Wednesday, May 30, 2007

First review of Looking Glass

Short post. Two things: first, check out the "Buy Books" page on the website. And second, check this out. Niki follows up her nice writeup of the Flying Pen Grand Premier party with a review of Looking Glass. My first outside review, and it's positive. Cool! :)


Monday, May 28, 2007

Flying Pen Press Rocks the Tattered Cover

7:00pm, May 25, 2007

At the Tattered Cover, a well known regional independent book store, there is a back room where big name authors come to give signings and readings. Big name authors fill the space. So did we. There were over a hundred people in the room, and we sold out all the copies of the books we had with us. I'm still astonished at how many people were there for our little press's premier.

For the first time, I saw hardcopies of Looking Glass, the book. If you've looked at the about the author page on my website, you've seen what I look like, so keep that image in your mind's eye when I tell you I had to work very hard not to squeal like a little girl when I saw it. It's one thing to see the page proofs and the cover proof, it's quite enough to hold the book in hand, flip through the pages, and realize that yeah, the words in there really are the ones I wrote. It still makes the hair on the back of my neck prickle a little, even though we sold through. Even though I don't have a copy my own at the moment. This is my first time doing this. It's a feeling to remember, one that will carry me through the process of revising the next book, and the next one after that, and writing the ones to follow.

Having that moment as nearly a hundred people were filing into the room was a little surreal.

Having that moment with friends and family, some of whom I've not seen in decades, was wonderful. Am I gushing too much? Probably.


So. Events. Well, I got there at about 6:30pm, after a nice dinner with Marcia at Dixon's Downtown Grill, right next door to the Tattered Cover. Good food there, especially the chocolate bread pudding. When we got to the Tattered Cover, the Flying Pen Press gang was already there, setting up banners, putting out the cover-art cakes, setting up chairs, and of course taking pictures. Then the people started to arrive. And arrive. And arrive. Me, I worked the crowd as much as I could, talking to people, shaking hands, making sure my friends and family got welcomed. Marcia was a godsend for this, and she did more of it than I did.

Then, it was time, and David Rozansky, the publisher, got up to speak. I learned some new things about Flying Pen Press. Things like we have a bedtime stories imprint for stories to read to children. Not picture books, stories. Things like we have an imprint to give a voice to those who wouldn't have one, and the profits from those books go to charity. Who knew? The company's been changing so fast since I signed on that I certainly didn't know.

After that, it was Gaddy Bergman's turn to speak on Migration of the Kamishi, his novel. Then, it was my turn. Through the miracle of cut and paste, this is the speech:

Thank you all for coming, it’s great to see you all.

I’m here to introduce my book, Looking Glass, to the world. Looking Glass, World, World, Looking Glass.

Looking Glass is the story of Dr. Catherine Farro. She’s a network security specialist, and her team has just been murdered through the internet. The company she works for doesn’t seem to care. Cath Farro cares, and finding out what really happened takes her into the fuzzy space between the virtual and the real.

Looking Glass began life in the frantic November ritual of National Novel Writing month. 50,000 words, one month. Support group. Go. It’s evolved a lot since then. Doubled in length, added events, added characters, revised characters, changed characters. Looking Glass is all about the characters. They drive the story. They make the story. In some cases they took the story places I didn’t expect.
Take Brian. When I started writing the novel, he was just the boyfriend of one of the supporting characters. He didn’t even have a name. By the time I finished, Brian not only had a name, but he’d become one of the major supporting characters, and my main character, Catherine, had a thing for him. I was like, “Wait, what, what are you doing?” But you don’t argue with characters when they start making their own decisions like that. You run with it. He turned out to be a very important part of the story.
So when all was said and done, it was time to find a publisher. I went the usual route, got the Writer’s Market, made up a list of agents and publishers, and started sending this thing out. I don’t know if you’ve ever mailed a three hundred page, single sided document before, but it’s an awkward beast, especially when you add self addressed return packing, cover letters, and so forth and so on. If you’re lucky, you get a photocopied form letter that says “Sorry, not interested.” You read about new writers getting hundreds of these. Fortunately I didn’t have to send it that many times.

