Thursday, February 28, 2008

Road Rage

Did I mention that there are a lot of assholes in the world? I had an encounter with one this very day.

Driving on the interstate, bumper-to-bumper traffic. Warm spring day, the sun shining, top down, music playing, I was fine. Save that I was in the right lane and need to be in the middle one. So, I waited for a gap, put my turn indicator on, looked and saw I was clear, and moved over.

Came the horn. Seems a guy in a Dodge Ram pickup wanted to move from the left lane into the center, and was unhappy that I beat him to it.

No big deal, it's rush hour, there's a lot of doh-si-doh, and you made it anyhow, so what's the problem?

Didn't like a convertible getting ahead of him, it seemed. Turns into the artery-blowing version of Marcel Marceau, goes into a pissed-off trio of gestures: First, of course, The Finger. Then, a c'mon-let's-get-it-on wave -- as if he really expected me to park my car in the middle of I-5 and walk back to discuss it with him. Then, the pointing-an-imaginary gun and shooting me. Probably I would have been more nervous at this last had he had a real gun, and the thought crossed my mind that there might be one on the seat next to Goofy back there. Never know. Which is a good reason not to give somebody The Finger. I might have had a gun on the seat next to me, mightn't I?

I wanted to laugh. I didn't offer any return hand signals, just shook my head, and that set him off again. Limited vocabulary, alas, he only had the three moves. Finger. Come hither wave. Imaginary gun.

Part of me wanted to point to the shoulder and nod: Okay, Goofy, let's go dance -- show me what what you got. But, of course, part of being an adult is realizing that chastising the world's assholes would be a job entailing much overtime for no pay, so I resisted the urge.

Sometimes being the grown-up isn't as much fun, but, hey ... somebody's got to do it.

Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do ... ?

I was not a bad boy growing up. No angel -- I was there when the po-lice came out of the bowling alley and caught Jimmy Head trying to steal the hubcaps off'n their cruiser, but merely an innocent bystander -- who knew he was that stupid? Just because he had been riding with us ...

My first brush with the law came because my buddy had taught me, the summer we were fourteen, the exciting activity of roof-top running. In downtown Baton Rouge back then, most of the office buildings had fire escapes that were easily accessed, and we did so. Even spent the night in our sleeping bags on one of the taller ones once, just because we could. We had 2X6 boards in strategic places where we could cross from one to another. Several stories up, no net, and, being young and stupid, no fear.

One Sunday, after we were done I was headed home, he went back up on his own. Got spotted and caught when he descended, and arrested for trespassing. To make it worse, he had a BB pistol in his coat pocket, so they threw in a concealed weapons charge. Dumb ass.

I went to juvenile court to testify on his behalf, and him being fifteen, it being a first offense and essentially harmless -- single-shot BB pistol, you could hold your hand in front of it and shoot, wouldn't break the skin -- the judge gave him a few months probation.

Not counting traffic stops, a couple of which were scary because real guns were involved. the next time the law called on me was when I was pulled out of a college sociology class and hauled downtown to answer questions. That same buddy, having decided that Army life wasn't for him after all, went AWOL, and the feds had the local po-lice pick me up, in case I might know where he was.

I didn't, I told them, which was true. At that moment, I did not know. I did have a letter folded up in my back pocket from him which gave a return address in New Orleans where was living, but I didn't that he was there, now did I? My first experience with mendacity fugue ...

I got to see the inside of a jail holding cell, though, and then they cut me loose. Scared the crap out of me.

After that, there were several visits from the FBI looking for my pal, which were nerve-wracking. Seemed the penalty for aiding a federal fugitive was much worse than being busted for going AWOL. Go figure.

Eventually, he turned himself in, did eighteen months at Leavenworth, and life went on. Outside of hippie activities, I was pretty much a law-abiding citizen from then on.

Next time I got visits from the po-lice was when they were looking for that selfsame buddy for stealing a bunch of typewriters from the local high school. Which crime he did.

If you are wondering by this point why I didn't, uh, stop hanging out with this guy, seeing as how he was going to get me in trouble, it's a good question. This last event was the straw, more or less, and shortly thereafter, I stopped taking his calls ...

Been clean and mostly legal since ...

Book List

So, somebody dropped me an email and asked for the current book list.

Here you go:

Books by Steve Perry

The Tularemia Gambit
Civil War Secret Agent

The Matador Series:

The Man Who Never Missed
The Machiavelli Interface
The 97th Step
The Albino Knife
Black Steel
Brother Death
The Omega Cage (with Michael Reaves)
The Musashi Flex

Conan the Fearless
Conan the Defiant
Conan the Indomitable
Conan the Free Lance
Conan the Formidable

Aliens: Earth Hive
Aliens: Nightmare Asylum

The Forever Drug

Stellar Rangers
Stellar Rangers: Lone Star

The Mask
Men in Black
Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals
Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
The Trinity Vector
The Digital Effect
Tribes: Einstein’s Hammer
Immune Response
Champion of the Dead (in progress)

With Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik

Net Force
Net Force: Hidden Agendas
Net Force: Night Moves
Net Force: Breaking Point
Net Force: Point of Impact
Net Force: CyberNation

With Tom Clancy, Steve Pieczenik and Larry Segriff

Net Force: State of War
Net Force: Changing of the Guard
Net Force: Springboard
Net Force: The Archimedes Effect

Others with Michael Reaves

Sword of the Samurai
Thong the Barbarian Meets the Cycle Sluts of Saturn
Star Wars: Battle Surgeons
Star Wars: Jedi Healer
Star Wars: The Death Star
The Chronicles of Elandia (in progress)

With Stephani Dañelle Perry

Aliens: The Female War
Aliens versus Predator: Prey
Predator: Turnabout

With Gary Braunbeck

Isaac Asimov’s I-Bots: Time Was

With Dal Perry

Titan AE
Star Risk, LTD: The Gangster Conspiracy (with Chris Bunch)

New Book is Out

Just a heads-up for you rabid fans of blood and gore: My new Predator novel from Dark Horse, aided and abetted by my daughter, is officially in-print, as of yesterday. Local comic book stores will likely have copies, or there's

Numbers Game

In the Bible, Methuselah was Enoch son's and Noah's grandfather, a spry old fellow still fathering children past the century mark, who died at the age of 969, in the year of the Great Flood. (Bible doesn't say whether he drowned or not.)

