Brenda Cooper

Nov
01

KEEPERS — A book by the numbers

So the first draft of Keepers (the sequel to Wilders) is turned in!

I track my time, and it took 255 hours to get the book to this point. The first entry was in February. So that’s 9 months, at roughly 28 hours a month, although in reality there were three big pushes and much dinking in between. Finishing my MFA meant interruptions, and then I took some time away from it for short stories, and for promoting Wilders and the 10th Anniversary edition of The Silver Ship and the Sea. There are probably 100 hours left in redraft after comments, copyedits, and page proofs, and then another 100 or more in promotion, but most of that will probably happen next year.

I think I would call that binge writing – you can see the hours on the first part (which ended up being my thesis) and then the dip for other MFA things and two more rises.

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For reference, I’m a little over 1100 hours for the year on my writing career including writing, promoting, conventions, travel, and the final semester of MFA work (much of which was actually work on the first part of this novel).  So I’ll finish the year around 1300 hours on my writing career, plus full time (usually 45-50 hours a week) on my technology career.  I will make something like fifteen times as much money from my regular job when you consider benefits and all that this year, and it gets worse when you add in writing expenses (those conventions and ads aren’t free!)

Writing – the avocation where you add a greater than half time job to increase your income by less than ten percent, but you love almost every minute!

Oct
29

I’ll be at Orycon 2017

Sat Nov 18 10:00am-11:00am
Autonomous robots and intelligence
When we should actually start worrying about robots as a fellow species rather than appliances – when do they get rights and when should they?

Sat Nov 18 11:00am-12:00pm
Ghost in the Machine or Grandpa?
Is a personality upload a real person? Can they vote? What do they do for a living? Or for fun?

Sat Nov 18 12:00pm-1:00pm
Science Fiction as a Tool for Social Change
Many writers have put their ideals into their writing. Some have even tried to get people to follow those ideals.

Sat Nov 18 3:00pm-4:00pm
What society will really look like an a post-AI age
When labor is all but obviated and (in theory) the human cost of goods has dropped near zero but so has employment – what does this really mean? Are we gonna get Blade Runner, Star Trek or Terminator?

Sat Nov 18 6:30pm-7:00pm
Reading

Sun Nov 19 10:00am-11:00am
Women Role Models in Science Fiction
Are there any good female role models in science fiction? Or are they still relegated to being damsels in distress? A discussion of both weak and strong female science fiction characters across all media.

Sun Nov 19 11:00am-12:00pm
Pamper Your Muse
How to get your creative mind to talk to you. How writing prompts, mind maps, creative dates with yourself, tarot and story telling cards can help you tap the muse.

Sun Nov 19th 4:00 PM
Science Fiction Authorfest
Come to Powell’s at Cedar Hills Crossing for a group signing

Oct
19

Science Matters: Great Deal on Adventure Science Fiction!

The Silver Ship and the Sea has been included on a storybundle.  That means you can get it — the new 10th anniversary version – and a lot of other great fiction from writers like Jody Lynn Nye, Robert Sawyer, Kevin J, Anderson, and more.  Pay as little as $15.00 for 13 ebooks.  Some portion of your payment goes to support the Challenger Center for Space and Science Education. We’ve already raised over $600 in support of Challenger Center.  Science matters right now.  The future needs voters with healthy curiosity about science, with love for it, with a willingness to accept consensus while still pressing for more knowledge.

So stop by the Storybundle site and pick up a lot of great fiction. Even if you’ve already bought a copy of Silver Ship, there are a lot of other great books in this bundle, which was curated by Kevin J. Anderson.

 

 

Aug
14

10th Anniversary Silver Ship and the Sea Cover

I’m pleased to share the beautiful cover that Wordfire Press designed for the 10th anniversary edition of The Silver Ship and the Sea:

I love the simplicity of the cover, and wanted to share it.  Thanks to Janet McDonald for a great cover design.

