Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Story Portals - Katya the Assassin

My sometimes-editor, sometimes-collaborator, and all the time friend, Larry Segriff, is launching a new venture, Story Portals. This is going to be an online store for fantasy tales, starting with short stories, then adding in full-length novels. 

These stories and books will be written by working professionals in the field, and in the initial roll-out, begin with short tales featuring Katya,  a trained assassin, courtesan, and worker of magicks. She kills people. She likes knives. She's a trained courtesan. What else do you need?

I am lucky enough to have a short story up in the first batch, a nasty little bit of business called "Just Desserts." And later, I'll have a part in a novel about Katya, working title of which is Assassin's Holiday. In this, I am paired with a younger writer some of you who drop round here know, Bobbe Edmonds.

Assuming, of course, that he gets off his lazy ass and finishes the thing ...

Um. Anyway, I urge you to drop by and have a look. 

Disclosure Notice: If you join and Larry makes a ton of money, some small measure of it will eventually filter down to me, and I must confess I wouldn't mind that. 

The site's official launch date is Thursday, September 1st, but you can sneak peek today and look around. There will be free samples, so you can see if you like it.

You can click on the link above, or over in the link list to the right.


Got the rings that Coach Sommer sent me installed in the oak tree out back. Nylon ought to last longer than the hemp rope did.

So far, all I can manage are chins in an L-sit. I think the iron cross is a long ways off. Just past Fantasyland there ...

You Know You're Old When ...

... you can remember when the mammoth bones your dog dragged into the cave were still fresh.

... you knew the Missing Link personally.

... television was a novelty.

... Oxygen was a novelty ...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I've gone through the first couple of eManuscripts for the Matador series and put back the italics that had been stripped out. Even though that was all I was going to do, just check the hardcopy for those and fix 'em, I fell into the Reading Trap ...

Back before computers and spellcheckers and instant online dictionaries, I used to have a spelling book on my desk. Just lists of words, no definitions. I have an unabridged dictionary in three volumes in the bookcase next to my desk and I could have used that, but any time I pick up a dictionary to check spelling, I always get hung up in the sucker. Too much interesting information that tugs at me: Oh, wow, who knew that's where that word came from? And the sixth definition? I never knew that. And wait, just down the page, that word? Cool! Let me go check out that reference ...

Looking up the spelling of a word could result in a twenty-minute detour that I knew was better spent writing, so I got the speller.

Something similar happens when I read books that I wrote a while back.

Even using the global search in my WP to find a phrase that needed to be italicized didn't save me from the Trap. I would go there, and even as I highlighted and changed the font, a sentence below would snag my attention. Hmm ...

Next thing I knew, I was reading along, nodding. Yeah, yeah, that's not bad ...

Whoa. Stop it, Steve. Get back to work!

Too late ...

But here's the interesting part. These books–at least the first couple–have aged pretty well. Better than I expected.

I was on a panel with Ursula LeGuin once, and somebody asked the panelists if we look back at our old work in horror at how bad it was. Actually, she said, I'm usually surprised at how good it is.

Me, too. 

Not that we aren't better writers in a lot of ways, just that we maybe weren't as bad as we thought. 

Some of the technology in the Matadors that was so cutting-edge (I thought) when I first wrote it twenty-five years ago has been overtaken. But the story, the characters, they still seem to work. And the writing is, frankly, much better than I expected it would be. It actually holds up okay, especially for a guilty pleasure ...

Just a note from the revision battlefield. 

The Matadors are coming back to do their thing on your Kindle, iPad, computer, and even cell phone. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Look Into My Eye ...

Went to the optometrist today for my annual eye exam. Been about eighteen months, but I should be going every year.

Got a new doc, young woman, so in theory she'll outlive me and I won't have to worry about her retiring and having to find another one.

The gear has gotten ever so much better. Don't need to get the orbs dilated, there's a high-tech peephole cam encased in a giant round box. The stuff in the office is linked via BlueTooth, so the doctor can point something at your eye and push a button, and your theoretical prescription zips across the aether to the machine through which you'll be looking. My doctor doesn't trust it, but she says it makes a good back-up to her hands-on exam. 

