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Feb 2010:
26th Are the French...
25th Girls just wanna...
24th Snow Day
23rd Watcher Watch IV
22nd Spot the crocodile
18th Because it’s...
17th Bits and Pieces
16th Biggie...
12th Bus Stop
11th Ravis of Burano
10th World’s Oldest...
9th Watcher Watch III
8th Back to the Present
7th Cake ‘o’ Death
6th Space Camp
4th Watcher of the Dead
3rd Coba
2nd Writer Stung by...
1st Watcher Watch II
Are the French hotter than us?
Posted by JVJ @ 6:22 pm
Feb 26th : 2010
Based on the evidence you’d have to say, “Yes.” Artwork by Marc Simonetti
Girls just wanna have fun
Posted by JVJ @ 5:54 pm
Feb 25th : 2010
Go have some fun. Wade into the water with your clothes on (or off for that matter). Be merry. Be kind. Don’t wait.
Snow Day (with goofy hat bonus)
Posted by JVJ @ 3:40 pm
Feb 24th : 2010
So yesterday it snowed all day. Today it’s forecast to snow all day too. This wasn’t just any snow, mind. This was the World’s Biggest Snowflake snow. The temperature played around freezing all day so the snow was wet and heavy. And pretty, in a Christmassy kind of way. Here are Biggie and I dealing, in our various ways, with Tuesday’s snow.
Watcher Watch IV
Posted by JVJ @ 6:10 pm
Feb 23rd : 2010
Watcher of the Dead isn’t due to be published until April 15th, but it may have been spotted here. So early hardbacks may be on the loose. Generally speaking, unless you’re JK Rowling and a multi-million dollar campaign is due to kick start on the appearance of your latest book, publishing dates are pretty loose. “April 15th” usually means “early April, possibly even late March”. Even so, a sighting of an actual bona-fide hardback nearly two months before its due date, is somewhat unusual. Promotional copies (ARCs; Advanced Reading Copies) are printed months ahead of the pub date so they can be distributed to buyers and reviewers, so there’s little need to print actual hardbacks early. Interesting. Is Watcher out there? I await further intelligence.
Spot the Crocodile
Posted by JVJ @ 6:58 pm
Feb 22nd : 2010
Here are my feet, resting on a Mayan stone crocodile at sunset, high above the Pacific. I’m taking a break from walking a trail. A flock of parakeets have just flown overhead and in the distance I hear howler monkeys.

So, I’m working on Book V. I’m in the process of introducing the character who I cut from Book IV. Her story will be different in the new book. The destination will be the same, but the route will be unrecognizable.
Because it’s been awhile
Posted by JVJ @ 5:22 pm
Feb 18th : 2010
Here I am the base of small, nameless falls in the rainforest in central Cost Rica. As you can see I’m damp and disheveled, which is the natural state of a waterfall hunter.
Bits and Pieces
Posted by JVJ @ 2:39 pm
Feb 17th : 2010
Lot of snow here today, the pretty kind that sticks to tree limbs and turns everyday landscapes into postcard-worthy photo oppertunities. I was in Canada over the weekend, eating cake, watching the Olympics on TV, and reading The Strangest Man by Graham Farmelo, which is a biography of the physicist Paul Dirac. Now I’m back to work on Book V of Sword of Shadows. No, it doesn’t have a title yet.
Biggie contemplates snow
Posted by JVJ @ 5:11 pm
Feb 16th : 2010
Bus Stop
Posted by JVJ @ 5:18 pm
Feb 12th : 2010
Here’s a shot at one of the bus stops in Costa Rica. There were a couple of cafes where you could buy empanadas, cafe au lait, beer and flan. People were chilling out, enjoying a drink as they watched wild parrots roost in nearby trees. The weather was warm and dry. As I took this photo, I couldn’t help but think of British bus stops, where I've passed many long hours waiting for busses in concrete shelters decorated with graffiti; refreshmentless, parrotless, cold.
Ravis of Burano
Posted by JVJ @ 12:44 pm
Feb 11th : 2010
I nominate this guy for the coolest dude ever to grace a book cover. Eat your heart out Fabio (not that I’ve got anything against Fabio. He seems like a nice guy. I wonder what he’s doing these days?). This wonderfulness was painted by the brilliant Marc Simonetti, who illustrates the French editions of my books. It’s a close-up of Ravis from The Barbed Coil. I think it perfectly captures Ravis’s worldliness and watchfulness. And that’s the essence of a good illustration.
World’s Oldest Tree Smackdown
Posted by JVJ @ 2:14 pm
Feb 10th : 2010

