Tag Archives: sf

Progress in some ways, not in other ways

First, my collaborator Chloe (my fifteen-year-old daughter) has abandoned me, citing–if I boil it down–too much work.  I am the sort who will live, breath, draw, and dream the story once I dive in.  There's no looking back, there's only forward and a story to tell. 

I also didn't want to push Chloe, told her I'd be perfectly happy with her being a reader, doing critiques, and participating in plotting exercises.   I think that's really what she wanted to do from the beginning–that's the fun part, as she sees it, going to coffee shops and SF conventions to talk stories and characters and whole new worlds. 

She thinks the writing part is too much like work.  I guess I can see that, but in another sense that's a problem that can be solved: you do enough of it, and it won't be.  The story's already in my head.  I just need to be awake and have access to a keyboard to write it, and I can even get pretty far without waking.

So, Chloe and I will definitely collaborate on a book at some point.  She's an amazing reader, she has a gift for writing dialogue.  It won't be long.  And this is only book 8.  I still have 92 stories to tell! (probably more, but I'll start out with an even hundred).

As far as progress goes, I busted through 15k words, with a planned total of 60+ thousand.  This is YA, and I'm going to stay inside the typical word count range.  So, I'm a quarter done, and sailing for the halfway point. 

Who's got the damn tiller?  And who's making coffee?

Character Studies

Here's my latest character study, along with two priors.  I'm not very far away from completing the first book in a series, and books 2 and 3 are well into planning, so I don't want to give much away.  Okay, just a little:  It's near-future SF, but with a lot of fantastical elements.  All six of these characters are in the first book–the woman with the vines growing out of her head is the POV character.  I will say that I write far more in 3rd person, but these books will all be in first, and each book's POV character is one of the characters in each of these studies.  I've had gay and lesbian characters in stories and books (e.g., Seaborn, Sea Throne, "Hammers and Snails").  Next book will be the first novel I'm writing from a gay character's point of view. 

I did these in digital, Wacom tablet, CS, fairly normal brush set.  Click the images for the full view.

WDCharacterStudy3  WDCharacterStudy1


Had a great time at Boskone–my first Boskone on some panels, doing a reading and a signing.  I had my reading Friday night at 10:30–I read chapter 1 from Sea Throne to an audience of five.  Before that I took in the Graphic Novel (& comic) panel with Christopher Golden, John Langan, Stefan Petrucha, Alisa Kwitney Sheckley, Rene Walling.  Also caught the YA panel with Chris Golden, who just seems like a cool guy who's done a lot of cool stuff–comics, ya, mainstream fantasy, horror, you name it. 

Then it was off to the Uncanny Valley panel on the acceptence of human-like robots with Muriel Hykes, Robert Katz, Jim Kelly, Paul Melko, Allen Steele, and Charles Stross.  Stross I think beat everyone else at good barbed make-you-think comments.  Paul Melko (I started Walls of the Universe last Thursday) added humor–among other things–to an already fading Friday evening (Friday night seemed a bit subdued to me, as if everyone was tired from traveling, long day, etc.  I know I'd been working all day, and left right for the con, didn't get home until after midnight).

Saturday started early.  I had a 10 AM panel on Men Writing Women–it was me, Paul Melko, Joshua B. Palmatier, Alisa Kwitney Sheckley, and Joel Shepherd, with Paul Melko moderating.  (I'm considering this my first real con panel appearance. I've been on a panel at UMass Lowell, done a couple readings and signings–Pandemonium Books and Water Street Books, but this Boskone is my first con as a full panelist.  Really fun, BTW, even for us Introverts).  Good questions on gender behavior, how to write as a female character–and whether the writer even thinks explicitly in those terms while writing.  Skott and I spent the next hour talking to Alisa Kwitney Sheckley and Joel Shepherd (cool SF and fantasy writer from Australia in the US on an educational project with our Congress).   Alisa (of Vertigo where she worked on Sandman–how cool is that!–and a bunch of other stuff) has a novel coming out next month: The Better to Hold You

I was on the New Marketing Technologies panel at 12:00 talking about ebooks, podcasting web comics, creative commons licensing, and all the ways authors can sell their work and themselves using all the new tech out there, with Darlene Marshall, me, James Patrick Kelly, Dani Kollin, Eytan Kollin, Shane Tourtellotte.  I'll take this moment to say that Darlene Marshall is one of the best moderators around–that and all the insight and experience she brought to this particular panel.  Jim Kelly had a lot to say on this one–obviously–from ebooks to podcasting.  Eytan and Dani Kollin, brothers and collaborative authors of the forthcoming The Unincorporated Man, had us laughing, and jumped in with a wealth of web marketing and book launch experience.  (I'm really sorry I missed their Literary Beer, although I got a card from Dani just before that).  Looking forward to reading their first novel.

