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Busted Contact Form

So apparently the contact form on my site isn’t working. I’ve done some preliminary troubleshooting (with several different plugins), and I’m guessing either my own PHP broke it or else it was the permalink change. If you’ve used that form lately, I didn’t receive your message.

Unfortunately, this includes any contest entries from yesterday.  I’ve had one correct entry so far (that I know of).  If you found Smudge, please e-mail me at jchines42 -at- hotmail.com.

My apologies, folks.

Canon Fodder

Terribly Twisted Tales [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy] came out last month.  This is an anthology of twisted fairy tales, so I’m sure you’re all shocked to learn I contributed a story.  But for some reason, I’ve been nervous about this one.  I wrote “The Red Path,” which gave me a chance to explore the origin story for Red Riding Hood from my princess books, but I wasn’t sure it really worked.  So I was happy to find a review listing it among the best stories in the anthology.  (Kelly Swails also gets a shoutout.)

I’m left with another question, however.  I wrote “The Red Path” a year or so back, before even starting Red Hood’s Revenge.  Now that I’m writing the book, I find myself adjusting details of Roudette’s (Red Riding Hood’s) backstory, particularly when it comes to the hunter’s role.

So here’s the question.  Having published this story and written in the author’s note that this character will appear in Red Hood’s Revenge, how bound am I to keep the details of that story?  Given sales numbers on most anthologies, far fewer people are going to read the short story than will see the novel.  Am I allowed to alter published backstory if it improves the book?  Or am I pulling a major Lucas here, violating my own canonical history?  (Red Riding Hood shot first!)

I could use the unreliable narrator approach.  Roudette was a child at the time of that whole wolf/hunter incident, after all.  She probably missed a lot that was going on.  But even then, I find myself adding wordage to the book to explain why her original account was wrong … wordage that doesn’t need to be there for anyone who hasn’t read the short story, and thus will be dead weight for most of the novel’s readers, and should probably be taken out.

I don’t know.  I think my obligation is first and foremost to make Red Hood’s Revenge the best book I can, and if that means compromising the short story, well that sucks beanstalks but I still need to do it.

What do you think?  How would you feel knowing the hunter in “The Red Path” isn’t the same as he is when we get Roudette’s “real” backstory in the book?  What would you do as a writer, and what do you prefer as a reader and fan?

Why Books as Children is Just Plain Creepy

From a random author interview:

“My books are my children.  I love them all, and could never pick a favorite.”

Same author, different interview:

“Oh yes, I trunked several of my children back when I was starting out.”

The author at a booksigning:

“Psst.  Hey, you.  Want to buy one of my kids?  Take two, the older one and the newborn!”

The bookstore staff three months later:

“Time to clear some shelf space for the new arrivals.  Get out there and start stripping children.”

The library, where anyone can–  On second thought, I should probably stop.  I think we all get the idea.

WordPress 101

I’ve gotten a few questions about WordPress lately, so thought I’d share the bits and pieces I’ve learned as a relative newbie. For those of you who aren’t into web stuff, feel free to skip this one.

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Is Your Book Appropriate for My Child?

This is one of my least favorite questions, and the one I’m asked most often.  The best times are when parents tell me they’ve read the book, but still ask me whether it’s appropriate for children.  Yes, this has really happened.  On more than one occasion.

Should your kid read my book?  How the frak should I know?  Some parents let their kids read the pop-up Kama Sutra at age six.  Others think The Cat in the Hat will turn their children into drugged-out hippies.  (Some of Seuss’ more adult works, on the other hand … but that’s another topic.)

I understand parents are busy, and don’t have the time to prescreen everything their children read.  Heck, I wouldn’t have wanted my parents to limit me to books they had read first.  But as an author, it’s a lot easier for me to answer the parent who asks “Does your book have any graphic sexual imagery in it?” than it is “Should my kid read it?”

The first parent is asking about my book.  The second is asking me to make a parenting decision for his or her child.  I have no problem trying to help, but for all our sakes, please don’t be the second parent.

Clear enough?  Groovy.  Because now it’s time to list all the answers I’d like to give, but probably shouldn’t….

“Should my child read your book?”

  • Can you prove that’s really your child?
  • Yes, but only the odd-numbered pages.
  • You mean the kid standing there playing Grand Theft Auto on his Nintendo DS?
  • No!  She should read my books, plural.  How do you expect me to quit my day job if your lazy kid only reads one?
  • Yes.  When he’s finished, he can let you know whether or not it’s appropriate for grown-ups.
  • How do you feel about nose-picking injuries, pixie pee, and gay fire-spiders?
  • I’m sorry, Jim left an hour ago.  I’m his decoy.  His protection.  His loyal bodyguard.
  • Not without a prescription.
  • Wil Wheaton said my book was cool!  If you don’t buy it, he’s gonna march down to this bookstore and start throwing critical hits on your ass.
  • Make sure she reads it backwards so she gets all the subliminal Satanic messages.
  • You must be this tall to read Stepsister Scheme.  But he can read the goblin books.
  • Print is dead.
  • Everyone knows kids prefer to read books about younger characters.  Here, try this one by Nabokov.
  • Sweet Zeus, what are you saying?  Nobody can read these books!  We have to keep the words trapped in the pages.  Can’t you hear them screaming?  Always screaming and plotting their horrible, horrible revenge.  Don’t open that book!  Don’t let them see you!!!

Please feel free to add your own.

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?

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