The air-puff. The blinking peripheral grids. Which lines are darker? Look here. Can you make out the bottom line? Better this way? Tell me when the line gets too fuzzy to read ...

Mostly, my eyes are almost the same as last exam. A little more of this, a little less of that. No cataracts. Plenty of floaters. Generally healthy.

It was time for new glasses anyway–I got a tiny scratch on one lens–so I got a prescription for that. 

I didn't get the glasses there, for a couple of reasons: First, there weren't any frames at the boutique shop that I wanted. The current look is rectangular and narrow, with wide earpieces, and I'm of the form-follows-function school: I want big lenses. If I could still get aviator-style glasses I would–there's a reason pilots wore them, you know, so they could see and all. (Looking cool is not nearly as important and being able to see well in my book. Besides which I don't think the new styles look cool anyhow.)

Second, I didn't buy them at the optometrist's because I can get comparable glasses at Costco for less than half what the boutique charges, and I know they are ordering them from the same maker, so it doesn't make sense to pay retail. Not much choice there, either, vis a vis styles, but I can get some like the ones I have, and I like those just fine. 

Moneywise, even with insurance kicking in part of that, they still cost way more at the boutique than at Costco. Dense, progressive, transitional, non-glare lenses, weighing less than a third of what glass weighs. 

They are just glasses, not works of art ...

The Man Who Apparently Missed Now and Then ...

So, Dan and Amy and Angel and I–them's the publishers, editors, artist, and writer, respectively, for the upcoming Matador ebookery from Fat Sam–got to the final Confed soldier guarding the gate and lined up to take him out ...

Whereupon we had a jam in our spetsdöd ...

This involves a hitherto-unnoticed glitch in the e-files in regard to italics. No fault of the publishers, editors,  nor artist, so you can figure out who was responsible here ...

For those of you who don't pay much attention to such things, there are times when a writer wants readers to pay attention to portions of the text. These passages can be thoughts, dreams, exclamations, sound effects, or other bit of business that need to be underscored to stand out. We want you to hear the emphasis, and since you have to do it with your mind and not your ears, we cheat by using typeface tricks. 

In the old typewriter days, underscoring words or phrases or paragraphs was literally how it was done on the writer's end. This told the printer who'd be laying the book out to set the underlined text as italics.


"Jesu damn!" 


"Jesu damn!"

When IBM came out with its Selectric Typewriter, you had the option of changing the little typeface balls, so in theory, you could write along in Courier or somesuch, and when you came to a passage that needed italics, you could switch out the ball, do the italics, and then change it back. That would be painstaking work, but it was possible.

Publishers didn't want you to do this, however, since a typesetter might miss that in your manuscript, whereas they knew to look for the underline.

And for quite a while after computer word processor appeared, they still didn't want you to do this, even though it required nothing more than a toggle on and off to do italics onscreen. This was because there were all kinds of WP software and they didn't always talk cleanly to each other. Still don't for that; however, most places like MS Word, and most WP software can export to that these days, so if you italicize or boldface or otherwise offer type changes, the publisher will usually have no trouble seeing it and passing it to the printer. 

Printers no longer hand-set type, nor use linotype machines, they use computers just like everybody else, and have access to the same software, so now it is okay to use italics in your manuscript, which is most likely going to be submitted as an electronic file and not hard copy. Even those places who still want a hard copy ms will ask for a e-file to go with it, and most agents and editors are now using e-readers for manuscripts and not lugging around a couple thousand pages in their backpacks.  

Um. Anyway, what this means is that we have to go back into the e-manuscripts and add the missing italics. It shouldn't take too long, but it will take some time, and so what was about to happen soon, will happen a bit later.

Stand by. We will keep you in the loop ...

Dog Days

Out back working the grill last evening and Layla hopped up into the glider. Got these two pictures ...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Gentleman's Hour

If you like weird private eyes and you haven't already done so, you might want to check out Boone Daniels, a surfer-dude PI in San Diego in The Gentleman's Hour, by Don Winslow.

Boone was also featured in The Dawn Patrol, and if you read that one first, that wouldn't hurt, though it's not necessary. 

