Saturday, August 7, 2010

ReConStruction, day 3

Though I went to bed rather late last night, I still got a reasonable amount of sleep because my first commitment--an autographing session in the back of the dealers' room--wasn't until noon. To my pleasant surprise, I signed books and chatted with people almost continuously for the full hour. Don't get me wrong: I wasn't one of those big-name writers that stare at a huge queue of folks waiting for them to sign books; I can still only dream of that. I've just never had an autograph session at which I signed so many books. It was cool.

At the end of that activity, I met with Eric Flint for lunch. We talked publishing, ebooks, Baen (which publishes both of us), and so on for an enjoyable hour.

I then crammed in some work before my next panel, "The Death of a Character." The discussion ranged over many aspects of death in fiction, and it seemed to go well. Certainly, the audience seemed to enjoy it.

Next up was signing books at Sam's Bull Spec table, where we had also hoped to make me write fiction in return for donations. Alas, no one could find a printer or typewriter, so we bagged that notion. Perhaps another time.

More work, then the Baen author dinner at The Pit. We all ate too much but laughed and talked just the right amount, then waddled back to the hotel like a flock of ducklings overfed on worms.

After a little over an hour of work, I did the party crawl and ran into a lot of the usual suspects; this is a very small con. More work followed, and soon, sleep.

I'd love to see this hotel and facility with a full-sized NASFiC or WorldCon, but somehow I doubt that will happen anytime soon.

UFC 117: Kyle and I pick 'em

Hey, even in the midst of a con and the ongoing attempt to sell tons of copies of Children No More and help child soldiers, we can't forget the UFC. Where would it be without our picks? (Exactly where it is, of course, but we'll ignore that fact.)

Beginning with the undercard, here's how we see the fights.

Rodney Wallace vs. Phil Davis

Mark: You have to feel bad for Rodney Wallace. He was originally slated to face Stanislav Nedkov, but an injury led to Davis stepping in as a replacement. Davis is a vastly superior wrestler who will take down Wallace at will and pound or submit him for the victory. Davis will look great, and Wallace will look like he needs to drop some mass and give up his status as one of the more undersized light heavyweights.

Kyle: Phil Davis is another former Division I wrestling champion who's looked flawless in his first six fights. Wallace is five inches shorter, a weight class higher than he should be, and possessed of questionable conditioning that's earned him two decision losses in a row. Davis should win this one easily.

Ben Saunders vs. Dennis Hallman

Mark: I'm not a fan of Saunders, but he's going to take this fight thanks to his size and reach advantage and his kicks.

Kyle: Saunders is a much bigger man who has good enough take-down defense to stuff Hallman's weak shots and good enough reach to punish Hallman on the feet. Saunders for the win.

Johny Hendricks vs. Charlie Brenneman

Mark: Hendricks is better in every aspect of the game that will figure into this fight. He's unlikely to win in spectacular fashion, but he's going to take the match, probably by decision but possibly by a late submission.

Kyle: Brenneman peaked at 12th in the Division I Wrestling Nationals. Hendricks was a two-time Division I wrestling champion. Since Brenneman reportedly tends to rely on ground-and-pound, that puts him in for a rough night. Look for Hendricks to grind Brenneman down and give him a dose of his own GnP medicine.

Stefan Struve vs. Christian Morecraft

Mark: Morecraft is a tall, undefeated fighter who will be facing a taller, better fighter who's spent time working against far better opponents than Morecraft has ever fought. Struve will get Morecraft against the cage, then take him down, and eventually garner a submission victory.

Kyle: The 6'11" Struve is a physical anomaly who's hard to prepare for. It's unlikely that the 6' 8" Morecraft has ever had to fight up against a taller opponent before. He probably also hasn't faced a submission wizard of Struve's caliber. The Skyscraper, at 22 years old, has managed to rack up a staggering 14 wins by submission in his professional career. Look for Struve to put his limbs where Morecraft doesn't expect them and lock on a choke.

Dustin Hazelett vs. Rick Story

Mark: Hazelett is a better striker than Story and a vastly better submission artist. Story's only advantage is his superior wrestling, but all it can do for him is get him on the ground and into Hazelett's world of submission pain. I doubt this one will make it out of the second round, but however long it goes, it will end with Hazelett's hands up in victory.

