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Archive for the ‘Bookery’ Category

Books You Should be Reading

I would not call a lot of books “brilliant,” but OSAMA is pretty effing brilliant. I thought this book was going to be nigh unreadable, based on the concept – a world where Osama bin Laden is the character in a series of pulp novels, and a private eye is tasked with hunting down the guy who writes the bin Laden novels. But wow. I’m so glad this got nominated for a World Fantasy Award. It crushes me this book hasn’t sold a bazillion copies, though.

What makes this book is the stark back-and-forth between the droll, emotionless reporting of the pulp novels – the parts that describe the events in our world – with the very lush, visceral portions of the novel where the private eye is uncovering who the author is, why he writes the books, and what exaclty they have to do with Our Hero.

Note that if you’re looking for compelling female characters who aren’t in service to the male protagonist’s story, look elsewhere. This is a book that’s very much centered on the male protag; the conciet of the novel pretty much depends on all the secondary folks in the story being secondary. It very much appeared to be a conscious choice, tho, so it gets a pass.

I got the Kindle version of this book for free during a promotion, but will be buying a dead tree  version as soon as I can find one (I hate reading books electronically. The writing here is so good that it deserved a more immersive reading).

 

Tobias Buckell’s ARTIC RISING is a punchy little thriller set in in a post-icemelt world rapidly being exploited by corporate interests. The big surprise here was that the heroine is a lesbian Nigerian pilot with combat experience – not exactly somebody we get to see in thrillers everyday, and that was a delight.

The first 3/4 or 4/5 of the book are tough to put down – I just kept compulsively turning pages. In some ways, it reminded me of Smilla’s Sense of Snow, with its Arctic setting and at-first-possibly-freaky-alien-unknown-things-going-on-thriller plot.

Do note that it gets a little over the top at the end, but overall it’s a fun thriller with a lot of interesting extrapolations about what the new Arctic frontier might look like in… twenty years?

Also: One of the most realistic garrotting scenes since No Country for Old Men.

 

I am going to do something I almost never do and recommend a book before I’ve finished it, in part because of the very smart catch-and-release trick the author employs at the beginning of this book and in part because I’m too lazy to save this one for the next book post trifeca. I’d been hearing a lot about vN by Madeline Ashby, but the concept really put me off. Another sex robot story? Really? But when I asked some Twitter folks to screen this one for me, lo and behold the overwhelming reponse was: READ IT.

The opening chapter is this dude talking about his sex robot (his wife, yeah, yeah, OK), and I was like, “My God, really?” But then about halfway through the chapter I started to realize there was some sneaky stuff going on here. These robot women all had agendas and actual internal lives that this guy was completely oblivious to. So here I am imagining all these readers sucked in, thinking they’re getting another happy-guy-does-robot robot sex story and then.. and then… they get to the end of the first chapter.

And everything changes. It’s The Women Men Don’t See, only now we get to see them – with bonus cannibalism.

The book suffers from a few jarring transitions as it goes along, mostly first novel hiccups, but there are some really smart and interesting choices made throughout this book, and it’s a fun ride. Recommended, with the caveat that I haven’t finished yet, and reserve the right to change my mind if Something Horrible happens in the last bit.

 

 

Starve Better

A couple years back, I had an old high school classmate email me out of the blue and ask if I could offer him some tips on writing, because he really wanted to be a writer so he could “Work from anywhere and make money typing on the beach in Hawaii.”

No, really, that’s what he said.

This email made me so angry that I just deleted it without a response.

By that time, I’d been trying to make a living at writing for nearly fifteen years. I’d gotten over a hundred rejections and stopped keeping count. The times that people spent going to parties or having real hobbies, I was writing crappy short fiction and banging out bad novel drafts and copyediting business correspondence and writing press releases.  And I sure as hell wasn’t doing any of that from a comfy chair on the beach. In fact, much of the writing I did was from my parents’ den or a cockroach infested flat in South Africa or an incredibly dark dorm room in Alaska where your nose hairs froze when you walked outside.  I didn’t write because I thought it would give me any kind of freedom. I wrote because it was fun, and cathartic, and it was something I was starting to get good at. It beat cleaning dog kennels.

But I guess what really bugged me about the former classmate’s email was not that he assumed that writing was great because you can do it anywhere (it is and you can) but that writing itself was some kind of hobby vacation… that writing isn’t work.

