Three Weeks to Unbound

UnboundIt’s three weeks until Unbound [Amazon | B&N | Indiebound] comes out. This is the time I’d normally switch into higher gear with giveaways and other promotional stuff.

Unfortunately, my son’s cold is kicking my butt, and holiday preparation is eating up the remaining energy. So instead, I leave you with what could be considered a tantalizing hint, a piece of the research I did while writing the book, a glimpse into the inner workings of the culmination of three books!!!

Or maybe it’s just a random bit of letters and doodling I’m posting because I’m too brain-fuzzed to write a real blog post. Who knows?

CarmenFiguratem

This served as the model for one of the messages Isaac has to decipher. All I’ll tell you about it is that it’s from 983 A.D.

Book Reviews: Clines, Rothfuss, and Hearne

I’m falling behind in my book reviewing, so I’m going to cram a few together in one blog post.

Ex-Heroes CoverBook the first: Ex-Heroes [Amazon | B&N | Indiebound], by Peter Clines. This is basically a post-apocalyptic zombie book with superheroes, which is an interesting premise. As powerful as the heroes are, they’re not invulnerable, and they’re vastly outnumbered. They’ve established a stronghold called The Mount, in the ruins of Hollywood, where they scavenge for supplies and do their best to protect their citizens from the exes (ex-humans), as well as a street gang that’s discovered some powers of their own.

Clines hits a lot of the expected beats for a zombie story, including flashbacks to the beginning of the disaster, various scenes of humans being trapped by exes, and the terror of the endless sea of undead at the gates. I appreciated that there was at least one twist that I didn’t see coming. (And it has a blurb from Nathan Fillion, which is both cool and incredibly envy-making.)

I’d recommend this one to fans of zombies and Watchmen.

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The Slow Regard of Silent Things - CoverBook the second: The Slow Regard of Silent Things [Amazon | B&N | Indiebound], by Patrick Rothfuss. Pat writes an interesting introduction to this novella (novelette?), in which he warns people, “You might not want to buy this book … it doesn’t do a lot of the things a classic story is supposed to do.”

More than anything, this struck me as a character study. Auri is a secondary character in Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles. In this book, we follow a week in Auri’s life.

Depending on how you read it, there isn’t a lot happening in this book. Auri lives beneath the university, a world of empty caves and tunnels and pipes and ponds and abandoned rooms. In some respects, she reminds me a bit of Luna Lovegood, a character who sees the world in a very different and odd way. But in Auri’s case, you get hints of her past, of someone who was broken and rebuilt herself and her world.

If you’re looking for a strong plot, or for a story that has an impact on the greater world, you should probably skip this one. Auri spends her days exploring, finding lost objects and putting them in their proper places, exploring different rooms, and searching for the right gift for him.

The writing is gorgeous, and I was fascinated by Auri’s character, who seems to walk a very thin line between beauty and crippling OCD. My only complaint is that I wish she wasn’t so fixated on him (Kvothe, from Rothfuss’ novels). I understand that this is in keeping with the books, but it frustrates me to read such a beautifully written woman whose existence revolves around a guy. I’ve just been reading too much of that sort of thing lately.

That said, it’s a beautifully written story, though it won’t work for everyone. It inspired me to try some new things with my own writing and characters.

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Hounded - CoverBook the third: Hounded [Amazon | B&N | Indiebound], by Kevin Hearne.

This is book one of Hearne’s popular Iron Druid chronicles, and I can see why he’s done so well with it. It’s page-turning fun, with a 2000+ year old druid called Atticus O’Sullvain living in Arizona with a delightful Irish wolfhound. For a long time, he’s been hiding from a very angry god who wants a sword Atticus stole centuries ago.

Lots of action, a good helping of snark, and entertaining, larger-than-life characters, from the werewolf and vampire legal team to the possessed bartender to the Irish widow Atticus hangs out with, swapping Irish tales.

There’s also a bit of hetero-male wish-fulfillment going on, with several beautiful and powerful women who all want to sleep with Atticus. On the other hand, Hearne presents a range of female characters, all with their own strengths.

