Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I did it! 50,000 words in 30 days. This was my second NaNoWriMo experience. I completed it in 2009 as well. I finished today, hammering out the last 2,272 words for a total of 50,367. That's not the whole book. 2009's 50,000 words eventually ended up as a 103,000 word novel, and was rewritten six times across 2010 and 2011. It's now with my agent, I'm pleased to say. I've no doubt that this one, which I'm estimating will come in at around 75,000 words, has a lot of rewriting ahead of it too.

But the value in NaNoWriMo is in getting you to write a lot, in a compressed time. Having done this twice now I must say that I find NaNoWriMo an incredibly valuable experience. So many people start novels and never finish them, endlessly rewriting openings or crafting new openings. We all have draws full of great initial chapters. 50,000 words is a sizable enough chunk that it forces you to turn off the self editor and the procrastinator both and break past those 1-3 chapter abandoned drafts. If you can write half a novel, you can write the second half. Also, writing is a muscle and muscles improve by being exercised. Even if nothing worth saving comes out of your 50,000 words, you are 50,000 words deeper into honing your craft. Also, it makes the solitary pursuit of writing something communal. And finally it gets your butt in the chair.

Yay to all us participants. Also, I could not have done it without the patience of my long-suffering wife.

The World According to Lou

Sandra Wickham interviewed me yesterday for the Inkpunks blog. She titled the interview "The World According to Lou," which really tickles me. I don't think she knows that it was The World According to Garp by John Irving that first made me want to choose this writing/publishing life. Anyway, I'm grateful for the interview, but please ignore her when she suggests that nonsense about my giving away my beer. Check out the whole interview, but here's a sample:
What must-have qualities would you say an author needs to become published and keep being published in the industry?
Talent plus perseverance. I recently asked a group of authors how many times they rewrote their novels before they saw publication. Seven was the average response. And I heard N.K. Jemisin say recently that she had worked on The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms for around ten years before it saw publication. Do you remember that old board game where you pulled levers out until all the marbles but one dropped away? I have probably just dated myself horribly, but that’s how I see a career in the entertainment arts. Banging your head against the wall until the wall collapses, because you sure as hell aren’t going to. Artist John Picacio describes this as, “There’s Plan A. And if that doesn’t work, there’s Plan A. And if that doesn’t work, there’s Plan A.” (Note: He’s not talking about being unrealistically inflexible. He’s talking about never giving up the goal of being a working professional.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Inner Sea World Guide

I am such a great test case for marketers. You see, it never fails that when someone gives me something cool for free, that I then turn around and buy more product. I was geeking out here last week over the Pathfinder Beginner Box, and this week I'm back to geek over my just-purchased Pathfinder Campaign Settin: The Inner Sea World Guide. This is a 320 page, full-color, drop dead gorgeous hardcover detailing the 40+ nations that comprise the world of Golarion's Inner Sea region, along with details on their history, religion, culture, key races, locations, etc... etc... I love maps, I love world-building, I love art, I love big hardcover books full of all of the above.

Here's the official list of the contents:
  • Detailed summaries of the player character races native to Golarion, including more than a dozen distinct human ethnicities
  • Elaborate gazetteers of more than 40 crumbling empires, expansionist kingdoms, independent city-states, and monster-haunted wildlands of Golarion’s adventure-filled Inner Sea region, with locations perfect for nearly any type of fantasy campaign
  • Cultural information and Pathfinder RPG rules covering the 20 core deities of the Inner Sea, plus entries on other gods, demigods, forgotten deities, weird cults, strange philosophies, and more!
  • An overview of the Inner Sea’s history, a look at time and space, a discussion of magical artifacts and technological wonders, discussions of important factions and organizations, and hundreds of locations ripe for adventure!
  • Tons of new options for player characters, including Inner Sea-themed prestige classes, feats, spells, adventuring gear, and magic items!
  • Nine new monsters, including exotic humanoids of the skies and seas, undead and dragons, and an angry demon lord in exile!
  • A giant 21.75"x33" poster map that reveals the sweeping landscape of the Inner Sea in all its treacherous glory!
 Pretty cool, no?

Friday, November 04, 2011

Pathfinder Beginner Box

Oh, I love getting surprises in the mail, particularly when they are as cool as the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Beginner Box. My friends at Paizo Publishing sent one over, and boy is it gorgeous.

For those who don't know Pathfinder, it's a Role Playing Game spawned out of the Open Game License (OGL) a few years back. Short history: a certain very popular RPG made their rules open license, many companies grew up providing supporting materials for those rules, Paizo in particular created a very, very complicated campaign setting - the world of Golarion and hundreds, or maybe thousands of adventure modules and supporting materials, and then a certain very popular RPG ditched support for their rules and made a (some would say much needed, long overdue) revamping of its rules. But this left a lot of companies without a core rule system. Paizo came out with the Pathfinder RPG, and voila! their bazillion ancillary products now had a fantastic spine. What's more, they subsequently captured a huge share of the RPG market (3.5 yay!) and have become an even more major player in the RPG industry.

