Reading and Book Signing

With the news that pre-publication copies are on the way, we look to be cruising to a success for the November 15th reading at the UAA bookstore. There will be four writers there, representing a range of popular reading interests. I’ll post more in a day or so…

Adventures in The World of Writing Vacations.

Okay. You may know that I’ve taken a month-long leave of absence from work to work on a sequel to Zook Country.  God, or somebody with that sort of extra-natural suasion, has decided to inject some levity into my life.  I don’t think it’s funny, but apparently my supervising deity finds hurricane strength storms and late summer monsoons just really hilarious.

The south wall of my house took two seasons for me to seal up to the point where water didn’t come through it when we had heavy rains during a serious blow.  But for the last five years, I’ve not had leaks during storms.  Until last week.  We’ve had water coming through the walls twice in just over a week, and Thursday night it rained inside our daylight basement.

And I wasn’t there.  I had decided, with permission of the management, to watch Resident Evil Retribution.  I went into the theater on the way home from an appointment I had made before the whole leave without pay thing had kicked up, but which had already stolen three hours from my writing day.  I walked into the theater at 4:40 pm, and the movie was just in time to be seated.  I missed a trailer or two, but caught the flick.  What can I say about the film?  It has exactly the same story content as the average single person shooter RPG from the 1990s.  I’ll probably watch the next one when it hits theaters, and be just as mystified as to why as I was on Thursday.

But then I got out of the theater, and my phone alarm went off to remind me that I had to be in choir practice. I called the manager, and my permission slip read “fine.”

Fine is a bad word in my house, just as it probably is in yours.  I asked, and found out that right after I got permission for the movie, the winds kicked up on the ongoing rainstorm and she’d had to buy and place about ten large Tupperware containers on the downstairs bookshelves and below the points of lowest leakage in the kitchen.  She caught gallons of water in the various containers, and soaked up an unknown amount more with most of our household bath-towels, and she was fairly out of sorts.  Nonetheless, when I said I’d skip choir and come home, she told me that she’d already done about all that could be done under the circumstances.

From almost every perspective, the Thursday episode was her story of abandonment and triumph over extreme weather.  Rain really has to be going sideways to get under the gable and drive through the logs.  I went to choir practice because I’m a coward, and because I really needed to give her a few more hours to let her irritation develop a head of steam. I’ve spent the last few days trying to find somebody who can patch up the leaks in the log wall, because this summer looks to work its way into a stormy fall.

So, that’s the most event filled part of my LWOP.  But I went on leave on the 12th, and had to work almost that entire  day.  I’ve had one friend whom I haven’t seen in thirty years decide to come visit (we went to the dump together, oh my), and I think I’m going to have another visit tomorrow.  The other I saw a mere ten years ago, but still…

In the last two weeks, we’ve had hurricane force winds, lost electricity for a day and a half, and had rain-water come through our back wall, twice.  Since I went on leave, I’ve been to the landfill with friends, and family, in a steady downpour and high wind to drop off a half a ton of collected junk. In the last week, I’ve heard from two friends I hadn’t seen in a decade or more, I’ve had two contractors come out to my house, see the flooding, and feel the soaked floor, then either pass on the job as beyond their abilities, or tell me that I’ll have to try to stay ahead of it myself until the freeze, and had one contractor return my call to apologize and say he was leaving state for a family emergency, but that if I’d line my back wall with plastic he’d take a look at when he got back to Alaska.  I’ve got a bunch of stuff to plug checks (cracks) in logs, but they’re so spongy from absorbed water that I can’t do anything myself until the walls dry naturally.

I’ve written maybe 3,000 words in nine days.  When I’m on-step, I can do that in a day, and still have time for chores.  Now I’m afraid to start writing, since it might be challenging the gods of chance, and cause a tree to fall on my house.

Finally, I got another proof copy of Zook Country today.  I was expecting ARCs this month, but I guess that is not to be.  Should I read the new proof copy, or just okay it?  Inquiring minds want to know

Proof copy corrections and other news.

I sent out the proof copy corrections on Tuesday the 28th, and am now waiting anxiously for the start of my vacation.  I’m taking a month off to work on Zook Country’s sequel, Rogue Country. I hope that there’s somebody out there who wants to read Zook Country, and that this will lead to somebody wanting to read the sequel.

