Saturday, March 21, 2009

On the road again: CoastCon, day 2

A panel that starts at noon on day one of a convention is a bad idea indeed, yet that was my lot today. So, after walking along the Gulf of Mexico and diving deep into memories of my youth, I cleaned up and headed to my panel room in the convention center portion of the Biloxi Coliseum.

One person showed up, but she had made a very special effort to get there: After working all night at her hotel job, she had slept less than five hours and come to see me. So, rather than bagging entirely, as I would normally have done with an audience of one, we instead talked about the topic--finances and writing--and then about writing in general, until she had no more questions.

John and Traci Picacio then joined us on a ride to a local barbecue joint, The Shed. Before any of us had finished the third bites of our various orders, we had all agreed: The Shed rocks. The experience is interesting--in a good way--and the food is delicious. If time permits, I'll go back.

I attended and participated in multiple other panels today. A highlight was being the third (and by far the most junior) writer on a discussion of writing series; the other two authors were Michael Moorcock and David Weber. I learned a lot just listening to them, and though I talked more than I probably should have, I think the audience had a good time.

The evening was sufficiently crammed with activities that we had to wedge in dinner rather late, so we ended up grabbing a very unhealthy meal at a Whataburger, a local instantiation of a chain I'd frequented in college. Memories, memories; being so close to the Gulf really does take me back. I miss the beauty that once was the west coast of Florida, but she is gone, never to return.

Friday, March 20, 2009

On the road again: CoastCon, day 1

I fly American Airlines as much as I can because I have lifetime Platinum status with them, and that status carries with it some very useful privileges: access to exit-row seats when you book online, early boarding, higher probability of upgrades to first class, and free baggage checking.

American was not a good option for the Gulfport/Biloxi airport, however, so I flew on Delta, where my status is that of a typical modern airline passenger, which is to say, none whatsoever. The airlines do a pretty good job of making it clear that they don't like us passengers and wish they didn't have to bother with us, were it not for that whole getting paid thing.

Having said all that, today's two flights were no more of a human cattle march than is typical nowadays, and on neither flight did my knees actually touch my chest for very long, so I have little to complain about.

One traveling tidbit of note: On the regional jet from Atlanta to here, the flight attendant had to get someone--as it turned out, a rather large man--to move from the first four rows to the last row to "correct a weight imbalance." The captain would not take off without this change.

This announcement did not make the man happy, and it certainly didn't improve the spirits of the rest of us. I've never heard of it happening before, nor had any of the people around me.

As we were descending, less than twenty minutes out, this same large man walked forward to his previous seat to chat with his friend.

As you might imagine, all eyes were on him, and many of us mumbled threats.

Fortunately, he eventually returned to his seat, and we landed safely.

After settling into the fabled Super 8, we joined a large group of guests and CoastCon staff for dinner at a local Japanese steak and sushi house. Our end of the table included artist guest of honor and Hugo Best Artist nominee, John Picacio, his wife, and a fun fan couple; my apologies for only remembering John's name, but in my defense, he's the only one I've met before. We all chatted pleasantly and happily, I caused a few stomach cramps with the story of what the cat did to--well, forget that, not here--and the food was decent.

I learned when I got back to the room that the Hugo award ballot is out. Though I must be honest and confess I harbor a hope of one day having a novel appear on this ballot, I can honestly say the novel contenders are strong and more than worthy, and I send my congratulations to all their authors. As I expect will be true for most readers, choosing among these books will be difficult.

Tomorrow, I have many panels--check my Appearances page for details--and I still have a ton of work to complete before I can go to bed, so to my chores I go.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Parceling it out for a reason

Over the last couple of years, multiple readers have accused me of intentionally frustrating them by giving only bits of Jon's background and the secrets of my future universe (e.g., how did the jump gates come to be?) in each book.

They're right that my approach is intentional, i.e., each book is doing what I meant it to do and what it should.

I am not, however, doling out information in teaspoons simply to be mean.

Rather, I'm doing it because each book's story rules supreme in that book, and the only secrets that book touches are those that arise naturally in the course of the plot.

So, for example, in Overthrowing Heaven (yes, I know you haven't read it yet, but I won't spoil it here; everything I'm about to say is on the Amazon promo bit for it) I reveal a lot about how Lobo came to be what he is. I do so because that information flows naturally from the story and enriches the story.

The secrets--political and physical--of my future universe come even slower, but that's because I'm writing from Jon's perspective and so readers can learn only those things he learns (or already knows).

Assuming the books keep selling and Toni keeps buying them--both of which I hope prove to be valid assumptions, but both of which are far from certain--then over about twelve to fifteen books I will be able to answer all the questions that are plaguing attentive readers today.

Of course, some new questions and mysteries will arise.

Don't blame me; the universe is like that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Never underestimate the power of the powerless

When I was a kid, we didn't have a lot of money. I worked a string of crap jobs, usually with other people who didn't have a lot of money, either. In most of those jobs, I was one in the lowest stratum my employer possessed. As a lawn mower, bag boy, entry-level landscaper (read: a lawn mower with a big mower), an unskilled construction laborer, and so on, I had no power over what I did or what my employer did, and those above me usually made sure I was very clear on my own lack of importance or power.

