On the train it got to night time but I still left my sunglasses and hoodie up because then people wouldn't look at me. Listened to Florence and the Machine on the way down over and over and gosh all the feelings. Didn't even know why I was crying. It was kind of a relief tears, missing boys tears, brother tears, I need a Soul getaway tears. Left my sunnies on all through the airport, and my headphones because peopley people and their peopleness ugh.
Missed my flight (what a surprise!) got on the next flight, cried, had a whole row of seats to myself, slept, then Annie picked me up from Darwin airport at 1.30am in the morning greeting me with a huge hug and her dog Sid in the back seat of her car.
So I'm literally actually in Darwin right now .. have been to many places in the world but never the Northern Territory. From sub-zero ice temperatures in the Blue Mountains to heat and thongs and tank tops my Soul is warm.
Annie is my tour guide. Yesterday she took me to the local botanical gardens with all these trees and I told her about this tree that grows in scraggly rocks over in Scotland that need a few drops of water every year to survive and how I've always described myself as that and I demonstrated the tree and she told me to wait while she took a picture.
Today? Well today she told me to get on a bike and went bike riding and I've never bike-rode like this before, just free and fun and .. something? What haven't I been able to bike ride all these years, with my family, able to enjoy the moment? What has been wrong? Oh!
We rode and rode and stopped at the turquoise teal coloured beach ocean and when I walked on the sand I told Annie I haven't been to the beach in over a year. I made it this whole way to stand on the beach today in Darwin how lucky am I?
Annie tells me everything about everything. You've never meet an Annie like this Annie. She's taking me to the recovery round-up in a few days and we'll sleep in tents and she's got the swags ready and we'll do meetings under the stars.
I got ochre on my hands and lagged behind on the bike on the way back because I been so unfit and then came back to sleep and now we're about to go to the night markets and then do a meeting. Annie's waiting right now for me to finish writing this and I'm like FIVE MORE MINUTES I PROMISE. I'm so annoying but I had to get this out and tell you guys but I gotta go. More later. Hey guess what I'm in Darwin and I'm allowed to be here and I'm not doing anything wrong and I stood in the ocean. Again. Hello it's nice to meet me everything is ok maybe.
Missed the June Dalley Watkins boat I still stand like a man whatever.
About a year ago, Jennifer Brehl and I were talking. Jennifer is my editor at William Morrow, and is one of the best, most sensible and wisest people in my life. I am lucky to have her. We were talking about paperbacks, and how publishers put less effort into them these days. I went off about how paperback covers used to be beautiful, and were painted, and told you so much. And how much I missed the covers of the '50s and '60s and '70s, the ones I'd collected and bought back in the dawn of time.
And somehow the conversation wound up with me asking if Harper Collins would publish a set of mass market paperbacks of my books with gloriously retro covers and Jennifer saying that yes, they would.
A few days later I was in DreamHaven Books in Minneapolis. I noticed a particularly gorgeous cover on an old book on a shelf. "Who did that?" I asked Greg Ketter.
"Robert McGinnis," said Greg. "Actually we have a whole book of McGinnis artwork." He showed it to me. The Art of Robert E. McGinnis. It's gorgeous. Here's the cover:
I was surprised at how recent the book was. It had been published a few months earlier. "Oh yes," said Greg. "Bob's still painting. Must be almost 90."
(He was 90 in February 2016.)
I sent a note to Jennifer asking if there was even the slightest possibility that Mr McGinnis would be interested in painting the covers for the paperback set we wanted to do. He said yes.
I say that so blithely. But he has retired, pretty much, and he doesn't have email, and it was only because the Morrow art director had worked with him, and he was intrigued by the commission... and ROBERT MCGINNIS SAID YES.
He sent in the first painting, the one for American Gods. It was perfect. Now we needed to make everything that wasn't the cover feel right.
Todd Klein, the finest letterer in comics, came in to create each book's logo and to help design it and pick the fonts, to make each book feel like it came from a certain age.
Each painting from McGinnis was better than the one before. Each Logo and layout from Todd Klein was more assured and more accurate. These things are glorious.
Now... we were planning to announce these in an much more planned and orderly way. I'm not going to tell you what books we're doing, or to show you any covers but the one.