There has been controversy. People have taken offence. National pride is at stake. In my post of a couple of days ago, I threw down the fact that the world’s oldest tree is not in California (my home state) but in Dalarna Province, Sweden. Could I have been more controversial or more wrong? Let’s see.
In our left corner we have Methuselah, a bristlecone pine of impeccable lineage, weighing in at lively 4,841 years old. This dude knows how to carry himself in a fight. He’s survived two world wars, the Trojan War, the War of the Roses, the War of Independence, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, even a mini Ice Age. Germinating at the time the great pyramid at Giza was built, he was full grown by Stonehenge. Methuselah is old. And critically, he’s still fully intact (more on that later).

In our right corner we have Old Norse (as he doesn’t appear to have been officially named, I did the honors for him). He’s a Norwegian Spruce, fighting fit and ready for his Christmas lights, weighing in at a staggering 9,550 year old. This dude is Neolithic. He was around before civilization, before we knew how to grow wheat or herd sheep, when woolly mammoths were still roaming the ice sheets and saber tooth tigers were still chasing them. In other words, Old Norse has seen everything. Twice.

Without further ado we’ll ring the bell and let the smackdown begin. Old Norse is first to emerge from his corner. Surprisingly light on his feet for a tree approaching his tenth millennium, he delivers a series of bruising left hooks to Methuselah’s trunk. “Young, whipper snapper,” hisses Methuselah in rage and indignation. “Aboveground your only six hundred years old.” As the crowd catches its breath in surprise, Methuselah seizes the advantage and pummels Old Norse with a one-two combo to the crown. “Your branches are falling off,” taunts Old Norse.

“That’s because ALL of me is 4,841 years old,” shoots back Methuselah, trying hard not to look at his fallen branches. “Your roots may be 9,550 but your trunk is just some scrawny upstart sent up in the Middle Ages.”

“At least I’ve got leaves,” says Old Norse.*

The bell goes and both trees return to their corners. As medics try to reattach Methuselah's fallen limbs, the judges huddle around the table, exchanging terse whispers. After a few seconds, they summon the referee. “We’re calling a draw,” says Judge #1 to the ref. “We can’t afford to lose either of these guys. And frankly, it’s kind of painful to watch.”

The ref nods in agreement and ducks back in the ring. As he grabs the mike to make the official announcement, the arena is plunged into sudden darkness. A lumbering and shadowy form approaches the ring. “Not so fast,” it bellows at Methuselah and Old Norse. “I want a piece of this. I’m a Jurupa Oak and I’m older than both of you combined, and I’m ready to whip some tree-butt.”

Methuselah and Old Norse exchange a glance. In a moment of silent camaraderie they nod. “Bring it on,” says Methuselah, speaking for both of them. “Someone fetch a box of matches. We’re taking this combustible.”

And that’s where we’ll leave this tawdry tale of pumped up egos, injured pride and firewood. Right now we’ll call the smackdown unresolved...and hope no one burns down the house.
*Old Norse meant to say needles
Watcher Watch III: Book Reviews
Posted by JVJ @ 12:45 pm
Feb 9th : 2010
One of the problems with writing a long series over the course of a decade is the difficulty of asking reviewers to review the latest book in your series. Book reviewers do a lot of reading. They usually have several books on their docket at any given time and deadlines are always looming. So, if a potential reviewer has never read the earlier books in your series, is it reasonable to expect him or her to read the first three books in order to give a balanced review of the fourth?

The answer is probably “No.” As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Sword of Shadows series now boasts about a million words. That’s a lot by anyone’s standards. A big committment of time and energy. Reviewers who have read the previous books can simply pick up the new one and get started. In no time they’ll remember who’s who and catch up on the plot. But what about those who are new readers? What can they do? The easiest thing would be to pass on Watcher of the Dead. Books are arriving through the mail every day, wonderful, brilliant books with beautiful covers and tempting first lines.

So what would I say to those new reviewers? I’d say this: Pick up Watcher and read the Prologue. No prior information is required to enjoy and understand it. You won’t need a list of players, a world map, a family tree and a lexicon. If you like the Prologue, flick back a couple of pages and read “The Story So Far” section. There you’ll find everything you need to know about what happened in the previous three books. It’s short, maybe six or seven pages, and should have you up-and-running in about fifteen minutes. Once you have a bare bones understanding of the previous books, my hope is that Watcher will stand on its own two feet. Yes, it’s part of a series, but it is also its own book, with its own story arc, its own themes, and its own ending. It may take a little extra effort to set it upright, but once you do you’ll find the book stands alone.

