Tag Archives: Editorial Pursuits

Novellablog: Final Revision Stats, Briefly Stated in a Rambly Manner

This is not going to be my most elegant blog post. Mainly I want to write this down so that I can stare at it in an hour when Nathan gets home from work and I wake up from fugue state and wonder where the hell my day went.

I am surfacing only briefly; I have, however, wolfed down my late lunch (note: it’s after 6pm in Brooklyn) in ten minutes rather than the twenty minutes I promised myself I would take for a break after getting to the end of this draft of The Kairos Mechanism, so I get to relax for another ten minutes. TEN MINUTES. DON’T RUSH ME.

Kairos is going to print this week. Probably Thursday. I did a full read-and-revise about midmonth, then I did two more revisions (without reading through) based on notes from three critiquers and the copyeditor. Then I printed the draft out again. I started reading it on Sunday; you may have seen my picture of the first page with its makeup on, which I posted to Tumblr. I had intended to dog-ear the pages that needed touching up until I realized that I could reverse the strategy and dog-eared the ones that didn’t, and then I wouldn’t have to fold any pages at all.

That’s right. I ended with notes on every single page.

I finished reading and started editing last night. Four chapters in at 11pm I figured I was about halfway done and that I’d go to bed and get up early and finish in time to spend the afternoon writing new stuff. I failed to notice that it had taken me three hours to get four chapters done.

This morning I started at 9:30 a.m. and finished the line edits at 5:50. I have cut 6 pages, bringing the ms down to 149, but that’s without chapter breaks and without front and back matter. The copyeditor’s notes on this draft will arrive this evening. Presumably I have already fixed a lot of what she’ll tell me I screwed up. Definitely there will be work left to do. I also still have one scene yet to rewrite, which I saved until the end because it required going back to the history books. Gonna start that as soon as I finish typing this up. I also have to go back through and search for words and phrases I know I overuse. On the list I made today: strange, odd, little, uneasy, awkward, expression, glance(d), look(ed), turn(ed), “for a moment,” “something like,” seem(ed). I also have to look up what the style standard is for writing years out. Is it Nineteen Thirteen, or nineteen thirteen, or Nineteen-Thirteen, or nineteen-thirteen (which is what I’ve been using)?

One really wonderful thing, though (apart from cutting 6 pages, which is immensely satisfying) is that I managed to add, with only one paragraph, a really excellent moment I’d failed to notice I’d given myself the opportunity to write, and which not only really works well, but ties two other moments together and generally, I think, adds a lot. Go team.

Now I gotta go back and fix that other thing. Also this title is plainly a lie, because after fixing and cutting so much I’m obviously going to have to read it one more time. But if I think about that now, I might go out of what remains of my mind.

Go team.

 

Novellablog, BEA Edition: My Beautiful Advance Copies and the Grammatical Error on Page One

First of all, LOOK AT THE PRETTY!!

Beth at McNally Jackson took my PDFs of The Kairos Mechanism‘s book text and front matter and laid them out all sorts of pretty. Then, since I won’t have Andrea Offermann’s cover illustration until about mid-July, Erin at McNally made a basic cover from my title page (the back cover has the disclaimer on it about this being an advance copy and to check all quotes against the final text). Then, ten minutes later, there it was. The books come out warm, like cookies out of an oven or something. It is honestly and truly a really beautiful little book. I am going to be so proud to show it off.

Now. For the second half of the title.

You heard me. I literally have a grammatical error on the first page. Plus I also somehow deleted two lines of text from the last page that make the first line of one paragraph seem a bit like a momentary non-sequitur. Neither are things that will spoil the read, if I stifle my emotional reactions and look at them academically. Still. Perfect brackets, on the first page and the last. Plus, reading it through last night, I decided that Christine Johnson, the final editor to comment on this before my last round of revisions, was right about my needing to spend more time explaining how the mechanism of the title works.

Having read my previous posts about the editorial panic attacks I’ve been having, you might be thinking that I’m having a bit of a nutty here at Milford Command Central. The truth is, I’m not. On the one hand, the grammatical error on page one (although it’s such a common error that most readers are likely not even going to catch it) is exactly the kind of thing I don’t want happening even once in the book, and I certainly can’t have issues of the “this needs more explanation” variety in the final copy.

On the other hand, this will be the third time I’ve experienced the exasperation that is the Advance Review Copy.