And that's because the upcoming 2017 Starz American Gods TV series has created a huge demand for copies of American Gods. People who have never read it have started buying it to find out what the fuss is about. People who read it long ago and gave away their copy bought new ones to reread it.
The publishers ran out of books to sell.
So they've rushed back to press with the new paperback edition, which wasn't meant to be coming out for some months (and the text is the text of the Author's Preferred edition in case you were wondering).
And that means the version of the paperback with the new cover is going to be coming out a lot sooner than we thought. And tomorrow it will probably up on Amazon.
And I wanted you to hear it from me first. You aren't going to see the rest of the Robert E McGinnis covers for a little while (and each of them looks like a different kind of book from a different era). But this is the first of them.
In my head, and Todd's, it's probably from about 1971...
Are you ready?
Well, I’m moving to London-ish. I couldn’t find a job in central London, so I’m moving to a city just outside London which according to various sources is either a) a charming multi-cultural melting pot of great potential or b) a tire fire of ethnic conflict or c) the drabbest of drab suburbs or d) and most likely, a little of everything combined. More importantly, there’s a twenty minute speed train to Paddington/Little Venice, which means it’s practically sort of like living in London, really.
Most importantly: I’m going to be spending a year trying to have fun, see the sights, and make new friends, so I’m going to be travelling around Britain A LOT. I know I have some British friends on here. If you’re reachable by public transport from London (even if it takes a few hours) I want to meet you! Email me (neery2, gmail), or let me know in the comments!
This goes even if we haven’t talked a lot, or really at all: if we share a fandom, have ever shared a fandom, or hang around even vaguely similar fannish circles, I’d love to hang out with you. Coffee, drinks, watching a few eps of whatever you feel fannish about right now, I’m up for it!
What I finshed An absolute fuck-ton, for me, over the last two weeks.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit): aaahhhh! I read it, and then flailed a lot and was very spoilery in the comments of my last DW entry. After some debate and a lot of considering of the details, it’s going on the top of my Novel ballot.
“And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander (Lightspeed, Feb 2015) ahhhh! Reposting review here from a few weeks ago: I. Fucking. Loved it. It took me a while to settle into the sheer amount of swearing, but once I did I was making delighted little noises at my screen. I loved the main character, I believed wholeheartedly in her grudging admittance of her feelings, and grinned fiercely at the ending. I’ll be looking up other things by Bolander, for sure.
“Obits” by Stephen King. *makes face* What a nasty little story. Guy who writes trashy, nasty obituaries for dead celebrities finds he can write the deaths of people still alive. Guy objectifies the shit out of the women he works with, and has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Plus, Character finds they have a Skill, Skill has unintended consequences, character stops doing Skill is… a nice set up, but it’s barely a story. I finished it because I usually really like King. This, not so much. The realisation that he’s still writing this type of male POV in 2015 is depressing. I’ve put this below No Award.
“Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, trans. Ken Liu (Uncanny Magazine, Jan‐Feb 2015): That’s more like it. Well executed concept that’s woven into the tale of a character and his few days running illegal and profitable message running between the First and Second Spaces of Beijing that literally fold up the city at regular intervals. Well-crafted, and uses the physical division of the city to talk about class and labor and etc. It tempted with questions and answered at least one satisfyingly. The language was somewhat wooden, but I’ll chalk that up to translation. It could have gone into slightly more depth, maybe, but it’s still a solid entry in what was otherwise a rather weak/Castalia House field.
The Divine written by Boaz Lavie, art by Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka (First Second): Meh. Had good potential. I would have ranked it higher if I thought it was going to be an ongoing series of some kind, and therefore had the potential to achieve some depth. As it is, it’s a relatively shallow, macho-military hyper-violent type story, which… meh.
Erin Dies Alone written by Grey Carter, art by Cory Rydell (dyingalone.net): Webcomic, and a delightful one. A mentally ill young woman (agoraphobic? Social anxiety? Hasn’t left her house in some years) uses computer games to cope. And then the characters from her games start rocking up. This is charming, funny, and touching. There’s speculation here that the rabid puppies nomination was for the title alone, and that Beale hates someone called Erin and has no idea what it’s actually about. I’m inclined to agree, and have stuck it at the top of my ballot. I read all of it, even the half that wasn’t eligible for a Hugo having been published in 2016, I’ll be checking back on this one every now and then to keep up with it, even. Hugo worthy? Close enough.