Winslow has a unique style, full of asides, present tense, and rapidly shifting viewpoints, but he's good enough to pull it off. He's written maybe fifteen books, and last year's Savages is probably going to make it to the big screen as a major movie with heavyweight stars and a director and all like that.

Winslow has one of those interesting backgrounds good for writers: He got a degree in African History, managed a chain of movie theaters and became a private investigator in NYC; has led safaris in Kenya, and got his masters degree in Military History.

He's been hired to do books–at least one–by the estate of the late writer Trevanian, Satori, which is the prequel to Shibumi, featuring Nicholai Hel, master martial arts assassin ...

Man stays busy. 

I like his books, and if you have anything close to my offbeat tastes in fiction, you might, too. 

Gimme a Ticket for a Hurricane

Irene wades along the east coast, blowin' and goin', and bringing to them what I grew up with down in Louisiana. Kind of like those folks from Minnesota who look at the dusting of snow in Portland and laugh when the place comes to a halt because of it, a C2 storm doesn't get more than a shrug back down home.

Of course, that's because they are used to worse. Audrey, Betsey, Camille. And what was that other one ... ? Oh, yeah, Katrina ...

Not that the folks on the Gulf Coast are immune, but generally, they tend to be better-prepared because, well, they know it's coming. Though New Orleans is the exception that sticks out like a turd in the punchbowl. Of course, Mardi Gras makes them all crazy in New Orleans.

Not accustomed to this kind of thing in Washington, Baltimore, New York City, which had a recent earthquake rattle the shelves, too.

The biggest worries for coasties is not so much the wind, though that can be fierce, but the storm surge that hits at high tide, and the tornadoes that are spawned along the front, and all that rain. If the sucker stalls and just sits there, a foot of rain in a place whose drainage system can't deal with it is a nasty bit of business.

To those folks on the east coast getting lashed by the storm, or about about to, good luck. Hunker down, I hope you got enough flashlight batteries and candles and toilet paper and canned food. And beer. Beer helps.

Hooray for Hollyweird

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith are in the news: Some scandal rag has put out a story that their marriage is kaput, naming Another Man In The Wife's Boudoir as the cause. Said Man being Marc Anthony, the singer and actor, whose own marriage to Jennifer Lopez, the singer and actress, went down the tubes recently. Jada and Marc co-star on her show HawthoRNe, and play lovers who steam up the camera's lens. 

Life imitating art?

Rumor is that Will and Jada have an open marriage, both are on record talking about it, and you'd think that concept kinda makes the idea of cheating void, but there are rules there, too, and apparently being blindsided is one of them.

The press release the couple offers sounds like a non-denial denial. Their "marriage is intact," they say. 

"Intact?" Who says that when asked if they are getting a divorce? I mean, "No, we aren't." Or "That's bullshit!" Or even "None of your fucking business!" But "Our marriage is intact?" That sounds like a spindoc's phrase to me. 

In Hollywood, it seems to be a knee-jerk reflex in this kind of situation. A splitting couple absolutely-positively-categorically denies it. They are quickly seen holding hands, smooching, having a fine ole time in public ... and then a few weeks, a month, six months, divorce papers come to light. 

Somebody was, ah, well ... shading the truth ...

Why bother? Does it make some kind of business sense? Is there a deal that requires matrimonial stability? The children? You can't hide that from the kids, they know.

It's Hollywood, Jake ...

Yadda, yadda, yadda, BFD. Why do I even go here? 

Well, I feel a distant connection to Will Smith because I did the novelization for Men in Black. Somehow I wound up with a cardboard bookstore display that now sits on the roll-top in my office, so I see Will and Tommy Lee every morning when I come to work. And it was one of my favorite summer movies, my connection notwithstanding. Couldn't help but like the kid in that one. 

Rich Hollywood celebs don't do the same dance the rest of us do; they are always in the public eye, can't step out onto a sidewalk without cameras going off in their faces, and they get hit on by gorgeous people a lot more than most of us. (A whole lot more than, for instance, me.) Temptation falls down naked in front of these folks every time they turn around–sex? drugs? rock 'n' roll? Hey, come and get it!–and part of the mystique of a relatively-long lasting marriage in LaLaLand is that they managed to resist, or come to terms with, all that, and somehow, endure. Coming fourteen years for Will and Jada, and down there? That's like four decades in non-celebrity time. You hate to see it fail.