I did get to Jeff Carver's literary beer, crowded but a lot of good talk around the table, on marketing and publishing. Jeff also came to my reading, Friday night, which was very cool–thanks, Jeff!

Great art show this year.  I think having Irene Gallo and Stephen Martiniere as GoHs really brought out the artists.  Dan Dos Santos, Donato Giancola, a bunch of others were all there.

At 3:00 PM I took in the Sketch to Finish panel with Dave Seeley, Dan Dos Santos, Donato Giancola, and Stephen Martiniere.  This was an AMAZING panel, each artist running through and explaining progressive steps in their work.  I've seen some of these presentations and videos online (probably linked from Irene Gallo's blog), but it was extra cool to have the artists there and filling in the details.  I picked up a lot in this panel and the art panel I was on Sunday–things like using many more layers in Photoshop than I do now–Stephen Martiniere said he regularly used 50 and sometimes as many as a 100!  I don't think I've ever done any digital work with more than twenty layers–and I thought that was excessive.  I also loved Stephen's use of highlighting and methods for building a scene. 

Sunday morning, bright an early, I was on the Clothing in SF and Fantasy Art panel with Alan F. Beck, Elaine Isaak, Margaret Organ-Kean, Ruth Sanderson.  I think what made this one especially cool were the differences we brought to the panel.  A couple of us were mainstream F&SF authors (me and Elaine Isaak), with three pro artists.  I did some research and note taking before the panel.  I thought this was going to be a tough one–turned out to be fun and enlightening. Not sure what the others throught of me advocating for natural origins in clothing.  (With my own characters in Seaborn, I drew from marine life, fish scales, crab carapace armor, etc).

At noon, I was on another art panel, this time with the incomparable Stephen Martiniere, Dave Seeley and Alan Beck.  This one had the unfortunate title, Drawing with a Mouse, but ended up as an overview of digital art, with advantages and disadvantages of the medium.  Good questions in this one as well, even if it did occasionally plummet into strange technology and storage solutions discussions.  For me, what was really weird was being on the panel with Irene Gallo in the audience.  Yeah, I'm still stunned–yes, shocked and stunned. 

Ended Boskone with a book signing at 2:00 PM with Ann Tonsor Zeddies.  I signed a couple copies of Seaborn, and spent the rest of the time talking about web comics, art, and Japan.

Great con, missed a lot of authors this year.  Hoping Boskone draws them all back next.  (I know several people were sick for this one, so hoping we've cured all disease for Boskone 47!)


My Boskone 46 Schedule

Friday 10:30pm Independence: Reading 

(nice time slot!<sarcasm/>)  Free stuff if you show up for my reading!

Saturday 10am Harbor 2:
Men Writing Women

What is it about "strong female protagonists" that appeals to so many male
authors? (And what do they think is "stong?") ((And, why don't they ever write
about "weak female protagonists", huh?) Does gender (of author or character?)
make a difference, anyway?

Chris Howard, Paul Melko (m), Joshua B. Palmatier, Alisa Kwitney Sheckley, Joel Shepherd

Saturday 12noon Burroughs:
New Publishing/Marketing Technologies

Ebooks. Print-on-demand. Podcasts. What else? A discussion of what kinds of new
technological break-throughs are available to authors today, their advantages
and disadvantages—and why bother with them?!

Darlene Marshall (m), Chris Howard, James Patrick Kelly, Dani Kollin, Eytan Kollin, Shane Tourtellotte

Sunday 10am Carlton:
Clothing Design in SF and Fantasy Art

Can you be an artist and not care about clothes? Which artists shine at
depicting fabrics, textures, and modeling? How have TV and movies influenced
genre costume depiction? How much research goes into medieval couture for a
high-fantasy piece? What's the well-dressed man, woman, or alien of the future
wearing these days?

Alan F. Beck, Chris Howard, Elaine Isaak (m), Margaret Organ-Kean, Ruth Sanderson

Sunday 12noon Carlton:
Drawing With a Mouse

In brief, two main questions: (1) Is it really art? (2) How is it done?

Alan F. Beck, Chris Howard, Stephan Martiniere, David R. Seeley (m)

Sunday 2pm Autographs:

Chris Howard, Ann Tonsor Zeddies

Find out more about Boston's premier F&SF con: Boskone

Here's the full program for Boskone 46


A question about reading and filtering

I'm just thinking at the keyboard, and I'll say it: I think one of the most gratifying things for a writer is a reader who understands your characters.

I've been thinking about how people read books, and how we, in some cases, see the words, the characters, tropes, through our SF lenses or through our medieval fantasy spectacles.  I think contemporary fantasy has had some trouble getting a footing–even with a third of the shelf space that now seems to be devoted to urban, contemporary fantasy, steampunk, and other forms of our genre that do not contain a single elf and aren't set in Medieval Europe (or similar world).

