Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Random Thing #42 Overheard at Grocery Store

"You don't sit down them gummy bears are goin' back on the shelf."

Just thought I'd share that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bob Dylan Didn't Have this to Sing About

I've had that Jesus Jones song Right Here Right Now stuck in my head since eleven o'clock last night. And Wind of Change by Scorpions. Maybe that sounds a little cheesy. Oh well. I was just starting high school when both of those songs became hits. The Berlin Wall had just recently come down, and the Cold War was ending. It was a big deal. It was a cool time to be fourteen, when everything already feels like a big deal.

Last night was the first time I felt exactly like that again. Like the world felt in those first couple years of the 90s. No matter which candidate you were rooting for, seeing those celebrations in Grant Park, and then in New York and Washington D.C. and at Spelman College in Atlanta, it had to hit you that last night was a very big deal.

Good time to be around, whatever age.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


When I started this blog last year (and then left it sitting idle for a year) I seem to have disabled comments. I don't really remember why. Maybe I thought people would write things like, "Hey... why hasn't this been updated since October of '07?"

Anyway, all the comments on Janet Reid's blog, in response to her post linking here the other day, were extremely nice, and I felt dumb for not having comments enabled. So from now on I'll enable them. And I'm sure that as long as I avoid controversial subjects, nobody will come out of the woodwork to post anything insane, or be rude to other commenters.

Thanks to everyone for all the kind words! And thanks, Janet, for linking to the site!

Oh, by the way, soft drinks should always be called "soda," not "pop," toilet paper rolls should be positioned so that the leading edge hangs from the front of the roll, not the back, the 2004 election was rigged in Ohio, and the Voltron that was made up of fifteen vehicles was way the hell cooler than the Voltron that was made up of five lions.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Blurb is the Word

Here's a cool way to start the week. Get an e-mail from your agent that goes like this:

Your first blurb is from Lee Child.

"Audacious and terrifying--and uncannily believable."

My reply contained various amounts of positive profanity, which is really the best kind.

I'll tell a quick story that sums up why it's so cool (or why else it's so cool) to get a blurb from Lee Child, of all authors. Flash back to a little over ten months ago. The middle of December, 2007. I finish the first draft of The Breach and, for the first time, read it front to back.

Something doesn't work. A big chunk of the second half. And I don't know why. And the deadline is six weeks away.

That night I don't sleep much. I sit awake for hours looking for something on TV, settling for infomercials about knives and blenders, and a show called (more or less) The World's Dumbest-Assed Police Chases, with a narrator who says things like, "These punks thought they could steal a car and take a joyride down easy street... but they ended up on the hard road to the county lock-up."

Around four in the morning I go to a 24-hour store a mile from my place and look for a book. Something cool. Something that works. Something to remind me how to do this thing I've already been paid to do, by people who are under the impression that I can do it.

I find a copy of Lee Child's The Enemy. I read the back of it. Sounds pretty cool. I read the first few pages and conclude that, yeah, it is pretty cool.

Even right there, standing in an empty store in the middle of the night, I get a sense of what's missing from the second half of my own book. Something pretty obvious: there's not enough sh-t happening. (I could say stuff instead of sh-t, but this is one of those cases where the airline version doesn't work at all.) Here's what I mean by sh-t happening. Here's how The Enemy starts:

Jack Reacher is staring at a clock. It ticks to one minute before midnight. Then midnight. 1989 becomes 1990. Then the phone rings, and there's a dead General in a motel room, and Reacher spends the next 464 pages (my store only had the paperback) figuring out what happened in that motel room, and why. Every paragraph is about moving the hero toward the goal. Through and over and around obstacles, definitely, but always toward the goal. Every paragraph has sh-t happening.

It occurred to me that there were many, many paragraphs (about 150 pages worth of them) in my book that did not have sh-t happening. Not enough sh-t, anyway. It's amazing what you can overlook when you're writing. My mistake in the first pass at The Breach was the equivalent of a golfer leaving his clubs behind somewhere around the twelfth hole, and only wondering around the eighteenth hole why his game has suddenly gone so far south. For me, reading even the first few pages of The Enemy was like someone tapping me on the shoulder and saying, "Clubs, idiot."

And it worked. In the next few weeks I did the fastest writing I've ever done, and it felt great. I liked the result, too. I got rid of a lot of stuff that wandered and went nowhere, and replaced it with... yeah... sh-t happening.

So I have to thank Lee Child twice. For a very cool blurb, and long before it, a monumental dose of inspiration at the exact point in time when I needed it.

I'd... ah... offer to name my first kid after you, but the resulting combination would be pretty bad.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bigfoot and Wildboy

Man oh man... this needs to be remade, stat. Better yet, just re-release it as is. What could be improved?

Wait a minute... there were vampires on that show, too? How could primitive cathode-ray televisions in the 70s handle that much awesomeness without imploding? Maybe they couldn't. Maybe that's why the show was cancelled.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Blog Post One Year in the Making

Wow. My last entry was just over a year ago, a post celebrating the deal on the first two books of the Travis Chase series. That was also the very first post of this blog. Way to light the web on fire.

Well, I've kept busy. At the time of the deal announcement, the first book was only a few chapters and a rough idea. (If that deal sounds like an insane leap of faith on the publisher's part, it's worth mentioning that they'd seen another manuscript of mine, which was complete, so there was at least some circumstantial evidence that I could string together a few hundred pages of sentences.)

I worked on the new book through the end of the year and into this past spring. It's called The Breach, and it should come out in the summer of 2009.

I'll probably be blogging more often from now on. After all, there's so much to blog about. Historical election. Worldwide financial extinction-level-event in progress. Impending feline invasion of Poland and France...