Friday, January 30, 2009
Genre fiction, such as science fiction, fantasy, espionage, mystery, etc. seems an easy venue for martial arts material. You usually have good guys, bad guys, and a fair amount of activity and contention compared to mainstream writing. A lot of fight scenes, shoot 'em ups, and fast action.
In science fiction and fantasy, there are a fair number of well-known writers who have spent serious time training in martial arts.
I'm not talking here about those who are adept enough at research to fool a reader, nor those who took a few weeks of training at the local dojo or strapped on boxing gloves for a couple rounds when they were at summer camp. Nor ex-military guys who got something in basic training, like Drake, Deitz, and Bunch. They know the gun-stuff and the boots-on-the-ground material, but not so much the hand-to-hand.
Yeah, Sherlock Holmes was a master of Baritsu, the Sandmen had Omnite, and Modesty Blaise had her kick-ass fu. And who can forget Chiun's Sinaju? But those were all arts de l'esprit, made up of mental cloth ...
Offhand, first few writers that come to mind, writing in English, and with apologies to those I missed: Roger Zelazny, Vonda McIntyre and Liz Lynn, who all reached dan-level in aikido. Pat Murphy and Rich Kadrey, Steve Barnes, Dave Smeds, and across the aisle in the thriller section, Barry Eisler's John Rain series. Joe Lansdale, who also writes a lot of horror. Piers Anthony did a martial arts' series in the 70's, when he was still a student of judo. Fritz Leiber was a fencer in his youth.
There are a few fantasy writers whose books I've read who offered martial arts credentials on the inside back cover of the dust jacket, but I confess I can't recall their names at the moment. And a couple who claim to be martial artists about whom I have my doubts, and one in particular with whom I'd love to cross hands ...
And me, of course. I modestly assert than nobody in the English language has written more in their fiction about silat than I -- I was about it before I knew it existed ...
So, who else? If you know of martial artists who are fiction writers -- not from what's in their books, but from a source that talks about their art, put 'em forth. Be interesting to see a list.
Somebody sent me a link to a wiki you get when you google "Steve Perry."
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The name Steve Perry may refer to any of the following:
Steve Perry (musician), solo artist and the former lead singer of the band Journey
Steve Perry (Oregon musician), lead singer of the Cherry Poppin' Daddies
Steve Perry (author), science fiction author
Stephen Perry, 19th century inventor and businessman (inventor of the rubber band)
Steve Perry, a porn star who also uses the stage name Ben Dover.
There are also a couple more I know about in the public eye -- a book writer out of Philadelphia, and a movie producer.
Common as dirt, us Steves, but ... Ben Dover. You gotta love those porno stage names ... Harry Reems, Johnny Wadd, Long John Silver ...
You lick the tip of your middle finger and then move it over your head, as if combing down an errant tuft of hair.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Got an email query on the bodyweight exercise stuff, thought it worth answering here.
Muscles -- by which I mean here those that are voluntary, striated, and skeletal, as opposed to those smooth and involunatary ones in the internal organs, like the heart and bladder and blood vessels -- work but one way -- they contract, shorten, and by that action, pull on bones and whatnot.
By means of this and some clever levers, you get flexion, extension, rotation, supination, pronation, abduction, adduction, all like that. The reason a chimp is so strong compared to most people is that his leverage is better.
Large skeletal muscles work in pairs -- for every protagonist, there is a antagonist. And some muscles do more than one thing. Take the one little boys default to when somebody says, "Show me your muscle!" the biceps. This is a two-headed thing on the upper arm. If you flex your forearm with your palm up, you can see how that works. If you do it palm down, when you get to ninety degrees, turn your hand so that it is palm up, and you can see that it is also used to supinate the hand.
Sometimes the attachments are tendons, and obvious; sometimes like the muscles of the lips, their origins and insertions are less apparent. Eventually, something somewhere connects to the skeleton. (The "origin" is the more fixed end, the "insertion," the part that tends to move the most. Thus, the biceps originates on the shoulder and inserts on the forearm just below the elbow. The Latin names are jawbreakers:
Long head:supraglenoid tubercle of scapula. Short head: coracoid process of scapula with coracobrachialis
posterior border of bicipital tuberosity of radius (over bursa) and bicipital aponeurosis to deep fascia and subcutaneous ulna
If you want to know the other Latin names and such, go here.
