Saturday, October 18, 2008

The air of smugness

Southpark characters have noted that the air of smugness surrounds hybrid vehicles as they move down the highway. Well, I've joined the people floating in that particular cloud. Some weeks ago, I ordered a 2009 Toyota Prius in what is, according to my salesman, the least popular color--and also the one I like the most by far: bright, metallic blue. I've been considering the change for some time now, and the combination of needing a car for Sarah (she gets my previous vehicle) and wanting to put my money where my mouth is led to this purchase.

For those who've known me for a while, this is obviously a big change. I've long loved sports cars--still do--and have owned several. I'd still own one--the Tesla, to be precise--if I could justify the price and there was a dealer near me. Instead of burning through fuel at a tremendous rate as I push cars to ever faster speeds, however, I'm now working on learning to drive gently and maximizing my MPG.

I'm still learning to take this viewpoint, but I think it's the right thing to do.

What makes the change a great deal easier is that the Prius is full of fun gadgets, computer-based toys that appeal to the geek boy in me. GPS and navigation system, keyless entry, keyless operation, Bluetooth mating with your cell phone--the list goes on and on. I still don't know how to operate most of the goodies, which means I will, to my embarrassment, actually RTFM, but I find all this stuff quite cool.

And, I get to drive in a cloud of smugness.

Max Payne

was consistently visually interesting, completely overwrought, entirely too obvious in plot, and only occasionally painful. Sarah, Scott, and I didn't regret going to see it, but none of us emerged from the theater thrilled that we'd gone. Still, if you let Marky Mark shoot up a bunch of bad guys, you'll get my money.

On a more promising movie note, we are now four weeks from the opening of Quantum of Solace, the new Bond flick. What kind of Bond geek am I? We're closing our company for three or four hours to attend the first afternoon show on opening day. I already own Casino Royale, of course, but I bought it on Blu-Ray just so we can have an open warm-up viewing party the night before Quantum of Solace.

Oh, yeah: I'm that kind of Bond geek.

Friday, October 17, 2008

One of those days

I promised I wouldn't whine, so that's as far as I'll go. Two songs flitted through my brain today, though, one in anger, and one in sadness.

Anger first, but more than that, defiance, because he did both so well and I'm still pissed that he isn't around to make more music: Warren Zevon.

Sentimental last, because I am, because I recently watched the episode in question, and because her voice is just that beautiful.

Enjoy. I have work to do and a book to finish.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

You saw it here first: the cover for Overthrowing Heaven

Artist Steve Hickman created an amazing painting, one the small JPEG image below hardly does justice. Cover designer Jennie Faries did a great job with the design; the real dust jacket will have silver foil on my name and gold foil on the title, so it should really grab book browsers.

Here's a low-res JPEG that shows the result of their labors:

Awesome, eh? I think this is one of Steve's best paintings, and I love it.

Staring at this book, you might wonder about a few things, so I thought I'd spare you any turmoil and answer some of the more obvious questions right now.

This is a Jon & Lobo book, right?

You bet. That's Jon in the beautiful chair. I think he's clearly recognizable from the covers of the other books.

So has the series turned fantasy?

Absolutely not! This is SF through and through.

Uh, isn't that a dragon?

Sorta; technically, it's a wyvern, or, to be even more precise, a rather elaborately colored wyvern.

I just scanned that wikipedia entry, and the wyvern is a legendary creature, not a real one. Doesn't that make this book a fantasy?

Nope. It's SF all the way.

So what's a legendary creature doing in the book?

That would be telling. You know I don't do that.

Does this scene actually occur in the novel?

That's a tricky question. At this red hot moment, the most accurate answer is that this scene occurs but it does not look exactly like the cover. By the time I finish the book, however, the book and the cover will be in sync--one of the few benefits of being a bit late to turn in the ms.

That's it for questions today, I'm afraid. I have to say again, though: Awesome!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Can't get enough of me yakking?

Then check out part one of this interview by Laughing Wolf, aka C. Blake Powers. Yeah, we'll be mentioning this interview elsewhere on my site, but I thought blog readers should hear about it first.

Baen Books sponsored this interview and others, including a long one with David Drake. Blake interviewed both David and me on my back deck, and despite the occasional plane noise, I think they came out okay. Of course, I can hardly stand to look at my old, fat self on video, but there you have it; I've never much liked my appearance.

Blake will be posting another two (I think) installments in time.