If you want  copy, the best deal for this new version of The Silver Ship and the Sea can be ordered via our already-funded kickstarter.  You can preorder the electronic version of an anthology of stories set in the same world for only $3.00 for the next few days at the Kickstarter site, poke around at other options, and maybe benefit from stretch goals as we meet them going forward.

You can also get the Kindle version now at Amazon.  The paperback will be available soon.  Note that there are used copies of the original version available at Amazon, but I think new readers will enjoy this version more as I’ve polished off clunky bits while otherwise leaving everything the same. If you already read it, you might not notice the hundreds of small improvements, but I hope new readers pick up this version.

Aug
10

Stories of Fremont’s Children

My first solo novel, The Silver Ship and the Sea, is getting a fabulous tenth anniversary edition from Wordfire Press, available this month.  This is a favorite tale of mine, with beloved characters I got to spend many long hours with.  It was my first award-winning novel. The basic story is that six genetically altered children get left behind as spoils of war on a planet that detests genetic modification.  What could go wrong?

To celebrate, I’m crowdfunding an anthology called “Stories of Fremont’s Children” which will include both beloved and new stories set in the series. Much more on the Kickstarter itself soon. It’s a great way to order your copy of Silver Ship and also get the stories for a great deal.

More on the Kickstarter soon.

There were always supposed to be four books in this series.  Wordfire will put out the fourth, which will be a promise kept to readers. A promise made a decade ago.  I can’t tell you how good it will feel to get that story out there.  And I’m in a better position to finish than I was years ago — I know more about the problem I was trying to solve with these novels.

The new editions are beautiful (cover reveal for book 1 coming soon!) and I’ve updated the sentences while leaving the story intact.  I’m pretty excited about these anniversary editions. I hope you’ll come along with me, support the Kickstarter, and get both The Silver Ship and the Sea and Stories of Fremont’s Children.

Jul
21

My Stonecoast MFA

I recently completed a Masters in Fine Arts at Stonecoast.  A number of people asked me why, and others have whether or not it was worth it. So here’s my write-up, which might help mid-career authors who are considering an MFA.  First – a brief description. Stonecoast is a low-residency MFA through the University of Southern Maine. I went to Maine for ten days each a total of five times, and all of the other work was from home.  The cost was moderate  – my two-year MFA was around the cost of one year for our daughter at a private college.  So not cheap, but not six figures, either.  The program is fairly small and intimate, with about 70 students at a time, the staff is great, and there is a deep sense of community.  Most importantly for me, Stonecoast has a Popular Fiction track. Although I did not study much popular fiction (since I’m already well-published in that field), I wanted to go to a school that celebrated science fiction, fantasy, horror and other popular genres.  While I was looking a few years ago, popular fiction tracks were still quite rare. They may still be rare.

Some Stonecoast grads you might know include Mur Lafferty, Julie C. Day, Karen Bovenmyer, Sandra McDonald, and Bonnie Joe Stufflebeam. Some Stonecoast popular fiction professors include David Anthony Durham, Nancy Holder, Elizabeth Hand, Theodora Goss, and James Patrick Kelley.

So why did I go?  After all I was already published.  So here are my reasons:

  1. I wanted to learn to write better – so that I can create work that even more people read.
  2. I wanted to learn the language: my under-graduate degree is in business with an emphasis in technology.
  3. I wanted the certificate in case I want to teach at the University level as a retirement job.
  4. I wanted to learn more about social justice writing.
  5. I wanted to fall in love with words again.

I primarily studied poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction while I was there, although my thesis is popular fiction.

You will have to tell me how I did on number one – Wilders was written during my first year at Stonecoast and Keepers (previously titled Returners) was started during my thesis semester.  Things I write from here on out will show the full impact of Stonecoast on my writing.  How this plays out will really answer the question about whether or not it was worth the time. I figure it cost me a book and multiple short stories in output. If my writing is better, it was worth it.

I’d say I met all of my other goals.