The first time I saw the ARCs of The Boneshaker, I was ecstatic. I was over the moon. My book, in actual-book form for the first time, with its beautiful shiny red cover and everything. I was too starry-eyed about that to freak out about the typos inside that were still being ironed out behind the scenes. With The Broken Lands, it was a bit different. I got the ARCs a week after I’d mailed the first mechanical pass back to Clarion, and the number of corrections I made on that mechanical pass made me look sideways at the ARCs because I knew none of those changes had gone into them, and because they were being mailed out to reviewers all over the place. The changes were mostly cosmetic matters of verbiage and poetry and that sort of thing, but there were a LOT of them, and I knew the ARC had been printed from a draft something like three iterations before the one I’d just edited. You can’t freak out about that. You just have to make sure everything’s caught before the final manuscript goes to the printers.

So, although it goes against every instinct I have, I am not going to freak out now, either. Well, not much, I’m not. I’m going to fix what needs fixing, and pass the ms on to the copyeditor. (This is not her fault, by the way; she only just received the manuscript last week. I’m the smartypants who up and decided last week that she wanted some ARCs for BEA. It’s also not the fault of any of the readers who edited the manuscript up until this moment; I’m the genius who somehow deleted the sentences at the end while formatting the manuscript to the specs required by the Espresso Book Machine.)

And ultimately, the professionals of the book world understand what an advance copy is: it’s a snapshot of the book at a stage when it is (to the best of everyone’s ability), fully presentable while still being decidedly still in-process.

Plus, they’re just too pretty and–well, too real not to be overjoyed about. I love them, and with the help of some wonderful, brilliant, dedicated friends and a hundred or so Kickstarter angels*, I made them myself.

So, in the immortal words of Vampire Weekend, who gives a f*ck about the Oxford comma?

*There is still time for you to become one of those angels, you know. The campaign ends June 9. No big deal. I’m just sayin’.

 

Novellablog: Editorial Dilemma: Listen to the Adults or the Kids?

Short post today, because I have other things to devote my considerable freaking-out-energy to, but remember how I was having a panic attack about potential editorial mistakes I could make? Here’s one I’m stressing about right now. Give me your thoughts.

I’ve now heard from five of the six Kid Editors. I’ve also heard from four critique mates and my husband. Most of the comments have been consistent: I need to spend a bit more time making sure that things are clear for readers who aren’t familiar with Arcane and the events of The Boneshaker; there’s a major Tom Guyot reveal, but I didn’t have a scene between Tom and Natalie after that big reveal and everyone felt that was a missed opportunity; everybody felt I needed to clarify someone’s motivations at the end. Fair enough. Fixed, fixed, and fixed. (I think.) I’m waiting to hear from the last editor reading The Kairos Mechanism before it goes to the copyeditor, so we’ll see what she thinks about the changes I made.

I’m also very eager to see what she thinks about The Thing I’m Worried About. The Thing They Don’t All Agree On. The Subject of This Post. Here it is, and it’s a perfect example, I think, of the problem of having to rely on yourself to edit your own work.

Everybody quotes that “kill your darlings” thing. I hate that thing, but I understand the importance of being willing to let go of what you love if it doesn’t serve the story. But what about this stupid situation?

At one point in the story, the two protagonists (Natalie Minks and Ben Claffan) venture into a garden behind the home of Arcane, Missouri’s most mysterious citizen, Simon Coffrett. Simon is a big question mark, and I wanted to give readers a bit of an extra glimpse into his world. So I let Natalie and Ben explore the garden for a bit. Arguably, I let them explore a bit too long.

The thing in question involves five pages of text. Considering the manuscript only runs 130 pages at the moment, five pages is a pretty substantial chunk. On the other hand, it’s not five pages of description. There’s one major thing that happens and one major discussion that happens. So, let’s say it’s three and a half pages of contested material, once the substantive stuff’s been removed.

Most of the adults were very put-off by the fact that I spent three and a half pages meandering there, and suggested strongly that I cut it back. The kid beta-readers, however, wanted–no, demanded that I spend more time there. They wanted more details, more color, more description.

So it comes down to this: do I cut it back, because the adult readers (who are, not coincidentally, the readers most in touch with the pacing and narrative expectations of the publishing world I know) think it’s a bit too meandering and detail-geeky? Or do I leave it, because the kids think it’s great, and gives them some sort of insight into a character they desperately want to know more about?

No, seriously. I’m asking.

Novellablog: Kid Editors: Because the kid in the room understands your book better than you do.

