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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Suvudu

Do you know Suvudu? It's a "new website catering to news from all sci-fi and fantasy creative media—books, audiobooks, gaming, manga, comic books and movies! Content will include podcasts, videos, reviews, interviews and original blog posts, all brought to you by some of the best talents in the sci-fi, fantasy, graphic novel and gaming industries". (That's from their description of themselves.)

I just heard of it yesterday when Colleen Lindsay mentioned it to me. Funny thing is that today I've just made my first appearance there. Shawn Speakman wrote a nice piece spreading the Acacia movie news! Okay, I think that means I better add them to my blogroll and check in more often.

Oh, I should do that for SF Crowsnest too. They've been doing great stuff for a long time, including spreading the movie news.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More About This Movie Stuff

I do know that it's very hard to get films made, and that we're still in the very early stages of the process with Acacia, but I am pretty excited about this one. What I find most encouraging is not just that the book has been optioned and announced; it's that the players involved so far are top notch.

My first contact was Zach Schiff-Abrams at Michael De Luca Productions. I remember the first time we talked. I was in Tahoe at a friend's house and he was home with his new baby. He said all the right things about the book, of course, but many of those right things showed that he got it with specificity. He wasn't just interested because the Entertainment Weekly review had been so good and studios were looking for another Lord of the Rings. Zach gave me the time and talked things through thoroughly. He's clearly a good businessman, but I read him as sincere also.

Of course, I knew of his boss, Michael De Luca, who has been involved in tons of movies. You can see his IMDb page: HERE. He's helped bring to the screen movies like...

21, A Man Apart, John Q, Blow, Thirteen Days, Magnolia, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, American History X, Pleasantville, Blade (I & II) and Boogie Nights.

His credits also include The Love Guru and Ghost Rider, but so it goes... None of those sound exactly like Acacia? Well, good, that means it's about time for a bit of epic fantasy on his list!

Zach and Michael took the idea to Relativity Media, though, because - as you may have heard - these film things cost a lot of money to make. Relativity is a financing and production company. I think that means they do a lot of things, and that some of what they do crosses the normal barriers for these things. They produce movies, yes, but they also finance them. They have deep pockets and are willing to take on all or some of the financial risks to make films happen. That's good news, and I think it increases the chances Acacia will move forward. They've certainly made a lot of films in a pretty short few years. You can see a list of all of them on their IMDb page, but they've been involved in some capacity with films like...

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Hancock, Wanted, Baby Mama, The Forbidden Kingdom, Charlie Wilson's War, American Gangster, Atonement, 3:10 to Yuma, The Pursuit of Happyness…

They also had a hand in Evan Almighty and Ghost Rider, but so it goes… Coming up they have Mary Queen of Scots, The Tale of Despereaux, Brothers, and many more. No doubt. These folks make movies! They make some good ones. Some not so good ones. Big ones. Smaller ones. Purely commercial ones and Academy Award contenders. It's all of this together that has me excited.

Here's their IMDb page.

Their deal with Universal Pictures.

Relativity Holdings.

This actually happened a while back, but before announcing it Relativity wanted to have another piece in place: a writer. Enter Andrew Grant. I can't say a lot about Andrew Grant's films because I don't know that a big credit has reached the cinemas yet for him. I do know that he's sold a script to Tom Cruise, and that he's very well regarded in the business. Zach was interested in him early on. I believe they worked together on something else. Anyway, part of what's cool about Andrew signing on is that he also didn't jump at the chance just because it was a epic fantasy project. He read the book when Zach asked him to. He liked it, thought about it, and... then got excited about making it into a screenplay. (That, at least, is the way I understand it. Correct me if I'm mistaken, Andrew.) That sounds like the way it should be, but perhaps isn't always.

So that's the basic info. There might not be much more news on this front for a while. And it is possible that this will be the highpoint of the entire endeavor. I'm hoping, though, that things will go a lot higher yet...