I went to a science fiction convention last year, here in Denver. Went to a panel. One of the topics was “How to get published.” There was one guy over on the end who pointed out that when you ask a published author how they found their publisher, what you get usually starts out, “You know, that’s a funny story.” Well, as of today, I am a published author. You know, it is a funny story. The guy who was speaking at that panel also had a sign in his hat that said, “I’m a publisher looking for manuscripts.” His name was David Rozansky, and the press was Flying Pen Press.

The rest, as they say, is history. Pitched the novel at a table outside the hotel bar. This led to a contract. Got an editor, and an art director, and a cover artist, an absolutely kick-butt cover, pricing, typesetting, ISBN number, advertising, distribution, printing (always important), a release party, and, well I guess that pretty much brings you folks up to speed.

So this is it. A book called Looking Glass. Available at fine bookstores like The Tattered Cover, although most of them have to wait until June first. This book is the result of all that work. To the good folks at Flying Pen Press, Thank you. To Marcia, my wife, for her support and enthusiasm, a heart-felt thank you. Thank you all very much. And to all of you folks, friends, family, strangers alike, who came to our premier party, thank you, too.



Well, that's the speech I set out to give. It came out something like that. It's pretty hard to remember. I find I'm very, very out of practice speaking in public. Must work on that. It's in my job description these days, I guess.

Apparently my speaking wasn't so bad as to drive away the audience, though. All the copies of the book, some twelve in all, sold, except for one that was reserved for someone who didn't show up. That became my copy, at least for a little while.

I actually enjoyed signing the books a great deal. Asking people their names, what they did, coming up with something amusing to put on the fly leaf of each copy. That was fun. There were moments I sure missed my spell checker during that process, though. My apologies to anyone who got egregious misspellings in the signing.

The next day, Saturday, we had a second, much more quiet premier party at the Opus Fantasy Arts Festival. The contrast couldn't have been more striking. Where Friday was all about working the crowd and giving speeches, Saturday was about talking to individuals, handing out the postcards, and more normal con stuff. I'm a lot more comfortable working a con, I find. Gaddy and I also wound up on a couple panels. Mine were on cross-genre fiction, and the sophomore slump - you've written/published your first novel, now what? I think I did okay for my first panels ever. Commentary is always welcome. Marcia and I even had a chance to actually do the con. We'd never been to that particular con before, even though it's in Denver like our usual con, Mile High con is. We had fun, bought some art, and generally had a good time. It was a good con, but we were completely exhausted by the time we went home.

So. It's been two days since then. Now what?

Now what? Now it's sell the books, over and over again. But there's been some motion in that department, even though the book's not yet released. I just got done updating my website to include links to places where you can pre-order my book. Places like Amazon and Barnes&Noble. After June 1, I expect that list will grow quite a bit.


ps: more pics from the Grand Premier below.

Gp-Lgcake Gp-Mkcake Gp-Bothcakes
Let them eat cake.

One of the cover art banners.

Gaddy and me at the Sophomore Slump panel.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Back from the Grand Premier Party

Just got home from Denver from the Flying Pen Press Grand Premier party and follow up party and panels at Opus Fantasy Arts Festival. Sleep deprived, brain fried, trying not to squeal like a little girl at seeing my own book in print. At least, not too much. ;) I'll post about all this after I've slept, but for now, check out, where Niki gave us a great writeup. [edit] Another great writeup, with pictures, here: [/edit]

Thanks to everyone who made it to the party. The turnout was nothing short of astonishing. Thanks also to the The Tattered Cover Bookstore for hosting our Grand Premier party. Wonderful. Wonderful.


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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Thoughts on the LookingGlass world.

(The publisher wanted the title of the book to beLooking Glass, two words, because it would be easier to look up on book store computers, but because LookingGlass is … well, I can’t tell you that. Anyway, inside the book, the word LookingGlass is spelled as one word, and the world the book is set in is named by that word as well.)

Genesis, Urban vs Rural.

