Posts from 2010
Silver Borne is Finished!
By: Mike Jan 4, 2010It's finally done. Patty's been working insane hours, but she finally finished Silver Borne, the fifth Mercy Thompson novel. She thought she was almost done a couple of weeks ago, but after finishing it the first time she wasn't happy with the ending, and decided to re-write the last hundred-plus pages virtually completely. She'd been sending chapters to her editor and copy-editors, so when she finally finished the book, she got it back with a four-day turnaround time for revisions and edits. She finished it this morning at about 8:00, after staying up all night working on it.
Update from Patty
By: Patty Jan 28, 2010
Welcome Dear Reader, to my home on the Internet. Herein you can find where I'm doing book signings or convention appearances. A bit about writing and more on my books. And make sure to check out the Forums where a lot of really cool people hang out.
So -- my newest release is the paperback version of Bone Crossed (1/26/2010, Mercy Thompson #4), and that awesome cover is as terrific on the paperback as it was on the hardback. Subterranean Press released a collectible version of Alpha and Omega (the novella that began the Alpha and Omega series) in a hardback illustrated by Maurizio Manzieri. It is scrumptious. Last August saw the release of Hunting Ground in paperback (an Alpha and Omega novel) and the graphic novel Homecoming (which tells the story of how Mercy came to the Tri Cities approximately a decade before Moon Called). The graphic novel is the hardcover collection of the first four Mercy Thompson comics, written by David Lawrence (based on a rough novella I sent him) with art by Francis Tsai and Amelia Woo.
For a while it was up in the air whether there would be more comics -- but the Dabel Brothers have teamed up with Dynamite which seems to have cleared up most of the problems. The result is that there will indeed be comics based on Cry Wolf and Moon Called appearing shortly. Those comics will, eventually, become graphic novels. We have hung onto David Lawrence to write the adaptations (Yippee) for both series of comics. We also are keeping Amelia Woo for the Mercy comics. The Alpha and Omega comics artist is Jordan Gunderson, with whom I am well pleased
The next book, Silver Borne, is Mercedes Thompson #5 and it will be out March 30th 2010. This is Samuel's book and also deals with the terrible things that can happen when you are late returning a borrowed book.
What I'm working on now:
Currently I am revising Masques and its unpublished sequel Wolfsbane. Masques was my first book and it has been out of print for about fifteen years. Both books belong to the loosely tied together Sianim series which also includes Steal the Dragon and When Demons Walk. I am ecstatic to get the chance to revise my first book -- and get it back into print. They will be release winter of 2010. After that it will be back to the next Mercy book. Hopefully Mercy Book Six will be released Feb 2011. After Mercy Six, it is back to Anna and Charles for the third Alpha and Omega novel. I am also writing a short story for the anthology Down These Strange Streets edited by the terrific Gardner Dozois and George R. R. Martin and published by Ace. The anthology is a cross of the hardboiled private eye yarn with fantasy, horror, and paranormal romance. Fantasy noir. It should be great fun.
Silver Borne Almost Here
By: Patty March 18, 2010
Silver Borne will be on store shelves on March 30th, just a few days from now. I've been writing for . . . * starts counting on fingers, then gives up * . . .quite a few years now. You'd think getting a book published would be old hat, but I always end up as giddy as a little kid at Christmas. All those hours of typing away in solitude, and suddenly the finished book is going to be in the hands of readers. Will they like it? Did I get it right? (What stupid typos didn't I catch in time?) It's a rush.
So now I sit back, and try to concentrate on something else, while the calandar creeps slowly closer to release date. I hope some of you are as excited as I am!
By the way, I'll be traveling around a little bit, doing some signings and talking about my books. You can also find this information on my appearances page. Hmmm. Is it just me or does having "appearances" make me sound like a little white rabbit in a magic show? Sigh -- just don't grab me by my ears, I guess!. Here's where I'll be appearing, Ta Da!!!!
- Seattle, WA: March 30 at the University Book Store, at 7:00 pm.
- Portland, OR: March 31 at the Cedar Hills Powell's, 7:00 pm.
- Los Angeles, CA: April 6 at the Huntington Beach B&N, 7:00 pm.
- San Diego, CA: April 7 at Mysterious Galaxy, 7:00 pm.
- Houston, TX: April 9 at Murder By the Book, 6:30 pm.
- Minneapolis, MN: April 10 at Uncle Hugo's, 1:00 pm.
- Kennewick, WA April 17 at the Kennewick Bookworm 11:00 am.
- Richland, WA April 17 at the Richland Bookworm 2:00 pm.
- Kennewick, WAMay 1 at Barnes and Noble, 6:00 pm.
The Write Space
By: Mike Feb 28, 2010
Where does a writer write? This question or some variant thereof, is a perennial favorite on interviews and convention panels. The creative process doesn't just happen, it has to happen somewhere. The mythical lair, the sanctum secura, the fortress of solitude. Fans and aspiring writers often conjure up mythical visions of vaulted ceilings and burbling marble fountains. . .
For most authors, reality is far more humble. For many years Patty's office was a little computer desk jammed into the bedroom. Speaking of which, my office is still a desk shoehorned into the bedroom. Someday, I have a dream of owning a house large enough for a real office. . . but that's a topic for another time. The good news is that authors don't generally need chandeliers dripping with crystal or cucumber sandwiches served on silver platters by English butlers.
