Saturday, April 3, 2010

On the road again: Spain, day 2

I'm going to be keeping these short both because this is Scott and my time and because it's probably going to be late when I can get to them.

We did the usual overnight flight thing, and as such passings go, it was swell. We spent multiple hours in the hotel lobby, however, waiting for our room, so by the time we reached it, we were both exhausted. We took a long nap, and after showers felt pretty good.

We explored this ocean-side area a bit on foot and ultimately settled for dinner on a restaurant that was chock full of folks speaking Spanish and many people clearly fresh from their day at work. I like eating where locals eat. It was a good choice. The sausage sampler and croquettes were great, and the paella was very good, though more than two of us could finish.

Barcelona really is a late-night town. We sat down to eat about 10:30, and the restaurant was getting busier when we left.

We walked along a row of nightclubs and marveled at the themes and the crowds. By midnight, the clubs were just beginning to get moving; quite a contrast with Raleigh.

In a first for me, I filed a book, Jump Gate Twist, from another country.

It's almost three-thirty in the morning here, so I'm going to crash. Tomorrow, we hope to be adjusted to local time and to do some exploring.

Friday, April 2, 2010

On the road again: Spain, day 1

When I went to bed at 6:30 this morning, I still hadn't started packing. By the time I left the house, however, I was reasonably but not entirely confident that I had everything. I sincerely hope so, because aside from this layover in JFK, where the Admirals Club is spiffy and provides all the Diet Coke and carrot slices I might want, I will not be on the ground again until we touch down in Barcelona. I've never been to Spain before, so I'm quite looking forward to seeing it.

Bandwidth and time permitting, I will continue to blog--but if I miss a few days, or even a whole week, it's because Scott (my son) and I are out having wild parties, not because anything is wrong.

While on the plane, I will put the finishing touches on the Lobo story, and then from the hotel in Barcelona I plan to file the complete Jump Gate Twist.

My next writing project will be the completion of The Wild Side anthology, and at that point I will be done with every contracted project. I'm quite looking forward to that moment.

Off to Spain!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Remember that rule

I said I had, the one about not showing my work to anyone except Dave before the book or story is completely ready for publication? Well, I'm about to break it, and I thought it might be useful to explain why.

I've finished the first draft of the original, brand-new, never-before-seen solo Lobo story--the Lobo Christmas story--for Jump Gate Twist. I'm running it by Dave for a quick check before I do a final polish and send the entire book to Publisher Toni, who will be especially glad to have it because it's due to the printer about, oh, now.

I'm also, though, going to show it to Bill for a reason I consider sufficiently important to break my SOP: He possesses in-depth domain knowledge that I need. I'm not going to say what that domain is, at least not yet, because I don't want to affect anyone's perception of the story, but if you remind me after the book appears, I'll explain then.

My more general form of this exception goes like this: If a person really knows a specific subject that affects your work, and if that person is willing to lend you their expertise, then I think it's perfectly fine both to ask questions of that person during the writing of the work and to show the relevant sections of the not-fully-published prose to that person.

Which is what I'm doing now.

In directly related news, I can tell you that I will be the one person in the world who will be happier than Publisher Toni to see this book head into production. I am tired of being behind schedule and look forward to a return to writing normalcy.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Why I show my work to Dave

Several folks have asked why I break my "nobody sees my work before I finish it" rule with Dave. The short answer is that he always makes my books, stories, and essays better. The longer answer is perhaps more interesting.

Dave's spent a lot of years building complex plots. I'm still relatively new to that art, so on that front alone, he has taught me a great deal. I always look forward to learning from him in this area.

What's even more useful is that he is good at seeing the story I'm trying to tell and for the most part directing all of his comments toward helping me produce that story. He does sometimes genuinely think I should take the tale in a different direction, but when he makes comments toward that end, he always states his intent. This clarity of focus and communication is invaluable to me.

Finally, after dozens of books he simply possesses a strong, almost instinctual understanding of how to fix certain classes of problems.

For example, while writing Children No More, I hit a point at which I had a problem but no great ideas for solving it. I called Dave, told him just enough of the plot that he could see the problem, and literally in seconds he gave me a very rough--intentionally so, I should note--solution. I refined it considerably and adapted it to my purposes, and then I wrote the bit in question. No one will ever be able to identify this issue from the text alone, and I probably could have solved it on my own, but his approach was better than my best idea at the time, and the book is better for his contribution. That's what matters most, of course. My ultimate loyalty and commitment in each book must be to that book--and not to my ego, a prospective audience, or any other damn thing.

As I write more books, I ask Dave fewer questions, but all my books have been better for his contributions--and in the end, that's why I show the second drafts of them to him.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My review process

A while back, I wrote about finding a trusted reader and how to get useful feedback for your work. I promised to talk about my own review process, but I never got around to doing so. Until now.

Before I explain how I work, I have to give an important disclaimer: This is the way I work. I'm not advocating it for anyone else, and I'm not guaranteeing it'll work for you. It works for me.

When I start a book, other than telling the title I basically refuse to talk to anyone about it. If Publisher Toni pushes hard enough, I may give her a sentence or two overall description, but if I do, it'll be vague. When I've finished the plot, I may show it to Dave and ask for his feedback. I say "may" because I did that with the first three Jon and Lobo novels but not the fourth.

After that, no one sees it until I've completed two drafts. Every now and then, at a reading or on this blog or on a phone call, a wild notion may seize me and I may read a paragraph or even a chapter aloud, but those are exceptions and always unpredictable.

