Thursday, May 31, 2018

From Tinker to Full Time

I don't know what kind of grass this house had growing naturally in the yards, but holy crap does it grow fast. If only it wasn't so patchy, I might leave it alone. The problem is it's patchy and full of three different species of weeds. So, next month, I'm calling in professionals. And look, I get it, all the research says that a lawn is a terrible idea, but there *is* something to be said about aesthetics, and I'm tired of my yard being the shitty looking one in the neighborhood.
 



My poor house looks like it has the mange, even when freshly mowed.
Of course, I wouldn't be thinking about any of this if Spring was not in full swing. Those days when it's 0 degrees with a 50 mph sustained wind and it's blowing snow directly into your ear, you forget that there can be days like this. This year, I'm trying hard to consciously remember.
As I said, as soon as school was out, I shut myself off from the world and got the academic book done. I got the go ahead from University of Mississippi press to turn the first draft in tomorrow (or, at least, the first draft that they'll see--I've been working on it a lot since they first said yes ten months ago). I'm excited for a lot of things, but I'm most excited to see what they might do for the cover. I'm going to suggest some artists--we'll see if they say yes to any.
Still shopping the newest novel, the one I just finished, around. Of course, I most want it to come out on Lethe, but I want to wait until we're working on the book I finished before this before I pitch this newest one. I know that publishers don't think this way, but I don't want to be a pest, y'know? I hope we get to work on that book soon, though--I really can't wait for you guys to read it and let me know what you think. I know it's not cool to say things like that--I'm supposed to be all aloof and shruggy and not care, but I *do*.
I had thought I'd be teaching this summer, but the days/times I offered my classes obviously weren't what students wanted, so instead I'm off this summer. Not terrible at all, but I hadn't planned on it, so now it's full steam ahead on a book I'd only been tinkering around with to this point. It's evolving nicely, though.
I've also been diving into my love of mecha anime. I'd never seen any Gundam series before a few months ago, if you believe it. It is crazy to me how wildly the quality of the various series swing. My absolute favorite so far? Still picking up new Gundam series all the time, but here's a list of worst to best (that I've seen so far):

6: Z Gundam (really bad)
5: Gundam Wing (mostly bad with occasional moments of ok)
4: Mobile Suit Gundam (the first series ever) (mostly ok with a few moments of good)
3: Gundam SEED (good with a few moments of awesome)
2: Gundam 00 (really great with a few moments of AMAZING)
1: Gundam Unicorn (amazing start to finish)

I have to admit, though, I don't think I'll be checking out the Gundam build series. It's not that I have a problem with Shonen anime, not that at all, but I just think reducing the concept of these sprawling space operas to a Pokemon style battle-anime type thing is a little...well...
Currently cruising through Stephen King's latest, The Outsider


So far it looks like a return to classic King. I have to admit that I checked out of Mr. Mercedes so I didn't read any of that trilogy after that. Doctor Sleep was okay with a few moments that stick in the memory. So far I'm nearly 200 pages into this new one and it's good. Fingers crossed.
I'm bummed to hear about Chuck Palahniuk's financial troubles. He's still one of my all-time favorite authors (as I always say, if Fight Club is all you know of his work, go check out Pygmy or Survivor or Rant). The scary thing is that it could happen to any of us. We put our faith in publishers and agents and, in turn, in their support staff, and yet at any part of that chain, things can go bad. It's sobering to say the least.
As always, thanks so much for your support, and for supporting the books as well as small press publishing. I hope that if you're one of my readers in the EU, the new cookies warning thing hasn't scared you off--I promise, if I thought they were taking your information and using it for bad things, I wouldn't have put this blog on Google. I thought carefully about where to host this thing.
See you next month!

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Website!

What a roller coaster April was. Weather-wise we were still getting snow all the way until last week!
Here we are in the last week of classes. This semester hasn't been as bad as some, but it will still be nice to put this one behind me.  One of the main reasons is that I taught a lit course this semester. Don't get me wrong, I dig doing that, but when I do, I like to read along with the students. While the books always give up new secrets and nuances, which is awesome, it cuts heavily into my own reading time. I think I've been on this U2 autobiography for months now. I love the band and all, but wow.