In California, Methuselah is the name of a Great Bristlecone Pine tree that is estimated to have germinated in 2832 BC, making it more than 4800 years old, and the oldest non-clonal organism on the planet. (Prometheus was older, but got cut down in 1964 -- apparently somebody wanted to know how old it was and the corer used to collect a plug of the rings broke, so they just toppled the sucker and cut it up. The world is full of assholes.)

And, a champagne bottle that is eight times the size of a normal bottle is also called a Methuselah. For those of you who are curious, the standard champagne bottle sizes, in liters and percentages or multiples of the standard bottle are:

Quarter 18.75 cl 1/4
Half-Bottle 37.5 cl 1/2
Bottle 75 cl 1
Magnum 1.5 l 2
Jeroboam 3 l 4
Rehoboam 4.5 l 6
Methuselah 6 l 8
Salmanazar 9 l 12
Balthazar 12 l 16
Nebuchadnezzar 15 l 20

Some of the names you'll recognize. (The Magnum was apparently named after Tom's Selleck's TV character on his Hawaiian TV series, Magnum P.I., who knew? And did you know that Selleck was the actor originally picked to play Indiana Jones in the movies? The TV producers wouldn't let him out of his contract, and so Harrison Ford got the job. Hard to imagine anybody else in that role.)

I'd love to go to a restaurant and order a Nebuchadnezzar of the best French, if you please.

All of which is to say that I suddenly realized when I looked over my book list that I had lost count of how many I had done. I had thought it was somewhere in the mid-fifties, but, as it turns out, I am working on my sixtieth novel. If I can do one a year from now on, I can keep up with my age.

And, as Sonny Bono used say, the beat goes on ...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Working Shiftsuit

Want to see what camouflage should look like, done right?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

You Want Fries With That Peking Duck?

If you need any evidence that we are living in strange and . . . interesting times, have a look here.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Right Brain, Left Brain

Here is an amusing little exercise: Click on the image, and see if it spins. Which way? Clockwise, or counter-clockwise?

Go here, and see what -- and maybe -- how you think ...

Champion of the Dead

(Tibetan, for "War Arts")

So, new day, new novel begun. I got a little literary, so it will be called Champion of the Dead, instead of Dead Man's Champion. A bit more passive voice, but since there are women involved, the former is more accurate. We do strive for accuracy.

There's an old saw in the fiction biz -- There are only two things worth writing about -- love and death. I'm a believer, and this one will be no exception.

And for the teaser, the Prologue:

Kane stood facing Yama, the Lord of Death, in a hell that seemed two parts fire and one part smoky limestone cave. It stank of rotten eggs and burned copper, but it wasn’t so bad as these places went. Sanjiva, maybe, or Kalasutra -- no worse than one of those.

The Death God looked up from his counting.

When you died, it was Yama who measured your karma, and decided what reward, or more likely, what punishment you merited. He was usually depicted as having three eyes, huge fangs, and a wide and stout body. In this instance, that was in the general vicinity, but not quite what Kane beheld. This version of Yama had three eyes, though the third one, in the middle of his forehead, was a pulsing red orb, no sign of a pupil. He wore the traditional crown of miniature skulls, his hair was jet, and long and flowing, but his naked and obviously-male form was that of a bodybuilder on steroids. Intricately patterned tattoos, all in dark red, pulsed and glowed against his blue skin from head to toes. You couldn’t risk looking at those patterns long -- they shifted, writhed, hypnotically drew you in, and if you didn’t pull your gaze away, you would be caught and paralyzed, to be harvested at Yama’s leisure. And he might wait a million years to get around to it as you stood frozen in place.

The smell of the oil on Yama’s glistening skin was patchouli and brimstone, sharp, musky, heady.

The Death God, who had been separating small black and white stones into two piles, counting the karma of some poor soul, glared at Kane. Then he smiled, and his fangs gleamed like old ivory. “Kane,” he said. “Ah ... ” It was the voice of a locomotive rolling full out, resonant, penetrating, filling the chamber.

Yama knew who he was.

Oh, shit ...

Kane was a martial arts expert, he carried a gleaming sword half his own height, and his spirit body here was young, strong, and fit. He had treked throught the bardo many times, fought and defeated many Wrathful Deities, from blood-drinkers to soul-renders, but -- Yama?

“Fuck this,” Kane said. He turned and ran.

He heard the laughter echoing all around him, the amused triumph of a malevolent god, and his only hope was that Yama didn’t feel like working up a sweat by chasing him. He hated to be interrupted in the middle of a stone-count, so the word had it, but maybe he would rather finish than have to start over.

Or, maybe not. What man could know the mind of a god?

Kane sprinted for all he was worth. Usually, there were rules, but a god of Yama’s stature could bend those if he wanted.

As hells went, this naraka was relatively mild. There were, in theory, as many hells as there were souls to experience them, but a lot of dead people either didn’t have much imagination or were willing to accept the standard models, of which there were sixteen -- eight cold and eight hot, and while these had been named and described pretty well in the Buddhist literature, there were a lot of small variations the scholars had missed even so. Things you found out when you got there.

Arbuda, for instance, was supposed to be so cold it raised blisters on the naked skin, and the amount of time you had to spend in it matched the time it took to empty a barrel of sesame by removing one seed every hundred years. But Kane had never met anybody in the place who had been there more than fifty or sixty years, local time. And it wasn’t that cold -- he’d never had a blister.