In sum, a fun and entertaining read.

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So, that’s some of my recent reading. Any of these three strike you as interesting? Or if you’ve read them, feel free to share your thoughts.

December Newsletter

Klud the goblin has sent out another Update from the Goblin Lair, with news on forthcoming books and appearances, as well as an offer to anyone who might be giving one of my books as a gift for the holidays.

Updates from the Goblin Lair: December 2014

I, on the other hand, have spent the past few days balancing work, revisions for the Secret Project of Doom, and taking care of a sick boy.  (Though he wasn’t too sick to play LEGO Batman 2 with Dad, so that’s good!)

Black Lives Matter

This is a companion piece to go with the charts I posted in Two Thoughts on Ferguson. That post showed the disproportionate number of police-inflicted deaths in the U.S. compared to Australia, Germany, and England & Wales, as well as the fact that when you look at the percentage by population, black people in the U.S. are three times more likely to be killed by the police than white people.

The links below are some of those deaths from 2014. This is in no way a complete list.

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February 16. Bastrop County, TX. 47-year-old black woman Yvette Smith was shot and killed by white police officer Daniel Willis after opening the door for police. Police had been responding to a call about an altercation between two men. Police initially claimed Smith was armed and ignored their commands. They later retracted these claims. Officer Willis was indicted for murder in June.

April 30. Milwaukee, WI. A mentally ill 31-year-old black man named Dontre Hamilton was shot 14 times by white police officer Christopher Manney. An autopsy suggested that roughly half of those shots were fired from above, as if Manney was standing over Hamilton.

July 17. New York City, NY. 43-year-old black man Eric Garner died after being put in a chokehold by white police officer Daniel Pantaleo. Police had confronted Garner on suspicion of selling loose/untaxed cigarettes. Garner was heard on video saying, “I can’t breathe” eleven times. The grand jury declined to indict the officer.

August 5. Beavercreek, OH. 22-year-old black man John Crawford was shot and killed by white police officer Sean Williams while carrying a BB rifle inside of a Walmart store. Police claim Crawford was waving the rifle around and refused to obey orders. Surveillance video contradicts this. No officers were indicted.

August 9. Ferguson, MO. 18-year-old black man Michael Brown was shot and killed by white police officer Darren Wilson. A grand jury did not indict the officer. Between payment for an interview with ABC and donations from various fundraisers, Wilson has reportedly received more than $1,000,000 as a direct result of killing Michael Brown.

August 11. Los Angeles, CA. An unarmed, mentally ill, 25-year-old black man named Ezell Ford was shot and killed by two LA police officers. Officers claim Ford resisted and tried to grab an officer’s weapon. Other accounts claim Ford was cooperating, and was shot in the back while lying on the ground. The autopsy of Ford’s body has not yet been released.

September 10. Saratoga Springs, UT. 22-year-old black man Darrien Hunt was shot six times in the back by two white police officers, Matthew Schauerhamer and Nicholas Judson, while cosplaying and carrying a decoartive sword. Video appears to show Hunt running for his life moments before being killed. Neither officer will face criminal charges.

November 12. Cleveland, OH. Mentally ill 37-year-old black woman Tanesha Anderson was killed after police officers slammed her head into the pavement during a “take-down.” Anderson’s brother claims officers made no attempt to resuscitate her.

November 20. Brooklyn, NY. 28-year-old black man Akai Gurley was killed when police officer Peter Liang fired a single shot while patrolling a housing complex. EMTs arrived a short time later to find Gurley’s girlfriend — not the police — performing CPR. According to the NY Daily News, the officer who killed Gurley was texting his union representative instead of calling for medical help.

November 22. Cleveland, OH. A 12-year-old black boy named Tamir Rice was shot by white police officer Timothy Loehmann. Rice had been playing with a toy gun, which a 911 operator was told “was probably fake.” Video shows Loehmann shot Rice within two seconds of arriving on the scene. Officers did not administer first aid.