BTW, am I the only person on the planet that didn't realize they are *heavily* Christian? That's not a bad thing in any way, it's just not something I noticed at all until I read this book.
In the meantime, there is huge news! Ladies and Gentlemen and various non-binary-identifying bipeds! I am pleased to announce the launch of

www.jwarrenbooks.com

Your one-stop-shop for all my books, this blog, and a way to contact me if you'd like to. It looks pretty okay, I think. Later I'm sure I'll put tweeks on it and make it look better, but still--there you have it! Please make it a bookmark on your browser.
I finally finished the full edit of the new book. The rough draft came in at 91K words and some change. The final-for-now draft that I'm pitching is at a lean, mean 87K. Some of the cuts hurt. They hurt A LOT, but in the end, the made sense to maintain pacing and structure. Maybe I'll do something separate with the cut sections.
The #DVpit event came and went. I won't lie, I had hoped for a stronger response to the book. Still, some people were interested. I'm in the process of making those contacts right now. I have a few other places that I'd like to contact, too, where I think the book could find a home. Fingers crossed!
I posted a picture about the final structure:
A post shared by J. Warren (@author_j_warren) on



Not splitting into chapters, but instead doing narrated sections is not exactly new to me (I did it in Drowning Narcissus), but this is only the second time. It felt strange, but I think did some important work for the pacing.
Time now to turn my full attention to the academic book and get that rough draft done so it can start through the editing process. It's still about 6K words shy of the line. Not an easy stretch, but I think I can get that done. I'll dive in to that next week.
Someone suggested that my next project might be a recovery of all the poetry that I lost when I had that hard drive crash back in '11. Though I'm not a poet anymore, I have thought about that as a project. There's that huge tub of poetry journals sitting around and it might be nice to go back through them, recover what is the least cringeworthy then edit that down to a manuscript of some sort. Would anyone want to see that, though? Let me know in comments, via twitter, or direct email from the website what you think about that.
As always, thank you for the support. It means the world to me that you continue to support these books and small press publishing in general. See you next month!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Blowing Past

March blew past me like someone on the freeway doing a hundred going the opposite direction. Where the hell did the time go?
One of the two beta readers had gotten the book back to me. She reports liking it, but pointed out a fairly major problem. I think we can fix it by installing a prologue. That's what I'm going to try, at any rate. I want to have the manuscript ready in time for the Diverse Voices Pitch (#dvpit) event on Twitter. That means I have to get my ass in gear. The other beta reader is AWOL, which has me very worried.
At least the book isn't a loss, though. She *did* like it.
I'm finding myself much more influenced by David Mitchell than Chuck Palahniuk these days. I think of it as a fairly natural progression for me, but I am wondering how people will take it.
On that same note, the Lambda Awards did come out with their short list for the prize this year. I won't lie--I'm disappointed. I *really* thought Remains had a shot. I'm not mad at the choices they did make, though--lots of absolutely fantastic books on that list. I just thought Remains was good enough to at least make the short list.
Onward and upward, I guess.
As you can see, the website hasn't come together yet. Still fiddling with it. I think soon, though. As I said before, keep an eye on the social media for a launch announcement. 
After 8 years of working from a home desk that was just a hair over 3 feet long (I wrote 4 1/3 novels from it), I finally decided it was time to move up to one that was more of a decent size.


 I know this would be a "so what?" moment for just about anyone else, but picking things like new furniture takes time for me, even when, in the end, I go with what could be described as the most bland, flat-pack furniture version of a nearly-six-foot desk imaginable. Still, it's nice not to feel so cramped.
An awful lot of books I start reading have been going on the "did not finish" pile, lately. I ended up not liking The Eyre Affair as much as I thought I would, for instance. I'm teaching an Intro to Science Fiction class at the moment and re-reading the books along with the students has been fun. This was my fifth time through Dune and I fell in love with it all over again. This is my third time through Neuromancer and every time I feel more and more for Wintermute's dilemma. This time through I went looking for art on the web to try to describe the cyberpunk aesthetic and came across Josan Gonzalez's amazing work.