We're in the process of changing Patty's office, so we're trying to figure out what would make the perfect office space. The answer largely depends on the author. Some authors thrive in a busy coffee shop -- watching the various people come and go provides some grist for the mill. Others prefer basements, or back yards, or garret rooms with a stunning view of Paris. Every author is different, and is inspired and bothered by different things. So, if you're building a workspace, you'll need to evaluate your needs carefully.
While our long-term plan is to build an addition to the house which includes a nice home-office for both of us, the short term plan is far more modest. Patty needs a small space that is warm, dry, and relatively free from interruption. Her current office no longer has any climate control (she's been huddling over a small space heater trying to stay warm), and has become a very busy and noisy location. We just purchased a small office trailer which we plan to install next to our house. It's not elegant, and it's anything but luxurious, but it should be warm and dry. It gives Patty a short commute to work (walk across the lawn), and the location should be quiet and relatively free from interruptions. The trailer is also divided into two small rooms so I can get all the web-store inventory out of her office!
So, tomorrow I've got an engineer from the power company coming to help figure out how we're going to get power to the little trailer. I'll be heading into town for carpet and paint to make it a little more presentable. I'll also need to figure out if it's possible to get internet access to her office, and build a few more book shelves. When it's done, hopefully she'll have a nice place to work for a year or two -- until we win the lottery and get the house remodeled!
Silver Borne #1 NYT
By: MikeApril 28, 2010
Silver Borne's sales managed to surpass our wildest expectations. It not only made it to the New York Times Bestseller's list, it was the #1 hardback the week it came out. Thank you to all the readers out there who made this possible, Patty has been positively giddy!.
While we're thanking readers, it would remiss of me not to thank everyone who helped make Patty's recent book-signing tour a success. Everywhere she went she had folks to show her around, and friendly bookstore staff and wonderful readers to talk with. She came home exhausted, but absolutely effervescent with all the good times. So, thank you once again to everyone!
Signing tours are kind of a mixed blessing. I can remember, some years ago, when we were barely making ends meet and Patty would read about bestselling author X jetting around the country that there was a note of jealousy. While her books sat, apparently invisible, on the stores of the handful of bookstores that carried them, other authors were getting steak dinners and fancy hotels. It's easy to be jealous. And now, we're seeing the other side of the coin, and realizing that for every blessing there is a cost.
Some authors are extroverts who thrive on attention, adore travel, and can't wait to jump on the next airplane. Patty, I suspect, is part hobbit. She likes the quiet spaces of our desert home, the solitude of her office, and if invisibility cloaks were available she'd buy one in a heartbeat. It's not that she doesn't love her readers, they're absolutely delightful people who generally say the nicest things. It's just that people are exhausting to be around. She worries about her appearance, she's afraid she'll say the wrong thing, she stresses over minutia long after the signing is over. . .
So, while some authors love the travel, Patty finds that after a few days she's exhausted and ready to come back to our little hobbit hole. Did I mention that most of our house is literally buried in a hill? (A hill that, currently, desperately needs mowing, weeding and watering. I've been a bad hobbit!). Some authors are happy touring the world, doing weeks or even months of daily engagements. Now, when we read about those authors, instead of envy there's a little bit of trepidation. I don't think Patty will ever be comfortable doing that . . . and since I miss her when she's gone, I'm not unhappy!
The Write Place: Of Rules and Regulations
By: MikeApril 28, 2010
We bought a little trailer for Patty to write in. It's supposed to be temporary, but since any plans for an addition to our house are subject to various obstacles, temporary may end up being longer than expected. Placing the trailer on our property has proven to be far more interesting than I had originally anticipated.
I've built a number of structures, and I'm moderately familiar with building departments and construction codes. When I bought the trailer, I was told that one of its primary advantages over a permanent structure was that no permits were required. When I contacted the building department to ask about getting the electrical permit, I was told that in this county an office trailer needed to be fully permitted unless it was deployed on an actual construction site. Furthermore, although the state had certified the structure as a mobile office, its use as a home office might well require a complete re-evaluation of the structure and re-certification by an appropriately-licensed engineering firm.
Only a bit of unabashed begging on my part prevented the trailer from becoming an outrageously expensive bonfire (though doubtless the clean-air commission and the environmental protection board would have levied heavy fines against me for burning the structure without appropriate permits). The building department eventually sold me a permit allowing me to park my little trailer on my land for a mere $400.00, subject to their approval of its location. What can I say? I'm Irish, we're blessed with good luck.
Next, I needed to run power to the little trailer. The Rural Electric Association (REA) was very helpful, and sent a representative over to help plan the installation. The site we had selected for the trailer was just barely too far away from the current service to run a sub-panel, and besides, if we upgraded our service to accommodate the additional load, every circuit in the house would be need to be brought fully into compliance with current codes, and thoroughly re-inspected. The projected costs were dizzying. The other option, adding an additional meter-base, was estimated to cost right at $5000.00, not including the secondary power run from the meter base to the trailer.
So, after some hand-wringing and late-night budget wrangling, we've installed a second meter base, set the trailer, dug trenches and laid conduit. The little trailer finally has power. The project took far longer than expected, and was vastly more expensive than we'd planned for, but it's finally done.
You know there's a punchline coming, right?