When I've finished the second draft, I print two copies: one for me, and one for Dave, who kindly gives me his feedback.

By the way, Dave is David Drake, whom I'm fortunate enough to count as a close friend. If you're just starting out as a writer, the odds are slim that you have a top-selling novelist and superb plotter as an available resource. In this area, I definitely have an unusual advantage.

That's it, though. The only person to whom I show the book in anything other than ready-to-publish form is Dave. The next time anyone sees it is when Publisher Toni opens her email and finds it waiting for her.

Again, this is only what works for me. The important thing is to write and to complete what you write. If a very different process helps you finish your work, by all means embrace it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Two blasts from the past

Last night, reflections on my mortality kept me from falling asleep for quite some time, even though I was exhausted.

Today, I've been churning with emotion all day. That's typical of me. When that happens, I frequently find myself absorbed in music. For no particular reason, these two songs bubbled into my brain.

The first one has nothing to do with anything except that I like it and have always found it energizing. If you already know it, then the odds are that you either love it or hate it. If you've never heard it, then give it a listen and decide.

The second song reminds me of the night I discovered Blue Rodeo in Toronto. This is the first cut on their first album. As I stood in the record store and this piece began, I almost tuned it out, because by reflex--a bad reflex, I must admit--I tend to walk away from country songs. Then, about a minute in, the song changed, and it became a country-rock hybrid.

This live version isn't as good as the one on the album, and it's recorded low, so you'll have to crank it up, but give it a chance. Marvel at how young Keelor and Cuddy look, and let it reach the chorus.

I heard this first in December, 1987. Man, I know it was over 22 years ago, but sometimes it feels like yesterday. Every day has been so full, and yet I still feel that I've done nothing at all. I still burn inside and want more. I want a hundred hours a day, a thousand days a year, ten thousand years of healthy life. I know I can't have any of that, but I'll never stop wanting it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

UFC 111: How we fared

Overall, we did pretty darn well on tonight's fights, but we did have a few very wrong choices. Alas, Kyle and I disagreed on only one pick, and he won that one, so this card goes to him. Here are the details.

The undercard proved to be fraught with peril for us.

Ricardo Funch vs. Matt Riddle

We expected Riddle to grind out a wrestling victory. We didn't get to see this match, but from what I've read, we called it right--until the end. Riddle ended up winning by disqualification due to an illegal kick from Soto.

Tomasz Drwal vs. Rousimar Palhares

I should have stuck with the odds on this one. Kyle did, and his choice of Palhares was the right one. Palhares beat Drwal easily and ultimately submitted him with a nasty ankle lock that he held entirely too long.

Jared Hamman vs. Rodney Wallace

We both chose Wallace, and we were both wrong. Wallace started strong, but Hamman maintained a strong and consistent pace, and Wallace both gassed and just wasn't big enough for the weight class. Wallace carries too much muscle and doesn't have enough cardio. If he's still in the UFC after this fight--and I doubt he will be--he should consider cutting a lot of muscle mass and moving down a weight class or two.

Ricardo Almeida vs. Matt Brown

The bad call train kept rolling with this fight, as Almeida completely dominated Brown and then submitted him in the second. Almeida's cut didn't hurt him at all, and Brown never had an answer for Almeida's takedowns.

Nate Diaz vs. Rory Markham

We regained our form with this fight, where Markham was having trouble with Diaz's strikes and then fell into the really deep waters when the fight hit the ground. Diaz locked on a body triangle and kept beating on Markham until the ref stopped the fight and called the TKO by strikes.

Our good fortune continued on the main card, where we got every fight right.

Jim Miller vs. Mark Bocek

Three surprisingly close rounds of lock-ups and takedowns and submission attempts ended in a Miller win, as we had expected.

Jon Fitch vs. Ben Saunders

Did anyone bet on Saunders? I hope not, because as we (and every source I read) expected, Fitch dominated him from start to finish and won easily. I have to give Saunders credit, though, for trying: he was smiling at the end and never gave up.

Kurt Pellegrino vs. Fabricio Camoes

I expected a boring decision in favor of Pellegrino. Kyle called for a rear naked choke by Pellegrino. We were both right to go with Pellegrino, but Kyle called the end of the fight exactly right.

Frank Mir vs. Shane Carwin

For a few seconds, it looked like these guys might stand and trade for a while, but then Carwin went for a takedown. Mir blocked it but ended up against the cage. From then on, Mir looked lost, as if he'd never trained for time against the cage. At about three and a half minutes into the first round, Carwin opened up just enough space to launch a left uppercut, and in no time Mir was on the ground unconscious. Carwin is a scary dude.

Georges St-Pierre vs. Dan Hardy

I expected a TKO and was wrong on that front. Kyle thought it wouldn't last five rounds and was also wrong. We were both right to pick GSP--duh!--who dominated Hardy for all five rounds but could never finish the Brit. Hardy earned a lot of respect, and he showed a seriously badass no-quit attitude by refusing to tap in the face of two serious arm submission attempts by GSP.

If I were Dana White, I would be wondering who in the world at 170 has a real chance of beating GSP. I can't name a single fighter who does.

So, we messed up two of the undercard fights, and I called a third wrong, leaving Kyle 3-2 for those fights and me a miserable 2-3. We both went 5-0 on the main card, for a final score of 8-2 for Kyle and 7-3 for me. Not bad.

Still, as always, don't use us for betting advice!


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