Monday, August 30, 2010

Where would you go?

Today I'm blogging at Supernatural Underground, and asking where in the world - or other worlds - you'd like to visit or live.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Podcast review

From the homeland... Keith Stevenson reviews Song of Scarabaeus on Terra Incognita Speculative Fiction Podcast #022. The review begins at about 37:10.

We arrive in Melbourne 2 weeks late for WorldCon - a real shame but that's just the way things worked out. I attended the previous WorldCon that was held in Melbourne (1999) where the guest of honor was physicist and SF writer Gregory Benford, and the Special Guest was J. Michael Straczynski (creator and writer of Babylon 5).

Benford talked about how to identify buried nuclear waste so that people in the far future (hundreds of centuries from now) would know to avoid the site even if civilization had collapsed and people could no longer read or understand radioactive symbols. Sounds kind of dry, but I remember it was fascinating.

Straczynski took the stage after the screen displayed a montage from Babylon 5. The first thing he said was, "I made that." (Exactly how I felt when my finished book arrived in the mail!) He talked about how his spin-off show, Crusade, was cancelled after network producers started writing memos to him demanding more sex scenes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The younger generation

My husband's nephew and his wife, a couple in their early 20s, are staying with us for a few days. While browsing through some Netflix options we discovered that, despite being SF&F fans, they've never seen Blade Runner or Aliens. I'm speechless!

We watched Aliens with them, followed by... Zardoz. MCP assured us this is a cult classic. I'm not sure when that phrase has ever been a recommendation. Well, all I can say is that it has Sean Connery in a red diaper.

At one point he appears in a lacy wedding dress, but I suspect most viewers today will never get that far into the viewing experience.

Hard to believe that this movie is only 12 years older than Aliens and is so dated it's almost unwatchable. On the other hand, the only thing about Aliens that's dated badly is Paul Reiser's hair.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The joy of hitting "send"

Yesterday afternoon I finished my book 2 rewrites and emailed the manuscript off to my editor. This is joyful news! However, I'm so "close" to this book now that I have no real idea what state it's in. I need to wait a couple of weeks and read it fresh, to pick up any inconsistencies or repetitions or just plain awkward phrasing.

The rewrite was a much bigger task than I expected, and not just because I have so much else going on right now. A suggestion to put a secondary character more front and center, or to make certain other characters play a larger role in the plot, might sound fairly trivial, but in this case it meant rewriting most of the first two-thirds of the book. Even if the scenes are basically the same, they now have different characters in them, a different "plot purpose", a different emotional level, and they're in a different order. And when you boost one part of the story, another part has to give way. That meant simplifying several plot elements to make room for emphasizing others.

I murdered several darlings in the process, but I think it's a better book.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fun with faces

A long time ago I created portraits for my characters using 3D figures. Given that the cover art of Song shows the two main players, let's assume they more or less look like that. Which leaves us to imaginate the rest of the crew of the Hoi Polloi.

This is navpilot Cat Lancer: Beauty and elegance armed with a spur.

Here's op-teck Zeke. "I forgive you for insulting my rigs."

(I drew inspiration for his attitude on Yaphet Kotto's Parker from the first Alien movie.)

This is Captain Francis Rackham, who is fussy about the precise temperature of his merlot.

And finally, the lovely John "Are you reading my memos?" Haller.

So - do they look like they should?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The price of a cute accent

We are moving to Australia. Back to Australia, in my case.

Organizing this momentous event has been a time-consuming and sometimes stressful production. Put house on the market, clear out clutter, hold garage sale, keep house spotless for viewings by potential buyers, vacate house for three hours every other weekend during open house. Fill out numerous and repetitive forms for MCP's visa, get additional paperwork such as fingerprints, certified copies of everything, and notorized statements from friends as evidence that we have a "genuine and continuing relationship". Get baby Sophie's US passport and Australian citizenship, and book a day-trip to the embassy in LA for her Australian passport. Get shipping quotes. Hold BBQ/pool parties for the friends we're leaving behind. Entertain another visitor who's come to see baby. Make lists, endless lists, about all the things we still have to do. Over the next five weeks we have ten house guests visiting in five batches staying for a total of 22 days.

And there's more! Somewhere in there I had a baby, so... Recover from c-section, shop for baby, take baby to appointments (first injections on Monday and I'm dreading it), feed and change baby, try to spend at least a bit of time playing with baby.

And finish book 2 rewrites.

You know what the hardest thing was? Getting a photograph of a two-week-old for her US passport. I snapped 200 shots over the course of several days to get one suitable photo. All were adorable, but the US passport office doesn't want adorable. They want subject looking directly at the camera, eyes open, mouth closed. Two-week-old babies don't do that much.

And then... MCP's visa arrives earlier than expected. Everything moves up a month. Scramble!

It will all be worth it because Sophie will grow up with an Aussie accent, which her Daddy thinks will make her even cuter than she already is. He said so on his visa application. Seriously.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Never rains but...

Two more nice blogger reviews of Song today:
Ray Gun Reviews
I guess I thought by now the book would have run its course in terms of reviews, but it seems some people who read a lot (certainly more than I read!) took this long to get around to it. Which is great, because while my head is deep into book 2, it's nice to surface once in a while to read what someone else thought of book 1.

One thing I appreciate is when a reader notices the moral aspects of both the plot issues and the characters. I'm sure most writers dread coming off as preachy, and I think there are two ways to avoid it. First, don't, as a writer, have a black-and-white opinion on an issue. It's bound to show. I have black-and-white opinions on a few things and I won't ever be able to include those issues in my fiction until I can bring myself to compassionately portray "the other side." That's going to be tough...

And second, make at least some characters morally ambiguous. The "bad guys" aren't all thoroughly bad and the "good guys" aren't saints. In my world, even the Crib isn't evil. It's a bureaucracy with all the strengths and weaknesses of a bureaucracy, such as ambitious or unethical individuals within an otherwise benign entity, or a committee-approved blind spot when it comes to doing what appears to be in the best interests of its several hundred billion citizens.

Back to book 2. Many people have asked me about a sequel or mentioned a hope for one in their reviews - of course, if you're reading this blog you know that there is one. Some more info: it's coming out in April 2011, it's called Children of Scarabaeus, and the cover art (which I have seen, and it's even better than the first) is again by Chris McGrath and depicts Edie and Finn. So now you know that they survive and are, surprise!, the main characters again.