Saturday, November 27, 2021

Small Business Saturday

Hey there! As I have several times in the past, I thought I’d take a moment at the holidays to mention some of the books I’ve read and enjoyed this year by much more talented authors. If you’re still wondering about what to get that certain someone, you could go hit your local bookstore, browse around a bit, and maybe find a few things from this list they might enjoy.

Or maybe you’ll just find something on your own. That’s the fun of browsing in real-world bookstores.

So, in no real order...

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – we’ll start with an easy one. If you haven’t somehow heard, Andy’s latest is (surprise) just fantastic. The tale of an (accidentally) lone astronaut’s desperate attempt to save the Earth. It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s incredibly smart while being ridiculously accessible. Absolutely anyone will enjoy it. Yeah, even that grouchy uncle who doesn' tlike sci-fi stuff.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab—I’m a sucker for stories about memory and identity, and this book approaches it from the opposite side. What if it wasn't your memory but everyone else's. What if no one could ever remember you? What if they forgot you the moment they couldn’t see you? What kind of life would this be? And what if that life never, ever ended... ?

Bottle Demon by Stephen Blackmoore---every year Stephen writes a new book about necromancer Eric Carter and every year it ends up on this list. This most recent one is, hands down, his most amazing, and probably the most emotional, too, as Carter deals with an army of golems, an irate djinn, and the completely mysterious and unexpected resurrection of... well, himself.

King Bullet by Richard Kadrey—if you’re one of those people who waits for the end of a series to start reading, well, I guess this is a good day. Kadrey brings the Sandman Slim books to a close with one last Stark adventure and a truly magnificent ending that feels perfectly fitting while also being somehow completely unexpected.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland—I’ve read a lot of zombie books out of a very broad genre, but this book manages to be fresh and very fun, picturing an alternate world where the American Civil War is disrupted by a mass zombie outbreak, and young women of color are trained to be bodyguards against the undead for “proper” women. I liked it so much I recommended this one for our Last Bookstore dystopian book club.

The History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel—a wonderful tale about aliens and their very long-game plan to shape the Earth’s assorted space programs to prepare us for... something. It’s one of those books that’ll teach you a lot of history even as it entertains you.

Madi by Duncan Jones, Alex deCampi, and too many fantastic artists to list here—this graphic novel is set in the same world as Jones’s films Moon and Mute, and asks what happens when a government super-cyborg decides to retire, especially when their body’s loaded up with proprietary software and hardware that requires ongoing maintenance and updates. It’s kind of like the weirdly fun baby that came out of a threeway between The Transporter, Crank, and The Bionic Woman.

Hard Reboot by Django Wexler—it’s a pair of women trying to rebuild a giant robot so it can compete on the giant robot pit-fighting circuit. What more do you need to know?

Reclaimed by Madeleine Roux—remember what I said about memory and identity? Seriously, it’s like Madeleine wrote this book just for me. A group of people agree to be test subjects for a procedure that can erase traumatic experiences from your memory. But how much of who you are is defined by those experiences? What kind of person are you once they’re gone? And what would you do to fix that...?

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig—this is a beautiful, brutal book, and it’s almost tough to recommend because it hit a lot of nerves for me, personally, that are probably going to be raw forever. That said, it’s a wonderful book about choices and consequences and how they make us who we are.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells– people have been telling me about the Murderbot books for ages, so I’m really late to this party. You may already know this but if you somehow didn’t... wow, what a fun read. The story of a security android that figures out how to hack its own code, inadvertently becoming an independent being and now stuck guarding a group of scientists on a survey mission.

Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle –another one I’m really late on but goddamn. This was one of the first books I read in 2021 and it’s still hand’s down the best. There just aren’t enough adjectives to describe how fantastic this book is and on how many levels. Lovecraftian horror grounded in real-world horror and it’s just brutally beautiful.

And those are my personal favorites for the year. I may add to this list over the next week or two, depending on how my current reads go. Please feel free to add any of your own must-reads down in the comments. I’d also shamelessly remind you that you can find a lot of my own books at your favorite local bookstore, like The Fold, Paradox Bound, or the Ex-Heroes books.

