Saturday, December 27, 2008

The early days of a novel

A few folks have asked me what exactly I do on a book in these early days, before I'm actually writing the novel, even before I'm writing the outline, so I thought I'd try to explain.

The bulk of the time I spend on a book at this stage is simply thinking. I do this as much as possible, while driving, walking, sitting and staring into space, or anything else that permits free-ranging thought. I ponder what I know of the book, what I don't, and I try to let my subconscious shift from the last book into this one.

I also spend time reading, staring at pictures, and consulting any source that seems relevant to the work I'm creating.

Finally, I sit with a notebook and a pen, and I write notes, usually a dialog with myself. Maybe someday I'll scan some of these for a past book and show you; if you're interested, let me know. I will write notes about the flow of the book, potential scenes, and issues I'm facing. I'll ask myself questions, answer them, then dismiss the answers and try again. It's more or less the writing equivalent of talking to myself--but with a written record of the conversation and the good bits marked for later use.

From the outside, except when I'm writing in my notebook I'm sure I appear to be doing nothing. Trust me, though, it is work, and it's a vital part of the process.

And now, back to it.

Overthrowing Heaven is outta here!

I worked all night and fell, exhausted, into bed around 7:00 a.m. Before I did so, however, I mailed Toni (and others at Baen) the complete and ready to publish Overthrowing Heaven. With luck, she'll be offering it as an eARC sometime fairly soon, though I confess that I don't know the schedule.

When I started writing every day, I told Dave that after I finished three books I would give myself a day off.

He said, "No, you won't."

He was right. So, I spent chunks of today noodling on the big issues in Children No More. Write every day: that's the rule.

I'm psyched to be done with Overthrowing Heaven. Hurrah!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I hope your day was good and brought you joy. Our friends and extended family gathered today for dinner (20 of us at a big makeshift table in the den) and gift giving, and it was great being with everyone.

I'm cutting this short, however, because I have a book to finish, and I should be done in at most a few days. Go, me!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I try to remind myself regularly how incredibly fortunate I really am. With all the stress of daily life, I often forget this fact, but it remains a fact nonetheless. I won't list here all the things for which I'm grateful, because I'd still be writing come the New Year, but I will say that most of all I want to thank all the people in my life for making my existence richer.

Each moment affords us the chance to find joy, but it's up to us to take those chances. In my Jon & Lobo books, Jon often muses on this very topic when he is about to go through a jump gate aperture, as he does in this small snippet from the end of chapter 7 of Overthrowing Heaven.

The lavender edges of the aperture through which we were jumping filled the edges of the image. The center was the unblemished black of every aperture on every gate in the universe, the perfect absence of light. Energy passed harmlessly through the apertures as if they weren’t there. Matter, however, behaved entirely differently: Anything that entered an aperture emerged into another area of space, typically one many light years away. Each aperture linked exactly two points, and those points never changed. A single gate might have one or many apertures; the more connections to other systems, the more important a trade center the planet near that gate became. No one knew how the gates worked or what made them appear, but every time we found a new one, right nearby we always found a planet suitable for human life.

I’d jumped hundreds of times, and each time the experience moved me. A vital part of the fabric that held together the far-flung human species, the jump gates managed to feel both effortlessly natural and somehow deeply wrong. I wondered if early air travelers felt the same way about airplanes.

The ship in front of us vanished through the aperture, and its perfect blackness completely filled the display. All that we could see, everything in front of us, was impossibly pure nothingness, no hint as to our future, no evidence of material for creating that future, just an emptiness, and in the moment before we entered it I silently wished, as I always did, that what awaited us would offer hope and opportunity and the possibility of joy.

We jumped.
We're all jumping all the time, moving from one point in space to another, diving into the unknowable future, and the possibility of joy awaits us all. I hope you find it tonight, tomorrow, and in all the days ahead.

I'm tired of wrapping

but I'm not done, so I have to get back to it. You may be in the same predicament. If so, you have my sympathy.

To ease your suffering, I'll embarrass myself a bit by sharing with you two songs (the video component of each is just an album cover) by one of those bands I have no real excuse for loving: The Grass Roots. I imprinted on their music when I was young, and I still like it.

Feel better now?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Latkes as expanding universes

Last night, we enjoyed another of our extended family's holiday rituals: Gina's Channukah latke party. We chat, exchange some presents, and, of course, eat latkes. Team Latke--usually Josh, Mara, and Jennie on the fryers, plus Christy and Gina doing support work--turn a great many potatoes and vast quantities of oil into the deceptively small looking potato pancakes.

You learn how dense they are only later, when it's too late.

I ate two. Each year, I eat only two (with the exception of one very foolish time at which I consumed three of them and paid the price later). Each year, I learn anew that two potato pancakes that when stacked are no bigger than a single hamburger actually can expand in my stomach into something roughly the size and shape of a 1956 chevy standing on its end. They do taste good, though, which is why you have to be particularly careful about how many you eat. Now, over twenty-four hours later, I think they're finally done expanding, though I won't know for sure until tomorrow.

If you've never eaten a latke, definitely try them--but do allow an appropriate amount of recovery time.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Mint still rules

A group of eleven of us ate at The Mint last night, and once again I must report that the meal was superb. Chef Eric Foster created a tasting menu for us that was the most ambitious offering we've had in the Triangle area, and he and his kitchen pulled it off admirably. The visual highlight was a tangerine juice globe that covered a small portion of some of the best Ahi tuna I've ever tasted. The sous vide duck was perfect, everything duck can be with none of the usual drawbacks. I could go on and on, but I won't; just go eat there.

I should mention that midway through the meal I learned that Jeremy Clayman, the former Executive Chef, was no longer with the restaurant. I don't know any of the particulars about what happened, but I want to know where he landed so I can eat there. (Jeremy, if you read this, email me!)

The best line of the night came from our server, the redoubtable Thea (whose last name I do not give only because I do not know it), who said,

I've seen the things they can do to a squash in this building, and I'm not worried.
How can you not love a woman who says that?

Make up your own story about why she said it. I'm not telling.

On the last Saturday before Christmas, The Mint had multiple empty tables. I very much hope this place survives; if you live in the area, please give it your business.


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