Toolbox: the Video

by wjw on February 11, 2016

A friend of the workshop, indiepub guru E.M. Tippetts, has created this awesome promotional video for Taos Toolbox.  Because a picture is worth 1000 words.

And she did this totally on her own, without my asking even.  Now how cool is that?

 

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Newer. Prettier. But the Same.

by wjw on February 7, 2016

TernSchooner700LITEI’ve been engaged in the detail work of bringing my ebooks up to the modern standard, modern being “2016” as opposed to “2012.”  Which is to say they look prettier, are better organized, have functioning tables of contents, and almost entirely up-to-date clickable lists of my other works, so that you can find them and buy them very easily, nearly without having to think, which is sort of the point.  Don’t think, just buy!  (Clickable links not available at Smashwords or Google, for technical reasons, so sorry about that.)

All the novels have had their upgrade.  Short fiction to come.

The Tern Schooner even has a new cover, much nicer than the old one.  Check it out!

Of course the contents are the same, so whether you want to replace your old file with a new one depends entirely on your aesthetic standards.  I know it’s easy to do at Smashwords, where you have a choice of which file to download, and you just pick the most recent, and it doesn’t cost you any money.  There may be ways to do it elsewhere.

Re-editing my work, I found a few surprises.  The climactic scene of To Glory Arise (Chapter 17) was found loitering around between Chapters 4 and 5, which must have confused a lot of readers, assuming of course that was the file they got, which may not have been the case.   (There are a lot of epub files by now, and which ones got send where, and when, is by now a little vague.)

The Tern Schooner for some reason had all its vacant lines edited out— any paragraph symbol not followed by text disappeared— which meant all the prose was jammed up together.  It was not unreadable, but it was ugly.

I think this was a side effect of Smashwords’ Meatgrinder program, which in the early days I was using for all my conversions.  But in those days I was also using Sigil for the final draft, and you’d think I would have noticed a problem that obvious and fixed it.  On the third hand, it may have been the way Jutoh (the program I’m using now) converted the old .epub file.

Anyway, everything is newer! prettier! but just the same!

So enjoy! or not! as you like!

And the prettier new Tern Schooner may be found at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Smashwords, and Google.

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Touching on the Toolbox

by wjw on February 5, 2016

Taos-LogosmallThere are still some places left at Taos Toolbox, the master class for writers of science fiction and fantasy.  If you’re a workshop veteran and missing the workshop community, or someone who’s sold some work and stalled, or someone who hasn’t sold anything at all but is serious about your career, you owe it to yourself to apply.

This year is offering the collective publishing wisdom of instructors Nancy Kress and Walter Jon Williams, indiepub guru E.M. Tippetts, and James S.A. Corey, author of The Expanse.

Treat yourself to their knowledge, and apply.

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Turtle Tag

by wjw on February 3, 2016

turtleTurtles.  Because they’re awesome.

Last year on Maui, we were diving Lahaina Pier, and there was this little turtle, maybe a foot across, that was kind of swooping in and around and playing tag with us.  And then the guide pointed out something, and we got interested in that, and the turtle got more and more frantic as it circled around, because we’d stopped paying attention to it.  Just like a little kid.

Older turtles are more sedate, but I always get the impression that we bore them a lot faster than they bore us.

[photo by Troy]

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Genres Extinct

by wjw on February 3, 2016

ZeppelinStories1929-06My recent post about Nevil Shute set me thinking about literary genres, and their rise and fall.  Shute’s own particular niche is pretty well dead— not a lot of stories about zeppelins or epic aircraft flights being written these days.  But Shute’s in good company.

For example, I think we can safely say that the Homeric epic is dead.  At one point producing a long narrative poem was a writer’s best chance of getting a Nobel Prize, particularly if it could be considered a national epic, a poem defining the peculiar spirit or nature of a people.  With so many new nations being created in the early 1900s, there was a demand for a lot of national epics, and regional poets answered the call.  But nowadays I’m not sure authors like Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Carl Spitteler, and Władysław Reymont are much read outside their native countries.  If there.

I think we can also safely state that the Gothic novel is dead, both in its original Castle of Otranto form and in the Victoria Holt-style popular romances of the mid-20th Century.  I’m guessing that in an era of serial killers and terrorists, no one’s really scared of spooky old castles any more, and modern women have a lot more options than to sit around in a dusty mansion waiting for Uncle Silas to bump them off.  Though Gothics occasionally reappear— Thomas Disch’s The Priest comes to mind— they tend to be pastiches, satires, or learned commentaries on their predecessors.

