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.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy NaNoWriMo!

You can usually time NaNoWriMo discussions by the appearance of Halloween decorations on store shelves. When the first ceramic pumpkin or wireframe black cat debuts at Walmart, some writer somewhere is talking about his NaNoWriMo plans.

Some writers love it. They say it's a great motivational tool, that it forces them to start and finish something in a set amount of time, that it helps them silence their internal editors while they focus on cranking out a first draft.

They're right.

Some writers have no interest in it. They say that a month is an arbitrary timeline for a project, that 50,000 words does not generally count as a full-length novel, and that most NaNoWriMo projects are so rushed and word-count focused that they're not in very good shape come December 1.

They're also right.

I'm a NaNoWriMo lurker. I don't really participate--I'd rather continue existing projects than start new ones. But I love the energy and the group motivation. I'm a big fan of write-ins. They're like group exercise classes--I can't slack off knowing my neighbors are working up a sweat. I also love getting writing done in a coffee shop. And since I have a tiny bladder, it helps to have someone there to watch my things....