Remember that post I wrote about how I can’t be trusted to edit my own stuff? Well, last week it was time to send The Kairos Mechanism to the last and most critical set of readers before I send it to the critmate who’s acting as uber-editor. These are the Kid Editors: Emma, Luci and Edie, Mason, and the newly-deputized Julia and Talia. Their mission: make sure I’m not going to embarrass myself by putting this book up in front of the world.

I’ve written about the Kid Editors before, but in the interests of cataloguing all the ways in which I’m trying to make this book shine without the benefit of my blue-pencil-wielding editor at Clarion, it’s well worth revisiting these amazing kids and what they do. Especially since, day before yesterday, I had a conference call with Emma.

If you happened to be following me on Twitter on Wednesday, you might have seen me tweet the following:

“I have nightmares where, in 10 years, I submit a MS to Emma (in her new job as Most Senior Editor at the Hugest Publisher Ever) & she says, “Kate, you know how much I want to work with you. But…tell you what. Let me give you some notes and I’ll look at a revision.”

I was mostly joking, of course. I love talking to Emma. But I wasn’t kidding about how tough she is on my work. She will tell me—and has, as often as it’s been necessary—when she thinks I’m being lazy, being obtuse or confusing, or (yes, it’s happened) swearing too much in a particular manuscript. On one occasion, after a lengthy explanation on my part about what I was getting at in a particular scene, Emma replied by asking, “How important to you is it that I get all that? I just thought that part was exciting. The rest of it—does that really matter?” I had to think about that. And then I had to answer honestly: “Nope.” But then, we’ve also had similar conversations where she’s listened to my explanation and then demanded I clarify it. She’s a sharp like that.

Right about the time I wrote my last posts on the Kid Editors, I sent a set of questions to each of the (at the time) four of them. Here are Emma’s responses. These are from December, and Emma was twelve.

K: What do you like about being a beta-reader?

E: I love being a beta reader for very many reasons. Reason A- It makes me feel important, and like I am helping make the book better. Reason B- I love to read and if I can do that and help you then it is double awesome. Reason C- I want to be a professional beta-reader someday!

K: Is it difficult to do? How is it different from just reading a book?  

E: It is a little more complex than reading a book normally, because you are reading it with a critical eye, and always have to be thinking. But it is more rewarding than reading an actual book because you have feel like you have some say in what goes into the finished product.

K: What can a writer do to help you give her good feedback? Do you like to have questions in advance? Would you rather just read the book and have the writer send questions later, so they don’t influence your thoughts while you read the book? 

E: I like knowing a little bit about what you are curious about but not specific questions before I read, then I like talking to you after I read and telling you everything I noticed, and then answering the more specific questions.

K: What steps do you take after you’re finished reading a book–or while you’re reading it–to decide what you like and what you don’t, and what you think the writer still needs to work on?

E: Quite honestly, I don’t take notes while I read even though I should…I just think about the things and sometimes read what you send me again, so that I can notice the specific things more.

K: Do you feel comfortable telling someone (for example, me) that you like or don’t like a particular aspect of a book? Is it hard to do? How can the writer make you more comfortable about giving negative feedback? 

E: Since I know you, and I’m not an extremely shy person, no it does not bother me. I like to think of it as constructive criticism, disagreement leads to better discussions and in the end, a better book!

K: How do you involve your parents in your reading? 

E: As you know, my parents are almost as invested in this as I am, and like me are dying to help you write more books, so they usually read them too!

K: Any other thoughts you’d like to share? 

E: You know that nothing makes my day more then receiving a new book from you to read.

This time, partly in response to Emma’s comment above that she preferred not to read with specific questions in advance, when I sent the Editors The Kairos Mechanism, I had only one specific question. I asked them: if I had ten more pages to spend expanding or adding anything to this story, how would you like to see me use those pages?

Wednesday night we spoke by phone. Emma’s first comment, right out of the gate, was, “It’s so short.” I suppose it’s better to leave readers wanting more than wishing you would get on with it, so I decided to count this as a positive.

Other comments:

She asked for more reminders about what’s come before. Not so much a re-hashing of the story, but reminders about the town, Natalie’s family, what certain terms (introduced in The Boneshaker or The Broken Lands) meant. Despite how much she loved The Boneshaker, Emma had forgotten many of the details. This was eye-opening. Possibly I’ve forgotten how most people read; my husband, with whom I discuss books and reading and details more than anyone else, not only reads books several times, but he memorizes details. And frankly, so do I. I’ve always tended to feel my eyes glaze over when books in a series stop to re-hash what’s gone before. I wonder if I’ve never had a real sense of how people really read related books. My critique group had asked for some specific reminders, but what Emma wanted went a bit beyond that.

