Saturday, June 2, 2007

BEA, day 2: Baen stuff

After some morning work in my room, I headed to BEA, where I grabbed a hot dog and prowled the floor. I love looking at books, so it was a pleasant time.

At 12:45, however, I had to set up for the one--yes, one--SF panel of the show. As you can see if you expand the picture, even the one SF panel had to focus on whether SF was getting into the mainstream.

I helped hand out Baen tote bags, each of which contained, among other things, an inflatable Baen rocket, like the one Toni is holding, and a copy of my book. I autographed many books for very nice people. Toni and David Weber were on the panel, and they represented Baen well.

Afterward, I was able to get Toni, sales liaison whiz, Corinda Crawford, and Senior Editor To Be (on Heinlein's centennial, 7/7/07), Jim Minz, to pose for this photo.

Later that afternoon, Baen hosted a party for booksellers in the Simon & Schuster suite. I met many nice people, quite a few of whom tried to persuade me to go to LibertyCon.

I was particularly glad to meet John Ringo, one of Baen's top authors and someone who was kind enough to blurb my book, and Miriam Sloan; they also agreed to pose for me. I enjoyed getting to know them a bit.

Dinner found the Baen group at Osteria Del Circo, where we enjoyed a lovely meal.

And now I must write--a familiar refrain.

BEA, day 1: New York, New York

Today was a day of transitions.

In the morning, I watched with a great deal of emotion as Scott graduated from middle school. The year ahead will hit him with many challenges, but I know he's up to them. As I've said, I'm very proud of him.

We then had a quick family lunch, after which I headed to the airport for a physical transition from Raleigh to New York City.

My travel experience bordered on miraculous. I arrived only 90 minutes before flight time on a Friday, but I breezed through check-in, barely waited at security, and was at my gate 15 minutes after my arrival at the airport.

If you don't fly much, this chain of events may seem trivial or commonplace, but, trust me, you don't get this lucky often.

I bought bandwidth, which was fast and simple, and I was able to finish a lot of email work. Our plane arrived late, so the cleaning didn't start until 3:02--and we were due to depart at 3:15. No problem today: boarding commenced at 3:13, we were airborne by 3:25, and we arrived in La Guardia 20 minutes early. My luggage awaited me when I made it downstairs to baggage claim; that never happens! The cab line was full of cabs and devoid of people, so I got into the first one, and its air conditioning worked! Sure, the ride took about an hour, but, hey, it's Friday rush hour in New York.

My room awaited me, and though small in typical New York fashion it is also clean and quite nice.

I worked until I went to dinner with my publisher for the Jon & Lobo books, Toni Weisskopf. We ate a lovely meal at The Capitol Grille, then strolled through the more beautiful than ever Grand Central Station on our way back to the hotel.

After dinner, I took a walk around the area just to soak up the energy of New York at night. Here's a photo of the hotel at night, with cars whizzing by, as they do at all hours in New York.

And now I'm settled in to write.

I can't recall a travel day this smooth. Amazing.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Predicting the future and optimism

At Balticon, a very nice woman brought me two books to sign. One contained a Batman story I co-wrote with Jack McDevitt, and the other was volume nine of the paperback magazine, New Destinies. Jim Baen edited this magazine, and for the ninth issue he commissioned my speculation on what PCs would be like in 2001, roughly a decade away. I was quite confident in my predictions.

My confidence was misplaced.

I predicted some things reasonably accurately, but I was wrong more than I was right. I completely missed the explosion in storage capacity and, more importantly, the vastly greater role of connectivity (read: the Internet) in 2001. Someday, I plan to write, primarily as a sort of belated gift to Jim, who of course can never read it, an analysis of my article and offer it to Eric Flint and Mike Resnick for Jim Baen's Universe. If they don't want it, I may post it here. I won't do that piece anytime soon, however, because work on Slanted Jack trumps it.

