Category Archives: Life Log

05 Aug

1,200 miles by train

I’m in Europe, and just finished a 1,200 mile journey by train.

That’s like going from Omaha, Nebraska to New York.

Or, as we went North to South, like me going from Bluffton, OH to Miami Florida.

Anyway. The original plan was to fly into London and then take the high speed train to Paris. It is just a couple of hours. Transfer in Paris to take the high speed to Barcelona. That’s a long haul in a single day, but it would let us spend a couple days in Barcelona. Then high speed rail from Barcelona to Madrid and Toledo, where we would spend our time in Toledo before heading up for London Worldcon.

Here are the complainy bits, which all have to do with Delta Airlines. Skip if you don’t want to hear the whining of someone lucky enough to be able to fly to another country!

======Delta related complainy bits======

The buffer time I put into the plan to make the train to Paris was eaten up by Delta Airlines, who had us sitting on the runway for a few hours (the plane that loaded and taxied after us got there two hours earlier).

Delta in general was a shit experience. The commuter hop from DC to JFK was bumped back, and we had to run to make our connection (I wish I hadn’t). We got yelled at about our (very small) bags because the plane was so small. Then told we could take them aboard by another Delta worker. Then they didn’t fit (yeller was right, to be fair, but not very friendly).

The actual plane to London was also shit. I was promised we’d have power connection, and paid to have Economy plus for extra room as well as the power. I’ve been in coach flights on Air Canada that had power for gadgets, and British Air also had power for gadgets. I lost a ton of freelance work time that I’d planned on being able to use.

Also, the food was crap as well. Also, narrowest Economy Plus seats ever. I really, really wish I’d sucked it up and spent the extra to go British Airways for us both in Traveler Plus.

So, way behind on work, tired, cramped despite paying extra money to not be so cramped, and ill-fed, and landing right about when our train was leaving London for Paris, we arrived in London. Plans up in the air, we decided to wing it anyway. Emily spent time studying in Toledo, Spain, so dammit, we were going to figure out how to get there.

I considered snagging a plane from Heathrow on the spot, but I really wanted to use rail while here because I write about it a lot. And it is cool. I figured the worst thing that could happen is that we spend a night in Paris and pay out the nose for getting new train tickets.

Let’s do it.

======48 hours of train travel begins======

We began by catching the tube into London to get to St. Pancras. There a Eurostar agent helped us catch the next train to London, swapping our tickets for new ones. We had a nice meal while watching the countryside whiz past us at almost 180 miles per hour.

And then under sea as we passed under the Channel!

It didn’t take long before we arrived in Paris at the Gare Lyon. From there we went to the Gare Nord to grab a bite to eat and then talk about our tickets to Barcelona. We found the SNCF ticket office that pertained to our tickets and waited in line. Someone shouted in French that the line would be closed. We weren’t sure if we would get to see a human about the tickets. I started looking for hotels to stay in for the night, assuming I’d buy us brand new set of tickets for Barcelona in the morning, and we’d have just a day there, not two.

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However the SNCF agent managed to get us a sleeper car, first class, leaving Austerlitz. “You’re a wonderful human being!” I said. And we caught a taxi to Austerlitz, where we waited in crowds of people (some playing a piano just sitting out there by the platform). I got to use my first pay-bathroom. I considered using the pay shower, but I didn’t have a towel.

Note to self…

At this point, I made one small mistake. I didn’t hunt down a French/Spanish power adaptor for my devices while at any of the big stations there. Once aboard the sleeper, I realized I had a power problem. We needed to use my phone to change bookings and figure things out, too. So in addition to the lack of laptop usage aboard the plane, I’d get little laptop usage on the trip through France and Spain as well.

Yikes. My plans to keep up with work while in transit had just plain evaporated.

But no worries. I was so tired after flying for 7 hours + sitting on tarmac for 3 (Delta, boo) that climbing into a bed on a slower sleeper train leaving Austerlitz was bliss. I canceled our hotel room in Barcelona for two nights, and we hunted down a room in Toledo and just planned to extend our stay there. Sorry Barcelona, another time perhaps?

Taking off shoes, and locking the door, we watched night-time France slide by as the train rocked us to sleep.

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We woke up crazy early the next morning. I got up a bit earlier and just lay there, watching the dawn light up and old southern French countryside roll by and then eventually start misting over.

As we headed west and approached the coast, the buildings became gleaming white and capped with red tile roofs. Saint-Jean in particular I made a note of. Sea-side, cute buildings. I’d like to explore there someday.

The train eventually deposited us in Irun, Spain somewhere around 10 in the morning-ish. Close to Bilbao. We got tickets for Madrid, and had to run to catch the train leaving in just minutes.