Later, I got a technical writing job where I wrote policies and procedures and training and software manuals. I got that job because in other jobs I’d been copyediting those same types of documents – it turns out that copyediting so many of my own manuscripts over the years translated into a real-world skill. Then I wrote business blog posts and press releases and internal correspondence. I took up freelance work doing resumes for $25-75 a pop (that rate has gone up substantially, because I’ve gotten very good at it).  This became a marketing gig where I wrote brochure copy and online ads and full-page trade ads.  When I wasn’t paying attention, I ended up writing radio and TV ads, short training and inspirational video scripts, the crazy language of SEO, optimized blog posts, and started maintaining business social media accounts. Now I spend much of my time creating marketing emails, reg pages, web copy, literature sheets, and online and trade ads, and I make a very reasonable amount of money at it.

Much of my success in landing increasingly writerly jobs was simply earning a reputation as “the writer” who could “write anything.” I could write quickly and competently to deadline, even some wildly insane deadlines like, “Fifteen minutes.” Sometimes I even wrote things that were pretty good, and performed well.

But that didn’t just “happen” one day. It was me leveraging what I was learning on my own through fiction writing in my everyday administrative job life, and slowly building up the skills I needed to fake my way through my first official all-writing, all-the-time job. When somebody comes up to me and asks, “How can I become a writer who makes a living at writing?” I often don’t know what to say. How do you condense your own 15-20 years of writing experience into some nugget for somebody who wants a get-rich-quick-scheme, not actual career advice? And that’s honestly what kills me about a lot of people who approach me asking for advice. They don’t want to hear, “Write things for 10 or 15 years so you become known as ‘the writer’ among your friends and can take on increasingly challenging work.” They want to hear “Read this book/publish a blog post on Amazon and make a million dollars.”

And it’s just… it’s not like that. It’s like asking somebody how to become a dancer, or a brain surgeon, or a physicist. It’s like, “Well, work real hard at it. Duh.” And nobody believes you. Instead, they all run off to get MFA’s or publish the first thing they wrote on Amazon and gleefully await the money to come pouring on in.

That’s why I enjoyed Nick Mamatas’s book, Starve Better, so much. I’ve been following a lot of his online rants about writing – real writing, writing for money, for rent, for food – and I knew this compilation would contain all the sobering, gut-punching, garret-living, real-world advice that folks who really, truly want to make a living off writing need to know.

I was not disappointed.

I think this book should be required reading for every single person who takes a creative writing course. Not just MFA programs, but right out the gate, during those first few creative writing courses you take with those people who are bringing the same three poems to every class, or writing about the décor in their dorm, or who spend the entire session critiquing the one sentence in your whole story with the typo, or the weird construction they didn’t understand.

Because this is the book that reminds you that writing is work. That it’s something you can (and really should) do for money. There are pointers on how to get better, sure, and stop writing the same “good” crap that everyone else is writing so you get noticed. But for me, as somebody who’s been coming to grips with the business end of writing the last couple of years at both my day job in marketing copy and my night job in fiction, seeing somebody talk publicly about the shit that is the business end of this business is really comforting. It’s like, “Oh yeah,  you pick up crap work so you can get better crap work, then decent work, then good work, then great work.” You don’t just set up on the beach and watch the checks roll in (unless you’re writing Twilight fanfic).

And the fanfic thing brings up another issue I’ve been struggling with in this weird writing economy. Do I want to sell things, or do I want to be a good writer? Because as Nick points out here, those things are often – though certainly not always – mutually exclusive. You can write any crap you want and get published if you write it on time and you’re easy to work with. And that’s fine, if that’s the writer you want to be. We all have to eat.  And some of us will do both “competent, on-time work” and “very good, but maybe late” work in our careers. Cause we have to eat.  But what’s the end goal? Is it the beach? Is it being awesome? Is it being awesome on the beach? Because whoa boy, for me, being awesome on the beach is a very long way off.

The last few years, I’ve grown callous toward the fluttery, nice-sounding “free your inner creative spirit” type writing books that I read as a teen.  Those are great for luring you into the business, but they don’t give you a very good set of tools for dealing with the harsh realities of how to make a living. They don’t teach you how to find an agent, or negotiate contracts, or make a living freelancing while working on your novel. They don’t tell you how to make a living writing at all, really, because it’s assumed that nobody does.

But in fact, there are writing jobs out there beyond “I will write novels that sell a bazillion copies.” There are technical writing jobs, and marketing writing jobs, and blogging jobs, and copyediting jobs, and magazine article writing jobs, and educational writing jobs, and on and on and on. And if you love to write and you’re competent at it, these sure as heck do beat being somebody’s admin for five or six years.