Wanna get involved? How about putting in your two cents re casting the movie? There's been a thread up about it at my Forum for a while. It's been quiet for a while over there, but maybe now is a good time to take up the subject again. Check it out: HERE.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Acacia: The Film? Yeah, baby. (Well, You Know, Maybe... But, Yeah, Baby!)

OMG. Right, so... Yeah... Am I making sense yet? OK. Um... lemme start again.

Right, so... A year ago I had a Hollywood experience. At last year's ComicCon I hung out with Zach Schiff-Abrams (a movie producer-type with Michael DeLuca Productions). We ate many shrimp, mussels, watched young women dance beside flaming torches, drank lovely booze (am I mixing metaphors?), went up to roof top parties (before other people, you know - jumping the queue, etc.), didn't talk to Sean Young (although we could have), listened to silliness, learned to love silliness, just missed a personal intro to Ridley Scott, did see that guy who directed 300 riding in a... golf cart or something... (memory fails, but geeze his girlfriend was... Wait, I'm off topic) um... (Wait. Note to self: never move to LA.) ... but anyway...

... and we talked about making Acacia into a film. Zach was well into it. He knew the book. He got it. He believed he could be part of making a major film from it. He convinced Relativity Media that this was a good idea. They bought. Yahoo! (Not trademarked.) Fast forward, um... well, twelve months. (During which time I was told NOT to talk about it.)

And here we are. I'll say more about this soon, but for tonight let me point you toward...

Variety

and

The Hollywood Reporter.

And, yikes, news travels fast about such things. I got an email from a German friend asking me about this before this even posted, and now, a few hours in Elbakin has it too, as does movieplayer.it and lots of other film watching sources worldwide. Wow...

Yes, I still know the chances are it will never happen. But still... Yahoo!

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Where's The Tooth Fairy?

Sage has been loosing a lot of teeth lately, but imagine our surprise when he showed up with this...
Amazing that he's still on his feet after that. Stout young lad he is.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

David Gets a Face

Well, I've made another step toward joining the interconnected web society. I've got a Facebook page!

I've always been reluctant to join such things, mainly because I waste enough time online already and Facebook or MySpace seem dangerously consuming. And, actually, I wouldn't have a Facebook page now, either. This one, you see, was set up by my publisher. (Does this all make me sound about as hip as John McCain? Please note that I can use email all by myself...)

Anyway, my publisher believes Facebook is a good idea, especially as I have a mass market paperback coming out next month. (That would be Acacia, by the way.) I'm sure they're right. So, hey, wanna be friends? Or maybe that's fans... They've set me up as a celebrity. (See how easy it is to take on delusions of grandeur?)

Anyway, wanna be a fan? I could use a few more, you know. Check me out: Here. If you send me any messages, though, do remember that I'm not really in the driver's seat. I'm sort of watching from the back at the moment...

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Jon Armstrong Exclusive Interview With... Me

Yep, it's my turn on If You're Just Joining Us. Jon has been interviewing all the Campbell Award Nominees. We had a talk a couple weeks back. I quite enjoyed it. We talked for over an hour, I think, but don't worry - the interview is cut down to about 20 minutes. (Ah, one might wonder what tidbits were cut out...)

Thing to remember with Jon is that he doesn't like to ask the standard writerly-type questions. He wants us thinking out of the box a bit, responding to some random promptings like, "I understand you spent four days fasting naked in the Arizona desert... was that by choice?"

Click here to have a listen.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dabel Brothers Roll With The Wheel

(Note: In the minutes after I put up this post I got several emails from writers reminding me of issues other authors had with the Dabel Brothers. I hear you, and I did hear in first hand detail about Tobias Buckell's unfortunate experience with them. So, just for the record, we're not in any sort of talks regarding Acacia. They've just kept up a friendly correspondence with me and I think it's interesting to note that they're doing this project...)

Ernst Dabel sent me this press release a week or so ago, but I'm just now digging out of my emails enough to post about it. I've been in contact with the Dabels since Acacia first came out. Just friendly contact, you know. Chatting. I don't know if they'd ever want to do a version of Acacia, or if that would be for the best, but it does sound like they'll be very busy for a while...