December 2. Phoenix, AZ. An unarmed 34-year-old black man named Rumain Brisbon was shot and killed by police. A police spokesman says Brisbon was verbally challenging and reached for something in his pocket/waistband (which turned out to be oxycodone pills). Witness statements contradict this.

Cool Stuff Friday

It looks like Rise of the Spider Goddess has pretty much earned back its costs in the first 72 hours. Thank you all so much!

And now, on to some fun stuff:

It’s Spider Goddess Day!

The Prosekiller Chronicles: Rise of the Spider Goddess (An Annotated Novel) is out today in print and electronic format! This is a little different from my other books, but the urge to Kermit-flail and run around telling everyone to BUY MY BOOK while simultaneously clicking to refresh my Amazon ranking every seven seconds is unchanged. I’m starting to think authors should simply be tied up like Odysseus when our books come out…

Rise of the Spider GoddessSummary:

In 2006, DAW Books published Jim C. Hines’ debut novel Goblin Quest. But before Jig the goblin, before fairy tale princesses and magic librarians and spunky fire-spiders, there was Nakor the Purple, an elf who wanted nothing more than to stand around watching lovingly overdescribed sunrises with his pet owl Flame, who might actually be a falcon, depending on which chapter you’re reading.

This is Nakor’s story, written in 1995 and never before shared with the world. (For reasons that will soon be painfully clear.) Together with an angsty vampire, a pair of pixies, and a feisty young thief, Nakor must find a way to stop an Ancient Evil before she destroys the world. (Though, considering the relatively shallow worldbuilding, it’s not like there’s much to destroy…)

With more than 5000 words of bonus annotation and smart-ass commentary, this is a book that proves every author had to start somewhere, and most of the time, that place wasn’t very pretty.

A Few Advance Reviews:

“Every new writer has a Rise of the Spider Goddess inside them. Now it’s been published, there’s no need to write it. Chock-full of essential advice, self-mockery, and compassion for the beginner, it’s a hilarious reminder that we all start somewhere.”

-Sean Williams, author of The Slug in the Sky (age 15) and the #1 NYT Bestselling Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (age 39)

“We can often learn more from the mistakes of others than from their successes. Hines has been kind enough to put his own errors on display as an object lesson for the student writer: everything from cliches of prose to morally dubious characterization, from paper-thin worldbuilding to continuity errors big enough to fly a dragon through. If you want to know what not to do, read this book.”

-Marie Brennan, author of World of the Elementals (age 10) and Voyage of the Basilisk (Tor Books, age 33)

“Jim deserves a Darwin Award for releasing this masterpiece of Words! In! Order! into the wild. I admire him greatly. If the Bulwer-Lytton contest gave prizes for whole books, this one would win by a mile. Eye of Argon look out! The Spider Goddess is about to steal your crown.”

-Diana Pharaoh Francis, author of City of Terrible Night (age 16), and Trace of Magic (age 47)

Guest Posts and Other Links (to be updated throughout the week):

Buy the Book (please):

Lessons Learned: Rise of the Spider Goddess

Rise of the Spider Goddess [Amazon | Kobo | Smashwords] goes on sale tomorrow. This is the annotated edition of the very first book I ever wrote, back in 1995. The cover art accurately captures the experience of reading the book. Details are here if you’d like to know more.

Cover2I’ve self-published a handful of books, including several e-chapbooks of short fiction, and Invisible earlier this year. But this is the first time I’ve done a complete novel. This was also only the second time I’ve done a print edition as well as an ebook. So I figured I’d step back and take a look at the process and the things I figured out this time.

1. Print has gotten easier. Please note that I didn’t say “easy.” But when I did the print edition of Goblin Tales through Lulu back in early 2011 … well, let’s just say I came out of that experience determined to just do e-books from then on, both to avoid the hassle of print, and because the self-pubbed print edition simply didn’t sell.

This time around, I went through CreateSpace at Amazon, and the process was significantly more straightforward. I was able to download a template for both the interior and for the cover. I still spent a lot of time on the files, but that was because I wanted to customize the interior, add some additional sections that weren’t in the template, change the header and page number layout, add drop caps, insert a graphic at the start of each chapter, and so on.

