What cat am I?

It’s time for a new quiz

So far this week it’s been all about our book.  It’s time to talk about other people’s books, and to have some fun.

Andre Norton wrote a lot about cats, and the internet is filled with them. (Cats, we mean, not Andre Norton, although it is pleasing to see there seems to be a lot more around about Andre just recently.)  So, it’s a perfectly good subject to write about.

While we don’t have cats in our book, we have read lots of books with cats in them.

And not just cats, people who look like cats, people who are named for cats — anything’s fair here.

Because cats are so popular you get a double dose today. Ten questions instead of five.

The question is, as always … What book am I reading?

  1. I was turned into a fiddle using someone’s life
  2. I was nearly left behind at the cat shelter, but I now live in a magical inn
  3. I join forces with a human who travels into the unknown in a test for survival
  4. I have strong opinions which I am always willing to voice. I also have a keeper. Or rather, the keeper has me. Whatever
  5. A plague is ravaging our planet and killing us all. The cure may be in a song
  6. I earned my name from my green eyes with slitted pupils. I can see in the dark
  7. Get off my tail or I’ll smother you in your sleep
  8. All the dogs in the neighborhood are scared of me. I send them running
  9. My son, Morgan, loved being a kitten. When we got turned back into humans he was most upset
  10. I have razor sharp claws. I travel around in a shopping cart wheeled by my owner.

Hints:

  • One of these books has not yet been published but you have been able to read it on-line
  • There’s a wide reading age range (the widest)
  • One author is here twice.

Released today

Linesman now available at all good bookstores
Linesman now available at all good bookstores

Need we say more?

This writing life – it’s not always what you expect

Pirate moments

Pirate moments

I remember the first time I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl. We hadn’t seen any shorts, we had no idea what to expect.

We came out of that movie laughing, feeling good.

We enjoyed the movie so much saw it six times more in the theatre and we’ve seen it on TV countless times since, but that first time was absolute magic.

The same week we saw Pirates of the Caribbean we also saw Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance. It was the ten/twenty year revival of a stage show that had run first in the mid-1980s, and again in the 1990s. It had Jon English as the Pirate King, and Simon Gallaher as Frederick. We loved it so much we had already seen it a number of times in each of the two earlier incarnations, so we knew roughly what to expect.

We still came out of that show laughing and feeling good.

Ever since then we’ve used the term ‘pirate moment’ to describe an experience which makes you euphoric, on a high.

Our book comes out on Tuesday

There are a lot of pirate moments on the way to becoming an author.

They’re not always the moments you expect.

Getting an agent was a pirate moment. The first feedback you get from an editor—even if they’re saying no—is a pirate moment.

Selling the book—not so much. That took two years, and was more a relief than anything. But once the book has been sold, the first time you hear from your editor is a pirate moment.

When your agent, unexpectedly, emails you and says we have an offer for audio rights. That’s a pirate moment.

Getting a box of ARCs (advanced reader copies) was a pirate moment. We weren’t expecting them, and suddenly, here on the doorstep is a box of books with green covers. It’s a book! A real book.

We were expecting the final books when they arrived a month later.

Not that we’re unhappy about publishing contracts or seeing final copies of our book, because we love it. But the euphoric pirate moments come from the things you’re not expecting.

A five star rating of Linesman on Goodreads. A tiny mention in an article saying that your book is one this person looks forward to reading. An email from your local library asking if you want to do a book talk as part of their Emerging Writers series.

Happy book birthday to us

Our book comes out on Tuesday June 30. Happy book birthday to us

So far it’s not shaping up to be a pirate moment. Of course, you can’t tell until the actual day, but it’s one of those things you’ve been anticipating for so long that when you get to it, it’s almost anticlimactic.

It sounds ungrateful. It’s not. And there will be plenty more pirate moments to come. But right now neither of is really sure how we feel about Tuesday.

There’s plenty to keep us occupied in the meantime, anyway. We got the edits for book two (Alliance) back from Anne the other day, and we’re still not done on the first draft of book three.

