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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dale of Walls

Had a great walk on the eve of the New Year. Here's me walking with Maya and Sage.
Loving the time here in Shetland...

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

CV Rick's Year in Review

I know the ole blog hasn't exactly received my full attention these last few days. There's celebrating to be done, don't you know, and it's not over yet. Gudrun has just gone off to pick up some new arrivals at the airport, friends of ours who are up to celebrate the new year. Neither of them have been to Shetland before, and one of them is a London lad. He's in for a few shocks.

Anyway, I'm feeling the need to post a link, so he's one I came across recently. I don't know this guy, Rick, but he was kind enough to say nice things about Acacia, and about a few other books I thought were quite good as well. Check it out here. Guy's got taste, that's for sure...

(For that matter, his blog is pretty readable in general, on lots of different topics.)

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Nancy's Picks

So this is a year behind, but for some reason Google just chose to notify me of a rather nice mention I received last year from Nancy Pearl. This one is on the City of Fort Worth's Library website. I didn't know I had friends there, but I'm glad to learn it. Next time I'm in Texas I'll stop in and say hi.

For now, I'll point you to the post, only twelve months late, but new to me! Pearl's Picks.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas...

...was rather wonderful here in Sandness.

The kids were bubbling with excitement. The adults were all on good terms. (An important component to any holiday, yes?)

We began the morning with champagne and strawberries, Nat King Cole and marmite & melted cheese on toast.

The presents were thoughtful and often handmade. Santa delivered small treasures. We took the standard Christmas walk along a rugged coastline.

The food was lovely but not a display of belly swelling excess. The drink was varied and plentiful. We enjoyed a new episode of Wallace & Gromit, and just missed a special episode of Dr. Who (the only bummer moment of the day).

And the evening concluded with a rousing episode of "The Shetland Dance Off", a competition of interpretive dance featuring a selection of eclectic tunes. Maya and Sage were the primary competitors, each with several guises with decidely different personalities. We had a panel of celebrity judges, featuring members of the Irish clergy alongside Scottish former stars, etc. The show was hosted by D-Squared, a silver-tongued and easily impressed veteran of such competitions. And yes, the entire things was captured on video!

And, no, not a chance I'll be posting that here!

I do hope the day (or the Holiday Season in general) has/is going well for you also.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Cesaria Evora

I also mentioned that we were listening to Cesaria Evora the other night in the cottage. Don't know if you've got a taste for the World Music scene, but if so you might want to check her out. Very cool. Good stuff to have in your quiver of musical options. At times you will hear Scottish fiddle music coming out of the cottage. At other times it the sounds of further flung places, like the Cape Verde Islands.

See video for the vibe...



Oh, and I haven't failed to notice that tomorrow is Christmas. My kids keep reminding me. Enjoying the build-up very much!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Kedgeree

Yesterday in the comments section of another post I mentioned that my brother in law was making kedgeree for dinner. Not sure if this is a familiar dish for everyone, but as it was so bloody good I had to say a bit more about it. Wikipedia defines it thusly...

Kedgeree (or occasionally kitcherie, kitchari or kitchiri) is a dish consisting of flaked fish (usually smoked haddock), boiled rice, eggs and butter. The dish originated from Scotland and was taken to India by Scottish troops during the Brisith Raj, where it was adapted and adopted as part of Indian cuisine.

I define it as supremely yummy.

By the way, you'll forgive me, won't you, if my posts for the next little bit are decidedly family, food, drink and holiday oriented, right? I hope so, cause that's the vibe I'm riding at the moment. I hope you are too.

Here's a recipe, should you wish to try this at home, and here's the man himself, on the move in the kitchen...

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Monday, December 22, 2008

21 Seals

I wish that I'd taken the camera with me. I actually walked out of the cottage with it, Maya and Sage just behind me, to take a walk and snap some pics. We only got as far as the shed, though, before ducking in for cover from the falling rain. From inside the shed I snapped this photo of my son, Sage...

But then I left the camera in the shed so we could complete our daily expedition into the wilds of Shetland. (It's a nice camera, and it was pelting down.) Five minutes later, we approached the beach of the little inlet not far from the house. There were tons of seals lounging about the stony beach. As we walked down to say hi, they all belly rolled into the water and then promptly turned around and hung about twenty yards off shore, watching us.

That's when I wished I had the camera. There was something both really cool and kinda unsettling about being watched by a bunch of submerged mammals. I counted 21 heads, all staring right at us. Cool. Your average sight in Shetland, though. It would be much harder to fine 21 people within a five minute walk from the cottage...

