Image Expo

Image Expo happened yesterday in a chilly San Francisco, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. All I can say is, we’ve come a long way from the ‘dark,’ angst-ridden vanity projects of the 90s.  Image is turning out some of the best creator-owned books in the business today, and  the event provided a lot of hope for an exciting 2014. Some takeaways:

  • Kirkman and Adlard’s The Walking Dead is the number one bestselling book for the second year running. No doubt the book’s success owes more than its share to the epic ratings of the television show, but so what?  Marvel and DC have become subservient to their TV and movie products as well. It’s fantastic to see someone give the big houses a run for their money.
  • Publisher Eric Stephens delivered a keynote address packed with announcements. Lots of potential here: Matt Fraction’s Ody-C, Brandon Graham’s 8House collaborations, Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Bitch Planet and the resurrection of Robert Kirkman’s Tech Jacket by Joe Keatinge.
  • Image continues to expand its storefront offering DRM-free digital comics in PDF/CBR/CBZ formats. I love seeing more publishers offer actual ownership for the cost of purchase rather than the crappy, provisional rental licenses of third party comics sellers.

The comics industry seems to be on the upswing this year, and I’m looking forward to the new output. I suppose that’s the definition of a successful event.

Denouement

Seems fitting to wrap up the draft of a novel in the final hours of the year, and I’ve done just that. Time to put this one to bed, or more accurately, send it all over creation in the hopes of finding an audience.

It’s a good feeling, the perfect culmination of a year that energized my love of writing and the will to make it happen. Many, many thanks to the other writers who have supported me and my work this year, and shared their work with me. Y’all know who you are, and it made a difference.

So. Next year comes the hard part. Submissions, more writing, more reading, more traveling. Did I say hard? I meant fun.

Bring it, ’14.

Series in Parallel

‘Tis that time of year, when everyone and his/her grandmother trots out ordered lists, codifying the content of the previous year.   I’ll fulfill my quota not with a Top 10/20/40/100 list, but by identifying a major trend for me this year in books: discovery of series.  It’s always fun as a reader to discover a new series either wrapped up or already well underway, and devour it whole. It’s the Netflix model! Here are four book series I discovered this past year that, to varying degrees, kept me coming back until I emptied the queue.

The First Law, Joe Abercrombie – Forget the inevitable “grimdark” label. These books are a surprising amount of fun, especially for a broad cast of unlikeable blokes and harlots. Or maybe I’m just twisted that way. Sand Dan Glokta may not be much fun at parties, but he gets the girl! Even as he sucks on his empty gums. Nary a tree-dwelling elf nor mine-dwelling dwarf in sight.

The Expanse, James S.A. Corey – Space opera done right. Franck and Abraham give us more bang for the credits with high stakes and interpersonal drama.  Here’s hoping the TV show lands on cable, because a *bleep*ed Avasarala would seriously bum me out. Looking forward to a return to the Rocinante with Cibola Burn.

Miriam Black, Chuck Wendig – Fun, fast, Tourette’s-fueled adventures. Like a Red Bull with a PBR.

Wool Omnibus (Wool 1-5), Hugh Howey – The Amazon poster child does not disappoint, spinning a short story into an ongoing saga with no end in sight. Sheltered dystopia, evil IT professionals, insubordination and revolution. What’s not to love? I’m on board for more adventures in the silos.

I’m finally updating my profile at Goodreads. (So much social! Me can’t stands it.) Looking forward to more good reads in ’14.

All the things people say

Hrm. According to the current Quarterly Review over at Bewildering Stories, I’ve been awarded the Order of the Hot Potato for “Growing Season,” which is apparently the second most controversial story of the quarter.  No reasons are given for the controversy, other than that ”the Review Editors’ opinions diverged significantly for one reason or another.”

Maybe someone found the animal cruelty a serious squick. A valid sentiment. I suppose the only takeaway is that some editors liked it and some loathed it. Still not sure what to make of it, but it does test the outer edge of the tenet that “all publicity is good publicity.” Have to say I’m happy that, if it was going to be controversial, it almost took the crown.