DABEL BROTHERS TO ADAPT ROBERT JORDAN'S BESTSELLING
WHEEL OF TIME SERIES IN COMIC BOOK FORMAT

NEW YORK, NY – July 1, 2008 – Dabel Brothers Publishing announced today that they will adapt Robert Jordan's bestselling Wheel of Time series, which has sold more than 14 million copies in North America alone, into comic book format. The first issue is scheduled to release in December 2008.

The Wheel of Time began in 1990 with the publication of The Eye of the World; ten more volumes have followed. The most recent four books of the series have reached #1 on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list. It is the story of a world – both our past, and our future – in which the battle between the Light and the Shadow must be fought every day; and of the people, both ordinary and extraordinary, who must fight that battle. Jordan wrote eleven volumes of the series and one prequel; he was unable to complete the twelfth and final volume before his death in 2007. That volume, A Memory of Light, will be completed by Brandon Sanderson, a writer chosen by Jordan's widow and editor, Harriet McDougal, and published by Tor Books in 2009.

The Dabel Brothers published a comic adaptation of Jordan's A New Spring in March 2005. In conjunction with that project, Robert Jordan provided them with extensive notes for use in further possible publications, including character descriptions and other visuals.

"I'm delighted to be working with the Dabel Brothers! Their work is splendid. Robert Jordan liked it enormously," says Harriet McDougal.

Graphic-novel collected editions of the individual comics will be distributed by Del Rey, an imprint of Ballantine Books at the Random House Publishing Group. The deal was negotiated by Jordan's agent, Nat Sobel.

Robert Jordan
was born in 1948 in Charleston, South Carolina. He taught himself to read when he was four with the incidental aid of a twelve-years-older brother, and was tackling Mark Twain and Jules Verne by five. He was a graduate of The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, with a degree in physics. He served two tours in Vietnam with the U.S. Army; among his decorations are the Distinguished Flying Cross with bronze oak leaf cluster, the Bronze Star with "V" and bronze oak leaf cluster, and two Vietnamese Gallantry Crosses with Palm. A history buff, he also wrote dance and theater criticism. He enjoyed the outdoor sports of hunting, fishing and sailing, and the indoor sports of poker, chess, pool, and pipe collecting. He began writing in 1977 and continued until his death on September 16, 2007.

Dabel Brothers Publishing, LLC,
is a comic book studio dedicated to bringing many of the best and most popular novels in the world of fantasy to the comic book medium. Since its inception in 2001 they have produced adaptations of novels by bestselling authors including George R.R. Martin, Orson Scott Card, Laurell K. Hamilton, Raymond E. Feist, Tad Williams, Richard A. Knaak, and Robert Silverberg. Currently on the schedule is a remarkable list of high-profile projects including adaptations of major novels by bestselling authors: Dean Koontz's Frankenstein: Prodigal Son, an original story set in the world of Jim Butcher's bestselling series The Dresden Files, a Wild Cards series edited and overseen by George R. R. Martin, and a brand-new Mercy Thompson adventure by Patricia Briggs titled Mercy Thompson: Homecoming.

For more information on Dabel Brothers Publishing: http://www.dabelbrothers.com.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Readercon 2008

I'm back home now. Rather tired and a day late. Yep, I had the pleasure of missing a connection and spending the night in Tempe, AZ. Fun. But, anyway, such things happen...

So Readercon was a good time. When I get back from these things I almost feel too full of thoughts and memories to know where to start. In major briefetude, I'll mention that I enjoyed the subdued, intellectual, book-focused feel of this con. It really is quite different, and I was mostly pleased by that. Granted, I wouldn't have minded a bit more free booze, but I know that's hardly a noble thing...

Highlights, of course, include the fact that James Patrick Kelly and Jonathan Lethem were the guests of honor. I hung out with Jim a lot. It's always great to see him, but it's an added pleasure for me since he knew me before I stepped into SF&F. He's introduced me to lots of folks. He's... sort of a mentor, you know. (Many people would say that, by the way. Part of his legacy.)