I’m not supposed to run, but what the fuck, right? We’re having an adventure.

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We made that train, and were off. It was supposed to be a seven or more hour ride, but I realized if we got off at Valladolid we could use the bathroom, grab a bite to eat, and catch high speed rail from there into Madrid and pass the train we were on, and shave nearly 2 hours off the ride.

We got into Madrid at 4-ish.

By now, we’d been in a plane or on a train for a long, long time. By Madrid, I was starting to get tired of traveling. Toledo started to seem a magical, magical end point that wasn’t moving.

But. More travel. We hopped down into the Metra (Madrid’s subway) and caught a beautiful modern subway train to Atocha station. From there, tickets to Toledo proved problematic because every damn machine I tried had trouble printing. I finally got tickets, and then my credit card’s fraud protection team locked the card out due to my six or so attempts to buy a ticket.

Sad trumpet sound.

Madrid to Toledo featured a short pause due to a train delay, but it was still at least as fast as a bus, and then we caught a taxi up the tight, winding cobblestone streets and between the walls of Toledo to our hotel.

And now I am on stable land. Swaying a little, still.

Oh, I showered like three times. I kinda want to take one again. It’s amazing how quickly you miss one after 48 hours walking, running, sitting in hot places…

I said on twitter that doing a train trip like this was on my bucket list. I just didn’t expect two days of it. I’d planned one intense day of high speed travel. But oh well! I’ve always wanted to try a sleeper car! And I got to snack outside in a plaza in Paris. And go through the chunnel. And get to come.

It’s our first vacation in a long time. And even though I’m having to do freelance work through it due to not having power on the Delta flight or for most of the train travel, I’m grateful to be here.

We just had amazing tapas for dinner at this place:

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Afterwards we stood and looked out over some of Toledo’s city walls.

It’s a good life.

31 Jul

I will be a guest instructor at Clarion West in 2015

So here is the announcement:

“Clarion West is delighted to announce the names of the instructors for the 2015 Six-Week Workshop. Applications will open in December 2014. More information about the instructors and application instructions will be posted in the coming weeks.

Andy Duncan  2015 Clarion West Leslie Howle Fellow
Eileen Gunn
Tobias Buckell
Connie Willis
Nalo Hopkinson
Cory Doctorow  2015 Clarion West Susan C. Petrey Fellow”

(Via News |.)

So first off, what an amazing line up of instructors for 2015. I’ll be keeping some heady company.

One of the things I got to do was meet Clarion West organizers Neile Graham, Tod, and Huw at the Seattle book signing while I was on tour last week. And I have to say, it’s been so hard to keep this secret up until now, even thought I was talking to them the day before the news went out!

So I’m totally honored and amazed that I am now going to be an instructor at Clarion. Having been a new Clarion student myself in 1999, this is one of those ‘coming around full circle’ moments that sometimes happen in life.

It’ll be very, very odd being on the other side of the circle, though. I hope to do well by the students.

31 Jul

West Coast book tour: after action report

The hugely awesome people at Tor (my publicist Leah Withers and Patty Garcia) arranged an author tour for Hurricane Fever.

So a week ago I flew out and arrived in San Diego for San Diego Comic Con. I got lucky and was booked into the Omni Hotel, just across the street. Which was fantastic:

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I signed books, talked on my panel, and then met various people. I hung out at a few parties off site and did dinners. I hung out with Tor publicity folk at the booth. I snuck off with Theresa Delucci and Pritpaul Bains to play a demo of Evolve.

As I was there, The Guardian released its review of Hurricane Fever!

After my Sunday signing at SDCC I headed off to San Francisco to sign at Borderlands. I got to grab lunch with Tim Pratt, Heather Shaw, David Findlay, and Nalo Hopkinson. I had a great reading, and then afterwards met with readers for a coffee and more chatting (Joey Shoji gifted me scotch, how cool is that?).

When I got back to my room in San Francisco’s Phoenix Hotel there was a massive dance party going. But the staff there gave me a bottle of wine and a nice card congratulating me for the book launch, so I listening to an audio book on my Bose headphones and drank scotch and wine.

Next morning I dropped in and met folks from the Humble Bundle team, which was totally cool. They recently put up my novella The Executioness, so I was excited to meet and talk to them about what they were up to:

Next stop: Seattle! The view from the hotel room was striking, mountain and needle all in one shot:

Clarion West’s Curtis Chen snapped this photo of my talking excitedly about the Very Big Cannon in Hurricane Fever:

And Devin L. Ganger took this snapshot:

Next morning I was up early and flying back down from Seattle to San Diego to sign at Mysterious Galaxy! Greg van Eekhout picked me up and we had tacos and caught up on publishing gossip and chat.