She asked for more description. Interestingly, the place she specifically wanted more was a place where one of my crit mates had specifically wanted me to cut back. I mentioned this to her, and she protested loudly. Even more interestingly, the reason she wanted more in this spot was not that she felt the story needed it, but because it was a section of the story related to Simon Coffrett, a mysterious figure in the town of Arcane. Emma has a particular interest in Simon, because there are so many unanswered questions about him, and she wanted as much information about him as I was willing to give, even if it meant slowing the story down a bit in that spot.

This was also particularly interesting to me because in another book Emma read for me, one in which I had two characters exploring a really (I thought) fascinating underground city, she really gave me the third degree about keeping things moving, adding action, adding tension, etcetera. Granted, there is a difference in scale; in The Kairos Mechanism we’re talking about turning two pages into three, and in Wild Iron we were talking about cutting back what ran twenty pages over the course of about two hundred and fifty. Still. Interesting.

She pointed out a few missed opportunities. She wanted more description of the mechanism referenced in the title, and thought I’d missed an opportunity to bring Natalie’s love of machines—a very important part of her personality—more fully into the narrative.

She thought I’d also missed an opportunity to allow Natalie to behave unselfishly at a critical point, and to take an action that she takes anyway for the sake of protecting someone else rather than herself. The scene, according to every reader including Emma herself, works just fine as written; Emma’s suggestion, however, adds a nice layer and requires one sentence of revision. Nice.

Certain places where she was confused or had questions were really fascinating. Some of them would involve spoilers to explain; others were more like questions about backstory—where certain characters came from, whether I planned to bring them back. I take this as a positive, too—the whole point of this project is to give me a chance and a way to return to characters I love outside of the big, overarching narrative of the hardcover releases.

The best compliment of all: she claims she’d like to marry one of the new characters. That is a satisfactory response, I think.

And then, the final question: ten pages, Emma. Assuming I haven’t spent them all fixing the stuff you’ve given me to fix, where do you want more story?

Emma was quiet for a minute, and then said she’d rather I kept those ten pages and put them toward a story about Jake Limberleg (the villain of The Boneshaker).

Duly noted.

Novellablog: Dear Kate, Organize or Else. Love, Your Future Books.

With great reluctance, it’s time I admit that it’s become evident to me that I will have to get organized. A girl can only double-check so many times whether a character’s cane has an alligator’s head or a crocodile’s head for a handle before she has to face the fact that she’s wasting her own time.

I have, therefore, again with great reluctance, begun to assemble a Binder.

In the same way that I don’t willingly write synopses, I also don’t write character histories or descriptions, except into the text of the manuscript itself. This is because I like learning about the characters as I go. I don’t know what they’re really like until I see them in action. I don’t know what traits they have until I learn what traits they need. I don’t know what their histories are until I find a reason to investigate. This is not to say that I know nothing about a character in advance; but by not forming pre-conceived ideas about that character, I can maintain the greatest possible flexibility and give myself room to work in future stories.

An example of this is Old Tom Guyot. Readers of The Boneshaker might remember that Tom has an old injury in one knee that gives him some arthritic pain. You might have assumed that, although the actual circumstances of the injury were not disclosed in that book, I, the all-knowing writer, certainly knew how Tom got hurt.

Nope.

I do know now, but I only discovered the circumstances about a month ago, after my husband had finished reading the first draft of The Kairos Mechanism. He said I needed something to raise the stakes, and the scene I came up with to accomplish that turned out to have the added benefit of revealing the nature and history of Old Tom’s injury. And believe me when I tell you, what I came up with I would have had no way of anticipating two years ago. Absolutely no flipping way.

On the other hand, I have had to look up what kind of cane Doc Fitzwater carries twice now, and just because I don’t want to be pinned down about things before it’s absolutely necessary, that doesn’t mean I like doing the same extra work over and over and over.

So I’ve come up with a compromise. I’ve made character sheets, I’ve put them in the aforementioned binder and I’ve alphabetized them. But I’ve decided that the only things that go on them are things that have already been committed to in print and things that are so mission-critical to the ongoing story that they’re really unlikely to be changed. Anything else can be recorded as ideas and notes in a designated section of the page, so that I don’t forget that those things can be changed at will. But so far I haven’t written much in those sections. The same is true with the map of Arcane I drew when we were editing The Boneshaker–up until this week it only showed places I’d referenced in that particular book. Because I added references to one or two new places in The Kairos Mechanism, I’ve added a few things to my drawing.