Kyle: Hazelett could be a top-ten fighter, if he just had the game plan to match his skills. Story's a tough brawler, but fights with more aggression than technique. Expect Hazelett to tie his opponent up and use his superior jiu jitsu to lock on a submission. End of Story.

Tim Boetsch vs. Todd Brown

Mark: This is another fight that changed radically due to an injury. At one point, Boetsch was going to face Thiago Silva in a bout tailored to give Silva a nice return to the UFC. When Silva went out, Brown came in, and Boetsch's future turned rosy. Brown has a puncher's chance, but that's about it. Expect Boetsch to trade with Brown for at most a round and a half before he connects, drops Brown, and walks away with the KO or TKO victory.

Kyle: Brown comes in on short notice as a replacement for an injured Thiago Silva. Brown has had two professional fights, the second of which he lost to Din Thomas, whom he outweighs by fifty pounds. Boetsch should walk right through him.

Now, to the main, televised bouts.

Junior dos Santos vs. Roy Nelson

Mark: As interesting as it would be to watch the Double Beef Whopper-fueled Nelson find a way to defeat dos Santos, it's not going to happen. The only question is whether dos Santos knocks out Nelson in the first or the second round.

Kyle: The main card starts off with a bang with this battle of heavyweight strikers. Dos Santos is a well-conditioned athlete with superior boxing who can go a hard three rounds. Nelson is tough and arguably more well-rounded, but also pretty round: all the extra body fat that he carries around will start to weigh on him as the fight goes on. Dos Santos should be able to fight off Nelson's take-down attempts and strike from the outside to get the KO.

Matt Hughes vs. Ricardo Almeida

Mark: Matt Hughes' recent victory over Renzo Gracie was one of the saddest wins to watch in recent history. Almeida is a far tougher opponent, so this one will end early with Hughes losing. Unless the UFC is willing to feed Hughes increasingly weaker opponents, this fight may well need to be his last. He's a legend who deserves every accolade he's received, but his time is over.

Kyle: Hughes, like Chuck Liddell, just doesn't know when he should retire. Taking on Renzo Gracie in his last fight, Hughes was less impressive in victory than many fighters are in defeat. Almeida, on the other hand, looked like an absolute terror in his last fight against Matt Brown--and like a completely different fighter from the Ricardo Almeida who had let his previous three fights go to decision. Expect Almeida to stuff Hughes' take-down attempts and use his superior reach to punish Hughes from outside until Hughes just can't take the punishment anymore.

Clay Guida vs. Rafael Dos Anjos

Mark: Clay Guida is an exciting fighter who gives his all and whose heart and energy have deservedly earned him a lot of fans. If Rafael Dos Anjos weren't so very much better than Guida at submissions, Guida would have a shot at grinding out a decision win. The problem is, Dos Anjos is that much better on the ground, so expect to see Guida tapping in a submission loss.

Kyle: Guida is a tough, tough lightweight who's had the bad luck to have run into some of the hardest men in his division. Dos Anjos is an up-and-comer on a three-fight win streak. Both men are enthusiastic, albeit reckless, strikers. Guida has an edge in wrestling. Dos Anjos has an edge in jiu jitsu. This should be a close match, but in the end I think that Guida will be able to use his superior top control to eke out a victory.

Jon Fitch vs. Thiago Alves

Mark: Jon Fitch is not an exciting fighter, but he is one of those guys who is only a few fighters away from a real chance at the welterweight title. Unfortunately for him, Thiago Alves is one of those fighters. Expect a grueling war, but in the end either Alves will knock out Fitch with his superior hand speed or grind through a decision win.

Kyle: Fitch is going to spend this fight wanting to put Thiago Alves on his back. Alves his going to spend this fight wanting to stay outside and throw power punches. Expect neither man to get his wish. Instead, Fitch is going to spend fifteen minutes pressing Alves into the cage while Alves throws rabbit punches at his ears and kidneys. Fitch by decision.

Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen

Mark: Chael Sonnen has been running his month for months about how he is going to crush Anderson Silva in this fight and take away the champ's middleweight title. In many ways, I wish he would, because Silva has become so bored with his opponents that his recent fights have looked like jokes. Unfortunately, Sonnen won't win. Oh, he'll take down Silva, maybe more than once, but he has no way to finish the champ. The only interesting question is how Silva will win: by knock-out as Sonnen charges in for the take-out, by submission as Sonnen shows he hasn't improved his game from the guard, or by dancing around and frustrating Sonnen for 25 minutes. I really hope it's not the third option, but however it goes, Silva will hold up his hands at the end and retain his title.

Kyle: No fighter in the history of the UFC has done more to sell a fight than Chael Sonnen has. The trash-talking Oregonian seems convinced that he's going to dominate by virtue of his sheer manliness, and after back-to-back victories over Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt, it seems almost plausible. This makes him a curious match for the enigmatic Anderson Silva, a Michael Jackson-like man-child prone to theatrical tantrums and tedious sulks in the cage. Silva is perhaps the best striker in mixed martial arts, but that's unlikely to matter in this fight because he doesn't have the take-down defense to keep Sonnen from putting him on his back. Unfortunately for Sonnen, his fantastic wrestling isn't complemented by fantastic submission defense. He's fallen victim to submissions from the bottom again and again in his career, and I expect him to tap to an arm-bar or triangle choke one more time tonight.

Check back tomorrow to see how we fared.

Finally, as always, don't use us for betting advice.

Friday, August 6, 2010

ReConStruction, day 2

Today was insanely busy and remains so, so I will be keeping this short. I did a full day's worth of PT work; plugged away at the Children No More charity efforts--and wore my Falling Whistles whistle all day; participated in two panels; co-ran a two-hour writers' workshop; spoke at length at the Baen Books Traveling Roadshow about my new books; contributed to another panel from the audience; signed stock for multiple dealers; hung out a tiny bit with friends; hit a bunch of parties; and had a late but tasty dinner at buku.

Tomorrow promises to be a bit slower-paced, but only a bit, because I went from having only three things to do to having six (or maybe seven). I may even be writing flash fiction for the cause if Sam (of Bull Spec) can find a way to print at his dealer's table--or a typewriter. I don't know what possessed me to offer that, but we'll see if anything comes to pass from it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

ReConStruction, day 1

Here I am, sitting at a desk in a hotel working late in the evening at an SF convention, something I've done many times, and it feels slightly odd. The reason is that the con is in my city, Raleigh, and my house is only half an hour away. I'm not driving home, though, because staying here has many advantages, best use of time between panels being the primary one. Because I'm here, though, I'm going to provide my usual con reports. I'll try to stir in the occasional Children No More bit as well, but given how busy I am here, I won't do much on that front until Monday. MMA fans will also get the usual picks from Kyle and me; the blog will be chock full of nuts this weekend.

ReConStruction is the North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC), which is the American-based country-wide con that occurs whenever the worldcon is out of the country. (It's in Melbourne in a few weeks, and I really wish I could afford the time to go--but I can't.) Because they cover the entire country, NASFiCs are generally on the large side, but this one does not seem to be.

I worked most of today, but I did catch the opening ceremonies and a few parties in the evening. What struck me most was how much cooler downtown Raleigh is than I had ever realized. I just don't come down here. The hotel is gorgeous: modern and bright and new, with shiny dripping off everything. The convention center is even better. It actually made me feel proud of the city.

I was also surprised to find at least one cool street at night. Check out this picture, which though fuzzy--I took it with my phone in available light--is still good enough to show the nifty lights along this section of the street.

A few years ago, I would never have believed Raleigh would house such a road. I'm very pleased to be so wrong on this front. I'll definitely come back here.

Tomorrow will arrive entirely too early for me--exercise, shower, morning panel (despite my pleas not to schedule me before noon)--so to work I return.

Yeah, I know I'm her father

but I'm telling you, Sarah can write. Read this, and tell me I'm wrong.

I'm not.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Party night

Here in Raleigh, I don't attend a lot of parties other than the small extended-family gatherings I usually host, but tonight marked the kick-off of the NASFiC with two SF parties.

The first was an open house at Baen's offices in Wake Forest. The food and conversation were both excellent, and I got to catch up for a few minutes with Eric Flint (the con's Guest of Honor), John Kessel, and my publisher/editor, the redoubtable Toni Weisskopf (the con's Toastmaster). I also had the chance to meet and chat briefly with Mary Robinette Kowal, whose first novel, Shades of Milk and Honey, also came out yesterday.

