Diabetes Update

Brenda Novak’s auction for diabetes research will be wrapping up at the end of the month.  Looking at my two items, bidding has reached almost $100.  My thanks to everyone who’s bid so far.

Following mizkit‘s lead, I think I’m going to up the ante.  Bidding on the book is currently at $23.  If that crosses the $40 mark, I’ll throw in a signed copy of The Faery Taile Project as well.

Critique of a short story or novel chapter
Autographed copy of The Stepsister Scheme

I’ve lived with diabetes my whole life.  My father was diagnosed type 1 when I was born.  I was diagnosed about 10 years ago.  I’ve seen how the technology has changed.  From glucose strips that had to be dipped in urine and color-matched for a very rough approximation of your blood sugar levels four hours ago, we now have meters that will take a drop of blood and give you a reading in 5 seconds.  I started out taking 6 or so injections every day.  I now have a pump that gives me more flexibility and only requires me to stab my own gut every other day.  (Though I do have to shave my belly … there’s always a trade-off.)

And compare that to 80 or so years ago, when diabetics had to sterilize their own glass and steel syringes, then sharpen the needle themselves.  And don’t forget to rub cotton along the needle to check for burrs.

It’s still a pain-in-the-ass disease.  I’ve been fortunate, and have so far kept mine under pretty good control.  But it would be awfully nice to cure the damn disease and be done with it.

If you’re interested in my own story, I posted about my diabetes last year, on the 10th anniversary of my diagnosis: Happy Diabetes Day!

Tuesday Miscellany

Q: How did Sleeping Beauty invest her gold?
A: Hedge funds.

I’m sorry.  That joke popped into my head right before lunch.  In a just universe, my nemesis would plot a horrible demise for writing it.  My brain is still recovering from the long weekend of lawnwork, back pain, hospital visits (a friend with an injured arm), and family time.  So it’s popping about rather randomly right now.

Today marks the release of Kelly McCullough’s latest book MythOS [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy].  I reviewed and enjoyed the first book, WebMage, a while back.  Kelly has an interview posted over at SF Novelists.  Gotta love any book that sticks a webgoblin on the cover 🙂

http://www.jimchines.com is pretty much ready to go.  I may make a few more changes and additions, including trying to change over to a nicer permalink structure, but it’s basically done.  So if you’ve got time, please take a look and try to break it 🙂  Let me know if you find problems, broken links, or pages that simply look like crap.

And my final random point, which is better, classic titanium spork or redesigned ultimate spork?

I promise to try to be a little more coherent next time!

Parenting Thoughts

I’m not always a great Dad.  I understand that, and I try to work on it.  Like anyone, some days I do better than others.  For the most part, I think I’m a good Dad.  And every once in a while I feel like I get it right.  Joining karate with my daughter was one of those victories, giving us something to do together every week, an hour of working out and the drive to and from, just the two of us.

Another was with my four-year-old son a while back.  He had been having trouble settling down to bed.  We’d put him down at nine, and he’d bounce right back out into the living room with the cute grin on full power.  (Cute grins are deflector shields for preschoolers, protecting them from parental wrath.)  We tried a number of different tactics with little success.  Then one night I tucked him in and asked if he’d like a song.

He said yes, of course.  Usually mama sings and I tuck him in, but this was a chance for a bonus song from Daddy!  He loved it.  So I told him he could have a Daddy song the next night too … as long as he stayed in bed tonight.

For the rest of the month, there was maybe one night when he didn’t settle down.  That cost him his Daddy song the following night, and he’s been fairly good about settling down ever since.  Victory!

Then last night I was working with him on drawing, learning to hold the crayon and important things like that.  He’s a bit behind his class when it comes to fine motor skills, so I figured it would be good to practice.  But he gets frustrated when his physical coordination can’t keep up with his brain.  We were working on drawing circles, and he was getting cranky and frustrated and wanted to quit.

So I said, “Now we’re going to draw bad circles!”  He got a goofy smile on his face.  “Bad circles?”  I scribbled a zigzag on the paper.  “That’s a really bad circle. Can you do that?”

We had a blast taking turns trying to draw a worse circle than the last. And then something odd happened. He scribbled a quick loop on the page, and it was the best circle he had done all night. More importantly, he was relaxing and having fun. He even colored a (bad) picture of Optimus Prime that I drew.  (My Megatron was apparently unrecognizable, even to my Transformers-crazed boy.)

None of these are huge triumphs for civilization.  But sometimes the small victories are just as important, and just as worthy of celebration and sharing.

Nemesis Wanted. (Must have own black cape.)

So yesterday on Facebook I wrote, “I need a nemesis.”  Because that’s just the sort of thing you write on Facebook, you know?  But the enthusiastic responses got me thinking … a nemesis could be a lot of fun.  Anton Strout has Pat RothfussJeff VanderMeer has Evil Monkey.  Why not me?

I am therefore holding auditions for the role of nemesis.  Please post your qualifications below, including any superweapons developed or nefarious schemes carried out.  Extra points will be given for all goatees.  Evil references are helpful, but not required.

I have no idea what I’m going to do with this.  Maybe I’ll force the top candidates to battle online for the high honor of being my nemesis.  I might challenge the winner to a Nerf duel of doom at World Fantasy Con.  I might send my minions to toilet paper your cat.  Maybe I’ll strike a dramatic pose and scream your name after you abandon me on Ceti Alpha V.  Or maybe I’ll just post the occasional taunt on my blog.  Who knows what lengths I’ll go to in order to triumph over my arch foe.

Obviously, this is all in fun.  Like many things, I’m doing it ’cause it amuses me.