I’ve also started making notes that will become a style sheet. These include things like is gingerfoot capitalized? Do I refer to Doc Fitzwater as the Doc or the doc? And what reptile gave its noggin so that the doc’s cane could have a handle? 

Grudging, baby steps toward organization. I suppose it was time.

Become a backer of The Kairos Mechanism‘s Kickstarter campaign here, so that I haven’t compromised my principles and become organized for no good reason. Thank you!

Novellablog: Yes, You Can Edit Your Own Work, but You Will Probably Frack It Up.

It will not surprise my nerd audience that I’m watching Battlestar Galactica as I write this. But that’s neither here nor there. We are now progressing into the portion of this series I like to call

From Beta Readers to Copyeditors; In Which Kate Panics About the Editing Process. 

Here’s a list of things I am worried about with this project:

  • 1)   Finishing the novella. (April Kate checking in: done and done.)
  • 2)   Raising the money. (June Kate, did you want to weigh in? . . . June Kate . . . ? You there? Or do we not have forward-going time travel budgeted into this thing? April Kate: No, we do not.)
  • 3)   Does anybody actually want to read this thing? (Anybody? Bueller….?)

Then, right on schedule, (I KNOW!!)  I finished the first draft of the novella, and a whole new set of panicky things set in.

  • 1)   Without running the agent/editor gauntlet, how do I actually know this thing is any good?
  • 2)   Who’s going to edit the thing?
  • 3)   Who’s going to copyedit the thing?

I had already decided I needed to have someone else copyedit the manuscript. The biggest complaints I have been reading about self-published works all have to do with poor or absent editing. Heck, traditionally published books get poorly edited all the time, too. So, yes: having editors involved=critical. But I worry that the challenge is bigger than just having a strong copyeditor come in at the end.

We all make mistakes. I’m good with grammar, spelling, and apostrophes, but I’m bad with who/whom and further/farther. I have a tendency to use the words odd, strange, and bizarre too often (if you have read any of my books, you will understand why). I am fascinated by the different kinds of glances and smiles and grimaces that people use to communicate wordlessly, so I tend to overuse those devices when I write. I have characters fold their arms too often, and my first drafts have an excessive number of paragraphs begun with a character’s name. And this is just the stuff I know I do. Let’s not even think about all the awkward writing stuff I do that I don’t know that I do until someone hits me with a rolled-up newspaper and says, STOP THAT.

All of these things get fixed because someone other than me looks at the manuscript in a particular way. Awkward sentences that turn out to be a paragraph long? My husband usually catches those before they go to the critique group. Random missing words and bogus references to antibiotics prior to World War One? Thank you, critique group. “I don’t know why I think this, but I wish you would do this part differently, ’cause it bugs me”? That would be the Kid Editors, weighing in.

And yet. And yet.

A page from the revised final draft of Ellen Raskin's THE WESTING GAME. There is no such thing as a clean draft, evidently.

The last time I got a manuscript back from my editor at Clarion, it was prefaced by an email that said (I am not paraphrasing), “Great job, Kate! This manuscript is in great shape.” And it was still covered in blue. I mean covered. (She uses blue pencil, she told me once, because she figured if any author got a manuscript back with that much red writing on it, they might go into a cave in panic and never come back out.) And that was a manuscript that was in great shape. One on which I did a great job.

What would it look like if she thought the manuscript quote-needed work-unquote? The evil truth is this: even the cleanest, sharpest draft I’m capable of turning out needs several passes of editing before it’s ready to be picked over by a copyeditor.

And I think my critique group will confirm that I turn out fairly sharp drafts before I share them with anyone. This is not boasting. Remember that thing I said before about not always knowing where things are going in my stories before I get there? This means I don’t always even share a draft with my crit group until I’ve gone back and cleaned up the results of my (ahem) particular process, read it back through, cleaned it up again, revised a bit, read again–you get the idea. So who’s going to go three rounds with me with the blue pencil this time?

Then there’s this to panic about: catching potential historical mistakes. I’m a good researcher, and I do my due diligence with everything, but I’ve made some bizarre mistakes before. Only a couple weeks ago, I caught an error I’d made about the use of sugar in fireworks and had to send a frantic email to catch it before The Broken Lands’ ARC materials went into production. I sent the novella manuscript to my critique group still full of notes to myself like (CHECK THIS) or (ERA-APPROPRIATE ANTIBIOTIC) or (COLOR OF STITCHES?).