I mention the piece because it taught me that I, like most SF writers, suck at predicting the future. That's okay, though, because our job is not, in my opinion, to try to guess what awaits us; our job is to tell stories.

Still, those of us who write SF inevitably make predictions in the course of inventing future worlds. The future I've created for the Jon & Lobo series has rules, of course, but it also contains many strange and wondrous things that don't exist (to the best of my knowledge) today. Most importantly, I write about events that occur roughly 350 years from now, and people are still around. In fact, they are all over the universe, on planets spread many light-years apart, on worlds we've yet to imagine.

Positing this future, as opposed to writing about one in which global warming or plague or [insert your favorite threat here] kills us all, is, a friend pointed out to me, an inherently optimistic act. I started to argue by saying no, it's what I needed to do to write the book, but then I realized that was not true.

In my heart, despite an outer layer of cynicism and sarcasm, I believe that humanity will somehow overcome even the terrible things it has done and continue onward, if not on this world than ultimately on others. I don't consider it a sure thing, and I believe we all have to help, but I believe we can do it.

We can.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Helpless, helpless & a word from Sarah

Perhaps the most interesting feeling I've experienced about my first novel hitting the stores is a sense of helplessness. I've done all I can, the publisher has done all it will, the booksellers have done whatever they're willing to do, and now it's up to readers to decide whether to pick up the darn thing. All I can do is focus on the next book. I understand that rationally, but it doesn't stop me from sometimes feeling irrational urges to somehow, some way find an angle that will boost sales.

Weird...and particularly bad for a control freak.

I'm already tired of my own insecurity, so anyone reading this must be bored to death with it. Consequently, let's leave me entirely and return to Sarah's poetry.

I enjoyed Sarah's last poem enough that I've asked her for more whenever she's willing. She contributed this one, which she wrote for an English assignment.




eleven years ago,
the two of us stood on my back porch
the sun bleaching us into cardboard cutouts from behind:
you with your lemonade hair
and me, a simple shadow.
the camera loved you then
our preschool's Marilyn Monroe
with the wind whipping your dress up,
squinting and smiling into the bright air.

the day before at the grocery
in the aisle between orange juice and eggs,
sci-fi dreams were being sold for a cent
cheap sunglasses that promised something more than shade.
we bought two pairs and you wore them
all the way home, looking like something from a story.
this new creature stepped on every sidewalk crack,
defying nursery rhyme laws we had so long obeyed.

I paled beside you then, as now
though I was the darker of the two of us.
you raise your arms to twirl and it's a standing ovation;
you jump and it's a choice when your feet hit the earth again.

that day, you didn't jump, but stepped
out onto dry noontime grass
and tilted your face toward the sun
like a daffodil kept too long inside.
I tried to see what you saw
through paper penny sunglasses,
but all I caught was my best friend,
falling in love with a plain southern sky.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Home again

I'm back, though only for a short time, because I head Friday to BEA.

I generally write these posts late at night, so the blogging software's automatic dating function marks them as being a day ahead of what I view as the date. For example, this post will claim to be on Wednesday, but to me it's still Tuesday, because I haven't gone to bed yet.

I find this annoying, but not annoying enough to bother fixing.

My son, Scott, graduates from middle school on Friday. I'll be there to watch, grab lunch, and then have to head to the airport. I hate having to leave so quickly, but on the other hand I would not allow anything else, including BEA, to cause me to miss the occasion. I'm incredibly proud of Scott and Sarah, and I love them so much my heart sometimes feels it could burst from trying to contain the feelings. Trite phrasing, but there you have it: sometimes expressions turn trite for a reason.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Balticon, day 4: The Inn at Little Washington

Between sleep and morning work, I ended up not spending any time at the con. We had lunch with Kyle and hit the road. Late afternoon and evening was The Inn at Little Washington, which is every bit as amazing as all the reviews say and one of the nicest, most luxurious places I've ever stayed. We had dinner at the kitchen table in the restaurant and had the privilege of meeting Chef and Proprietor Patrick O'Connell, who was a gracious host as well as being, of course, a world-class chef. The meal was one of the best I've ever eaten, and I've eaten some very wonderful meals.