And Jonathan I've followed since my first editor at Doubleday, Debbie Cowell, gave me a copy of Motherless Brooklyn. I'm a fan, and it's been interesting to travel backwards to discover his roots in SF. That genre switch was something that came up a lot over the conference. Frankly, I'm not that sure why his mainstream movement with his work is a problem. I've heard people say that he has completely disavowed his genre roots. If that happened I missed the moment. It's a bit hard to believe that somebody who has just penned a super hero graphic novel called Omega the Unknown and who agreed to be a guest of honor at a SF convention (with panels like The Career of Jonathan Lethem, as documented by the SF writers that have known and loved him for years) is actually, umm... hiding from his sordid past... but I don't know. I'm tainted myself, in some eyes, so maybe I lack the properly limited perspective to understand the issues here.

There was a large Stonecoast contingent. You may know that I taught in their Low Residency MFA Program for a couple of years. I took some time off, but I've actually reconnected with them and I'll be having a couple of mentees through the fall. The folks at Readercon are all good company, and it made for an amusing time because some of them knew me (like Jim) before I'd written spec-fiction. Actually, Sandra McDonald was on a panel about my moving into the genre, and she admitted that when she heard I was going to write a fantasy she thought it was a bad (career-ruining) idea. I think she admits things have turned out pretty good, though. Michaela Roessner was on that panel, too, which again felt organically circular. When I first worked with her - as her teacher - she already had a career as a writer in her past and was re-gearing to go forward. It's rather nice to have had her advice as I entered her territory, while at the same time seeming to have had a positive effect on her work and aspirations. All good stuff.

And there were lots of new connections made and expanded upon. Too many to name, really. Was great to meet Robert Redick (The Red Wolf Conspiracy) and Paolo Bacigalupi (Pump Six and Other Stories) and... wait. I shouldn't try to list everybody. There are too many, and I'll end up amending this list for weeks as I remember others. Instead of trying, I'll mention that hanging out with one other person, Mary Robinette Kowal, was a particular highlight. We'd met briefly at WisCon, but this time around we talked and talked. Good stuff. I've also read some of her stories now, and I've heard all about the novels her agent is shopping... Makes me think the Campbell voters were on to something when they nominated her for the award. If you ever bump into her, ask to see her steampunk laptop and keyboard thingy. Very cool.

Anyway, I'm not the only one that's putting up these day after posts. For example....

Mary Robinette Kowal

Ezekiel's Daughter

io9

Scott Edelman

The Mumpsimus

Sandra McDonald

Monstrous Musings

Pushing a Snake Up a Hill

Elephant House

Erin Underwood

One More Draft

The Trouble With Teri

Thoughts on 1386

They'll be more coming, too, since lots of folks have just posted saying they're exhausted and will soon post...

(That post wasn't actually that brief, was it?)

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

An A Project

A couple of months back I got an email from a high school student in Massachusetts. He was doing a project on "local" writers and came across little ole me. He asked if he could interview me. I pointed out that I lived about 3,000 miles away from MA, but also admitted that part of my soul is still rooted in that rich soil... We decided to go ahead and do the interview.

He asked the questions you see below, and I answered them as you see below. I was thrilled to learn later that he received an A on the project. Glad I could help. Here's the Q&A we came up with...

What is life as an author like for you today?

Right now it’s pretty darn good. Acacia is going to come out in paperback later this summer, after a year as a hardcover. It’s also come out in Germany and Britain, and will steadily roll out in a variety of languages and countries throughout the year. That’s thrilling. It’s taken a while to get here, but it does finally feel like new people are being exposed to my books somewhere in the world every day. I like that a lot.

On a daily basis, I’ve just finished up my teaching responsibilities. (I teach creative writing at Cal State University.) That means I’m focusing a lot more on finishing my next novel. It’s the sequel to Acacia, called The Other Lands, and I have to do as much work on it as I can this summer. The pressure is on, really, but that’s a good pressure. I do feel that writing fiction is the main thing I’m supposed to do for a living, so it’s good to be at it again on a daily basis.