It’s not perfect, and I’m once again left with a lot of respect for the people who do layout for a living, but I’m pleased with the end results. The pricing also seems to have gotten better since 2011. I’m able to sell a 200+ page trade paperback for $10.99, which Amazon has discounted to less than $10.

2. Cover art costs. I tend to be a bit conservative with my personal finances. (My daughter would have another word for it.) When I started searching for cover artists and emailing for quotes, I was hoping to keep costs low. $200 would have been nice. $500 was my upper limit.

Yeah, that didn’t last. I got quotes that ranged from $200 to $2500. I looked around a bit to see if there was any preexisting art I could license, but the book is quirky enough that nothing really fit. And after chatting with people online, I decided to try to do something in the old Dungeons & Dragons style. So I looked for artists who had done D&D illustration work in the past, and eventually went with Patrick McEvoy. Patrick seemed to get what I was looking for, and was friendly and easy to work with.

Was it worth what I ended up paying? Ask me in six months when I know how many books have sold, but I’m happy with the cover, and the feedback has been very positive so far.

3. Preorder headaches. Did you know that Barnes & Noble still doesn’t seem to have a way for authors to put their self-published title up for pre-order? There will be a Nook edition of Spider Goddess, but it won’t show up until tomorrow. They seem to be the lone hold-out. I was able to post the book at Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, and Google Play without any trouble, though Amazon has a cutoff date for uploading the final files, and says if you don’t do so by that date, they won’t let you post things for pre-order in the future.

And while Amazon will let you put up your e-book for pre-order, they won’t do the same for the print. As I understand it, there is a rather convoluted way of getting a self-published print title up for pre-order by sighing up for a separate Amazon program. But in my case, I ended up accidentally putting the print edition on sale a few weeks early. Ah well. It gave me time to get the Kindle and print edition linked on Amazon before the official release, and most of my print books start showing up on bookstore shelves early anyway.

4. Publicity. One of the many reasons I love DAW is that they do a lot of the behind-the-scenes work for me. They send out review copies, get the book listed online and in their catalogs, put out some advertisements, and so on. With Spider Goddess, it was all on me. I created print and electronic ARCs and sent those out. (I got some fun advance blurbs, too!) I’ve set up some guest blog posts on various sites. But I definitely didn’t accomplish as much as I had hoped. There was simply too much to do, and not enough time to do everything.

Trying to figure out effective book publicity is like wrestling a greased watermelon golem. But I’m hoping that I’ve done enough to generate a little interest and curiosity, and that the book itself will build on that to generate some word of mouth. We’ll see what happens.

5. A book day is a book day. I always get anxious when a new book ventures forth into the world. As I sit here counting down to December 2, peeking around to see if any more reviews have cropped up or if anyone’s talking about the book, and worrying about whether or not folks will like it, I think it’s safe to say that self-published or commercially-published makes no difference. Book day is book day, and I’ll be obsessing over this one all week.

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I’m happy to chat about the process, if anyone has questions. Thanks for bearing with me, and I hope you like the book!

Harassment at Context

Several people have emailed me about reports of harassment at Context this year, which resulted in an individual being banned from the convention for five years. Here’s my roundup of links about what happened. (Please let me know if I’ve missed anything.)

