ARC contest update

I am heading out of town rather last minute to visit an ailing friend. I will post the final round of entries when I get back next week, as well as determine the winners. Sorry about the delay.

Thanks for your patience. And if you can spare any good thoughts for a dear friend, please send them along.


And that, dear friends, is that. SWORN IN STEEL is off to my editor, to be subjected to her tender mercies. I think I’ll go sit in the corner and twitch now. (Although gotta say…the new final scene is a hoot. :)

No idea of release date or turn around on edits yet, but I’ll post them as soon as I know.

Sorry for the long and drawn out radio silence. I had my head down in the writing hole and I tend to get tunnel vision. Plus, it’s hard to put up updates that simply say, “Still working: don’t know when.” But I probably should have anyhow.

Thanks for being patient and for pestering me now and again. It helps to know people are still interested. I hope to be catching up with e-mails and posts the like over the next week or two, as well as some posts about the process, what happened, and the like (I just want my brain to cool down a bit first).

Stay tuned. And again, thanks for all the posts and notes!

Elizabeth Gilbert on Artists & the nature of “Genius”

This is an interesting TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert on how society views artists, and how there might be a better way. Not so much a solution as food for thought, but the more I do this writing thing, the more what she says here resonates. I especially like the classical view of “genius” that she cites.

The approach to art and inspiration she discusses at the end is something I hope to achieve at some point. Not there yet, but a worthy goal (and a sanity inducing one, I think).

I may have more thoughts to add when it isn’t on the wrong side of 12 AM; but in the meantime, enjoy.

Seems to be Noir Day on the ‘Net

Two bits on noir news today: one that makes me cringe a bit, and one that makes me happy:

The Cringe:
Apparently, Henry Holt has decided to publish a new Raymond Chandler novel featuring Philip Marlowe. The hitch is, this isn’t a recently discovered manuscript or unpublished work written by Chandler: it’s a new work to be written by John Banville. Now, I admit to not having read Mr. Banville’s work as of yet, so I can’t comment on his ability to pull this off. However, the Chandler fan in me cringes at the idea of someone picking up Marlowe and trying to run with him.

Chandler’s voice, especially when writing Marlowe, was unique. It was hard hitting, and along with Dashiell Hammett, helped define what we now think of as the quintessential hard boiled pulp PI. That’s not to say no one else can write in that style (heaven knows I’ve played with it myself), but there’s a difference between homage and reanimation. When you’re talking about one of the most distinct voices in early & mid 20th century American literature–a voice that arguably helped define a literary movement–not to mention one of that author’s signature characters, well, I find myself becoming more than a bit dubious when it comes to the impending effort & the choices involved.

Understand, this isn’t about Mr. Banville’s writing ability; likewise, I understand the commercial decision behind the move (after all, people are going to be talking about it, which can only help sales). Rather, it’s about taking a literary icon, putting on his suit, and walking about as if it were your own. Do we really need another Raymond Chandler novel, especially if it isn’t by Raymond Chandler? His body of work stands just fine on its own, with a clear and definite legacy. Does this taking on of a legend’s trappings do anything other than feed the bottom line and, perhaps, authorial vanity? After all, even if the book features Marlowe, it’s not going to be placed along side the rest of Chandler’s works. Even if the book is remarkable, it is still going to be Banville’s, not Chandler’s.

The thing is, I get loving an author and their world(s) so much you want to play in them. Fanfic is ample testament to that. And in some cases, especially with the author’s consent, I can even see it being made a going concern (Eric Flint’s 1632 series is a prime example). But there’s a difference between a shared world and an add-on. I, for example, would LOVE to be able to play in Corwin’s Amber; to dig deeper into Maurid Audran’s Budayeen; to help Aramis and D’artagnan dance with steel again; to walk the shady streets beside Marlowe and Spade and the Continental Op. But the creators of those worlds are dead, and the spark that made them truly shine have gone with them. Yes (ignoring for a moment the legal & artistic hurdles that would be involved, let alone the chutzpah it would take on my part to even consider attempting it), I could play there, but it would never be the same, would never be the true world I fell in love with because it would now be my world, not their creator’s. And no matter how hard I tried to hew close to the original, it would never quite fly.

