Daily Archives: November 11, 2010

The Leaning Tower of Just Arrived Books

I mention to people that I often get ten to 20 new books/ARCs sent to me a week, but there’s nothing like a little visual representation of how many books come my way, so, here, this is roughly the stack of books which have arrived since I returned home from World Fantasy on the first of November:

For those of you who don’t wish to count, there are 36 books in that stack. It doesn’t count the three books I received from Subterranean Press, on account that they were still in bubblewrap and the Jenga-like qualities of this particular stack of books were pronounced enough. It also doesn’t include the ARC I got of my own book, because, well. That would be silly, wouldn’t it.

If you want a closer look at the picture, the better to read all the titles, here’s the larger size. That said, let me put a quick spotlight on some of the books here:

* The ARC of Bloodshot, which is the first volume of Hugo-and-Nebula nominated author Cherie Priest’s new urban fantasy series, which will be out in January;

* Marjorie Liu’s In the Dark of Dreams, which represents her transfer of her very popular Dirk & Steele series over to Avon books (congrats, Marjorie!), and will be out at the end of the month;

* A big care package of Haikasoru books, including All You Need is Kill, which I blurbed when it came out, Harmony, which won the Seiun Award (that’s Japan’s equivalent of the Hugo), and The Ouroboros Wave, their latest, which will be out next week.

* Mogworld, the debut fantasy novel of Yahtzee Croshaw, the snarky git behind Zero Punctuation;

* Writers Gone Wild, a book chronicling the historically bad behavior of Hemingway, Mailer, Woolf, Plath and other such literary types, all of which will conspire to make you feel better about that what you did with your Friday night. This book is a special treat for me because it’s the debut book of my pal Bill Peschel, who was kind enough to send me a copy with the inscription “To John Scalzi — who is much too sane to appear in a book like this.” He may be right. I must try harder. Anyway, this will be a fine holiday gift for the writers you know. Just warn them that these are cautionary tales, not how-to instructions. Here’s a link. Also, if you click on Bill’s name, his blog is currently featuring excerpts from the book.

I’ll write up some of the rest of these soon, but for now, enjoy the leaning tower of books.

NaNoWriMo and Kvetching

Over at her own site, Mary Robinette Kowal notes that at the moment there are some published novelists who are bagging on National Novel Writing Month and calling it waste of time and a bad idea for aspiring writers. She counters this by noting that her novel Shades of Milk and Honey (which is fabulous, by the way) was a NaNoWriMo novel — that is to say she wrote it first as part of the that experience, then finished it and sent it off. So the suggestion that NaNoWriMo is a waste of time and/or effort is pretty definitively rebutted in her own experience.

My own comments to folks, professional novelists or otherwise, who want to hate on NaNoWriMo is as follows:

1. Dude, a program that encourages thousands of people annually to celebrate the act of creating words — of creating their own words — and you want to piss all over that? If you look to the right, I have some kittens you can set on fire while you’re at it.

2. Even if you think it’s a waste of time, it’s not a waste of of your time, so why do you care?

3. Alternately, even if something like NaNoWriMo doesn’t match your own writing process, there are a lot of writing processes out there. So if this one works for some aspiring writers, don’t crap on them for it.

The third point here is especially salient. One of the kvetches I’ve seen from the pro set about NaNoWriMo is that writing a novel only in one month, once a year, is not the way pros do it, and it sets a bad example for up and coming writers. And my own response to that is, well, maybe that’s not how you do it. But you know what, in 2009 I wrote one novel, and I wrote in about five weeks very much on a NaNoWriMo plan of writing a certain volume of words per day, and then for the rest of the year I did and wrote other things. I have to say it worked out pretty well for me. And I’m fairly sure I qualify as a pro. I mean, I’ll have to check. But for now let’s assume I am.

As Mary notes over on her site, one of the hardest things newer writers face when tackling a novel is conceptualizing the idea that they are going to scale a mountain of words in one extended go. Writing a novel’s worth of words is hard, and it’s even harder when you’ve not done it before and you’re psyching yourself out about it. NaNoWriMo offers a way for these writers to take a swing at that process in a systematized fashion, and in a crowd, and both of these things can offer a fair amount of psychological comfort to a person embarking on what is in fact a lonely and arduous process of sitting in front of a keyboard with a goal of about two thousand words a day.

Is it going to work for everyone? No. Is it going to be useful for everyone? No. But it’s going to be useful for some, and that’s fine – the ones it’s not useful for will find some other way to climb that mountain. Meanwhile the skills that those it works for learn — write every day, keep writing, get that story done – are skills that are transferable outside of the NaNoWriMo context and will be a benefit when that new writer, having completed the task of writing 50,000 words in one month, decides to try to write 100,000. In April. Or whenever. Yes, there may be some people who fetishize NaNoWriMo or take less than useful lessons from it (“Novels must be 50,000 words! They must only be written in November!”), but let’s entertain the notion that this will be more about those particular people than it is about NaNoWriMo.

So if you’re a pro novelist or whomever wringing your hands over NaNoWriMo, remember that hands are for typing, not for wringing, and get back to your own work and let the kids have their fun. If you’re a NaNoWriMo participant and you’ve heard the grousing of the pros, ignore it and enjoy your experience of banging out words. In the end, no one cares how or why or under what circumstances a novel has been created, they care about the words on the page. Readers don’t read process. They read novels.

 

A Daisy Dog Update

We’re closing in on the one-month mark of our ownership of Daisy, so I thought I’d catch you all up on her status. Basically, it’s gone very well, and she’s become pretty fully integrated into the Scalzi clan. In particular, the cat/dog issue seems to have been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction: The cats seem to understand Daisy is here for the long haul, and Daisy gets that the cats are family, and everyone gets along. They don’t cuddle up like the cats (well, Zeus and Ghlaghghee) did with Kodi, but it’s still early days.

Daisy definitely has her own personality. For one thing, she’s an attention hog: if one the cats is being petted she will headbutt her way into the pet session, because apparently no reason she shouldn’t get pets if someone else is. For another thing, she knows what’s allowed and what’s not but subscribes to the “if you didn’t see it, it didn’t happen” theory of morality, which allows her to get premium nap time on beds, which she knows she’s not allowed on but will get up on anyway. When I get up from my desk the first sound I usually hear is a soft thump as the dog quietly jumps down from whatever piece of furniture she knows she’s not supposed to be on, followed by the dog head popping out into the hallway to find out where I am. She’s a sneaky one.

Also, she’s a very excitable dog. Having an older dog for the last few years dimmed the memory that a favorite mode for dogs is run! everywhere! really fast! Well, I’ve gotten well-acquainted with that dog mode once again, and I have cause to observe that it’s actually a good thing I have 5 acres of lawn, because Daisy has made herself informed about every single square inch of it. This is not a bad thing for me, since what she enjoys most of the world is running around the yard with someone running after her, arms flailing, howling like the Cookie Monster set on fire, and guess who, as the work-at-home person, gets to do that. As a result, I’m getting a whole lot of exercise and looking entirely foolish as I do so.

And there we are. This is the end of “what’s up with our new dog” posts, I think; from here on out, when I post about Daisy, she’ll just be referred to as “the dog.” She’s one of us now, and she seems to be as happy about it as we are. And that’s a good thing for everyone.