Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Archive for July, 2016

Limit of Vision’s New Book Cover

Monday, July 25th, 2016

Back in June, I collected your opinions on potential new book cover designs for Limit of Vision, using part of the existing cover art, created by Sarah Adams.

After deciding on a direction, I then sent the project to graphic designer Emily Irwin to “professionalize” the concept. I’m very pleased with the result, which you can see here:

Limit of Vision by Linda Nagata

A new version of the ebook, featuring the new cover, should be available shortly at most ebook vendors. Find links and more information here.

I’m hoping to do a print-on-demand version this fall.

Strange Days

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

“Nonlinear war” is a concept I used in Going Dark. This weekend seems like the perfect time to revisit Peter Pomerantsev’s 2014 Foreign Policy article discussing the idea. In “How Putin Is Reinventing Warfare” he says:

“…look closer at the Kremlin’s actions during the crisis in Ukraine and you begin to see a very 21st century mentality, manipulating transnational financial interconnections, spinning global media, and reconfiguring geo-political alliances […] This is a world where the old geo-political paradigms no longer hold. As the Kremlin faces down the West, it is indeed gambling that old alliances like the EU and NATO mean less in the 21st century than the new commercial ties it has established with nominally ‘Western’ companies.”

Read it in full here.

“On Proposal” vs “On Spec”

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

If you’re aiming for the traditional publishing market, there are two basic approaches. You can try to sell your novel “on proposal” or you can try to write it “on spec.”

“On Proposal” is an option that generally is only available to writers with a track record. Either you’ve sold novels before, or you’re an admired short story writer, or your nonfiction credentials carry weight, or maybe you’re a celebrity. What constitutes a proposal can vary widely. I think it’s safe to say that the bigger a writer’s name value, the briefer the proposal. But typically, a proposal involves writing a synopsis of the novel, as well as the first two or three chapters. It’s a running joke among writers that the story told in this initial synopsis will have only a minor resemblance to the story told in the finished novel.

Many, perhaps most, novelists look at selling on proposal as the way it’s done — get your contract first, get an advance on your work, and then write the book. That way, you know you’re not wasting your time writing something that no one will buy. Writing on proposal is smart.

I like writing on spec.

Just one more of my bull-headed quirks. 🙂

Writing “on spec” means you’re embarked on a speculative venture, that you’re investing time and money in writing and completing a novel that is not under contract, so all the risk is yours. Maybe no one will buy it. May it will turn out far better than anyone expected and it will sell quickly and well. Who knows?

For me, the great thing about writing on spec is that all the choices are mine. I can take the novel in whatever direction I want, explore whatever genre I want, and I can set my own deadlines. It’s a risk|freedom equation. And I know that if I don’t get an offer, or if I don’t get one I like, I still own the story and I can publish it myself.

It’s true this means I’ll get no advance on my work, but most advances don’t offer enough money to actually live on, so this doesn’t weigh too heavily. It does, however, make the monthly sales of my backlist books — those older titles that I’ve republished under my own imprint — more important, since that’s what generates my income between the rare checks from publishers.

As always, every writer’s circumstance and path through this industry is different, and there’s no best way.

Work-In-Progress Report

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

The new novel has taken far, far longer to write than I ever expected — and that’s the reason I started writing these progress reports. They are a means to keep myself accountable, and a means of encouragement.

I completed a really solid draft of the novel in early July, and in my last report I said that I was going through lists of issues that I knew I needed to address. I’ve taken care of most of those, but there are still a few points that need attention. Most of the remaining items are cultural questions — I want to make sure I’m using names and terms correctly. There are also a few concepts I’d like to expand on.

Last weekend, though, I realized I was running out of time. My goal is to get this manuscript to my agent just after Labor Day, which suddenly felt ominously close, given that the manuscript still needed to go to beta readers and my freelance editor. So I decided it was “done enough.”

This was a radical decision, because I have not done a beginning-to-end read-through of the manuscript yet.

My standard procedure is to read through the entire manuscript on-screen, and then read it again in printed version, before I consider it ready to be seen by others. So maybe I’m starting to lighten up after all these years?

