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Deeds of Men, redux

Some of you may recall that years ago, just before In Ashes Lie came out, I released a novella called Deeds of Men, which took place before that novel and after Midnight Never Come. It was originally a promotional freebie, but after a while I took down the free version and put it on sale at Amazon, mostly as a random experiment — I knew zip about ebooks at the time. Despite that ignorance (which included things like me not bothering to give it a proper cover), it’s sold some copies over the years, though not a huge number.

Now that I’m a member of Book View Cafe, I decided to do it over again, this time the right way. It has a spiffy-looking cover, courtesy of Chris Rawlins and Leah Cutter, and some revisions (most of them minor; one correcting a narrative choice I’ve regretted ever since I released the novella), and this time it got formatted by somebody who knows what he’s doing (the inestimable Chris Dolley). That link will take you to the BVC site, where you can buy it in epub and mobi formats, good for most e-reading devices, Kindle included. It’s also up on Amazon, and should be live on the B&N and Kobo sites in the next day or so.

A special note about Kindles: if you already bought the novella from Amazon, I think, though I’m not certain, that you should be able to download the new version as an update, without having to pay for it again. I’d love to have that confirmed, so if you’re in that camp, please let me know.

For those who are wondering, the story does contain some spoilers for Midnight Never Come, though only of an aftermath-y sort — it doesn’t say what happened, just shows the characters where they are as a result. Otherwise it’s only really full of spoilers for early seventeenth-century European politics. πŸ˜›

And stay tuned for more news in the next few days, about what I’m doing next with BVC . . . .

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what I did with my June

As you know, Internet Bob, I spent most of June in North Carolina, teaching an intensive creative writing course on science fiction and fantasy. It was a splendid experience: the kids were really engaged, and bonded amazingly well with one another. There’s nothing better than teaching for a class where everybody wants to be there and supports one another.

Some people expressed an interest in seeing my syllabus for the course. I’m not going to upload the whole thing — it’s got a lot of extraneous detail — but I did want to talk about the readings, and the topics we covered in discussion.

With the readings, I made a very calculated decision not to go the route where you assign “classics of the genre.” Those classics are decades old, and almost exclusively written by white guys, with a cameo appearance by Le Guin; it was important to me that I show the kids a fresher and more diverse face of the genre. (I also thought at first that I could dodge the problem of getting permissions and paying for coursepack printing if I chose readings that were all readable for free online. This turned out not to be true, owing to the extremely limited availability of computers — but even so, it made getting the permissions much easier.) The oldest story in the pack was, I think, from 2004. Here’s the full list:

As you can see, it ended up skewing heavily female — owing in part to the fact that in many cases here I was approaching friends and asking if we could use their stories. (My budget was extremely limited, and I figured friends were less likely to demand a $200 reprint fee. Plus, I know a lot of really amazing writers!) The textbooks for the course were Samuel R. Delany’s About Writing and The Jewel-Hinged Jaw, making Richard Parks the only white guy on the entire syllabus. πŸ˜›

Regarding topics, I spent the first week on the usual suspects: ideas, grammar and dialogue, setting and worldbuilding, character, point of view, conflict, plot. Week two started off with some basics about research, writing habits, critiquing, and revision, and then we had three days of “here, have every major social issue in condensed form” — sex, gender, and sexuality; race and ethnicity; economic class and privilege; disability (and super-ability); religion; and violence and its role in stories. Week three had a day devoted to in-class critique and then a grab-bag of practical topics: intellectual property and fanfiction, writing for other genres or other media, and how the publishing industry works.

As you can tell from that list, it was intense. Six hours of instruction a day, plus a seventh hour of evening study, in which they read or worked on their stories. And bear in mind that a number of my students had never even written a complete short story before! At least when you go to something like Clarion, you have some sense of what you’re in for and what you’re capable of. But as I told the parents in the final conferences, part of the point of TIP is to ask these kids to do more that they’re capable of — because that’s the way to find out just how far they can go. I’m ridiculously proud of the work they did and the amount their writing grew over those three weeks.

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two in one month?

I’m on my way home from North Carolina, but the timing of my ride to the airport meant I had five hours to kill here.

I was almost very lazy. There’s free wifi here, and I was tempted to just watch Doctor Who on my tablet. But the wifi is slow — slow enough that Netflix would play about five seconds of video, then stop to re-buffer. And so I thought, okay, it’s a message from the gods, and they’re saying: stop being so lazy!

Two hours later, I have a finished draft of the Penelope story, which I think was inspired by a passing comment in Diana Wynne Jones’ Reflections. It doesn’t have a title yet, but I wrote the entirety of it during this trip. Combine that with the 5K or so I wrote on “The Rose” during my first two weeks here, plus bits and pieces on some other things, and I’m reasonably pleased with myself: that’s two short stories in one month! I haven’t done that in ages. And during a month where I had very little spare energy or brain, to boot.

Now I think it’s time to find some food. I only have an hour or so layover in Chicago, so assuming I’ll have time to get dinner there strikes me as a very foolish move.

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this is how I spend my Saturday night

I’m still in North Carolina, and extremely busy (teaching six hours a day: not easy!), but today I had only a half day, and what do I do with my time off?

I finish the punk Tam Lin retelling, is what I do. Provisional title is “The Rose,” and it’s 7400 words long, of which 3K+ got written today. It’s entirely possible this thing will be a novelette by the time I’m done revising. But it makes kind of a good companion to “Mad Maudlin,” which is of similar length, and if I’m lucky, maybe I can sell it to the same place. πŸ˜‰

Now I’m wondering if this Penelope idea my brain is noodling around with could possibly get knocked off before I’m done here. That would be nice.