In the category of unintended happiness, I think I learned more about multiple social justice topics.  I got to work with Martín Espada, who is one of best poets working right now and a huge advocate for the rights of the downtrodden, and with Debra Marquardt, who writes fabulous poetry and essays and is a deep environmentalist. She taught me a lot about environmental justice.

It all comes down to the people.  I worked with the brilliant and versatile  Nancy Holder on my thesis. I workshopped a ton of fabulous instructors. I liked the other students so much I cried when we all graduated and wouldn’t be coming back to Maine together again. The staff at Stonecoast is fabulous, and I felt very supported on my trip through the wayback machine to college (the last time I graduated from anything was over 30 years ago).

If anyone who is considering Stonecoast has any questions, please feel free to use the contact form on this page and ask away!

Jul
08

Reading Recommendation: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

I just stayed up entirely too late reading a delightful new novel by Theodora Goss, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter.  It’s a lovely fantasy tale that begins with Mary Jekyll, the daughter of the famous Jekyll from the story of Jekyll and Hyde.  As Mary’s story progresses, she is confronted with a mystery, meets new friends and famous and beloved allies, and has grand adventures.  I don’t want to say too much about the story itself because I was so often delighted when new characters showed up, and I think you all deserve to have that unspoiled experience.

The book worked for me in three ways:

  1. The line by line writing and story is executed flawlessly.  I’m not surprised as I’ve read some of Dora’s short work and poetry, and would stop and find it all if I had time.  She is a precise writer who evokes magical worlds through high craft.
  2. Dora uses some very unconventional tools to get across the delightful people in the book – her characters occasionally interrupt the flow of the narrative in delightful ways.  I love experiments, and I found this to be a brave and effective way of doing some experimental writing in a novel.
  3. This book works as a pure adventure.  It is also a subtle commentary on the power of women, and addresses gender, fears, and female monsters. As I read, I felt that this was deliberate – it was meant to be part of the book.  But it never interfered.

I highly recommend The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, and I think everyone should go get a copy and read it!

 

Jun
19

Wilders release week recap!

Wow – what fun.  That was a wild first week for Wilders. Pun intended. Thought this list of all the events and interviews and the like might be worth putting together for folks since there are still ways to read parts of Wilders up on the web, a few giveaways, and lots of interviews.  So here is the list in no particular order:

Giveaways (Hurry!):

One copy at Bibliosanctum

One Copy at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist

Note! Two people already won copies by being part of my mailing list.  Sign up on my front page if you want a chance to win copies of books in the future! You’ll also get a monthly newsletter from me.  Never more than monthly, at least so far!  Sometimes less than monthly.

Chapters posted:

Prolog and first chapter at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist.

Prolog and first chapter at Bibliosanctum

Most of Chapter Two at Whiskey with my Book.

Reviews and Recommendations:

Sunday Recommendation at Unbound Worlds

Review by Astroguyz

Wilders is mentioned by Nisi Shawl in the Sunday Review of Books

Wilders looked at by Foreword Reviews

Interviews and Guest Posts:

Matt Staggs and I talk about climate fiction at Unbound Worlds.

Guest Post at SFF.net “Climate Fiction is good for our genre (and for us!)

Interview with fellow climate fiction author Brian Burt (I interview him)

Interview with Brian Burt (he interviews me)

Fun, wide-ranging interview with Riley at Whiskey with my Book.

Really fun guest post at Marie Brennan’s “Spark of Life”  

Readings:

I had a great reading at University Bookstore on June 14th.  They have signed copies.

There will be a reading (with Nancy Kress!) at Powell’s Cedar Crossing on July 18th.

 

Thanks to everyone who helped out – all of the bloggers and reviewers and fellow authors and friends. 

Jun
10

Interview with Brian Burt, author of “In the Tears of God”

Here is my interview with fellow author Brian Burt, who also writes climate fiction. I enjoyed meeting Brian online and working with him to exchange interview.