Anyway, on Thursday night I sent the manuscript off to three beta readers, and next week it will go back to my freelance editor, who saw the partial last spring. It’ll probably be two to three weeks before I hear back, so it’s much too soon to get nervous. 😉

My original plan was to keep working on the novel in the interim, but I’ve promised a couple of short stories, so I may tackle at least one of those instead. A break from the novel might be the best thing, before the mad rush to address the critiques I’ll be receiving.

In the meantime, we’re expecting Tropical Storm Darby to blow through Maui today and tonight. The rain started before 7AM this morning, which surprised me. I hope we don’t lose electricity!

Where I Stand

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

Several years ago I made the decision to avoid the subject of politics in my social media, in large part for reasons of self protection. For me, political discussion consumes emotional energy, and I continue to be distracted by the conversation long after it ends. I need to direct that emotional energy into my books instead, and besides, those books are full of politics.

So I’ve had very little to say publicly about this presidential campaign. After this past week, though, and all that has happened at the Republican National Convention, I am frightened for my country, and at this point I feel I have a moral obligation to say where I stand. I can’t imagine that anyone who’s read my books would think otherwise, but for the record, I’m voting for Hillary Clinton.

Is Hillary Clinton my ideal candidate? No, although I think she rates highly and I won’t have any qualms when I mark my ballot. As a general principle, I don’t approve of dynastic political families. Political dynasties are too close to the old aristocracies that this country fought a war of independence to be rid of. That said, Hillary Clinton is well-educated, smart, experienced, and rational. I don’t doubt that she has the best interests of America in mind, and that she’ll make a fully competent president.

Regarding her opponent, I freely admit that I have never liked or admired him (quite the opposite). I’m not going to go over all the objectionable things that were said and done at the Cleveland convention. You can find those all over the Internet, or go check out this essay at War is Boring: Doomsaying Speech Was Both Enormous and Empty.

For the life-long Republicans out there, I just want to say that a political party is not a football team. Unlike a football team, there’s no virtue in supporting a political party through thick and thin. A political party exists to represent your views. You do not exist to serve and support the views of those who have taken over your party. If you don’t like what they’re telling you? Be free and independent, and walk. Here’s a resignation letter from a thirty-year, politically active member of the Republican party, posted today.

In The Red trilogy I had fun using the term “mediot” which is a contraction of “media” + “idiot”. I first used this term way back in the late 90s in my novel Deception Well and it’s been one of my disappointments that no one else uses it! Cable news is where mediots are commonly found. My advice: Don’t watch cable news. Their coverage is incredibly poor, and much of it is click bait. Read instead, from respectable publications. Read The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, Defense One. Read legitimate newspapers.

America faces problems and challenges. We always have and we always will. We can handle it. We are not a weak and fearful people.

Tribe by Sebastian Junger

Monday, July 11th, 2016

TRIBE by Sebastian JungerEvolutionary biologist Stephen J. Gould used Kipling’s term “just-so stories” to describe explanations of biological forms and functions that sounded good, but didn’t hold up to closer examination. This was on my mind as I finished Sebastian Junger’s latest book, Tribe.

Junger is the author of the excellent and highly recommended War, a narrative of his time as an embedded reporter in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. Tribe is a short book by comparison. It looks at human societies and especially the egalitarian social structure of some tribes. It also considers the impact of struggle on group cohesiveness, the experiences of soldiers both at the frontline and after coming home from war, gender roles, and many other things. It’s a quick read, always fascinating, and packed with interesting and provocative anecdotes — but by the end I was suspicious that I’d read something close to a “just-so story.”

Early on, Junger talks about the effect of disasters on human society, using examples of strategic bombing during World War II and a study by Charles Fritz that looked at the way people behave during natural disasters:

Fritz “was unable to find a single instance where communities that had been hit by catastrophic events lapsed into sustained panic, much less anything approaching anarchy […] people overwhelmingly devoted their energies toward the good of the community…”

The idea this leads to is that in such situations, innate tribal bonds rise to the surface, and people are more willing to work and sacrifice for the group, rather than working for themselves alone.

