Saturday, March 15, 2008

The smell of rain in the air

As I was preparing to get into the shower late this morning (well, okay, technically it was well after noon, but on a Saturday that counts as late morning), Sarah came and told me it was raining and the air smelled wonderful. I decided to risk offending the neighbors, wrapped a towel around myself, and headed downstairs and out into the rain. Sarah walked out with me.

It was glorious. A light drizzle softened the air and made moist the world. Ozone and storm smells permeated everything. Odors both electrical and alive enveloped us.

As I've said many times before, Watterson was right in Calvin and Hobbes: There's magic everywhere. You have only to see it.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Things I learned from Doomsday and Hitman

Today was my birthday, so I took off work and treated myself to lunch at a favorite local drugstore diner and then an afternoon matinee of a bad movie, Doomsday. In the evening, a small group of us gathered for dinner, another bad movie (Hitman), and dessert; we'll do a bigger, more typical birthday party when more of our extended family are in town. I learned many useful things from these two films, including the following:

* Should a viral epidemic wipe out most of a country, the survivors will segregate into two camps: punk city-dwellers heavily into tattoos and body mod, with shirtless, muscular men and hot women prone to wearing only underwear and fishnet, and SCA lifers, with the men constantly donning armor and fighting for fun and the women sporting astonishly clean peasant dresses.

* Though hundreds of city survivors can hide from satellite surveillance for decades despite throwing evening bonfires, three idiots will eventually manage to make enough light to be noticed.

* No matter how bad the apocalypse in an area, there's always enough gas to power Road Warrior-style cars.

* If you're the military, you can store a car in a box for 32 years, then start it up and drive it without an issue. For the rest of us, of course, the parts will have corroded, all the seals, hoses, and gaskets will be gone, the tires will be flat, and so on, but the military has that special tech, doncha know.

* If you're a woman in Russia and it's cold enough that all the men are wearing suits and overcoats, your best clothing choice is a mini-dress so sheer we can measure the width of your thong.

* The best way for a hit man to vanish in a crowd is to be ghostly white, tall, bald, tattooed with a bar code on the back of the head, and in a dark suit with a white shirt and a red tie. Cops can find anyone else, but this guy is invisible.

* A yellow bathtub rubber ducky can turn menacing if you tie a black noose around its head.

I learned all this and much more, but I think that's a big enough sample to give you a feel for the treasure troves of knowledge available to viewers of these works.

Despite this accumulation of wisdom and what it may imply about the movies, I was able to suspend my disbelief enough to enjoy both of them.. That probably says something bad about me, but so it goes.

Back to Overthrowing Heaven, where the words are ever so slowly piling up.

A tease for Overthrowing Heaven

I've told Toni, Dave knows, and now I've decided to tell the readers of this blog: In Overthrowing Heaven, I'm going to explain how Lobo became what he is, which is...well, that would be undercutting the book. Let's just say that if you've read One Jump Ahead, you know he's special, not your ordinary PCAV. When you read Slanted Jack, you'll learn that he's even more than you might have thought at the end of the first book.

As Toni said, "Cool! Lobo's origin story." Quite so.

Having said that, I hasten to add that explaining Lobo's origin is not the main point of Overthrowing Heaven. It is a key part of the rather complex and, I think, very cool story, but it is only one part.

I'm quite looking forward to writing it. I hope you one day enjoy reading it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I'm a writer again!

Working on the outline hasn't felt like writing. Though I think the result was a much stronger plot than I would have created had I pushed the pace, it still felt more like stalling than working.

Last night, though, I wrote the first few pages of Overthrowing Heaven. I'm pleased as punch! On to the rest of the book!

Those announcements I mentioned

Did you think I'd forgotten?

Neither of these is earth-shattering, but both will, I think, be fun for me and for other readers.