  • September 30: Jonathan Maberry is one hoopy frood. Context is pretty cool too. Andi Brunett-Libecap describes her encounter with a consuite voluneer as part of her (overall very positive) roundup of the convention. In a follow-up post, she talks about feeling conflicted, noting, “He didn’t seem BAD so much as STUPID. There’s a difference, and the difference is important to me.”
    • In the comments to Brunett-Libecap’s second post, Context’s workshop director Lucy Snyder clarifies that, “Yours wasn’t the only complaint about his behavior that was received by the convention … The other piece of this, which maybe isn’t clear: [he] was a convention staff member working in the con suite and not just a regular attendee. Context holds convention staff to a higher standard of behavior … But even if he hadn’t been staff, his behavior was unacceptable.”
  • October 28: Two More Con Code of Conduct Complaints Go Public. File 770 reports that a consuite volunteer named Jeffrey Tolliver was banned from Context following multiple complaints about this individual’s conduct. Includes a quote from Tolliver, saying, “I owe deep apologies to you, your friend and all the attendees of Context 27. If stupidity was contagious I would have infected more people that the Plague.”
  • November 16: Statement Regarding Complaints Of Harassment At Context 27. Context posts an official statement on their Tumblr page.
    • “[T]here have been complaints regarding multiple incidents involving a ConCom member/volunteer. These incidents have been reported both in the current year and incidents have come to light regarding past years … We had corroborating reports of the incident(s) in question, and have received information that the person in question did not dispute the incident.”
  • November 28: Why I Am Resigning As Programming Director For Context. Steven Saus resigns, saying, “Without myself and a very few others, I do not believe there would have been any public response to the reports of harassment at Context 27.  I do not have faith that the harassment policy will be enforced or that reports of harassment would be treated seriously at Context in the future. I do not realistically have the ability to make that change before Context 28.”
    • Sharon Palmer, who oversaw the Context Consuite, says in the comments, “I am a member of the committee am saying this as my own opinion, and NOT that of the committee, that Steve has misrepresented the issue. Since he has chosen to make this so public, I want to say that he is wrong.  Context has had an antiharassment policy for several years, and has never tolerated harassment and never would, especially not by a staff member.  Please give us time to work through the ramifications of this. We want Context to be an awesome and SAFE convention.”
  • November 28: Lucy A. Snyder resigns as workshop director of Context. “Steven M Saus announced earlier today that he is resigning as programming director for Context Convention; I am also resigning as writing workshops director, for many of the same reasons.”
  • November 29: A few notes replying to some replies about my leaving Context. A follow-up post from Steven Saus.
    • Sharon Palmer comments that, “Steve made many missteps handling it, and acted as if any disagreement to the way STEVE DID THINGS, was support for the harasser. In Steve’s own words to me ‘My response was not based off what you wrote, but what I thought I heard.’”
    • Palmer also states, “A staff person in the Con Suite talked to people who didn’t want to be talked to. He made bad jokes and showed people the chainmail he was working on. Which happened to be a chainmail bikini. He made people uncomfortable. He was guilty of being OLD. His wife was also in the Con Suite through most of the weekend. I was head of the Con Suite. No one said anything during the con. I wish they had, so I could have stopped it. We banned the guy for FIVE YEARS for an unacceptable level of social cluelessness. I really don’t see how this is a betrayal of our gender. Steve and Lucy said ‘handle it our way or we quit’. And we did. They quit anyway in a way that seems designed to destroy the convention.”
  • November 29: Jason Sanford, a frequent author guest at Context, posts about the situation on Facebook and his blog.
    • Jerry Robinette, of the convention’s publicity division, comments, “has anybody mentioned that the only ‘investigation’ was done by [Snyder] and Saus: that the ConComm and board never had an opportunity to hear from the ops person who had a run-in with the blogger that started all of this? And that you (Snyder) and Saus are now attempting to bully your way into complete control of a convention which has been a valuable revenue stream for you and your husband?”
  • November 29: Why I won’t be returning to the Context SF convention, by Context volunteer Sarah Hans.
    • “[Steve] received several reports of harassment committed by the same individual. At least one report claimed the harassment spanned years. At least one woman was uncomfortable going into the consuite at Context 27 because that was the harasser’s hangout; at least one other said she would not be returning because the harassment was so troubling to her.”
    • “I was singled out with Lucy and Steve for a bullying email from a member of concomm who disagreed with us on one occasion; on another, I was singled out alone by one of the convention chairs for verbal abuse when I admitted that I no longer felt safe attending Context if the harassment policy was not going to be enforced … I was told that my opinion didn’t matter because I didn’t do enough work for Context 27. The words ‘how dare you’ were actually used.”
  • November 29: Resignations From Context Committee Over Harassment Policy Enforcement, from File 770.
  • November 29: Michelle Dupler, Context volunteer, steps down.
    • “As someone watching this more or less from the outside, and with no emotional investment in the issue, I do not believe that Steve has misrepresented the discussion, or at least the portions that I personally witnessed on the concom email list. His account, and Lucy’s, have mirrored my own perception.”
  • November 30: Steven Saus Comments on Resignation, also at File 770.
    • “Convention goers need to know that if they report harassment that it will be taken seriously. They should not have to guess which members of the convention staff will ensure their report is taken seriously… or which members of convention staff will dismiss their concerns. Convention goers need to be able to trust ALL of the convention staff to do the right thing, regardless of personal feelings.”
  • December 1: A Short (but significant) Update About Context, from Steven Saus.
    • “I learned late last night that the board met and dissolved itself.  The convention is starting over, with last year’s Con Chairs (who were not part of the resistance I experienced) starting over … This change resolves the concerns that led to my resignation.
  • December 1: Sharon Palmer Posts an Apology on the Context Facebook Group page.
    • “I want to apologize for my part in this. I do not want to be part of a convention where harassment is accepted. It is traumatic and emotional when the harasser is a friend and colleague. I want to apologize to the people who were hurt by Jeff’s behavior. It never should have happened. When it happened, it should have been stopped.”
  • December 6: Official Statement Regarding the Dissolution of Fanaco’s Board of Directors.
    • “This new Board will be immediately tasked with creating new by-laws and other policies, including an anti-harassment policy that is clear and enforceable.”

