Posts from 2004
Writing is an odd thing. Some months a million things change, and I have lots of stuff to put in News or here on my front page. The last few months have been pretty lean. Raven's Shadow should be on the shelves this coming August from Ace books. I've just finished looking over the editorial changes and making a few myself. The next time I'll see it will be the page proofs sometime this spring. I attended Orycon in Portland in November and had a great time. I wish I'd had longer to spend with friends there. Time runs oddly at conventions for me: one moment I'm eating breakfast and the next it's eleven at night. OryCon is the largest convention I go to on a regular basis. It's chalk-full of writers which I enjoy, and I get to visit a lot of old friends from Eugene.
I'm working on Wolfsbane, the sequel to my first book. I wrote it in between When Demons Walk and The Hob's Bargain. When it's cleaned up to my satisfaction, then my agent is going to ship it off and find a publisher for it. This should really have been a month-long project. Every time I get going on it, though, something comes up. Bathroom walls dissolve, vandals break into my car, children have Christmas break, editors send manuscripts and point out that readers might enjoy stories that make sense. Take today for example. This should have been a perfect work day. But today we had a freak snowstorm (which I thoroughly adore, being a native Montanan). That meant that some of my children had a two-hour delay -- but not my son who attends a community college fifteen miles away. By the time I got through ferrying children to school it was eleven and it was time to pick up my college student. Not a half hour after that, my husband shows up to tell me that they let him out of work early too. So my good writing day turned into three pages of rewrites. It is amazing I ever finish a book!
Updated February 23rd, 2004.
I'm about 3/4 of the way through the rewrite of Wolfsbane, and I've got a pretty good idea of where the first fifty pages or so of the second Traveler's book is going to go. Now all I have to do is get some pages down! I know there are writers out there who can write whole novels in a matter of weeks. I hope they all see me sticking out my tongue at them *pthbbbth*. There, got that out of my system.
I spent Valentine's weekend at RadCon, our local convention here in the Tri-Cities of Washington. It was really a great convention. I learned a lot, which is always a good thing. Had fun with old friends and met some new. Read a lot of very good workshop stories: about 50,000 words of stories. Most of them were high school students in a contest and workshop aimed just for them. I was really blown away at the talented writers we have. I had a couple of workshadow students, Mary and Marina, who tagged along for a bit. They can both write, too. I expect to see their names on book covers in a few years. Next convention, MisCon in Missoula, Montana over Memorial Day weekend.
Welcome to Hurog, my home on the web. Updated July, 2004.
I think it is time for me to thank all of you readers who have been buying my books. Dragon Bones is in its third printing (which reminds me that I need to update the FAQ page somewhat) and Hob's Bargain is in its second. I appreciate that you enable me to keep writing the kinds of books I love to write.
Wolfsbane the sequel to Masques is finished and on the desk of a publisher. It shouldn't feel like such an accomplishment; it was only supposed to be a couple weeks' rewrite. Five months later... now I'm really behind in writing the sequel to Raven's Shadow, but have no fear it's coming apace, not the least because, to keep myself honest, I've started keeping track of the hours I spend writing. It really surprised me to find how much time I've been wasting on stupid stuff.
Okay, time for the plug. Raven's Shadow will be in stores July 27th, 2004. You can find the first chapter here. Everyone that I've had read it agrees that it is head and shoulders my best work to date, but you'll have to decide that yourself. All I can say is that it ties with Steal the Dragon for difficulty in writing. Some days I thought I was never going to get it to work but I was having so much fun with it I didn't care. Happily, I don't seem to be having the same trouble with the second book, tentatively titled Raven's Strike. I hope to finish it by August (so it can go to press a year after Raven's Shadow) and I just might still make it.
I have been surprised to see that Steal the Dragon in e-book format has been doing pretty well according to Amazon's best- seller list. It's been at or near the top of the e-book fantasy best-seller list since it came out as an e-book last August. When Demons Walk which came out at the same time seems to be doing well too, but for some reason Amazon must not have it listed as a fantasy. It has been selling better than the e-book of Dragon Bones which is usually in the top twenty somewhere, but When Demons Walk is never on the list. Now, these sales, mind you, mean that I might be able to take my husband for a weekend trip (somewhere close, like Spokane) and pay for the hotel and meals (McDonald's) with the proceeds for the last six months. E-books are not going to replace print books any time soon! All the same, it is fun to be on a best-seller list of any kind.
You can check out the book pages to see the new cover for Raven's Shadow. I am very, very pleased with the cover. I don't know how the folks at Ace do it, but I've been extremely lucky in my covers. Not only have I gotten marvelous artists, but they've all put out covers that suit my books. Okay, maybe Shamera was a little "Pin-up girl"ish on When Demons Walk, but I think she'd have gotten a kick out of the cover. I can just hear her telling the artist, "How about just a little more on the top? Right. Just like that."
On the new Raven's Shadow page is artwork by Robin Walker and also a new map by Michael Enzweiler, both of which should be in the the book when it comes out. I've put in a few comments as well which I hope you enjoy.
Since I'm still getting email on this topic, I'll remind everyone that Steal the Dragon and When Demons Walk are both now available on e-book format at places like Powells, Amazon, and Palm Digital Media. If you are having trouble locating a source, just drop me an email. Masques, alas, is still out of print entirely, but it's on the table with Wolfsbane. I'll let you know as soon as I hear anything further.
