Archive for September 2008

You don’t need celestial charts; you’ve got me

September 25, 2008

It’s uncanny. I have no explanation for it that fits within the paradigm occupied by those who deny the possibility of any sort of validity to astrological theory. All I know is that as soon as Mercury turns retrograde, I am summoned as by some invisible force to the study, where I must work on my own fiction for hours each day.

I’m not telling you I’m an astrological believer. But I think I’d better start putting Mercury’s retrograde periods on my calendar, so I can plan for these slowdowns in the office.

Ah, things are lovely in the study. I am deep in the early-development stages of the final draft of The Shadow of the Sun, the novel I was afraid to bring to press first but secretly wished I could–which, I realized earlier this year, really does need to be the first out the door. I think I’ll be writing the whole thing in first, with only one PoV: because if I allow myself to explore the journeys of other important characters in the way I wish I could, there’s no way I’ll bring this in at a length I can afford to produce. In fact I realized this morning that I’m going to have to be very disciplined about what goes in and what goes back into the hopper for later, even with the single PoV, if I am to keep it to a manageable length.

But that single PoV is my favorite character, bar none, so I don’t mind too too much.

Meanwhile back in the office, I’m waiting for printer’s proofs of the FINAL version of the Shorn trade paperback and (with Wynette’s help, of course) developing the e-book version. Gotta get Shorn off the front burner so I can dig into Anointed: Zach delivered revisions to that beauty a few days ago, and now he, Brett, and I will zip through final reads and final tweaks…and then plunge into pre-production.

During the parts of the day when I can tear myself away from the study, of course. 🙂

My eyes! My EYES!!!!

September 19, 2008

Day One of Anime Weekend Atlanta: what geek girls do on their birthdays. Rachael & I went straight over to AWA from school this afternoon, stood in interminable lines at walk-in registration (not quite geekily organized enough to register in advance) and met some cool people in line, wandered at length in the Dealers’ Room (awesome new t-shirt!)…and went to a program called Awesomely Bad Japanese Music Videos.

Uh, yeah. They weren’t kidding. I don’t think it would have been substantially weirder with chemical assistance. Let’s start with FISH FIGHT (those words, oddly, were in English; the rest was in Japanese): disco set in a fish tank; the whole group (maybe 8 or 9 guys) had fish on top of their heads, helmet-fashion. That’s as much description as I can muster; my eyes are still bleeding.

From there we progressed to the saccharine-cute stylings that only the Japanese can still do with a straight face: in many cases covers of disco songs from around the world. (Are we the only people who know disco is dead?) Then there was a rather hallucinatory death-metal performance. I’m still not sure what the hell was going on with all those intestines. After that, an unabashedly pornographic (live-action) music video that included a certain amount of animation…something that felt disturbingly like a cross between West Side Story and the ballroom scene in Rocky Horror…a dead ringer for a transgendered David Lee Roth…and a video that was probably directed by Hunter S. Thompson, someplace deep in Bat Country.

After that, a cover of YMCA by a group of Japanese (evidently gay) guys dressed in Speedos and latex. FAR TOO MUCH INFORMATION.

Must go find a Q-tip long enough to clean my brain.

Paging Alex…

September 19, 2008

Argh! This morning somebody named Alex called on the Be Mused line and left a voicemail–which the voicemail system, in a fit of insanity, destroyed before I could write down the phone number. To complicate matters, the mysterious Alex called from an unregistered number. I am assured by those in charge of such things that Turing himself could not recover that voicemail, no matter whose fault it is.

This is making me crazy. I will admit that I don’t always return calls as quickly as I’d like–but, dammit, I always do return them. Is Mercury retrograde again?

(I just checked: he’s getting ready. Full metrograde is scheduled for next Wednesday. Just in time for final file uploads for SHORN. Oh, shoot me now.)

Ahem. Alex, if you’re reading this, please call me again. The rest of you: please don’t choose the Destroy Message Immediately option on voicemail, no matter how security-conscious you are. I promise your personal information is safe with me.

Words fail.

September 19, 2008
My favorite contest in a long time:

Large Hadron Collider Renaming Contest | Wired Science from

Don’t forget to look at all the nominations, which are by far the funniest.

I too look forward to never accidentally googling “Large Hardon Collider.” *gigglesnort!*

I just hope they hand out the prize before those accidental baby black holes start bubbling up from the center of the earth and KILL US ALL. Cause what good would the prize be then??

OK, back to work on final SHORN proofs.

Love from Library Journal!

September 16, 2008

Color me thrilled! SHORN is in this month’s print version of Library Journal, and they liked it, they really liked it!

“Niec’s debut novel… creates a fascinating world of rival clans and sacred rituals, tainted by a dark, shameful past and subject to predation from its enemies.”

