Bookwork for a Booklife at Copperfield’s, Petaluma, CA

BOOKWORK FOR A BOOKLIFE: Talk, Discussion, and Signing with Award-Winning Author Jeff VanderMeer at Copperfield’s, 140 Kentucky St, Petaluma, CA, starting at 7:00pm on Friday, Nov. 13.

Part of a five-week national book tour, Jeff VanderMeer’s in-store talk and Q&A coincides with the release of his new Booklife: Strategies & Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer, the first book to blend traditional career and creativity advice with the best ways to thrive in our new internet-based world without losing your mind. Funny, blunt, practical, and humane, Booklife is the perfect gift for you or the writer in your life. “A frank, revealing manual not simply on how to be a better wordsmith, but on how to be a better human being.” – Minister Faust

VanderMeer will share often outrageous details of working on successful, complex book projects, along with sustainable career and creativity advice for this new media age. His talk will be followed by a Q&A with the audience and a take-away of exercises and prompts aimed at enhancing your creativity and honing your career focus. In addition to writing for the New York Times Book Review, LA Times, Washington Post, and Miami Herald, he is the best-selling author of the cult classic City of Saints & Madmen, with books published in 20 languages. Jeff’s new novel is Finch, a noir fantasy thriller that has received rave reviews from the likes of NYT Bestsellers Stephen R. Donaldson and Tad Williams.

Free Finch CD soundtrack by critically acclaimed rock band Murder by Death with purchase of the novel, while supplies last.

Bookwork for a Booklife at the Hugo House, Seattle

Join Jeff VanderMeer at the Hugo House, 1634 11th Avenue, in Seattle for an event presented by the Fantastic Fiction Salon. Monday, Nov. 9, at 7:00pm.

BOOKWORK FOR A BOOKLIFE: Award-winning writer and editor Jeff VanderMeer shares the inside, often outrageous, details of working on successful, complex book projects, along with sustainable career and creativity advice for this new media age. The world of publishing is changing. How should you change with it, and what will remain the same? Practical, irreverent, idealistic, and brash, VanderMeer will give a talk followed by a discussion with series organizer Leslie Howle and then take questions from the audience. VanderMeer is the author of Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer. “A frank, revealing, riveting manual not simply on how to be a better wordsmith, but on how to be a better human being.” – Minister Faust

The Press Club, Portland, OR

Description: Join Underland Press to celebrate the weird and the wonderful with readings by acclaimed authors Jeff VanderMeer, Jay Lake, Cat Rambo, and Jeff Johnson. With art by Benjamin W. Burch and music by DJ Santo, along with crepes, wine, and beer at the Press Club, we’ll stay and talk fantastic lit ’till the management kicks us out.

When: Friday, November 6. Readings start at 5:30
Where: The Press Club, 2621 SE Clinton Portland, OR 97202

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Tuesday Linkage: Booklifenow on Doctorow and Vertical/Horizontal Learning, Reviews, and More


(The remains of writers who never did understand the lifecycle of a book. Photo by the highly recommended Jeremy Tolbert.)

I won’t inflict Booklifenow links on you every day (although I may run an update in the sidebar), but will be informing you of new content during this, our launch week.

Cory Doctorow vs Booklifenow: Vertical vs Horizontal Learning:
“Complaining about someone’s visibility is as pointless as complaining about someone’s shadow being too long. Further, he’s taking a big risk in a lot of ways, and like most pioneers his experiments won’t just contribute to his own ongoing success but will open the way for a plethora of new approaches by others.”

Booklifenow on the Lifecycle of a Book:
“If there’s one way that agents and editors could help their writers it would be by not assuming any prior knowledge of this lifecycle—although it is true that the process can change from publisher to publisher.”

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Reading the Readers of VanderFiction

Over the years, I’ve begun to see patterns in my readership–or think I have, at least. I’ve set out some gross generalizations below. I’ve thought about this a lot with Finch coming out, because for those who buy into the novel’s plot but are indifferent to the setting, they may be better off first sampling the two other novels I indicate as preferences for Direct Readers.