Today I got a notice from the building department stating that the permit I purchased had not included the right to actually connect the electricity. They have generously deigned to grant me a very limited time to plead my case, beg forgiveness, and purchase yet another permit before they begin assessing fines. They also regret to inform me that, in order to properly inspect the connections, I'll need to dig up a hundred feet or so of buried conduit. Hey, it's all about my safety, I should be grateful.
Chat with Patty
By: MikeMay 10, 2010
So, Penguin is running Silver Borne as their featured book this month. They've posted two sample chapters, as well as a very nice interview on their Reading Room. They've also arranged to host a live chat with Patty. We've tried live chats several times, but they always seemed to blow up when more than twenty people or so show up. We eventually gave up, but Penguin apparently has better hosting than we did, and isn't expecting any trouble. So, Wednesday May 12 at 8:00 PM Eastern Time, please drop by Penguin's Water Cooler and chat with Patty for a couple of hours. See you there!
The Write Place: Home at Last
By: MikeMay 27, 2010
It's finally all put together. The various officials have been paid, and all of the inspections completed, and the ratty little trailer squats in shabby grandeur a short distance from our house. The heat and AC works, it's clean and quiet, and Patty is loving having a nice quiet office to work in. She often prefers to work late hours, and having a quiet place very close to our home works out very nicely for her. I installed a point-to-point wireless link to the trailer, and once I get a router installed she should have all the comforts of home (well, except for a bathroom).
Although this trailer is intended to be temporary, I had install skirting between the ground and the trailer frame. Naturally, there's a plethora of regulations on the type, material and installation of said skirting. I ended up calling the building department for clarification of one detail or another, and while talking with one of their experts I asked what purpose was served by installing the skirting.
It turns out that is all about vortices, or vortexes as they're apparently called locally! During a tornado, there are swirling, cyclonic winds that sneak underneath structures and tear 'em right off their foundations. These vortexes can sneak through gaps or improperly fit siding, and that's why it's important to make sure all the skirting is properly fitted and secured.
Now, when I hear about a tornado shredding a trailer park somewhere, I'll to nod knowingly and remark that they should have just installed better skirting, then those nasty tornados would just bounce off. We're not exactly in tornado ally, but I sure wouldn't want an errant vortex to sneak in and explode my trailer, so I fitted everything together extra snugly, just to be safe!
Now that I'd been alterted to the danger, I was wondering if there were any vortexes lurking about, and did a quick google search. Sure enough, there's a Vortex in Oregon that's been lurking there for years. My suspicion is that it's waiting for some fool to build a trailer nearby without proper skirting!
Meet David Lawrence
By: MikeJune 2, 2010
A while ago, Patty released the first few Mercy Thompson comic books through Dabel Brothers comics. Patty is (if I do say so myself) a gifted storyteller, but graphic novels are whole different kettle of fish. Telling a story visually is, in many ways, harder than painting with words. Patty tried to do the first edition on her own, and after spending countless hours pulling her hair out, she was introduced to David Lawrence.
David is an author with the uncommon ability to realize other people's visions. He works an intricate web anchored by the author, publisher and artist. Patty's name is in big letter at the top of the comic, but making a text-only story splash across the graphic page is David's specialty. Knowing that we're working on more graphic novels, some of the "Leading Ladies" on the forums contacted him for an interview. Please take a minute and read the Dave Lawrence Interview.
By: MikeJune 2, 2010
By: MikeJune 2, 2010
We're back from Miscon, and we had a ball. Miscon is special, because it's always basically a big family reunion. This time we got to meet (however briefly) with Jean and Clyde, Patty's actual siblings. However, Miscon is really a family in and of itself; a family of crazy, nerdish, very cool people who share a love of the same things.
We spent most of our time hanging out with the writers. There were quite a few excellent panels on everything from Pirates to Zombies, as well as all aspects of writing and publishing. One of the highlights of the convention, for me, was a "spontaneous panel" that happend when C.J Cherryh, Jane Fancher and MJ Engh came up to our room for pizza. I'm not a writer, so I was mostly doing my "lounge guitarist" act in the corner, but there was a lot of discussion about the state of the publishing industry, and where the market may be heading. It's getting to be a tough nut to crack — even tougher than it used to be. CJ and Jane are doing some very interesting marketing and direct sales over at Closed-Circle.net, and I wonder if that's where the future lies.
By the way, among the various costumes was a young lady we've spoken with a couple of times who came dressed as a very convincing Mercy. Oh, and filker Eban Brooks was back this year. He's an awesome entertainer, hilariously funny on stage, with a serious determination to right the world in person. Well worth a listen, he's got quite a bit of his material up on YouTube for free.
Packing for Miscon
By: MikeMay 27, 2010
We're heading out for Miscon this afternoon. Patty was up 'till about 2:00 am trying to finish a short story, and apparently accidentally closed her word processor without saving the last couple of hours worth of edits. She's up this morning trying to finish it before we leave for Missoula. We're not packed, the car's a mess, and I need to finish fixing a bit of pasture fence before we leave. The lawns should be mowed, and I need to pick up a few things in town (that's an hour trip). So we're still as hopelessly behind and as disorganized as ever. I feel, sometimes, like this poster.
So wish us luck, in a few hours a frazzled and bedraggled bunch of Briggs' will be arriving in Missoula for Miscon. We'd love to see you there.