So if you want to get a peek into the bowels of the real writing life, and maybe figure out how to dump your crap job and make a living doing it (even if it’s not nearly so romantic as you thought, sorry), pick up a copy of this book.

If you’re a pro and already know this stuff, pick it up anyway. Misery loves company. I know I sure did.

Books you Should be Reading

In an ideal world, I’d write up whole blog posts about each of these, but for the sake of brevity, here’s some great books I’ve read this year that you may love, in no particular order:

 

 

 

 

 

Ian Tregillis’s Bitter Seeds is… a great book. The Nazis have invested in a supersoldier war program that exploits and tortures young children, effectively turning them into Xmen who battle the Allies. On the other side, England is calling on its old-school socererors and their loose command with the creepy “fairies” of old that demand tribute in blood and bodies. This is a brutal little book about the tough choices that are made in war time – who gets sacrificed, who decides, and what it costs them. My one quibble with this beautifully researched and creepily brutal novel? For a country in which most of the men are at war, there sure aren’t that many women characters running around Britain, save for the wife of the protagonist, who I kept hoping was seriously going to surprise me and turn out to be more than simply the footnote in her husband’s story. Alas. Creepy Gretel the Bad Guy on the other side of the divide nearly makes up for it, though there’s a random necrophilia scene that I’m not so sure was necessary. Go buy one.  The second book, The Coldest War, comes out next month, and I’ll be reading it.

 

 

 

I briefly mentioned Myke Cole’s novel, Control Point, on G+ when it first came out, but here’s some more thoughts. This is very much a first novel, with all the stutters and stops that may imply. But Cole’s book sucked me into the scary military bureaucracy as it may look if it turned out some people started exhibiting superpowers. Is the solution good? Is it bad? It’s neither. Far more than the cool magic battles in magic-land, this is a book about exploring that hazy gray area of conflict. No, policing people in this way is not ideal, and can be downright barbaric. But what would *you* do? It’s that dark question that kept me turning the pages. I’m curious to know how Cole’s going to resolve this one. Some negative points for totally random and unnecessary attempted rape scene (really, during the middle of an ambush/firefight? I mean, really?). His second book, Fortress Frontier, comes out in February.

 

 

 

 

For better or worse, JM McDermott’s Never Knew Another and When We Were Executioners should have probably been one book (including the third, as yet unpublished book). It’s why I hesitated to recommend it when it first came out. I wanted to see what McDermott would do with the second one. This is a crisp, understated little tale of two demon hunters in the country of Dogsland who mine memories from the skull of man touched by demons in order to root out all those he has touched, and all of his demon-touched associates. In this world, those with the demon taint literally infect all those they come into contact with. They are feared and reviled for good reason, but like any people who are feared and reviled, they still seek the very human things that we do – love, companionship, self-worth. It’s another complex tale where good and evil should be very cut and dry, but the struggle in that gray area between them just cuts out your heart. No issues with this one – just buy both books at once to get the full effect, and hope he either signs for the third or self-pubs it soon.

 

 

Read good books!

Swords and Sociology, Redux

I was reading a well-known science fiction author last night and found myself repeatedly bumped out of the story by all the techno-babble. I’m not averse to techno-babble, mind, it’s just that I didn’t buy that this POV character viewed the world through techno-babble glasses. If you’re staring at a sunset, it’s highly unlikely that you’re thinking all about the technology that allows you to see it, or the different gases and substances in the atmosphere around you, unless that’s your job or your passion or stepping out into said environment is anything other than routine for you.

This is the trouble I have with a lot of science fiction novels in particular, but fantasy does it sometimes too. It’s this obsession with details that the POV characters really wouldn’t 1) know or 2) care about.  When I access the Internet, I’m not thinking about how the Internet was created, or where the information is stored, or even the millions of people who create it. I’m just looking for information. Or checking my email. When I use my phone’s navigation system, I’m not thinking about satellites or Google vans mapping streets, I just want to get where I’m going. There is nothing that pulls me out of a book faster than people interacting with everyday technology who don’t do it like real people. Granted, if you’ve got a molecular biologist or geologist as your protagonist, fine – they will see the world a little differently. But your backcountry merchant doesn’t give a crap about how her suit keeps her from getting frozen or roasted – she just cares that it works.