If indeed is has failed. Probably we'll see ...

Friday, August 26, 2011

And Then There is This ...

Brought to you by the same people who did The Invisible Gorilla ...

Hands On

Notice anything unusual in this picture at first glance?


One of the grandsons fell off a play-structure this week and broke his arm. Minor breaks–more than one, less than five–radius/ulna, and now he's sporting a purple cast for a few weeks. (One of the spots might need a pin, but maybe not, we are going to wait and see how it heals.)

One of the risks of the active life is injury. And people die in accidents–in these parts every year, we have folks drown swimming, rafting, or just standing on the beach and getting grabbed by a sneaker wave. They die from falls off rock faces, bike accidents, skiing. Now and then an unknown pathological time-bomb goes off during football practice or at the gym. 

It's the nature of the beast.

You could sit on the couch and avoid such dangers, but, of course, that brings up its own set of problems.

Thus far, we have been pretty lucky in the Perry family. Neither of my children broke any big bones growing up. I've busted a few fingers and toes, an ankle once, plus a bunch of bruises and torn this or that, one shredded knee cartilage. Considering my history in the field of jockery, from running, swimming, biking, pushing iron, and martial arts, I can't complain. 

If, on the morrow, somebody came up with a pill that would allow people to live to, say, five hundred years without catching any fatal diseases, I expect that some of the riskier forms jockery would go into steep decline. 


Yeah, people would still want to be fit, but if you are risking your ass and it will cost thirty or forty years if you screw up and die, that would seem less of a loss than losing three or four hundred, wouldn't it? Sure, dead is dead, but risking hundreds of years might give one pause.

I'm guessing that the accidents most of us die from would suddenly find themselves being addressed differently, since without illness, accidents would become the leading cause of death. (Accidents are currently fourth.)  

If you were going to live for five centuries, then ways to protect that longer lifespan would become a big deal. 

The leading causes of death by illness in the U.S. are cardiovascular/stroke and neoplasms–cancer,  followed by lower respiratory illnesses, diabetes, flu, pneumonia, Alzheimer's. After that, it's cars and guns. 

The leading causes of accidental death are: automobiles, non-specfic other accidents–a lot of these in babies and toddlers–poisoning, and this would include accidental ODs on medications, drowning, and fires. 

Down the list, four times as many people die from complications of surgery as do from accidental death by firearm; however, intentional shootings–by police, in self-defense, and in gang warfare–do make the top ten list–one slot above suicide. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among young adults.

Take away the cars, the bars, and the wars?

Yeah, yeah, we all check out, and there's the zombie apocalypse and all, but the point here is that if you have five bucks in quarters at home, you might leave it sitting on the bookshelf; if you have a thousand dollars in cash, you are apt to put it where it will be a bit safer.

Same with your lifespan, I think. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hang in There

Check out this video, supposedly of a couple pushing ninety and married sixty-some years, as they play a piano in the waiting room in the Mayo Clinic.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


So, the third season of Top Shot is on. Yeah, yeah, it's a silly reality show–and that's redundant, isn't it?–same kind of hokum as Survivor and Big Brother, but what can I say? I like watching guys who can shoot do it under pressure. 

Spoiler: There were two women this time. They went home first and second.

One quickly picks favorites and villains and roots for or against them. The shotgun guy who says, "Hey, this is my game, this is why I'm here, I'm a champion!" who misses half his targets. He won't last. The revolver guy who says, "I don't know from Glocks." but who shoots the pants off the Glock expert. He won't make it to the end.

The usual. I'm currently rooting for the self-taught kid who works at a Christian youth camp. Likable guy, and they sent him to a shoot-off because they figured he didn't have it. He smoked his competition. 

It brought to mind some gun things ...

My local gun club has a combat range, whereupon the various action shooting sports are played, the local police train, and all like that. In order to qualify to use it, you have to take a safety class. Safety being one of things that is considered of major import when you start whipping loaded guns from out holsters and waving the pieces around in a hurry as you cook off rounds. 