I’ve often been accused of being a purist, and in this sense, I will fully claim that mantle. I love the idea of more work by Chandler and Hammett, by Dumas and Zelazny, by Effinger and Tolkien and Shakespeare and a host of others. But there isn’t going to be any more, and any effort to create it is just going to end up being a pale shadow, no matter how well done. Chandler is dead, but Marlowe still lives in the pages of his work: why must we try to create anew what was already done right the first time?

And now, since I promised you something noir that made me happy, I simply give you this without commentary, as I’ve gone on long enough:

Some thoughts post-Reddit

So I did the AMA Reddit thing last night and it was a lot of fun.

It was also exhausting.

Preliminary stats showed something like 500 unique posts in two hours, which they say comes to about 5000 words posted in that time. Oof. There were a lot of people contributing to that, but when you consider a lot of the questions had been posted in advance…yeah, oof.

But don’t worry: I’m not posting this to complain. Rather, I’m going to talk a little bit about what it was like, both since it was new to me, and I figure there might be three other people out there who are interested.

First, some background:

The AMA Reddit is basically a message board where people can post a question and (in this case) the various featured authors can respond. Naturally, other people respond to those responses, creating a dialog. Not exactly revolutionary if you’ve been doing anything on the internet (ever), but a nice format since it also tends to keep thing compartmentalized well. It was also a nice bit of reminiscence for me: I cut my e-teeth on and old intra-net system back in the ’80s called PLATO, which basically worked on a file type set up. Not quite the same, but close enough that this felt familiar. And, of course, I know there are still plenty of bulletin boards and the like out there still running, so this is nothing new.

But here’s the thing: in an age where we text and IM and, yes, even do face-to-face chats via our phones, you forget about some of the idiosyncrasies of a BB style system. You forget that you have to refresh to see new posts; that it takes a good amount of mental work to parse the various threads & see if a new response or question has gone up; that its easy to forget other people are contributing at the same time you are because you aren’t getting the instant feedback we’ve all grown so accustomed to. When you’re doing this at your leisure, checking in now & then, it’s no big deal; but when you’re trying to keep up in the moment? When you’re, essentially, one of the hosts of the party, trying to electronically mingle and chat with the various conversation groups scatter about the electronic room? Then it’s a different story.

I was very lucky last night in that I had nine other hosts to lean on. They both helped cover spots in the conversation while I was busy “chatting” elsewhere, and picked up the ball in sections I still haven’t made it to yet. They also helped spark new points of conversation and provided insights that, alternately, let me examine something deeper, move off in an interesting tangent, give me pause for reflection, of simply say, “Yeah, me too.” It very much felt like a party at a con, with lots of insights and laughs and fun circulating in the mix.

But it was still very much work. After two and a half hours, I felt myself flagging. My brain was getting mushy, and my typing (while never fast nor accurate) was becoming a downright disaster. Fortunately, we were told that two hours is about the peak initial range for an AMA, and I was able to duck out after a bit without feeling too guilty. There are still questions I need to go back and answer, not to mention answers I need to read (there wasn’t time to follow every thread, or at least, not for me), and I expect I’ll be poking away at those for the next couple of days when I need to take a break from revisions.

Overall, I think it was both a fun and successful first outing for us all, and I expect the other authors involved will tell you the same. I loved interacting with the readers, and now even feel closer with the “graduating class” of 2011 debut authors I’ve been hanging out with electronically for the past year-plus.

Sometimes, you hear authors complain about the non-writing work that comes with being a published author: the marketing, worrying about sales, wrangling with your publisher over [insert issue here], answering the same interview question for what seems like the 52nd time, and yadda yadda. And yeah, it can be a pain. But while last night’s AMA was work (and more/different work than I expected), it was also a pleasure.

Will it generate more sales for me? Will it get me a wider audience? Maybe. As with all things like this, there’s no way to know for certain. But ya know what? At this point I really don’t care because, at base, it was a lot of fun–and that’s why I write stories in the first place. So, yes, reddit AMA=work; but it’s very much worth it.

(If you want to check out the AMA reddit thread in question, it will be up here for, well, almost ever, I’m told. )