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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bracing the Wind

Another bit of wind...

Here's a quick snap, proof the kids are in Shetland, and on a rather sunny day, at that. You'll need to know about Shetland that there are basically no trees, and there's lots of wind. In this photo, that's what the kids are dealing with. The cottage in the background, that's Muckle Bousta, their grandpa's place.

You'd think these two kids coming straight from 100 degree temps in Fresno might have a little bit of trouble adjusting. Apparently not, though. My son, Sage, said, "Dad, it's like paradise."

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Grasping For the Wind Reviews

A very generous review of Acacia just went up at Grasping for the Wind Reviews. It's an easy one for me to encourage you to take a look at (since it's so kind), but also... why not hang out there for a bit? John has a wide variety of reviews and interviews to choose from!

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

More on the Paolini at Suvudu

Hi. Just wanted to mention that Shawn Speakman has posted some further thoughts on Christopher Paolini over at Suvudu. Yes, there's self-interest in my mentioning it, as Shawn starts by saying some nice things about me... but don't let that stop you from reading it!

You can find it HERE.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Brisingr

Well, I did it. I accepted The Washington Post's offer to review Christopher Paolini's Brisingr. I knew when I said yes that I was signing on for a good bit of work and potentially a hard slog, but, what the heck? I've reviewed for The Post before, but never done the embargoed book instant bestseller type of review. You can't say I don't like to try new things.

I knew that I'd have to read Eragon and Eldest, and that I wouldn't get Brisingr until the day it was published, since no copies were to be released before then. And I knew I'd need to read it fast and file faster. But it wasn't until a few days before the book came out that I asked exactly when they wanted the review filed. The answer... (Remember, the book comes out on Saturday) "Monday would be great. Tuesday doable."

What? Tuesday? You mean, like four days after the book pubs? This 750 page book? And then I started to calculate other factors, like the fact that I'd be spending Saturday in the car taking Gudrun and the kids to the airport. And on Monday I have to prepare for class, have office hours, and then teach until 9:50 at night. Friends, I was dismayed.

But, you see, I have this unfortunate trait wherein I don't like to fail to fulfill my obligations. So, I read. I read. I read. I fell asleep. I woke. I read. I finished the book Tuesday morning and managed to send the review off that evening. We fine tuned it a bit on Wednesday morning and, presto, here it is in all it's glory, 900+ words that feel - to me - like rather scant testament to several sleepless nights.

What did I think? Well, it's The Post's property now. You can read it by clicking here.

By the way, the author of the review doesn't choose the title. Just so you know...

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Monday, September 22, 2008

French Dilemma & A Lonely Man

Two things to mention this morning...

One is that my French Con dilemma has been resolved. Phew! Le Pre Aux Clercs, my French publisher, wished it could happen, but had to admit it was too near at hand to plan and organize all the things they would like to have me do if I was going that far. Makes sense to me. We'll try for the next book instead! Really, it is a bit of a relief. I would have went, but I'd also have been disappointed not to go to World Fantasy. Now I can just look forward to that without reservation.

Two, I've just become a very lonely man... Yep. Wanted you to know. You see, my wife and kids have just touched down in Scotland. I won't see them again for... (gulp) three months, when I go over for Christmas and New Year. Last night, I dropped them at the airport and came home to a silent, terribly empty house. Yeah, the cats are here, but they're just reminders of the kids, really. It's gonna be a tough few months...

It'll be worth it, though. Without going into much detail on it, they've had a tough time getting settled in Fresno. Gudrun, in particular, has really been longing for home. (She's Scottish, you know, born in the Shetland Isles.) And the kids, although always happy, have clearly been hungry for some things that were hard to find here. So, they all got really excited about this trip idea. The details are this...

They'll be up in Shetland for most of that time, staying with my father in law in this cottage. The kids will be enrolling is school up until Christmas. They're so excited about that. It's a small school, only five kids at the moment. Did I mention that not only will they be in Shetland, but they'll be in the very rural West Shetland area? I'm talking sheep and peat and wind and seabirds, crofters and small white cottages perched beside craggy cliffs... That sort of thing. It'll be an awesome adventure, no doubt about it, and a wonderful way for my wife to reconnect with the place she was born and with the family she's really been missing.

Me, though? Well, I'm home alone. Waiting. Working. Having my own private pity-party.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Spontaneous on Beginnings

Over at Spontaneous Derivation, Arachne Jericho has come up with a post about the beginnings of novels, looking at why the ones that work for her worked. Strangely enough, Acacia is on the list...

