I used to post pics of my computer and coffee cup whenever I hit my daily word count. Then I stopped going to coffee joints so often and the pics weren’t as fun to take, because it was always the same half dozen coffee cups and a sad dearth of pastries. But, enh, I’m gonna start posting them again anyway. It motivates me.
Whenever possible, I like to visit the settings I write about. That way, I pick up cool little details that help bring a place to life. Also, it’s just fun to go places. The opening chapters of the book I’m writing take place around the Salton Sea, only a few hours from San Diego, and it took no arm twisting to convince Lisa that we should drive into the desert and check it out.
You can look this up yourself, but the very basic thing you need to know about the Salton Sea is that it shouldn’t be there. Its existence is due to an accident in the early 1900’s in which an outflow channel of the Colorado River broke open and flooded some 500 square miles of desert. And its continuation is due to the typical Californian mix of real-estate speculation, water-rights wars, and lunatic dreams. And its current decline is due to reality. It now exists as a massive, hypersaline, inland sea full of dead and dying fish, surrounded by trailer parks, empty campgrounds, and slow-motion apocalypse.
Our first stop was the Mud Pots in Niland. This is a field of mini-volcanoes where geothermal activity pushes steam and mud up through the earth.
The mud is cool and smooth and the place gulps and gurgles and hisses.
The mud’s also kinda messy, especially when you sink knee-deep into it and didn’t bring a spare pare of shoes and socks and pants. This is after more than five minutes of trying to scrape the mud off me:
From the Mud Pots, into Niland itself. I don’t know if this was a bank or city hall or what, but it once had some hope and dignity.
And from there, to Salvation Mountain, a prime example of outsider-devotional art.
Bombay Beach was once recreational shoreline. Now the beach is made from the crushed remains of millions of fish and barnacles, the water is a rancid soup, and the prime real estate is littered with ruins.
Despite these pics, you get a lot of pretty views driving around the Salton Sea. You get a lot of vast, shimmering, brilliant blue. But at no point does it ever look natural. Sensible. Sane. Even when it’s pretty, it looks strange and wrong and foolish. Then again, I have a lot of foolish dreams, and I live in a city that couldn’t exist without doing wrong things with water, so I can’t judge the people who created and developed the Salton Sea too harshly.
Whew, been a busy several days.
On Friday I was in DeKalb, Illinois for the 32nd annual Children’s Literature Conference at Northern Illinois University. Had a great day hanging out with a few hundred librarians, especially Lynne Thomas, who was instrumental in bringing me out to the conference. My talk was about how the junk-food reading I grew up on influenced my writing, and about the intrinsic value of junk food. I admit to being proud that I managed to use Matter-Eater Lad as an extended metaphor. Other highlights of the trip include having dinner with the the delightful Bill Shunn, and getting to see Michael Thomas and meeting Lynne and Michael’s daughter Caitlin.
Got home very late Friday night and then took off Saturday morning for WonderCon in Anaheim. I signed books, I talked, I met people, I schmoozed, I ate with friends, and I got to be on a panel with Tim Powers, which was a real thrill. Lots and lots of great costumes, but I think my favorite was this Krypto. I asked the guy costuming as Kon-El how he got the dog in. He said he just walked in with him as though he were supposed to, and nobody stopped him. Super!
I’m a big fan of Deb Coates’ modern fantasy, Wide Open, which I read in manuscript at the Blue Heaven writers’ workshop. I liked her voice, I liked her characters, I liked her settings. I liked her book. A lot. I liked it so much that, after she sold it to Tor Books, I didn’t wait to be asked for a blurb, instead I very presumptuously offered one, because I was afraid that nobody would ask me for a blurb, because the VAST MAJORITY of books released each year do not actually feature blurbs from me, but this one does, and here’s what it says:
“A great blast of fresh air. From the intimate story of a young woman haunted by forces both natural and supernatural, to the grand scope of godlike elementals, Deborah Coates demonstrates a sure storytelling hand…. Wide Open is the impressive debut of a distinct new voice in fantasy.”
I mean every one of those words most sincerely. Wide Open is something different. It’s not urban fantasy, I don’t know if it should be called rural fantasy, or what. It’s its own thing, and the thing it is, is very, very good.
When Sergeant Hallie Michaels comes back to South Dakota from Afghanistan on ten days’ compassionate leave, her sister Dell’s ghost is waiting at the airport to greet her.
