Saturday, May 2, 2009

I saw a Tesla roadster yesterday

and it was even sexier than I had imagined it would be, a perfectly contoured black beast of a machine. Wow. If you haven't seen this car, check it out in the Tesla Motors online showroom or drool over it in this video at Jay Leno's Garage. This all-electric monster is as silent as speeding death and will take you from zero to sixty in less than four seconds. I had loved it from afar, but having seen it in person I now must admit that up close it is even better.

Of course, it does have a few drawbacks:

* I'd need to install special charging circuitry in my garage.
* I'd have to take it to New York for service.
* I'd be hard-pressed to fit three large briefcases in the tiny, oddly shaped space that passes for a trunk.

There was something else. What was it? Oh, yeah:

Tricked out the way I'd want it, it runs about $120K.

Sure, you can go cheap with the entry-level model for $101.5K--all prices before tax, of course--but why would you?

I think this is one love of mine that will remain a very long-distance affair.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Amazing grace

Tonight, Sarah's and Scott's school held its annual celebration of fine arts, an affair that includes a large outdoor dinner (excellent North Carolina barbecue) and then a very long show that features all of the performing arts groups as well as the work of the painters and photographers.

I usually have a pleasant time at such shows, but tonight's was a genuinely good performance. The orchestra played wonderfully, with a concerto for four violins and a Vivaldi piece particular standouts. The choir sang a long Beatles medley, complete with costumes and choreography and a backing rock group, and I very much enjoyed it. Yes, I'm a sucker for the Beatles, but still, these kids did a fine job.

Watching Sarah and Scott play so beautifully always fills me with both amazement at their musical talent--something I lack entirely--and a sense of grace at the privilege I have to know and raise them. This concert, Sarah's last at her school, was particularly powerful emotionally. She's a lifer there, with 14 years in one place, and the camaraderie of her class was powerful and uplifting. I know it will pass, and I know the magic of these special occasions is to bring out the good and to push back the pettiness and rifts that naturally occur in any school class, but getting to see it even briefly was a huge treat.

Like most writers (and, I believe, most thinking people), I spend a great deal of time in my own head, much of it being melancholy or worse--and far more so lately than usual. Tonight, though, I was lucky enough to enjoy several hours of grace courtesy of my children and their classmates. I thank them all, particularly Sarah and Scott, whom I love more than I can ever say.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

My economic advice

In his press conference tonight, President Obama stressed, as he has in previous talks, the point that even when the economy recovers, America can't go back to the bad habits of its past decades. He says "we" a great deal, but many people with whom I talk seem not to see how this point applies to them. So, I thought I'd reduce the core of it to a simple rule:

Don't spend more than you make.

In the ancient past, in the faraway U.S. of half a century or more ago, most people grew up knowing they'd have to save to get what they wanted. Easy credit offered tempting ways to apparently by-pass this requirement, and many people succumbed to the temptation. Of course, there is no way around paying for what you want, so these bad habits came back to bite many folks.

At this juncture in any discussion on this topic, a lot of people will blame the availability of easy credit for this behavior.

That's bullshit. I'm not fat because it's easy to find bad food. I'm fat because I choose to eat bad food--and too much of it. It's my responsibility. In the same way, if I live beyond my means, it's my responsibility.

Yes, of course there are people living in poverty who have to spend beyond their means just to survive, but they aren't at all the heart of the problem; what's hurting us so much is that we are a nation of people living beyond what we can afford.

We must stop doing so. That's each of our main jobs in helping our country recover.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Trouble With Demons

is the title of the latest book from local author and friend, Lisa Shearin. It came out today, and though it's not available in all our local stores (as Lisa's blog mentions), you can get it on Amazon. I'm far enough behind on my reading that I haven't yet read her previous novels, but I plan to do so, and I have enough faith in her that I've already ordered the book. Check it out.

Lisa's doing something interesting on her popular blog: she's encouraging her fans to order their books this week in an attempt to make The New York Times bestseller list. I honestly have no clue if this strategy will work, and I don't think I have enough fans to try it on my own, nor am I sure I'd feel comfortable doing so, but I think it's an interesting attempt, and so I ordered my copy today. (Sorry, Lisa, but I went for only one.)

As I think I've mentioned previously, Lisa and I, as well as my close friend David Drake and new friend James Maxey, have a group signing on June 23rd at the Cary, NC Barnes & Noble. I'm not sure yet exactly what we'll be doing, but I am positive that it will reek of awesomeness--and, if enough folks show up, and if we can cover the kids' ears, maybe I'll tell you (my friends already know) what the cat did to me.

Yeah, it's that kind of story.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Because we all are sometimes, you know

and Blue Rodeo sings it true.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Why my books aren't in other countries

A few people have recently asked me why they can't pick up a local edition of any of my books in their countries. The simple answer is that no publisher outside the U.S. has bought the rights to any of my books. My publisher, Baen Books, makes some attempts to sell foreign rights; for example, an editor attended last week's London Book Fair. My agent's foreign rights person also attempts such sales, but so far, no one has bitten.

So, this is sort of in the category of why there are no movies of my books: no one has stepped forward with interest and money.

A more interesting question might be whether my books would appeal to readers in other countries. Predictably, I think they would, but I'm biased. The editors in those countries are, of course, the ones who get to make those choices. I have to assume they are inundated with options, what with not only local writers trying to sell to them but also writers from other countries, such as myself, hoping to earn their interest.

I have no clue if or when this situation will change for me, but if it does, I'll let you know here.

Holden: 1; Mark: 0

Anyone who believes dogs don't think and plan has never owned one.

As usual when there is food on the kitchen counters, while we were eating dinner tonight, we put Holden, our dog, into his crate. We do this because he is not trustworthy when there is food, particularly bread, within his reach--a reach that extends to anywhere on the kitchen island. When I say Holden is not trustworthy, I am not exaggerating; this dog ate an entire large loaf of challah bread in under two minutes and half a pizza in less time than that.

When we finished eating and were cleaning up, I let him out and took him outside to do business. (Yes, that kind of business.) Now, Holden knows that I will demand he go out, but he also loves the dishwasher loading process, because during it he licks plates until the dishwasher is full. (I'm not a fan of this special privilege, but it's been a treat of his since he was young, so now, like so many strange practices in our household, it is an unbreakable tradition.)

So, he ran to the door, ran outside, squeezed out two drops, and ran back to the door, the picture of an obedient hound.

Fifteen minutes and some plate licking later, he was standing in front of me, tail wagging, big brown eyes beseeching me, desperate to go out. I didn't believe him at first, but he was persistent, so I got up and took him outside again.

This time, he really took care of business.

He completely worked me the first time.

Score one for Holden.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


If you haven't seen this Showtime original series, the second season of which we've been watching lately, you should definitely check it out. Mind you, the protagonist is a serial killer, which might put off some folks, but he's as good a serial killer as one could be: he kills only bad people.

What's amazing about this series is the way it lets you into an alien mindset. Michael C. Hall does an amazing job with the title character, with every word and movement contributing to his performance. The supporting cast is also uniformly excellent.

One way the show makes its subject matter bearable is by being quite funny, both at times on a line-by-line basis and in the situations that arise as Dexter tries to live among humans--while feeling he is not one of them.

You will see a lot of blood, many acts of violence, and some grotesque mutilations, but, hey, it's about a serial killer. As long as you can take those things, I recommend the show.

I also recommend the Jeff Lindsay novels that inspired the series, though the third (and to date most recent) of them is the weakest. The show and the books are not the same, but they share the same spirit and many of the same virtues, and that's about as much as any author could reasonably ask for.


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