The LookingGlass world is old. I first thought up a lot of the original ideas for it back in 1991-1992 for the very first novel I ever tried to write (and failed.) That’s where the trains came from. That’s where the post-petroleum, post United States world came from. Even then, I had this idea that you could set cyberpunk in the Great Plains states, like the one I grew up in. That somehow the juxtaposition of wide open spaces with the digital dystopia would work. I also saw that the United States, while it has one overarching culture, has several strong subcultures that, given the vacuum created by the demise of the United States, would become functional separate cultures. Mostly, though, I wanted to put cyberpunk on horseback. I was strongly enamored of the idea that, given virtual reality, you can get the brains together for that unique synergy called civilization, without having to pile people in the high-stress, high-density, pollution-heavy environment of a big city.

Cities, though, are humans’ natural environment, as much as termite mounds are the natural environment for termites. Cities are more than communication. Culture breeds there. Drive happens there. The extreme specialization that the advance of technology requires can exist in few other places than a large urban environment. Think about it. If you’re not farming or ranching, you’re like the queen bee in a bee hive. You have your specialized job, but you’re dependent on that job’s value to others for your food. Without cities, chances are, you’d starve. So would I. In a world where the ready, cheap energy of petroleum is not around anymore, cities become all the more vital, because some things take more than a bunch of brains. They take hands. That’s sort of whatLooking Glassis about.

The Energy Crisis

So. Big cities. Direct neural interface virtual realities. Why add an energy crisis? Here’s the thing. Science fiction has, historically, been based on the idea that as science advances, individuals control more and more energy, and in less and less space. Nuclear hand-grenades and flying cars seemed right around the corner, as did power “too cheap to meter.” Unfortunately, nuclear fusion proved more difficult to harness than anyone imagined, and fission, thanks to some incredibly bad engineering, has maintained a poor, dangerous, and complicated reputation. So here we are, at the top of the twenty-first century, still using the same energy sources we used at the bottom of the nineteenth. That’s why we don’t live in a science fiction world. Well, that, and nobody wants the kind of people we drive with on the road flying over our houses.
We do, however, control more data than classic science fiction could have imagined. When they thought advanced computers, they thought AI, and the computers became characters. The real world has proven different. The amount of information you and I command, literally at our fingertips, is mindboggling. Verne imagined it first, and Heinlein did a pretty good job imagining it in Friday. (which, IMHO, is pretty much Heinlein doing his take on cyberpunk) But by and large, the net eluded everyone before Gibson and company gave us cyberpunk.

Computerized offices were supposed to reduce our working days, and maybe make it possible for us to work four day weeks instead of five. It hasn’t worked that way. What’s happened instead, is that companies have cut the number of people and increased the amount of data they deal with each day. In the LookingGlass world, the level of data each individual has access to - and in theory, controls - has risen proportionally to today. The net has gotten easier to use and better at abstracting data, and so now there is more to do, more to manage, more to secure. And somehow, big companies still manage to see their IT departments as overhead.

Looking Glass focuses on high tech corporate culture and net culture. And they’re very different animals. Corporate culture revolves around money and power, and a great deal around pecking order. This tends to produce an orderly company that can get things done, but there are downsides to this. Biggest among these is that management and engineering, particularly, are widely disparate skill sets. Promoting engineers to management is a dicey prospect. They’re frequently not good at dealing with people. Not good at playing politics sensibly. Engineers frequently know they’re “right” and simply won’t entertain any other ideas of “right.” Professional managers, by contrast, have good people and organizational skills, but are frequently incapable of understanding the needs of engineering, the need, for example, to fix underlying problems rather than just continue to fight fires, and so on. And that disconnect frustrates the technical people.

This division hasn’t healed in the LookingGlass world. If anything, it’s gotten worse, and you have what amounts to a class system between techies and management at most companies, and neither side is very good at listening to the other.

Net culture in Looking Glass is an expression of how I see the culture of today’s Internet evolving. There are many, many references to today’s Net, some thinly veiled behind my made-up corporate names, some blatant. The LookingGlass world net culture is older, deeper, and stranger, but many of the elements from my future world are already in place. The gothic influence, the furry influence, the enormous science fiction influence, the breadth and depth of alternative sexual practices available on the net, that’s all there today. As the net becomes its own reality, I don’t see these things going away. The net, in the LookingGlass world as now, has an underlying sense of humor, the delight in obscure trivia and humor, the vague sense that all this is, on some level, absurd. No website ever knows what context the viewer has come to it in. If you’ve been linked to some serious web page from a joke site, or someone’s weblog, or whatever, the most elegant, serious website becomes somewhat absurd. This is the underlying joke of the net, I think. Maybe it’s just being around all that porn.