I've got the Core Rulebook and Bestiary, and I bought a PDF of the Campaign Guide and several adventure modules. They are coming out with an Asian-themed campaign setting later this month, and I'll be picking that up as well. Confession: I haven't gamed in a long while, but I love reading rule books and campaign setting books, and I'm thinking that when my son gets just a little older, classic Pen & Paper style RPGs might be a nice imagination-fueling counterbalance to the comparably more passive experience of video-gaming. I'm also very interested in the way that RPGs have been an outlet for the swords & sorcery brand of fantasy in those decades in which the epic dominated literary fantasy, and the way in which RPG and literary fiction exchange energies now that epic fantasy is "grittying up."And I just love their setting. So the Beginner Box is a great way for this overworked, freetime-less editor to jump in quick and run his son through his first RPG.
    ThePathfinder Roleplaying Game Beginner Box includes:
  • 64-page Hero’s Handbook, detailing character creation, spells, equipment, and general rules for playing the game
  • 96-page Game Master’s Guide packed with adventures, monsters, magical treasures, and advice on how to narrate the game and control the challenges faced by the heroes
  • A complete set of 7 high-impact polyhedral dice
  • More than 80 full-color pawns depicting tons of heroes, monsters, and even a fearsome black dragon
  • Four pregenerated character sheets to throw you right into the action
  • Four blank character sheets to record the statistics and deeds of your custom-made hero
  • A durable, reusable, double-sided Flip-Mat play surface that works with any kind of marker
Cool, no?

Update:  Getting free stuff always makes me buy stuff. I just ordered this: Pathfinder Campaign Setting World Guide: The Inner Sea (Revised Edition)


Via SF Signal: China Miéville, at a a September 2009 talk at The University of Kansas:

[via AboutSF, the educational outreach arm of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction]

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Planesrunner: You Want This Book, You Need This Book

Illustration (c) John Picacio
“Smashing adventure fiction that spans the multiverse without ever losing its cool or its sense of style. Ian McDonald is one of the greats of science fiction, and his young adult debut is everything you could hope for: romantic, action packed, wildly imaginative, and full of heart.”
 —Cory Doctorow
"Planesrunner is chock-full of awesome. Ian McDonald's steampunk London blazes on a vast scale with eye-popping towers, gritty streets, and larger-than-life characters who aren't afraid to fight for each other. The kind of airship-dueling, guns-blazing fantasy that makes me wish I could pop through to the next reality over, join the Airish, and take to the skies"
—Paolo Bacigalupi, Michael J. Printz Award–winning author of Ship Breaker
"Athletic, brilliant, and always ahead of the game, Everett is too perfect, but it doesn't detract from the book's fun. McDonald writes with scientific and literary sophistication, as well as a wicked sense of humor. Add nonstop action, eccentric characters, and expert universe building, and this first volume of the Everness series is a winner."
Publishers Weekly Starred Review
"What joy to find science fiction based on real scientific concepts... In his debut for teens, established science-fiction writer McDonald builds a world just different enough to charm readers into believing... Shining imagination, pulsing suspense and sparkling writing make this one stand out."
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review!

"[Planesrunner's] world is as sharply imagined and inventive as we've come to expect from [Ian] McDonald. And it also may be the first steam-free steampunk novel… first-rate adventure writing… by the cliffhanger ending we're ready to follow [Everett] into whatever new universes McDonald can concoct, and the next one already looks interesting. Planesrunner is not only excellent YA SF in terms of its likeable characters and well-executed setpieces, but is simply good SF in a way which almost reinvents, and possibly makes addictive, the old parallel universe trope. It's fun."
—Locus, November 2011

"Planesrunner is a first class teen science fiction novel, which I believe will appeal to the fans of such boy-oriented books as Paolo Bacigalupi's Ship Breaker and Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan… There is hardly anything about Planesrunner to complain about. Quite the opposite, a lot to complement this novel on: First of all, the science. The whole idea of parallel universes is endlessly exciting and Ian McDonald did a fantastic job coming up with alternate versions of Earth's future… Second, the main character with ethnic background… Third, the teen romance has a great dynamic. Both participants are strong and resourceful young people. Planesrunner is a fantastic beginning to a new teen adventure series that will leave you yearning for more. Score: 4.50 / 5 "
—Night Owl Reviews, Reviewer Top Pick

‎"Ian McDonald's Planesrunner is the first in what I hope is a very long series of young adult science fiction novels.... I can't wait for the next book in this series. Planesrunner, scheduled for release in December 2011, is an appealing alternative to the dystopian YA titles lining bookstore shelves these days."
—Portland Book Review

‎"This is science fiction adventure at its best, and at its core is Everett, the heroic little geekling that we all wanted to be as kids... With "Ten Known Worlds" as part of this book's lore…I want an interdimensional passport ASAP… The adventure simply never stops… Snappy dialogue…and fascinating details round out this marvelous series debut."
—The Examiner

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