Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Yep, he said the things I thought he'd said. WTF? Another "literary" writer fessing up to a love of fantasy? And writing it even!?
I haven't read The Magicians: A Novel, but it's definitely on my list now. Anyway, if you didn't hear this before have a listen...
Monday, September 28, 2009
TOL German Deal
Now, considering that the cover image the US edition used for The Other Lands was actually from the German cover of Acacia, I wonder what they'll do this time? I'll happily wait to find out.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Perks of Being a Novelist: Free Soap
You see, I rather like coming home from cons/book events/festivals with a few bars of free hotel soap. As a publishing author that gets to do to events like these and stay in hotels, I don't know that I'll ever need never buy a bar of soap again. It's been years I tell you. Years. They just leave the stuff around, especially on those carts in the hallway...
Am I the only one that can't resist the temptation? Should I be as ashamed as my wife clearly thinks I should be?
Gudrun will have nothing to do with my ill-gotten spoils, so we still end up buying our share of expensive and fragrantly holistic bars, but so be it. I'm doing my part to keep our soap budget down. A small perk of being a novelist.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Blog Of The Fallen On TOL
You can read it HERE.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Quick Link Re: The Pen/Faulkner Gala
I'm glad to say I've been there before, through reviews of all my books, and because I've written reviews for them on several occasions. That said, I have my fears that I'll be appearing in their pages somewhat less in the years to come, if only because writers and novels don't have nearly the space there that they used to. Like so many papers, they've had to cut their stand-alone book section from the Sunday edition. I don't live in the DC area anymore, but I grew up there. I have to say it still seems impossible to imagine the Sunday Post without Book World in it. It was always the first part of the paper I read!
Anyway, Ron Charles was on hand for the Pen/Faulkner Gala, and he wrote this short piece. I'm glad to say I get a mention! It's HERE.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Me On Suvudu
Monday, September 21, 2009
The Last Light Of The Sun
It's always embarrassing to admit when I haven't read an author that I really, really should have read ages ago. One of those, for me, was Guy Gavriel Kay. I'd thoroughly enjoyed it when reviewers compared me to him when Acacia: The War with the Mein came out, but it was just one of many comparisons that didn't have anything to do with direct influence.
Anyway, I'd met him a couple of times before, and when I knew I was going to be on a panel with him at Worldcon I figured it was REALLY time to read the man. For no good reason at all, I chose The Last Light of the Sun. Very glad I did.
I enjoyed it a lot. I know it's different in many ways than his Fionvavar Tapestry books, but it was still a great introduction - for me in particular - to his work.
For one thing, I've enjoyed reading Anglo-Saxon and Norse tales in the past. I rather enjoyed Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Chronicles, and was impressed to see that Kay's rendering of this distant, violent world stands strong in comparison to it. For much of the novel it feels pretty much like a straight historical. Later on the Faerie influence becomes more pronounced, but in many ways the feats of prophecy and the interactions with the fantastic seem a natural product of the characters' culture and religious beliefs. Skillfully blended.
His writing was controlled and artistic, but also direct, muscular when it needed to be, and generally well crafted. I can't tell you how much that matters to me. So, I'm very glad to be a new fan of Mr. Kay's. I'll look forward to getting back to his other work soon.
Of course, at the moment I'm reading a lot of Wild Cards novels. Oh, and lots of student manuscripts... and a couple of graduate theses... and...
Friday, September 18, 2009
Day Two RE The Computer Looks A Bit Brighter
After I posted yesterday I got a call from another guy at the Apple Store. He said he wanted to try some more things, and wasn't convinced the drive was totally shot. He kept the recovery program running all night, and then called me first thing in the morning. It still didn't look good, but he had another idea and said he'd be happy to keep working on it.
So, he called back again later in the morning. It looks like he's going to be able to retrieve stuff after all. It'll be a bit scrambled, but he thinks he'll be able to get photos, jpegs and other files back. And he thinks the harddrive will be functional afterwards also, so we may be able to swipe it clean and use it for backups. I should know for sure by the end of the day.