First world problems

As I write this I am waiting for delivery of our new washing machine. I haven’t looked forward to a delivery so much in a long time. (Except perhaps a certain box from Penguin Random House which is due soon too.)

We’ve a house full of dirty clothes and we’re both down to our last clean garments. If the washing machine wasn’t being delivered today, I know what we’d be doing tonight. Laundromat duty.

I have nothing against Laundromats, mind. The first ten years after I left home I washed my clothes at the local Laundromat. But once you get a washing machine in your home it’s hard to go back to packing your dirty laundry in a basket, collecting coins and soap powder—and a book to read—and making the trek down to the laundry.

It’s so convenient to come home at night, toss your clothes into the washer and have them in the dryer by the time you’re eating dinner.

We all know how indispensable a washing machine is. And a dryer.

Another modern convenience I never anticipated wanting was a dishwasher. I mean, who minds washing up? (We all do, I suppose, but it doesn’t take that long.)

This house had a dishwasher when we moved in. At first we only used it when we had a lot of dishes to wash, usually when we had visitors. After all, who wants to wash up when you’d rather be chatting to your guests? It didn’t take long before we were using it full time.

When the dishwasher finally broke down there wasn’t any question as to whether we would buy another one, just what sort. We bought a two-drawer that was more suited to the smaller loads. When that one gave up recently the only question was, “How soon can we get the replacement?”

Ah, first world problems.

Over talking the story

I’ve always said there are … two kinds of writers. There are architects and gardeners. The architects do blueprints before they drive the first nail, they design the entire house, where the pipes are running, and how many rooms there are going to be, how high the roof will be. But the gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up. I think all writers are partly architects and partly gardeners, but they tend to one side or another, and I am definitely more of a gardener.
A conversation with Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin. SMH, 2011

When you’re writing as a team talking to each other is part of the process. You talk about the story before you start writing, you talk about it while you’re writing, and once you’re done you talk about it again, looking for problems and ways to improve it.

We’re a long way into book three of LINESMAN now, and we’ve done a lot of talking so far. But we’re pantsers, too. Or, if you prefer, more gardeners than architects.

We can talk ourselves out, to the detriment of the story.

That is, we over-talk what happens.

The spontaneity that makes the story enjoyable to write dies. The writing stops. We have to backtrack and pick our way around what we know is going to happen. Sometimes we just unravel the boring bits a strand at a time and hope that by the end of the many drafts we have written, the lack of fire will have been covered.

Sometimes we have to ditch that section altogether and write a new scene.

Sample chapter now available

We’ve added  a sample chapter of LINESMAN.  It’s here, if you want to read it.

This chapter comes from the advanced reader copy (ARC), which is the uncorrected proof.  If you’re familiar with ARCs you’ll know there may be typos, or even some bad grammar. Hopefully we’ll have caught it by this stage, but you never know.

If you’re an Australian writer who wants to sell in Australia

Is it just me, or is this the best time in years if you’re an Australian author and want to publish traditionally?

Back when we first started trying to sell our stories the major publishers weren’t open to non-agented submissions, they’d only deal with agents. As for agents, there only a handful and most of them had closed their books to new clients.

Nowadays, there seem to be a lot more agencies, and more of them are actively looking for new clients, although that seems to be swinging back the other way at the moment.

In Australia, having an agent is a choice not a necessity. Approximately 60% of books published in Australia are not represented by an agent, and many publishers have avenues available for manuscripts to be submitted directly by authors. Although having an agent will increase your manuscript’s chance of being meaningfully considered, it is not the only avenue.
Alex Adsett Publishing Services

Every major publisher now has a weekly or monthly slot where you can submit your story direct to the publisher. (Thank you, Louise Thurtell.) We have:

Plus there are some good, big prizes that can lead to publication as well.

And that’s all before you even start looking overseas.

When the sex of your characters makes you novel book-breakingly different

I have just finished reading my way through Rachel Bach’s Paradox series (Fortune’s Pawn, Honor’s Knight and Heaven’s Queen). It’s a good, rollicking space opera with a tough heroine.