Reality and Virtual Reality
I have to confess that I wrote Looking Glass based only on the experience of text based virtual realities. I have since seen one or two, and it’s been gratifying to discover that they are evolving the way I predicted. The big push for today’s virtual realities business, exactly the way I expected they would when I wrote Looking Glass. Why send people to a conference when you can throw the conference in a virtual environment cheaper, more safely, and (at least in the LookingGlass world) provide a better experience than you can in the real world? And virtual realities are a dream come true for advertising. The world is the media there, for better or worse.

As the LookingGlass world evolves, and as the next novels in the series explore more of it, the origins of the “modern” virtual reality network will be revealed to come from the virtual reality games of today. Why? Because the late-adolescent VR gamers of today will be the executives in the timeframe of the LookingGlass world. They grew up with this stuff. They are utterly comfortable with it. Bear in mind that Cath Farro, the heroine of Looking Glass, would be 22 years old today. She’s probably still in grad school.

As for people, they spend more and more time in virtual reality. Given the political and economic realities of the day, virtual reality is cleaner, neater, less painful. The escape has become the destination, and the resolution has gotten good enough that it’s sometimes hard to tell which reality you’re in.

And that, of course, is why this story exists, and why it is a novel, and why it is a book. And of course, one should remember that a book, itself, is an escape. A virtual reality, if you like. So we blur the line again. Telescope reality one more level.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

quick update

You've probably noticed the website looks a little different. Other than containing my email address on the About the Author page, and the link to Timothy Lantz's website on the Press Info page, it doesn't contain any new content. Lots of fiddly little changes about how things line up, titles on pages, the banner, and so on, nothing exciting.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Looking Glass Goes to Publication

If you've somehow gotten here from somewhere other than my website, here's the short version. My first novel, Looking Glass, is being published by Flying Pen Press LLC.

I call Looking Glass cyberpunk. That's probably taking a certain risk. Cyberpunk is that bastard child of 1940s and 1950s film noir and early 1980s punk nihilism, all in an amphetamine fueled, corporate controlled, polluted, compromised dystopia. Best known cyberpunk authors from the day? Gibson. Sterling. Stephenson. Williams. They're the ones you think of. Neuromancer. Snow Crash. Mirrorshades. Hardwired. Flashy. High style. Youth culture. Remember how everything in the early 1990s was cyber-this and cyber-that? This is where it came from.

Wasn't that genre done to death? Yes and no. The punk thing seems to have burned out, likely as the trailing edge of the baby boom finally outgrew it. But cyberpunk is still with us. Mainstream sci fi has picked up some of the trappings. Anime' embraced it. The classic voices in the genre are still around, still producing, and there've been some superb new voices as well. Richard K. Morgan. Chris Moriarty. Neil Asher. The books - Altered Carbon, Spin State, and Gridlinked - are a little different. Times have changed, and we're in a position to see what a cyberpunk world might really look like. And it's not like it was on MTV.

So Looking Glass. Right. It's mostly cyberpunk. It's got direct neural interfaces. Virtual reality. The corporations and the U.N. do run things, in the wake of the collapse of the United States. All hallmarks of cyberpunk. Yes, but. But Catherine "Shroud" Farro, my main character, is 40. But she works for a corp, and makes her living frying cyberpunks when they try to break into the network she'd guarding. She has an apartment. A retirement fund. A clean record. All that. She's a professional. She has a life. Not much of one, it's true, but she has it.

One Friday morning, someone breaks in and kills her whole team, except for her and one other person. The company moves to cover it up immediately. These people were real. Even though she never met most of them. They were her team. Her coworkers. Her friends. And she's not one to let them be swept under the rug and ignored. And then there's the matter of the hacker, who's still out there, and still hunting her.

So Looking Glass? It's cyberpunk, with a strong vein of noir mystery. And I'm stoked beyond belief that it's going to press.

And there's more where that came from.

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