And how about the moment I realized was that I couldn’t remember whether the word “gingerfoot” had been capitalized in The Boneshaker, or whether Doc Fitzwater was referred to as the Doc or just the doc? I couldn’t immediately find my hand-drawn map of Arcane, so all of my locations were going to have to be double-checked. Last week my friend Lisa noticed that I changed the spelling of one character’s name midway through the manuscript. I fixed the inconsistency, then had a moment of doubt and went back to double-check how I’d spelled this guy’s name in The Boneshaker. Get this: when I’d “fixed the inconsistency” in The Kairos Mechanism, I’d changed all the spellings to the wrong variation of the name.

This nearly sent me into a full-on panic attack as I was reminded suddenly of a series of (incredibly, incredibly bad) fantasy novels I read last year in which the spelling of a character’s name was inconsistent from one novel to the next. How the hell does anyone make a mistake like that? I’d thought at the time, stunned at how very, very bad this writer was.

Okay, to be fair, it was also an adult series from the mid-Eighties, and the name thing was the most minimal of the reasons why these books were so very bad. I mention this because I’m now certain that guy and I are not the only ones to have made this mistake. And a mistake like that doesn’t make a book–or anyone’s writing bad; but it does make the writing in question look careless.

So what’s the answer? Well, among other things, I’m starting to compile a style sheet for myself and for the copyeditor, so that I can at least try to avoid calling a character Wylie when I’m already on record calling him Wiley. But more on that in my next post. I think I feel another panic attack coming on, and I’m going to see if going to the diner to get some new writing done will put a stop to that, at least temporarily.

 

Adventures in the SFWA: My Efforts to be an Informed Nebula Voter

It’s Awards Season! Yes, I’ll be watching the Oscars this weekend, but I’m not really talking about that. March is voting month for members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). In May, the organization will present Nebula Awards to one exceptional short story, novelette, novella, and novel; the Bradbury Award to one film, and the Andre Norton Award to a young adult novel.

Last November, on the suggestion of a couple very nice gentlemen I met after a reading by Jeff VanderMeer, Geoff Manaugh, and Jeffrey Ford at Columbus Circle, I joined the SFWA and attended its  NYC reception.  There, I had the good fortune to spend a couple hours of my time there chatting with Sarah Beth Durst, so when the Nebula Finalists were announced last week, I was ecstatic to see Sarah’s Ice among those vying for the Andre Norton Award. Then I did another happy jig when I saw Malinda Lo’s Ash (Malinda’s a fellow poster on the Enchanted Inkpot), Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan (which I adored) and John Scalzi’s Zoe’s Tale (which has one of the best teen voices ever). Rounding out the list are the recent Newbery winner When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, Kage Baker’s Hotel Under the Sand, Lisa Mantchev’s Eyes Like Stars, and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente, which I think was only published online. I haven’t read any of those. Yet.

There were actually a lot of books among those up for awards that I had read last year and enjoyed, some of which I truly loved: Jeff VanderMeer’s Finch, China Mieville’s The City and The City, Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, and of course, Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. I’ve seen all the Bradbury nominees, save two. I’d read none of the short works on the ballot, though, and it occurred to me yesterday that, unlike, oh, any other literary awards being given this year that I’m aware of, I actually get to cast votes for the Nebula Awards. And I believe in being an informed voter. So here goes.

I’m going to get moving and read all the works on the ballot. I’m going to make sure I’ve seen all the movies, which means I’m finally going to see Moon, which I’ve wanted to see and somehow never got around to (Hooray! Of course it also means I’m going to see Avatar, which–don’t kill me–I haven’t felt any great desire to see). Because I’m going to be an Informed Voter. And I’m going to share the journey with you lot, if you’ll come along. I’m particularly looking forward to telling you about the shorter works, because if you’re anything like me, you just might not have them on your radar. I love short stories, but I’ll be the first to admit I don’t read them as often or as widely as I’d like, given the breadth and quality of what’s out there. And I couldn’t even tell you the difference between a novella and a novelette (but don’t worry, I’ll find out, and then we can all rest easy). I may not manage to post about every category before the end of March, but I’m going to do my best.

Before I sign off, though, I want to add (and I can’t say this loudly enough, so I will–pardon me–format the hell out of it) IF YOU ARE ELIGIBLE TO JOIN THE SFWA, YOU SHOULD. If I started into why, this would turn into an even longer post than it’s shaping up to be, so I encourage you to read more here. In brief, it’s an organization that works for you, the writer, through advocacy, communication, information, mentoring, even legal assistance and benevolent funds. To find out if you’re eligible, read here.