In Defense of Publishers
By: MikeJune 27, 2010
It seems that everywhere I turn, I see people clamoring for the death of traditional publishing. They're old, fossilized, moribund and getting in the way. The dinosaurs are clinging to an outdated business model, let them die! The vitriol comes from many quarters. Readers upset with prices, geographic restrictions and the spotty availability of digital books, particularly for older content. Small publishers eager to discredit the competition, and hopefully loot the carcass for market share. And, of course, writers frustrated with the current gatekeepers, who had the gall to reject their brilliant opus.
A few days ago, I read a very interesting article by Laura Miller at Salon, When Anyone Can Be a Published Author. Actually, the original title was "The Democratization of Slush", which proved to be surprisingly politically-charged. The fact that the title and even the content of an article can change virtually invisibly after publication is, I suppose, both an advantage and a potential danger of electronic media. It's lovely to be able to fix typos and correct grammatical blunders, but it makes me squeamish to think of our news and history being silently re-written to fit current social or political ideology. But I digress . . .
In my opinion, Ms Miller's article did an excellent job of analyzing a complex situation, and documenting the role of the current gatekeepers as well as the potential problems for readers when those gatekeepers are removed. In simplest terms, publishers winnow through a lot a chaff and try to find the occasional kernel of wheat for their readers. They're not perfect. They are commercial entities, and they often pass up otherwise excellent books if they don't feel they can profitably market the resultant product. They occasionally overlook good books, and have published some stinkers. However, on the whole, the stream of products coming out of the big houses is vastly better than the flood of raw material being submitted to them. If self-publishing, print on demand and technologies-yet-to-be-invented render the major presses irrelevant, someone is going to have to take over the role of reading/evaluating/judging the flood of material. The article was well written and cogent, but the comments were scathing -- how dare she ascribe any value to traditional publishing? Didn't she know that the court of public opinion has condemned them, and that the new world would be all fluffy bunnies and rainbows?
In another blog, a week or so ago, I found a bunch of people complaining that the publishing industry was asinine due to geographic restrictions on ebooks. After all, it's pretty silly that someone in the USA can purchase an ebook, but a potential client overseas can't do so. Oh, and the same thing goes for the back-list: why can't the publishers release all our favorite books from the 80's and 90's for a few cents a pop as ebooks? Stupid publishers!
Most publishers can't afford to pay the author a fair price for worldwide rights, and instead pay only for the right to publish and sell in a certain geographic area. Authors are then free to sell the rights to publish in other countries to local publishers. It's worked fine with print books, but is admittedly annoying with ebooks. Also, most publishers didn't acquire the digital rights to books twenty or thirty years ago, and so have no legal right to publish them in electronic form. Publishers are getting branded as inept or unadaptable, when really their hands are tied. Contractually, they don't have the right to do what the public demands, and if they try to make the public happy by ignoring their contracts and selling whatever they feel like, the authors will sue them into oblivion. It's going to take some time to adjust to the realities of a digital world, and an industry that depends on individual contracts with the creators of each piece of their catalog simply can't turn on a dime. Meanwhile, of course, the pirate sites which have no contracts, pay no royalties, and could care less about legality, are having no trouble giving people what they want.
We've been working with traditional publishing for about fifteen years now. The honeymoon is long over, and I'm not saying they're perfect. They're slow. They make mistakes. They don't always pander to the fragile ego's of hopeful authors. They don't always get the perfect cover on a book, or market it the way the author thinks they should have. I've even grumbled about them now and again. But when I hear all the people crying out for the downfall of traditional publishing, I get defensive. The editors I know love books. They love readers. They work long hours to try to find the very best of what's being written, and then work even more hours to try to make it better. If they can't respond to changing demands as quickly as the pirate sites, it's because they're actually interested in both upholding the law and making sure that all the creative folks involved in their products actually get paid. I find it hard to fault them for that, because the best way to guarantee your favorite author, copy-editor and cover artist are available for the next endeavor is to make sure they get paid for the current one.
I'm not against self-publishing, or even publishing through a vanity press for certain applications. There are many reasons for publishing, and many potential markets to reach, some of which are are not well served by traditional publishing. Besides, a little healthy competition is a good thing, and I think both authors and readers will ultimately benefit from the additional options being pioneered. But the current wave of hatred directed at traditional publishing seems ill-deserved and churlish to me.
By: Mike July 28, 2010
Every so often we get a letter from an aspiring author worried about sending their precious manuscript out into the cold cruel world. What if a publisher, or even an agent, reads it, and decides to steal it for themselves? We've tried to assuage these concerns, but recently I stumbled onto an article that does a far better job of it. If you, or someone is losing sleep, read Moira Allen's Will an Editor Steal Your Ideas?.
Also, Tor.com did a really nice interview with artist Dan Dos Santos and the cover movel, Jaime, called Embodying Mery Thompson in Person and In Paint.
Of Fences and Shortcuts
By: Mike July 28, 2010
Once again it's high summer, which in the desert means hot. I had carefully planned to have my outdoor projects completed several weeks ago, so that I could do indoor projects during the hottest weeks. Naturally, it didn't work, and I'm still working on the yard irrigation, which should have been done months ago. There's fourteen different lines, each with six or seven sprinkers, covering about three quarters of an acre of yard. Or at least it used be a yard before I started excavating with heavy equipment; now it looks like a war-zone. The grass is flattened, the ground ripped and shredded, ditches that were originally backfilled to level are now slumping as the ground settles. At least it's wet, and we can work on planting things this fall. I need to learn that things always take longer than expected around here. For example, my estimates for excavating several thousand feet of trenches, laying the pipe, and covering it over were stupidly optimistic to begin with. I hadn't factored the need to chip through rock, sand-bed the pipe, and rebuild the manifold from the water pump. Also, the pump-house wall needed repair, which led to re-wiring the building, which in turn revealed a dangerous underground feed to another building which had to be brought up to code. And all I wanted was a few sprinklers!