What I learned from my older co-workers, however, was something very different indeed: even the most powerless people in an organization have some power.

That bush wasn't a weed? I'm so sorry I ran it over.

I was only trying to bag faster because you were yelling at me. I'm sorry your eggs are broken.

You didn't tell us to get the big mower repaired, so we had to do the main field by hand. I guess it'll take an extra two days. Sorry.

We were supposed to finish cleaning those concrete forms where they were? We thought you wanted us to move them under this tree first, so they wouldn't be in the way. Sorry.
You get the idea.

Many apparently stupid acts and inefficient approaches that leave bosses scratching their heads at how dumb their employees are represent nothing less than the skillful and passive-aggressive exercise of power by the powerless.

I hate passive-aggressive behavior with a passion, but I've used it in such situations.

In fact, I used it today.

My ENT doctors have, as I mentioned in my post on November 11, instituted a new allergy serum delivery program--one for my protection, of course. They know I'm at their mercy, powerless if I want my serum, so they're manipulating circumstances so they make more money--and cost me more time. Recently, they gave me three options for picking up my serum: 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday, or Friday. They also told me they would not guarantee my serum would be in the office nearest me when I arrived, but that the only way I could find out if it would be there was to show up.

As anyone who knows me can tell you, I hate the mornings, in large part because I work very late. I also hate the ENT people lying to me about what they're doing, and I really hate it when receptionists treat me like something they want to scrape from their shoes.

This morning, I fought back in a way I'd learned from the past, one that no one at the ENT office could directly accuse me of doing.

I worked from home yesterday. I exercised first, then worked all day in my sweat clothes. I slept dirty; no shower for me.

In the morning, I was a giant smelly beast. You could sniff me across a room. I got dressed in the same sweat clothes, skipped brushing my teeth, drove to the ENT office, jogged in place a few minutes so I'd be good and freshly stinky, and marched proudly into the ENT office. I leaned over the counter of the same snotty receptionist--a clearly recognizable voice, this one--who had informed me of my powerlessness, and kept my face straight as she sniffed me and rolled backward to avoid my stench. Too bad for her, though: she had to print and hand me an appointment form, and I leaned forward so I could hear her better and get my form.

After they tested me but had not yet checked that all was well, I walked back and forth in front of her window, muttering to myself incoherently.

Was it juvenile? You bet. You know what, though: You treat people like they're worthless and stupid, and they will find a way to repay you. I've done it before, I did it today, and in a petty way that no doubt indicates I need to grow up, I enjoyed it each time.

I left smiling, despite the early hour.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The glamorous writing life

Today, about 6:00 p.m., I received the copyedited ms. of Overthrowing Heaven. By 6:30 p.m. tomorrow night, when I must get in my car to drive to dinner with Toni, I have to finish going through it.


You can guess what I'll be doing in all my many spare minutes.

In other news, I should remind folks that I'll be one of the author guests at this coming weekend's CoastCon 32. Sure, it's at a Super 8, which I admit has me nervous, but the con folks I've met have been unfailingly nice, the guest list includes David Weber and Michael Moorcock, and I'm hoping to have a good time. If you happen to be in that area, drop by and say hi.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Jericho is coming back and I'm still not writing CNM

as a comic, according to this short post, which Sarah nicely found and sent to me. I know this show was not to everyone's taste, but it really worked for me, and I'm glad I'll get to read more about it in the future.

A few folks have asked me why it's taking me longer than usual to plot Children No More. I don't have a simple answer, but I think the sources of the delay are three:

* I'm a bit afraid of the darkness and themes of this book, so I'm probably proceeding too cautiously.

* It's structurally more complex than the others, so I have to work more to be sure I have the pieces in the right places.

* I want a better answer for a certain part of the plot than I have. I have several solutions to the problem, but I want a better one. I will find it.

I will finish plotting, and I will finish this book, but I'm not done with the first yet. I'll make sure Toni has it in time for its June, 2010 appearance, however; I have no doubts on that front.

You say it's your birthday

It's my birthday too--yeah.

A lazy day it was, which is all I wanted. I'll have a proper birthday party in a month or so, but I just couldn't get my act together now to assemble one.

I sucked at Halo today, but playing it with Scott, Sarah, Kyle, and the random other players of the online Haloverse is fun just because I get to hang with those three.

Dinner tonight was a very special treat: a twelve-course tasting menu at The Mint, courtesy of Executive Chef Eric Foster and his team. Though The Mint, like many fine-dining establishments, has had to retool itself in these down times, I was able to persuade (well, okay, and pay) Eric to blow it out on a special tasting menu. Every single dish was delicious, with amazing combinations of techniques and ingredients. Kudos also go to our amazing (and regular) server, the lovely Thea (whose last name I do not give only because I do not know it), who did a wonderful job managing our rather large group.

If you have some serious coin to blow on a high-end meal, call The Mint, ask Eric to create a tasting menu, tell him you'll pay what it takes, and plan to be amazed.

(* Credits to The Beatles for the first two lines.)


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