Time ran differently in the hells than it did on Earth. A year here could be a day there; now and again, time could more or less stop completely. You arrived, spent weeks shepherding a spirt through, toward his or her rebirth, and when you awoke, it was as if you had only blinked.

The other cold hells, in descending order of frigidity and the time you had to spend in them, were Nirarbuda, Atata, Hahava, Huhuva, Utpala, Padma, and Mahapadma. Mahapadma, that was cold. A pot of boiling lead thrown into the air would freeze solid before it hit the ground, and it took all of Kane’s tumo skill to stay warm in Mahapadma.

The eight hot hells, from a mere oven, to melting platinum, were Sanjiva, Kalasutra, Samghata, Raurava, Maharaurava, Tapana, Pratapana, and Avici. Those measured their stays in terms of trillions of years, too. Anybody having to serve the full stretch wouldn’t get to come back in this universe, but the next, or the one after.

Bad karma was a bitch to work off.

The only saving grace was that, eventually, you got to leave and be reincarnated, which made Buddhist hells somewhat better on the cosmic scale than the Christian hell. Eternity was something else.

Yama’s laughter faded behind him, and Kane slowed his run a little, to a fast jog. No point in wasting his energy. Yama wasn’t the only denizen down here, and he had a long trek before he could go home. If he was lucky.

Years back, in his wildest dreams, Kane would never have imagined himself doing what he was doing now. Jogging through a Buddhist hell, looking for a lost soul.

Life -- and death -- how very strange they were ...

Mac Versus PC

Saw this on Sona's blog, and had to share it ...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Eternal Damnation

Many religions include versions of Hell -- Christian, Tibetian Buddhist, Hindu -- but if you want to see a really scary one, spend a Sunday morning at Chuck E. Cheese ...

We love seeing the grandsons, and my daughter's boys love Chuck E. Cheese.

If you have ever been, you know; if not, and you are a sinner, best hope you don't wind up being sent to such a place for eternity, because ten minutes feels like an eternity, and that's if you get there before the place fills up ...

Saturday, February 23, 2008


I don't get out to the movies as much as I used to, back in the day. I notice that something I want to see is on the silver screen, and I mean to go, but stuff gets in the way, and I miss it.

Fortunately, there is Pay-Per-View, and for what are called "little movies," where the story or characters are the engines and the EFX don't need to be seen wall-to-wall and thirty feet tall, that's a good option.

Last summer, the movie Once, about a Irish busker (street guitarist) and a Czech girl who sells flowers on the streets of Dublin, came out and kicked serious ass at Sundance. I wanted to catch it, but it came and went in a hurry.

Finally got around to it last night, and if you play music, especially acoustic guitar, and you haven't caught it, you really ought to. It's short, the accents are thick in spots, the camera shakes a bit here and there, but this is a jewel of a movie, sparkles like a fine black opal in the noon day sun, and the soundtrack is outstanding. (I got my copy via iTunes.)

I think it cost them about $4.95 to make, and is a testament to both style and substance compared to just about any big Hollywood blockbuster you want to point at.

It's a love story, but not quite what you expect, and nobody even has a name, save, of course, for the drummer. The credits say "Guy," "Girl," "Mom, "Dad," like that. The drummer is "Timmy."

It stars Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, as themselves, and they wrote and performed the music. Hansard you might have seen before, in the Irish rock movie, The Commitments which is another fine musical experience, viewing and soundtrack.

One of the Once songs has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Song, and I sure hope it wins.
If there is any justice in the world, it will.


Wonder of wonders, I came across another short I wrote recently, late last spring, apparently. It's another don't-let-them-give-you-to-the-women story, and I am completely fogged on why I did it.

Getting to the point where I can hide my own Easter Eggs ...


