Friday, September 12, 2008

Last night's signing

at McIntyre's Fine Books, a truly lovely bookstore, went pretty well. Though more people in the audience were friends or acquaintances than not, we still had a decent crowd, and there were multiple people I did not know. A couple of them brought copies of One Jump Ahead, which was nice to see.

I read the start of Slanted Jack, then went crazy and for the first (and probably only) time read the completely raw first page and a quarter of Fatal Circle. I think folks liked the new bit, but I won't have more to show for a few years. I then read a couple more selections from Slanted Jack, answered questions, and signed books.

One of the nice surprises of the evening was that Glennis (of The Missing Volume) and Thomas showed up. They had recently moved to the area, heard about the signing, and decided to join us. It was great to see them.

A group of ten of us, including Glennis and Thomas, headed out to a nearby (as much as things out that way can be near one another) Toreros Mexican restaurant for dinner. These folks have some of the best queso I've ever tasted, and their fajitas quesadillas with steak are wonderful and richly flavorful. The food and the conversation were great fun.

I'm now done signing for a while, and I have to say that though I enjoy the performing, I'm glad I'm done. The signings take a lot of time, they force you to confront the small size of your audience, and they encourage the sort of writerly neuroses for which I am justifiably well known. I'm glad I'm now just writing.

A few 9/11 snapshots

Gina and I were in the SF Bay Area working at the facility there that reported to me. Her knock on my hotel room door woke me. When I let her in, she turned on the TV and told me what had happened. We watched the live broadcast of the plane hitting the South Tower.

Some people at our facility cried. We were all zombies.

Gina and I weren't sure we'd get home on Friday, as we'd planned.

The local papers were full of stories of innocent Muslims in San Francisco being harassed by angry people.

We were on the first plane to leave San Jose airport on the day it reopened--the Friday after the attack. We had to arrive three hours early for a 6:20 a.m. flight. Security was a disorganized zoo. The lines wrapped back and forth and ultimately down the escalator, and they took two hours to get through. No one complained. No one fought. You could feel the relief when we took off.

The following Monday, six days after the attack, I flew into New York City. From my seat on the commuter jet I had a clear view of the smoking ruins and the helicopters circling it. The plane was full. You could feel the anger in it. I stared at the people around me. We were all primally, viciously angry. We had been violated--all of us--even though none of us were there.

I cannot imagine the torment of the rescue workers, the survivors still coping with what happened to them, or the families of the victims. My heart goes out to them.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Another signing Thursday: come on down!

Tomorrow night (well, it's tomorrow to me), I'll be reading and signing at a lovely if somewhat isolated bookstore, McIntyre's Fine Books. This bookstore, which is part of the lovely Fearrington development, hosted a reading of mine last year, and they've been nice enough to invite me again this year.

McIntyre's is also the only bookstore to publicly summarize my work as "mystery science fiction," as you can see here. That blend is how I view the Jon and Lobo novels, so it's nice to see someone else talk about them that way.

If you're in the area and willing to make the drive out to Fearrington, please come by the signing. A bunch of us are likely to go out to dinner afterward, place TBD, so if you hang out near me after the reading you'll be welcome to join us.

Lately, wild bugs have seized my brain during readings and caused me to do strange things. Last night, for example, I revealed the first line of Overthrowing Heaven. I have no clue right now what I might do at McIntyre's; I guess I'll find out tomorrow!

Tonight's signing

was, at least in my experience, pretty darn successful. Between the three writers we brought a total of 11 friends, but the rest of the audience outnumbered us and our friends. The panel discussion ran the full hour, and the audience grew over time--which is definitely an improvement over shrinking while you speak. My fellow panelists, Lisa Shearin (who really made this happen) and James Maxey, were entertaining and gracious. The Barnes and Noble folks were as nice as could be and had a lot of our books in stock. The audience members asked good questions and seemed genuinely interested in the answers. My friend and the senior SF writer in the area, David Drake, showed up from Chatham County and provided interesting commentary.

I think everyone there had a good time.

I don't know how many books the Cary Barnes & Noble sold, and that is the ultimate measure of the success of any such event, but I'm hoping it's a decent number.

After the event, the 11 of us in the writers and friends/families group retired to Gypsy's Shiny Diner for dinner and further conversation. No one booth there could hold 11 people, so we split up, but we all still managed to chat a reasonable amount.

I had a good time and would definitely do other signings with these folks. Maybe next year, when we'll all have new books on the stands.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Doing a signing tomorrow: come on by!

At 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 9, 2008, which is tomorrow to me and today to most of you reading this, I'll be signing at the Cary Barnes & Noble with local fantasy writers Lisa Shearin and James Maxey. Lisa and I had lunch once, and she was a fellow Compton Crook Award nominee. She's also the one of us who deserves the credit for making this happen. I haven't met James, but I look forward to doing so.

If you're in the area, feel free to drop by, chat, and even buy books (though that is, of course, optional, it's always in good taste at a signing).

I should also mention why I consider Tuesday to be tomorrow given that my computer claims that it is 1:16 a.m. on Tuesday. The simple answer is this: tomorrow doesn't start until I go to bed and then get up for the day. Thus, if I pull an all-nighter, a whole day never gets to be.

Some of you may view this as a very Mark-centric view of time, but fortunately for me, I'm Mark, so it all works out.

I hope to see some folks tomorrow. Tonight, I have more of Overthrowing Heaven to write.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Fred posts comments here fairly often. I've never met him, but he's the kind of fan who warms a writer's heart, because he seems to have read everything of mine he can get his hands on, he's always nice and polite, and he keeps reading. I'm lucky to have him as a fan of my work, and I know it.

To be honest, though, Fred always seemed to have a little too much free time. I wondered how he could read so much and so quickly, and sometimes in stretches he'd make so many posts I'd joke about it to local friends and family.

You see, I took a few bits of data and considered them enough to make a joke about a person.

What an asshole I was.

Fred has time on his hands because he lost his job. He lost his job because he was in the South Tower when the plane hit it on 9/11 and because of what happened to him in the ensuing months as he tried to deal with the horror of that area and his own situation. Fred suffers from PTSD, something I understand very well, but there's no government agency to help, because he got away "safely." I know all this and consider it acceptable to discuss here because of Fred's blog entry on his 9/11 experience, which I strongly encourage you to read.

Fred says in this entry that he's not a hero. He names a fire fighter, John Collins, a man who died in the Towers, as a hero. He's right that Collins is a hero. He's wrong that he isn't. He stayed on his floor longer than necessary so he could help others get out. That's an act of heroism--no, not on the level of what Collins did, but an act of heroism nonetheless.

I read Fred's post late last night, and then I sat in my chair for an hour and thought about it. I thought about my personal hells, and his, and those of so many others who end up with PTSD: the soldiers and the rescue workers and the battered children and the survivors of so many other types of horrors I'm sure I couldn't even name them all. If you draw the typical hand in life, bad things happen to you, but you never end up in the kinds of situations that cause PTSD. If you draw one of the unlucky hands, however, you end up wondering what's happening to you, feeling guilty about it, and most of all feeling alone.

You're not alone.

Fred, you never saw me act like a jerk by making a joke about you, but I did. I meant no harm, and I know I could have kept it myself and you'd never have known, but that would be chickenshit. You've earned better.

I'm sorry, Fred.

When the dream comes, when the news reports or some damn scene in a movie trigger the tears or the anger you can't explain, when you're not sure you can hold it together a second longer, know at least this: You're not alone, and you have a fan who appreciates what you did.

I'm definitely buying the first round when we finally meet.


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