I just finished Aquarius Rising. I really enjoyed the book, so I’ll start with thanking you for giving me a copy.  As I mentioned when we started this conversation a few months ago, I’m interested in other authors who write climate fiction.

For the sake of my readers, I’ll start with some context:  Aquarius Rising is an action/adventure novel set in a far future where the land has been ravaged by geo-engineering gone bad, and the sea is full of colonies of humans adapted to the sea with bioengineering that went well.  It’s a great set-up, and if I say anything else it could be a spoiler.  So on to the interview questions:

Brenda: Your world building is excellent.  I felt that you had created a post-apocalyptic world that made sense and you were consistent and clear as you described the world. It was also unique. Can you talk a little about the process you went through to create the world? What was the most fun, and why?

Brian Burt: I admit I had a blast fleshing out the details of this fictional world. I actually wrote a short story originally, “Neptune’s Children,” inspired by this vision of human-dolphin hybrids swimming through the ruins of drowned coastal cities, transforming them into reef communities. Honestly, the short story wasn’t very good. I couldn’t do justice to the vision in that abbreviated format. So the tale grew into a novel, then a trilogy. As someone from the Midwest, far from any ocean shoreline, I loved researching the marine ecosystems and creatures who might populate this world. I learned so much, and every discovery triggered more ideas. It’s trite, but we’ve explored the surface of the Moon in more detail than the ocean depths. That aura of mystery provides incredibly rich soil (or sand 😉 from which story ideas can sprout!

Brenda: Your story is set in the Pacific Northwest.  I liked that; it’s my home. Why did you choose to set the story there?

Brian Burt: I envy you, Brenda, for living in such a beautiful place! I’ve always lived in the Great Lakes region, but my brother and sister both lived in Portland, Oregon, at different times, so I took the opportunity to travel to the Pacific Northwest for visits. It took my breath away. You can rightly claim to offer some of the most gorgeous natural scenery in the country, I think. When I started work on Aquarius Rising, I could think of no better setting than the coasts of Oregon and Washington State: rugged coastline, towering mountains, lush forests, thunderous waterfalls. I couldn’t imagine a place that would more dramatically demonstrate the tragedy of climate change, of what we have to lose and what could be regained if we reverse our course.

Brenda: Aquarius Rising is your first published novel after a short-story career.  How much different did you find novels?  Why?

Brian Burt: Honestly, I found sitting in front of the keyboard for that first novel to be terrifying. With short fiction, you have almost instant gratification. You labor for a few weeks or a few months to craft and refine a story and you’re rewarded with a finished work. You send it off to a magazine or anthology and move on to the next. Starting a novel felt like launching an assault on Everest; the scope, the commitment, the potential disappointment of not finding a publishing home after investing all that time and effort were intimidating. Eventually, though, I settled into a rhythm and found that novel-writing has its distinct rewards. You’re less constrained, can develop ideas and characters more richly, can experience the joy of finding that the tale takes on a life of its own. You may even find yourself on a detour into uncharted territory you never envisioned at the outset.

Brenda: Looking it your blog posts on Goodreads, I see that you are an optimist.  I am too, although I have to admit that the last few years have been harder.  The more climate science I read, the more worried I become that we are close to tipping points. Going backwards on policy right now feels dangerous.  What do you do to maintain your own optimism?

Brian Burt: Wow, do I agree with you! Earth is a water planet; oceans cover more than 70% of its surface. About 40% of humans live within 60 miles of the coast and could be forced from their homes as sea levels rise in the wake of global warming. It’s been a major struggle to maintain optimism in the face of recent political events and the impact on environmental policy. At some point, I felt so distressed by the daily news that I decided it was time to hunt for the encouraging stories buried amidst the gloom and doom, to share those with others whom I figured might also need a boost. I started publishing blog posts with the hash tag #CauseForOptimism. It’s been a healthy exercise. It definitely lifts my own spirits, and I hope it does the same for others.