The piano tuner ran through ascending chords, enjoying the resistance of the heavy ivory keys. His balding head was bent forward, his eyes closed as he listened. The notes rose to the darkened ceiling of the recital hall near Warsaw's Old Market Square, then dissipated like smoke.
They even seemed to smell like smoke, Maria thought.
Pipe tobacco, perhaps ... ?
The man turned and looked at her, one eyebrow raised.
She nodded. “Perfecto, Sebastian. As always.”
Sebastian smiled. He looked back at the instrument, took a clean handkerchief from his pocket, and lightly wiped the keyboard, from base keys to trebles, producing a soft, rising musical sigh. This piano could out-thunder Thor, its forte was indeed grand, but even as quiet as a mouse, it sounded superb. Ian’s personal tuner, who knew exactly how his boss wanted the instrument to sing, Sebastian always made it sound superb.
Of course, he had much with which to work. Any Bösendorfer Imperial Grand Piano could roar or whisper on command -- nine feet, six inches long, the best woods, the finest craftsmanship, perfect German construction, they were top of the line. But this one? It was Ian’s baby, and it had extras that made it even more grande than grand. Nine sub-base notes to low C; ninety-seven keys, twelve hundred and fifty-five pounds of magic in wood, strings, ivory and ebony, it had cost more than a quarter of a million dollars, and Ian considered it cheap at that price.
Ian did not fly second class.
It had his name inlaid in gold over the center of the keyboard; not so large as to be ostentatious, but big enough for him to see every time he sat down to play. So that an adoring fan using opera glasses could read it from the center of the hall:
Ian Thomas Laurance.
The lettering copied from his perfect, artistic handwriting.
The Bösendorfer was Maria’s baby, too. She made sure it traveled in safety, fussed and worried over it, assured that it was packed so lovingly well that it would survive a fall from a tall building inside its shipping crate. And since it was insured for more than half a million dollars, the shippers never dropped it. They wouldn’t dare.
Ian. The man who had hands bigger than Rachmaninov -- huge, magic hands that could span almost two octaves. He could play things nobody else could, because nobody else could reach two notes so far apart. He had written especial music to showcase his skills, a concert only he could pull off. At the end of the third movement, there were two chords, impossible things, wildly dissonant, one under each hand, and nobody on a stage could hit them together except Ian. He could palm basketballs.
And when he had put his hands on her ... ?
For the six months they shared a bed on the road, it had been a kind of magic. There she was, Maria Vasquez, a lowly travel manager who had come from the mean streets of Madrid. Little Maria, whose brother Pablito had been a bomb-maker for the Basques until he had blown himself and half a building up by accident. A woman who had never dared hoped to be with man like Ian. But -- there she had been, Ian’s lover, sleeping each night next to the greatest pianist alive, perhaps the greatest who had ever lived, a man who loved this instrument more than he could ever love any woman. Sometimes, after sex, still covered in sweat and each other’s juices, he would talk about the piano as if it were a woman: How she sounded today; how her voice was; how her action under his fingers felt ...
Well. That was done. Over.
She should have quit once he had ended it. She could have gotten another job easily, people on the concert scene knew her, knew how well she took care of Ian and his instruments, somebody would have jumped at the chance to hire her. She knew that. But -- she had been weak. She kept hoping he would invite her back to his bed. She loved him. She thought he would see that, would respond to it.
She had been wrong.
She had shown up at his hotel room that evening as usual, and a naked woman had answered the door. A tall, redhead, maybe twenty-two or three, sleek, fit, smelling of musk.
Ian had stood behind the woman, also naked, and grinning.
Sorry, Maria, he had said. It’s time for me to learn a ... new piece ...
So fucking clever, Ian. Talented, rich, supremely self-confident. Nonchalantly sure that she wouldn’t quit. Life was his oyster, full of pearls, he was golden and invulnerable. He expected her to stay and reflect his glory -- and she had stayed.
Sebastian packed up his kit and went to find a pub and have a beer, Maria sat alone in the hall, perched on the piano’s bench, and stroked the keyboard cover softly. She loved this piano, but not like Ian did.
She sighed, and stood. She had plenty of time. Pablito had, before he had died, taught her things a young Spanish woman did not ordinarily learn. About circuits and wires and detonators.
Tonight, when Ian hit those two impossible chords, a circuit would be completed. Nobody else could do it, only Ian.
It wouldn’t be a big explosion. Nobody would be hurt. Just enough forte to turn the inside of the Bösendorfer into a smoking ruin. It would die under his hands -- he would kill it.
She wanted to be sure she found a place to stand where she could see his face. Where he could look up and see her face, and know.
Yes, indeed.

Temporary Euphoria

Those of you who have finished any long project that took you any serious amount of energy and creativity know there sometimes comes a sense of satisfaction when you are done that can be positively euphoric.

This is what happens to me when I finish a first-draft of a novel: I am tired, physically and mentally, because I tend to see the light at the end of the tunnel and haul ass. My word output generally doubles, sometimes trebles as I near the finish, and it is like sprinting at the end of a marathon. When I cross the line, I got nothing left.

But, even so, there is a smile-on-my-face satisfaction that, in essence, translates to: Done! Done, by God! Lived through another one!

(Lot of writers I know use the Writer's Prayer, usually about three-quarters of the way through a book -- Please don't let me die until I get this one done ...)

First draft is where the biggest joys and pains live. When you are at -30-, it's isn't over -- the rewrite looms, and those can be absolute bears, but there is a structure. If you got it, you can cut, paste, throw out big sections, write new ones, and it can be trying, but no real comparison.

Editing and rewriting are like rebuilding the engine, chopping, channeling, and putting nineteen coasts of hand-rubbed candy apple red metalflake paint on your '55 Chevy -- the basic car is there -- the rest is, for me, less exciting and much easier.

First draft is still primer-gray, but the sense of accomplishment comes in building it from scratch, that's the big fun. The not-knowing. After that, it is still interesting and you can take pleasure in the work, but it can't touch first draft.

Me, I don't get to bask in the euphoria long, there's aways another project waiting in the wings.

Come Monday, I'll start a new novel, and with luck, this one won't take so long from once-upon-a-time until -30-.

Stand still, the moss starts to grow on you ...

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Dreadnaught Steams Away

After three butt-numbing days in my office chair, including yesterday, that had a stretch from nine a.m. until two p.m. during which I never got up even to pee, the first draft on the fantasy novel is done. It should have taken me five or six days, but once you see the barn, the tendency to run is sometimes overwhelming.

My performance at silat class this week was crappy, and while I can't blame it all on the book, some I can -- I was awash in alien seas and my hands were cramped, and after five hours in the chair and another hour and a half on the road, I was lucky I could stand up, much less move.

I have sent the ms off to my collaborator, and to those of you who indicated an interest, it will be going out as an email attachment on the morrow. I'll ship it to the addresses you sent, and if your box chokes at anything over a meg and three-tenths, you won't get it. If it doesn't show up in the next day or so, and you asked to see it, drop me a line.

Traditionally, this is where the writer offers the usual pool-hustler's excuses -- the light was bad, my arm was tired, the table was warped, i.e., explanations as to things about which I might have qualms and reasons why I wasn't up to my best game.

Not offering those. It is first-draft, which is excuse enough, and it stands on its own or not without me explaining it.

For those of you who have an interest in such things, the map Reaves and I came up with, showing oceans, countries, major cities, lakes, all like that, is posted at the top of this entry. You can click on it, enlarge it, and download it if you want to refer to it, or check back here. (Some fantasy readers love these things, some don't, but probably we'll include a cleaned-up version for the novel when it comes out. We have other sketches we used to keep things clear in our minds, a city map, a drawing of the dreadnaught, like that, but you shouldn't need those, nor, really, the map.)

And now I'm going to go sit in the hot tub ...