DIRECT READERS (want structure/trad plot indicators): Trend toward enjoying Veniss Underground, Predator South China Sea, Finch, and any short stories that do not use experimental or meta techniques. Dislike: Shriek: An Afterword (subset of direct readers actively loathe Shriek).

INDIRECT READERS (willing to accept non trad plot indicators): Trend toward enjoying City of Saints, Shriek: An Afterword, along with a selection of short stories depending on factors other than structure/technique. Dislike: Predator South China Sea (sometimes just on principle)

NARROW READERS (not pejorative; those not interested in tonal or genre variety): Trend toward thinking of City of Saints as a mixed bag and enjoy the third part of Veniss Underground the most. These readers will pick through the short stories for the gems they feel exist among the material to which they remain indifferent. Narrow readers tend to defend their turf more proactively, which means they’re more likely to be offended by work that’s not within the corridor of their reading tastes. Dislike: Various, because each has his or her own alley.

WIDE READERS (like and seek out many different modes of writing): Trend toward dismissing Veniss Underground as early work and Secret Life as mixed bag. Most enjoy Shriek and City of Saints, and seem thus far to like Finch. They’ll follow me across genres and structures at the short lengths, but let me know about it when they think an individual piece didn’t reach its full potential. They tend to be split down the middle on the value of my Predator novel. Dislike: Various, because they have so many alleys.

AMBERGRISIANS (like and seek out any permutation of the Ambergris setting): Trend, as core fans, toward enjoying City of Saints, Shriek, and Finch but deviate strongly as to the degree of affection for each. The strength of their affection for Ambergris is what draws the Ambergrisian Narrow Reader or Direct Reader through Shriek despite the novel possibly not fitting in with their core reading pleasures. It’s also what seems to be drawing the Indirect Reader through Finch, despite possible qualms about the lack of metafictional or experimental tropes.

BASTARDS (hate anything I write): Trend toward hating life itself….Just kidding…Seriously, though–there are some readers who just don’t like my work, just as every writer has those who don’t like their work. (Writers who have a problem with this probably also have issues of acceptance in their general lives.) Some of readers keep trying and failing, which is admirable if masochistic–like one woman on Goodreads who keeps being exasperated with everything I’ve ever done…but continues to buy the books. I suppose she likes to be exasperated by her fiction. There are also Indirect, Direct, and Narrow readers who encounter one of my books written in a mode not fitting their bandwidth, and their personality type is not to retry an author in that context. These readers may actually be missing books they’d like. Wide readers, in my experience, rarely discard an author based on one book.

Alice in Wonderland, John Coulthart Style!

It’s no secret that I think John Coulthart is a genius. I’ve known him now for about seven years and in that span he’s done some amazing work for my books, from City of Saints to the limited Shriek, the fake disease guide, and the interior of Last Drink Bird Head, the Booklife design…the list just goes on and on. And that’s just the least bit of what he’s been up to during that time.

Now he’s come up with a Psychedelic Alice in Wonderland Calendar that’s absolutely awesome. Check it out!

Booklifenow.com Goes Live: Supporting Sustainable Creativity and Careers


(Thanks to John Coulthart for the great cover.)

This morning Booklifenow.com went live with a welcome message and a breakdown of the book’s table of contents. Please drop by and “sign” the first post with a comment if you’re so inclined. We’ll be offering new content every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Initially, most of it will come from the book or expand on themes from the book, but we’ll also have guests like Colleen Lindsay dropping by. Every Friday my partner on Booklifenow.com, Matt Staggs, will post a Top 10 links for the week, focusing on sustainable creativity and sustainable careers. These links lists will reward the best and brightest out there for clarity of thought, factual accuracy, and innovation.

Anyway, go check it out! This first week, to celebrate the launch, there will be content every day, not just M-W-F, including posts on book covers, the pillars of your Public Booklife, the pillars of your Private Booklife, and a fresh look at the lifecycle of a book. Content always posts early in the morning.