The triceps, on the back of the humerus, extends the forearm. Generally, flexion is toward the body, and extension away from it. A curl is flexion, a bench-press extension, leastways, of the arm. When the chest comes into it, then you get pectoral flexion, and some shoulder rotation.
All you need to do to work your body is to figure out what motion works a muscle, then the muscle(s) that reverse it.
The easy way is to grab something and move it and see what muscles tighten. Compound exercises, such as squats, work a lot of muscle groups. Isolation exercises, such as sitting in a chair and curling a dumbbell, work fewer groups, though it is almost impossible to completely isolate one muscle, since there are a bunch of them that come into play stabilizing the body. If you stand and do curls with a barbell, the biceps are doing most of the work, but everything from your hands to your shoulders, to the rest of your back, belly, hips, and legs that are keeping up upright also come into play. Sit in a chair, lean back, you remove some of the muscles from the exercise.
One of the reasons the old Six Million Dollar Man was so utterly silly was that Steve Austin had this extremely powerful arm, but it was connected to his not-so-powerful body, and that was the weak link. The arm could pick up a car, but his non-bionic parts couldn't. No writer I knew could watch that show without laughing.
I'm talking about exercise a lot, since my back is still tight enough from my strain and resulting spasm that doing anything really vigorous is still a bad idea ...
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Adventures in Hollywood
I've never been a big player in La-La-Land. I've had some small experiences there, animation writing for the tube, a few movie scripts that haven't made it to the silver screen, like that. But in the vein of what I think is funny, lemme tell you one of my Hollywood stories ...
The story is true. The names, as they used to say on Dragnet, have been changed to protect the innocent. And the guilty ...
Some years ago, my then-writing partner and I -- call him Roy -- got a freelance gig to write an episode of a cartoon show, let's say it was Funny Little Critters. At this point, the show is being written and boarded, so it's months away from being on the air.
Eventually, we wound up writing several scripts for the producers and a fine time was had by all.
Face-time is important in the Biz. So I go down there, since I was living in Oregon, and Roy and I go out to lunch with the story editor and his assistant. They'd be, let's say, Sammy J, and Gary. We go to a nice upscale burger place, called The Good Earth, a SoCal chain. Burgers, bean sprouts, whole-wheat buns, like that.
The waitress, an attractive young woman in her early twenties, comes to take our order.
Now there is a thing you may not know, but in Hollywood, there are folks in the Biz who, for reasons I can only guess at, feel the need to impress service people with how important they are: These guys will go into a 7-Eleven store, usually in pairs, and comment loudly to each other about their latest deal, dropping actor's names like rose petals at a formal wedding, and for some reason, lacing their monologues liberally with profanity: "Yeah, I got this piece of shit dramady to do for Disney, they think maybe Brad and Angelina to star, but the fucking director is a motherfucker ..."
I think this bespeaks a basic and deep insecurity, that you need approbation from the minimum-wage 7-Eleven clerk, but that seems to be part of what Hollywood runs on ...
Anyway, back at the Good Earth, Gary decides that he is going to impress the hell out of the waitress, and so he says to her, "Do you know who this is?" and points at his boss.
"No, should I?"
"This is Sammy J! He is the story editor for Funny Little Critters, the new animated show!"
Which, you recall, isn't on the air yet. And, in the Hollywood pantheon, animation impresses nobody anyhow. Cartoons? Plus, writers don't impress anybody even more. Think of your three favorite movies -- can you name the writers of them? I didn't think so ...
And the waitress says, "Huh. And who are you? One of the funny little critters?"
In Hollywood, they do love a snappy comeback. Roy, Sammy J, and I all grin and chuckle. Point for the waitress.
Gary, being very high on the insecure-list, turns red and fumes, but doesn't say anything.
So she takes our orders and then asks what we want to drink. Gary decides that if he can't impress her, he can, by God, put her in her place. So he says, in a snotty voice, "I'll have water. And keep it coming." Every time he takes a sip, he expects her to hurry over and top off his glass, and by saying this, he is letting her know who the boss is.
(My opinion is that guys who do such things to waiters and waitresses are, not to put too fine a point on it, pricks.)
The waitress doesn't say anything, though. She leaves.
We chat about the show, and a couple minutes later, the busboy shows up with our drinks.
Roy gets iced tea, Sammy J, some kind of juice, I have a Coke. And the busboy puts six full glasses of water down in front of Gary ...