Right now I’m in the small room toward the back of my property. It’s my new office. I’d like to think that I’ll spend most of my days in here throughout the summer, writing and reading and slowly moving the book toward the end.

How did your English teachers influence you and help develop your passion for writing?

I need to admit something to you before I answer – I wasn’t a good high school student. Not good at all. There were a lot of reasons for it, surely too many to go into here, but I’d have to say that my love of reading and writing happened largely outside of the classroom – at least, this is true for when I was in high school. I was an avid reader from my early teens, but my recollection of it is that I found my love of literature on my own.

Frankly, I wish that wasn’t the case. If you’re lucky enough to teachers that are encouraging your passion for literature – as I assume they are since you’re talking with me and since you asked that question – you’re lucky. Enjoy it. Make use of it. If you do you’ll be heading forward ahead of where I was when I stumbled out of high school with very little idea what I was going to do next.

You have written both historical fiction and other novels like Acacia: What has drawn you to these two genres?


Although I wasn’t a good high school student, I did become a very good college student. I loved the challenges thrown at me in college, and I responded to them by becoming a better and better student. One of the areas I excelled in was writing, but the second area was history. I absolutely loved learning about the gritty details of the past, the amazing stories, the dirty secrets, the inspiring characters that have actually lived before us.

My first two novels (I mean the unpublished novels I wrote in college and graduate school) were contemporary, but those were really just the books I had to write to grow into being a writer. When things really took off for me was when I combined the coming of age stories I’d been working on with historical eras that interested me.

At it’s heart, my first published novel, Gabriel’s Story, is a coming of age tale. It’s about a young man that moves with his mother to a place that’s foreign to him. He mourns his dead father and doesn’t like his well-meaning stepfather. Well, that’s exactly what one of my unpublished novels was about. But when I combined that story with history that I was interested in – that of the old American West – the story got a lot more exciting. I had learned that African-Americans moved into the West just as white settlers did. We don’t tend to learn as much about that, though, and black characters certainly weren’t a very big part of old Western films. So it was also exciting to be able to write about that aspect of history, but do it by telling an adventure story focused on a few characters.

When writing, do you find similarities between the personalities of your characters and people you know in your own life?

You bet. I also find bits and pieces of myself in all my characters. I think that’s the way it has to be. If I couldn’t identify with something in each of my characters I don’t think I could write them well. Good guys. Bad guys. White. Black. Male. Female. Whatever – there’s always some of me - and part of people I know - in them somewhere.

I’ve never modeled a character completely after a real person, though. That’s where it gets confusing. The character of Gabriel from Gabriel’s Story, for example, was inspired by someone I new in childhood. He was a bully. A mean kid, full of anger. That’s where Gabriel began, but Gabriel is also me, and he’s also a fictional character. It’s kinda weird. Gabriel in the novel isn’t even a bully. His character changed that much from when I began to write it until when I finished, but if you ask me I know exactly what Gabriel looks like because I remember what a bully named Tony looked like. Oh, and I should note that my middle name is Tony (Anthony), as is my son’s, and my stepfather’s. Even more telling – my father’s first name is Tony. Ah, you say, but the character is your book isn’t named Tony. He’s Gabriel! You’re right. But to me his also Tony, and he embodies an incredible host of connections with real life for me.

Welcome to fiction writer weirdness.

For a historical fiction book like Pride of Carthage, how did you decide on such a specific time and place in history to write about?


Oh, in the case of Pride of Carthage it was the main character, Hannibal Barca, that drew me in. I first learned about him in college, and I still remember the exact day in a big lecture hall when my professor told us about this guy from North Africa that defeated Romans in battle after battle, so much so that the Romans spent several years refusing to fight him anymore. They would just shut the gates and say, “No thanks,” and would hold out until he went off somewhere else. This a guy that rode up to the gates of Rome on an elephant, munching on dates or figs and just sort of hung out, daring Rome to risk everything by fighting him. Pretty amazing character, and it only gets better when you know the details of how it all came to be. That’s I really wanted to write about.