We'll be very happy if it works out this way. Yes, you might ask, but how much is all this costing me? And then I would smile knowingly and say, "Nada. Zilch. Nothing." (I probably wouldn't really say that, but I'd think it.) I even asked the guy why he was doing all this if they weren't going to charge me. He said it's because they like to do what they can, and the store isn't super busy so why not?
Nice. They'll have my business for a long time, I think.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Ah Well, It Wasn't All Bad...
Came back to the house, gave one of the cats a quick bath. (Fleas, you see.) Gudrun and the kids got set up at the big table in the living room for a homeschooling morning, and I headed to the office to be productive. For about ten minutes, all was good.
And then a sudden burst of Scottish-inflected profanity came roaring through the wall. I jumped up, thinking something small might have broken, assuming an overreaction was quite possibly in play. What did I find? Well, it was a small thing. It was the combination of a glass of water and the backside of a pretty darn new MacBook. It was fizzing and popping sounds, and then loss of power to said MacBook. Gudrun had been working along with the kids when one of them (perhaps better left unnamed) brushed the glass over with a careless arm. And that was that.
New direction to the entire day. You may know that among other things Gudrun is a knitwear designer and blogger - see The Shetland Trader. Her computer is very important to her, full of patterns finished and in the works, photographs, all sorts of other stuff. We got right on the phone to the Apple Store and the whole family was in the car ten minutes later, driving the 45 mins down to Holyoke for help.
And help we got. The folks at the Apple Store were very nice, even as they told us that the computer was completely and righteously screwed. They ran all sorts of tests, and even sent us home with our soggy harddrive in the care of one of their machines, trying to see if anything could be salvaged from it. This actually took the entire day, and by the time we arrived home we learned the final news. No. Nothing. The harddrive was damaged enough that it's not worth it trying to get anything off it. So that's that.
I know in the grand scheme of things it's no big deal, but it's still one of those moments when one second things are fine, the next the smallest little action has changed things quite a bit. How did we deal with it? Well, with swift action that leaves me scratching my head just as much as the time four months ago when we bought two computers, two iPod Touches and Nintendo Wii in the same day.
1) We bought a new MacBook. Exactly like the old one, just without all that pesky personal data and hard work on it. (We actually did this while still at the store, knowing that the computer itself was dead, but that maybe we'd be able to salvage the harddrive and connect it to the new computer. No, we didn't just have $1,000 sitting around.)
2) We got beer, some clams and a lobster. (And no, we never get lobster. So why choose to do it when we've just spent $1,000 that wasn't sitting around? Maybe one thing leads to the other...)
3) We clicked over to John Scalzi's WHATEVER and checked out the post featuring The Other Lands (Acacia, Book 2) and me in The Big Idea Series. Please see for yourself HERE.
And with that the day drew to a close.
Ah well, it wasn't all bad...
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The Other Lands (Acacia, Book 2) is finally available, hopefully marching out of stores all around the country. I hope that means readers will be picking it up and falling back into the Known World - or that they'll decide to give Acacia: The War with the Mein a try, knowing that if they like it there are quite a few hundreds of pages now to be read - and that the end is in sight!
It goes without saying that I would very much like you to buy one and/or to spread the word about the book. They make great presents, you know! I know it's no small thing to hope that you'll put down your 20-some dollars for a new hardcover, but there's really only two reasons I hope you do.
One is that I believe there's a lot to be found in the book, and I know I worked very hard to make it surprising and thought provoking and engaging. Two is that I want very much to be able to continue to write books, and to be able to focus more and more of my time on doing so. The only way that happens in our market economy, though, is if people BUY my books. Reading them is what matters to me; them being PURCHASED is what matters to my publishers and the outlets that stand between you and I.
All right, that's the end of my hard sell. Now I'll just try to remember how fortunate I am, and be very pleased my characters and stories are out there yet again.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Praise From a Rock Star
"Epic fantasy is so well established a genre that it’s always fascinating when someone comes along and tips over my expectations. Durham has done this in a big way."