Back when I first got started writing, people told me I wrote “sword and sociology” stories. To some extent, I think that’s true. I’m far more interested in what these technologies and places will do to people, and how society and social mores will change because of them, than I am interested in how said technologies work. I don’t read fiction to figure out how to construct a light bulb. That’s what nonfiction books and the Internet are for. And let’s be honest, here – a lot of SF is just handwavey stuff anyway. They don’t really tell you how a thing works that isn’t a real thing – they tell you how it might or could work. And you know? I just don’t see it as my job to tell a reader how something works. If they want to build one that works that way, great! But again, if I knew how to make a teleportation device, I’d make it myself, patent it, and travel around the world throwing money at things.

What’s worse is when you’re not only getting jerked out of a story by all the – “As you know, Bob, the gamma ray Xbox malfunction causes abrasive discharge to the calibrated death ray at inopportune times. This is because of the way magna gas pods are hooked up to the elevated pitch level.” – but you’re also served up some wholly boring, 20th-century type people who have so clearly not been shaped by their environment. It’s like the author doesn’t even question how social relationships and social mores might change in these extreme environments. Everyone just goes on expositing. I could pick up far too many of these characters and set them into a skyscraper in New York and they would fit in and function just fine.

And that’s just… wrong.

It’s wrong for me, at any rate, and the type of fiction I’m interested in. I want to know what all this stuff does to the actually people using it, living with it, living in it. Stories, for me, are still about people. Not just the science they do or plots they unravel, but the people they’re fucking, the phobias they have, the passions they act on or subvert, and how those things are regarded by the wider society.

I realize this type of people-centric fiction isn’t for everybody. Sometimes people just want long, rambling extrapolations of how current nanotube construction can be applied to hypothetical future uses. But I don’t need the windy guts of that explanation in order to get the “gosh wow cool” factor from my fiction. Simply knowing that there’s something that does a useful, strange, and extraordinary thing is enough. I often don’t want to know *how* it works. Honestly, that takes some of the fun out of it. I want to think about why and how it works on my own. And most importantly – I don’t want some random tangent about how Future Binoculars work to get in the way of the actual story. You know, the story that’s about the people who *use* these things.

I realize this is a very personal aversion to specific types of fiction and approaches to science fiction in particular, and it’s not everybody’s cup of tea either. But it’s what the world does to the people, and how the technologies that they employ shape and change them – rather than the technologies themselves – that really interest me.

(It appears I’ve ranted about this before. This is why I don’t read much straight-up SF!)

Monster Fights & Mayhem: Thoughts on Throne of the Crescent Moon

Remember your favorite Sword and Sorcery novel? Disappointed when you went back, ten or fifteen years after you read it, and realized the writing kind of sucked and it was pretty sexist and racist? Did you wonder, then, why it was nobody was creating less crappy S&S these days?

Well, maybe you didn’t. But I sure did.

That’s why I was pretty stoked to read Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon, a solidly S&S novel complete with ghuls, dervishes, shape shifters, monster hunters, and swordfights. If, like me, it’s been a while since you read S&S, you may mourn at the appearance of the novel’s length and scope – right up until you remember that that’s exactly what you used to like about those slim little hack n’ slash novels you picked up at the used bookstore.

Throne of the Crescent Moon follows Adoulla, an aging ghul hunter and his fighting dervish apprentice as they uncover a nefarious plot cooked up by a big, bad sorcerer type that could result in the bloody ruin of their city.

The worldbuilding is strong and lovely, and the book clips along nicely after the initial few pages of introductory dialog. There are plenty of things to love about this book: the strong writing, worldbuilding, clippy plot, easy reading length, monster fighting, but what I loved most was the characters. It was like stumbling upon your favorite street rascal-turned-monster-hunter forty years after the events of the book that gave you his origin story. I see a lot of origin stories in epic fantasy in particular (as opposed to S&S which always has a more mature type of warrior), which means that we often find ourselves reading about characters with fairly blank pasts. They’re all sixteen or eighteen, without parents or even siblings, no children, no real love in their lives beyond the first crush, and they’re… well, they’re relatively still naïve and hopeful about life.

And yanno, you read about enough of these folks, and they can be kind of boring.

This is the story about the guy who went through all that hell and is moving toward retirement. It means he has a far more complex past, a far different view on life and what’s important, and best of all – a lot of stories. One of the most delightful parts of the book was getting these hints about all of his other adventures. “Remember that time when…” stuff that I found more hilarious than I probably should have.