Go check him out. Through social media I flat out told him that I hope someday to write something worthy of having his artwork on the cover. Quite a lot of my Instagram feed is just looking at artists, and I always think the same thing--"I need to see if I could afford to have that person do the cover for..." and then immediately feeling like the work would in no way live up to that level of talent.
It's April, so it's time for all "my stories" (as my grandmother used to call her soap operas) to come back on. Legion, Westworld, The Expanse...the writers working on these shows are not just good, they are benchmarks for how good writing can be. I'm also digging on some of the new shows, and I hope they pull through. AP Bio, Champions, Krypton...I think these show really great potential. Check them out if you get a chance.
As always, thanks for all your support. If you have read one or more of my novels, please do me a favor and stop by Amazon or Goodreads and leave a review. Positive or negative, they really really help other readers find my stuff, and I would really appreciate it.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Bizarro World

February has been an absolute bear, weather-wise. For the very first time, I had to pay someone to come dig out my driveway. Not exactly the most masculinity-affirming thing that has ever happened. Still, that was a solid 12 inches of snow.
The irony? I had just been looking at snow blowers a week earlier, and I decided to wait thinking that the prices would come down during the summer. I'm still going to wait, mind you. I think there's still snow coming, but I think that was our last sucker punch.
Living in a place where the school regularly still gets snow during our "spring break" is an exercise in the bizarre.
Speaking of the bizarre, my friend keeps describing the world right now as "bizarro world," and I can't say I blame her. I keep looking around at people reveling in being their absolute worst selves and I'm flabbergasted.
When does the pendulum start to swing the other way?
Beta readers still have the new novel. Their lives got as complicated as mine did. Still, I'm anxious to see what they say.
I'm also in contact with the publisher of Stealing Ganymede. Next year will mark 10 years since it was published. I'm seeing if he is interested in doing something with that. I'll keep you posted.
We just finished our big festival for the humanities at the school. It was amazing. We had Steven T. Seagle, for instance. If you haven't read his graphic novels, you should check them out! Start with "It's a Bird!" which is a wonderful meditation on the subject of Superman and self-discovery.

We also had Jasper Fforde. I freely admit, I hadn't read any of his work to date, but after hearing him talk, and specifically hearing him talk about his own work, I couldn't believe he wasn't already one of my favorite authors. I'm starting his stuff soon, and I recommend you start it too! Check out The Eyre Affair
I'm going to start work on my own website, a one-stop-shop for this blog, my books no matter what publisher they are from, etc. I'm hoping to have that together and up before the end of March, so watch the social media for announcements about that.
As always, thanks for the support for the books. It means the world to me. As I always say, if you've read one or more of the books, do me a favor and stop by Amazon or Goodreads and leave a review, please. They help so much.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Dandy Panther

Here we are in the new year. I'd love to say that things are better than I expected them to be, but that just isn't true. It's hard not to feel like the world is crashing down around our ears, but I am going to try not to focus on that.
Kurosawa and Space Dandy marathons are helping.

At least we're this much closer to the end of Winter.
And we're that much closer to the release of "Black Panther." You have no idea how much I am looking forward to this movie.
School has started again and less than a month in we're hit by this year's flu. Today, for instance, four of my colleagues were out. With them out and their classes cancelled, the building was a ghost town. The students who did make it to the intro to science fiction class had a great conversation about 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.
Some good news? Just around halfway through the month, I finished the rough draft of the new novel! It's off to my beta readers as we speak. I'm anxious. Like I keep saying, this is a different direction for me. They'll be the first to see that. More on that as their reports come in.
I have some ideas brewing for the next one which is also in a different direction than even the last one. I can't say too much about it now, other than this: I've engaged an artist who does great work to help me develop a map for this one.
Super short one this month, but buckling down to get the rough draft done meant no last minute travel or visitors. Next month will probably be more interesting.
Thanks, of course, as always, for the support of the books! Please remember that if you have read one or more of them, please stop by Goodreads or Amazon and leave a review. They help so much.
See you next month!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Wrap-up