When we bought this place, it was littered with many "decorative" piles of rock. Most of them I hauled off, but we also built a nice dry-stacked rock wall around the front yard. It looked pretty good last year, until I realized our mistake. This is a desert, and the rock wall provided a perfect spider habitat. The deep recesses provide shade, and the yard provides moisture: it's spidertopia. Soon, every nook and cranny was harboring a spider (mostly wolf and hobo spiders), with webs covering much of the rock face. It's not as pretty as it was, and Patty's not a big fan of spiders, so the rock wall has to go.
This spring, I saw a beautiful wall made from native stone at our horse trainer's place. It's spider free. It turns out that, without the interior spaces provided by dry-stacking, the wall becomes too hot for the spiders to survive on. We got the name of the builder, and contacted him about building a nice mortared stone wall to replace our spider habitat. I winced a little at the price, but we decided to go ahead with the project.
I was anxious to see how he built the wall. After all, I'd worn myself to a frazzle simply dry stacking a wall, and he was going to be using cement and steel bars as well. I expected some sort of trick or gimmick. Maybe he'd use a slip form, and treat the cement with a retardant, kind of like exposed aggregate concrete. I was wrong. There's no trick. The cement is mixed in small batches on a big metal sheet, which allows him to adjust the consistency to his liking on a stone-by-stone basis. The rocks are individually fitted into place, the mortar is placed, and the excess concrete, spills and drips are cleaned by hand. It's a hundred degrees out there, and most days we have a very patient mason quietly fitting one stone against another in the shade of a portable carport. Suddenly, the price doesn't seem so bad!
I was so sure there was an "easy way", I even asked the mason about it. He said that brick and block are easy to lay, and you don't have to wait for once course to dry before starting on the next. It's much faster to build a block wall, then cover it with one of the many fake rock products on the market. But for a real stone wall there are no shortcuts, just lots of hard, hot, heavy work. There's a lesson in there somewhere!
By: Mike August 27, 2010
Earlier this month we attended Spocon, a science fiction & fantasy convention in Spokane, WA. As expected, we had a great time. The staff at Spocon is awesome. I got to meet another of my long-time heroes, Michael Whelan. I've been looking at his cover art since I was a teenager, and purchased several books simply because they featured his amazing work on the covers. We have a couple of prints of his work hanging in the house. In short, Patty and I are fans. However, we both managed to be cordial and polite and not stalk him too obviously through the convention.
Speaking of favorite legends, we ended up going out to lunch with C.J Cherryh and Jane Fancher (Yes, I'm name dropping. It's not every day you become friends with the gods of your youth). We talked with them at length about publishing and all the usual things, but we also got to tour their home. They live in Spokane, and they've mentioned working on a koi pond a couple of times. It's unbelievable. The house is a nice, but not extravagant place hidden in the shady suburbs. It looks like many other homes, except that one yard has a huge koi pond with a gorgeous waterfall and lily beds, and beautiful aquascaping. But it doesn't stop there, the whole yard has been transformed into an elaborate Japanese garden. The walls have been painted with trompe l'oeil murals of rural Japan, complete with misty valleys and scenic mountain passes. Japanese Maples and Mugo Pines grow beside mainicured paths. The rocks and plants are artfully placed, and the overall effect is of nature perfected. I wanted to go sit down and read a book. Then they showed us how their offices are set to look out over the beautiful garden, where colorful birds flash by in the dappled sunlight. . . .
I could see Patty was smitten with the place (who wouldn't be?) so I hastened to explain how, if she had a view like that, she'd never get any work done. Her office has small windows, set too high to see out of easily, and give her a lovely view of the desert dust blowing across an arid landscape. Just the thing to convince her there's nothing to see, and she should go write about some imaginary characters with a koi pond in their back yard. Somehow, I sense a koi pond in our future. With all the dust blowing around here, I hope the koi can survive in mud. And I can't grow Japanese laceleaf maples, so I'll just replant a few of our old-growth sagebrush bushes. It'll be great, trust me!
In other convention news, when we arrived I was told that the filk guest of honor, Seanan McGuire needed a guitarist, as her usual accompanist was sick. So, they waved the set list and a sheaf of sheet music in my face, and we were off to the races. Seanan is a very interesting person. She's very articulate, obviously well educated, and has more hobbies than you can name. She's an award-winning songwriter, with several albums to her credit, as well as an author with both short stories and a bang-up urban fantasy series to her credit. While practicing with her, I found her remakably friendly, but with the kind of energy only superheroes are supposed to have. If the energizer bunny ever falls short, Seanan will surely be able to pick up the slack. With a couple of
hours of practice, the Saturday night concert came off as well as could be expected. One of our friends (Deb Lentz) caught one of the songs on film.
