Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Archive for April, 2012

“Nightside On Callisto”–new short story at Lightspeed Magazine

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Cover of the May 2012 issue of Lightspeed MagazineAs I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I stopped writing short fiction at the end of the last century, but last fall I took it up again. The second story I wrote, “Nightside on Callisto,” has now become my first original short fiction to reach publication since my 2000 Nebula-award winner.

This feels like a very significant milestone for me.

Look for “Nightside on Callisto” in the May issue of Lightspeed magazine, now available here as an ebook. Lightspeed is an innovative short fiction market. Please support them by purchasing a copy of the magazine!

Sense of Place

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Many science fiction and fantasy writers will agree when I say that it’s a lot easier to write about a fictional place, then to put a story in a real world, present-day setting. It’s true that in a fictional world you have to go to the trouble of making up the details, but as long as you’re consistent, who’s to say you haven’t got it right?

But when you set a story in the real world, readers expect your story world to have a sense of place that reflects reality—especially if they’re acquainted with the reality of your setting from personal experience.

If you live in the place where your story is set, no problem. You might even be okay if you’ve visited the place long enough to get a real sense of it, and to understand where things are, and what the local customs might be.

But what if you’ve never been to the place where your story is set? And what if lots of other people have been there? Then it gets scary. You’ll be eager to throw in details because details will give your setting a personality and a sense that it is real; but at the same time you’ll want to withhold every detail you can so that no one can catch you having the traffic moving the wrong way on a one-way street, or azaleas blooming when they don’t grow in that city. In the end, it will be a balancing act.

I might be especially sensitive to this issue of “sense of place” because I’ve lived nearly all my life in Hawaii. When writers who don’t live here set stories in Hawaii, their settings often ring false to me. Even among writers who do live here, it sometimes seems like they’re setting their stories in some shared, idealized, imaginary Hawaii, rather than the real thing.

So am I advising you not to set your story in some place unfamiliar to you? Not at all! My rule is, if you can pull it off, go for it. But if you do, consider having someone who does know the place take a look at your story before you finish the final draft.

Limit of Vision by Linda NagataMost of my novels have been set in made-up story worlds. The two exceptions are Tech-Heaven, which takes place mostly in California and parts of South America, and Limit of Vision, which takes place mostly in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. I felt pretty comfortable with the settings used in Tech-Heaven, but Limit of Vision was another matter entirely. I was worried. I did my very best to portray a realistic setting. I had some leeway, because the story is set a few decades in the future, within a rapidly changing country. Still—I’ve never been to Southeast Asia. I was taking bits of things I knew and brewing whole settings out of them. So I went looking for someone from Vietnam to read the manuscript for me, and I was lucky enough to find a student in the English department at the University of Hawaii. Working from her feedback, I adjusted a few odds and ends, and felt much more confident in the story I was telling.

My most recent venture into reality has been a short story set in Manhattan. I’ve been there, once, fifteen or twenty years ago. Not enough to give me a real feel for the place at all! So I ran this story past a native. I’ve learned some inconvenient things from her critique, and the story will need adjustments to do a better job of rendering a sense of place. But in the end it will be better for it.

Of course, getting-to-know-the-setting is a great excuse to travel. If only I could figure out how to finance that level of research…

Short Story Update

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

The short story I talked about a few days ago has undergone some revision. It’s crept up in length (of course) and is now 5,900 words. I would have liked it shorter, but I’m not going to complain too much. It’s “done” to the extent that if I don’t rustle up a good beta reader in the next day or two, I’ll probably give in to the temptation to just send it off un-vetted.

The protagonist of this story is proving rather troublesome. He’s in my head, lobbying for his own novel now that I’ve messed up his nice life — and I have to admit I’m tempted, despite all the other projects I’m supposed to be working on.

Code Phrase: Clown Shoes

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Not too long ago, a friend who has had some impressive success as an indie writer on Amazon sent me a link to a blog post titled “Why No One Is Buying Your Book And What To Do About It” by Jeff Bennington.

After taking a few seconds to indulge in a dark scowl, I set my ego aside and read the post.

Jeff summarizes the problem like this:

I don’t mean to be cruel, but I have to be honest.
No one has ever heard of you.
Readers do not know you exist.

Well … duh?

I read through the post and my initial reaction was that it was just another superficial attempt to unravel why some books and authors take off in popularity and others don’t. There wasn’t any real meat to it — but the author freely admits he doesn’t have the magic formula, which I admire. Formulas are frequently offered in the indie publishing world, but just because a “formula” worked once doesn’t mean it will work again.

