Friday, April 11, 2014

The Buried Life cover reveal!

It's been a while since I've ventured 'round these parts, but today's a great day to break the silence.

The cover for The Buried Life has been revealed, and SF Signal is hosting a giveaway!

You can check out the details via the link above, but for now, here's the cover (and thanks to John Coulthart for the fabulous art!):

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Maverick and first impressions

Over the holidays, I finally saw Top Gun. I had not seen it before. Don't ask me why, there is no reason.

I watched it with three other people who had seen it before and could probably recite the lyrics to "Danger Zone."

We all came to the same conclusion. Maverick is a dick. Iceman is actually the good guy.

It almost seems silly to write this because it was so obvious while we were all watching it. And yet, it hadn't occurred to my three companions in their previous viewings, and none of the people who had said "WHAT you've never seen Top Gun?!" over the years had mentioned that the supposed protagonist was a whiny brat.

I have tried to figure out how the filmmakers managed to portray Maverick as the good guy, and I think it comes down to first impressions and perspective. The first time we see Iceman, he's checking Maverick out and twirling his pen. But the first thing he actually says to Maverick?

"Congratulations on Top Gun."

What a JERK.

Everything else he says is either downright decent or a justified criticism of Maverick's recklessness. Taken at face value, none of it is actually confrontational. If it sounds that way, it's only because we're following Maverick and witnessing the exchange through his eyes, and he sees everything as a challenge. Kind of like how Skyler White only seems like a shrew because we're following Walter.

Also, Iceman's pick-up strategies don't appear to involve following women into the bathroom.

I guess the moral of the story is that perspective and first impressions are powerful. That, or bleached tips create the presumption of douchery.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Dances with dwarves

Like many, I saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug* over the weekend. Like many, I enjoyed it. And I think my favorite details of this new series continue to coincide with the ways in which it differs from the Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

Let me explain.

Here be spoilers. In the first movie, the "good guys" are pretty exemplary. Sure, you have Boromir, who tries to take the OneRing, but he gets filled with arrows pretty quickly, just to show you what happens to guys like that. Frodo has his "episodes," but he recognizes and loathes the soul-corrupting burden of the OneRing. Other than that, there's just a little mutual racism between Legolas and Gimli, but that turns into an adorable bromance midway through the series.

But Thorin? Thorin has a dark side. He is focused on restoring his kingdom, and he makes no apologies for it. All other priorities are rescinded, if you will.

He is also capable of bad decisions. As hell-bent as he is on getting the OneDiamond to rule them all (the dwarven armies, that is), he is confident that he won't awaken the CumberDragon (he swears it). And, of course, (spoiler alert) if you've seen the trailer, or the mocap photos, or any mention of a third movie, you know that the CumberDragon awakens.**

Aragorn would NEVER have made a mistake like that....

Which is why Thorin is (IMO) a much more interesting fearless leader.

Even Gandalf gets shady and manipulative. Not that he doesn't do it for good reasons, of course, but he's shown to have engineered this dragon-awakening quest in the first place. And he rather suddenly abandons it when current events demand it.

Similarly, this series gives us a more sophisticated portrayal of elves and dwarves. Gimli was good with an axe, but he was also distracted by the mere mention of salted pork. Dwarven attempts at civilization-building were typically ill-advised (see: Moria) in LOTR. There's still plenty of dwarven ruination here, but the characters themselves display more varied and more nuanced personalities and motivations. Maybe that's just because there are more of them.

As for the elves, they're not the favorites any more.*** Whereas Elrond's withdrawal in LOTR was framed as the tragic end of an era, Thranduil's lack of interest in other kingdoms is just isolationism and ice-cold pragmatism. He's a jerk, and no one is trying to pretend differently.

*I still say "Smog" in my head. Yes, I know it's "Smowwwg," but come now.

**Best part? Balin: "If you see a dragon, don't wake it up." Good to know.

***I still love the meal in Rivendell from the last movie, in which the dwarves look completely annoyed at having harps played inches from their ears.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkey day in the colonies

Today is a special day.

