Saturday, April 26, 2008

Harold and Kumar try too hard

One night a while back, Kyle was visiting, and he, Sarah, Scott, and I held a bad-movie double feature. The second film was Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle. Though it was dumb and often vile, it often left us all in stitches.

So, it was with an interesting mix of dread and anticipation that tonight Rana, Sarah, Scott, and I headed to the theater to catch Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. This sequel was also dumb and often vile, which we expected, but it was more dumb and more vile than we had anticipated. It also did not leave us in stitches anywhere near often enough. Though we were among the many mindless entertainment seekers who contributed to its opening night box office total, I have to hope the movie doesn't do well enough to prompt a third in the series. This run should end here.

None of that is to say that the flick was without its moments. For example, Neil Patrick Harris' observation of a mythical creature--I won't spoil it for you--was priceless. I also have to mention Kumar's love poem, which was a beautiful encapsulation of the romantic math geek.

Still, I have to encourage you to give this one a pass or, if you must see it (and I do understand that urge), wait for DVD.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Staying connected

I find it easy to feel disconnected from the world. It's not that I don't like living; I do. Very much. I don't ever want to die, because I know tomorrow will always bring some new person or book or meal or song or movie that will delight me, make me think, bring me to tears, stir me. Despite all that, I often feel as if I'm floating a bit away from humanity, not quite sure how to belong, where to be, what to be.

To my great surprise, many of the events at Sarah's and Scott's school have proven to help me connect to the world, if only for the duration of the event. I sit in the audience, one among many parents, and our common dreams and wishes unite us. That's my kid! I hope she/he isn't too nervous! Doesn't he/she look great! And on and on.

I also feel connected to the kids on the stage or the field or the playground. Tonight, we watched the final upper school concert of the year. It was thus the last concert for several of the senior kids, including one of Sarah's best friends. I was sad to see them go, happy to get to hear them play, and moved by the many years I've been watching them. I remembered my high school self and his dreams; I still burn with most of them.

It was a special night for me. It was a special night for many of the kids. It was a special night for all the parents there. It was also just another of thousands and thousands like it that happen regularly all over the world. It was a common human thing, and I was part of it, another common human. I like that.

Online viewing tip

If you're at all a fan of Burn Notice, as I am, then you'll need to check out these video snippets, which Kyle told me about. If you're not a fan of the show, what's wrong with you? Catch it on reruns now, or pick up the DVD box set in June, and watch the entire first series in preparation for the season two debut on July 10.

In other TV news, we're now watching the first season of Heroes on DVD, and I have to admit that I find it quite wonderful. I'm a sucker for superhero stories, and this show does a good job of delivering them. We watch almost no shows until they appear on DVD, so I'll have to wait until at least fall for season two. Unless the remaining shows greatly disappoint me, I'll buy that set as soon as it appears.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On being reserved

I'm in the process of finishing an email interview for SCI FI Wire. (I'll post a link to the interview when it appears.) As part of the process of writing responses to the questions, I showed a draft to Dave and several others who are close to me. The unanimous opinion was that I should make the answers more personal, show more of myself, and generally not be so reserved.

I agree with those opinions. As a reader, I love learning about my favorite writers. As a writer, I want readers to love to learn them about me. (Heck, like all writers I want everyone to love me; it's a neurosis that's the ante to play in the game.)

The problem is, I often can't tell when I'm pulling back.

Dave correctly noted that this blog, which contains more personal information than any text I've ever offered publicly, is far from out there. If anything, it's measured and controlled. I don't do that consciously; I simply try to be reasonable in what I write, and I try to offer something that might be of use to readers. This navel-gazing entry, for example, feels somewhat self-indulgent--but as a reader, I'd enjoy reading similar things from my favorite writers, so I'm going ahead and doing it.

I'm also rather measured and reserved in most of the opinions I express, but that's not because I don't have strong feelings. Instead, I hold back because I don't think it's ever okay to be a flaming asshole--though I must admit that I have been in the past and almost certainly will be again in the future--and because most issues have multiple sides and are more complex than most people seem to want to admit.

Did you catch that "seem" in the last sentence? That's classic reserve, classic me, but it's for a reason: I'm guessing what people want, I don't know for sure that I'm right, and so I feel a qualifier is in order. (I try to take those same words out of my fiction, when I do know what the character is thinking.) The result of the word choice, however, is distance, distance between you and me.

I'm doing another pass on the interview, and I'm going to try to be less reserved. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, April 21, 2008

One of the joys of having a nice publisher

As I write this, FedEx is carrying my edited galley pages of Slanted Jack to the typesetter. The galleys are standard letter-size paper on which the typesetter has printed the book as it will actually appear. The galleys represent the first time I get to see the book as a reader will. (The advance reading copy (ARC) has yet to receive my or the copyeditor's corrections and so may look like a final book but very much is not.) When you work on galleys, you find all sorts of little details that slipped by previous passes--or, at least, I do. I spend hours and hours poring over the book, and I make on the order of a hundred changes in the process. Other writers may well be better at handling those edits earlier, but I greatly value this pass.

Once the typesetter receives the galleys, she will turn them quickly and send the resulting final version of the book to the printer. All of this is SOP for novels.

What isn't standard is the fact that the book was due to the printer today.

I received the galleys a little over a month ago. I had the usual two weeks to turn them around and send them back. For various reasons mostly having to do with too much being on my plate, I did not meet the deadline. I hate that I failed to do so, but I did.

What made the edits possible were the efforts and flexibility of several people in the Baen production process:

* Toni Weisskopf, the Publisher, who said it was okay to try to get a day or two out of the printer

* Danielle Turner, the Managing Editor, who actually got me that time

* Joy Freeman, who agreed to incorporate my changes in a rush

I didn't even have to rush the package to FedEx; Jennie was nice enough to do that for me.

I thank all of these folks for buying me the time to make Slanted Jack a little bit better book. I greatly appreciate it.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Lars and the MMA fights

Last night, we ate take-out barbecue while watching an odd pairing: Lars and the Real Girl, and then the UFC's latest pay-per-view event.

Lars definitely won't appeal to everyone, and the amount of suspension of disbelief it requires is high, but I quite liked it. Ryan Gosling was superb in the lead role, and all the actors in it delivered excellent performances. I'm a fan of tales of alienation and redemption, as perhaps you can tell from my writing, so this was right up my alley. I recommend it highly.

The UFC show was the first one to occur in Canada, and the fans were clearly ready for it. The main event featured hometown fighter, Georges St. Pierre (GSP), who is one of the most skilled and accomplished MMA practioners today. He was fighting the current welterweight (170 lb. limit) champ, Matt Serra, who had surprised the MMA world by beating St. Pierre about a year ago to capture the title. GSP, who is one of the fighters I most like, completely dominated Serra. His takedowns were astonishgly fast, he never looked in trouble on the ground against a great BJJ guy, and he won with what looked like ease. All the fights on the card were good. If you're at all an MMA fan and didn't see this one, catch it on reruns or on DVD later.


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