Glad to hear my "assassin on a mortal mission" beginning got the hooks in some folks. I'm aware, though, that I'm not a quick-grab sort of writer. I don't think I ever will be. Sure, I want readers to be intrigued by the beginning enough to keep going, but really it's not until about halfway through that I'm confident the different narrative threads I've been building are getting sufficiently tight and compelling. That's my hope at least, that readers are increasingly engaged as the book progresses. Certainly, I'd rather that be the case than that I hook them early and disappoint them later, which happens often enough.

Anyway, the Spontaneous Derivation piece is here.

What works for you all with a beginning? For me, one of the main things is just the quality of the writing. I felt that the first time I read A Game of Thrones. I'd started and then put down a few other fantasies prior to coming to Martin's, but from the first few lines I was, "Whoa, this guy's a pro." It was easy to read on just because of that, and I wasn't let down.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Word Candy

The Folks at Word Candy like Acacia. That's nice, only thing is they're not shy about pushing the author around a bit. They want a sequel, and they don't mind who knows it!

"We suggest that Mr. Durham take a nine-books-per-decade author like Dan Simmons as his model, and get cracking on those sequels, pronto."

I will say in my defense that as the sole breadwinner in my family I'm a bit strapped for time, essentially doing two different full time jobs, with a part-time job thrown in as well, you know? But I won't ask for sympathy. And I won't argue with em. Instead, I just promise I'll do better with the third book. It carries right on from The Other Lands, so I won't even need to take a break in between...

Here's the full review.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Acacia Giveaway

Not here, but over at the Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin' Blog. Click over and sign up if you like freebies. (Always nice to have an extra copy on hand to pass on to a friend, right?) You've got until the end of September to get your name in. Luck to ya'.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Word on Fan Mail

You know what I think of fan mail? (Drum roll...) I think it's great. Absolutely beautiful stuff. I thought I should take a moment to say so, since I took a moment out to talk about negativity a little while back...

I'm very happy to say that I've had the pleasure of receiving a steady flow of emails from folks over the last year or so. I'm not talking heaps of letters, but every few days somebody is kind enough to drop me a note saying a few nice things. Most often it's about Acacia, but Pride of Carthage gets a mention regularly, and even the early novels seem to still find readers every now and then. Part of why the correspondence is so nice is that it's a reminder of that - something I wouldn't really notice otherwise.

The last one to come in was this...

Hi David, I just finished Acacia tonight, I really enjoyed it thank you! I think this has to be the most amazing fantasy book I have read so far. I can't wait for the next installment and to find out where you take the story next. I couldn't put it down and had to take a day off work today so that I could finish it. Thanks for writing such a wonderful story!

DS - Blue Mountains Australia

Had to take a day off work to finish? Awesome. There's nothing like hearing that you've helped hamper productivity to make an author's day. To do so on foreign soil is even better! And, no, hearing such things doesn't go to my head. I've got a computer in front of me, deadlines, much, much work to do. There are plenty enough things to keep me grounded.

What it does do, however, is remind me why I write. That's much appreciated.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Week of Distracted Tidbits

I've been a bit distracted this week. A lot of stuff going on, really. I'm in the thick of teaching again, and trying to keep my nose in The Other Lands, dealing with interview queries and such, and also juggling some family-related decisions (this last is not actually the last in terms of the attention it's received recently). Oh, and, yeah, I've been keeping one eye on the election news and another on real estate in Europe (depending what happens). I've no major upheavals to report, or drama like that on Gulf Coast right now, but if you're interested in some of the new developments, I offer these...

Joseph Mallozzi, a producer for the very successful series Stargate: Atlantis, contacted me early in the week. No, not because he has series plans for Acacia... (You'll forgive me for inhaling sharply before reading the rest of his email.) Instead, he mentioned that his book club - which choses a sci-fi, fantasy and horror title to read and discuss each month - will be featuring Acacia as their November fantasy pick. Rather nice, this. (His blog is very well trafficked. So I can be sure Aliver and Corinn and Hanish will please and upset a few more folks.) And, better yet, he asked if I'd answer questions and interact a bit with his readers. I was quite happy to say yes. Here's the announcement. (John Twelve Hawks is doing it also, although I bet I'm a bit more approachable.) If you're reading the book now and would like to have a community to talk it over with others, this is probably a good place to start.

Also this week, I was invited to become a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Novelists (SF Novelist, for short). I accepted, of course. It's sort of discussion/support/networking group for established authors. Invite only, thank you very much. I'm thrilled to get in. I've been too busy this week with a variety of other things to post much yet, but I've had a flood of interesting emails coming from the group. It's very nice to hear professionals talking candidly about all aspects of their experiences in the business. I think I'm going to really like being part of it. They also keep a blog in which we rotate posting and offer news about our books: Science Fiction and Fantasy Novelists.