Here we are catching up:

Greg also snapped this pic of me while talking about the Very Big Cannon in Hurricane Fever:

I got a quick night’s sleep in, and then I flew out from San Diego to Pittsburgh, which took most of yesterday. My old friend David Kirtley picked me up, drove me to a hotel near where Alpha, the writing workshop for teens, is being held.

I am now in between lecturing the students and getting ready for a signing here in Greensburg.

I’ve been, you might say, busy.

I’ll be teaching here at Alpha another day, then driving out to my parents to see Emily and the kids, and on Sunday, flying to Europe.

The traveling has actually only really just begun.

02 Jul

How I screwed up

So Tor very generously asked if I would agreed to do a panel at San Diego Comic Con.

Over the last year I’ve been doing my best to reach out to places that invite me to come to them and indicate I can’t unless there is an anti-harassment policy in place, as per Scalzi’s convention anti-harassment policy. I’m not a star headliner or rock star, but I know it’s helped at least once create a formal policy where there was none before, so I’m now aware that doing this does have power.

As the details quickly came together for this West Coast tour, I didn’t read San Diego Comic Con’s harassment policy too closely. I found one, and was excited there was one. Yay, I could go! I said yes! I went back to writing my novel that was due RIGHT AWAY.

After I posted my schedule, a couple of people pointed out this, that the rules aren’t really clear cut (and I may have even retweeted/pointed out that link as well, doubly damning on my part):

This isn’t exactly a clear or easy to find set of rules. Beyond this small paragraph on the website, comic-con’s director of marketing and public relations David Glanzer told The Mary Sue last year that their policy is also printed in the Events Guide made available to attendees and that “each incident is handled on a case by case basis, as are the decisions on how best to prevent the issue from occurring again.” Considering the length of the Events Guide and the possibility of not every guest receiving it, the convention should create a formal policy displayed more prominently on their website and convention materials. As for dealing with issues case-by-case, each incident will certainly be different but that should in no way prevent them from listing common, specific anti-harassment rules that would still be good to make clear for attendees instead of assuming everyone has the common sense to already know how to behave.

So I didn’t read as closely as I should have. Which meant I messed up.

Since I agreed to go I’m going to go. And not go again now that I understand it’s a weak ass policy that’s not really a policy.

I’m sorry for not catching why it wasn’t much of a policy.

I also donated a sum of money to the National Museum of Women in the Arts:

NMWA addresses the issue of the lack of recognition and representation that women receive in museum collections and major exhibitions. NMWA maintains the reference library, and classifies, catalogues, and transfers artwork to exhibitions

So this was a learning experience for me about rushing through and not reading closely enough.

30 Jun

My latest book, Hurricane Fever, launches tomorrow, and even though I’ve been through six book launches I’m still nervous as hell

You’d think by now I’d be rather blasé about all this. Why yes, I do have a book coming out tomorrow. Yes, I’ve done this six times already with other novels, nine times if you count launching an anthology I’ve edited and three collections.

By launch number ten I should be ready to throw a little soiree in town where I sip cocktails and entertain people with witty anecdotes. Or whatever it is suave writers who launch books do.

Instead I’m utterly unprepared and feel like the guy at the top of a roller coaster. “Oh shit,” I’m thinking, “Here we go again!” and, “No turning back now!”

I wrote a tight book. As tight as I could. And I’m hoping it doesn’t leave people much room to take a breath before they’ve slingshotted through Prudence Jones’s world of heavy weather, spies, and corporate conspiracy. I dwelled on two islands that have a special place for me, and hope I communicated some of their uniqueness. And I certainly shared my love of boat life.

But the roller coaster feeling comes from all the things I wonder if I should have done instead. Should I have dwelled further on world building? Should I have included more POVs? Will people who loved Anika in Arctic Rising feel short changed that she isn’t in here? Did I… Did I… Did I… did I do enough. I worked on the book as hard as I could, so I know that is behind me. But now, there begin the worries about whether I’ve sent out enough copies. Do enough people know the book exists.

Does it have a chance out in that cruel, cruel cold world?

I perused a listing of all the other science fiction and fantasy books out there that launch this month by Locus. Books that aren’t just vying for reader’s attention, but for the attention of reviews, coverage, and buzz. Great books, some them ones I’m looking forward to reading.

And I wonder, did I do enough? Should I be doing a gazillion blog interviews? Should I get on the street corner with a megaphone and start assailing random passer’s by? Do I buy ads? Do I…

…a thousand what ifs and possibilities, worries that I could have done more the last couple months to help the book, swirl around my hindbrain.