And the money shot…

This is also a coming-of-age story and belongs in most fantasy collections.

Woohoo! I think I failed to mention earlier that Midwest Book Review liked it too:

” ‘Shorn’ is a unique fantasy, sure to please those on the look out for a new obsession to read.”

Check it out:

Library Journal
Midwest Book Review

Must get back to dancing around the office…

Back in the study

September 14, 2008

Woohoo! I wrote lots of sentences today. I’m a bit less than halfway through the first chapter of (please writing gods) the final draft of The Shadow of the Sun, and it actually feels really good. Unlike Russ, I lack the chutzpah to sign up for NaNoWriMo, because I am still trying to find a rhythm that will keep things humming both in the study and the office–but it is a delightful thing to be actually writing sentences that evoke what I mean to say.

Part of the reason I’m having fun with this one: crazy deep worldbuilding. I can’t help it: I’m a worldbuilding geek. And I’m having a great time with the worldbuilding on this one, which feels like a cage match between J.R.R. Tolkien and China Mieville. (My money’s on the steampunk guy, by the way. At least from the worldbuilding perspective. The old man may outlast that young geek in the long run…)

What the hell am I blathering about? Shadow is kinda sorta high fantasy…except that it isn’t, of course. My protag is too flawed to be a hero of the high fantasy type. And I am intrigued by the idea of a world in which many of the problems we address scientifically are handled by magic–but in which magic is a scarce commodity, and those who lack the political clout to lay hands on it try to use tech as a substitute, and the whole universe is not stuck in some perpetual deodorized Middle Ages. (And in which the difference between good and evil is a profoundly relevant question, but there is neither a Black Hat nor a White Hat. But I digress, as usual.) I am not the first one to think along these lines, of course. But I’ve been tinkering with this novel for a long time, and tonight I feel as if I may actually pull it off.

There will be Talentless Hack moments along the way, of course. But for tonight I am enjoying feeling competent.

Having something to say

September 10, 2008
The Fabulous Russ Marshalek (yes, that is his official title) took his turn on a group blog today:

A Good Blog is Hard To Find: I think I may have something to say

and like most of the things Russ tosses off as if they are effortless, this latest installment of Russ-thought made me think. Real Thoughts. I’m up to my eyeballs in pre-release, and so I can’t give this set of thoughts the time to percolate they deserve. “I apologize for the length of this letter; I had not time to write a short one.” So it goes.

Russ and I have never discussed his Southern Identity. I’m a Yankee, after all: an exile on this side of the Mason-Dixon. But to my Yankee eye he seems less a Southerner than a sophisticated, literary person. Like so many educated southerners, he speaks and writes in much the same idiom as his northern friends. Likewise his tastes in music and literature don’t have the effect of an “I’m from the South” t-shirt. He’s passionate about southern lit, of course, and evidently about southern culture in general. But when we first met I took him for a fellow Yankee exile. Which of course just means I thought he was a lot like me & the people I usually hang out with. You know, he’s an interstitial kind of guy.

I was forcibly struck, on reading Russ’s blog post, by the universality of the angst experienced by interstitial artists. Russ stands between Southern and something bigger (American, perhaps? I can’t say for sure) and feels uncomfortable about his perceived lack of Southern cred, just as the interstitial writers whose work Mercury Retrograde publishes struggle with the discomfort of our collective “one foot in *literary*, one foot in SFF” stance. In the company of the New Yorker set, we feel inadequately literary. At SFF cons we feel *too* literary, not sufficiently geared towards Entertainment. Who the hell are we, really? Where do we get off, trying to pass ourselves off as either serious writers or SFF geeks? Is the world ready for or even interested in what we feel compelled to share?

Actually, the world is hungry for it. Because there are an awful lot of us interstitial folk out there, and we are dying for stories and memoirs and art of all flavors that connects us to one another, that allows us to share and extrapolate upon the experience of being neither this nor truly that. So many of us are interstitial in far more than one way, and works like the memoir of a southerner who wants to love his southern roots and still connect with a larger community remind us that even in our interstitiality, our not-quite-belongingness, we are part of a community. I stand between art and science, between fantasy and literature, between past and future, between female and male, between maturity and eternal adolescence, between Real Publishing and the fringe. Sometimes–perilously often–I feel suspended between humanity and something Other. It has been astonishing and validating for me to discover so many others who live with each of these flavors of interstitiality, and to connect with them via our shared understanding of its mystery.

I can’t wait to see Russ’s memoir. The chapter with dragons in it, especially, of course, but–even more than that–the part in which Russ reminds all of us who stand between worlds that it is our common alienness that makes us human together, and that it is in the unique and bizarre parts of our histories, our lives, and ourselves, that we have the most in common.

Interstitial Arts