So, the Informed Voter Project starts today! Coming up next: the Nominees for a Nebula Award in the Short Story Category:

  • “Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela,” by Saladin Ahmed
  • “I Remember the Future,” Michael A. Burstein
  • “Non-Zero Probabilities,” N. K. Jemisin
  • “Spar,” Kij Johnson
  • “Going Deep,” James Patrick Kelly
  • “Bridesicle,” Will McIntosh

Stay tuned!

The Boneshaker: A List of Seriously Cool Stuff that’s in This Book

Velocipedes, patent medicines, phrenology, Winton motorcars, blues, psychotic harlequins, snake oil salesmen, electroshock, automata, an Edgar Allan Poe-quoting fortune-teller, and a contest of skill played at the crossroads against the Devil.

You’re wondering now, what is this list of weird, cool stuff?

It’s a list–a very partial list, mind you; it isn’t even a complete list–of weird, cool stuff in The Boneshaker.

At long last, things are happening. The book comes out in four months, and I’m starting to get emails and phone calls from contacts who have received advance copies. After one week of play, the Feburary Facebook Boneshaker ARCmania Game (today’s randomly-chosen exciting name) is in full, highly-competitive swing; at last count (and I am counting obsessively) 81 new members have joined The Boneshaker’s FB group for this contest (and I hope you all win). A whole bunch of people have showed up here at The Clockwork Foundry. I hope you’ll all visit often. All things considered, it seemed like a good time to tell you a little bit about the book and why you are going to love it when it shows up on your doorstep on May 24.

For a basic summary of the book, I will direct you to Powell’s (where, conveniently enough, you can pre-order it if you haven’t already). For this post, I have decided to list all the Cool Stuff that went into the story. If you like these things, you are probably going to like this book just on principle.

Cool Stuff that was percolating in my head in 2003 (or whenever it was that I wrote the first draft):

  • Item: New Yorker article about the Jamaica Ginger epidemic of the 1930’s, referenced by various blues musicians as jake leg, the gingerfoot, and the old jake limberleg blues. In order to bypass Prohibition regulations that were intended to make the patent medicine called Jamaica Ginger Bitters (or jake) less drinkable, a pair of bootlegger chemists added a plasticizer to it that turned out to be a neurotoxin. (For clarification: patent medicines=cool and interesting. Net results of neurotoxins being added to them=not so cool.)
  • Item: Horatio’s Drive, the Ken Burns documentary about Horatio Nelson Jackson’s 1903 cross-country drive in a Winton motorcar, accompanied by a professional bicycle racer-turned-mechanic.
  • Item:  Les Automates (French-language photo-essay book about automata purchased at the Strand Bookstore).
  • Item: A selection of old books of American folklore, including 3 on the subject of Jack Tales.
  • Item: Ray Rupelli’s apartment, with Cool Stuff including but not limited to an antique dentist’s chair found on the street; a coffee table decorated with guitar picks; a piece of iron grate; and a Robert Johnson record, found (I believe) in a box of records cleaned out of some apartment and left by somebody, like so many treasures are, on the sidewalk for pickup on trash day.

So, percolating in my head that year: patent medicines, blues, the Devil at the Crossroads, bicycles and motorcars. Then I started commuting from Brooklyn to New Jersey, and listening to audio books. Which brings us to:

  • Item: Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes (purchased as an audio book to keep me from falling asleep at the wheel while commuting from Brookyn to New Jersey).  I fell in love with Bradbury’s language and the dark wonder of Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, as well as the small-town setting of Green Town. (Although I can’t cite it as a Cool Thing That Influenced This Book because I only read it last month, Arthur Slade’s Dust is another wonderful story about a menacing traveling show that wins over a town, and the single kid to whom it falls to rescue everyone and everything he loves.)
  • Item: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (also bought on audio to keep me from passing out while commuting). Lots of people feel really strongly about the His Dark Materials trilogy or about Pullman himself; some are fans, some aren’t. I’m not getting into any of that. I loved the books, but what I loved most was Lyra Silvertongue, Pullman’s fierce heroine.