And, finally, I spent a deal of time chewing on this dilemma... (I know, it's a pretty nice dilemma to have. That doesn't mean it doesn't make my head spin a bit.) I'm scheduled to go World Fantasy in Calgary next month. Super terrific. I thought last year's con was great, and I've been looking forward to this for ages. I know so many more people now and - even better - I know who I don't know, and who I'll look to accost this time around. So that's all good.

The possible problem is that my French publisher tossed out the suggestion that I go to Utopiales, probably the largest European SciFi Con. (It's in Nantes, if you want to Google the locale.) They're very excited about the book, see, and the timing would be just perfect for the launch of Acacia in France. They'd try to set up interviews, events, meetings, etc. I'd do a lot more of that than at World Fantasy, I imagine. And, just like World Fantasy, there are lots of groovy authors and events at Utopiales. It's decidedly a different slice of the international literary world, but it's one that I'd love sample. I don't have all the details yet, but I'll know soon what's possible with such a trip.

The problem? The two events happen at exactly the same time. Oct 29 - Nov 2. Though I tried to twist my head around it, there's no possible way to do both at once. Is there? Believe me, I tried to think of ways... If you have any suggestions on how I could manage that let me know. Otherwise, what to do? What to do?

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Shawn's Donation Page

Shawn Speakman wrote me recently regarding a fundraising event he's part of for cancer research. You may know that Shawn's a cancer survivor, so he's a great reminder of how important it is to give a bit of our time and energy to fighting an illness that, sooner or later, is likely to touch us all in some way. (Me, I lost my mother back in 2001. Only took a few months, friends. And it wasn't a good few months.)

Anyway, here's a bit of what Shawn wrote:

It's that time of year again -- the time to celebrate that I am in fact still alive!

All kidding aside, most of you know my story of being diagnosed with cancer, fighting it with chemotherapy for three months after surgery, and having since thanked every day for the great medical care I received at Virginia Mason here in Seattle. It seems so long ago to me now but every day thousands of people are faced with what I had to face on March 6th, 2001, and every year I try my best to give back in the only way I can -- asking for your money to support a great cause.


The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society holds a walk here in Seattle every year and this year it is on September 20th. I know, I know: I am coming at this late in the charity season. But over the last three years your generosity has donated thousands of dollars, dollars that have either helped someone who specifically or take research one step further in understanding this terrible disease.


Please, visit
Shawn's Donation Page and give in whatever amount you can. Times are tough now, but even $5 helps. And those of you who live local: if you want to walk around Greenlake with me in solidarity with hundreds and hundreds of other cancer survivors and supporters, contact me and I'll give you the information!

I'll be making a donation. I'll hope you consider doing so as well.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Swiveting

I just noticed that Colleen Lindsay (agent, publicist, unparalleled character) was nice enough to mention the paperback publication of Acacia on her blog, The Swivet. I won't just send you to that post, though, since it'll just send you back here, but I do want to mention her blog. I love dropping in there and you might too. It's a great combination of publishing insider info, agent-hunting suggestions, genre news and notes, and bit of random stuff about cats.

I've mentioned it before. I'll mention it again. It's here: The Swivet.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Shimmer Magazine

I was visiting Mary Robinette Kowals's journal and got reminded about Shimmer Magazine. Mary had slipped me an early copy a while back, and I enjoyed perusing it. I was especially pleased to see a story by D Lynn Smith called The Girl Who Lost Her Way. Debbie is an old friend from the Stonecoast MFA program, and it was a nice treat to find her story there.

Here's the quote from Mary's site:

Our 9th issue, now available! We've got 100 pages of Shimmery goodness in this issue: eleven new stories by authors including M. K. Hobson, Angela Slatter, and Stephanie Campisi; an interview with Dave Farland, a Lucy cartoon by Chrissy Ellsworth, and terrific art from Aunia Kahn (check out that cover!) and Sandro Castelli.


And here's the Shimmer website. If you've got an inclination to support smaller, independent publications you might want to check it out.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Few Foreign Friends...

I just noticed this post on the Italian version of Pride of Carthage on the blog È TEMPO DI SCRIVERE: blog di sopravvivenza mentale. I could be wrong, but it sounds like he liked the book and mostly described what it's about - including thematically. Nice to know it's still being read, even in Italy!

Also, Liath, who was nice enough to comment on my last post, has written a review on Fantasy Faszination. It's in German, and from what I can gather some very nice things get said!