Before anyone else asks, no, the blue cup (a souvenir from my one visit to the awesome Basketball Hall of Fame) in the background is not there to provide a hint of artificiality in an otherwise natural setting. I was drinking from it, put it on the railing, and didn't realize it would be in the frame. From such accidents come moments of art...or not. Mostly not.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On the road again: Bouchercon, day 6

Much of my time today went to the boring process of moving a body and its traveling possessions from point A to point B in a car, so I’ll skip all that except to say that I am at home once again and will remain here until it’s time to head to the World Fantasy Con in Calgary.

One of the nicest moments of yesterday’s Anthony Awards brunch was when Toastmaster Mark Billingham asked everyone to raise a glass to the memory of James Crumley, the fine mystery writer who died on September 17. While the screen showed a photo of Crumley, the speaker system played George Pelecanos reading the first line of The Last Good Kiss:

When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.

Many call this the finest opening line in crime fiction. I've always shied from making such superlative proclamations, but this is definitely one hell of an opener.

I loved Crumley's work. I wouldn't want to have written it, nor to have lived the life of someone who could write it, but it always amazed me. I had the privilege of listening to Crumley on two panels at the Bouchercon in Chicago in 2005, and he was as smart, charming, and annoying as I'd expected. Among my favorite of his lines was this response to someone who asked if he showed his fiction in pre-publication form to other writers for critique: "Nobody sees my work unless they can write me a check."

I was too shy at that con to go up to him and thank him for his body of work and all it had meant to be. I'd probably be too shy today to do it. I regret now, though, that I never did.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

On the road again: Bouchercon, day 5

I rose early (for me) so I could attend an interview with the main Guest of Honor, Laura Lippman, by relatively new but widely heralded writer, Michael Koryta. Though not as informative as some interviews, this one was nonetheless well worth attending. Lippman came off as intelligent, passionate, and as quirky as one expects a writer to be.

I ended up standing near the back wall, almost in front of the door, because I came in just as the interview was beginning. A man slid in right after me and leaned against the wall about six feet to my left. He had no con badge, but enough folks recognized him that they let him in. He was Dennis Lehane, whose new novel, The Given Day, was an immediate bestseller upon its release. Lehane wasn't on the program, and he kept as low a profile as he could in that crowd. He just came because he cares, at least about crime fiction and writing and possibly about Lippman; I have no clue if they are friends. (No, don't read "cares" as implying any sort of secret relationship; I mean it entirely innocently.)

Lehane's appearance and many other small things I saw today again convinced me that the sense of fellowship and community among crime fiction writers is very strong indeed. I like that about them, like it very much. I do hope one day to have the time to finish my thriller and perhaps become part of that world as a writer. (No one in it notices that my books are mysteries, though I am, as I've written, trying to change that perception.)

And now, because I heard it earlier today and we all need to listen to it now and then, here's an old Dylan classic. Enjoy.

On the road again: Bouchercon, day 4

I actually got a bit of sleep last night, having abandoned some interesting panels in the name of health. I awoke tired, as I always do these past many days, but at least it was only tired, not exhausted.

That said, I've reached the point of being disgusted with my own whining about sleep, so I'm going to stop writing about it here.

I was lucky enough today to get to see the interview of Lawrence Block, a huge presence on the mystery scene and a working writer for decades, by Charles Ardai, the publisher of the fine Hard Case Crime line and a fine writer in his own right. Ardai has reprinted some of Block's earlier works, and I've quite enjoyed them all. Listening to Block talk, I was struck by exactly the traits that come through in his work: intelligence, passion, creativity, crankiness, and a certain contrarian nature.

What has impressed me repeatedly about this convention is how much more the fans and the writers seem to care about their genre of literature than the SF fans. SF fans are equally passionate, but the passion is diffuse, with movies, TV, gaming, and books sharing their attention. At a typical SF con, the dealers' room is maybe 20% books; here, it's more like 95%. At a typical SF con panel, the writers seem to jockey for position; here, they are gracious and incredibly mutual supportive, even when they're meeting for the first time. In another panel today, John Connolly was interviewing the toastmaster, Mark Billingham. Scattered all through the audience were other writers, many of them more famous, all just enjoying the interview; the guest of honor of the convention, Laura Lippman, was one of them. I can't recall ever seeing anything like that at an SF convention.

As a writer of mystery-shaped SF novels, I feel often that I don't belong in either world. I'd certainly like to belong here. Maybe one day, perhaps with the thriller, I will. Time will tell.


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