As you might imagine, this is cause for more mirth. Roy, Sammy J, and I cackle, and Gary shades right through red into purple. Score another point for the waitress, but -- wait!
A second busboy shows up. He's carrying a five-gallon plastic bucket full of water, with a slice of lemon on the rim, and he sets this down on the table in front of Gary.
The rest of us are now on the floor, trying to find our asses, which we have all laughed off.
Eventually the waitress returns with our orders. Smiles sweetly. "Anything else I can get you? More water, sir?"
Game, set, and match for the waitress.
This time after we stopped howling, Sammy J takes a business card from his wallet. "You do any writing?" he asks her. "Come by and see me ..."
Now, I don't know if she ever followed up; I'd like to think that she did and is now a big-name scriptwriter making big bucks; but what this story illustrates to me is the culture that it the media-biz down in LaLaLand, which is to say, passing weird. Larry McMurtry says that going to Hollywood is like going to a town of very powerful two-year-olds, and it's true. They aren't like thee and me down there ...
Woke up this morning to an inch or so of snow on the ground I didn't know was in the offing. What happens when you turn the news off before the weather report.
I did watch le tube long enough to see an interview on PBS, pro and con, about the new legislation coming out of the Obama Administration -- don't you just love not-hearing "the Bush Administration? -- regarding the auto industry.
Basically, the new and improved fed is going to hold the automakers' s feet to the fire if they want any kind of bailout.
The pro admin guy gave the change-or-die position. The anti-guy, who ran an online car 'zine, pissed and moaned, parroting the auto industry position: Aw, gee, all this gotta-get-good-mileage and pollution stuff is gonna cost money! We can't afford it! Cars are going to shrink, turn into plastic cans on wheels, death-machines! This is not what Americans want!
Detroit, in its heart, is still sure that Americans want eight-cylinder, three-hundred-horsepower, six passenger sedans, and all these other itty bitty cars are a passing fad.
I got your dinosaurs right here. These are the guys who went hats-in-hand to D.C. to beg for money -- wearing five-thousand-dollar suits and delivered by limo from their private jets.
When the taxman comes to your door, it's not a good idea to answer his knock in your best Armani.
I feel for the workers who have lost, and are going to lose their jobs everywhere, and I know the automobile manufacturers in the U.S., are particularly hard-hit. It's a bad situation.
I feel no sympathy whatsoever for the Big Three. Yeah, there is a recession, but they brought it upon themselves.
There has never been a safety innovation that the public needed in its rolling iron that Detroit offered freely. The government had to put a gun to their heads to make seat belts standard. Ditto air bags. Crash tests? Whatever for? We don't want the public to know that if they hit a squirrel in the road that will total the vehicle and probably kill them -- and not the squirrel.
The Big Three blew a gasket when they had to report mpg for their vehicles. They had seizures when made to add anti-pollution equipment. The idea of building smaller cars that get better gas mileage is still looked upon as heresy of the highest order. Detroit offered things as options, but they were so sure they had their finger on the pulse of the public -- people want these big and powerful cars, they do, they do! that they laughed at those funny little German bugs and Japanese roller skates pretending to be real cars right up to the time that the VWs and Toyotas zipped by and blew the doors off Detroit's dinosaurs.
There's a reason Tundra trucks are selling better than Dodges or Fords or Chevys, and it's not because they are cheap.
First car I ever owned with a seat belt was a 1967 VW Beetle. Lap-only, and many times it kept my head from putting a concave dent in the roof when I rolled over a curb chasing guys as a private eye. I learned to wear my seat belt when I got that car, used, late in 1969, and I don't leave my driveway without buckling up.
How could Ford, Chrysler, and GM not see it was coming? Why didn't they have the vision to notice the meteors were falling and it was time to get their collective ass into a cave?
They made Mr. Magoo look like Nostradamus.
Yes, the government has to bail them out, because of the impact their failure would have as it ripples through an already crippled economy. But dragging them kicking and screaming into the 21st Century? Fine by me. If ever companies deserved to be nationalized, they are them.
Monday, January 26, 2009
So, the original anthology Crime Spells, edited by Marty Greenberg and Loren Coleman, is on the racks. It's a collection of stories about magic and crime, and there's a short piece by Yours Truly that anchors the final relay leg of the book, entitled "She's Not There."