Junger follows with a poignant observation: “The beauty and the tragedy of the modern world is that it eliminates many situations that require people to demonstrate a commitment to the collective good.” In other words, we are safe and wealthy enough that we can live in isolation, but that means we’re living in isolation, with the implication that this is an unhappy existence.

The book contains discussions of gender roles, leadership styles, the appeal of tribal social structures, and also the toxic political environment we presently endure:

“People speak with incredible contempt about — depending on their views — the rich, the poor, the educated, the foreign-born, the president, or the entire US government. It’s a level of contempt that is usually reserved for enemies in wartime […] Unlike criticism, contempt is particularly toxic because it assumes a moral superiority in the speaker…”

There is a lot here to like and a lot to think about, but for me, romanticizing tribal societies is troubling. As soon as I finished Tribe, I went to look for a counterpoint — I was sure I’d find one — and I did. In response, Ann Marlowe at Tablet, asks “Do We Really Want To Be Members of a Tribe?” and takes a hard look at many points of the book.

Nevertheless, I recommend Tribe — it will give you much to think about.

Work-In-Progress Report

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

After finally finishing a solid draft of the novel-in-progress last Saturday, I took two days off from writing, and then commenced revisions (fixes is how I think of it) on Tuesday.

It feels like I’ve been fixing things for a lot longer than six days! That said, I really, really like the way this book continues to come together. To be honest**, I didn’t have a clear idea of where this novel would lead when I started working on it, so it’s a relief to find that I like where I am.

Right now I have two ancillary files in which I’ve listed points I need to address, and I also have Word comments in the main manuscript that I need to take care of, so there’s a lot left to do before I begin a start-to-finish read-through. That said, I feel the manuscript is now completely comprehensible to an outside reader, and that means it’s time for me to start the quest for beta readers and expert consultants. This is always an awkward point for me because I don’t have a writing group to turn to. It makes me realize how much I still miss my early writing group. But I think I’ve had one or two offers from people to read the next one. I’ll have to dig into my email to figure that out.


** there is a meme on Twitter that goes “If you use the phrase ‘to be honest’ it means you’re lying the rest of the time. I say that’s bullshit. ‘To be honest’ is a colloquialism that means ‘While I suspect you would rather not hear this truth, I’m going to tell it to you anyway.’ Or, ‘While I’m uncomfortable telling you this, I will anyway…’

English is complicated. 🙂

Giveaway Winners

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Thank you to everyone who entered to win a set of The Red trilogy audio CDs!

As you may recall, I was giving away one set of audio CDs to a current subscriber to my newsletter, and one set to a new subscriber, who signed up during the contest period.

Twenty-five current subscribers let me know they wanted to participate, and the twelve new subscribers who signed up during this period were automatically entered.

Today I determined the winners. The process I used was to first assign numbers to entries, following the order I received them. Then I sent my son to and had him generate two random numbers, one for each group.

Josh was the winner for new subscribers, and Barry won among those who are already subscribed. Congratulations to both, and your CDs are on the way.

Work-In-Progress Report:
Draft Done!

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

I am finally DONE with the first really solid draft of the new novel. Fixes start next week, but I’m so happy to have reached this point. This has been a tough one.

I reported in my prior post that I was about to begin writing “the last five to ten-thousand words.” Not too surprisingly, that turned out to be over 11,000 words. Right now, the total word count is about 130,500, which is not long by the standards of epic fantasy, but it’s long for me. By comparison, my longest novel, Memory, was 132,000 words, and I won’t be at all surprised if the new one surpasses that in its final form.

The goal of course is to have just enough words and not too many. The real reason I get hung up on word count is that I find shorter novels so much more pleasant to work with in the revision stage. (Meaning EASIER.)

Oh, and I just checked the date of my last post and realized I’ve written 11K words in slightly over a week, which is a feat for a slow writer like me. This involved mostly twelve hour work days, with no exercise.

But the rush is over. I’m taking two days off, and then on Tuesday it’s back to a reasonable schedule with regular work outs.