If you like fantasy art, the cover artist responsible for the covers of Dragon Bones, Dragon Blood and Masques has a book of his illustrations out from Paper Tiger. It's called Illumina -- The Art of J P Targete. It is seriously impressive. As it happens, about the time he was putting his book together, I had just emailed him to thank him for the work he'd done for my books. Covers are really important for authors like me, who are still trying to build their careers. Jean Pierre's covers are among the best in the business. So he and the writer he was working with, Jean Marie Ward, asked if I'd write a few words of praise. Believe, me, it wasn't difficult. They liked the little blurb well enough that they used it for the foreward.
Actually, this is Mike (Patty's husband), once again. I'm going to ramble on for a bit just to make it look like somebody is actually maintining the site periodically. One thing that impresses Patty and I when we visit author's sites is how frequently they're updated. It's lovely to be able to go to a web-site and find the musings, rambles and philosophy of someone you would like to know about. Many authors keep nearly daily blogs, others, like Patty, update infrequently. I don't know were the "frequent-updater" crowd get their energy and motivation, but I'd like some of what they're having! Patty usually sighs after the site's been static for a month or so, and says, "I really should update the web-site. Maybe after the next signing. . .". Of course, after the next signing, there's always something else to occupy her time.
Over the past ten years or so of attending SF/Fantasy conventions, I've met a large number of authors, and an even larger number people eager to be authors, and I've noticed something that strikes me as odd. Many people who want to be authors have some sort of mystic vision of what writing for a living entails, probably based on the Hollywood image of "author". You know, that vaguely-british gentleman in the large and lavishly-appointed home. Usually seen wearing a stunning smoking-jacket, pipe in hand, sitting at a Queen-Ann table in lovely study with a fountain pen near near a pile of pristine parchment. An author should be the center of attention, the envy of his/her friends, and is able to vacation/cavort/solve mysteries at will, then bang out a scintillating novel in a few days just as the deadline draws near, drawing immediate acclaim from the gushing editor. Ahh, wouldn't it be great to be an author!
So, for those of you who want to be authors, what does this life entail? I have an unusual opportunity to paint this picture. I am not a writer, but have the privilege of being friends with a number of them. Here's what I see. First, the big item, money. There are some authors who make an extremely good living. The hollywood prototype is obviously based on these high-profile authors. Nice work if you can get it. The problem is, it's the rare author indeed who rockets to the top and then stays there for the fourty-years or so of their working life. If you feel that lucky, buy lottery tickets! Most new authors will make only a few thousand on their first novels ($3,000 seems like a fairly common starting figure these days). That's your payment for the labor of several months to a year of effort. As your career builds, and your sales improve, you can expect to see larger advances and (with a bit of luck) royalty payments from earlier works, if your publisher keeps them in print. OK, so if you can tough out the first few years, and live on top-raman and creative passion, what's a generic "established-but-not-famous" author make? Based on my observations, which certainly don't constitute an industry-wide comprehensive survey, I'm estimating between 25 and 30 thousand. That's enough to live on, if you're frugal, but you probably won't be buying the English country estate on that income.
OK, so if getting published doesn't inexorably lead to a life of wealth and leisure, what do authors do? Most successful authors are comfortable being alone. For every hour you spend surrounded by adoring fans at conventions and signings, you'll spend many more working over a keyboard, alone. That's one of the reasons so many authors are part of writer's groups. In addition to being a good way to polish your writing and get valuable feedback, they are a social outlet, a place to belong. If you are not comfortable in your own skin, listening to your own thoughts, this life may become unbearably lonely. As a related item, authors earn the same amount regardless of where they live; there's no impetus to live in a large city. My job, lamentabley, requires us to live in a large population center, but both Patty and I prefer small towns. If I had the talent Patty does for writing, I would happily take the pay cut and live in rural America. So, when considering whether you can survive on an author's pay, remember you don't have to live in New York City while you do it.
Some parts of the mythical "author lifestyle" are largely true. An author really does set their own schedule. The creative process is not particularly ammenable to the traditional 9-to-5 work day. Many authors (including Patty) find that they are more productive if they only work for to five hours at a time. They go for walks, ride horses, take long drives, and generally drive their hard-working spouses nuts. An old quote (for which I've forgotten the attribution, email me if you know it) says something like, "What no spouse of an author will ever understand is that, as they sit looking out the window, they're working." The muse is elusive, and needs to be teased and prodded into cooperation. She can occasionally be mugged, and bludgeoned into submission when a deadline is looming, but there's inevitably a price to pay for such rudeness . . ..
And now, I'll return you to your regularly scheduled programming . . .
November 12, 2004
I'm finished with the first round of revisions on the sequel to Raven's Shadow which is officially titled Raven's Strike. It's my longest book to date, and I had a great time writing it. It will be out in August of 2005 and Michael Enzweiler has once again drawn another wonderful map for me.
I went to InCon in Spokane again this year and had a great time. My favorite part was filking on Saturday night with my husband, C J Cherryh and Jane Fancher -- along with a host of assorted friends. I had a marvelous time. C J and Jane said it was the first time they'd filked in years, but it sure didn't sound like it. I think one of the reasons I like small conventions so much is that the crowds are in manageable sizes. At the bigger conventions, if I go to filk circles, I just sit and listen. My husband is a very good musician, but the best thing that can be said about my voice, is that I'm usually close to being on pitch. In a small group, it doesn't matter, everyone sings!
Speaking of conventions, I'm going to be fantasy GOH at RadCon, here in the Tri-Cities of Washington this coming February. Joe Haldeman is coming as Science Fiction GOH so it should be a really extraordinary experience. Also, I'm going back East this coming year. The folks at ConBust (Smith College) have asked me to come the first weekend in April. This will be the furthest East I've ever been -- Chicago being my previous mark. I think I'll actually get to meet my agent whom I've known for almost ten years now!