I never was much of a short story writer, though I gave it a serious try when I first started in the biz. Until I began writing novels, I cranked shorts out, one a week or so, and most of those are holding down a shelf in the storage room. I was selling maybe one in four or five at my best, and the work needed to do them could, I figured, be better put elsewhere. A short story was worth a couple chapters in a book, so I mostly stopped doing them.
Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch shamed me into writing a few for their hardback zine, Pulphouse, and since most of them were wild hairs but sold anyway, I was pleased.
Now and then, I get asked to contribute to an original anthology, and so that's pretty much my short story output these days.
I had fun doing this one.
Every day, you get up, and there are myriad choices to be made.
Behold what you can do if you have a bunch of money, plenty of time to work out, access to Human Growth Hormone and whatever anabolic steroids you want.
Guy is older than I am ...
The picture is a promo for The Expendables, written, directed, and staring Stallone, and if rumors can be believed, co-starring Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, and Randy Couture, along with Mickey Rourke and Forest Whittaker. Supposed to start shooting in March, for a 2010 release.
I can't imagine it will rock the teenage boy market off its feet but a whole lotta guys my age will be lining up to see it ...
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Thursday, January 22, 2009
So, while the national scene has a bright-and-shining moment as Barack Obama becomes President and immediately starts to kick ass and take names, the local politics offers a kick in the nuts. Local, as in Portland, a city in which I am not living, but of which I reside in a bedroom community thereof.
My collaborator sent me a link to a video I found interesting. In my mind, it's staged -- these days, who can tell for sure? -- but the moral of the story is valid either way. You can watch it for yourself, here. It runs on a little long, but there's a nice payoff.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
9/11 changed that. Those terrorists flatly ruined the business of jet hijacking for fun and profit. Haven't seen one in the U.S. since, have we?
The conventional wisdom was found wanting. Men who would sit quietly and wait for the authorities to deal with the situation to avoid maybe being slashed bloody realized that if the choice might be between facing a man with a boxcutter or slamming into a skyscraper at three hundred miles an hour, that was a no-brainer.
What gives a man or three or five men with short knives control over a couple hundred people not armed that way is fear. The best knife-fighter who ever lived can't beat a group of terrified passengers throwing everything at him that isn't nailed down. Imagine twenty briefcases, ten laptops, fifty iPods, shoes, bookbags, carry-0ns, empty booze bottlets, flying at you from all directions at the same time. That boxcutter going to stop them? Or the stampeding herd behind them?
The passengers will roll over him like the tide does a sand castle. A long slash can be stitched up. And even if you get wounded fatally but manage to take the guy down, at least all those men, women, and children who survive to land will remember you forever. Going gently into that good night is not high on my list, nor, I suspect, is it going to be something a hijacker can depend on ever again.
People are going to go down swinging. I think that hearkens back to a less-civilized age, and maybe it's not such a bad thing. I might go to hell, pal, but you are going to be holding the door open for me when I get there ...
The reason the old western sheriff can hold off the lynch mob with his double-barreled coach gun is not that he can take them all, it's that nobody wants to be first to eat the buckshot and somebody will be. But if he is planning on herding every body into a cell and then setting the place on fire? Different game.
That was a lesson learned. Sometimes, you have to take responsibility for yourself -- the authorities aren't going to get there in time.
If you are at home at night and you hear somebody thumping around in the other room who isn't supposed to be there, conventional wisdom says, shut the door, call the police, and keep an eye and your gun trained on the door until help arrives.
But -- if you have a small child in a bedroom down the hall, you aren't going to do that, are you?
No parent I know would. You will be going to collect your kid, and any advice to the contrary simply isn't going to play. And even people who don't have little ones at home might find themselves toodling down the hall, pump shotgun in hand.
Sometimes, a man -- or a woman -- has gotta do what they gotta do ...
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
In a discussion of teaching, it came to me to bespeak that how you demonstrate a thing, especially a physical motion, needs to be slowed down considerably for a newbie to comprehend it.
On the fact of this, it would seem a no-brainer -- if you can't see what somebody did, it's not a good teaching moment -- unless you are trying to teach them that if you move really fast, it's hard to see what somebody did ...
One of the sports under discussion was fencing, and I allowed as how that was a good example. At the Olympic-class levels, you have two fencers facing off. There comes a blur, the helmet lamps light up, and the expert announcer starts babbling on: "Wow! Did you see that?! That attaque au fer, ballestra, and liement were perfect! And the battement just not in time!"