We lived through what would probably be called a hurricane if we lived in an area that had hurricanes.  Hills near us reported winds in excess of 100 MPH.  We had no electricity, running water, or telephone for about a day and a half starting Tuesday evening, and ending on Thursday morning.  The upside is that I’ve found a new small engine repair guy, so my chainsaw is running very well.  The downside is it’s been raining up here in the hills for three nights, and I don’t really want to wander around in wet underbrush cutting down alder and cutting up fallen trees.  I’m thinking the neighbors feel much the same, so maybe we’ll get together and have a pity party next week. The office I work at in Anchorage closed on Wednesday, because we had no phone or systems servers. I hope that there’s somebody out there who wants to read Zook Country, and that this will lead to somebody wanting to read the sequel. I may be repeating myself.

There is other news, but I think going to sleep might be the best plan for me.  Until later, then.

New Zook Country News

I just received (Thursday) the proof copy of Zook Country, and am spending the weekend reading my own literature on trade paper stock. I promised Lida that I’d get my responses to her by tonight.

Lida’s intent to publish on September 15th meant that there would be no Advance Reader Copies to deliver to reviewers. I wasn’t terribly happy with that, because most of the major reviewers that we’d want to put on the book cover won’t even read the e-book version. Lida and I had an e-mail discussion, and she allowed me to push back the publishing date. She offered December 15th, and the book will be available for pre-order for a month before publication. Since I’d already lost the summer reading crowd, I’m hoping that I can take advantage of the holiday crowd. This is a publisher being extremely flexible for an unknown author, and I’m really hoping that I can make it work out to her profit.

I guess the publishing party will have to be postponed, since I’ll not have signable stock until December. The upside, we’ll probably have Advanced Reader Copies for distribution to certain reviewers next month. Oh, it turns out that having a publishing party on publishing date wouldn’t have worked, because I wouldn’t have actual books to sign until the mail delivered them a few days later. Lida recommends that scheduling publishing parties wait until the paper copy is in hand.

The Secrets of Jin-shei

The Secrets of Jin-shei: A NovelThe Secrets of Jin-shei: A Novel by Alma Alexander

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sisters of the Soul: The Secrets of Jin-shei

Alma Hromick-Deckert has written at least fifteen books, substantial short fiction, lived and worked on four continents, and been a witness to worldwide change along the way. According to one of her web-sites, she was born in 1963 on the shores of the Danube in a country that no longer exists, received several degrees in South Africa, but then found it prudent to leave that land rather than be swept aside by militant forces for cultural change, and eventually settled in Bellingham, Washington. The Secrets of Jin-shei, published in 2004 under the name Alma Alexander, is her first American novel, published by Harper Collins as mainstream fiction. Unsurprisingly, considering her own history, Jin-shei examines the lives of a group of nine women who never quite feel as though they belong, and who share, unevenly, a vow that will shape their entire lives.

Jin-shei is interesting and beautiful from several perspectives. Although it has a focus character, Tai, it is truly an ensemble cast. Tai’s most critical actions occur at the beginning and end of the tale, while the body is given more to the activities of each of her Jin-shei sisters. The novel is presented largely in a multiple third person point of view. The writing style trends toward the American speculative fiction standard of “transparent” prose, yet has moments of truly beautiful language, and other moments of truly breathtaking beauty. It has a large cast of major characters, is set in Syai, an ancient Chinese kingdom that never existed and in which magic is real. Alexander begins Jin-shei with an epigraph – prefacing material from the Imperial poet Kato-Tai, in the year 28 of the Star Emperor. The selection frames the entire narrative and reveals that Tai outlived or lost all of her eight sisters of Jin-shei:

All women in Syai are given the gift of the secret vow, the promise that is everlasting, the bond that does not break. I shared my own life with a healer, an alchemist, a sage, a soldier, a gypsy, a rebel leader, a loving ghost, and an Empress who dreamed of immortality and nearly destroyed us all.

Each of the seven major parts of the book begins with a small epigraph quoting a fictional court poet from various Imperial reigns. The epigraphs, if put together, form one poem, which illustrates the ages of a woman, and become the framing notion for each part. The parts are named after notional stages of life within The Way. According to the text, the stages of life are: Liu, Lan, Xat, Qai, Ryu, Pau and Atu, which correspond poetically to the ages of a woman.

An amazing amount of thought and heart went into creating this book, and I loved it. I’ve read it several times, and even wrote a paper about it in graduate school. Now that I’m writing this shore review, I’ll probably have to go back and reread it again. I’ll laugh again, and almost certainly cry again. Some book just hit you that way.