You also have to shoot an IPSC match clean to get the little sticker on your ID badge that lets you use the combat bays. 

Shooting a match clean in IPSC–International Practical Shooting Confederation–basically means you don't plug the range officer, shoot yourself in the foot, nor swing your muzzle around to cover your own self, the other shooters, or fans watching. If you break a safety rule at an IPSC match, you are gone. And that doesn't mean you are simply disqualified, it means you have to pack your gear and leave the area. If a range officer DQs you, that's it, no argument, it's Adiós, Billy-Bob, see you later. It's a good rule, it keeps you on your toes.

Also means you have to try again iff'n you want to use the combat range.

So, I took the safety lecture, entered the match, and shot it clean. Actually finished a lot higher in the standings than I expected. I could have come in dead last and still gotten my range sticker, which is all I wanted.

Two hundred rounds or so over ten or twelve stages–each of the shooting bays set up in a scenario, requiring that you shoot them in a certain order; some of them shoot/don't shoot targets; this many rounds each, stand here, lie there; mandatory reloads, and so on. 

The morning of the shoot, we walked through the stages, were shown what they were, and given a sheet laying out the course of fire. Went in groups and took turns.

I was using a five-shot revolver, a snubnose .38 Special, and right off the bat I was at a disadvantage, because the match was not what is known as "revolver neutral," and certainly not "five-shot snubby neutral ..." (This means some of the courses needed seven shots, and most of the semiauto-pistol magazines would allow that without reloading.)

I was slow, had to reload more often, and using what are called "rudimentary" sights. Even so, I beat a few guys with tricked-out pistols, (aka raceguns,) because this kind match is scored for speed and accuracy, and you basically can't shoot fast enough to make up for more than a couple of misses. Speed is fine, but accuracy is final. I was slow, but I was hitting the targets.

When I told this story on a gun forum, I had a guy call me a liar. Dude, he said, no way you could beat guys with raceguns using a S&W Chief, no way!

I pointed out that there were a lot of newbies qualifying and this was their first time and they didn't deal well with the pressure: that there were folks who thought spray-and-pray was the way to go–got fifteen? use 'em all! Plus I had put several thousand rounds though my weapon, was comfortable with it, knew where it would shoot, and took my time. Usually the hare wins, sometimes, the tortoise does. I didn't win, but I beat a lot of hares. And I was particularly pleased to beat them at the 50 yard range with my itty-bitty gun. Guy with a tricked-out .45 ACP, red-dot sights grinning at my little peashooter, and I hit more of the silhouettes at that range than he did? I loved that, I mean, I really did.)

I shot as a martial artist, as opposed to a gamer, and I'll explain those terms as they apply to this kind of handgun competition.

The basic difference is that the martial artists tend to use gear they will be carrying on the street, either as LEOs or LACs (legally-armed-civilians). The gun, holsters, reloads or spare magazines are sported as if they were what an off-duty cop or concealed carry citizen might be expected to use. (And there are disciplines like IDPA that require this, but that's another story.)

The serious gamers push the envelope for gear–custom, high-capacity pistols, skeletal holsters, scopes, compensators, big magazine wells, lots of spare magazines, like that. Gets spendy real quick, you can drop three or four grand on the hardware, and burn through a lot of ammo bringing it up to snuff.

These players also figure out how to game the system. If a rule says you have to fire twelve rounds from two positions, put two into each target, and do a mandatory reload between positions, but it doesn't say how you have to divide those up? The gamers will quickly figure out that maybe shooting eleven from this position, leaving a round in the chamber and shoving in a fresh magazine to cook off the last shot at the second station will gain them a  couple of seconds. 

Nothing wrong with this. It's legal, and if your goal is to win the match, you look for ways to shave time, because at the top end, everybody will be doing it. You want to win the Mr. Olympia? You better be stacking steroids. 

The martial artists don't win the open matches. There are divisions configured for stock pistols or revolvers, but those shooters don't win the open matches, either. You don't beat a fuel dragster in the quarter with your stock Camry. Unless the dragster blows his engine ...