Also, I loved it that the world of the Second Punic War (Hannibal’s War) was so ethnically diverse. This wasn’t just Brad Pitt fighting Eric Bana (as in the movie Troy). It was so much more multi-hued than that. It features many North African tribes, and Celt-Iberian Tribes from Spain, Gauls from Southern France and Northern Italy, Macedonians and other Greeks… It really was an incredible conflict.

Don’t get me wrong; it was also a horrible conflict with an endless death toll and all sorts of rape and misery. But that’s often what history is about. I hadn’t read what I thought was a good novel about Hannibal and his war, so I decided to write the novel that I wished I could have read. That’s what Pride of Carthage is.

How was it different for you writing Acacia after writing a lot of historical fiction?

This may seem weird, but it wasn’t that different at all. I kinda felt like I was writing an historical novel. It’s just that it was an historical novel of a world that doesn’t exist!

My approach was the same in many ways. Consider that when writing about historical events that happened two thousand years ago I did have to describe a pretty strange world. Religious ideas, science, race and gender roles, morality – not to mention that vast array of different customs and cultures: all of that meant that I was writing about a world that is quite alien to a modern reader. So it wasn’t too big a jump to start writing about a world that I’d made up. I had to cover the same bases. I wanted the cultures to feel authentic, for the history to be detailed, for the conflicts to be deep-rooted and for the characters to really come alive. Added to all, though, I got to add some magic, some strange creatures, and I got to mix everything up to make sure it stayed interesting.

Neal Stephenson, a very popular science fiction writer (Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Cryptomonicon), who has also written historical novels (The Baroque Trilogy), said that he didn’t think that writing sci-fi was very different than writing about the distant past. He’s a smart guy. I agree with him.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Readercon!

I've been remiss in mentioning this, but part of why I've been remiss is that I've actually been on the road already for a while. My posts may seem normal, but in truth they've been slipped in at brief moments in motels and hotels, trying to look normal. I'm writing you from a motel in MA right now, taking a little breather between a teaching gig and Readercon (that's what I've been remiss in mentioning.) Yes, I'm going to Readercon, and it all starts tomorrow!

I've been looking forward to this for a while. I've heard time and again that the focus of this con is very much writers and readers, stripped of all the many other components that are so much a part of other cons. I enjoy other cons, but this set-up sounds good to me. I'm thrilled that my friend James Patrick Kelly is one of the guests of honor, along with fellow Doubleday author Jonathon Lethem.

The program looks great, featuring tons of interesting panels and authors I look forward to meeting or reconnecting with. And my little bit of the show is pretty good too. Here's what I'll be up to:

Readercon 19 Participant Schedule: David Anthony Durham

Friday 3:00 PM, RI: Talk / Discussion (60 min.) Breaking Into the Ghetto. David Anthony Durham with discussion by Carolyn Ives Gilman, Liz Gorinsky, Louise Marley, Sandra McDonald, Michaela Roessner, _et al_ (By the way, part of what's cool about this is that Sandra and Micahaela were both students of mine at the Stonecoast MFA program, which means they were first hand witnesses as I made the transformation to the Dark Side.)

Durham's decision to move into fantasy after three successful historical novels shocked his editor, who saw a whole host of problems, concerns, hurtles, and uncertainty in the decision. But why is such a career move considered so risky? Is fantasy still somehow disreputable despite the huge commercial and reasonable critical success of Tolkien, Rowling, and others? And aren't readers smart enough to accept different things from writers? Durham takes a personal look at the topic and discusses the issues with other authors that have tried to (or would like to) cross genres.

Friday 4:00 PM, VT: Reading (30 min.), Reads from Acacia: The Other Lands (That's right, folks, looks like I'll be reading from the new book - which remains a work in progress, by the way.)