Adoulla, unlike his young dervish apprentice, understands that politicians are often corrupt, and morality can run gray at times. Being forced to make uncomfortable choices that may trouble our sense of right and wrong is a big part of growing up, and watching a kid stumble through that through Adoulla’s eyes was something I haven’t often seen in this type of fiction either. Everybody here (except maybe the Big Bad) is a fully fleshed out character with Issues, including the excellent female characters. One of the benefits of fully fleshing out all of the characters is that it means the women don’t suck either. You will love them all.

I loved how the two younger characters – the ones that the epic fantasy stories are traditionally about – are seen treading the same sorry path that Adoulla and his own sweetheart tread (only a little tragically) much earlier in their lives. Oh, young people, you are so… young. The parallels are great.

If you’re a fan of character-driven sword and sorcery with monster fights and mayhem and bustling cities you can get lost in, this is a book for you.

Remember When Fantasy Books Were AWESOME? Thoughts on The Cloud Roads

Remember when you were 9 and or 10 or 12 and you stayed up until all hours reading your favorite fantasy novel? Remember that strangely comforting feeling of slipping neatly and completely into some other place and so totally embracing the story of another person that you were engrossed until the sun came up? You remember that sense of awe and wonder when you encountered fantastic peoples, creatures, vistas?

Oh, sure, I enjoy reading now, to a point. Mostly, though, reading is drudgery for me, filled with lots of interesting but in-need-of-help first novels (including my own), and lazy writing, and plot holes, and all those other clunky things that jerk me straight out of a story (no matter how engaging) and fling me back to planet earth. I didn’t experience that much when I first started reading the genre, but after a while, you read and critique enough stories and you start to see all the crappy holes in them, and it sucks the enjoyment right out of the story.

I’d heard Martha Wells had some new fiction out, and being a fan of her book City of Bones, I decided to go ahead and check it out (also, we now have the same agent. Once again: my agent has such good taste!).

I had some trepidation, initially, because I knew this one was about a flying shapeshifter, and the last “weird” book I read with a flying hero was Steph Swainson’s Year of Our War, which – despite the interesting world building – I hated because the main character was a whiny, drug-addled and totally uninteresting person. So I had my biases going in about what was going to happen with some flying loner guy.

I should not have worried.

The Cloud Roads is the story of Moon, a shapeshifter (again! Not exactly one of my favorite things to read about in my fiction, due to how overdone it is) who is uncertain as to what kind of creature he truly is, as he has encountered no one of his kind before. He exists in hiding in his “groundling” or non-flying form, which more-or-less allows him to mix with other types of groundling races of – literally – all colors, types, stripes, and creeds. Because all the races are so different, and there are so many, he is not seen as too terribly out of place – unless he shifts. Because when he shifts to his flying form, he reminds others of a disturbingly violent race of baddies known as The Fell, who make it a habit of eating groundlings and destroying their cities.

One of the things this book does well is paint a picture of that classic odd-kid-out who’s used to being betrayed and bullied, and has grown up his whole life not only knowing he’s different, but knowing he will be actively hunted and possibly killed for it. I’ve heard some folks say that this would be a great YA book, and I can’t disagree with that. It’s a story about finding your place in the world, and the heartbreak of losing everything you love and trying to trust people again. This whole concept could have gone over syrupy-sticky, but instead, the way the protagonist, Moon, is presented was terribly sympathetic without being sticky. It reminded me a bit of how Robin Hobb’s bastard boy was introduced in the Assassin books – someone who simply ended up being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and crapped on by everybody else because of how he was born.

Though Moon is pushing 30-something, his race is long-lived, so the fact that he is emotionally still a bit of a child is understandable – it doesn’t help that he’s never had to socialize with his own kind, and has a lot to learn.

Moon does eventually bump into his own people, and discovers what he is, but the road to get there isn’t exactly the one you were expecting. What made this book really work for me was that it challenged your expectations of family groups and social structures (oh, PLEASE, guys, give us more books beyond the hetero family pairing!). Moon’s people are socially complex, and the Big Bad that the plot hinges on actually has to do with selective/forced breeding for particular powers (not the nicest thing in the world, and especially not nice after you’ve gotten to like all the characters).  Moon himself is also incredibly well-drawn in a way with a bit of a uniquely unreliable narrative turn involving his refusal to trust others.  This makes him not just wary of betrayal, but expecting it at every turn. It means that when he tells you what he thinks just happened in a scene… well, you learn quickly not to believe a word of what he says to you about what someone’s motives are. That said, his caution is sometimes dead on, and saves some folks from disaster. It is this – his resourcefulness and survival instinct – that really made me respect him.  He is a little heartbreaking, and broken, but instead of that being a turnoff to him as a character, it makes your heart ache, because – for many of us – there’s that place inside where you will always feel like the outsider, unloved, like everyone’s going to betray you, and you start to cheer for Moon and hope for the best for him, even as he tries so very hard to just expect everything will fall apart.