Writing R Us

Edward George Earle Lytton (Bulwer-Lytton,) the 1st Baron Lytton (1803–1873) was a playwright, poet, novelist, and a politician. And very well thought of in his day in all these arenas. His book, The Coming Race (published 1870) is considered one of the earliest -- if not the first -- science fiction novel(s) -- as well as, some say, a blueprint and inspiration for the German Nazi Party.

Lord Lytton is responsible for the first-in-print use of such phrases as "the great unwashed," "pursuit of the almighty dollar," "the pen is mightier than the sword," and most infamously -- thanks to Snoopy -- "It was a dark and stormy night ..."

Today, aside from the pen-and-sword thing, alas, his fame rests upon being the inspiration for San Jose State University’s annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for bad writing. This is to select the best worse first line for a story.

Over the years, there have been some brilliant ones. It takes a certain amount of skill to pen a line that is to bad it is good. Sort of like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. (Reaves and I wrote a short book, Thong the Barbarian Meets the Cycle Sluts of Saturn, in which we insulted the memories of E.E. "Doc" Smith, R.E Howard, and H.P Lovecraft, one and all, and if there was a dreadful said-bookism or adverbial Swifty we missed, it was by accident. Long out-of-print, and signed copies are spendy but we, of course, think worth it.)

I bring this up because I had occasion this morning to do what is called a job-shadow for a couple of high school students interested in writing. Which basically amounted to meeting them and their teacher at the local Starbucks and answering questions until we ran out of steam.

One of the questions had to do with what one hopes to accomplish with one's writing. For me, this is simple: I want to write books that people pick up and can't put down. I want to grab them by the throat, to curse me if ever we should meet, thus: "Stupid son-of-a-bitch! I stayed up until two-thirty in the morning reading your damned book, I couldn't put it down, I had to finish it! I over-slept and was late for work!"

Guy walks into the 7-Eleven and has enough to buy a paperback I wrote or a couple six-packs of beer. If he decides to go with the book, I want, when he is done, to feel as if his money was well-spent. I don't want him wishing he'd bought the Schludwiller instead ...

Nobody knows what the ages will bring, and I've never tried to write for them. I'm pretty sure old Baron Lytton didn't envision that a hundred and some years after he died that his work would be the inspiration for a contest looking for bad writing. You just never know.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

News Roundup

So my collaborator Reaves goes under the knife today. One of his electrodes needs to be jiggled or somesuch. Wonderful thing, surgery, but there's this terrible anticipation when they put you out: Either you wake up cured, or maybe you wake up dead ...

The dogs, after romping at the beach and in the agility barn, which is floored with fine dirt, save where it is damp and muddy, are filthy, and even though I prefer warm sunny days to bathe them, this is Oregon, so they get a bath today, come whatever fog/rain/sunshine there might be.

Last night, we had occasion to be out in the country, away from city lights, to see the total eclipse of the moon. Caught much of it, up to totality. Fascinating to watch. Made us wonder what it must have been like in a primitive culture when people much more attuned to the sky saw such things and wondered at the reason. The moon, brightest light in the night, turning orange and muddy -- then reappearing.

And, last, and probably least, the doorstop-fantasy nears the end of first draft. A few days more, less than a week, maybe by, say ... Tuesday. Those of you who have expressed some interest will get an email with an attached .RTF doc, which should be readable by Wintel or Mac machines.
(RTF is an MS Word format, but can be opened with most Mac word processing software, including AppleWorks, TextEdit, or Tom Bender's wonderful Tex-Edit Plus shareware that will open pretty much any text file a Mac can read. This last has saved my bacon a few times when I had files trashed in Word or AppleWorks, and I recommend that if you are Mac user, you get a copy. Fifteen bucks. Sometimes with Wintel boxes, you get some weird control characters before or after the text when opening .RTF, but those characters can be taken out easily enough, highlight and click -- we live in the future now ...)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sun! Sun

Glory of glories, the sun came out this weekend, first time in, like, eighteen years or so! We piled into the camper and went to the coast. Enjoyed it so much we almost didn't come home. Stayed an extra day.

There's a little park we like, near Tillamook, we went there. Ranger said they lost three hundred trees during the December storms. Still a lot of them piled up all over the campground, a lot of the survivors showing scars where big branches had been torn or shorn off.

The beach, normally reached by a short hike and down a little bluff, was another testament to Mother Nature's fury. Getting to the sand was a problem -- so much driftwood, ranging in size from pieces as big around as my little finger to pieces bigger around than me and forty or fifty feet long, had piled up so high and thick that it was impossible for stubby-legged dogs to negotiate. (Or somebody carrying a couple a couple stubby-legged dogs and worried about shifting underfoot to negotiate ...)

The swatch was forty or fifty feet wide in spots and laid up against the bluff as far as you could see. Enough to build a small village just in the stretch of half a mile or so where we were. We finally found a gap, but it wasn't easy. The image of me and the dogs gives you an idea -- that green in the background is the top of the bluff, and last time we were there, there was nothing between where I stood and that, save sand.

Makes you realize that if you'd been on that beach come the storm, you'd have stood a real good chance of being crushed ...

Thursday, February 14, 2008


J.D. and I had an interesting exchange of email this morning, and I thought what I said to him about a nice piece he has on his site -- go look -- might be worth mentioning here, to clarify my position on the upcoming presidential race:

Here's the pertinent point -- what I consider a reality check. Bear in mind, I like Obama and will vote for him if he gets the nomination:

... as much as I like what Obama has to say, and his manner of delivery, and I'd be happy with him running against McCain, I know to my core that he isn't going to be able to deliver everything he is promising. Carter couldn't do it, Bill Clinton couldn't do it, and they were both as smart as anybody since Jefferson. Hillary won't be able to, nor will McCain.

It's like wishing you could fly by jumping up in the air and waving your arms; it would be wonderful, but the aerodynamics aren't going to allow it on this planet.

The politics of hope are not the same as the politics of accomplishment.