Of course, there's also a level of pure relief in receiving all of these early responses. Each new reader that gets to the end of the book and gives it the thumbs up is confirmation that I haven't entirely driven the series off a cliff. Yes, all writers have moments of insecurity.
You can check out Jay's response at his website HERE. And it's safe to read. No plot details. Just enthusiasm!
(By the way, isn't that author illustration rock star cool? Snagged it from Jay's website.)
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I'd tended to say, "Yeah, sure," but I didn't have any details or proof of this. Now I do!
HERE'S a link to the Amazon Kindle Entry For it. Yeah!
So, if this sort of thing is how you get your reading done these days, please pop over there and download me!
The only thing I don't see up and running yet is an audio download version of the audio book. Hopefully that will happen soon. I'll let you know when I know. If you wanted to sample what Dick Hill did with the first Acacia book, you could check it out at Audible. He's the guy narrating the second one too. Continuity, you know.
Cool Stuff From Le Pre Aux Clercs
First, here's the finished jacket for the new book, with the Campbell Award information in bright red so you don't miss it!
And here's an ad they'll be running in the French press...
Friday, September 11, 2009
The proof? I've recently been invited to read at their yearly Gala Ceremony! This is the big, expensive, beginning of their event season fund-raising event. They get a bunch of pretty prestigious writers together and ask us to compose and read short essays on a one word prompt. This year it's... Revelation. It's a black tie event, attended by... well, people fortunate, prosperous and enlightened enough to attend such events. (And who can aren't daunted by the $400 ticket price.) Here's a brief bit of how the Pen/Faulkner folks describe it:
"Geraldine Brooks, David Anthony Durham, Debra Magpie Earling, Nam Le, Alice Mcdermott, Jay McInerney, Francine Prose, Amy Tan, and others lend their imagination to the theme "Revelation" at a benefit evening of readings followed by a black-tie dinner. The proceeds from this festive evening support the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and Writers in Schools."
Now, I did this event once before, a few years back. I've also read in their reading series and been a judge for the Pen/Faulkner Awards. So they know me, and I know them. But, still, I'm very pleased to continue to be included, and to walk onto the stage at the Folger Shakespeare Library in a tuxedo, proudly a writer of literary and historical and fantasy fiction. (!)
HERE'S the info on the reading series.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
It'll be at 7pm on Tuesday, Sept 15th. For details, please check HERE.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Kirkus Reviews (And I'm Glad They Do)
So, I offer a portion of the review, the nice bits that say happy things in a general sense. I'll cut out the spoilery stuff though. I promise that I'm not cutting out any nasty bits. I'll even include the one bit of criticism, wherein they say the book is in need of list of characters, etc. (Not a bad point that. Next time, friends...)
So, herewith, a bit of the folks at KIRKUS REVIEWS had to say:
"Old wars are re-fought, new alliances and conflicts arise in the middle volume of a fantasy trilogy set in the embattled land that calls itself the Known World... Moving into fantasy after three well received historical novels, Durham (Pride of Carthage, 2005, etc.) handles his many-leveled plot with impressive thoughtfulness; racial stereotyping, exploitation of defenseless populations and tribal enmity are among the subjects whose continued relevance - for the novel’s characters and its readers - becomes increasingly evident... Desperately needs an annotated list of characters and a detailed glossary distinguishing various tribes and factions. But little else is missing from this ambitious work, which boggles the mind and transcends genre."
Any thoughts on that "transcends genre" comment?
Labels: The Other Lands
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
See for yourself. The prepared text of President Barack Obama's back-to-school address scheduled for today, as released in advance by the White House:
Hello, everyone - how's everybody doing today? I'm here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we've got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through 12th grade. I'm glad you all could join us today.
I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it's your first day in a new school, so it's understandable if you're a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you're in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could've stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.
I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn't have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday - at 4:30 in the morning.
Now I wasn't too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I'd fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I'd complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."
So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I'm here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I'm here because I want to talk with you about your education and what's expected of all of you in this new school year.