By: Mike August 27, 2010
More Cons Next Year
By: Mike August 27, 2010
Just a quick heads up. We usually do smaller conventions, but next year we're going to get crazy and do a couple of big ones. First, several of our friends are heading to World Con in Reno, Nevada next August. After a bit of arm twisting, we've decided it would be too much fun to miss, so we'll be there!
Next up, Patty was invited to Comic Con in San Diego next year. I've wanted to go to a Comic Con for years, so we jumped on the opportunity with enthusiasm. This should be a lot of fun!
Wolfsbane Sample Chapter Posted
By: Mike Sept 16, 2010
We've had a couple of inquiries about the sample chapter to Wolfsbane, which has now been posted here. Enjoy!
Homework Can Be Fun
By: Mike Sept 8, 2010
Late last week, Patty and I took a road trip down the Columbia river to a small town called Mary's Hill. She's working long hours finishing River Marked, and decided that she needed to go take a long walk in the desert and smell the sagebrush to get the setting just right. The area has been home to various Native American peoples for centuries. There are numerous petroglyphs and pictographs on the cliffs around the region. The area was known for having rapids and a waterfall, and many tribes gathered for the biannual salmon runs. When the river was dammed, the waters covered the rapids, the waterfall, and many of the paintings. The river runs deep and slowly now.
The first sign we were getting close was seeing Mount Hood jutting far above the horizon, its snow-capped peak far higher than the dessicated mesas and buttes. Sometimes the big, solitary peaks will form lenticular clouds, which can look like anything from flying saucers to sombreros. This time, the mountain had it's own umbrella.
Most of the Eastern Columbia river gorge is desert. Scrub-steppe actually. Mostly grasses, tumbleweed and sagebrush. The river gorge is impressive, cutting through huge basalt lava flows.
Mary's Hill is a very small town. We live in a town of two thousand people, and I suspect Mary's Hill is about half of that. However, it's founders were planning for greatness. By far the largest building in the town is a magnificent museum, with four stories of exhibits covering everything from Romanian Royalty to Native American artifacts. There is also a WWI war memorial, curiously wrought as a full-scale replica of Stonehenge. Very interesting place, especially for a storyteller!
At Horsethief lake we met up with Jody who had volunteered to show us the area. Until a few years ago, anyone could wander these hills and valleys, and there are hundreds of petroglyphs in the area. Predictably, some people decided to vandalize or steal the petroglyphs and litter the area with trash. The area is sacred to several local tribes, and since it's tribal land, they closed off access for several years. In an effort to share their culture, they're once again allowing people in, but only at certain times and with a guide. Jody was friendly, outgoing, and utterly charming, explaining the local history as we hiked an easy trail from one site to the next.
Jody was intimately familiar with the area, and pointed out numerous things we would doubtless have missed without her assistance. There was a special spirit to these rocks, a sense of another time and a different people reaching out. Here people had etched and painted their visions and dreams. The place felt as holy as any church, and seeing it in person is an entirely different experience than merely looking at a few photographs.
Nobody really knows what all the images mean. The stories are either lost, or are not shared with outsiders. Some of them are easy to recognize, others look like nightmare monsters. There are many symbols: ziz-zag lines, concentric circles, radiating rays, that are repeated frequently, and obviously held deeper meaning to those who drew them.
The highlight of the trip is the stunning petroglyph,She Who Watches. We spent quite a while here, just listening to the wind, feeling the sun, and watching the river flow past. Here's Patty standing near She Who Watches. It was an amazing way to end an awesome experience.
Next we'll see if Patty can capture some of what we saw and felt in the pages of River Marked.
Book Related Gossip
By: MikeOct 8, 2010
Last night Patty got a call from her editor. That's not terribly unusual, especially since she's running late finishing River Marked, and her editor is trying to juggle a dozen other jobs that depend on that manuscript. However, a couple of interesting things came up. First, completely unexpectedly, Masques actually made it to the New York Times bestseller list. It showed up at number 17, which for a fifteen year old book isn't too shabby! Here's a huge "Thank You!" to all the readers who make this kind of awesomeness happen for us.
However, there was stranger news. Apparently there's a rumor circulating that Patty actually writes very long books, you know, the two-hundred-thousand word doorstoppers. Of course, her
evil stepmother publisher, in a reckless show of authoritainism, forces her to cut them down to a pale shadow of their former selves. According to rumor, Patty is trying to get the books re-printed in their original glory.
Hey, I like this story. Any time the readers see a plot hole, or a bit of story that was left unresolved, she can simply sigh and say, "Yes, that was done perfectly in the original version, but sadly, when I cut the story to half it's original length, some things were lost." However, as convenient as this would be, it's simply not true.
Patty naturally writes mid-sized books (typically right at one hundred thousand words). It's true that, early on, the publisher asked her to cut a couple of manuscripts down in size. Frankly, those manuscripts are tighter, better stories because of it. Thank you, editors!
Sisyphus and I
By: MikeOct 8, 2010
Over the past couple of years, I've removed many tons of basalt from our front yard. Where once there were heaps of rubble, now there's green lawn. Well, honestly it's mostly weeds covering patches of uneven ground, but we call it a lawn. So, the other day we were driving past some manicured lawns in Richland, and there was one with a pair of huge boulders, with a few strategically-placed flowers peeking out around them. It was lovely, and Patty asked if we might do something like that with our lawns. "Of course, sweetheart. That's easy", I lied.