This is Obama's biggest drawback. If he does get elected, the expectation level is astronomical. And while it is true that if you reach for the stars, you don't come up with a handful of mud, and that a man's reach should exceed his grasp, people who believe Obama is going to completely fix the broken state of the U.S. are living somewhere between Sleeping Beauty's Castle and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

Yeah, if he gets the nomination, he has my vote. But I don't think he can walk on water. If it turns out I am wrong, then you'll see me hat in hand in a few years admitting it in public. But I wouldn't bet serious money that is going to happen.

Not cynical here, but realistic. We've never had a black man as President, true enough. But we've had plenty of bright and dedicated guys who held the job, and none of them were able to completely revamp the state of the nation for the better. We've had a few who have made it considerably worse: Witness Current Occupant. I think that Obama would work hard at it, but this isn't The Matrix, and he isn't The One, no matter how much people would like him to be.

Before anybody gets all excited and wants to hammer me over the head, remember, I will happily vote for the guy if it gets to that. And that I am an old hippie who would love nothing better than to see the Age of Aquarius get here before I shuffle off. Thing is, I've heard it all before, and yeah, he's different, but until I actually see him walking on water, live and in person, I'm not going to believe that he can.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Then and Now

I thought it would be amusing to show a side-by-side, or, in this case, an above-and-below comparison of Perry & Reaves through the ages.

First one is that picture I used on the posting just prior to this one. That one is circa 1983, me holding up Reaves. That was in my office, not long after we moved to this house. Somewhere we probably have older two-shots, but that's the one I came across.

Second one is the signing we did at Powell's in Beaverton about four months ago.

Mostly, we appear to be grayer, less fuzzy, and a bit more wrinkled. (That helmet of hair I was wearing back then is not quite as large as it appears -- most of it on my right side is actually a shadow on the wall behind us, but Lord knows, I used to have some flowing locks.)

In the second image, we are sitting down; however, even though he has gained a few pounds, I can still hoist him up if I have to. I, of course, weigh the same now as I did then, though a bit more of it is in muscle than used to be ...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Coming Around the Turn and into the Home Stretch ...

The door-stop fantasy ms draws nigh unto its end.

Book One - The Chronicles of Eilandia: The Dreadnaught will, if I can manage to stay alive for another week or ten days, and the End Times holding off, will get at least to a complete first draft. Which, as writers know, is the hard part -- staving off the End Times and staying alive ...

The novel, which began as a back-burner project twixt me and Reaves back in November of 2003, and which we paid scant attention to, save for a burst at the beginning and the latest attack, will be the longest running in-progress work I've done. Nothing else I've had cooking has taken four years to get finishsed.

I usually have at least two projects going at once, but the average time for a novel in my word processor is four or five months. I've had a couple go longer. (The quickest was a novelization of a movie script, which took eighteen working days, though I allowed the editor to think it took six weeks, because that's how much time he gave me.)

Those of you who have volunteered as readers -- I have your names on file -- will get an email with the ms attached, all things going well, in the next two weeks or so.

(The picture? Twenty-five or so years old, "Perry Carrying Reaves," which I always consider appropriate in our collaborations ...)

Monday, February 11, 2008

"You're Not an Ape -- Use a Tool!"

On a good night, maybe ten or so players show up for our silat class. Enough to fill Cotten's three-car garage. Some of these are newbies, most have been around for a while, a few for a very long time.

I fancy that I can give any of them enough to worry about, hand-to-hand, and if I were a betting man, I'd put my money on me to win, did push come to shove. Yeah, yeah, it sounds egotistical, but like Grampaw Sonnet used to say, "No brag, jest fact." As I see it ...

In the awful remake of Godzilla a few years back, they ran a series of teasers in theaters before the movie came out, and my favorite was wrapped around the phrase "Size matters."

Of course it does, else flyweight boxers would be stepping into the ring and beating heavyweights, and that doesn't happen. It's not all about size and strength, skill can void a lot of that, but with skill on both sides being anywhere close to equal, the itty-bitty guy is usually at a disadvantage. Note: I said "usually."

There are two women in our class, smallish people over whom I have nearly a foot in height and sixty or seventy pounds in weight, and one-on-one barehanded against either, I believe, he says euphemistically, that the match would, ah ... favor me. One is only a year or so deep in the stuff, so I'm bigger, stronger, and more skilled. The other knows as much as I do, probably more, but her skill is not so much greater that it offsets mine and my size in combination.

However, were either of these shrimpy women holding a knife, I would not like my chances barehanded against them so much. At the very least, I would expect to pay for a victory in my own blood and ethilon suture material, things that are not at the top of my list of Fun Things to Do.

The point here? If you are a non-martial artist and you want to protect yourself, get an equalizer. Sharp steel is harder than flesh; unless you came from Krypton, you ain't bulletproof.

A knife or a gun go a long way to offsetting unarmed skills. A gun and a knife are even better.

Of course, a good martial artist is apt to be proficient with such things, too -- any who claim that they are streetworthy who cannot reliably use a stick, knife, or gun -- or all three -- is fooling himself. Guns are the rocks of our times, and the first tools past rocks and dull sticks, were pointed sticks, followed by the earliest incarnations of the axe and/or knife, so they've been around almost as long as we have. There is a reason for this -- the knife is as useful a tool as there is.

You don't have to be a expert to use one. If you have sliced a turkey or a carrot, you know which end goes where. Some small training is all you need to be able to deal with anybody short of Bruce Lee. A little bit more, and you could filet a Bruce-equivalent like a catfish and deep-fry him.

Just my small bit of useful advice for the day ...

Bye Bye Your Life, Good-Bye

Roy Scheider 1932 - 2008

Actor Roy Scheider has died. Probably he'll be remembered most for his line in Jaws: "We're gonna need a bigger boat." but he was in a bunch of movies, most of which I liked. Marathon Man, which did for dentists what Jaws did for sharks. Blue Thunder, a silly helicopter movie, with his response when asked by a pilot he detested if he thought he could handle it: "You flew it, didn't you?" And All that Jazz, my favorite musical of all time, for his take on Bob Fosse, in the movie about -- and made by -- Fosse.