When I sent the first three chapters of Seaborn around to the workshop–at the time I was in the writing workshop Jeff Carver and Craig Shaw Gardner run every year here in Boston–nearly everyone thought it was SF.  And when I said, "no, I'm writing fantasy," they said, "look, here's a woman scuba diving–how can you have scuba gear in a fantasy novel?"

You can

I think it just makes reading it a little harder, and don't expect everyone who browses the F&SF shelves to get what you're trying to do.

If you're using tropes–common themes–like vampires, summoning demons, pirates, dragons, witches lighting candles, sorcerers chanting–all of which I love BTW (everyone knows I have a total thing for witches and demons), you're writing with some cultural (or popular) momentum.  When you write about something a little off the genre map (in my case, humans who breathe underwater) or types and settings that just don't sit well with a lot of people, I think it makes everything–describing, categorizing, shelving, marketing your story, characters, and their motives that much more difficult.

Part of me wants to think that SF readers are happier–than fantasy readers–to accept something way off the mark, but I'm not sure about this.  And I'm even less sure about SF readers when they read fantasy.

What do you think?



I'm in the middle of short story about colonists from two different worlds meeting on a planet that isn't home for either–and they have to get along.  New worlds can be nasty places, and even experienced explorers get hit with anxiety when unpredictability's in the air.  And with all the tech, crossing the street is still dangerous on any world.

Here's a quick scene I penciled while helping Chloe with her homework.

Heart of the Sea

The title of this one is "Heart of the Sea," and I'm using it for promotional material for the November 20th signing at Pandemonium Books in Cambridge.  Joe Haldeman and Jeff Carver will be there! 

Click the image for a closeup


It all starts at 7PM.

I'm having prints made and bringing them as giveaways.

Where is it:

Pandemonium Books and Games


4 Pleasant Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 547-3721
Get directions

Sly Mongoose Review

Title: Sly Mongoose
Author: Tobias S. Buckell
Publisher:  Tor
Age: Teen and up.  Some language and violence, but very accessible. 
Get it: Amazon | B&N | Powell’s | IndieBound (used to be Booksense)
More: Tobias Buckell Online

I’m already Tobias Buckell fan, and to set the general theme of this review, I’ll start with what I said about Sly Mongoose at a little past the reading halfway point:  I thought Tobias Buckell already kicked ass with Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin, but now that I’m halfway through Sly Mongoose, I’ve found there is far more ass to be kicked–far more than I ever dreamed!

And now that I’ve finished reading Sly Mongoose, I’ll say I like them all, but this story is my favorite so far.

Pressure is everywhere, a crushing atmosphere on the surface of Chilo, on the reader who feels the weight on the shoulders of Timas–and we know we’d cave with half of what this young xocoyotzin must bear.  Sly Mongoose comes racing through Chilo’s atmosphere on a makeshift heat-shield and no parachute–and the story never slows down, jumps without warning to new tracks, characters–and readers–all headed one way and then we’re broadsided.  Suddenly we’re all plummeting into Chilo’s toxic atmosphere, pressure’s rising, and the plot opens, scattering characters.   

Some important points, things I noticed: New characters drop into the fray, even late in the story, but they didn’t seem to slow things down.  Another point: Buckell pulls off an extraordinary couple chapter long flashback that doesn’t lag, but kicks the plot into higher gear, letting readers in on what really happened–through Pepper’s POV–aboard the Sheikh Professional.  We read the truth and know what nastiness is in store for an entire planet, while the citizens of Yatapek–the floating city in which he "lands"–and his Aeolian captors just hear Pepper’s side of the story in those same chapters, not a lot to compel them to believe he’s telling them everything or even the truth.  Come on, zombies from outer space?  That’s the best you can come up with?       

Expect to move through Sly Mongoose at an incredible pace with the building pressure, floating cities, vaporizing heat, poisonous fumes, viral brain-killing weapons, planets burned of all life, a near-unstoppable swarming army, and not much standing in the way but one resourceful old soldier missing a couple limbs, a bulimic technician who works on Chilo’s 800 degree surface, and a young woman with the voices of whole civilizations running through her senses and her mind.   Yeah, I was up to 4:00 in the morning reading and wondering how the hell they were going to pull it off.

Right to the point, Buckell continues his course of great storytelling, with steady, beautifully unobtrusive  prose, bold and unpredictable plotting, characters that really stick in your head–that you fall for, strongly sympathize with, and would pay to hang out with in any Seattle coffee shop, or a good Akihabura tech buying spree.  I’m looking at you, Pepper.  Not the most sympathetic character around, but you’re that across-the-board cool. 


San Francisco City Hall

SF City Hall at night, lit up, with Sutro Tower Sticking up through the fog.


Category: art, photo | Tags: , , , , ,

Stuff from my notebook

Posting a few quick pencil sketches from my notebook, one of Michael Henderson, the former science teacher from Seaborn, an angry Nicole, and the surf. Click the pics for the larger view.