The marital artists sneer at the gamers. They are there to learn how to use their street hardware effectively, and while there aren't any rules about where you have to stand and how often you have to reload on the street, chances are, they say, you won't be carrying a high-cap racegun in a holster that is essentially a dowel rod shoved up the gun's barrel, along with nine magazines on your belt.

True. Two different games. Not to say you can't learn both, but it's hard to make one tool work for both.

Anyway, next week the Top Shot guys get to play with a Gatling Gun. I'm looking forward to that one. 

Oh, and two points for the first person to identify the shooter in the picture. If anybody gets it, it'll be an old fart, I bet ...

The Germans are Coming

So, Adidas, the Avis of the athletic shoe world, has jumped into the minimal-shoe race. Their newest footwear, the Adipure Trainer, is due out in November, ninety bucks a pop, and while they are being touted as runners, Gizmodo says they are targeted for the gym more than the track, more like cross-trainers.

I think they are every bit as attractive as Vibram fives myself, but I'm guessing the barefoot crowd can't wait to grab 'em.

I won't go through the whole discussion again. The folks who like these kinds of things will probably like the new offering from Adidas. They reportedly have a bit more sole than Vibrams, foam-cell cushioning, but still not anything close to traditional arch-support and fat-heeled athletic shoes.

Fans say these are like ebooks–they aren't nearly as popular as paper, but coming on. Athletic shoe biz in the U.S. alone pushes 22 billion dollars a year, and the minimalist footgear is a little over $750 million, that's what? between three and four percent?

I think ebooks will probably get a lot more of the book market than rubber slippers will get the running shoe market, but I've been wrong before. 

Frankly, I think they'll do better as gym shoes for several reasons. First, iron pumping, riding a stationary bike, using a treadmill or stair-climber are all much lower impact activities than running on the sidewalk. When I had my home gym, I usually worked out barefoot and never had problems.

Second, if you are the kind of guy who can drop a nice monthly chunk  on your gym membership, chances are you will wear spiffy and spendy clothes, and the foot gloves would go with three-hundred-buck coördinated Physique gym outfits and Big Dog muscle shirts.

Third, if you go to the gym to pick up women as much as you do to work out, anything that's a good conversation starter is an asset. As long as the conversation doesn't start with "Wow, those are the stupidest-looking shoes I have ever seen!"

I can see places where minimal footwear would be useful. Couple weeks back, whilst jumping hither and yon in the sandpit at my silat teacher's, I managed to raise a blister on the ball of my right foot. That's because I prefer dancing shoeless in the sand. Great, as long as you are sinking ankle-deep in the stuff after a fifteen-foot step-and-hop; not so great if you repeatedly hit a patch where the sand has thinned to a dusting with packed earth under it. Like jumping barefoot onto a big sheet of sandpaper. Bad idea.

But the It's-natural-to-run-barefoot business still doesn't work for me, and since I'm not apt to be running anyway, doesn't really matter anyhow.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


When I was spry and more gymnastic, I rode motorcycles and scooters. Not any more–it was always dangerous, and my reflexes aren't what they were. I had three different bikes, from small Harleys to a Yamaha, and a couple of Italian scooters, a Lambretta and a Vespa. If the bikes were dangerous, the scooters were death-machines–all the weight, such that it was, was behind you, and that makes for some end-to-end swapping and bad balance if you get into trouble. A convertible automobile is much safer. And you don't have to wear a helmet.

When I was thirteen, I lusted after a moped. A buddy of mine got one, and I had a chance to ride it and at that age, a motor-powered bike was the cat's pajamas. 

A moped looks like a girl's bicycle on steroids. The engine was maybe 50cc displacement, and top speed might have approached thirty-five mph, downhill with a tailwind. It ran an air-cooled two-cycle engine, which meant you had to add outboard motor oil to the gasoline, and my recollection was it got about a hundred miles per gallon. Tended to spew a bit of blue smoke, and had a sound like a crazed sewing machine: whingg dah ding-ding-ding ...

How it worked was, you turned on the ignition and instead of a kick-starter, you used what looked like bicycle pedals to crank the engine. These pedals could be used if you were climbing hills and the engine was laboring, to help it along, and in theory, you could pedal it with the engine off, like a bicycle.