If you’re a professional book reviewer, drop me a line and I’ll ask my publishers (Tor US/Orbit UK) to send you a copy. Cheers, JV.
Back to the Present
Posted by JVJ @ 5:32 pm
Feb 8th : 2010
Things appear to be back to normal here. If you visited the website last Friday you found yourself transported back to April 2008 (back in the days when the world’s oldest tree was in California, not Sweden, and no one knew for sure whether or not there was ice on Mars). The reason for the fail was that our website host was switching severs, and while older files had been copied across, newer stuff hadn’t made the switch. Paul has sorted this out and we hope everything is back to normal.

Also, as of late Friday, my books are now once again available through a certain online book retailer. Now everyone gets to have a slice of cake. And no, it didn’t taste nearly as good as it looked. I don’t know what went wrong.
Cake ‘o’ Death
Posted by JVJ @ 9:33 am
Feb 7th : 2010
What do you do when when your website has time-warped back to April 2008 and a major online retailer isn’t selling your books? You make cake. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve just learned how to make cake. Because of this I only have one cake in my repertoire. Upside down cake. No pineapples in the house today so I subbed mangoes. Here she is in all her glory, JV’s Cake ‘o’ Death. Cake for (nearly) everyone.
Space Camp
Posted by JVJ @ 12:02 pm
Feb 6th : 2010
Here I am at WIRO, the Wyoming Infrared Observatory at 9,656 ft, twenty-five miles from Laramie, Wyoming. I was there to attend the Launchpad workshop, which is run by astrophysicist and SF writer Mike Brotherton and funded by Nasa. It was a week-long crash course in astronomy. Intense, interesting and a lot of fun.
Watcher of the Dead
Posted by JVJ @ 12:39 pm
Feb 4th : 2010
Thanks to the behind-the-scenes machinations of Paul, Watcher now has its own webpage. Head over there and take a look around. You’ll find excerpts, artwork, facts and quotes.
Posted by JVJ @ 9:14 am
Feb 3rd : 2010
Here I am by one of the passageways that riddle the ruins at Coba. At its peak, this city may have had 50,000 inhabitants. Now most of its structures are hidden beneath the jungle canopy. Coba is largely unexcavated, and that’s the way the local Mayan people like it. I like it too. You can wander through the jungle and see glimpses of another time and place...or nothing at all. Just vines.
Writer Stung by Jellyfish
Posted by JVJ @ 6:28 am
Feb 2nd : 2010
Here I am last month, in the Pacific off the western coast of Costa Rica, getting stung by jellyfish. You might not be able to see the jellyfish but they’re there, just under the water, all tendrilly and quick to take offense. I was kitted out to go snorkeling, but the jellyfish stings brought a swift end to that plan. The pain was excruciating, but surprisingly temporary. I swam back to the boat. The captain doused my poor inflamed legs with vinegar, handed me a beer, and within half an hour I was as good as new. I never went back into the water though.
Watcher Watch II
Posted by JVJ @ 6:34 am
Feb 1st : 2010
As Watcher of the Dead will be published in the US and UK/Australia on April 14th, I’m doing a series of posts I call Watcher Watch (read Part I here). So without further fanfare here are more Watcher facts.
  • Watcher of the Dead breaks with the series tradition of having the word “ice” in the title. Not only were we running out of colors (seriously, who wants to read Beware of the Yellow Ice?), but unlike the first three books, ice doesn’t feature prominently in the plot. There are no ice caverns. No frozen fortresses or bodies of water. Plus, it’s Spring in the clanholds. And while I’d hardly call it warm, the rivers and lakes are thawing.
  • “Relentless and powerful. This is damned good stuff,” is how Glen Cook, author of the excellent Black Company Series, describes Sword of Shadows. Other praise includes a starred review by Publishers Weekly (their highest accolade) and Booklist declaring the series, “Outstanding.”
  • One thing I like to do in each book, is show readers additional sections of the Hailhouse (clan Blackhail’s dome-shaped fortress). It’s a large and sprawling structure and there’s always more areas to explore. This time we get to see inside Blackhail’s strongroom, a chamber that is only accessible through the warrior hall known as the Greathearth.
  • The scene in the Prologue where Sadaluk, the Listener’s of the Ice Trappers, finds a week-old bear carcass that is frozen on the outside but warm inside is based on fact. Reindeer found in similar condition have been reported by the Evany people of Siberia.
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Link List:
Watcher of the Dead
Marc Simonetti
The Barbed Coil
French Publisher