Friday 7:00 PM, Salon F: Panel, Waking Up Sober Next to a Story Idea. Paolo Bacigalupi, Jeffrey A. Carver (L), David Anthony Durham, Kay Kenyon, Barry B. Longyear, Jennifer Pelland

Really, it seemed absolutely beautiful once upon a time. Now that you've had intimate knowledge of it (say, midway through the novel), you can see all the less-than-flattering sides. You may even wonder, _What the hell was I thinking?_ How do you recover enthusiasm for the work? Now that you see the flaws, how do you begin the process of fixing them?

Saturday 12:00 Noon, Vinyard: Kaffeeklatsch

Jeffrey A. Carver; David Anthony Durham

Saturday 2:00 PM, Salon E: Autographing

David Anthony Durham; Gregory Frost.

I'm thinking this will be a good time.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Acacia French Style!

Okay, it's official. I've got the cover for the French version of Acacia: La guerre du Mein. Let me know what you think. Oh, and below the cover there's some other promotional info. I particularly like the last image. I've never had one of those stand up display units for any publication anywhere. Very cool...

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

David Louis Edelman Speaks...


...on many things, including the (gasp) coming death of the novel!

Check it out here, on Jon Armstrong's "If You're Just Joining Us".

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The Religion

I just finished Tim Willocks most recent novel, The Religion. I'd never read him before, and sort of blundered on this one at the right time. It's a hefty tome set during the siege of Malta in 1565. It's not exactly a straight historical novel. It's more of an historical adventure, part detailed research, part bodice riper, part heroic war novel. I enjoyed it, but in recommending it I do want to give a few caveats...

You ever notice reviews (Amazon, blogs) wherein the reviewer trashes a novel mostly because something rubbed them the wrong way and that aspect of it trumps all else? Well, this is one that I could see having the effect on people. So, be warned that...

1. It starts off with a very unpleasant and sexually violent scene.

2. This is a highly sexed novel. The main character, Tannhauser, is frequently, um... engorged. As it happens, there's not one, but two attractive female characters that both rather fancy him.

3. The battle detail is graphic.

4. There are A LOT of unpleasant body fluids in this.

5. It's the first in the "Tannhauser" Trilogy, so it kinda stands to reason that the main character is gonna pull through the novel's dangers just fine. No surprises on that front.

6. There are also aspects of the resolution of this novel that might not stand up too well to a feminist critique.

And yet I'm mentioning it here, and I only do that when I like a book... Yeah, well, go figure. For me this just works as a big historical melodrama, filled with old grudges, coincidences, love affairs, impossible missions and a cast of varied characters. It's a bit Bernard Cornwell, a bit Victor Hugo... It's an entertainment, but it's not without lots of intelligent historical detail.

Anyway, I won't summarize the plot, etc. Instead I'll point you to a few other folks that review the book in more detail...

Here's what the NY Times thought.

Here's Bookreporter.com's take on it.

From the Blog-o-sphere, check out Tomes and Flicks review. (The author responded to it!)

And here's an interview with the author at Bookslut.

You could buy it here. Mass market, you know, just $7.99...

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Zahrah the Windseeker, Nigerian Style

I just learned that Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu has announced the Nigerian publication of her novel, Zahrah the Windseeker. The US edition has been out for a while, but this has to be cool for the author.

And it's appropriate! It's a Nigerian-themed YA novel by a Nigerian/American author published by a Nigerian publisher, Kachifo Limited. I dig it.

You can even buy a copy directly from Kachifo if you're so inclined. It'll set you back a tidy 1000 Naira... Which comes to... about $8.50. I may be wrong on that, though. Math and foreign currency has gotten me in trouble before...

You can check it out at Nnedi's Blog.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Wall-E

I'll keep this short... When I think of how much meaningless drivel (ugly, vacuous, violent, divisive, etc.) Hollywood produces and America (and the world, too) consumes I'm... Well, actually, I try not to think about it. I'm just used to it. All the gore in the aisles of Blockbuster... But coming out of Wall-E yesterday, I couldn't help but be amazed at the positive power of film and the sheer joy of being taken away by a great story.

