nearly so nice now, and I’ve been able to move on to the next part of the story.

Probably my most intense conflict with “nice” came about in the writing of my just-released novel Hepen The Watcher, a sequel to The Dread Hammer. Both books follow the adventures and tribulations of an antihero protagonist named Smoke.

Like many of us, I love antiheroes. They don’t worry at all about “nice,” but deep down they’re decent respectable people. Sort of. At least occasionally. Well, anyway, in Hepen The Watcher I reached a point where I couldn’t go on. (Yes, we’ve got a theme going here. For me, lack of progress generally means I’m trying to progress in the wrong direction.) This time around, I knew exactly what the problem was: Smoke had to deal with the fate of a secondary character. He could (a) show some extreme character development and be nice; or he could (b) show a bit of character development by feeling a rare twinge of guilt for what he was doing.

My natural inclination was to go with (a). But as I thought about it, I reminded myself that it wasn’t a question of what I would do, it was a question of what Smoke would do…and in the end I opted for (b). Writing that scene was wrenching, for me, the nice writer. I still cringe a little when I think about it—but sometimes it takes a ruthless character to insist on the necessary ruthless course of action.

Hepen the Watcher: the ebook is out!

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012


It’s been longer than I’d hoped, but the ebook edition of Hepen the Watcher: Stories of the Puzzle Lands – Book 2 is now out and available at (USA), Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble. It’ll be out at Book View Café next Tuesday, March 20.

Stories of the Puzzle Lands began with The Dread Hammer and continues with Hepen the Watcher. Here’s the back cover description:

The demon Dismay’s murderous nature has earned him the ire of his beloved wife, who has sent him away in a fit of temper. In his exile he ventures south into the land of Lutawa, drawn there by the prayers of abused and desperate women who beg him to grant them vengeance against the men who cruelly rule their lives–and Dismay is pleased to do it.

Still, murder is hard and dirty work.

When an avid desire for a bath brings him to a fine Lutawan estate, he meets two beautiful young women. Ui and Eleanor are well-acquainted with the whispered tales of the demon Dismay, who slays men but never women, and they’re delighted to entertain their fearsome guest, but they warn him to beware.

Lutawa is ruled by an immortal king, who punishes treason with the terrible weapon of infernal fire. Believing this king to be the same cruel deity known in the north as Hepen the Watcher, Dismay resolves to kill him–and accidentally draws Ui and Eleanor into his schemes.

Those who help Dismay risk a fiery death, those who hinder him risk the demon’s bloody retribution, while Dismay, still yearning for his wife’s forgiveness, discovers that love can be as hazardous as the wrath of Hepen the Watcher.

Read Sample Chapters Here

Digital painting by Sarah Adams
Cover art ©2012 Mythic Island Press LLC


Monday, March 12th, 2012

Just had to share this detail illustration from the print cover of Hepen the Watcher. On the front cover, the ax is clutched in the hands of my anti-hero protagonist. I like to include a decorative element on the back cover, and the ax seemed ideal, so I tried to separate the layers in the Photoshop master file, and pull the ax out. That didn’t work as well as I’d hoped, so I went back to the artist, Sarah Adams, and asked if she could pull out the detail of the ax, and isolate it for use on the back cover–which is exactly what she did, and overnight too.

The shame is that I can’t show you the full-resolution image because the file is too big. But trust me, it’s awesome. And if you ever need some illustration work, give Sarah Adams a tweet at @sarahadams23

Book Rave: Sandman Slim

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

(cross-posted from Book View Café)

Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim was released to wide acclaim in 2009, but I only discovered it last week, and that happened in a roundabout way:

My own novel Hepen the Watcher: Stories of the Puzzle Lands – Book 2 should be out later this month. When Book View Café authors have a new release, one of the promotional strategies we use is to give away a hundred copies of the ebook via the Early Reviewers program at One of the requirements of this program is to supply a list of five titles somewhat similar to the book being promoted so that, with luck, the book will find those reviewers most likely to enjoy it.

Hepen the Watcher and its predecessor The Dread Hammer are unusual books. They’re sort of like sword and sorcery, because they have swords, and, well, sorcery — or magic anyway. But they’re not very traditional. Both are short, fast-paced, violent, and shot through with dark humor and feminist themes. I asked a couple of people who’d read them if they had any suggestions for similar books. The answer in both cases was, “Um, not really.”

So I turned to Google, searching on terms such as “fantasy” and “dark humor.” Sandman Slim kept showing up in the results, so even though the setting was entirely different from my books, I downloaded a sample, started to read it, and was immediately hooked.

The book is the story of James Stark, who was spirited away to Hell through the machinations of “friends” who turned out to be not-so-friendly after all. Stark is the only living human to ever set foot “Downtown,” and he survives there for eleven years before escaping back into the world in search of revenge.

And that is all I’m going to tell you about the plot, but I will add that if you’re offended by the movie Dogma, you probably won’t like this book. Sandman Slim is irreverent, violent, funny, clever, and so compelling that it’ll probably take me a couple days to catch up on my sleep.

It’s also a wonderful example of the sympathetic antihero. Not long ago I started to read another acclaimed book whose title shall go unmentioned. This one was also violent, but not at all funny, and I found no sympathetic or likable characters anywhere at all in the opening chapters. I didn’t finish that book. By contrast, James Stark, despite his violence, is a character to root for because he really does give a damn, he knows when he’s done wrong, he feels guilt, and he’s capable of love.

And for the writers out there, if you ever want a lesson on how to weave in the back story in a first-person narrative, Kadrey does a wonderful job of it in this book.

My only complaint about Sandman Slim is on the quality of the ebook. I read the Kindle version, and found it loaded with an unbelievable number of repeated, out-of-place, and incorrect words. Any competent proofreader should have picked up most of these, so I can only surmise there was no proofreader for the ebook.

But don’t let this stop you. If you read ebooks, then grab a sample. You’ll know within a few pages if this is a book for you. Print versions are also available, of course.