This year I set myself the goal of reading 52 books, where a ‘book’ is a novel, novella, story collection, or non-fiction book. Sadly, I have failed in my quest. Not by much, granted, but I doubt I’m going to finish 5 more books in the next 2 weeks.
I set a couple of rules this year, too. First was no re-reads, because I had so many books I wanted to read for the first time, and I knew re-reads would just slow me down. Second was an even split between books by men and books by women. Of course this second rule made me realise how white my reading was. And also, that binary split potentially allows plenty of non-binary authors to slip through the cracks. Which are two things that I’m going to address in my reading in 2017.
Below the jump, find the lists of all the books and comics I read. The stand-outs are marked in bold, and I’ve added some thoughts on some of them.
I mentioned this just briefly last time, but just in case you missed it: did you know you can preorder Killing Gravity? It’s only early in the book’s push – we’ve revealed the cover, but not an excerpt yet, and I haven’t had a chance to do any interviews (and perhaps I won’t – I’m still a nobody after all). But trust me when I tell you, it’s a good book. If you like the telekinetic carnage of Akira, or if you want a space opera that’s focussed on one small group of people and not a huge fight for galactic control, or if you just really like Tommy Arnold’s cover art, then you can preorder it now. You can find it online at Barnes & Noble, Wordery, Amazon, and the Book Depository.
And, OF COURSE, you’ll be able to ask for it at your local independent bookseller. Any bookstore with a decent range of science-fiction and fantasy will be able to source it, and in fact Powell’s already has it on their site for preorder (Powell’s is an amazing store. Bibliophiles simply must check it out if they find themselves in Portland). For my fellow Australians, any store that carries books from Tor.com’s range will be able to order it in for you – like Readings for instance – but depending on the databases a store uses, they might not be able to find it.
So there you go, my very first proper shill. I’m immensely proud of this book, and I hope it does well… if only so enough people hang around and read the sequel that I’ve been wrestling with these past few weeks.
When I woke up this morning my phone was blowing up with twitter notifications, because the Killing Gravity cover got officially revealed at Barnes & Noble’s SFF Blog.
Click the link, go on, click it. You’ll see the awesome cover, with art by Tommy Arnold, and read a blurb that’s so good I want to read the book. You might also notice that Killing Gravity is due out on May 9th, 2017, and is available for pre-order, which is very cool and weird and another one of those things that makes me realise ‘oh shit, this is real, isn’t it?’.
Over at Tommy’s website he posted a version of the cover art sans title, cover quote and that jerk name, which looks a little something like this:
And Tommy was also kind enough to share some of his working sketches on twitter:
In A and C, you’ll see how Tommy was toying with getting Seven into the art too, which I love. Seven is Mars’ weird experimental cat thing, and a special part of the book for me. In some ways, Seven is the heart of the book – I mean, not really, but pet owners will know what I mean when they read it. She’s vicious and loving and lazy and crazy just like any good cat.
One morning in early July, I woke up to an email from one of the editors at Tor.com Publishing. They’d recently had an open unsolicited submission window and I’d submitted the manuscript for my sci-fi novella Killing Gravity. It had received a really quick form rejection from another publisher just a few weeks earlier, so I had basically convinced myself there was no way a publisher with as much clout as Tor would want it (Lesson the first: personal preference is a strong condideration in editorial decisions. Just because one editor rejects a story, it doesn’t mean it [and by extension, you] are rubbish). The email subject read “Offer on Killing Gravity,” and I had so thoroughly convinced myself of the impending rejection that I actually thought, That’s a strange way to phrase a rejection.
Honestly, if the email subject had simply read: “RE: Submission – Killing Gravity” there’s a chance I might have deleted it unread (Lesson the second: never, and I mean NEVER, self-reject).
Needless to say, I opened the email.
I literally couldn’t believe it, I was in shock. My first response was to send my partner (the award-winning author of Welcome to Orphancorp, Marlee Jane Ward) a message reading: “Fuck. Motherfucking Tor want to buy my fucking book.” 6am eloquence is not my forte. My second response was to stumble through, knock on my housemate’s bedroom door, and repeat the news to her more-or-less word for word (she later said she thought something terrible had happened, like a death in the family, because I was white as a sheet. When I said ‘in shock’ I meant literally).
Marlee and I had already planned a trip to the States, which meant it was perfectly timed for us to be able to meet up with my editor Carl Engle-Laird in New York, and even receive a tour of the tour offices in the historic Flatiron building. It also meant I could have an editorial meeting with Carl over beers in Kansas City while we were there for WorldCon. Sure, the internet’s an amazing tool, but there’s nothing quite like face-to-face. It’s great when everything just falls into place.
Now here we are, a few months later. The announcement has been made, including the amazing news that Tor.com Publishing are going to publish Killing Gravity’s sequel, and now I can talk publicly about it. Something I mentioned on twitter is that a big part of why this is so exciting (besides it being my first book, which is a huge deal on its own) is that Tor.com Publishing’s line of novellas is consistently of a super high quality, with multiple award-winning novellas, brilliant emerging and established authors, beautiful cover art, and an editorial desire for better representation with their authors and books. To think that Killing Gravity got chosen out of slush to be published alongside Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom, Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti, Kij Johnson’s The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe, as well as upcoming titles from Charles Stross, Cassandra Khaw, and Laurie Penny (not to mention all the other well-regarded authors whose work I haven’t checked out yet), is incredible. Talk about external validation… (I’d had 130 short story rejections in the 18 months before this sale, so Lesson the third: it’s all about forward motion).
So if you need me, I’ll be here, talking about Killing Gravity, offering advice, posting fiction (my own, and links to others), and trying to make the most of this opportunity to kick-start something resembling a writing career.
I’ve recently had cause (which is equal parts *squee* and frightening) to start paying attention to the business aspects of writing, and coincidentally I came across this post here, which details much of the business/financial side of things, from someone who either knows, or has at least done plenty of research.
But whilst that post deals with the end result of having written and sold a book, Peter M. Ball has been posting about treating your writing practise as a business. Peter M. Ball’s blog often has some interesting and insightful bits of writing advice (of particular interest is this series of posts aboutDieHard), but as well as that, he’ll sometimes have advice geared more to the business side of writing (something I plan on talking about more here… eventually).
His recent post – Dear Writers: What’s Your Business Model? – is full of insight. Maybe your writing practice is a magical, soulful, unpredictable beast, but… you want to make money from it right? Ideally you’d like to make a living from your writing? Then, like it or not, you need to think about it like a business.
When I started putting together a business plan, I had to think beyond that: who was a writing for? What was I giving them? Who were my competitors and how would I do better than them? Most important: what was my business model? Where did the money come from?
And because small business book after small business book stressed the importance of that, I set aside my eager enthusiasm for 48 hours or so and did some research. By the time I was done I had rough answers for all those things – enough to make me confident about the potential income – and for the next eighteen months my estimations were pretty accurate.
That 48 hours gave me a niche to fill, an identity that set me apart from the other people working in that space, and reasonable idea of what I needed to do to start generating cash-flow. It told me the most valuable places to focus my energy – what to do, and what not to do, when time was limited.
My plan and research served me well enough that I was surprised other weren’t doing it, given that it was largely put together with 48 hours of research and some scrap paper. I had a clear business model – this type of product, released this often, with this kind of focus – that gave me a clear measure of success or failure.
I had never had that, with anything I’d written before. It was remarkably focusing.