Archive for July, 2010

27
Jul

Just What I Need, Another Addiction. Flash Fiction!

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III    in Flash Fiction, My Work

Today I attempted my first ever five-minute flash fiction. It was hard (I’m not a fast writer), but now I’m hooked and I’ll have to try to get better at this.

A writer friend (and a vicious-good critique partner), Leah Petersen (@LeahPetersen) hosts these events on her blog every Tuesday (Twitter hashtag: #5minutefiction).

R.B. Wood (@rbwood), for one, is really good at this, and he’s won the last two weeks in a row (and he’s a finalist again this week).

You can check out this week’s five finalists and vote for your favorite if you do it by 9:30 Eastern.

I also have an account at Liberty Hall, which hosts a lot of flash fiction events. I might have to give them a try too. There’s a lot of science fiction and fantasy writers over there. Liberty Hall’s current open event has a 90-minute time window on it, which would be fun to experiment with.

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24
Jul

Three Nifty WordPress Plugins

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III    in Blogging

I’m pretty new to blogging, but I’ve found a few plugins that I really like.

CommentLuv

This allows people who comment on your blog to provide a link to one of their recent blog posts under their comment. It’s a nice community-builder, and if you register your blog with their site, then you get to choose from your last ten blog posts.

Follow Me

See the Follow Me graphic on the side? It lets you input any number of social links, or even just plain old links. Mine links to my RSS, Facebook profiles (2), Twitter, Shelfari, GoodReads, and YouTube.

Comment Notifier

Not to be confused with “Comments Notifiers” (notice my recommendation is singular). This allows users to check a box (or you can set the box to be checked by default) to receive email notifications of responses to blog posts they have commented on. Just be sure to customize it to your liking.

I’m also using fbLikeButton, Add to Facebook, TweetMeme Retweet Button, Arkayne Plugin, and WP-PageNavi, among others.

What about you? Any plugins you recommend?
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23
Jul

The Answer, My Friend, is Grasping for the Wind

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III    in My Work

I’m taking my talents to South Beach–wait, no, I can’t play with D-Wade because I’m an alpha dog–to Grasping For the Wind. It’s a great site for fantasy and science fiction news and reviews, and I’m thrilled to be a monthly columnist at John Ottinger III’s always fresh blog/site.

He welcomed me to the fold today.

And then–as if by magic–I made my first post, featuring my video interview with Eric Flint on publishing and new writers. I also link in that article to video interviews I conducted with Brandon Sanderson and David Farland.

Do check out John’s site. He reads and reviews books at a brain-breaking pace, he’s reviewed for PW and many leading SFF publications, and he is awesome.
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20
Jul

Whither the Aliens? Was it the Bomb or the Xbox?

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III    in Weird

I found an interesting link from a commenter (Rachel) on Mark Charan Newton’s blog post about gaming addiction in South Korea. It’s an article from Seed Magazine on Why We Haven’t Met any Aliens. While I find the article’s central argument about aliens just silly-fun-interesting, it makes a very interesting point about “fitness-faking technology.” I think Rachel does a good job of summarizing one of the many implications of this:

There was an interesting article in SEED magazine about something … which suggested entertainment systems (and I suppose we can included fictional worlds) are fitness-faking systems: they make us think we’re biologically fitter than we are (if we read about being strong, we think we are strong; if we read about finding a mate, we feel like we’re found one).

As to our brothers from other planets, this comment is from the Seed Magazine article itself:

After Hiroshima, some suggested that any aliens bright enough to make colonizing space ships would be bright enough to make thermonuclear bombs, and would use them on each other sooner or later. Maybe extraterrestrial intelligence always blows itself up … I suggest a different, even darker solution … Basically, I think the aliens don’t blow themselves up; they just get addicted to computer games.

That brings up something interesting that I hadn’t thought about before. Assuming there are intelligent forms of life scattered about the phsyical universe, would the most advanced lifeforms mainly find ways to be self-sufficiently happy, or would they travel around the universe spreading their gospel (or might they not need to physically travel to influence other cultures?)? I’d like to think that an enlightened human society would do some of both: enjoying their own creations, while looking to share them with others. Of course, any species just like us would probably exploit every space rock they could find.