He had busted-nose, no-nonsense man look about him and was always a pleasure to watch work.

Adios, Roy.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


In our silat class, we have had recently an influx -- well, okay, maybe not so much an influx as a few -- new students joining. Since the classes aren't separated into beginners and advanced these days, we have been incorporating the new guys, and necessarily going back over basics of our art.

Every time we go back to the roots, I see them in a new way; but what doesn't seem to change is that the foundations' primary importance. No matter how many bells and whistles you add, regardless of the "advanced" techniques, when push comes to shove, you are apt to do the things that you have practiced and trained the longest. Yeah, I could do them before, but revisiting them with additional time in grade gives them a new sheen.

Drill it enough, it sticks. I woke up yesterday morning, and while still in that warm-under-the-covers-don't-want-to-get-up half-doze, for some reason my first Okinawa-te long form popped into my head. I was able to go through it mentally from beginning to end. Given that it is eighty moves long, has been forty years ago that I learned it, and probably ten years since I have actually done it, I found that interesting.

Maha Guru Plinck sometimes apologizes to the long-time students after a class focused on the newbies, but he needn't do that -- I learn as much from showing the new guy how to do a foundation drill as I do being shown a new move myself. When you have to articulate it and demonstrate it, you need to understand it. Especially if you want to hew to Turner's Rule: "A thing may be explained simply if the teller understands it properly."

If you need it, the basic tool is likely to be the first one to hand and the most useful. No surprise, that realization, but good to have reinforced now and then.

Whoo ...

Thanks to La Tricia for passing this one along ...

Friday, February 08, 2008

Diamond Lane and Your Silicone Lady

So, Dan'l mentioned the idea of using a sex doll to beat the carpool lane ticket.

Think these will pass?

If you have six or seven grand, you can certainly do that. Silicone sisters that are -- ahem -- anatomically-correct. And spooky. Have a look, if you are feeling kinky ...

(Oh, and to be fair, there are also silicone brothers ...)

Thursday, February 07, 2008


I am fortunate in that I get to work at home. I don't have to get up and fight rush hour traffic, going or coming, and I am thrilled at that.

My silat class is in Vancouver, and I do have to drive there once a week, and that's more than enough for me.

There are only two bridges to get from Portland to Vancouver, and both are miserable experiences between three and six p.m. weekdays.

On I-405 , the -- pardon the expression -- better of the two routes for me, there is a four-mile section of interstate between the Freemont and Columbia River Bridges known -- not affectionately -- as the "super slab." On a good day, with everything going well, no wrecks and a lucky break, you can average seventeen miles an hour along this strip.

On a bad day, it will take more than thirty minutes to travel the four miles -- that's slower than a so-so jogger can cover the same distance on foot. Eight miles an hour. Guy on a bicycle would blow past you like you were standing still. Which you will be for much of the time.

This is partially due to one of the three lanes being an HOV (diamond) lane, and restricted between three and six p.m. to "two-person carpools." If you are on a motorcyle, you can single it.

So there you are, bumper-to-bumper and in first gear in the middle lane, while the HOV lane is zipping along at fifty mph. I understand the theory, but the practice is that it doesn't help.
Probably half of the drivers have passengers; the other half are playing expensive-ticket roulette and hoping the police have business elsewhere.

I expect that a guy standing at the on-ramp downtown holding a bloody machete and a cardboard sign that says, "Will Kill for Fun." will get a ride so somebody can use the diamond lane. Hell, I'd probably pick him up ...

Which is to say that while the traffic in Portland isn't as bad as L.A., or Seattle, it's bad, and getting worse. They are talking about building a bigger bridge, but that bottleneck is only part of the problem. Maybe when gasoline gets to six bucks a gallon that'll help ...

Meanwhile, I leave two hours early, so I can be sure to get to class on time. Sad.

Double Dipping Chips

Piece in the paper a few days back about double-dipping chips into the communal guacamole bowl. What this means is, you dip your Dorito (there's a nice phrase to use as a euphemism sometime) into the bowl, take a bite, then dip it again. The question is, does so doing spread germs? Is there enough of a spit-swap so that it's like a Seinfeld routine, might as well shove your face into the bowl and blow bubbles ... ?

Turns out that the test-tube boys go with the germ theory. You essentially inoculate the dip, and the warmer it is, the faster the bugs grow. Long party, if there's still any of the melted cheese left after midnight and you eat it, you might as well let everybody in the room cough into your face.

I bring this up because I am usually fairly cavalier about party food and salad bars, which latter at least have sneeze-guards. But the folks at the event I attended last night put on a good spread, fruits, cookies, bread, cheese, meats, and several warming trays of chip and cracker dips. Seated toward the back, I was close to what started out as cheese fondue. Big pot, alcohol burner under it, a serving spoon. Hour or so into my stint as book-guy, I saw woman arrive at the fondue pot. She lifted the glass lid, stuck the serving spoon into the stuff, lifted it to her nose and sniffed it.

Okay, not so bad, at least the air flow was mostly away from the spoon, right?

Then she tasted it. Decided she didn't like it, and put the spoon back into the stuff.

Put the spoon back into the stuff ...

Yeah, at home, I drink from the same glass or double-dip chips and my wife and I risk each other's colds, but that's part of the married deal.

I would have had to have been really hungry at that point to try the party fondue. Really hungry. Sure, she looked okay, but ...

I considered removing the pot, or putting a sign on it, but I also watched people paw the cookies, and sort through the bread and crackers, so it was a lost cause. Guy sneezes, wipes his nose, then inspects the carrot sticks ...