Announcement #1: I've signed the contracts for my first work in the urban fantasy area. I'm entering this realm cautiously: I'll be editing for Baen an original anthology, The Wild Side (think Lou Reed singing, "Hey, babe, take a walk on the wild side"), of urban fantasy stories with a racy edge. This book is likely to push Baen's boundaries a bit, and it will definitely be new ground for me. I will be writing a story for the book, and my goal is to make that piece serve as the starting point for a novel. That said, the story will, of course, stand alone as a complete work.

Announcement #2: David Drake and I will be editing a reprint anthology, The Baen Big Book of Pulp SF Adventures. Every noun and adjective in that working title is important:

* Baen, not only because it's the publisher but also because of the emphasis on story values the company represents

* Big, because we're aiming for 150K to 200K words

* Pulp, because that's where we're going for source materials (though for those truly into old magazines I should note we may stretch the definition a bit and include tales from digests and bedsheets)

* SF, because we're sticking to that category

* Adventures, because that's the emphasis of this volume

If the book does well--unlikely, but we can hope--then other collections could always follow.

I don't have dates for either of these books yet, but we have about eleven months to finish them, give or take. I'm looking forward to them!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I'm done with the outline! And some lovely news

Last night, I sent Dave the complete outline for Overthrowing Heaven. He was kind enough that despite its size (about 11.3K words) he turned it around today. His notes were, as they have been on the other two novels, spot on. He identified two significant points that would improve the book and that I could address relatively easily by putting in a couple of hours on the outline. I did, and now the outline is complete and much stronger for Dave's critique (and longer, now almost 12K words). Thanks, Dave!

I'm quite excited, because tomorrow I can start the book. I've been mentally trying out first lines for several weeks, and I think I have the one I want. It's odd, but I currently like it. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

On the good news front, I believe the following is safe to announce because the Balticon folks have not only told me, they've told my publisher. Balticon has for many years (since 1983) presented the Compton Crook Award to the best first science fiction, fantasy, or horror novel of the previous year written by a single author. (For more on the award, go here.) Today, they told me that One Jump Ahead is one of the five finalists for this year's award. I honestly don't expect to win, but in all honesty I also have to say I am excited at the mere prospect. I attended the Balticon at which they first presented the award, and I've long dreamed of winning it. So, win or lose, I'm quite pleased by the honor of making the short list. Thanks, BSFS!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

What to do about "My Sister, My Self"?

I'm throwing this question into the ether on the chance that a voice shouts back with an answer that compels me to action. For those who don't know, "My Sister, My Self" is the first story in the Jon & Lobo universe. It is also the only story, at least so far, that does not include Lobo. In fact, it takes place about 135 years before the events of One Jump Ahead. The story first appeared in an anthology, Isaac Asimov's Tomorrow's Voices, which you can find online from used book sites such as Alibris. I've received a few requests for the story, and now I'm trying to decide what to do about them.

I've considered multiple options:

* I could try to sell it to a magazine in the hopes they'd reprint it. The odds are low, but one never knows.

* I could see if Baen would be willing to bundle it with some upcoming Jon & Lobo book.

* I could post it here as a freebie.

I haven't done the first because I doubt it would succeed. The second is tempting, as is the third, but neither option has really sold me.

If you have any thoughts on the topic, email me or post a comment.

Meanwhile, I'll get back to the final touches on the outline for Overthrowing Heaven. Close, I'm very close....

The Bank Job

After a few of us watched Jennie (and many others) dance in a hafla earlier this evening, a different few of us ate take-out Indian food, and then a yet again different few of us went to see The Bank Job. Overall, I found it a pleasant and sufficiently unusual caper film that my interest did not waver. Jason Statham stayed within his range and delivered a solid performance, and the supporting cast members were, in the usual way of British actors, to a person quite strong.

I was struck at the end, however, by how very much this movie's plot depended on the civility of the British government of the time. When the government made its deals, it stuck to them with rigid honor. I suspect had the equivalent situation arisen in the U.S., the government agencies in charge here would have arranged for accidents to befall all involved. Cultural context is sometimes quite literally everything.


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