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livin’ la vida monastica

I’m in North Carolina now, for the TIP course I mentioned before. Ahhhh, dorm life: I’m living in a cinderblock box that normally houses two undergrads, and boy, do I pity them. This is not what you would call a spacious room.

It’s funny to watch myself fall back into a mode I’ve lived in before, which I tend to think of as “monk-like.” With so few possessions, I become very organized about putting them all away in their places. (You would think that’s a more necessary trait when you have lots of stuff, and you would be right. But I’m better about it when my life is spartan.) I’ll have a very organized schedule, too, including a much earlier bedtime than is my wont. This is how I lived on digs, and much like how I live when I travel, too. It’s a stripped-down existence, with my attention almost entirely focused on what I’m here to do.

Of course, since what I’m here to do is “teach creative writing,” there’s a certain overlap with my normal life. On the way out here, for no apparent reason, one of the short stories I thought I would never actually write stepped up and spat out nearly four hundred words. “Fate, Hope, Friendship, Foe,” the seedlet that for the last nine years has consisted of a set of signs I saw while driving from Dallas up to Bloomington, and the fact that I had a life-sized statue of Atropos in my backseat at the time. Will it turn into a complete story? Who knows. And I have a new idea, too. I don’t know if preparing to teach creative writing flipped a switch in my brain, or if this is the same switch that’s been flipped since early this year, when I found myself itching to write half a dozen short stories instead of the novel I needed to finish.

Anyway, blogging will likely be scarce around here for a while, as I am going to be very busy. But if there’s any cool news to report, I’ll be sure to let you all know.

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Neverland’s Library

As I mentioned a while ago, my short story “Centuries of Kings” is going to be in the charity anthology Neverland’s Library, whose sales will benefit the literacy charity First Book.

Before it can do that, though, the anthology has to be funded. You can find them over at Indiegogo — note that this is a “flexible funding” campaign, which means all pledges will be honored, even if the project doesn’t make its goal. You can also see updates over there, with shiny things like the cover art (which is really, really lovely). If you scroll down the project page, you can also find a list of the contributing authors — the ones accepted so far, that is, as submissions are still open.

So click around, and if you like what you see, lend them (us) your support. You get good stories and a good cause out of it. πŸ™‚

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Where I’ll be next month

By that title, I don’t just mean “I’ll be going to X place during June” — I mean I’ll be in X place for essentially the entirety of June.

Some of you may be familiar with Duke TIP. (Others of you may know the very similar CTY instead.) This is a program I participated in as a kid; when I was twelve, I went to Davidson for three weeks to read and talk about science fiction short stories. The next year it was marine biology in Galveston; then it was tropical ecology in Costa Rica; then geology and a bit of archaeology in New Mexico. TIP is probably the single coolest thing I got to do during my adolescence.

And now I’m going back, this time on the other side of things. I’m heading off to North Carolina in early June to teach a creative writing course, focused on SF/F/H. It will be ridiculously intense: class runs for two three-hour blocks every day, M-F, and another block on Saturday morning. That’s thirty-three hours of instruction per week, for three weeks straight. It’s “Clarion for twelve-year-olds.”

I’m not only allowed, I’m expected to make this the most awesome and challenging three weeks those kids have ever seen. We’re talking about seventh- and eighth-graders who have scored a 570 or better on the verbal portions of the SAT. Want to know what I’m giving them for a “how to write” textbook? Delany. I’ll be lecturing a bit, but there will be much more in the way of discussion, and they’ll be doing writing exercises until their brains fall out. My challenge will be to figure out how to pace things such that they get enough variety to keep the brain-falling-out stage from happening too soon.

I won’t be blogging the process as I go, because I don’t think that would be appropriate. But I’ll probably have thoughts about it after the fact, and I’ll certainly share my syllabus/readings/etc. In the meantime, if I’m less chatty online than usual during June, you’ll know why.

It’s because my brain will be on the floor, along with those of my students. πŸ™‚

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‘puter troubles, desktop edition

It never rains but it pours.

Remember how my laptop was going kaput a while ago, and I asked for tablet advice? (Thanks for all the responses, btw. I ended up going with a Google Nexus, and I’m quite pleased with it. In fact, that’s what I’m writing this post on.)

Well, my desktop has been acting strangely, to the point where I think I should look into getting a new one. The current one is pretty elderly, and I think I’d rather make the switch before it goes completely belly-up.

So now I’m looking for opinions on that end of the spectrum. I’m a Windows user (please don’t try to get me to convert), and 90% of the work done on that machine falls into the categories of word processing and internet, so I don’t need anything massive. I am running Lightroom these days, though, and I’ve found that sometimes I can’t even play Steam games on the thing because they’re too advanced for its graphics card; ergo, I’m likely to aim a bit higher this time than my usual bare-bones build. Current machine is a Dell, as was its predecessor; I’ve been happy with them, but I haven’t been keeping up with the state of the art, and I don’t know whether I should be looking at other manufacturers.

Corollary question: Windows 8? [profile] kniedzw tells me I will haaaaaaaaaaaate it, because I started computing back in the days of DOS, and object to operating systems that try to keep me from rummaging around in their guts. I’d be interested in feedback from people who have used it at all.

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