But, I’ll be spending time on tour. I have interviews lined up. I’ve put up the Batsignal telling people I’m here. And, at some point, because this is the 7th (or 10th) time I’m doing this, I also know: it’s time to also get back to work.

Because I’ve sacrificed a month or two on doing *nothing* but promotion to try and help a baby book, and at some point, like a mama deer, I know that damn book has to just get up on its own two wobbly legs and stand. Or it won’t be able to escape the wolves of indifference. Either I wrote a good book and it will generate interest and readers, or it won’t.

Two nights ago I finished writing my 10th novel. I’m going to be spending a good chunk of time while traveling to promote Hurricane Fever doing edits on the YA novel Islands in the Sky. And sometime next month I begin working on the 11th novel.

Because the buzz doesn’t start unless there is a book out there to buzz about. And while no promotion isn’t ideal, I do have to take a deep breath and realize I can’t, all by myself, get people to be excited and spread the word. Either people are invested in the book and things will happen.

Or they won’t, and I work on a book that will.

And that is my state of mind, the night before my 7th novel launches, that I need to be chill. Relax. And trust the book. And also OMG please for the love of all that is holy read my book.

That is all.

05 Jun

Cover reveal for OLD VENUS, which includes a short story of mine

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George R.R. Martin has this to say on his livejournal:

The Venus of Leigh Brackett, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Roger Zelazny, C.L. Moore, and Isaac Asimov.

Those who miss the place (like me) will be able to return there next spring. OLD VENUS, an original anthology of retro-SF stories set upon the lost Venus of old, will be released by Bantam Spectra in hardcover on March 3, 2015. We just got our first look at the cover:

My story PALE BLUE MEMORIES will be in this. Very excited.

04 Jun

I’ve been invited to be writer-in-residence by Bermuda this October

Last month Dr. Kim Dismont Robinson from the Bermuda Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs reached out to me to ask if I would come and be a part of the Writer-in-Residence Programme in Bermuda this October. I would be responsible for helping direct some three weeks of workshops for interested writers, with a focus on genre.

It’s always a huge honor when the islands reach back out to me. And for anyone to reach out to ask me to teach or guide up and coming writers.

I accepted, and am happy to announce if you’re a reader from Bermuda, I’ll be there from September 27th through October 19th as Writer-in-Residence. There should be some opportunities to come ask me about writing and business outside of the workshop, and possibly a reading. Keep an eye out!

My previous experience in Bermuda amounts to a mere two days stopped there while passing through working on a yacht, so I’m eager to connect with the island some more.

Each Caribbean island has its own history, story, and vibe. While there’s a tremendous commonality, every stay in an island different than the ones I grew up on teaches me new and wonderful things, so I’m very excited and grateful for this.

What a life. Again, sometimes I pinch myself, because that little poor kid from the harbor in Lance Aux Pines Grenada could hardly have imagined this would be my future. As I said on twitter:

22 May

Website relaunch

Well, the website is all shiny and new again. I last overhauled it in March 2013, as I felt it had been getting creaky. However, the new template that I used required me to set up a lot of plugins to make it work. A whole layer on top of everything else. And it was very dodgy.

Eventually I got tired of things breaking due to wordpress upgrading and decided to revamp.

Additionally, since the last revamp, people had pointed out that the background and tiny font had been making it hard to read.

For this new iteration, I’ve focused on more open, clean space and let the text and graphics hold their own. I also simplified the heck out of all the pages and sub themes as much as I could, so that if I have to move to another theme it’ll be easier. I also have less to take care of now. I moved from 30 plugins down to 10, and from 40 pages of information down to 12.

The book page information is handled by Book Table, a plugin for authors.

At the top, the Buy My Books link takes you to a list of all the books for sale, and they all have buy buttons. Very straightforward. Book Table has some nice breadcrumbs in there, and I can tag books by series, so it’s easy to sort out what books are in what series (and related books appear at the bottom of the book pages). Bibliography is duplicative for some, but my click tracking shows I have two audiences: one that looks for a button that says ‘buy my books’ and one that looks for ‘bibliography’ and there isn’t necessarily overlap. Having both in plain site will hopefully help everyone.

Appearances lists where I’ll be (and shows back up in the blog right hand sidebar) and includes a link to info about how to invite me to speak. The Press Kit is new, and long overdue. It hopefully curates the things that those looking for a kit need. And I found a better Contact Me plugin.

There’ll be some more tweaking, but this seems to be a more functional site, less prone to breaking, faster to load, and easier to take care of.

I need to get new author photos for the press kit… but we’re getting close.