View all my reviews

Awards

It snowed on my house all Friday night, and continued snowing in Anchorage until sometime after 7:00 pm last evening.  With 134.5″ as of yesterday evening, we’re now about two inches over the highest recorded snowfall for a single winter (1954-55, with 132.6″), although it only snowed as much as 7 inches twice all winter (we did have something like 32 days in a row with an inch or two every day).  It froze pretty solidly last night (Saturday, April 7th) and somebody left my son’s window open all night, so I just woke up to a very chili upstairs floor a few minutes ago.  The snow may not last long as temps should reach into the 40s today.  My son didn’t build a snowman yesterday, because the two of us lit out and visited Anchorage.

Zook Country has generated some outstanding reader reviews, and I hope that there are many more to come!  I’ve posted snippets of a couple on the Zook Country page at http://www.billswears.com/storytelling/, and Lida Quillen has posted a few reviews at http://twilighttimesbooks.com/ZookCountry_ch1.html#ZookCountry_rev.

The nature of the industry is that “literary reviewers” aren’t likely to review Zook Country spontaneously.  Jake’s voice is very much appropriate for the story told, and literary types discuss authorial and narrative voice all the time, but many of them just can’t see a uniquely voiced book as worthy of review until the author is dead or somehow pulls the J.K. Rowling trick.  It’s up to fans and reader reviews to get the book enough attention to merit attention on high visibility web-sites.

Jess Mannion at http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/303981335 gets the “I’m a fan of this reviewer” award for March.  She’s a displaced Alaskan who seems to be thriving in NYC, and I very much miss her and Uncle Sean.

“interesting Juxtaposting” award for March (not juxtaposition, I’m making up a word here).  I received an e-mail from a reviewer who refused to review the book because, among other comments “if someone shot another person they would not get up and be able to drive a car. Now if they were wearing a vest or something else the bullet would not kill them but still leave its mark. My husband and youngest son are in law enforcement. My husband is a deputy and son is a cop. I asked them about it.”  She sent me this on March 12th.  On March 16th, just as I was sinking into despair from that rejection, but otherwise unrelated, a recently retired long term Law Enforcement professional (with a son still in the police department) posted:  “I don’t usually read science fiction, but I really enjoyed Zook Country. It is fast paced, action packed and easy to read. Zook Country would make a great action movie. I am looking forward to a sequel.” Pat L.  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/reviews/Zook-Country%2FBill-Swears/1108892461.

Okay, I know the retired cop who posted the Barnes and Noble Review, but it’s a really interesting coincidence (well, we knew each other in prehistory, before common folk had the interwebs). Pat L may not know it, but he’s the person who recommended that I buy the CZ-75 that made it into the book.

If you’re looking for something to do for a few minutes, please visit the Amazon and Barnes and Noble sites, “like” the book, “like” any reviews that seem particularly useful.  For that matter, tell your friends, and their friends, to buy the book! 

I’m not desperate, I just read that way…

John Carter of Mars Lives!

I thought John Carter was a hoot!  I’ve read most of the Edgar Rice Burroughs books, and own 10 of his books from three series.  I’m no expert, but I think that the John Carter movie caught the Barsoom zeitgeist really well, and brought the visuals firmly into the 21st century.  Playing ERB as the nephew works out very, very well in relation to the original, and Mars itself works out to be a really strong character in the movie.  While the story doesn’t hold true to any one of the Barsoom books, in another way it hold true to all of them.  Critics can hate this movie all they want (haters gotta hate).  I think anybody who ever read the Barsoom books will find something to treasure here.

I took my family to watch this film, and every one of us liked it.  Even my wife, who found huge nits when she watched Casablanca, loved this. I draw that comparison because Casablanca has spawned so many imitations that My Bride thought the original film was full of clichés.  John Carter of Mars started just that size of revolution among F&SF fans around the world, and the stuff Edgar Rice Burroughs dreamed up has been almost endlessly regurgitated for B movies and B pulp fiction, but ERB created it, and Disney brought that oeuvre boldly to life.  I’m just pleased as punch, and my family had a great night at the movies.  If this show hasn’t left your village, go and watch it.

Visually it’s as real in its stark reds and severe clime as Avatar is in its blues and verdant forests, and John Carter doesn’t require that humanity export evil exploitation from America in order to fight it.  Instead it gives us a hero who finds reasons for hope and love in extreme conditions, and doesn’t then belabor that.  It squeezes a love story into a few looks and some shared peril, and unfolds an entire alien, impossible, amazing and fun world before our eyes.  And I loved that dog.

My only real nit was the red-men of Mars.  In my mental picture they’re a bold red, not a standard human coloration.  I think giving them a native American cast of color but not foregrounding Native American actors gives the movie a mildly off ambiance – it looks too much like 1950s Western Movie red-face.  They should have gone Cadillac Red.

Bill