I’m going to be pissed if the aliens come, and it turns out they’re all Dick Cheney.

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19
Jul

William Faulkner: (Why) I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III    in On Authors

From PW:

The University of Virginia has digitized and posted a whole heap–many hours worth–of lectures Faulkner delivered as writer in residence at the University in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Alongside his comments on literature an the practice of writing, you can hear the Nobel-winner reading from his novels, including The Sound and the Fury.

I pulled some of my favorite answers from just a single Q&A session that Faulkner participated in at a Literature class. You can also use the previous link to hear the original audio from his answers.
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Frederick Gwynn: Do you remember any kind of feeling of satisfaction when you finally finished The Sound and the Fury? I think most readers feel a—a great equilibrium at the end there. Do you recall any such feeling yourself?

William Faulkner: No, I don’t. That’s the—the one that I love the best for the reason that it was the most splendid failure. I think that—that they all failed. Probably the reason the man writes another book is that he tried to—to tell some very important and very moving truth and failed. He’s not satisfied, so he tries again. He writes another book, trying to tell some—the same moving truth, since there’s only one truth, and they fail. And this one I worked hardest at. It’s—it’s like the—the idiot child that the parents love the best. This one was the—the most splendid failure, but I—I wish I hadn’t done it because if I could do it now, I think I could do it better. Of course, I couldn’t, [audience laughter] but I would like to try it again if I had never written it.

Unidentified participant: Mr. Faulkner, in your speech at Stockholm you expressed great faith in mankind, that you thought man not only was here to prevail because he had the capacity for compassion and sacrifice and endurance. Do you think that’s the impression the average reader would get after reading The Sound and the Fury?

William Faulkner: I can’t answer that because I don’t know what the—what the average reader gets from—from reading the book. I—I agree that what I tried to say, I failed to say, and I never have had time to read reviews, so I don’t know what impression people might get from the book. But—but, in my opinion, yes, that’s what I was talking about in all of the books, but I failed to say it. I agree with you, I did fail. But that’s what I was trying to say, that man will prevail, will endure because he is capable of compassion and honor and pride and endurance.

Unidentified participant: I said, how do you feel about your books after they’ve gone to press? Do you reread them and puzzle over them or do you [...]?

William Faulkner: No, I don’t because by that time I know the book was not as good as it should’ve been, and so I’m usually busy at another one. [audience laughter]

Unidentified participant: As a general rule, you never re-read?

William Faulkner: No, that’s—that one book the writer don’t have to read any more. [audience laughter]

Unidentified participant: Sir, what are some of the problems that a person who is trying to publish his first novel would run into? In other words, how may he to his—to his best advantage to get his first work in publication?

William Faulkner: It’s difficult to say. I think that if the writer is too interested in getting that book printed to where that takes up that much of his time, that he’s not really a first-rate writer. Probably the first-rate writer is angry and mad, but—but only when he brings himself to think about that first book. He’s—he’s working on the second one by that time. He’s still trying to tell that truth, which by—by then he knows he failed in the first one, so he’s—he’s not interested in—in that book anymore. He wants it printed, of course. The mechanics of it is simply to send it to a publisher and then forget about it and work on the next one, and when it comes back, send it to another publisher. [audience laughter] Forget about it until you know that there’s something basically wrong in that book, something unprintable about it, and then put it away and write another one, and maybe after you have written another one, you will have learned more about the trade. You can see what might’ve been mechanically wrong in the first one. You can go back to that. I’ve done that once, but I don’t think that you should worry too much about getting the stuff printed. The main thing is to write it.

Unidentified participant: Sir, do you rate Hemingway any higher since the publication of his last book, The Old Man and the Sea?

William Faulkner: Not in—by the—the formula I use. I think that the last book was—was his best, and now if we’re talking of—of Hemingway, yes, that was his best, that—that he has steadily improved, and the last, in my opinion, was the best, and the next one should be still better, but it doesn’t [look] [...], but what he has done is enough for a man to—to die in peace with, but it’s not enough for a man to say, “I have done what I wanted to do,” because nobody can do quite that. Probably Dostoevsky and Cervantes felt that way. Marlowe felt that way, probably. That if you ever do write that perfect one, then you—you break the pencil and throw it away, and there’s nothing else to do except cut your throat. [audience laughter]

Unidentified participant: Sir, when you are reading for your own pleasure, which authors do you consistently return to?