Next time I'll keep the camera tucked under my rain jacket.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

StoryCasting

Hiya. Just a quick note to mention that the folks over at StoryCasting.com have posted pages to cast actors for all of my books (and lots of other people's books). It looks like fun. It's free. You just join and can select actors with headshots and all. I haven't done this myself. I feel strangely wary of doing so, but you should certainly feel free to voice your opinion. I'd be interested...

The site is here: StoryCasting.com.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Reunited!

I'm happy to finally be able to say that I am safely in Shetland, reunited with my family after three months! Here's a quick pic of me and wife...

Yes, it is incredibly windy, with dramatic, ever-changing skies, and it's just as treeless as I remember. And the sheep haven't gotten any smarter. No worries, though. The cottage is cozy, filled with family, with both a peat and a coal stove, with broadband and tons of books and art and music, and even with a hi-tec projector and screen for watching films (Kung Fu Panda and Wall-E first up).

We're off to do some shopping just now in Lerwick, hoping that the ferry made it in this morning. The seas were quite rough last night, and if the boat doesn't make it across it means no fresh food! Ah, island life...

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Italian Cover Part 2

You may recall the cover to the left here as being my Italian cover for Acacia. I kinda liked it, the broodiness of it, the way it reminds me of some Gothic Victorian tale. I also liked that I could make sense of the image - assuming it was Haven's Rocks from the Isle of Acacia. The title was entirely different, but, again, it made some sense: I Ribelli del Mondo Oscuro (The Dark World Rebels). I can get a handle on what that means.

Thing is, my Italian publisher, Piemme, decided to break the book into two volumes. Two books, two covers, two titles... I'm pleased to announce I just got my first look at the new edition. As ever, I dutifully offer it up to you lot for consideration...
Admittedly, this one requires me to squint my eyes a little. That's not to suggest I don't like it. (I like all my covers, don't you know.) It's just that the image is its own thing entirely, and the title Il Guerriero del Lago D'Argento means The Silver Lake Warrior. The what? Who dat? I had to ask the publisher.

Apparently the Silver Lake Warrior is Aliver Akaran. And, apparently, this lake is mentioned several times during the book. A miracle of translation, I guess, because I never used the term...

So, there it is. I am now the proud author of The Silver Lake Warrior. (I wonder if I can add that to my resume as a separate title?) Honestly, I'm rather pleased. It feels like another milestone of having "made it" when your books arrive with translated titles and references within them that are completely new to you. Thank you, Piemme, please keep publishing me.

But that's just me. What do you think?

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Danish Poet

More on the travels soon, but for today...

Totally random. I love this film. It's Torill Kove's "The Danish Poet", an Academy Award Winning short film from 2006. I shouldn't try to explain. Just take a look...

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

I'm Almost Here...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Neil on Rejection

I'm on a plane, or train, or boat, or sitting in some transportational waiting space right now, so let me offer wisdom from another right now. You wanna be a writer. Well, get your ego on. Says Neil... (And, yes, I know this has been quoted many, many times. That doesn't mean I can't do it too, right? It is Neil I'm talking about here...)

"It does help, to be a writer, to have the sort of crazed ego that doesn't allow for failure. The best reaction to a rejection slip is a sort of wild-eyed madness, an evil grin, and sitting yourself in front of the keyboard muttering "Okay, you bastards. Try rejecting this!" and then writing something so unbelievably brilliant that all other writers will disembowel themselves with their pens upon reading it, because there's nothing left to write. Because the rejection slips will arrive. And, if the books are published, then you can pretty much guarantee that bad reviews will be as well. And you'll need to learn how to shrug and keep going. Or you stop, and get a real job."

--Neil Gaiman

It's true. All true. Smart guy.

(He, by the way, posted a one word comment on my blog a few days ago. "Hurrah!")

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ghostwriting?

So, you think you've been in this business for awhile. You think you know how things work. You think that you can't be surprised anymore by the lengths to which people may go to puff themselves up shamelessly. And then... well then something sort of pops up and surprises you. I don't mean something totally new, but then again when you turn it a bit and look it in the face it's like... wtf?

I haven't spent too much time thinking about ghost writing. No big deal. It's celebs needing someone to "help" them right bios, right? Reasonable enough. We don't expect actors or sports stars or most politicians (Obama not included) to be able to put a series of sentences together to make a cohesive, honest or interesting narrative. The idea here is that the celeb - for better or worse - has experiences, charisma, fame, whatever - that people want to read about. They're bringing something to the bargain, and just getting a little help putting the sentences together. No problem.

Thing is, I recently heard some writer friends talking about ghostwriting fiction. That's right: fiction. Writing a novel, for example, by the terms of a contract, getting paid, and then having that novel published under some other actual person's name. I don't mean writing under a pseudonym. I'm talking: I write the book, I give it X, get paid, and then X pretends to all the world that he wrote it. Does this not sound fundamentally wrong? (The getting paid part is good, but still...)