One of the most interesting things I've done recently was a video interview for my French publisher, Le Pre Aux Clercs. The book comes out there next month, and they're continuing to build for what looks like a really wonderful launch. For this interview, I had to get my Skype account all up and running. I set up my desk in the backyard, took the call and spent about 45 minutes speaking to a gentleman from Paris, Jean-Christophe. It was great fun. We even talked politics and the coming US election, although he assured me that won't be used in the final video. Once they edit it and put if French subtitles, they'll embed it on the French website for the book, which should be going online soon. I'll let you when it does. And, yes, that will be a first for me. A foreign language website devoted to my work! I'm thrilled.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

On the Fortieth Review, and Negativity

A couple days ago I got review number 40 for Acacia on Amazon.com. That's sweet. Means a lot of people have read the book. Lots of them have liked it, too. Only... well, actually number 40 didn't like it. I may be wrong, but that's my interpretation of... "as flat as a piece of newsprint" and "David Anthony Durham's "Acacia" is an abysmal production" and "Oh, and by the way, Durham can't write women, either" and "worst of all is the flat predictability of the characters". Am I wrong, or does that sound a bit negative? (Number 39 wasn't a fan, either.)

So I say to myself... Ah well, what to do? You can't please everyone, right? All those emails of praise and encouragement count for much more, yeah? Don't forget that. Don't forget all the reviewers - professional and amateur - that loved it. Don't forget the foreign publishers that snapped it up and the film people that have big, expensive hopes for it. Remember the many insightful readers who have found meaning in the characters and actions that give it real depth. Good thing all that's out there. And since it is I can let negative opinions like number 40 (and 39) just slide off my Teflon skin, baby.

Or... Well... maybe not so much...

The crazy thing is that logic and reason and the vast numbers of encouraging readers and avowed fans don't hold up that well in the face of negativity. They are the bedrock of why and for whom I write, but negativity is a sly bastard, persistent. Odious. He lives somewhere in the nooks and crannies of my brain and - like a politician making the boldest of assertions - he doesn't feel any need to nod to other perspectives. All he needs is a little bit of encouragement and he'll say things like...

"Oh my god, you idiot. You complete idiot! You realize, don't you, that you're a horrible writer. That last person that wrote that review on Amazon proves it. You suck. Purple prose, dude. Anachronisms. Completely awkward and incoherent sentences. The kind of stupid plot tricks that will make any intelligent reader throw your book out their window... That's all you have to offer. How could you possibly think that readers would want to read 240k words in which absolutely nothing interesting happens? About characters that are totally flat and cardboard and completely predictable on each and every page? What were you thinking? You should really consider changing your name and never writing again. You better get tenure quick, dude, before your colleagues realize how crap you are. But mostly - stop inflicting your words on the world!"

Ah, yes, that's my friend. He's only dealing out tough love, you know? What can I say to refute that? Clearly number 40 (and 39) have unmasked me...

You know, the thing here is that I'm not entirely kidding. There's is a vastly uneven effect between positive and negative feedback. I can hear 100 great reactions and - while I'm pleased - such things tend to keep me on even keel. I mean, I work really hard to make my books good. So when a reader enjoys them I've not achieved more than I wanted; I've just hit the baseline I was expecting to get all along. But that 1 review that slams down on the other side of the scales has the power - temporarily, at least - to send those other 100 kind folks twirling through the air. It doesn't have to make sense. It also doesn't ever really go away, no matter how many books one puts behind them. Doubt, resistance, negativity; man, they're powerful.

So, I'll admit something to people that seem to enjoy writing really negative reviews. In case you wondered if your attacks have an effect on writers... I'll verify that they do. They do. Even if we think you're completely wrong or stupid or nuts. They still have an impact. You, writing from wherever you are in the world, have pushed an invisible finger through the ether and poked me in the chest. Perhaps that makes you feel good to know that. If so, enjoy it.

There is good news, though. For one, I can take a little poking. I'm a professional. I do know it comes with the territory. The other thing is more interesting, though. And that's that the haters actually play an important role in helping creators onward. That's what they probably don't understand. It's not what they say that matters. It's not that they're terribly insightful and have a lot to teach us about how to really write book. It's that they put out the negativity at all that matters. Creators - in whatever field - must face resistance. We must push through doubt. We must hear jeers and insults and must find a way to put them into their place. It's always been that way. It's part of why creative achievement isn't easy, and part of why it's so rare. Yes, many people don't get through the fears enough to get published, etc, but the ones that do are stronger because of it.

So... Glad I got my equilibrium back. I'm going to go work on the next book.

(Which means, number 40 and 39, that you lost. I know you'll try again soon, but today, right now, you've been trumped.)

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

New Blog Look

Hi. I was away again, but now I'm back. (Bet you didn't notice.)

A few folks have asked me about the change in the blog appearance. No, you're not crazy. Yes, it has changed. Shawn Speakman went to work on it for me, giving it a look that integrates it right into the website. So now it all looks much more like a cohesive whole. That's the idea, at least.

Let me know if anything has gone wacky, but otherwise I hope you like the new look!

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Maya's Cats

Maya's latest creation. Just had to share it...Nine years old, she is.

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