So, a few days later, I stopped by a landscaping store, which happened to have a supply of ornamental boulders out back. After asking about prices, delivery charges, and so forth, I determined that this was a perfect opportunity to "do-it-yourself". And so began my quest.
Now most of the rock in the Tri-Cities is our signature broken basalt. Dense, dark, angular, and not very Feng Shui. However, thanks to a history involving a cataclysmic flood, as well as several rivers, there are occasional anomalies. On the way to our horse-trainer's place, I had noticed a large, rounded granite boulder just sitting in a farmer's field. Eventually, I managed to drive by when the farmer was home. I introduced myself, informing him that I was on a quest to maintain domestic tranquility, and expressed an interest in removing that useless boulder. After all, it would doubtless wreck his tractor someday if it were allowed to remain where it was.
The farmer told me that he'd already sold that particular rock. Twice. However, on both occasions, the buyers had been unable to actually move it, and had abandoned it where it lay. Because he was a generous sort, he was willing to sell it again if I wanted to try my luck. An offer was made, a bargain struck, and money changed hands. I owned a lovely granite boulder and had only to transport it home, and for a fraction of the price that silly landscape company wanted.
I could see why others had failed to lift it. Silly people. My best estimate put that rock at about a ton. I drove home, and returned a short while later with a flatbed trailer and a skidsteer with forks. Big rocks? No problem. I confidently parked the trailer, then drove over to the boulder, eased the forks beneath it, and leaned on the hydraulics that tip the forks back. Nothing happened. Oh sure, there was a whining sound from the hydraulics, but the rock didn't even twitch. I was beginning to suspect that it weighed more I had previously estimated. The farmer, for his part, was lounging nearby watching with a broad smile on his face.
Still, even if I couldn't tip the forks, I should be able to lift it. This skid steer has a working weight of well over a ton, which means that, if you don't mind straining a few things, it should lift a bit over three thousand pounds in a pinch. So I pulled on the lever that would raise the mighty arms. For a minute, nothing happened. The engine lugged, and I stomped the accelerator. Hydraulics whined, and slowly the rock lifted from the earth. One inch, then two, then the rock stopped lifting and the back wheels of my machine came off the ground as the rock slowly settled back down, pinning the forks beneath it. The farmer was laughing loudly, finding something hysterically funny.
I managed to get the forks free, and repositioned the machine, hoping for better luck. The boulder was nearly round, but it had almost worked. This time, the rock came up about six inches, and I started inching forward. The poor machine was straining, and I could almost hear it chanting, "I think I can. I think I can . . ." — but that was probably just the drive belt slipping.
Suddenly, one wheel hit a soft spot and lost traction. The machine spun in place. As the skid steer spun, centrifugal force carried the rock to the end of the tines, pulling the skidsteer's rear wheels up into the air. When the rock reached the end of the tines, it naturally began to roll off. However, the poor machine was also trying desperately to lift, so as the rock rolled free, the arms suddenly shot up, propelling the rock forward like a marble shot by the schoolyard sharpshooter.
I had more urgent things to worry about. As the rock shot free, the skidsteer, no longer loaded, slammed back onto all four wheels. The back wheels immediately gained traction, and we rocketed forward. Now the front wheels were off the ground, and they just kept going higher. Fortunately, I hit the brakes before it rolled, but it took a while before the machine quit bucking and bouncing. When things finally quit moving, I looked for my boulder — you know, the giant one that had been right there a second ago.
It had rolled a fair distance across the field, narrowly missing the farmer, who was no longer laughing. He eyed me suspiciously and kept a wary distance as I approached the rock again. This time I just pushed it, and I was happy to find that, while I couldn't lift it, I could roll it. Over the next twenty minutes, I acquired empathy for poor Sisyphus as I carefully rolled that big rock across the field and onto the trailer, where I lashed it down with every strap I have. I have a lot of straps, so the final result was reminiscent of Gulliver's visit with the Liliputs.
So, finally, we have a big rock in the front yard. Patty suggested that it would look more balanced with a second boulder. After a bit of searching, I found one out back that weighs maybe eighty pounds. It looks tiny next to the big one. Personally, I find it very aesthetically pleasing. It was also much easier to move. Big rocks are terribly overrated.
Life on the Hamster Wheel
By: MikeNov 6, 2010
It seems like the world just keeps spinning faster, the days go by, and the to-do list keeps getting longer. Patty put in a lot of sixteen hour days writing River Marked. She shipped it off to her publisher, and due to the tight production schedule Anne, her editor, must have pulled a couple of all-nighters. The manuscript is back for edits and Patty is once again working far into the night trying to finish it. The good news is that it's going to be an awesome book!
For Halloween we went to "Scarywood", which is the scary version of Silverwood, a theme park located in Athol, Idaho. We had a couple of days while Anne was working on the book, and our daughters wanted to go. Frankly, I wasn't expecting much. A few actors in cheap costumes, a couple of fog machines, a bit of window dressing perhaps. I mean, Silverwood is kind of "country kitsch" themed, with things like banjo music and singing squirrels. How scary can you make it? Well, I grossly underestimated the creative folks there. It was amazing -- incredible costumes, lots of animatronics, and a plethora of actors. The whole place was transformed, and it was awesome, terrifying and well worth the rather high entrance fee. Good times!