Devi Morris isn’t your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It’s a combination that’s going to get her killed one day – but not just yet.
Fortune’s Pawn

The first thing I did when I’d finished the books was look up Rachel Bach (who also writes as Rachel Aaron) on the internet. As readers do.

I came across a link to an interview she did with Book Smugglers, back when Fortune’s Pawn first came out, where she talks about the question

Would [Fortune’s Pawn] have been [different] if the protagonist had been a man?
The Book Smugglers, ‘Rachel Bach on Upsetting the Default

(My paraphrasing here, combining two questions.)

As she says in the article,

Well, yes. Book-breakingly so, actually. My main character, Devi Morris, is a veteran powered armored mercenary who is extremely good at what she does. As you might expect given that background, she’s cocky, aggressive, and ambitious; a career soldier with a serious ego, major trust issues, and all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop…and if she’d been a dude, I would have hated him.

The very qualities that make Devi Devi–her pride, her pigheaded refusal to back down even when outnumbered, her fierce aggression–would be macho to the point of absurdity in a male character. A guy at the top of the food chain beating his chest at the world is just obnoxious, but the same behavior from a girl who has clawed her way up the ladder on nothing but grit, talent, and ambition is brave and admirable and a little dangerous.

The Book Smugglers, ‘Rachel Bach on Upsetting the Default

She is so right.

Book-breakingly right.

Daniel Swenson talked about how changing the sex of his protagonist from male to female

… changed Orison from a book I thought was merely okay to one I’m really quite proud of. Even my editor said, rather emphatically, “Story could never be a man! Story as a man = boring. Story as a woman = awesome.”

Daniel Swenson, Why I gender flipped my protagonist

Book-breakingly right again.

Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, who are writing the Starbound trilogy, sometimes gender flip some of their characters to avoid stereotypes.

“What we do is go through every single character, gender-flip them and then just ask: ‘Does this bug us?'”

Marama Whyte, ‘These Broken Stars’ author Aime Kaufman on the power of gender-flipping characters

Back when we first sent Linesman off to our agent one of the first suggestions she came back with was, “Have you considered making [major secondary character] female instead of male?”

After a bit of angst (i.e. me saying “No way,” and Sherylyn saying, “That’s not a bad idea, why don’t we try it”) we did.

Now, of course, we cannot imagine this particular character as a male. A male in that position would weaken the whole story, by making it so much more just like every other story out there.

Sometimes an ordinary story can be made so much better by cutting some of the stereotypes that bind us.

Procrastinating about writing

From last year’s BuzzFeed’s 29 Words that mean something totally different when you are a writer

Word 13: #amwriting

What it means: A twitter hashtag used to denote when a writer is sitting down to work on a story.

What it means when you’re a writer: #amtweeting.

Yes folks, today and yesterday, I am procrastinating by surfing the net. I went through three years’ worth of Flogging the Quill judging whether I’d read on past the first page or not. Went back and re-read two years of Query Shark queries. Checked Feedly to see any of the bloggers I read regularly had blogged in the interim. Went back to twitter to see what had been tweeted in the interim.

What that means, writing-wise, is that it’s time for the co-writer to step in.

Hooray for co-writers, and sharing the writing load.

Word 14: Weekend

What it means: A break at the end of the working week used primarily for leisure, typically Saturday and Sunday.

What it means when you’re a writer: Something other people have.

Some sideways thoughts about the Hugos and that Game of Thrones episode

There are many Game of Thrones episodes that could be referred to as that episode but the one I’m talking about today is season five’s ‘Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken’.

I haven’t read Game of Thrones. I haven’t seen the television series. Like many people I know about the series through osmosis, because you can’t get away from it. I enjoy the surrounding commentary, however. I don’t know what that says about me, because while I enjoy the commentary I have never been tempted to read the books or see the show.

If everyone loved the same stories it would be a boring world.

Thus I had not had much to do with George R. R. Martin until I read his blogs about this year’s Hugo awards and Puppygate*. I thought they were fantastic, and summed it up well.

So I’m using George R. R. Martin as an excuse to combine two disparate topics into one. The Hugos, and the episode that for a lot of viewers might be the turning point for whether they continue to watch Game of Thrones.