William Faulkner: The ones I came to love when I was eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old. Moby-Dick, the Old Testament, Shakespeare, a lot of Conrad, Dickens. I read Don Quixote every year.

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Want to kill off some of your bad writing habits?

Read the comments on this blog post from Nathan Bransford: “What is Your Writing Tic?” Read all 255+ responses if you’ve got the time, because there’s a great chance doing so will painlessly cure you of at least some of your worst tendencies.

Here’s what I added to the comments about some of my bad writing habits:

Smiling.
Turning.
Perhaps ellipses.
My early drafts have talking heads.

Having characters smile too much (or some variation on smiling) was perhaps the most common answer, so it makes me smile to know … that I have some company there.

Anyway, turn to that thar blog post … and check it out. It’s a potent, organic collection of what not to do.

“I loved it.”

“Me, too.”

“It’s so great.”

“Yeah. Really great.”

“Burnin’ down the house!”
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15
Jul

Mock Cover, Take Three: THE BLACK GOD’S WAR

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III    in My Work

Changes in version 3.0:

1) The image blends together more, with part of her lip and chin continuing to the left, plus a subtle glimpse of her left eye. I flipped her image and make it 92% transparent. Huge thanks to David Kerschner for that idea!

2) Changed the title (still contemplating that).

3) Made room for a potential blurb (knock on wood).

The Black God's War

If I am able to get a good blurb, I think this could work. Another option would be to make the blurb’s font larger, and my name smaller. Do you think that’s a good idea, or no?

Any other thoughts?

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14
Jul

Kit Soden’s Music, Inspired by Steven Erikson’s Malazan Series

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III    in Music

Kit Soden Steven EriksonThe Twittersphere turned me onto a very cool album by Kit Soden, a collaborative endeavor with Steven Erikson, mainly inspired by Erikson’s epic fantasy series, The Malazan Book of the Fallen.

You can check out the album for free here, Like a Dancer Unstrung, and then get it in mp3, FLAC, and other formats. I think it works great as a complete album, though my favorite tunes are Bard’s Curse, Reapers Gale, and Lay of the Bridgeburners.

Kit has another album, Around the Corner, that I also really like–seriously, it’s quite good. Check it out.

I managed to tracked down Kit and asked him a few questions that he was nice enough to respond to:

What is your relationship with Steven Erikson?

Kit Soden: We have only corresponded through email, he lives in England and I am in Montreal. I hope to meet him next summer when I tour Europe. (See following answer..)

Were you hired and paid to create this album, or was it a labor of love?

Kit Soden: I had been writing songs with SE’s poetry for a couple of years, and I wanted to write more. I tried to get in touch with him, and finally did. It turned out he liked the music I had been writing, and we agreed that an album should be made, but that it should have other songs than just Malazan. SE sent me some unpublished poems, and I began writing more. This has been a labor of love on both sides, in his writing of the poems and in my writing and recording of the songs.

Are you a big fantasy genre fan? What are some of your favorite books or authors?

Kit Soden: I love the fantasy genre, because of its extreme use of the imagination. It is like music in this way, you use a familiar means to open new worlds.
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13
Jul

Enhanced Ebooks: Joe Abercrombie’s Survey Results on Extra Features

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III    in Ebooks

Should you ever want to find an open survey about what sort of added features readers might enjoy in their ebook purchases, Joe Abercrombie has done us all a favor by asking that question on his blog (note: there’s more than one page of comments).

There are many interesting ideas you’ll find there, but after reading those responses for inspiration, here are some things that I’m considering.

1) Hyperlinks within the book to help readers understand or remember certain proper nouns. Can’t remember what the god Oderigo is all about? Where the city of Remaes is? Make the glossary easy to access.

2) Author notes on certain pivotal chapters, something like what Brandon Sanderson does on his website with his annotations.

3) Original music, inspired by the book. I hope to work with some very talented musician friends on this. In many formats, this would be something I’d have to link to.