It is the day when we feral colonists engage in some bizarre traditions. There is ritual avian slaughter, a parade of ceremonial effigies, and several rounds of bloodsport practiced by some of our nation's finest (winners bathe in Gatorade from the sacramental fount; losers are sacrificed and served in mincemeat pie).

At least, that is what I suspect it looks like to Angry Robot, but they may be too polite (and too British) to say so.

While I am getting debauched on green bean casserole and cranberry sauce, they are hard at work, and they've announced their purchase of my first novel, The Buried Life, and its sequel, Renaissance Land.

In addition to everything else I'm thankful for (too much to list here), I'm thankful to join so many wonderful, talented people on their list of authors (just how did I get here?!), and I'm thankful to work with such delightful, innovative folks to get these books published.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's always sunny in Irvine

I've been remiss. And I've got good excuses! But, really, doesn't everyone?

One development that's kept me busy has been joining Obsidian Entertainment as a narrative designer. Over in gorgeous SoCal, I get to work on this:

Tomorrow marks my one-week anniversary, and what I can tell you at this point is that it's awesome. The Project Eternity team is fantastic, and writing for a game with an expansive, original world is a blast. And the weather is always perfect. Come to think of it, I feel kind of like this kid:

More to come!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

That Hansel is so hot right now

It's always interesting to hear about literary trends--what's in, what's out, what's on its way in one direction or the other.

It's not surprising that when books about vampires and werewolves are selling by the dozen, agents and editors are inundated with queries about the same. However, chasing a trend is hard. If it's recognizable, it likely means that market saturation is nigh.

Between Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy, Marie Lu's Legend series, and the Divergent books by Veronica Roth, dystopia appears to be having its day in the sun.

Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary makes several important points about dystopia in fiction. I think the heart of her post is that you can't really tack a popular trope onto a manuscript and expect it to work. If there's an evil government, there must be good reasons and logical mechanisms. If the star-crossed lovers are supernatural creatures, it should be so because that was the best way to develop those characters, not because it seemed like a hot trend.

What's even harder to discuss is the next million dollar idea. Since there isn't a crystal ball for that kind of thing, it's a good excuse to worry less about what's going to sell big and more about writing whatever story you're most excited to tell. I have a feeling that's what most of today's best-selling authors were thinking about at the time, anyway. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Uncommon knowledge

The lovely librarians of Stacked are challenging the oft-repeated claim that women dominate YA. I've heard it (and readily believed it), and you might have, too. Yet they break down the numbers for the New York Times Best Seller lists for Young Adult for roughly the past year (ever since the creation of a separate list for YA), and any way they cut the numbers, this assumption is not merely false, but staggeringly so.

It turns out that male authors and their books consistently outnumber and outrank their female counterparts on the NYT list. In fact, looking at the analysis, I felt downright silly for having thought that women were leading the genre. So why do we so commonly hear that this is the case?*
  • J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, and Suzanne Collins. It's true, the data for the last year doesn't reflect mega-hits in the Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games series. While these are arguably the best-known YA titles, their exceptional success does not likely reflect the status of most women writing YA or of the typical gender distribution among YA bestsellers. Veronica Roth is probably the closest to this category of super-selling women, but even she's only held the top spot for four weeks, and that followed significant publicity for the film adaptation.
  • Adult women make up a large share of YA readership. I've heard this many times, too, and now I'm also wondering whether this assumption is suspect. 
  • Women writers more actively engage with other authors and readers. I don't know if this is true, but I wonder if it's also a perception. Who wants to do the research? (I call "not it.") 
  • The New York Times list is a flawed metric. Criticisms of the NYT's methods and metrics abound, but there's no denying that it's a common benchmark for success, nor that books that appear there are likely to sell even better simply for making the list.
*Note: I am not making these arguments, but rather suggesting possible counters and assumptions.