Brenda: What do you think is the most important thing that we can do as individuals to create a better future? 

Brian Burt: I’ve been tremendously encouraged by the recent peaceful public protests like the Climate March and the March for Science. I think this is the most vital step we can take as individuals: to speak up for scientific facts, to lobby government officials to take responsible action based on those facts, and to support the scientific organizations who analyze those facts to help us understand potential impacts. And of course we can all take local action on a smaller scale: striving for energy efficiency in our own homes and commutes, recycling, reusing, and being conscious of our own carbon footprint. Even small improvements in these areas, multiplied by millions of people, can add up to a big effect.

Brenda: Same question, but globally?  Climate change is a global problem. What one thing do you think might be the most important to do on a global scale?

Brian Burt: As a species, I really do worry that we’re at a pivotal point in our social evolution. First, I think we need to do everything we can to acknowledge that this problem affects every nation, every person, and requires unified action if we’re going to solve it, or at least mitigate the worst effects. That means honoring the Paris climate agreement, for starters. It means instituting meaningful economic regulations like a carbon tax or cap and trade to more accurately reflect the true cost of burning fossil fuels. And it means remembering how vital science is to improving our odds; we should be funneling investments into renewal energy and green technologies, treating the challenge of climate change like it’s the Apollo space program of this generation.

I think SF writers have a role to play in sharing the vision of a better future, and dramatizing the consequences of inaction. Science fiction has been doing this for a long time, through novels, short stories, and nonfiction, too. Isaac Asimov and Frederik Pohl published Our Angry Earth more than twenty-five years ago, with common-sense suggestions about how to avoid environmental disaster. It’s sad to realize that we’re still rehashing the same tired argument today in the U.S., still pretending that the problem doesn’t exist. I’m optimistic that my kids’ generation is savvy enough to avoid that trap, acknowledge the scientific reality, and save us from ourselves. I just wish they didn’t have to carry that burden.

Brenda: Tell me about your next book.  When is it coming out and where can people find it? 

Brian Burt: Book Three of the Aquarius Rising trilogy, The Price of Eden, has just been released by Double Dragon Publishing. That and the first two novels in the series (In the Tears of God, Blood Tide) can be found at all the major online booksellers, and paperback copies can be ordered through Amazon or Lulu.

Brenda: I understand that you have finished the trilogy.  Do you plan to write more in this world, or create another one?

Brian Burt: I always planned on Aquarius Rising being three volumes, and The Price of Eden really does finish the story line. I don’t think those characters want me to interfere in their lives any further. I do have another weird world of “alternative facts” bouncing around inside my skull that I hope to explore next; if all goes well, that may develop into another eco-fiction series. I can’t wait to see where it takes me!

Brian’s interview with me can be found on Goodreads. 

I recommend that you all go buy Aquarius Rising and start his series.

Jun
01

Reading Recommendation: New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson

I finished reading 2140 the day that the United States announced it would pull out of the Paris agreement on Climate Change.  I believe today may go down in history as the day we lost global political power and destroyed the global good will of other nations towards us, and maybe worse. But that’s a different blog post, and maybe after I calm down I’ll be able to write that.  This post is to recommend that everyone read 2140.

This ambitious look at a future when sea level has risen to swamp coastlines and New Yorkers travel through canals in a “super-Venice” is brilliant.  It’s full of believable and interesting characters.  It’s well-researched and deeply imaginative.  I was quite sad to have finished it and to leave the world Robinson created behind.

I’ve read a lot of climate fiction, and this may be the best climate fiction book written so far.  While it pulls no punches, it is also hopeful. It’s characters are as full of foibles, hope, despair, and ingenuity as real people.  The future in this book feels plausible. It’s also a bit of an emotional antidote to the current political crazies. It’s also long — so it may be a healthy way to avoid taking in too much news all at once while still thinking deeply about the things that matter.

Note that I listened to this in the Audible version (and then went out and bought the hardback).  The narration is quite good.