I have been remiss, and I apologize!  It should have occurred to me when I released Independence into the world that I ought to give some sort of status update on the second (and final) book in the series; I've had a number of queries (including one I haven't been able to respond to yet -- I am still trying, and will persevere, but my note hasn't been able to go through so far!), and so while I can't give as firm information as I'd like, here is the state of things.

I am still writing it.  The book does have a working title (The Line), and it is outlined, but I've drafted only a few chapters so far.  My most optimistic ETA is late summer of 2010, and I am going to aim for that.  Once I have a final version of the book, I'll be offering a free preview download here for a few days before the print version debuts (and if you've contacted me asking about the book:  I am keeping a list, and will email you when the free .pdf download is up!).
 
 
Independence is now available!  Er...if you're in the UK, that is.  The American side of things continues to struggle with poor supply lines, but England has gotten her act together promptly.  She remains a good sport, evidently!

So far, Stateside, the book remains available really only in its Kindle edition.  Once I figure out and fix what is behind the puzzling paperback delay, I'll update everyone!
 
 
Free E-Day is here!  Actually, it's a couple days, because the world is large, and defining "day" accordingly problematic.  But the beginning has begun!  Somewhere in the vicinity of a hundred contributors (I am not sure of the final tally) are giving away work for, yes, free during this festival -- from pictures and short stories/novel excerpts all the way through full novels (including...mine!).  It's a lovely chance to browse and try something new -- and since everything is, I believe, downloadable, you can load up and look through everything when you have leisure to do so!

A quick addendum on Dec. 3rd -- since the free download seems to be EXTREMELY popular (yay, thank you everyone!), I am leaving it up for the rest of the week.  Many of the other Free E-Day contributions also remain live (so feel free to check out the brochure and take a stab at anything that interests you -- it might very well still be available).

Independence's print debut should be soon -- hopefully a matter of days.  I'll post info as I have it.  It looks as though the Kindle version jumped the gun and is live now, but I am not quite sure, so I'll just save the announcement for when everything is in order!

And now the Dec. 6th update:  well, Free E-Day was so fun I stretched it out for a week, but now that week is over ;) .  I am too tired tonight to figure out the vagaries of Amazon, but it looks as though the print version is -- somewhat -- up, and the Kindle version entirely so.  I will update tomorrow!
 
 
I disagree with pretty much everyone at least some of the time, and by "everyone" I include myself.

But I must say I rather like when events conspire to suggest that I was right.

Several of the best books I've had the pleasure to read in the past couple years were unpublished manuscripts.  I found this a rather puzzling state of affairs.  Fortunately, four (!) of these gems have subsequently gained the attention of a small press that, if it continues along this path, is assured a bright future.  Congratulations to Diiarts and its inaugural batch of authors:  M. M. Bennetts, Paul House, Matthew Dick, and Jason Horger!

May 1812 (Bennetts) is a historical page-turner following one very bright, very charming, and sometimes very fumble-fingered codebreaker as he struggles with an arranged marriage to a stranger he has mortally offended (and discovers he loves desperately) while trying to do his duty -- and, when he is sent on an emergency mission, trying simply to survive.  Harbour (House) is a gorgeous, bittersweet evocation of the fragile society of World War II Hong Kong and a surprising love that arises in the teeth of war.  Pistols for Two, Breakfast for One (Dick) follows the adventures of a sort of Uncle Oswald-cum-James Bond (in re: duty, definitely more Uncle Oswald) as he investigates a murder and the disappearance of a rare coin (not that he wants to, particularly; it's just he'll sort of be in trouble if he doesn't).  And Whom Must I Kill to Get Published? (Horger) is a funny thriller about an aspiring writer who finally gets his big break -- only to have his big break show up for their meeting dead.

Go check them out!
 
 
My review of David Liss's The Whiskey Rebels is up today on Booksquawk!  This is the only book by Liss I've read so far, but he seems to have carved out a peculiar niche for himself:  historical thrillers based on little guys getting involved in government/Big Business financial policies.  The interesting thing about TWR (this isn't really a spoiler -- or if it is, along the lines of what you'd encounter on the back cover anyway) is that one of the main characters is a casualty of said financial policies (my darling Hamilton's).  Yes, Joan survives (and yes, she eventually prospers, in a gross material sense, due to the same policies), but the destruction of her soul is absolutely, unavoidably linked to the brand-new federal government's line of action (and inaction).