I’ll also take this moment to remind you of my Black Friday offer, just in case you missed it earlier. Please feel free to get in touch if you think it might help you out. And please—it’s not about if someone needs it more than you. It’s just about if you need some help.

Oh, and if you happen to be at SDCC Special Edition this weekend, I’m going to be hosting the Writer’s Coffeehouse on Sunday at 11:30, room 32AB. Ninety minutes of random tips and facts from me as I try to answer all your questions about publishing, writing, and anywhere those two might overlap.

Happy holidays. Probably back to all our usual stuff next week.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Black Friday XIV — Santa Takes Manhattan

I know I said I wasn’t going to post much this month, but late November is when I do all my books o' the year posts. Plus, it struck me it might not be a bad thing to do my annual Black Friday offer a little early, what with DeJoy stil in office and all that...

So, what’s the Black Friday offer about, ask all the folks who never click links?

It’s about how being poor at the holidays completely, absolutely sucks.

As some of you know, I’d saved up a little film-industry money before I became a full-time writer. Even so, two or three random-but-normal problems—a sick cat, car repairs, a pay cut at the magazine I wrote for—and wham I was poor. I mean... nothing. Below the poverty line, credit cards maxed out, every paycheck stretched until it was less than gauze.

The phone got shut off. No internet. My partner and I didn’t turn the heat on for three winters in a row. We stole toilet paper from the library. Pretty much everything we ate came from the 99 Cent Store. I was working on an article and frikkin’ Shane Black offered to meet up to talk over coffee and I had to turn him down because I couldn’t afford the gas to get me across the city to where he was. Hell, I didn’t have enough money to buy a coffee. We went through three years of feeling constantly sick with despair, just waiting for the inevitable bill or emergency that’d destroy us.

On a normal day, being poor’s a constant, gut-churning feeling of tension.  Of being painfully aware of what you don’t have and what you can’t do. There are some messed up folks who love to bellow about “nanny states” and “entitlements” but the simple truth is that the vast majority of poor people don’t abuse the system. They’re way too busy just trying to survive with their home, their health, and maybe just a shred of dignity.

This deep-in-your-gut feeling’s even worse at the holidays. So much of the holidays is about giving, and when you’re poor you just... you’ve got nothing to give. It doesn’t matter how much you care about that person, it doesn’t matter how much you want to just feel normal and give them something—anything—to express that.  It doesn’t matter because you’ve got nothing.

And again... you can feel people judging you over it.  At every party or gathering or dinner.  You get judged for being trapped and powerless. Hell, even if they're not judging you, you end up judging yourself, and it just becomes this endless cycle of guilt and resentment and desperation. I hope that none of you reading this are there right now, feeling helpless and sick with despair. Because like I said before, it seriously sucks to be in that position

But if this is where you're at right now—maybe I can help.

If you can’t afford gifts for your friends or family, shoot me a note at ye olde PeterClines101@yahoo.com. I’ve got a little over a dozen books here that I’ll autograph to whoever you want and mail out to you. Or to someone else, if you need it shipped. Most of these are paperbacks of Paradox Bound, but there’s a few Ex-Purgatory and Ex-Isle, too. Think I might even have a few audiobook sets (those big cases of CDs) of different things.  If audiobooks would work better, just say so. You can request a specific book, but I can’t promise anything—it’s just what I’ve got saved up here. I can even gift wrap if you need it (I'm fantastic at wrapping presents, really). 

I’ll send them out to whoever needs them for as long as the books last. Or probably until the 15th, just to make sure you get them on time and have something to give.

So if you need some help this season, please just ask

Again, this is for those of you who need some help getting gifts for others. The people who are pulling unemployment, cutting back on everything, and feeling trapped because they can’t afford gifts.  It’s not so you can recommend someone who might like a free book. You could do that for them, too—go get them a book. They’ll love you for it.

On a related note... whenever I do this folks offer to chip in and help out. I’m good, but I’m willing to bet there’s a toy bank or a gift bank or a food bank or some kind of program within ten or fifteen miles of you right now. You could help out with that. You can go be fantastic people all on your own. You don’t need me.