And, back on the farm, things just keep getting crazier. We've decided to add a small addition to the house. We haven't even broken ground, and its already a time sink. I was going to try to get some irrigation in the fields this fall. I'd finished the design, surveyed the fields, purchased a truck load of materials and started laying pipe (not easy here in basalt flats), when Patty suggested that getting some shelters built for the horses was a better use of the last bit of warm weather. After all, we weren't going to irrigate in winter, and I could always finish the irrigation after the spring thaw.
So, now I'm trying to get a bunch of posts set three to four feet deep into solid rock. It's not as easy as it sounds. Today I saw a "For Sale" listing for a lovely house twenty minutes away on a beautiful piece of land. I pointed it out to Patty. "See", I said, "We could just borrow eight hundred thousand dollars and move right in. We could sell this rock pile to make the down payment." For some reason, instead of rushing to call the Realtor, she just asked how I was coming with the groundwork. Hmmph!
I generally like to stay busy, but the past few weeks have been a little over the top even for me. It's all good things, we we're having a blast, but somehow my middle aged body keeps insisting that I can't cram 28 hours worth of activity into a 24 hour day. Patty says my theme song should be Alabama's I'm in a Hurry.
Prognostications and Crystal Balls
By: MikeDec 6, 2010
Every few weeks I see another soothsayer predicting the future of publishing. Since we would like to be alive and well for at least some of that future, and our income currently depends on the sale of books, I read most of them. Everyone agrees that profound change is coming which will forever alter the publishing landscape, and that anyone caught with their proverbial trousers down isn't going to make it.
It reminds of a scene from a Tarzan book, where a host of hunters are camping in the jungle. Their native guides, heads to the ground, begin yelling, warning that a massive herd of elephants is charging, and will trample anything in their path. "Flee or perish!", they cry. The panicked hunters are ready to run, but nobody can tell them where the elephants are coming from. The current bunch of fortune tellers have (probably correctly) predicted the danger, but they're all pointing into the jungle in different directions.
Of course, if you've read Tarzan, you know that when some idiot goes running off into the jungle, disaster isn't far behind. We're not running, but we're certainly watching. Earlier this week, I stumbled onto a particularly good analysis of the situation by Kris Rush. We really admire Kris and Dean. They're brilliant, articulate, and very much "in the know" about publishing. Kris has written a series of articles (or is that a serialized article?) with her analysis of the situation. If you're an author, or a publisher, or even a reader wondering what everyone is squawking about, read her Changing Times series. Oh, and speaking of changing times, rather than publish this series as a book and charge for it, Kris has put a donate button on the blog. If you find it useful, please tip her a tuppence.
With River Marked done, we can start to turn attention to other things for a week or two. The house needs help — I'm apparently not getting the good housekeeping seal of approval. More disturbing, we seem to have more stuff than places to put it. Books, in particular, multiply with disturbing speed around here, and slowly every flat surface is covered with stacks and piles of them. . .
We're also doing our taxes. Oh sure, we paid estimated taxes earlier in the year, while Patty was fighting deadlines and due dates. Now it's time to go make sure all the columns add up. Our record keeping mostly consists of throwing any receipt that might be important into a big drawer. This is the point were we get to sort it into stacks, add it all up, cringe and sort it all a different way. It's kind of like solitaire, but far more frustrating. Bless the IRS and our simple, elegant, easy to understand tax code (that's sarcasm, for those who didn't catch it). The only solace is that it will be done soon.
The cold weather caught me trying to squeeze in a bunch of last minute projects. We had a long, warm Indian summer, and I fell for it! Now there's piles of lumber and irrigation pipe in snow-covered stacks, while the skeletal frame of a foaling shelter sits forlornly in the pasture, waiting for spring. With ice covering everything, taxes are probably the safer choice. On the other hand, we also need to get a Christmas tree, and decorate it, and that's one of my favorite things ever. Break out the spiced cider and warm up the DVD player, it's winter!
Conventions and Signings
By: MikeNov 21, 2010
We have a tentative schedule for Patty's signing tour for River Marked. When we get the final version, I'll post it on the appearances page, but for now:
- Richland, WA: Hastings March 1/2011
- Oakbrook/Chicago IL: Borders March 2/2011
- Bailey's Crossing/DC: Borders March 3/2011
- Milwaukee, WI: Barnes and Nobel March 4/2011
- Houston, TX: Murder By The Book March 5/2011 P.S. This is an awesome joint signing with Kim Harrison!
- San Diego, CA: Mysterious Galaxy March 6/2011
- Seattle, WA: University Bookstore March 7/2011
- Portland, OR: Powells 7/2011
Travel and the TSA
With the new TSA procedures, flying has become an exercise in public humiliation. After much discussion, we have decided to attend the conventions and signings we've already agreed to (indluding the River Marked signing tour that's already largely planned). We owe at least that much to the wonderful people who have invited us to come spend time with them. However, we will not be accepting any additional commitments that would require air travel, unless and until other measures are put in force at the airports.
We love to travel, and we love to meet readers, writers and amazing people of all sorts. We'll miss seeing more of you. Thank you for your understanding.
EDIT: OK, it's official, we're sheep. Forgoing air travel is simply not practical for an author. Meeting with readers and publishers is an integral part of the job. Besides, one of the best parts of the profession is getting to meet awesome folks at conventions and signings. Our dignity is, apparently, a lost cause. Let the TSA agents get their jollies groping a couple of overweight, middle-aged citizens for safety, and let us get on with living.