Full Frontal Nerdity by Aaron Williams (ffn.nodwick.com). Double-meh, or half a meh, depending on what’s weaker. A long-running stand-alone webcomic that from what I can see from google images is all deep within tabletop gaming and seems very, very male. Which is fine, but I’m noticeably not its audience.
Invisible Republic Vol 1 written by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, art by Gabriel Hardman (Image Comics): Complicated and relatively compelling story of a journalist who finds an alternate take on the rise of the revolution/ruler that’s just fallen. Sci-fi was more of the backdrop, here, but the characters that inhabited the alternate take were suitably flawed and complicated and I liked many of them. Female lead (sort of. Mostly), and casually married gay characters! Nearly tempted to find the second volume, even.
(Side short story)
Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong (found poking around the John W Campbell award finalists): Hella compelling tale, tightly crafted, confidently written, and very unsettling. Also queer as in NBD, and I read all 7000 words unhesitatingly in one sitting. A+. (Content notes for creepy as-fuck guys and a serial killer) This actually bumps Andy Weir off top spot for me -- mainly because while I loved The Martian, the guy now has a movie deal under his belt, and I'm betting Wong is waaaayy less known. So.
The Sandman: Overture written by Neil Gaiman, art by J.H. Williams III (Vertigo): I’d read several of the original Sandman graphic novels, but they and I never quite clicked aside from the character of Death. As of writing, I'm half way through. The art is gorgeous but it’s so far-ever-so self-aware of itself as a book and verging on too smug for its own good. Still reading, but this isn't going to be the thing that gets me into Sandman proper, clearly. Ah, well.
Up next: OMG, still reeling. But probably the second Dark Tower by Stephen King.
If he were several decades younger.. and hadn’t met the love of his life yet.. and hadn’t just been shot… well okay perhaps this wasn’t meant to be.
Two things to mention: Thing One- I’ll be at MCM Manchester this weekend! Come find me at table CE11 in the Comic Village!
Thing Two: The next Widdershins Kickstarter will be launching on Friday 29th, at 7pm GMT+1 (that’s London time)! Gonna try to raise the funds to get Volume Six printed up, and it’ll be a chance to grab any previous Widdershins books too! There’ll be a bunch of neat extras like pins and signed bookplates and a book-exclusive extra mini story about Henry and Izzy’s wedding, so it’s all good stuff.
pokestop is a brand new community dedicated to all things Pokémon Go! It's a place for news, advice, and tips related to the game, as well as fanworks and anecdotes that arise from gameplay.
Everyone is welcome: whether you've been playing the Pokémon franchise for years, whether you played Niantic's previous game Ingress, whether this is your first exposure to either or both, whether you're a casual player who likes collecting pokémon, or whether you aspire to control every single gym in town. You're all welcome.
Come join us at pokestop & let's have some fun!
Howdy folks! SFAM is back! Thank you all for your patience while I was recuperating, and for all your support. I am lucky to have the best readers in this universe and several adjacent universes as well.
One of the things that my hospitalization has taught me is that I need to reduce the amount of stress in my life. So I’m making some changes, hopefully for the better. The first change I decided on was to get rid of the MWF publishing schedule. I think it’s arguable that a regular schedule is less important in these days of social media, and the added flexibility will give me a chance to work on non-comics stuff and new projects. If all goes well, you’ll still get the same number of comics every month, but I’ll publish them when they’re ready rather than slavishly adhere to an artificial time table.
If you want to know when there’s an update, there’s a few ways to keep up:
- Become a SFAM Patron and get the comics first!
- SFAM has an RSS feed!
- Follow me on twitter!
- Follow me on Facebook or Like the SFAM Facebook page!
- SFAM is on Google+.
- And Tumblr!
- Or just check the site every day, that works too.
Thanks again for sticking with me. I’ll be back with a new comic as soon as it’s done!
By Kristin Nelson & Angie Hodapp
For the Part 1 of this article series, click here.
Angie Hodapp and I recently teamed up to bring wit and wisdom to writers working on craft. During our workshop, we identified story openings that usually spell trouble for aspiring writers looking for representation.