Finally, I’m also doing this on the honor system, so if you’re just trying to score a  free autographed book... well, I can’t stop you. But let’s be clear—if you do this, you suck. You’re a deplorable person who’s taking a moment of peace and relief away from someone who really needs it this holiday season. Don’t act all surprised when karma kicks you hard in the ass over New Year’s.

Anyway, Happy Holidays. Let me know if I can help out

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Ready... Set... NaNoWriMo!

Spooky season is among us! Ghosts! Vampires! Nightmares! Panic!—no wait, we’re talking about NaNoWriMo this time.

Or are we?!?

Hopefully you’re not really panicking about NaNoWriMo. It’s supposed to be fun. It’s a bragging rights contest, something to make us focus on actually doing this for thirty days rather than saying “someday I’ll write it all down” for another month.

Wait, does everyone know what I’m talking about? In case you’re new to the ranty writing blog, we’re talking about National Novel Writing Month (Na-No-Wri-Mo). It’s a completely free, no strings, no requirements writing contest where you try to write, well, a whole novel in a month. Really, as much of the first draft of a novel as possible. There’s also no prizes, no trophies, no real prestige. As I mentioned above, I basically just get to say I did it. To someone else and to myself. Most importantly, to myself.

There’s a good chance this sounds a little intimidating. Don’t let it be. This is the writing equivalent of a fun run. It’s got a starting date and a goal, but past that it’s just you. Whatever pace you want to go at, however far you want to go with it. No pressure at all.

In fact, here a tip for you. Use that knowledge. Focus on it. Don’t worry about anyone else. Don’t think about your friends or the people in your writing group or that guy on Twitter bragging about his daily word count. Don’t consider what a future agent or editor might want. Toss all of that away. Forget all of it. Take a deep breath. Breathe in. Breathe out.

And now just write.

Seriously. Just write. Nothing else. For the next thirty days, forward motion only. No re-reading. No editing. No corrections at all. Don’t look back. Under no circumstances hit the up arrow or page up or push the scroll bar. None of that. Not even to go up to the last paragraph. We’re moving in one direction and we don’t stop moving in that direction. Making myself to only go forward means I’m making myself write. I’m not spending time rethinking yesterday’s work or tweaking that first encounter or double checking my spelling. I’m just writing.

And, yeah, this means things are going to be a little... well, very messy. Lots of typos. Dangling plot threads. Characters who suddenly change names/ hair color/ genders halfway through. Or are just suddenly dead because they really should’ve died back at the bank ambush and I’m only realizing that now and we’re only moving forward, right?

And that’s totally fine. Seriously. Remember, NaNoWriMo is just a first draft. It’s not going to be the thing we sell or the thing that gets us an agent. It’s the thing that’ll need some more time and some more work. Because a month isn’t that much time. Really. Even for pros.

Like I mentioned above, the goal here is to get as much work done on a first draft as possible. And first drafts are almost always messy things. In fact, I became a much more productive writer once I accepted that first drafts were messy things. It freed me up to and let me focus on getting things down on the page rather than getting them perfect the first time.

And getting things down on the page is what NaNoWriMo is all about.

So, as I often say... go write.

No, wait. A few other things before we all get on with the writing.

First, if you happen to be in the SoCal area and have a lot of free time at the end of the month, I’m going to be at SDCC Special Edition over Thanksgiving weekend. Sunday, to be exact. I’m doing the con edition of the Writers Coffeehouse, talking about writing, publishing, the state of the industry, and whatever other questions you might have. No idea what size crowd to expect, so we’ll see what happens there.

Also, I may be taking a little bit of a break here for a week or three. I’m feeling a touch overworked/stressed with said con, the holidays, the new book, and, y’know, the world in general. So I just want to take some pressure off and try to get to a place where I feel a little more caught up on things. Plus, to be honest, I feel like I’m just rehashing a lot of stuff here, and I’d love to be able to give you something new and, y’know, actually useful.

Anyway, that’s where things are at. Now fuel up on some Halloween candy and go wild with NaNoWriMo.

Now go write.