It’s a strong reaction. And hey, that’s more than most writing elicits.

The long con

Whoa, where did December come from?  Here we are with a scant three weeks remaining in 2013.  Honestly not sure how this happened, but bring it on.

For my part, I’ll be holed up during the holiday tightening the screws on my latest novel, with some reading for friends and colleagues thrown in for fun. I’ll emerge from hibernation early next year with a full slate of places to go and people to see.  In fact, I’ve been firming up plans to stay busy throughout the next year. Here’s my in-progess list of confirmed travel plans for 2014:

01/09 – Image Expo, San Francisco CA

02/14-16 – Boskone 51, Boston MA

05/01-04 – Paradise Lost IV, San Antonio TX

05/15-18 – Nebula Awards Weekend

05/30 – 06/01 – Writers retreat, Philadelphia PA

08/14-18 – LonCon III, London UK (Woohoo!)

10/04-05 – Alternative Press Expo, San Francisco CA

And that’s just for starters!  There are several other cons and workshops I’d like to attend as scheduling and funding permit, once details are released. Here’s to a busy, busy 2k14!

So what will you be up to?

Thanks

Here in the U.S. it’s a day to give thanks. I have a lot to be thankful for this year despite a rough patch or two. Wonderful family and friends, a somewhat stable job. Perhaps sweetest of all, I am back on track with my writing.  I’ll be using this holiday to tighten the screws on my latest novel, getting everything in place for a run at publication next year.  See you on the other side!

Whether it’s a holiday for you or not, celebrate. Enjoy your friends and family. Don’t camp out at midnight and stampede fellow shoppers for a discounted shiny. Those sales will still be rolling on for weeks, trust me. Enjoy what you have and allow those retail workers the same indulgence. Tomorrow we diet!  But not today.

Kindle Paperwhite

So I pulled the trigger on a new e-reader. The prompt for this was a cramped return flight that didn’t allow carry-on bags to actually be carried on.  (Don’t get me started!) I wound up on the plane without my tablet, and read about 90% of an e-book on my Android phone by the time we arrived.  Surprisingly workable, but not ideal. I’d been hearing good things about the latest Paperwhite update and decided to give it a shot.

kindle1kindle2

I am not a proponent of convergence, the whole “One Device to Rule Them All” mentality.  Every few years someone opens a fresh refrain of how specialization is dead and we must all use a single device to do everything.  Don’t know about you, but my phone barely lasts an entire day without a charge as is– and on vacation, I’m often falling back on those portable battery chargers to make it to an outlet.  The idea of a small, flat device that supports my favorite hobby and lasts for weeks on a single charge has a lot of appeal. E-ink still trumps the highest res screen, and the backlighting on the Paperwhite is subtle after staring into a tablet screen for hours on end. This device does the best job I’ve seen of emulating actual book pages, with just enough illumination to keep it viable in less than ideal conditions. So far so good.

(That first screen is from my own work-in-progress, bee-tee-dubs. I highly recommend converting your own drafts and uploading them for review. Helps divorce your brain from your own work.)

One new feature I find interesting is the X-Ray, which provides useful context around characters, setting and historical details (as shown in second shot above, from Stephen King’s 11/22/63). The downside is that it’s not available on all books; presumably someone must aggregate all that metadata in the background. It’s something to keep in mind for my own releases, especially alternate histories!  Ahem.

Another surprise is the readability of graphic novels on the Paperwhite. Well, some graphic novels. Kindle Panel View makes this the perfect device for reading an old-school, black-and-white, panel-by-panel joint like Alan Moore’s From Hell (below).  Seems obvious that more modern comics with elaborate color palettes and unconventional layouts will suffer, but I have yet to experiment. We’ll see.

kindle3

It’s been years since my first-generation Kindle became… uh, kindling. Since then I’ve muddled through with Kindle apps for PC and Android, as well as free readers for EPUB format. They get the job done, but are less than ideal.  Paperwhite isn’t perfect by any stretch; you’re still stuck within Amazon’s ecosystem and the occasional DRM annoyances. But, for me at least, it manages to restore the feel of reading vs. browsing files on a computer. Given my reading habits, that justifies its existence.