Scott Westerfeld, the very successful sci/fi writer (who doesn't ghostwrite anymore) wrote about it in a blog post a while back. It's a great piece. Read it because he knows a lot more about all of this than I do.

(This crustacean, by the way, is a Ghost Crab. He looks kinda suspicious.)

I'm still left stunned, though... Have you or I read a "novel" not really written by the person named on the front? Makes you wonder...

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

"Publishing Death Watch"?

That sounds kinda ominous. It's not so bad, though. Just a small piece in The New Yorker that looks at a few different quotes about the current state of publishing. Really just seems a bit inconclusive, and the Hachette statement about a book selling forty-thousand copies being a "disaster" for them seems a bit hard to credit...

It's here, if you're interested.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

December Light

Here's my Shetland pic for the day, stolen from my wife's blog. Can you tell I'm thinking about my coming trip a bit?

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Five on Suvudu

I recently answered Five Questions for Shawn Speakman over on his Suvudu blog. Please check it out here: SUVUDU.

(And if I don't interest you enough to sen you over there, Shawn has recent interviews up from Terry Brooks, Sean Williams and Jacqueline Carey, just to name a few.)

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Friday, December 05, 2008

And the Father-In-Law Responds!

Okay, folks, for all of you that helped suggest sci/fi and fantasy titles for my father-in-law (and those that may have watched with passing interest) here's the verdict. Yes, I just heard back from Laughton, and figured I might as well share his response, especially as this has been a collaborative effort. Here's what he wrote...

I clearly did not know what I was asking of you! I'm overwhelmed, by the time and thoughtfulness that you and all your correspondents have put into this and... by my ignorance of modern fantasy and sc-fi. You know I read a lot but this is literally (in both senses) another world.

I am pleased to say that I have read one of the suggestions... Ursula LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness, probably in the early 70s. When I discovered the joys of the A Wizard of Earthsea trilogy for the children I went on to read everything of hers that I could get. Lately, her writing took on the later style and topics of Doris Lessing's 'fantasy' (although the latter has moved on/back again) and she no longer appeals to me.

My choices from your list may well then be a little conservative (I am getting old). The last thing I want is to settle down (perhaps that's stretching it a bit) on the long flights and restless airport lounges and find that the thick book with the crisp pages is not to my taste!

Robert Heinlen's Stranger in a Strange Land is appealing, probably for nostalgic reasons... I read masses of sci-fi in the late 5
0s, 60s and 70s. Less of Heinlen than I thought when I look at the shelves; they seem to contain more John Wyndham, Ray Bradbury, Azimov, Arthur C Clarke, Frank Herbert etc (just name-dropping). I wonder how many of your correspondents have read A Voyage to Arcturus by the Scottish writer David Lindsay (who died fairly young)? So, Heinlen would be stepping back rather than forward...

I have my eye on a couple of recommendations, partly based (I was going to say 'mostly' but that might worry you) on your comments; I have a great respect for you judgement!

But the others...

A Game of Thrones by R R Martin sounds like a big boy's read. I think I will have to graduate to that. Maybe when I get home in January, when the nights are still long and dark and it's blowing a gale out there, I will take the plunge. No, not maybe, let's not be too tentative and timid here... I will go for this in the new year.


Richard Morgan's Thirteen/Black Man... hhmmm. The 'over-sexed' comment puts me off. Not that I would under-rate sex, but in one's late 60s I'm looking for subtlety.

Dan Simmons' Ilium? I guess I will just leave this for the reasons you know. Like I know the story of Franklin so well... incidentally, it was an Orkney man, John Rae, who first brought the news of the horror of the fate of Franklin's men, and one of his few companions was a Shetland man. Lady Franklin also makes a brief appearance in a book of mine. I felt the 'actual' story was scary enough.

Anathem by Neal Stephenson, The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolf and Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light, I will keep on my list for later.

I suspect I will be raising a few hackles with my very short and dismissive comments, but what do we all do when faced with so many choices?

China Mieville's Perdido Street Station. With a title like that, it sounds quite intriguing. Plus your 'bloody good read' comment. I am tempted here. Likewise, I am tempted by your comments on Dreaming Void by Peter F Hamilton. These I might try later along with, or before, RR Martin. So, they are sort of third/fourth choices.

I am going to take two then. Did you intentionally/unintentionally put them in order of your own preferences? (No you didn't did you! You put them in alphabetical order so as to appear completely unbiased...)

However, I am going to take your first two. Second choice is American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Not because he is British writer but because it sounds frighteningly contemporary. Tell me if my hunch is way wrong.