And just like that, 2017 comes to a close.
I've gotten back into the swing of things on the novel. When I write, I most often envision scenes and write those into the document. Once I have all the major scenes that I want, then I have to come back and get those scenes connected together. That's where I'm at now--of the 4 sections, I have 1 completely connected up and done, and another very close to complete. That leaves the last two sections still in "just unconnected scenes" shape. Altogether, right now, it's sitting at about 77k words. Thinking that when the rough draft is all done, it'll probably be pushing 90k or so. The problem I'm running into is this: very recently, a fairly major film came out that has a somewhat similar plot. Not the same, but, like, similar enough that my current work-in-progress and this film could take place in almost the same universe. That has me worried, quite frankly, that even though I started working on this book over a year ago, that when it comes out, some will see the similarity and think it is a case of copying. I don't know if that makes sense to anyone by my screwed up head, but that's where I'm at. Fingers crossed that won't be the case, because I'm too far in, now, to abandon the thing.
I'll be honest, I'm just relieved that the block is broken.
Being the end of the year, it is time for my end of year lists. Not quite as influential as Dennis Cooper's (my tastes in things tend to swing W A Y more mainstream than his), I know, but I still like doing them.
So, here we go!

Books
In 2017 I only managed to read 32 books for a total of 13, 531 pages. This is the first years since 2009 not to have read over 40 books. No pizza party for me. The excuse is that I had a course I was teaching where I needed to read the novels I assigned along with the students to prep lectures and be ready for their discussion sessions, and I didn't count those books as part of my leisure reading. Most of the books I read, too, were not published in 2017, so I'm behind on brand new books like Lincoln in the Bardo.
Still, my top 5 that I read this year (culled from the books that got a 5 star rating from me on my Goodreads list--are you following me over there yet, by the way?):
5 Bull of Heaven  Michael Lloyd



4 The Death of Expertise  Tom Nichols

3 Skyscraper  Scott Alexander Hess

2 David Bowie: A Life   Dylan Jones

1 Born to Run  Bruce Springsteen


Music
In 2017 I bought a lot of music, as always. One of my favorite things is waking up on Friday and perusing the iTunes new albums list. My music purchasing habits, then, lead to a reversal of my book buying habits--almost everything I bought in 2017 came out this year. Of the 30-some-odd albums I bought, 24 of them came out this year.
2017 saw some older bands/artists make comeback albums (or, at least, albums we waited a long time for) like Beck, Bjork, Ride, Tori Amos, and Quicksand. None quite so good, though, as Big Wreck's album, Grace Street. They went away for ten years and this is their 3rd album back. Grace Street, as you'll see, busts through to make it into my top 5 of the year. As does Beck's first album in a while, Colors. Many fans were a bit put off by White Reaper's change in style, but their album, Greatest American Band had me from the first few notes. And, of course, this is the year Todrick Hall dropped the utterly brilliant Straight Outta Oz. This year also saw the formation of the supergroup Dreamcar who put out the Duran Duran album we all wanted last year but didn't get (to be clear, from me, that's VERY high praise). And, though U2 is my all-time favorite band, Songs of Experience is not very good, which was hugely disappointing because Songs of Innocence, the 2014 album everyone complained about getting for free, was a mind blowing record. I had hoped that this one would rise to that level (especially based on the single Blackout). It also saw the last set of new songs we are going to get from David Bowie, the No Plan EP which has songs from his musical, Lazarus. I have to be honest, I haven't listened to that one more than once because it's just too hard, yet...hence the reason it, though drop dead brilliant, doesn't make it on to my top 5--I can't bear to listen to it very much, yet.
So, here are my top 5 albums that I bought in 2017 (that came out in 2017):

5 DREAMCAR  Dreamcar

4 White Reaper  The World's Best American Band

3 Todrick Hall  Straight Outta Oz


2 Big Wreck Grace Street

1 Beck Colors


with a HUGE runner-up award to the band Ratboys, whose album GN is really spectacular, but just didn't quite get as much airplay in my car as these did. Still, though, VERY worth your time.