Chefs of this caliber create art. Just as there is always room for another great novel, painting, or piece of music, there is always room for another great meal.

I will, though, have to diet and exercise like a demon when my travels end.

Back to writing Slanted Jack. Jon's about to make some noise....

Monday, May 28, 2007

Balticon, day 3: Panels, Pazo, and "Pepper"

Panels filled my day today, three of them to be exact. I conducted, with great help from Jennie and Dave, the Baen Books slide show to a packed room and gave away many goodies. I later joined Dave and others on a panel on how writers began writing, and at 11:00 p.m. I participated in a panel on SF and alternative lifestyles. The panels went reasonably well and had modest but active audiences, which is as much as one can hope for.

Before the evening panels, we went to dinner at Pazo, another of Chef Cindy Wolf's restaurants. This one accents tapas and Spanish cuisine, and it was marvelous. If you have two nights in Baltimore and are seeking good meals, hit Charleston and Pazo, and you won't be sorry.

Today's special feature is a poem from a guest poet, my daughter, Sarah. This piece appeared in her school literary magazine.



that day, I combed June through my hair like water
once and for all listening to far-off magnolia song
and walkie-talkie spun-shimmer buzz.
the browning grass clutched at pretty
with our footprints through it. muddled modern dinosaurs.
sabertooth boys and girls.

when we first heard the bombs in the distance,
we plundered the sidewalks like Aztec gold.
the collective you poured pepper into my veins
to sunburn me from the inside out.

that day, I combed you through my hair like water.
every unlit fuse in my body is waiting to burst
with the cumulative constant
of hot summer Saturdays
spent playing games with my shadow.


I'd say I was unreasonably proud of her and my son, Scott, but then they do things like this and I consider my pride completely reasonable.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Balticon, day 2: Reading, lunch, UFC

My reading was today at noon. For most beginning writers, and certainly for me, readings are exercises in ego abuse. You show up, maybe a friend or two arrives, and then no one else comes. You sit with your friend and wonder whether to read some piece you both already know, and at some point you give up and leave. Through the course of doing many such readings, I've evolved a simple rule: the people I don't know must outnumber me, or I'm not reading.

By that rule, today's reading was a spectacular success. Five friends showed, but so did four or five other people, as well as the woman doing the podcast for Balticon. (I'll post a link to that recording when it's live on the Web.)

If you've never done or been to a reading, this may seem like a tiny crew, but for me it was a treat.

I read a few selections from One Jump Ahead, answered some questions, and stopped the event at 12:40. Better short than boring, say I.

Lunch was with the friends who came to the reading--Jennie, Ken, Vicki, Dave, and Karen--plus Kyle, who joined us late. Afternoon was wandering the con and some work and down time, as well as a little more food. During this time, I received a phone message that One Jump Ahead was now on the shelves at a Barnes & Noble; hurrah!

We attended the masquerade, which was pleasant enough and hosted superbly, as always, by the estimable Marty Gear.

As soon as that show ended, we dashed to Kyle's for the UFC's pay-per-view event, which he was hosting and DVRing. Sarah asked me to get a photo of the infamous (in our extended family) Oxford-cloth shirt, so here's one of Kyle holding two of them; he's not sure which is the famous one. (Ask him if you want the back story.) Kyle also provided us with pizza and some superb creme brulee ice cream.

The show was a lot of fun, with more fights ending in upsets than not and with an amazing knockout of reigning UFC Light Heavyweight champion Chuck "the Iceman" Liddell by underdog Quentin "Rampage" Jackson. I love the UFC events and recommend them highly.

To write, and then to bed. Tomorrow is panel day, so either I'll have a lot to report or I will simply end the day in exhaustion.


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