So now, to the percolating Cool Stuff you can add: a diabolical traveling showman and a fierce young girl, the only person who can save everyone and everything she loves from Impending Doom:

The Diabolical Traveling Showman: Dr. Jake Epiphemius Limberleg, proprietor of and head of research for Dr. Jake Limberleg’s Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show. Also in Limberleg’s corner are Willoughby Acquetus, Paracelsus Vorticelt, Thaddeus Argonault, and Alpheus Nervine: the Paragons of Science, four specialists in the arts of Hydrotherapy, Phrenology, Magnetism, and Amber Therapy.

The Fierce Girl: Natalie Minks, daughter of the town’s bicycle mechanic and the woman who knows all the weird stories about their crossroads hometown of Arcane. Natalie loves all things mechanical, the Wright Brothers, and the antique Chesterlane Eidolon velocipede her father fixed up for her, even though it’s a meanspirited, hateful, impossible-to-ride boneshaker of a bicycle.

Then there’s Jack, the green-eyed drifter with a carpetbag and a tin lantern, and nobody knows what he’s up to. Except for maybe Simon Coffrett, the man who lives in Arcane’s only mansion…but nobody’s real sure about that Rilke-quoting recluse, either.

Saturday in Bay Ridge: Cover Art, Knee Surgery, and OMG VanderMeer!

Jacket art’s up for THE BONESHAKER in all its bright red glory! Have a look at Andrea Offermann’s beautiful cover!Boneshaker Cover

The crazy redhead in the middle is Doctor Jake Limberleg, proprietor of Limberleg’s Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show (an event not to be missed once it rolls into town on May 24th of next year and wreaks havoc in a small Missouri town called Arcane). I discovered the cover image had gone up because someone I don’t know contacted me through Goodreads, which was a special kind of exciting, and reminded me that, once again, I’ve failed to update this site in, oh, forever.

Yesterday was a big day here at Milford Command Central, even apart from the cover. Nathan had his first knee surgery: ACL and meniscus repair on the left leg. In three months we get to do the other one. Whoopee! Actually it’s not so bad. He’s got good pain drugs, the brace isn’t really slowing him down all that much, and all I have to do to be a rock star is keep him in strawberry licorice, Skittles, and percocet, every once in a while refill the ice machine that keeps his knee cold, and occasionally change the dvd (we’ve now finished The West Wing and have started 30 Rock).

Meanwhile I have a bottle of whisky I’m pretty excited about cracking into, there’s a UFC tonight (please, Forrest, redeem yourself so I don’t have to cry), and this afternoon at Borders at Columbus Circle Jeff VanderMeer, Jeffrey Ford, and Geoff Manaugh are speaking. Holy city fiction awesomeness! After the event the authors are hitting at a local bar and attendees are invited. I’m going to go and probably totally going to be completely socially awkward and have nothing interesting to say. But I’m going to go anyway and try to have a conversation with one of my favorite authors, maybe mentioning the work I do for the city of Nagspeake if I feel particularly brave, and hope I don’t sound like a kid trying to sit at the grownup table. Then I will come home and watch UFC with my bionic-legged husband and get into that bottle of whisky and obsess about whether or not I said anything stupid (because I am always pretty sure I have said something stupid).

At least, it being a UFC night, I am guaranteed a remote chat with Annabelle Bechamel at Magothy Treats via Twitter. And it’s a beautiful day, so I’m thinking about a run. Plus I found a new Thai restaurant in the neighborhood that makes awesome green curry, and there is that whisky. So, my social anxieties notwithstanding, it promises to be a good day!

Gingerfoot, the edits…sigh…

It’s day four, and it’s 3:27. I really should be done by now. Granted, there’s been plenty of procrastination going on; I’ve updated the entire NBTC website at nagspeake.com; all that’s left to do is add the photography back in. I’ve updated my notes at The Expat. I spent yesterday evening following Annabelle Bechamel’s Twitter commentary on Brown/Faber 2. I even attempted to make the random drink she mixed while Jens Pulver got himself guillotined in the first minute of the first fight. (Find the recipe here: http://annabelle.nagspeake.com –and good luck to you.) I don’t know what the strange simple syrup she just happened to have in her fridge was, but oddly enough I tend to have a couple strange simple syrups in my fridge, too, and I think it’s a pretty safe bet that if you’ve got enough bottles on your sideboard, you can find something to mix with it that’ll taste palatable when you add tonic and an orange twist. I did, and then I had two glasses full of the result, so if there are a few typos on the sites I worked on last night you’ll know why.

Today, I have 77 pages left chock-full of line edits written in blue pencil. The day is half-gone and I haven’t even started.

I kind of think I could start being productive if I ordered a pizza. And maybe if I mixed up another one of those weird drinks.