From there, we drove to Quail Ridge Books for the launch party of the second issue of Sam Montgomery-Blinn's SF magazine, Bull Spec. The short readings were generally interesting, and I had a chance to at least briefly meet so many local SF/fantasy writers that I couldn't catch all their names (sorry, folks; I was already tired). Sam even made a point of mentioning the Children No More charity program, for which I was grateful.

All in all, a fun evening.

The worst thing...

(In this entry, I assume you are aware of my goal of raising a lot of money to help child soldiers by donating all of my earnings from sales of the hardback of Children No More to Falling Whistles. If you're not, you can go to the Children No More site and learn more there. I'll be here when you return.)

People often begin discussions of rough topics with that phrase. When it comes to child soldiers, though, there are so many aspects of the problem vying for the title of "worst" that it's almost impossible to pick one. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to touch briefly on a few of them. I'm starting with the one that most clearly explains why we need to raise a lot of money:

Nobody wants these kids.

Think about it: They were trained to kill. They were traumatized by experiences no human, much less a child, should have to endure. Their socialization was screwed up in unthinkable ways. Let's be honest: would you want one in your house?

That's exactly why we need to help. With the right rehabilitation and reintegration programs, these kids can return to normal society. It takes time and skilled people to help them, but it is possible. Many kids have gone through successful rehabilitation programs. We shouldn't be satisfied until they all have. Falling Whistles works to help these kids, which is why I'm giving them this money.

Let's help these kids return to normal lives.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

To find the real answer to my quiz about the Booty Reader

all you have to do is go here. Check it out. Follow a few links. Turn on the sound for the full experience. The closer you look, the more offensive it becomes. It will even let you submit a photo of your booty. Yes, I'm tempted to submit a picture of mine, but I didn't.

At least not that I'm admitting.


Children No More hits bookstores today

Which means we have about three weeks to raise money to help rehabilitate and reintegrate child soldiers, because after that, unless we've made it a bestseller, bookstores are likely to remove it from their shelves. (Fortunately, online vendors generally keep a few in stock longer.) So, the big push begins now.

One tradition in my company is to send a copy of each new novel of mine to each of our most valued clients. Here's a photo of a table covered with stacks of most, but not all, of those books. I will sign each and every one; we value our clients greatly enough that I'm willing to endure a lot of wrist pain.

We paid for those books, so we indirectly donated money to the cause--as each buyer does.

Over the next three weeks, I'm going to talk more about the book, the issue, and related topics, but that's not all I'm going to blog. The issue is bleak, and we all need fun breaks, so I'll be interspersing some oddities as well. In addition, I'll provide some coverage of the NASFiC, where I'll be a guest from Thursday to Sunday.

A lot of folks have already helped spread the word. I'm hopeful that more will. With luck, we will sell a ton of books, raise many thousands of dollars for Falling Whistles, and ultimately help give new lives to a lot of kids who should never have been soldiers.

We can do it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Today's quiz: What is the Women's Booty Reader?

Not familiar with this new sensation? Here's the ad I saw for it today in the window of an Old Navy store.

Is this mystery

(a) a device that whirls around a standing woman, weighing and measuring her butt while creating a perfect on-screen simulation of it and immediately and automatically posting both the simulation and live photos on the top ten ass-rating Web sites

(b) a smiling, pimply, sixteen-year-old boy sitting in a metal folding chair with his hands out, a sign on his chest saying, "Booty Reader"

(c) a gnarly old dude wearing a ratty purple Harry Potter cap he stole from a niece, displaying with each leer the gap in his front teeth, who tells your future by squeezing your ass and muttering to himself such statements as, "nothing like this in prison"

(d) a truly crass advertising campaign by a national clothing retailer that ought to hire an ad agency that hasn't realized that Mad Men isn't a real-life tutorial on how to run a successful company
You be the judge.

I will say this: if the answer is (b) or (c), I may have to seek a new job.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Scott ain't even mad

I'm just sayin'.

The background is that Scott and Sarah have a running joke that as soon as possible they want to go to a double bill of the dumbest looking films of the upcoming months: Step Up 3-D and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole. I've sworn to join them if I possibly can.

Who could resist that pairing?


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