If you haven't seen this movie, please go and see it. Take a kid if you have one available, but go even if you don't. It's special, and the filmmakers deserve your money in payment for them making it. I didn't know how powerful the experience was until the final credits rolled. Don't get me wrong, I am talking about a kid's flick. It is funny and light and enjoyable... But that's why I was so struck at the end. This movie is, thematically, about big issues. What's so stunning about it to me is that the filmmakers manage to be critical of human (Western) folly without being shrill or accusatory. This is a film about the biggest mistake humans can make, an enormous crime that we are in the midst of right now, but it's made with love, not anger. (Well, not exactly...) Man, these guys are smart...

That's all I want to say about it.

If you want to hear what a few others thought here's:

Ty Burr at the Boston Globe


Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun Times

and Claudia Puig at USA Today. (They all loved it too.)

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Joe Abercrombie on If You're Just Joining Us

Jon Armstrong continues his series of interviews with John W Campbell Award Finalists with this chat with Joe Abercrombie, author of a sudden trilogy of books: The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged and The Last Argument of Kings. He talks about being funny, his mum and dad, on being stabbed in the face with a cheese grater, about thinking men's savages and the shiny fantasy approach to violence.

This young man has done quite well for himself, as you'll see ample evidence of if you wander over to his website. I encourage you to wander over, because he's always amusing. Got a gift for the humor, he does. (Caveat - you must promise that'll you'll wander back this way before long, too.)

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Maya Calypso Durham...

...is nine years old today. Geez... Are you kidding me? This young lady is my daughter! (Said with nine years worth of awe at that fact.) She is as lovely in person as looks in this photo...

What I did to deserve the family I have escapes me. I don't know. Blessed by whomever does the blessing, I guess. I'm not sure how I got them, but I'm doing my best to be worthy of them now. Maybe I got them on credit, now I'm chipping away at the monthly statements - happily.

Maya was born in Scotland. We lived in the very small village of Forneth at the time, in Perthshire. (Go find that on a map - if you can!) I'm talking sheep and rabbits here, wonderful views, turnips and rape seed flowers (which bloom brilliant yellow). My in laws lived just down the road, around the bend, and my father in law, the poet and novelist and naturalist J Laughton Johnston, picked up the old quill and penned a few words to commemorate the occasion. The poem is included below.

Should you be inclined to read it do note that Laughton was writing from the Shetland Isles, where he was at the time of Maya's birth and where he and Patricia now live. Also note that my family is from the Caribbean, Trinidad in particular - hence the Calypso in Maya's name and the mention in this poem...

Maya (2.7.99)

The Flags are flying for Maya,

Yellow above the stiff green blades

around the mill at Bousta.

Overhead another raingoose rides the hypotenuse

and beyond the skerries and the tirricks

Brilliant white birds fold themselves into origami darts,

hurtle to the sea

and re-emerge as fish-stuffed gannets.


I look out over the Bay of St Magnus

And wonder what parallels, if any,

There might be between these North Sea islands

and those of the Caribbean?

What a hanself you have been given,

such a harvest of far-flung seed.


Maya,

who can look out at seabirds from so many shores

and call each one - home.


J Laughton Johnston
Bousta July 1999


(Next year, on Sage's birthday, I'll post the poem Grandpa wrote about Sage as well.)

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Some French Acacia Material - Glimpse Of The Cover?...

Like I've said before, the author is often the last to get a glimpse of anything. You know, I've still never held a copy of the Russian edition of Pride of Carthage, and that was published a couple years ago. (At least I think it was.) The newest incarnation of this dynamic is that I've just learned that French reviewers/bloggers are receiving arcs (advanced reading copies) of Acacia! Lucky for them, I guess, but no such luck for me. My friend Emmanuel at Elbakin.net clued me in, and he sent me a scan of some of the promotional material that came with it... (Tis' clickable.)

Emmanuel assures me that not many books get arcs in France (especially in fantasy), so it's another good sign my publisher, Le Pré aux Clercs, is behind the book. But will the French readership get behind it as well?

By the way, is that a glimpse of the cover I see in the upper left corner? I guess so, but I also know that they were rethinking whatever their early ideas on the cover was, so I won't swear it's going to look anything like that. We'll see..

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