The Hugos

Best novel

Many people will vote for Cixin Liu’s Three Body Problem (translated by Ken Liu) because they loved the book. I suspect it will also pick up votes because many people see it as the only untarnished nominee. (Confession, I have never been able to read past the first bit, where the government kills the girl’s father. Like I say, different books appeal to different people.)

Jim Butcher may be an outside chance. A lot of Hugo voters enjoy his work, it would never have occurred to most of them to nominate an urban fantasy like his.

I really hope voters remember that neither Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Sword, nor Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor were on the Sad Puppies slate. These two books were nominated on their own merits, even when they had a whole slate of puppy-nominations against them. I’d love to see either of these books win. Better yet, I’d love to see them as equal winners.

Best dramatic presentation, long form

So many good movies came out last year. Every one of them deserves to be on the list. Edge of Tomorrow is the most underrated of the five movies there, but I thought it was great.

Best editor, long form

Our editor is Anne Sowards, from Ace Roc books at Penguin Random House. We were delighted when we heard she’d been nominated for a Hugo. Then the Puppygate wildfire really took off and what should have been something to enjoy turned into something nasty (my words, for we haven’t spoken to Anne about this), for Anne was one of the people on both the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies slates.

I’m sorry about the way it happened, but I believe Anne deserves to be there. (I think Sheila Gilbert does too.) I’d like to see Anne win, but I think that whoever wins this year will feel the award is tarnished.

I hope she’s there next year too, under better circumstances.

That Game of Thrones episode

Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

You’d have to be visiting a very different world wide web to me if you haven’t heard about the Game of Thrones episode Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.

In this episode, Sansa Stark is raped, and it started a whole storm of protest about rape as a plot device.

The weird thing is, Game of Thrones is all about rape and the disempowerment of women. Chuck Wendig describes it as almost the “Where’s Waldo**” of Game of Thrones (We are not things). As in, where’s the rape in this episode?

It’s one of the reasons the book never appealed.

First, a recap on what happened.

The producers wanted to give Sansa Stark a larger role than she has in the book. Plus they wanted to streamline the plot and reduce the number of characters. So they merged Sansa Stark’s storyline with that of Jeyne Poole. I think (because I haven’t read the books) that Jeyne Poole always was raped at this particular time, by the man who now rapes Sansa.

This isn’t the first rape scene in Game of Thrones. It’s unlikely to be the last. But this one hit a nerve.

Before we dive into why we felt this was a choice which would cause us to stop promoting the show, allow us to say something very important: rape is not a necessary plot device. Really think about that before shouting “creative freedom” in our direction, please.

The show has creators. They make the choices. They chose to use rape as a plot device. Again.

Mary Sue – We will no longer be promoting Game of Thrones

It’s different when it happens to someone you know

Yes, it’s a story, but viewers knew Sansa Stark. They’d spent seasons with her, watching her grow in strength, only to be pushed down to that horrible place she started.

Sure, there were other factors involved. This is the first series where the producers are in front of the book, so viewers didn’t know what to expect.

There’s a bit of series fatigue. Something that might turn your stomach in the earlier episodes, but that you will still watch because it’s a great show and there’s nothing else like it on television, is less tolerable in later episodes. Particularly if you barely held on because of the ick factor in earlier scenes.

It’s repetitive. Same old, same old. Where’s the rape scene in this episode? Enough is enough.

Most of all, it’s different when it’s someone you know. It’s a lot more shocking. It’s a lot more real.

Desensitisation

I read a sickening report in the paper this morning about some children who invited a younger boy to play with them, and who then stoned, strangled and stabbed the boy to death. This happened in a place where thousands of people have been killed in turf wars between the drug cartels. According to the prosecutor,  the children have been desensitised by the violence around them, with the children reflecting what they experience every day.

Television violence desensitises too. If the outcome of what happened to Sansa Stark in Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken leads to less producers choosing ‘rape as a plot device’, it can only be a good thing.

 


 

* I’m only linking to the first one. He wrote a lot of words about it. They’re well worth reading.
** “Where’s Wally?” in Australia.

Linesman