The sheriff says that Dell’s death was suicide, but Hallie doesn’t believe it. Something happened or Dell’s ghost wouldn’t still be hanging around. Friends and family, mourning Dell’s loss, think Hallie’s letting her grief interfere with her judgment.
The one person who seems willing to listen is the deputy sheriff, Boyd Davies, who shows up everywhere and helps when he doesn’t have to.
As Hallie asks more questions, she attracts new ghosts, women who disappeared without a trace. Soon, someone’s trying to beat her up, burn down her father’s ranch, and stop her investigation.
Hallie’s going to need Boyd, her friends, and all the ghosts she can find to defeat an enemy who has an unimaginable ancient power at his command.
I’ll be on the following panel at WonderCon on Sunday, March 18, starting at 1:30:
1:30-2:30 Cityscapes AKA Picking on Los Angeles— How does setting inform story? Travel through Victorian London to contemporary Southern California to a postapocalyptic landscape with
special guest Richard Kadrey (Sandman Slim) and fellow authorsGreg Van Eekhout (The Boy at the End of the World), Daniel Wilson (Robopocalypse), and Tim Powers (Hide Me Among the Graves) in discussion with Maryelizabeth Hart of Mysterious Galaxy. Room 213
I’ll also be signing at 12:00pm at the Mysterious Galaxy booth.
WonderCon, of course, is the comic book/media/popular entertainment convention put on by the same people who run San Diego Comic-Con. Normally it’s held in San Francisco, but because they’re doing major renovations to the Moscone Center, this year they’re having it in Anaheim.
You should totally come.
So, The Boy at the End of the World is a nominee for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy! (This is an award voted on by the membership of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America at the same time as Nebula Awards.)
I’ve known since last week, when SFWA president John Scalzi called to tell me, and so thick am I that not even after he said, “So, as you probably know, you wrote a book called The Boy at the End of the World” did I realize what the call was about. I’m truly surprised that my book made it onto the ballot, and it’s really amazing to see it listed there with works by so many writers whom I admire and respect. It’s especially neat to see my book in the same category as The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, since I workshopped The Boy at the End of the World with Rae at Blue Heaven, and it’s a much better book because of her feedback. Also, Rae’s book is really, really, really good.
So, in short: surprised, honored, and touched by all the congratulatory messages. Thank you!
And thanks to everyone who read the book and liked it enough to recommend or nominate it for the Norton, or told someone to read it, or even just read it and silently enjoyed it, or, heck, read it and didn’t particularly like it but gave it a shot. I really do appreciate it.
I know people are sometimes suspicious when they see books blurbed by friends of the author. That’s understandable. I was in the position with my first book of having to hunt blurbs from friends, and it made me feel squicky.
So, when I have the good fortune to read a great book in ARC form or in manuscript, and I am moved to think complimentary thoughts about said book, and I think a blurb from me might be even remotely, possibly, useful, I don’t wait to be asked. I volunteer, preferably directly to the author’s agent or editor. I don’t even necessarily expect anyone to use my blurbs.
As it turns out, this year begins with three consecutive months in which friends have books coming out bearing my blurbs. Last month, it was Winterling by Sarah Prineas (see what I wrote here). Next month, it’ll be Wide Open by Deb Coates.
I wrote Jenn’s editor and said, in short, “Hey, I read Jenn’s book and I loved it, would you like a blurb?” and Jenn’s editor said, in sum, “Sure!” and I wrote a blurb and sent it to her and I was surprised and delighted when I saw it made the back cover. And here it is now in it’s original, unedited form:
Jenn Reese’s richly imagined future teems with biotech mer people and mighty centaurs, but her characters remain so very human, driven by friendship, love, and courage. Above World delivers thunderously exciting action worthy of a summer blockbuster, but the battles and perils never get in the way of its universal story about growing up. I’d choose Jenn Reese’s characters as my companions on any adventure.
I really do think it’s a terrific book. I’m excited for Jenn, and I’m excited for all the readers, both kid and adult, who get to read it for the first time.
I only discovered Little League, like, seven minutes ago, but it’s already my new favorite comic strip. I love the adorabliosity of it, and I love the character designs and tone. The aged newsprint look of the gutters is a particularly nice touch. If DC’s smart, they’ll pay Yale Stewart to produce more strips and present them in a way that gives him a bigger audience. At the very least, they should leave him alone and let him continue.
See the Little League archive.