Movies
As I said, my tastes in things tend to run quite mainstream. That's not to say that I wouldn't love to see some of the more art movies that came out in 2017, but I live in the middle of nowhere in a state that is so Republican it doesn't even really have a Democrat party (100% true). This means that, while I would have been first in line to see "Call Me By Your Name," it isn't going to play anywhere within a hundred miles of here. They'd rather play the documentaries that blast Hillary Clinton for three months straight. "The Shape of Water" is almost certainly never going to play here. So, while I love going out to a theater to see a film, my options tend to be quite limited. If you think "Get Out" would ever be shown in this town, you're insane, you know what I mean?
I saw the controversy that "The Last Jedi" caused, but I didn't understand it. In some ways, the film was handing The Force back to us after the Midichlorians debacle. Saying to all of us that you CAN make a difference even if you aren't a Skywalker. I don't know why more people weren't super thrilled about that message. I wished Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets had been better because it was a brilliant script--there was just zero chemistry between the lead actors. For being a huge tent pole picture, I thought there were some really nice moments in "Jumanji"--I wish critics had been a little nicer to it. I was at least 30 times more excited than anyone else to have my all-time favorite director, Ridley Scott, come back to science fiction. Unfortunately, while he is an utter genius at visuals, he has lost something in how to put stories together. I'll be honest, I'm hoping that the Fox merger with Disney takes Scott off the Alien franchise and allows Neil Blomkamp to have a go at his proposed Aliens-sequel. I liked "Logan" a lot, but if I'm being honest, I didn't get quite as emotionally involved with it as everyone else did; I'm very much looking forward to the fact that that may be our last time having to deal with the X-Men film mythology (which is awful) that has been established. I'm ready to have the X-Men back in the hands of actual Marvel writers who understand these characters and aren't trying to be smarter than the material. I don't think enough people talked about how ludicrously good "Atomic Blonde" was. Groundbreaking, powerful, KILLER soundtrack, this should be on everyone's list, and it baffles me that it isn't.
So, of the 28 films that I did see, just know that there were quite a few that I would have loved to see, but never played anywhere near here and/or haven't made it on to streaming services yet.
So, for me, here were my top 5 films I that came out this year that I saw:

5 Atomic Blonde

4 Logan Lucky

3 Baby Driver

2 It

1 Brigsby Bear



honorable mention goes out to this silly little romantic comedy called "Home Again" with Reese Witherspoon and my newest crush, Pico Alexander,

Normally, I despise Rom Coms, but Alexander and Witherspoon have such insane chemistry in this movie, and the plot is just bittersweet enough to seem at least somewhat plausible, that it won me over.


And, of course, I'm sure "Call Me By Your Name" and "Get Out" would dominate this list, had I had a chance to see them, but I haven't. 

So, folks, there you have it. If there's something on these lists you want to ask me more about, please don't hesitate to! Go investigate these things, though, and pick them up!
I hope that your New Year's Eve (if we're in the same hemisphere) or  your New Years Day goes well, that you are safe, happy, and healthy.
As always, thank you for supporting the books, and we'll see you in the new year!