Lot of the MMA folks disagree -- they call this "dead training," and allow that you should practice at full speed and power from the git-go.
The hand isn't quicker than the eye, but the brain has to have the knowledge to interpret what the camera delivers.
Monday, January 19, 2009
That's one of those important-sounding phrases that doesn't really mean much, "history in the making." We make history every day. Tomorrow, however, there will be a new chapter in the textbooks, as America inaugurates its first-ever black President, and a man who doesn't have anywhere the same amount of age-baggage as U.S. Presidents usually carry. Almost a Gen-X'er; certainly post-Baby Boomer. The prior Presidents were all much older than I was when they took office, save for the two most recent, who were only slightly so.
Obama is only a few years older than my son.
Part of the festivities included a concert in his honor. Out in the cold on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., a host of well-known actors and musicians came out to honor the event. HBO showed it to anybody who wanted to watch, no charge, and my wife and I sat and took it in. It was, in a word, stirring.
Rap stars, country singers, rockers, opera singers, and wonder of wonders, when the camera was turned upon the President Elect you saw him smiling, singing along, and actually keeping time with the music.
Is that amazing, or what?
Friday, January 16, 2009
If you haven't finished reading it and don't want to know, consider this the
First, the two criteria again:
1) Did I tell the story I wanted to tell?
2) Did I tell it well?
Start with the first one: Yep, pretty much it was tale I had in mind. It started with the idea of wanting to do something with The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
But, to be fair, I didn't swipe all that much from Roger, but from the same source material he swiped his from, so I don't feel too guilty about that. He stood much taller than I, Roger did, but he perched on the shoulders of a few giants, too ...
(I was tempted to put a horrendous pun in somewhere, ala "The fit hit the Shan," but thus far, I have resisted that. Thus far.)
The plot set-up was something I got from Hitchcock. Guy gets in the middle of something a lot bigger than he is, and runs around trying to keep from getting squashed. Cary Grant, in North by Northwest, was kinda-sorta my model for Kane in that regard. He stands up at the wrong time, and wham! off on an adventure.
The notion of Tinzen was part of it from the git-go, as was the last scene in the novel, which I wrote before I got more than a couple of chapters in. I revised it slightly to add a tweak, but that was early, too. One of the twists might be a surprise -- though there is a strongly-implied hint a couple people said they got -- and it was a gift to romantics.
I like happy endings. So sue me.
What I tell you three times must be true.
It being the story I wanted to tell, I am keeping Tinzen as is. Two readers thought he might be overkill. Most readers liked the idea, a couple really liked it. I felt that I could stretch the notion a bit, and I wanted to do so. I flat-out love the idea of him eating Frosted Flakes and watching cooking shows on TV.
Stories in which Sam goes into the bardo farther afield and onto other adventures are for another book, or books, if I get to 'em. Chang is still out there. As is the Window of the Gods. The horror of vegetarianism, too. And the rewrite will have more hints that Sam isn't done yet, if you needed any more.
The gods in this book are less god-like than traditionally so; I did that on purpose, and I'm not the first, since every major religion has done pretty much the same thing ...
Now, the part where readers offer the most help -- how well did I do it?
Most readers allowed as how they liked it. Some a lot, some less so, but nobody came back and said they thought it would stink on ice, and I was glad about that. Couple folks thought it was as good as anything I've done.
Part of the challenge for me was to do the book from a single viewpoint. I haven't written a novel that way in a long time and I was pleased that I mostly pulled it off. It's Kane's story.
When I got to the end of the first draft, there were several things I felt needed to be dealt with further. 1) The ending was rushed. 2) Some of the exposition sequences were too long and too static. 3) I needed to have Kane work harder to solve the mystery.
Several readers mentioned some, or all of these, and thus pass the Apprentice Editor Test. You know who you are. Those three things get the most attention up front.
After that, there were a lot of smaller clunks that readers pointed out that I'm going to adjust. They range from a wonder why I'm using Bahasa terms for a Tibetan art -- already fixed -- to comments on the weapons, computers, guitar stuff, and what readers considered loose ends. And one big typo, where I misplaced a decimal and made somebody really, really, drunk.
Just FYI, the crewcut boxer was left unexplained on purpose, as were the four guys in the G.I. Joe's lot. And who Kane is that gets him all the help and why. If you do more than one book about a character, you have to pay each one off, but you get a larger arc to play with, and you can leave a few threads dangling.