In fact, we’re offering a three-part webinar-workshop called “Opening Pages That Lead to Yes.” It starts August 4. Want to sign up? Click here.
First, a word of caution. Take everything we are going to highlight in this series with a grain of salt. If a writer has mastered craft, he or she can get away with any type of opening and make it work—even one of the nine types we are going to suggest that you avoid! So much depends on a writer’s mastery of voice, style, and scene craft.
Trust me, there is that 1% of writers out there who can break all the rules and make their stories work spectacularly. But do you want to bet that you are among that 1%? That’s quite a gamble! If, however, you think maybe you’re among the other 99% percent, then this series is for you. We read hundreds of sample pages every month, and the nine types of openings we’re going to share with you in this series often don’t work because they are overused or have become crutches for writers who haven’t yet mastered craft. Avoid these openings, and you will automatically increase your chances of standing out in the slush pile!
Your opening pages might be in trouble if…
#2) Your novel opens with White Room Syndrome.
In other words, you may have succeeded at putting at least one character on the page, and maybe some sort of action, too, but you’ve forgotten to share any details about your setting. Does your opening scene occur inside or outside? At night or during the day? In cold weather or hot? Where is your character, what’s nearby, and how does this environment affect him or her in this scene? Omit such details, and your reader has no choice but to imagine that your story is taking place in a “white room.”
Anchor your reader in time and place in your manuscript’s opening pages—this is the number-one comment I make when I do critiques at conferences.
As Angie will now discuss, there are several tips and tricks you can use to identify and revise White Room Syndrome (WRS) in your own opening scenes:
a.) Does your story start with a lengthy passage of dialogue? This might be the number-one indicator of WRS. Check your opening scene and make sure that your characters’ words aren’t hanging in the air in a white room. Without a sense of setting (time and place), the reader is left with no idea of where the characters are, why they’re there, and how this conversation might be important to the story.
b.) Character is to Voice as Setting is to Atmosphere. Just as you choose your words carefully to give your character a distinctive voice, choose your words carefully to imbue your setting with a sense of atmosphere—one that supports the overall mood of the scene. Consider:
Beatrice sauntered into the bordello’s frilly parlor, the plush pink carpet muffling the clank-clank-clank of her silver spurs.
Beatrice crept through the shadows of the bordello’s dusty parlor, the clank-clank-clank of her silver spurs echoing off the creaky floorboards.
In the first sentence, Beatrice is sauntering, and the setting is frilly, plush, and pink. In the second, Beatrice is creeping, and the setting is dusty and creaky, with shadows and echoes. Were each of these the first sentence of a novel, my readerly imagination would be set up for a very different sort of story. The words you choose to lend your setting atmosphere matter.
c.) Does your setting impinge on your character’s senses? We know we’re supposed to use all five senses in our fiction—sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. But this tip takes that advice a step further. Consider:
Bob sat behind the wheel of the getaway car, eyes peeled on the front door of the bank. It was hot and sunny, and he was sweating, and the front seat was too cramped for his three-hundred-pound frame. He tore the wrapper off another Ding Dong and took a bite. It was time, he decided, that the gang ditched the Chevelle and invested in a van.
Bob sat in the getaway car, the steering wheel digging painfully into his ample gut. Sweat plastered his tee shirt to his chest and back. He shaded his eyes from the sun beating down on him through the Chevelle’s cracked windshield and squinted at the front door of the bank. He tore into another Ding Dong. It was time, he decided, that the gang invested in a van.
In both passages, the setting includes the interior of a getaway car and a hot sun. But only in the second passage are these setting elements doing something to Bob. The steering wheel is digging painfully into his ample gut. The sun is beating down on him, making his sweat plaster his clothes to his body. In this passage, the setting is not only present, but it’s also impinging on the character in such a way that he can’t ignore it—and neither can the reader. Look for ways to make your setting impinge on your character, not just in your opening pages, but throughout your manuscript!
Check your opening pages for WRS. Better yet, give your first scene to a friend or critique partner, and then ask them to describe the setting they imagined when they read it. Does it match what you imagined when you wrote it? If not, then we hope these tips will help you revise!
Creative Commons Photo Credit: MazZuk