The one that I instantly went for, though I am not sure why, is Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower. On second thoughts, perhaps because I see that the author is a black woman whom I would hope might bring some fresh perspectives. Or am I the marketing man's dream who simply picks the first shiny one on offer? Like the previous book, there is a contemporary feel to it which attracts me... and... you liked it.

So thanks to you all and forgive me for my many presumptions... I'll let you know!

Thanks, David,

Laughton

And just so you know who has been talking, here's a photo of the man himself (along with his youngest daughter - and my wife).

Okay. Works for me. Butler and Gaiman. They both rock. I do hope you'll have both of them with you, Laughton, just in case either doesn't do it for you.

Octavia Butler is... well, she's the first sci/fi writer to get a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship, isn't she? (Jonathan Lethem scooped one more recently. As far as I could tell, he bought really suave new glasses with the cash.) I know pretentious literary prizes aren't everyone's cup of tea, but I wouldn't say no to $500,000 "Out of the Blue", with no strings attached, just for being... geniusy. And, yes, in many ways Ms. Butler's racial identity informs her writing. She would've been brilliant anyway, but she has a wide, empathetic perspective that I'm quite sure was influenced by the particular details of the skin she lived her life in.

And, yes, Gaiman does strike me as "frighteningly contemporary", at least in reference to American Gods. Neither author is one that I assume everyone will like, but both have a measure of brilliance that I'd encourage anyone to at least try. Notes on two other titles... I finished The Dreaming Void recently. Liked it very much, although as I rounded the last hundred pages or so I got to suspecting there wasn't going to be much in the way of resolution at the end. I wasn't wrong. Mr. Hamilton wraps things up like a professional, but this is clearly just the beginning of this particular story. And Perdido Street Station got another celebrity shout out recently - John Scalzi spoke of it as one of his favorite books on several occasions at LosCon. As we all know, Mr. Scalzi is a very smart guy.

Okay, I think that brings the "Help Me Pick a Book For My Father-in-Law" segment of this blog to a close. Thanks for playing. In closing... I'm curious. Anyone read A Voyage to Arcturus, by David Lindsay?

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Advice From Scalzi and The Swivet

As Paranoyd here pointed out to me, John Scalzi has also commented on the publishing er... turmoil over at Whatever. Much wisdom.... and a helpful suggestion. This is a much more focussed suggestion, I think, than our (still) president's suggestion after 9/11 that we "go shopping", even if it's similarly a consumer-based idea. He says the best thing you can do for publishing and for authors you love is to...

"Buy some damn books.

Fortunately, this advice is well-timed: Books are inexpensive yet valued objects, which means that they make lovely gifts for whatever holiday festivities you subscribe to this time of year. Now is a fine time to introduce friends and loved ones to some of your favorite authors - and in doing so, you're boosting that author's sales, which will make his or her publisher marginally less liable to dump their shivering ass onto the street..."


I couldn't agree more. Full post is HERE.

Also, my friend and former publicist, Colleen Lindsay, has a few words to say on the subject at the Swivet. Her advice: "DON'T PANIC!!!"

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Job My Boss Used to Have?... It Just Vanished

There's to be some major restructuring in the Random House world (which, by the way, is a HUGE part of the publishing world in general). Among other things, Doubleday's publisher (and therefore my boss) doesn't have a job anymore. His position won't exist because Doubleday is being merged into Knopf. I'm not saying he's out on the street. He's too much of a veteran not to land in some other role, but I do find it pretty strange. This is the guy that ultimately gave the thumbs-up to Pride of Carthage and Acacia. Not sure what all this means, but in far away New York some of the factors and players that effect my career have shifted (if you don't mind me making it personal for a moment). It could be kinda good to be part of Knopf, but one never knows until the dust settles. Oh, this business...

Anyway, I won't give you the whole rundown here, but if you want to know more you could check out chairman Markus Dohle's "Letter on Restructuring" over at Publishers Weekly.

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LosCon, in Very Brief

Hi folks. I'm actually not going to do a full-on post con post for this one. I'm just tired. I was tired at the con, too, and that fatigue is going to remain part of my life for the next few weeks. I will say that I enjoyed hanging out with John Scalzi, the writer Guest of Honor. He's always fun to be around. Was great spending time with Doselle Young again, too. Also, I particularly enjoyed being on panels with Tim Powers, Barbara Hambly, Sherwood Smith and Will Shetterly.

But that's it. That's my post. If you want something slightly less brief you could check out Scalzi's report on Whatever. (And yes, he does mention me - always a very good thing!)

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Monday, December 01, 2008

A Shetland Moment

I'll say a word or two about LosCon soon, but I just got home and noticed a recent post on my wife's blog. Just some pictures of Shetland, really, but I find them quite stunning. I'll be over there soon myself.

Beautiful. Kinda heartbreaking to have not been part of it for the last couple of months. How weird.

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