Fortunately, the human digestive system can take a lot of abuse without seizing up -- most of the time. We don't have to eat sterile food, and the acid below decks kills a lot of bacteria. Most of the time. Some E. coli drink stomach acid and thrive. And if you haven't ever had the Tijuana Two-step, consider yourself blessed.

Funny thing was, as the gathering wound down, a couple of people came over, one of whom I knew, and an older guy I didn't know. I told the story. As I was doing so, the older guy opened the lid and began spooning the mostly-curdled fondue onto a saucer. My friend looked at him: "What, are you not listening?"

"Ah, doesn't bother me," the guy said. "I've lived this long and I'm older than you."

Don't ever let anybody tell you that fiction is stranger than truth ...

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Hill or Rocky?

Got an email from a friend in California who is somewhat torn about today's primary -- Who would I vote for?

Here's essentially what I said:

I saw Hillary on the Letterman Show last night; she was tired, her voice almost gone. Smiling gamely, making jokes, but exhausted.

I have to say that I like her a lot more since she started looking human instead of being Super Mom. (And I like Bill and Hill's politics, whatever Slick Willie's wandering slick willie gets itself into. The hound thing kinda goes with being a southern politician. Guy getting laid and haid tends not to want to go to war so much.)

Obama isn't as seasoned, and while he is more charismatic and his politics are so close to Clinton's as to be almost identical, and it is obvious that the job can't be that hard, given the current Occupant, my sense is that Hillary has a slight edge in the ability to get things done on the ground. Maybe more than slight -- she knows the town better. Anybody who thinks being First Lady doesn't give you some chops doesn't know anything about power politics in D.C.

Especially when you are as smart as the President. At least as smart, and I wouldn't be surprised to see her a few points ahead of her hubby.

My wife has more empathy for Hillary -- working mom, having to put up with Bill's wandering weenie, the ability to make hard choices in the Senate. She says Obama reminds her of a Baptist preacher -- long on hope, fuzzy on specifics. Says we don't need a war-mongering dimwit like George, but not a cheerleader, either.

We don't vote for a long while, and by then, won't really have a choice, save to rubber stamp one or the other. (Oregon went for Kerry last time, which was one of the only things that gave me a ray of sunshine -- at least I am surrounded with people who Didn't Vote for George.) That's fine with me. Anybody but a Republican. Whatever that party stood for in Lincoln's day, that day has long passed. (I have, over nearly forty years as a voting citizen, been registered as a Republican, Democrat, and Independent, in that order.)

When Letterman asked Clinton last night which way people should vote, their hearts or their heads, she gave the right answer: Both.

Every election is about change, so I discount all that we-'re-gonna-change-the-world stuff. They all say that except the ones running for reëlection, and sometimes, even then.

If I had to vote today, I'd go with Hillary. A strong and tough woman might be able to do something in the role; the men have sure fucked it up a long damn time.

But I don't think Obama would be a bad choice, either. Can't really go wrong either way, in my opinion.

(And being older, I have to go with the idea that experience matters. Old and treacherous beats young and strong every time ...)

Monday, February 04, 2008

A Gift for an Old Friend

What to give somebody who is getting a bit long in the tooth?

The perfect thing?

Tanna leaves ...

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Campaign Ad

Okay, I'm voting for Hill or Rocky, that's a given, good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise. On a purely pragmatic basis, Clinton has an edge, but you gotta love that sense of hope that Obama leaves behind him where he goes.

Whichever one gets the nod has me, there's nobody on the Republican side who -- well, there's just nobody there, period.

But Hill or Rocky, this is a dynamite political ad, and good luck on the R side coming up with anything that can touch it. Good luck to the Clinton campaign, too ...

(Thanks to Mushtaq for posting this in his site, where I saw it. )

Now HERE is a Flashlight ...

Have a look: Anti-aircraft gun (aka Vampire Killer, Snow Shovel, or Light Saber ...)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Such Stuff As Dreams are Made Of ...

In the winter of 1978, my copy of the CoEvolution Quarterly arrived in the mail, a magazine that was a spin-off from The Whole Earth Catalog. This was a newsprint deal, not destined to last for the ages. Nonetheless, I carefully stored it away in a drawer. The paper has yellowed much since, but I saved it for the comic strip therein, written and drawn by Dan O'Neill. This was an eight-page story that spoke to the nature of dreams, still the best thing I've ever read on the subject, and one that always makes me smile at the last panel. Pure gold.

Upbeat, uplifting, and eminently satisfying, this is a tale that is the classic example of a protagonist overcoming obstacles to reach a goal.

O'Neill was an underground cartoonist, out of San Francisco, who was known for his series "Odd Bodkins,"and for a famous lawsuit brought against him and his collective of artists (the Air Pirates) by Disney, for their lampoon using Mickey Mouse. Other Disney characters, too, but mostly, it was The Mouse.

The artists held out for a long time, but Disney had the big guns. Real big guns ...

O'Neill apparently considers it a victory that he didn't wind up in jail. And while that is indeed a moral win of sorts, he came close to doing that, and there is a lesson here: You don't fuck with The Mouse. (Read more about it here.)

Or if you want, there's a whole book on it: The Pirates and the Mouse ...

The piece I liked so much is called "The Story of the Lone Ranger and the Difficulty at O'Leary's Birdcage Saloon ..."

I've tried to contact O'Neill, to find out where the piece might be found in a collection, but haven't been able to get through -- email keeps bouncing. Too bad, I'd like to point people at a place where they can buy this and put some money into his pocket. Try his site, maybe your browser works better -- and if you buy something, I expect you will enjoy it.

Copies of the CEQ issue (No. 20) are apparently available from collectors on the net, running $20 to $25 or so, and I think that is worth it for O'Neill's eight-page comic alone. The man is funny, sharp, and insightful.

No money back guarantee or anything, but if you get a copy and don't think it's worth it, lemme know. I'd be inclined to buy it so I'll have a back-up.