This is a lovely book, with strong worldbuilding and sympathetic characters. The only real critique I have is that, for me, there were almost too many characters to keep track of toward the end (the folks involved in fighting the Big Bad are numerous, as in the end, his entire new adopted family comes under attack). Aside from that… well, really, I don’t finish a lot of books these days, and few of them are so seamless or engrossing. And none have tapped into that adolescent love I used to have for fantasy fiction so strongly as this book did.

Highly recommended.

 

Short Stories Now Available for Download (FREE!)

You have to wait until January 18th to snag your copy of God’s War, but to tide you over until then, I’ve put together a free 150-odd page collection of my short fiction from 1997 to present (yeah, I’ve never been a prolific short story writer). You can download a free PDF here (scribd. Recommended) or here (smashwords. Formatting on this platform is wonky, but readable).

If you’re a Kindle lover, you will, unfortunately, need to pay .99 cents for the same free PDF formatted for your big-corp device. They apparently don’t let you create them for free as yet. You can download a Kindle copy here.

This collection includes fan favorite, “The Women of Our Occupation” about a mysterious group of women who invade a steamy patriarchy, and “Wonder Maul Doll,” an angry anti-war screed about a traumatized group of female war heroes hunting down weapons of mass destruction.

Three Super! Special! Bonus! stories are included – stories that were never published. This includes, “Women and Ladies, Blood and Sand” about a military leader who aligns herself with the bad guys and starts hunting down her own people, “In Freedom, Dying” about a couple of old queers and the end of the world, and “Canticle of the Flesh,” the creepiest, weirdest, most distasteful story I’ve ever written.

I mean, c’mon, what other collection of horrific, bloodthirsty, feministy nonsense would make more sense to gift to friends and family for the holidays?

Also, did I mention it’s free?

Booklife

So, I’m, like, a writer fighting to get my first book into stores. At least into Kindles? Published would be great. It’s been languishing, but hopefully that’ll change soonish.

Anyway, I’m also an introvert. I write books. I don’t market them. I’m an introvert by nature… it’s one of the reasons I became a writer. One of the toughest things for introverted writers to negotiate has always been the marketing of their books, and with the rise of ever more “social” and viral ways to market books, the landscape has gotten tougher to manage. Most of the time, I feel little overwhelmed.

I’m often caught in this weird place where people tell me I share too much, or too little, or don’t engage enough, or engage too much. And you know, all I want to do is write. I can write here or plunk away in cool silence in this big 1890s house, but at some point, if you want anybody to read anything you write, you need to crawl out of the house and back into the world.

Booklife came to me at just the right time. I’d sold a book, had it get caught in limbo, and was happily cocooning in my real life. Trouble is there are two big parts to The Writing Life. There’s the writing, and there’s the marketing. There’s the interacting with the world, and there’s creating worlds. Today, it often feels like I can do one or the other but not both at once. And… well, let’s say that interacting with the world makes me tired. I’m in marketing at the day job, and that means people and politics and social media all day. It’s the last thing I want to do when I come home.

I enjoyed Booklife because I got to see how another writer negotiated the writing vs. marketing portions of life. Because let me tell you – it often feels like they’re directly opposing forces. He gives some great strategies on how to move from writing to marketing mode and leverage social media tools. Yes, the tools he talks about may be obsolete soon, but the rules of social media (thus far) are pretty portable across mediums.

For me, it was the right book at the right time. How do you interact with the world without exhausting yourself? How do you withdraw enough that you can be creative but not lose momentum with your social media audience? It’s a tough negotiation that I’m right smack in the middle of right now, and seeing how VanderMeer is negotiating his own booklife was… comforting? I want to know it can be done. That I can build a writing career and still have some part of my life that’s still mine. I need enough left to create something.

Because I’ve spent a year being battered around by publishing woes, and I’m far too young and unpublished to become a bitter midlister just yet.