Thanks to Luis Rodrigues for creating the great site, and to Publishers Weekly for being amenable to the idea of co-existence with their Booklife portal site, and for, in general, fostering a real sense of community through their web presence and blogs.

Booklife: Strategies & Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer is now available online and through most bookstores. Please feel free to post an Amazon review, and to spread the booklifenow.com link around. This is a true start-up and word of mouth works wonders.

To my surprise and delight, the first Amazon review is from one of my Clarion mentors, James Patrick Kelly. Really an honor.

This is the first time I have ever reviewed a book on Amazon. I have been teaching writing for almost twenty years and have been collecting books about writing for much, much longer. Booklife has easily leapt into my top five and is probably one of my top two recommendations for writing books. Some of what you will read here is advice I myself have given in the past, the rest is stuff I wish I’d had the perspicacity to say. But I don’t need to now. I’ll just tell people to buy Jeff VanderMeer’s new book.

Below the cut, you’ll find thank you’s to everyone who contributed to the book. In many ways, large sections of Booklife provide ample evidence of the great discussions about writing we’ve had here at Ecstatic Days. So, thanks. Above all else, a huge thanks to my wife Ann, not just for contributing significantly to the book but for being there and helping out so much in so many ways during the writing of this book.

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Reaching a Point of Rest

Readers of this blog and Facebook friends might’ve noticed that the frenetic pace of my creative and professional life hasn’t really let up in over two years. Vacations have helped a little, travel for business has even helped in terms of getting me out of the house, but in general my brain hasn’t been able to turn off for a long time. It didn’t help that the beginning of this year I was supposed to be able to take a break, and then couldn’t because a NY publisher whose passive-aggressive editorial staff I hope rots in hell (the only time in 25 years I have felt this way–I generally love editors) managed to wriggle out of a contract-on-my-desk book deal that would’ve given me some space, doing so in a dishonorable way that burned more than a hundred hours of time I could’ve spent on other projects and thus income.

Luckily, though, that book deal, for what’s now called The Steampunk Bible, came back from the dead with a new, awesome publisher and editor at Abrams. Since then, my general situation has continued a marked upswing. Booklife and Finch are off to the beginning of excellent launches, the Endurance book tour is going to be amazing, and other opportunities like teaching at Clarion next year have very much put the bloom back on the rose.

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World Fantasy Convention 2009: Renouncing Squid, Celebrating Last Drink, Gator Heads, and Embracing Phantasmagorical Noir

Yes, it is true, I have chosen to renounce squid, and figure being a GoH with Ann at World Fantasy means that’s as good a place as any to formally go through with the related procedures and documentation, as noted below.

I’ve also posted my schedule and Ann’s below. I haven’t listed other participants on panels or the descriptions since I don’t know if there might be changes in those areas. But this should be our schedule. (Will post changes should any occur.)

Note: If the Finns later force me to unrenounce squid, I may have to do so. Their fu is strong, and their mafia stronger.

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LA Times Off the Shelf Feature: Reality, Fantasy, and the Imagination


(What if you looked through the hole in the pipe and saw this?)

The Los Angeles Times ran my essay about Finch on Friday. Very happy with how it turned out. An excerpt:

When I was growing up, my dad had a family heirloom that fascinated me: a small tobacco pipe with a glass-covered pinhole in the side. If you looked through the hole you could see a microfiche-like photograph: four rows of stern-looking men and women, along with names and other information in German or Dutch. My dad explained that the photograph depicted a group of dissidents from the days before World War I. He didn’t know whether the image was intended as a “hit list” for the secret police or a way for the radicals to keep track of their own. But those kinds of details didn’t register with me anyway. For me, the pipe was a compelling oddity, a window that delighted me because I could look through a tiny hole and see so much.

I’ll be reading from Finch at Book Soup on the Sunset Strip on November 11 at 7pm.