Applications are due by the end of the week.  (For those of you who commented over on Facebook, feel free to copy and paste your information here, and to embellish as necessary.)

Nightmare, by Steven Harper

A while back I finished reading Nightmare [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy], by Steven Harper. This is the second book in Harper’s Silent Empire series, in which certain individuals known as Silent have the ability to enter The Dream, a kind of telepathic linking of sentient minds.  The Dream provides instant communication between the stars, and as a result the Silent are highly valued.

It’s been a while since I read Dreamer, the first book in the series.  So it threw me a little to realize this book jumped backward chronologically, exploring the backstory of Kendi Weaver.

It’s not a nice backstory. Kendi’s family is captured by slavers and separated. Kendi is discovered to be silent, which makes him far more valuable. Kendi is eventually freed, and finds himself drawn into a mystery surrounding a killer who murders people within the Dream.

There’s a lot going on in this book. The murder mystery is well done, though the ending has a strong element of coincidence to it regarding the whereabouts of our killer. (Is that vague enough?) The story of Kendi’s enslavement felt … hm. It didn’t feel like a slave narrative. I could empathize with Kendi’s pain, but at the same time, a part of me was thinking “This isn’t anywhere near as bad as it could be.” Whether or not that’s a good thing depends on how painful you want your slave stories, I guess. I thought it worked well for the story, since the book is about Kendi’s growth rather than any particular phase of his life.

I also liked the way Harper handled Kendi’s sexuality. It’s hard enough coming to terms with those adolescent drives and feelings. Try being a gay slave trying to sort it all out. Kendi’s crushes and his struggles to accept himself worked well. Not preachy, and not the core of the story, but a part of his life that most readers will be able to relate to.

As for the Dream, that’s just nifty. Communal telepathic reality. How cool is that? I loved watching Kendi and his friends learning to explore the Dream, as well as the history of the Children of Irfan (a Silent group), and all the different implications of Silent communication.

All in all, I’d definitely be interested in reading book three in the series to see where Harper goes with it.

So, anyone else read this book or the series? What did you think?

Writing is Hard

Practice is supposed to help you improve, right?  The more you practice a process, the easier it becomes.  Yet I’ve talked before about how each book seems to be more challenging than the last.  From speaking to other published authors, I know I’m not the only one hitting this apparent paradox.

So just for fun, I thought I’d break down the books and figure out some of the major challenges and lessons I had to learn from each one.

Goblin Quest: 1st published book.  Just trying to write a publishable work!

Goblin Hero: 1st sequel.  Had to figure out how much to summarize from book one.  Also added a second PoV character, with her own plotline.

Goblin War: Left the goblin lair and went out into the world, which required a little more worldbuilding.  Had to learn how to conclude a series.  Had to learn how to incorporate backstory and intertwine it with the current storyline.

Stepsister Scheme: New series with a somewhat more serious tone.  New world, new characters, new everything!

Mermaid’s Madness: Four PoV characters, each with their own plotline.  Eep!  Massive sailing/ocean research.  Larger worldbuilding (multiple nations, cultures, etc.) than anything I’ve done before.

Red Hood’s Revenge: Stepping out of the pseudo-European fantasy feel into a different cultural context.  Working with sustained plotlines and character developments that carry through 4 books.

Having thought about this stuff way too much, it’s not that writing gets harder the more you do it.  Instead, I see two factors.  (Okay, two and a half.)

1.  I’m writing more ambitious books.  Goblin Quest was a blast, but it’s not the most complex plot, and there’s only one PoV character.  I suspect that if I were to go back and write a similar book, it would be a lot easier than the current work in progress.  (Being stubborn, I suspect I’ll just keep getting more ambitious until my brain explodes, though.)

2.  I’m more aware of the different aspects of writing.  Compare it to karate.  The first time you go, you learn some basic moves.  “Look ma, I’m punching and kicking!  Go me!”  But the more you practice, the more you become aware of things like stance, breathing, the proper way to make a fist, how far to extend your punch, the snapback after an attack…  With time, a lot of that becomes instinctive, of course.  But for every aspect that becomes automatic, you discover three more new things.

2.5  My family situation has grown steadily busier since I wrote Goblin Quest.  So basically, I’m writing more challenging books with less time.  Whee!

Please understand that I’m not complaining.  I love what I do.  I’m just trying to understand this phenomenon.  I’m still young in my career, so I don’t know how things will evolve over the next 10, 20, or 30 books.  (Yes, I’m an optimist!)

Have other people found the same increasingly steep curve?  Or maybe it’s my memory playing tricks on me.  This novel always feels like the hardest one to write because it’s the one I’m doing right now, and I forget how hard the last one was.  (I’ve heard there’s a similar phenomenon with pregnancy and childbirth, actually.)

The Author-Reader Contract and Backseat Writers

I was originally going to call this entry “Neil Gaiman is my bitch,” but decided against it. Controversy is fun, but I don’t know if I could survive the hordes of Neil fans coming to rip me apart. There’s also, as cissa* pointed out, the misogynistic/sexist aspect of the whole “my bitch” slang.

Anyway, last week I linked to Gaiman’s post about readers and entitlement when it comes to things like completing a series on time. Being an author myself, my first response was “Hell yeah!” I haven’t missed a novel deadline yet, but it’s likely to happen sooner or later. So I tended to side with Gaiman on this one. Most of my reading list seemed to feel the same way … but then, a large part of my reading list is made up of writers.

Prompted in part by comments on my post, I decided to step back and take another look at this thing.

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Jim C. Hines