ICON Wrap-up

Finally home after almost a week of traveling, reading, writing, critiquing and palling around with fellow writers at ICON and Paradise Icon. Met new people, reunited with old ones, ate too much, drove all over the corn belt, dodged some tornadoes. Now I have time to sit back and reflect on the experience.

SPOILER ALERT: It was damned groovy.

Hats off to the inimitable Cath Schaff-Stump, who organized one heck of a workshop. She managed to attract a posse of neo-pro writers from coast to coast and the submissions and feedback were top notch. Critique sessions were a highlight of the trip, as was the group Rapid Fire Reading on Saturday evening. Our work and styles were diverse but complementary.   A speaker snub dented our progress not one bit, as we sat around and discussed our upcoming projects instead. I look forward to seeing more of every one of my ‘shopmates, and that’s no lie.

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ICON is a small but quite spirited convention. Cedar Rapids has an impressive SF/F community, moreso than some more populous regions. The book signing event was well attended, and we survived the late night filking next door. Even the weather proved cooperative. Normally I bring the snow with me,  but not this time! I’m definitely looking at a return trip next year.

On the return flight I read Michel Faber’s Under the Skin, as recommended by guest speaker Greg Frost. A quick and entertaining, albeit freaky, read and not for the squeamish. A thinly veiled– but clever– vegan manifesto, but I dug it. No hamburgers for me for a day or two.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming. Reading a friend’s draft. Finishing my own second draft. Mush.

Out with the old

OK, it was high time for a new site design.  Got tired of all the black, and all the tiny boxes everywhere, wanted something a bit more open, maybe a bit like a newspaper. So here it is, a brand spankin’ new look. Unless you’re viewing this through an RSS reader, in which case nothing much has changed visually. Carry on.

The other major change is that I’ve updated my domain from coreknell.com to christophercornell.com.  The former was an attempt to get around the fact that any “cornell” related domains have been swept up by the school or the rock star. But it’s a cheesy pun, and also an utter pain in the ass when trying to give someone my email address.   (“Wait, how do you spell that?”) The latter is a bit long, but hey it’s my real name. So my new email address is me at christophercornell dot com.

I’ve also given in and made public my Facebook and Google Plus accounts, both of which are available from the nifty icons in the site header. I’m still most active on Twitter, but I’ll begin adding reposts of the most salient stuff to the other social networks.  Maybe all the reposting and re-re-posting will create a vortex that will take ‘em all down.

The old email and URLs should still work fine, as the CoreKnell domain is parked at the same website. So I’ll answer to either. But I’ve been wanting to change over for a while and figured I should do it while most of my site traffic is still webcrawlers and robots.  Now to publish this mofo and see if RSS subscriptions implode. Wish me luck! But then, if it didn’t work, you’re probably not reading this.  Carry on.

 

ICON Approaches

So here we are in the thick of November. How did we get here? 2013 continues its headlong rush to the finish line, ready or not. And now I have to get my act together for a trip to Iowa this coming Wednesday. Cedar Rapids or bust!  I’ll be attending ICON 38, “Iowa’s longest running science fiction and fantasy convention,” from November 15-17. Even better, I’ll also be participating in the Paradise Icon workshop at the same site. But that’s not all! I’m also part of the Rapid Fire Reading (Cue the “wrap it up” music after 1k words!) at 4:30 on Saturday. So, you know, if you’re around come say hi!  Promises to be a great time, with several of my old pals from Viable Paradise. And the rest of the con ain’t so shabby either. Ellen Datlow!  Nancy Kress!  Jim Hines!  Joe Haldeman! What more incentive does one need?

I’m also hard at work revising my latest manuscript in the hopes of getting feedback next month. ‘Tis really tightening up and I’m looking forward to getting this one in the can. Sure would be nice to devote the holidays to something new.

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