Anybody ever see Hitchcock's The Birds? Remember the central question in that movie? Yeah. And ole Hitch never addressed it at all. I walked out of the theater not having a clue, and also being wary of the pigeons I saw. I still remember that last scene, more than forty-five years ago, and my sense of wonder at what had just happened. I like my readers to work a little, too, figure stuff out on their own.
Lotta martial artists don't like guns, and some of those who read the story don't want to read about 'em, they want to see more on the knives. And see Kane learn how to sword fight.
When Kane goes to the range, that five pages gets cut to three, and that more show and less tell. A few places where I -- and some others -- thought things dragged, I trimmed a pound or two to make them run faster. I think there might be two scenes left that run more than four or five pp, and I think both are necessary pay-offs. (The longest one will be a visual flashback in the movie version when Hollywood comes pounding on my door.)
Couple guitar players liked the music scenes, nobody else seemed too distressed by those, and it goes to Kane's character, so probably much of that will stay in, though those will get a haircut, too.
It's a fine line I'm walking here between too much information and not enough. If there is any question, my opinion counts more. Goes with having the name on the cover and no franchise to whom I must answer. Can't please everybody, so ...
Kane and Rosie's relationship will get a little spit and polish. I'll lay in some small hints that it's coming. (Deadly danger turns some people on, and that was enough excuse for me to show some more stuff about Kane and his internal conflicts. Danger sex is hot.)
Some plot points, such as why the computer was still at Oliver's, I'll address, if a bit ambiguously. The whole book was about Kane trying to figure out what the fuck was going on, and he never did get it all. Didn't need to get it all.
Kane will have to work a bit harder, he'll maybe lose a couple set-tos, get thumped, and I'll lay in why he put up with all of Tinzen's you-aren't-ready-to-know-yet crap. Other bits here and there that readers pointed out that deserve attention and with which I agree. Should add up to another twenty or thirty pages scattered throughout, though the cuts will offset some of that. Whatever it takes.
Thanks, again, everybody. I do appreciate the help.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
One Saturday, a buddy of mind asked me if I wanted to go with him to a meeting of the Society for Creative Anachronism. What-the-hell, I said, why not? I went, took my camera, and shot some pictures -- before they threw me out for not wearing a costume. (At the time, I figured I could have taken any of the fighters I saw, if they'd let me come as a samurai and use a spear or a sword. That was a long time ago and their skills were less than impressive.)
Um. Anyway, I went home, ran off a proof sheet, whipped out some prose, and sent it off to the Sunday Advocate. They liked it, I sent in the film, they ran the article a couple weeks later in the magazine section, and bam! just like that, I was a professional writer, at the advanced age of twenty-four.
I had written a column and done cartoons for the local underground hippie press before then, but I didn't get paid for that.
It was another four years before I sold any fiction, though I did manage a few more articles for the newspaper and a couple of medical and knife magazines along the way.
Ever play with a program called Google Earth? It's a freebie you can download, and it's basically a series of maps of the entire world. Included is a satellite view, sharper in big cities than out in the country, and in some places, there is a street view, which can be downright spooky. If you live in a city on a well-traveled street, plug your address in, and what you get is as detailed as a photograph you'd shoot from the street, done with a so-so camera.
Now, of course, anybody can legally drive down your street and take pictures of the outside of your house -- there's no invasion of privacy involved unless they come peek in your window.
But it is somewhat disconcerting if you can find this picture of your house from any computer on the planet. A great tool for stalkers.
I had the program on my old computer and didn't port it to the new one. I wanted to look up an address today and thought, what-the-hell, I'll re-install it. And just for fun, I plugged in the street and number of a friend and activated the street view. Sure enough, the image came up.
Showed his house, his daughter standing in the front yard, and him, inside their garage -- door was up, so it was "public."
It gives one pause, it does.
I know there are millions of cameras out there -- supposedly more cameras than people in London, for example -- and that anything you do in public might be captured as a photo or video, but it is, as Darth Vader said ... disturbing.
My hot tub is under the tree canopy out back and you can't see it from above, but if it wasn't, I could flash you from thousands of miles away.
Welcome to the future ...
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
I saw George Bush's press conference last night, his final one as President. To me, he sounded combative and whiney, and when asked about his mistakes, couldn't come up with any more substantive than he shouldn't have put up that victory banner on the aircraft carrier, because it "sent the wrong message," and that he should have waited on social security reform.