Context’s current harassment policy is here.

It sounds like the Fanaco Board, which oversees Context, is still meeting and discussing everything that’s happened.

I don’t know the details. I became aware of this through email and the public posts and statements I’ve linked here. From that public information, it seems clear that:

      1. There were multiple complaints of harassment against a Context volunteer.
      2. This volunteer has not disputed the complaints, and has apologized.
      3. After contentious discussion, it was decided to ban this individual from Context for a minimum of five years.
      4. Multiple individuals who were directly involved feel that others on the concomm and/or board didn’t take the complaints seriously enough.
      5. Nobody can agree on how to spell concom/concomm.

I don’t know enough to second-guess the convention’s decision. I’m troubled by suggestions that banning this individual for five years was punishment for “being old” or “social cluelessness.” (And I said as much to Palmer.) These are excuses that have been used far too often as a way to minimize or excuse harassment. A single incident might be attributed to social clumsiness, but intentions don’t necessarily change the outcome, and it’s clear that there were multiple complaints here.

The convention investigated, met, and announced their decision about a month and a half after the convention. I know how hard it is to schedule meetings, get everyone caught up, and come to any sort of consensus or agreement. Considering that some of this information didn’t come to light until after the con, that actually seems reasonably quick and efficient for an organization.

Making the behind-the-scenes struggles and frustration public is going to hurt the convention. I highly doubt it’s a step that was taken lightly. I don’t know if it was the right step in this case. I do know that there has been pressure in the past, and in the present, to keep things like harassment quiet to protect reputations. And I know that silencing has allowed abuse and harassment to continue.

Palmer asked for time to work through this, and said they want to make Context an awesome and safe convention. I very much hope that this is what ends up happening. Public scrutiny will likely make that job more difficult; it will also increase the pressure to follow through and live up to the standards in the convention’s harassment policy.

Finally, the idea that Lucy Snyder is trying to get control of a “valuable revenue stream” gets a huge side-eye from me. As an author, I know how much I tend to sell at a convention, and even my best cons have been anything but lucrative. I don’t know that I’ve ever met an author who saw conventions as a significant money-maker. I certainly don’t see how volunteering hundreds of hours to help put a convention together leads to Massive Author Profits. (If anyone knows that secret, please fill me in!)

One last request. Please don’t use this as an excuse to click through and attack/criticize/harass others on their respective sites. I was torn about linking and naming names, but decided to do so for completeness and accuracy. But one thing I do know is that this has been difficult and stressful for all involved.

I’ll be updating this post with additional links and info as they come in.