Other genres may be considered Lost— the Lost Race story and the Lost World story, both fading when all the empty spaces on the map got filled in, and when the Hollow Earth turned out to be full of lava.

The Dream Narrative (Dream of Scipio, Romance of the Rose) has been extinct for so long that most people don’t know it ever existed.

After-the-Bomb stories seem to be dead, though dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction otherwise flourishes in non-radioactive environments.   I’m guessing After-the-Bomb died of the combined effects of the end of the Cold War and the publicity given nuclear winter, where it became clear that the Bomb wouldn’t just clear away the annoying parts of civilization, like taxation and bureaucracy, to leave the world a place where Men could realize themselves as Real Men in a landscape strongly resembling the Old West (only with mutants), but would instead leave a world in which the Real Men got to starve to death in the freezing cold just like everyone else.

The only extinct genre that I actually miss is the one in which Nevil Shute excelled, and which was also inhabited by writers like Hammond Innes, Desmond Bagley, and the early Alastair Maclean (before he started writing to formula in anticipation of a movie deal).  These stories features reasonably competent protagonists wrestling not only with some external conflict but with highly imperfect technology.  Innes’ The Wreck of the Mary Deare,  for example, deals with how two men alone can sail a derelict steamship.  Bagley’s The Golden Keel has to do with smuggling carried on aboard a wind-powered yacht, and features many details about sailboats.  Maclean’s South by Java Head is an open-boat adventure set in World War II, while The Guns of Navarone features mountaineering, explosives, and the Dodecanese Campaign.

Most of the works in this genre were some kind or other of thriller.  (Shute’s weren’t.)  The prototype would be Erskine Childers’ The Riddle of the Sands (1903), in which a couple of yachtsmen, investigating the Frisian Islands, discover the plans for a German invasion of England.  While there is a thriller plot, and a damned good one, much of the novel is taken up with the details of navigating a small boat through sandbanks in the early 20th century, when there was no radio, no GPS, no motor, and a lot of fog.

As with other examples of Geek Fiction, whether these stories work or not strongly depends on the author’s skill at making the technical details interesting to a general reader.  The stories mentioned above score pretty high in that regard.

But that whole style of novel faded away as technology changed.  Two people navigating a modern ship might take up a few paragraphs, not a whole book.  GPS, cell phones, text messaging, Google Earth, Google Maps, drone and satellite reconnaissance, and fly-by-wire technology have pretty much eliminated the imperfect, fallible machinery on which these stories were based.  And while computer and IT technology is certainly imperfect and fallible, there’s not a lot of suspense in the details of installing a new mother board.

The genre could be resurrected, of course, but it would be a period piece, and would depend strongly on convincing a modern audience that there was a time, in the dim past, long before Facebook.

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Happy Weekend

January 30, 2016

  Have a great weekend!  And wherever you are, I hope you’re having at least much fun as these guys.

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End-of-the-Month Sale

January 30, 2016

The fine folks at Kobo are offering every ebook in the store at 50% off through January 31.  Just use the promo code JAN1650.   The best part of this is that authors still get full royalties.  CHA-CHING! Here’s the link to my own immortal works.  Or if you want someone else’s less-immortal works, you can […]

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Swimming With Sharks

January 27, 2016

Another photo by Troy, this of a nurse shark taking a nap under a piece of sheltering coral.  Contrary to myth, sharks do in fact sleep, though sometimes it’s hard to tell, because they can’t close their eyes. The shark’s man-eating reputation, despite what you’ve seen on Shark Week, is ridiculously exaggerated.  People just don’t […]

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Mr. Norway

January 26, 2016

Some of you may have noticed that I contributed to a discussion of hard vs. soft science fiction over at Tor.com. One of the things I’ve noticed about so-called hard SF is that a lot of it isn’t all that hard— the science is often extremely speculative or sometimes even non-existent— but the label attaches […]

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Caviar

January 22, 2016

Who’s this little guy? Why, he’s one of the Opistognathidae, of course.  Otherwise known as a jawfish. If he look as if he’s got his mouth stuffed full of caviar, it’s because his mouth is in fact stuffed with caviar. The jawfish females lay the eggs, after which the males hold the eggs in their mouths […]

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