Thursday, November 30, 2017

My cat, the Morningstar

So, with Turkey Break firmly behind us, we turn sails for the dead of winter.
November felt like it went by very quickly, and that is a kindness.
I have to admit I'm a little down, truth be told. No real reason for it, just the usual seasonal stuff. Nice mug of Earl Grey with honey and I'm usually right as rain. I've been thinking that over this break I might go over to the local hotsprings for a dip. I truly do wish I had some kind of hobby like skiing or fishing or something...something that truly would pull me away from the day to day like that, but that kind of thing just never really interested me.
Someone suggested that, as a way to break the block on the current book, I might start another book with no plan in mind, no idea what it's about, just something to write. I have taken that advice, but so far (to be fair, we're only a few days into the idea), it hasn't loosened the logjam. I just need to buckle down this next month and power through it and get it done. Not that it isn't good, far from it...I think it may be one of the better books I've written, in fact. It's just...not coming very easily. 
The kitten situation took a truly interesting turn this month. Once the process of socializing got far enough along that I could see that the kitten and Onyx were going to get along fine, it was time for her to start getting shots and to get fixed. We had a chase that morning, so I warned the vet when we got there at 7 in the morning that the kitten was a bit "bite-y." She laughed and assured me this would not be the first nor the last time that was the case. She said she'd call me when the surgery was over to let me know how things had gone. I went home knowing that my new kitten, Lucille, Onyx's little sister, was in good hands.
Just after lunch I got a call from the vet saying that things had gone just fine and that I could come pick up the kitten that afternoon. This was unusual because they had wanted to keep her overnight after the surgery. I asked about this and she said, "Well, that's because you don't have a Lucy, you have a Luke." None of us had ever really really looked, I guess. Being so young and with all the other craziness going on, no one, not even the vets, had bothered to, y'know, really get in there and have a gander. It's a good thing the doctor who was doing the surgery did, though, because they had already put the little guy under, shaved his belly and run an IV. They were seconds from opening him up.
So, Onyx doesn't have a little sister, he has a little brother. A little brother who had already learned to answer to the sounds "loo""see." Which didn't leave me a lot of wiggle room in the renaming. Over the next few days, after relating this story on my social media, it became clear that the popular favorite new name was Lucifer (on the current TV show of the same name, lots of the characters nickname the primary character, who is the First of the Fallen, "Luci.") So, though none of his behavior warrants it because you truly could not ask for a sweeter kitten, Lucy became Luci.
As it turns out, when the woman who livetrapped both kittens contacted the family who took in the other kitten, they checked and, sure enough--what we thought were two sisters were in fact two brothers.
Music has been on my mind a lot this month. Out of nowhere, after the pleasant shock of getting a new Beck album last month, this month we got a new Bjork album, Utopia

I say shock because, let's be honest, most of us were pretty sure we wouldn't be getting more new music from either artist ever again. I wish I could say better things about it, because Bjork is a genius and I love her work. Unfortunately, she continues to move further and further away from percussion, and percussion is my favorite thing about music. It's a brilliant album, it really is, it's just not for me.
Currently reading Forsaken Skies by D. Nolan Clark (pen name for David Wellington)


I freely admit that I got interested in the book because of that brilliant Victor Mosquera cover. As I've talked about before, I come from the era where science fiction books always had covers with interesting ships and space scenes on them. It's nice to see that's coming back. Like album cover art, the art of the front cover of a science fiction novel is becoming a lost art. Luckily enough, the book is really quite good so far, too. Kind of a Dirty Dozen in space thing only with the good guys even more hopelessly outnumbered than that.
So earlier this month I did a quick survey from the Instagram and Twitter account to see who among those who follow me has also read at least one of my novels. I just wanted to see what the intersection is. After all, the whole reason for having all these accounts is to have ways to stay in contact with you guys. I'd like to do the same thing, here. So, if you are reading this blog, and have read at least one of my novels, could you take a second to leave a quick "yes" down in the comments? They're open--you shouldn't need to create an account to respond. I would really appreciate it.
During this gift giving season, please remember that there are all kinds of amazing books to be had from small press publishers. Even if you're not picking up one of my own books for a friend, colleague, or whomever, there are lots and lots of other brilliant authors out here on the fringes. Stop by Lethe Press or Queermojo or Arsenal Pulp press or Unnamed Press or Screaming Skull press or any of the hundreds of other small or indie presses out there and pick up a few new titles!
As always, thanks for your support, and we'll see you back here for my end of the year wrap up and top 10 lists! See you then.