Now I've given a lot of speeches about education. And I've talked a lot about responsibility.
I've talked about your teachers' responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.
I've talked about your parents' responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don't spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.
I've talked a lot about your government's responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren't working where students aren't getting the opportunities they deserve.
But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.
And that's what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.
Every single one of you has something you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That's the opportunity an education can provide.
Maybe you could be a good writer - maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper - but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor - maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine - but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a senator or a Supreme Court justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.
And no matter what you want to do with your life - I guarantee that you'll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You're going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can't drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You've got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.
And this isn't just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you're learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.
You'll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You'll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You'll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.
We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don't do that - if you quit on school - you're not just quitting on yourself, you're quitting on your country.
Now I know it's not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.
I get it. I know what that's like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn't always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn't fit in.
So I wasn't always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I'm not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.
But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our first lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn't have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.
Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don't have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there's not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don't feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren't right.
But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life - what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you've got going on at home - that's no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That's no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That's no excuse for not trying.
Where you are right now doesn't have to determine where you'll end up. No one's written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.
That's what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.
Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn't speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.
I'm thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who's fought brain cancer since he was three. He's endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer - hundreds of extra hours - to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he's headed to college this fall.
And then there's Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she's on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.
Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren't any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same. That's why today, I'm calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education - and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you'll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you'll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you'll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you'll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don't feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.
Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.
I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work - that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you're not going to be any of those things.
But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won't love every subject you study. You won't click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won't necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
That's OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who've had the most failures. J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
These people succeeded because they understand that you can't let your failures define you - you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn't mean you're a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn't mean you're stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.
No one's born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You're not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don't hit every note the first time you sing a song. You've got to practice. It's the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it's good enough to hand in.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don't know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust - a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor - and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.
And even when you're struggling, even when you're discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you - don't ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.
The story of America isn't about people who quit when things got tough. It's about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best. It's the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.
So today, I want to ask you, what's your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?
Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I'm working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you've got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don't let us down - don't let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.
Saturday, September 05, 2009
These Things Can Book
These trains are fast and furious. I rode them the first time last spring. I was so delirious on my first ride from Paris to Epinal that I hardly noticed. Someone asked me if I'd been on high speed train and I was like, "Oh... I don't know. I didn't notice..."
But I paid attention coming back. It doesn't feel like it's going that fast. It's not loud or jolting or anything, but then again the landscape is slipping by at about 200 miles per hour. And then when you catch a view of a motorway running parallel and see how you zip by the cars like they're not even moving... Yep, I was impressed.
High speed rail in America? Duh. Of course. Let's get on with it!
Thursday, September 03, 2009
The Other Lands REVIEWED!
Among other things he said about The Other Lands...
"Durham has a singular voice in fantasy, and it is, as one might expect, well-informed by his historical writing. There's a sophistication and clarity here that will enable readers to fully immerse in Durham's psychologically and morally complex story of magic, monsters and conquest... Great writing, complicated characters, moral and social woes that echo our own world in an imaginative fashion — this is what fantasy is all about. It's not about escape. It's about perspective."
I couldn't be more pleased. Thank you, Mr. Kleffel.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Like The New Look?
(The first time I looked at the site after the update, I had to hit the resend button for the changes to show. Just thought I'd mention it in case it's the same for you.)
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Quick Links for Ordering The Other Lands
Also, please feel free to use these links to your online supplier of choice:
Barnes and Noble
And for signed copies, see The Signed Page!
The Other Lands Hardback Winner!
They were: Robin Henderson, Karen Jeane Mills, Muushira and Occasional Jason.
The kids tossed and this time there seemed to be a dead tie between two candidates: Robin and Muushira.
So these two had to be thrown again. The second throw was pretty close too, but one candidate pulled ahead: Muushira!
And thus it was decided. Muushira, you are the winner. Please drop me an email at acacia.trilogy@ yahoo.com, give me a mailing address, and I'll get it in the mail to you. Congrats!
And thanks for playing everyone. I had fun. I hope you do it.