4) The very, very first draft of the very first chapter I wrote for the book (which was terrible, by the way).

5) A print author interview. I noticed that N.K. Jemisin has one in the back of the print version of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms; I thought this was a nice feature.

6) An audio interview with the author, or a link to one.

7) Something along the lines of this comment from “Cyrus” on Joe Abercrombie’s blog:

But I would be willing to pay a few extra bucks for some good insight into how your work evolved, your personal stories about inspiration, and maybe little things that were added in I may have missed on the first read through.

Since this would be for my first novel, I’m thinking about adding some of these extras without raising the price.

What do you think? Are there any extras that you’d love to see in ebooks?

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Michael Shatzkin: Chicken Little or Nostradamus (if Nostradamus was right most of the time)? He knows his stuff. I’m going with Nostradamus.

Shatzkin has been writing for months about the possibility of the coming collapse of traditional print book distribution. It goes something like this. As more book sales move not only online (of course, that’s been happening for a while), but more importantly towards digital ebooks (something occurring at an astronomical pace), so many bookstores–most of which are already struggling–will become unprofitable. Even small changes in how we buy books could tip the scales and create catastrophe for brick and mortar bookstores, because profit margins are slim throughout the publishing world. And more returns by those bookstores aren’t going to help  publishers either.

Yesterday, Shatzkin wrote one of his strongest blog posts yet about what appears to be the coming bookstore apocalypse. I find his argument more than persuasive. Even if bookstores do better than he anticipates, it’s pretty clear that many stores will have to close shop, and all of them will have to reduce their shelf space for books, in an attempt to widen out and sell other products that will keep them in business.

People argue that the death of publishing has been long predicted. Granted, big publishing will survive, but it will also drastically change. Relatively new technology, from Amazon.com to the Kindle and Nook and iPad, is changing the book business and how books are sold. And for better or worse–and it’s some of both–gatekeeping is shifting from the publishing houses to readers and bloggers. Power to the people is always a dangerous proposition, but that’s the new world.

I’ll be perfectly honest. I think most writers are totally in denial about what’s happening. They’re stalking agent blogs (hey, I’ve been there, done that), writing queries, adding to slush piles, crossing their fingers for years, and praying for a winning lottery ticket. Yes, some of them will find success this way. I may still try it myself. Traditional publishing may not be dying, but in five years, when there’s drastically less shelf space for books, that business model will certainly slim down and change.

I want to echo one of the boldest points that Shatzkin made, because it has huge implications for new writers and those who aren’t already happy where they are in the publishing game. Here:

Although it isn’t often stated this starkly, the core value proposition for the biggest trade book publishers is that they can put books on shelves. All of the rest of what they do (and often do quite well) — selection, editing, development, packaging, and marketing — is fungible. And usually not scaleable.

So what if the bookstorepocalypse is real? If getting published traditionally doesn’t especially help you to get your books on the shelves of stores (unless you are talented, awesome, hard-working, and lucky enough to be a Jim Butcher), then you’ve got a legitimate reason to question whether you want to roll the dice with traditional publishers (who absolutely offer many great advantages), or get 70% royalties on your indie ebooks and get paid 80% of your print book’s list price (minus the cost of POD printing) with your print-on-demand book via Lightning Source and their 20% short discount option–which gets you right into Amazon.com and other online bookstores, just like the big boys do.

Of course, the road to self-published glory will be littered with the carcasses of many bad books, as well as so many good books that just couldn’t find their audience in an over-saturated marketplace–then again, that happens sometimes to traditionally published books, too. And while I tend to think that quality work will usually be eventually found, there are no guarantees of success in any direction, so you’d better be following your passion. And if you want to hear the arguments in favor of going rogue, you can join me in following J.A. Konrath’s blog, and you can and should find Zoe Winters in many places, including the Indie Reader blog. Michael Stackpole is another pioneer and independent author well worth following.

If the distribution advantage for large publishers becomes much less significant, and I think that’s inevitable within the next five years and has certainly already begun, then the ‘pocalypse will be bigger than just bookstores, because it will affect everyone in the publishing food chain, from agents to writers to editors and everyone else. Think ahead and plan accordingly, and find the best path forward for you.

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