No, no, that isn't the interesting part (well, it's interesting in a thriller sense, of course, people suffering and whatnot):  the interesting part is that, as sympathetic as she is (until she goes BAD), she's portrayed as the human face of a necessary sacrifice.  There wasn't a whole whomping lot Hamilton could have done other than have SOME tax SOMEWHERE; the government had to be funded (unless it were to "live like the chameleon, upon air," to quote an irritated Joseph Plumb Martin, referring to his seven years in the Continental Army without being paid EVER...oh, except once by a visiting French officer who, appalled at this treatment of the troops, dug some money out of his own pocket).  And as for policing the frontier -- well, the yet-mostly-unfunded government simply lacked the ability to do so.

"The greater good" -- even when it is that, and not merely venal acquisitiveness (as seems to be the case in some of the financial...excitements...in Liss's other books) can be pretty hard to swallow when you personally are relegated to the "lesser losses."
 
 
There are many ways to tell a story.  And it is tempting to think that to know how a narrative can be effectively structured is to know how any narrative can be effectively structured.

It is not, however, true.

What brings this to mind for me (and rather worryingly, because I write both novels and screenplays) is today's Booksquawk review on The Strain, the new novel by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.  Del Toro is a very fun director, and yet the novel evidently (I have not read it myself)...not so much.  The news is disappointing and unsurprising in equal measure.  Every narrative form has its shortcuts, stylizations, and sleight of hand, and there's nothing like trying to translate these tricks into a different format to make the seams show.  Vividly.

I may be hanged from the nearest tree for this, but I don't think Neil Gaiman is as good at writing novels as he is at comics (although I enjoy both efforts of his).  That's no aspersion against him; in many ways, I think the shorter, more constrained forms of comics and screenplays are trickier to work with than novels.  You simply have less time and space in which to make your point.

Comics-to-screenplays seems to work a bit better; and of course David Mamet does splendidly with plays-to-screenplays.  Maybe it's novel-writing that's mostly the odd man out; but then there are a few writers who have managed to pull off both to my idiosyncratic satisfaction.  Dashiell Hammett did just fine!  Although he was impatient with screenplay-writing and only occasionally sat himself down to do a script himself, personally, from soup to nuts -- and his novels were generally short and stylized and plot-driven already.
 
 
What is that parrot over in the far right column of my blog, and what are its broader intentions with the book in its claws?

I will answer only the first question.  It's the Booksquawk parrot!  Booksquawk is a new book review site with contributions from a TON of authors among whom I'm really honored to be numbered.  We'll be posting a review a day, but for the grand opening special, we've got eleven all at one go.  Shoo, run off and look at them!

My first review there is for Jon Meacham's American Lion -- a book on Andy Jackson, part of my background research for Burning Bright.  (While it looks like Jackson's role in Burning Bright isn't going to be vast, and I probably have more than enough information about him already to write it, he is a fascinating topic of study...so I keep giving myself increasingly thin excuses to read more Jacksonalia.)

Given that all Booksquawk contributors are working writers, it is perhaps not too too surprising that our tastes in reading are broad and cover...pretty much every kind of fiction, non-fiction, and "perplexing what-is-it" that can be imagined.  Topics of reviewerly meditation this week range from the slaying of giant fantasy snakes to the social and political development of post-colonial Africa.  And Jane Austen is popping up all over the place, despite that we didn't review any of her books (well, I guess technically she is listed as one of the authors of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but...I am sure you understand my hesitation to call that her book, heh). 

Our OFFICIAL categories (one per day) are:  general fiction, science fiction/fantasy, non-fiction, anarchy day (where the Bastille is knocked down regularly once a week and anything can come running out of the gates),  young adult, romance/women's fiction, and mystery/thriller.  Go check it out!
 
 
And today's recommendation -- how do I categorize Greek mythology brought into the modern day?  Fantasy?  Science fiction?  Action-adventure?  Well, Daemon by Verity Crowe is a splendid book, so I will categorize it there.  Did you think that grumpy womanizer Zeus really knocked the Titans out of contention?  Think again!
 
 
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And for today, another satire (because I never get tired of them):  La Belle Cosaque, by Mr. Feenix, for bleak Slavic fun (caveat:  R-rated for the regular violence you would expect of a Cossack).

 
 
I have been so tied up with research and writing that I haven't had time to drop any little historical tidbits here lately, for which my apologies!  For the moment, I'm going to use this space to mention a few recently published books -- of varying genres -- that I enjoyed.  For today, the frisky satire/how-to Act Like a Gentleman, Think Like a Woman by Maria Bustillos.  Judging by the stats on Amazon, it looks like people are most frequently buying it as a straight-up guide...and hey, it'd work for that, but -- heh.  Well, read the book if you get a chance and see what you think!  I always like to see a good satire.