In talking about how writers can get themselves and their work noticed, Jeff uses a circus metaphor:

You have to go into the big world, put on a pair of stilts, and start shouting “Hey, everyone, look over here! I write suspense novels with jaw-dropping twists. Anyone interested?”

He finishes with the mental image of authors in clown suits splashing around in a vast “ocean of e-books.”

Not being in the best of moods, my first reaction was, Well, there’s another five minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

And yet … I kept thinking about that clown metaphor.

Most of the time, I’m a fairly reserved person. I like to do things for myself, and I don’t like to ask for favors — which makes promoting books problematical. Many writers tend to be introverts, and it’s always seemed grossly unfair that, in this modern day, we’re expected – even required – to go out into the world and push our books. Traditional writers have no advantage here: publishers have long been demanding that they have the elusive “author platform” too. But of course the world is what it is and “fair” isn’t part of the equation.

So I stewed over what Jeff had to say and gradually, the metaphor contained in his post transmuted in my head to the code phrase “clown shoes.” Never mind that Jeff doesn’t actually mention clown shoes anywhere in his post. My take-away from what he says is that despite our personal reserve, we have to find a way of getting the eyeballs of potential readers looking at us and our work. The code phrase is my way of keeping this in mind.

Here’s how it works:
Suppose that I hear of a method of book promotion that’s worked well for some writers. My customary response would likely be to think, Oh, I don’t know. I’d be pretty uncomfortable asking people to help out with that. And worse, what if nobody paid any attention to me?” Now, I’ve started consciously interrupting these negative thoughts with the code phrase, “Clown shoes!”

Meaning, for me, take some chances and don’t be afraid to fall on your face.

It’s “clown shoes!” for me when I ask you (the world at large) to help me out by contributing an Amazon review for one of my books in the hope that a multitude of reviews will enhance sales.

And it’s “clown shoes!” again when I write a blog post like this one, discussing the insecurities and emotional conflicts bubbling up behind the indie publishing experience.

But “try new stuff” is the ongoing mantra, and the code phrase “clown shoes!” helps me remember that.

The strangest part of all this is that, like most introverts, I don’t even like clowns.

Oh well.

First Draft of a Short Story & More Reviews Needed!

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

Last night I finally put together a complete draft of a new short story, finishing around 1am–and given that I can almost never sleep past 6am, I’m tired!

The story has a very near-future setting. I won’t make any judgments yet on its quality–it’s much too soon for that–but I did enjoy working on it, and I’m pleased to have a first draft.

Since last fall I’ve written four stories. Two were set in preexisting story worlds, and they were fun, and fast to write. The other two, including this one, are set in original worlds with characters that I’m making up as I go, and writing them has been a battle.

So I guess I should write more stories set in the worlds I already know?

And on the second subject of this post, I’m still looking for reader reviews! If you missed my prior post, I’m trying to get to twenty Amazon reader reviews on both the Puzzle Lands books, The Dread Hammer and Hepen the Watcher. The review count is creeping up. As of this morning The Dread Hammer has six reviews and Hepen the Watcher has three, but I’ve still got a long way to go. If you do review the books, check in here and post a comment to let me know, and you could win more books!

Thanks for stopping by.

A Puzzle Lands Push & A Book Giveaway!

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
Twenty Amazon Reviews: Can it happen?

What’s going on? Just this: I’m hoping to encourage you to help me reach a goal of twenty Amazon reviews, for each of the Puzzle Lands books–The Dread Hammer and Hepen the Watcher–by the ninth of May, just twenty-one days from now. It sounds like a daunting goal to me. Is it possible? Not without your help.

Right now The Dread Hammer has but four reviews, and Hepen the Watcher has only one (and thanks go out to Jennifer Stevenson, one of my very helpful beta readers, for that one!).

But here’s the thing:

Author Stephen Harper Piziks, a fellow Book View Café member, says that:

“Amazon makes recommendations based on the number of reader reviews a book gets. When a book reaches 20 reader reviews, Amazon’s computer starts recommending it. The content of the reviews doesn’t matter–only that the book got reviews.”

To test Stephen’s theory, I’m following his example and launching a contest to encourage you to help me by writing an Amazon review of either The Dread Hammer or Hepen the Watcher, or if you’re really into it, of both! The review doesn’t have to be elaborate. A couple of sentences conveying your general opinion should do it, though of course longer coverage is fine too.