Monday, January 12, 2009
The first batch of feedback has arrived from my readers, half a dozen thus far, and already a few bells have gone off. Some, I expected, because they echoed my own thoughts -- stuff I knew I needed to fix. Others called to attention things I hadn't thought about much, and some of those are already being incorporated. (Rather than wait for every report to come in, I am rewriting on the fly, plugging things in that I know need to be done regardless of what else shows up on my doorstep. My method of doing this is to address the material in a stand-alone scene, which I will later meld into the manuscript where it needs to go, with some revisions to smooth the edges and all. One joy of a computer file is that you can cut-and-paste, way better than a having to completely redraft stuff as in the old typewriter days. When those are done and entered, another pass to repair and polish things and then it's off to my agent.)
I won't get too specific yet with what I'm hearing in the private emails, I'll wait and offer a posting later that explains those, what makes sense, and what doesn't. But be assured that I have read all the input so far with as open a mind as I can manage, and that I'm considering all the opinions.
Given the number, I will bundle them up here rather than try to respond to each reader by email.
Having been in a book club, and a few writing workshops over the years, I've learned that no two people read the same novel. That what turns one reader off will sometimes be what delights another; that if you scratch five experts and ask them a question, you are as apt to get five different responses as you are unity. It's always interesting to see what works for some and doesn't for others.
Gun, guitar, knife, and computer porn are all being evaluated and reconsidered. Amusing to see, when you have an audience of martial artists and computer geeks, what revs their engines ...
Stand by ...
Saturday, January 10, 2009
I think maybe I've drained my pool of potential readers if this book ever sees print -- if I'd sent hard copy to all those who've expressed interest, I'd have to sell my car to afford the repro costs. Thank goodness for the computer-generated electronic file.
In a couple-three weeks, once I have enough comments, I'll do a post indicating what worked and didn't work for most folks, and I'll use that input on the next draft.
My primary focus, as always, comes down to two criteria:
1) Did I tell the story I wanted to tell?
2) Did I tell it well?
My notion at the moment is that I'm close on the first -- I do need a bit more to get there. I'd like to think I'm close on the second, but that's why I'm asking for comments. Objectivity is wonderful, but seldom enjoyed by a writer editing his own stuff. In my case, regarding objectivity, read: Never. And I am suspicious of folks who claim they can look at what they wrote with an objective eye.
I listen for the "Aha, yes!" bell to ring when I hear a critique. If I hear it, that always gets addressed. If I don't, I look at numbers. If nine out of ten people hate something I wrote and I don't, maybe they are all out of step and I'm not, but that's not something I can dismiss out of hand. (I still might decide to do it my way anyhow, but there will be a closer examination to see can I justify it.)
I'm not sure when my deadline input is, but pretty much if you haven't gotten around to it in a month or six weeks, it'll miss the boat. It's my intent to have this ms to my agent by the end of February; there are other books I need to get to, and I'm not getting any younger.
So many books. So little time ...
Friday, January 09, 2009
Those of you who are regular readers of Blog de Perry know that I have been working on an urban fantasy, working title of which is Champion of the Dead. I posted a short scene from it earlier, in which Our Young Hero finds his martial arts Master.
Well. I have gotten through a first draft on the book. It is lean and it is also still pretty rough -- I haven't gone back to smooth out the prose, no rewrites, not done nearly enough to run the spell-checker. However, the skinny version of the story is there. Before I send it to the weight room to pump some iron -- it needs another ten thousand words of muscle, I figure -- I wouldn't mind hearing from more objective folk as to where it should bulk up or stay thin.
Here's the deal: I am looking for a few good first readers. What I need from them is a quick hit on the manuscript. "Quick" is a relative term. I don't need it tomorrow, but within a few weeks to a month would be helpful.
What works, what doesn't work, what a reader would like to see more of, or less off; what they love or hate. The usual.
If you have the time and inclination, and IF YOU NORMALLY READ THIS KIND OF STUFF, lemme know if you are interested. (I capped that phrase because if you don't know what an urban fantasy is, you aren't going to know the tropes well enough to be much help. You don't have to be a writer, but you do need to read in the genre.)
What you get for this is your name in the acknowledgments and a chance to see the early version of book before the rest of the world. And my thanks, of course.
I can send the file in one of several formats: Pages, PDF, Word, or .RTF. I'd rather not send a plain text file because that strips out all the underlines and formatting that show where I want italics, plus any non-text thingees, like the Tibetan word that is a .jpg.