If you haven’t had a chance to read the books yet, here are some sample chapters in epub (Nook) and mobi (Kindle) format to encourage you to try them. The samples are from Book View Café, but the books are of course available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble too. Click to download your preferred format:

Book 1: The Dread Hammer — EPUB SampleMOBI Sample

Book 2: Hepen the Watcher — EPUB SampleMOBI Sample

And after you’ve read…

Go here to review The Dread Hammer


Go here to review Hepen The Watcher

If you do review the books, PLEASE COME BACK HERE AND LEAVE A COMMENT letting me know which review is yours and if you have an address in the USA or not.

After May 9, I’ll go through the comments, randomly selecting one from a reviewer in the USA and one from a reviewer outside the USA.

(I discriminate only because of the very high cost of postage. I’d love to treat you all the same!)

The selected USA commenter will receive EITHER a print copy of both Puzzle Lands books OR a print copy of any ONE of the Nanotech Succession books OR the Tor® hardcover of Memory.

The selected non-USA commenter will get to select any two of Mythic Island Press LLC’s ebooks.

Is it possible to get to twenty reviews for each of the Puzzle Lands books in just twenty days?

I guess we’ll find out!

Update: April 28 — we’re ten days in and The Dread Hammer and Hepen the Watcher have collected seven reviews each! That’s much better than what we started with, but there’s still a long way to go. Thanks to everyone who’s reviewed and helped to spread the word. If you’ve read either book and haven’t reviewed them yet on Amazon, please consider doing so!

In Defense of the Gym

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

I was moved to write this post in reaction to an article cited over at Andrew Sullivan’s blog. The original article is called Clean Up Your Fitness Routine: The Case Against Gyms. Here’s the infamous quote:

Gyms are energy-sucking, disease-riddled, crowded, and often expensive. It’s an industry that exists because people pay a lot of money for the privilege of not meeting their personal health goals.

Energy sucking? Meaning, you’ve exercised so you’ve burned some energy? Uh, this is a feature, not a bug.

Disease riddled? Hmm—been to the mall lately? A movie theater? I’m going to play the mom here for a moment and tell you one of the best ways to avoid picking up random cold germs is to never touch your face (eyes, mouth, nose) if you haven’t just washed your hands with soap. I’m serious. Huge difference.

Expensive? I pay $33 and change per month at 24 Hour Fitness, on a month-to-month contract (my advice: don’t sign long-term gym contracts). If you’re paying thousands of dollars a year, as one respondent complained, find a different gym! You don’t need fancy. Come work out with us hoi polloi. We’re really not that bad.

Condescending gym rats: this was another complaint lodged by a respondent, and I have to say, give me a break! I don’t know about your gym, but at our gym we have an amazingly wide spectrum of people that includes polished, silver-haired executives, middle-aged women facing up to years of physical neglect, pods of steroid boys (they rarely seem to work out alone), the elderly, the seriously overweight of all ages, beautiful young men and women, and occasional youngsters. I do not see people getting harassed. I have never been harassed.

I’m out on the floor all the time, where the gender ratios are maybe 80/20 men to women. (Women seem to prefer the classes.) There are no issues. People are extremely polite. Sometimes a guy will be leaning on a machine, watching his buddy take a turn at another device. He’ll move immediately if I ask him. Sometimes someone who doesn’t know the rules will leave too many hundred-pound discs on a leg press. I just ask the nearest strong guy to move them for me. They’re always happy to help.

And every time I’m at the gym door at the same time as a man, he will open the door for me. Young guys, old guys, it doesn’t matter. I never cease to be impressed.

So if your gym is full of snobs or misogynists, find a different gym! And tell management why you’re leaving.

You might be wondering why anyone would bother going to a gym when they live on Maui. Why not just exercise outside? Well I do, part of the time. I jog the road. But I live on the side of a mountain. Everything is either uphill or downhill, so it’s hard. And unless I go outside very early or very late, it’s hot. And there’s traffic. Also there are no weight machines outdoors, and resistance training is a huge boon to fitness, especially as we age and lose muscle mass.

One great thing about a gym is that it has the power of place. When I walk into the gym, I’m there for one reason and one reason only, so it’s much easier to focus on a workout than it would be if I were using a weight machine at home.

The worst thing about the gym for me is that it’s a half-hour drive to get there, and with the price of gas these days, the round trip costs around $10. So I only go once or twice a week, when we’re going to town for other reasons, but I continue to pay my monthly membership fee, because the results are worth it to me.

Physical fitness should be encouraged. If the gym doesn’t work for you, that’s okay, find another way. But for many of us, gyms remain a great place to get, and stay, in shape.