If you are interested, email me, or post a note here and leave an email address and a preferred format, and I'll send you a copy.
(As an FYI for those of you who read the doorstop fantasy Reaves and I did, a couple things: First, this book is going to be half that long. We did send the Dreadnaught out into the seas of submission, and a few editors were interested, but we didn't much like the offers our agent got, so we pulled it. We expect it will find a home and see print some day, but the current economic storm has blown through the book industry, too, and we'd rather just batten down the hatches and wait it out.)
ADDENDUM: I put this in the comments column, but not everybody bothers with those, so ...
This is a rough draft -- odd commas, typos, like that, don't worry about. I know the ms is full of those, there are doubled words, and some awkward phrases. I will be making at least two more passes through the book before it goes to my agent, and maybe another one after she reads it.
What I'm looking for isn't copy editing, but story things you like or didn't like that I can address on the next draft. (If the book sells, I get a copy editor as part of the deal. And I'm not writing for Mrs. Cowsar's English IV class, so my appreciation of grammar is looser -- you might see some split infinitives and sentences ending in prepositions and em-dashes and ellipses in funny places. Most of the time, those are on purpose.)
ADDENDUM THE SECOND: The number of folks who volunteered to read and comment on the ms rocketed up faster than I expected, and in the interests of not overwhelming my tired old eyes, I'm going to shut down the list before the focus group turns into a general audience. I just sent the last one out. Thanks, everybody.
The balcony is now closed ...
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Monday, January 05, 2009
Rank Song Artist
1 Low Flo Rida Featuring T-Pain
2 Bleeding Love Leona Lewis
3 Lollipop Lil Wayne Featuring Static Major
4 I Kissed a Girl Katy Perry
5 Viva La Vida Coldplay
6 Love Song Sara Bareilles
7 Apologize Timbaland Featuring OneRepublic
8 No Air Jordin Sparks Duet With Chris Brown
9 Disturbia Rihanna
10 4 Minutes Madonna Featuring Justin Timberlake
Not only didn't I download any of these, I cannot claim to have even heard of most of the artists, much less heard these songs. Yeah, I know who Madonna and Timberlake are; Coldplay, and because we have the last name and she's being flacked for the Grammy Awards, Katy Perry.
Even heard of Lil Wayne, but there was a time when I knew all the artists and songs that graced the top forty, and if I didn't know all the words to each, could fake it well enough to sing along.
Move over, T-Rex ...
Sunday, January 04, 2009
Miller, who is off in the Middle East now doing things he knows how to do, was interviewed for a podcast by Dr. Kevin Keough in a lengthy session here.
It is worth a listen, especially if you ever visit Rory's blog. It rambles a bit, but there is a lot of good stuff in it.
Friday, January 02, 2009
I woke up about three a.m. suddenly, and I figure that must have been what did it.
Still have a bit of slushy snow covering the yard, but it won't stick long -- more rain coming to wash it away, and flood watches in effect across the area.
Never a dull moment.
In the world of literature, Donald Westlake passed away Wednesday. He wrote under a bunch of pen names, and created a couple of most endearing characters, Dortmunder and Parker. Under the nom de plume Richard Stark, the Parker books pretty much defined the modern anti-hero. Parker, a thief, was the essential bad-ass if you got crosswise with him.
Couple dozen of Westlake's novels made it to the big screen, with Lee Marvin first doing Parker, then Mel Gibson.
I always liked his work. Rest in Peace, Don.
Thursday, January 01, 2009
Another one come and gone, and now, the proverbial clean slate.
Local paper's editorial today muses about whether George Bush is the worst President ever. They make a case that there might have been a couple along the way who were worse. Buchanan, say, and Andrew Johnson, just before and after Lincoln -- one who allowed the War Between the States to fester, and the other who vetoed Civil Rights legislation after the worst conflict in American history ended.
Hardly a legacy for Bush to be proud of, is it? Making it into the Worst Three ...
But there's a new hand at the tiller, and maybe the ship of state might be steered onto a better course. Time will tell, but even if Obama aimed it at an iceberg and tried to hit it, I don't think he could screw things up as bad as Bush did.
For all who drop round here, and those who don't, my best wishes for a safe, prosperous, and happy new year. Every day, the ten thousand paths loom; I hope your choices put you on the one that is right for you.