And, oh, I wanted one. You didn't need a driver's license back then to operate such vehicles, no helmet, and the idea of driving a moped to junior high school instead of my English racer three-speed bicycle or the school bus was way cool.

I was willing to mow lawns and shine shoes and save the money, which back in the day was a grand $179.95 for an Allstate Moped from Sears (made by Puch, in Austria) but my parents weren't having any of it. I hated that then, though when I had children, I understood. More than likely, I would have killed myself, or at least gotten some really nasty road tattoos. 

Mopeds are making a comeback. They've always been around in big European and Asian cities; they are still cheap, and a hundred miles a gallon makes a smaller dent in one's wallet. 
You can't take them onto a freeway legally (most of the small scooters don't make it to five horsepower, either, which used to be the cut-off), but if you are doing city or small town driving, it will get you there.

I won't be getting one, but now and then I see one and smile at the memory of wanting one.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Still Crazy After All These Years

Um. Not really anything I can say about this, other than writers sometimes get these, ah, crazy, wild notions and if we don't run with them, we get even crazier. 

Lord knows where this came from. Rated PG-13 for suggestive lyrics ...

Oh, and in case you want to try it at home:

Johnny Wadd is Dead 

   C                                            F
1. They say size makes a difference, yeah, everybody knows 
it’s true/
    G                                                  C
But Johnny Wadd is dead now, and the next one might be you/
C                          F
Girls and boys and orgies, Johnny didn’t care/
He put it here and yonder, he put it everywhere/

C                       F
Johnny had a monster, a truly fearsome tool/
    G                                               C
But in the end it killed him -- it played him for a fool.

2. Johnny was in porno, his pecker a foot and some/
But he stuck it in the wrong guy and that was mighty dumb/
The virus came and got him, yeah, the virus took him down/
Now Johnny Wadd lies sleeping, deep underneath the ground.


3. He never used a condom, no, he didn’t worry none/
But when the virus claimed him, his life it came undone/
And the moral of this story, the moral of this song/
Always use a rubber no matter how big your schlong.

(Chorus - repeat, acappela ...)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Past is Another Country

Jack Gaughan Illustration for "Small Talent," Asimov's, May, 1979

In 1979, I sold a story to Asimov's, "Small Talent," which was illustrated by famed science fiction and fantasy artist Jack Gaughan (1930-1985). In the story (and the image) the human is a lawyer, the alien, his client, and they are in court, plaintiffs in a big civil suit. It was a funny, biter-bitten story, with a tomato-surprise ending. 

I wrote to Gaughan and asked him if he would be willing to sell me the illustration. I didn't know at the time that he'd been nominated for the Hugo Award out the wazoo, and that he had won it thrice. I'd been looking at his cover art for years without knowing he'd done it. 

He was gracious enough to sell me the illo for, I recall, all of fifty bucks. Mixed media–ink and I think Cray-Pas on scratchboard, maybe, and for years, I had it hanging on my office wall.

Gaughan and I struck up a correspondence–this was back in the days of snailmail–and kept it going until he passed away. I never knew he was ill. One day, I got a letter from his wife telling me he had died. Whoa. 

Part of what we did in our back-and-forth was to add cartoons to our envelopes. Somewhere in my house, I have maybe a dozen envelopes with his drawings on them, funny, well-done, and I have no idea where they went.

For some reason today, I felt the need to find those drawings. So I started digging through my correspondence from about 1980 until 1985.

I didn't find them. A chore for another day. 

But boy, did I have a fine time looking at copies of letters I sent and received during that time. Man, was I ever an obnoxious, snappy-patter know-it-all thirty years ago.

Nice to know how some things stay the same ...

Of course, most of the people with whom I was corresponding back then seemed to be be big on snappy patter, too, other writers, artists, editors. 

Maybe it was the times ...

Rockets and Rayguns

The contracts for the current project, a three-book series called Cutter's Wars, are signed on my end and on the way back to New York City. Publisher still has to sign, but failing a major meltdown on Wall Street, probably that will happen in the next couple of weeks. 

First book manuscript is due early in 2012. Nobody's mentioned publication dates, and they won't for a while, but I'd guess late in 2012 or early in 2013 for the first one, working title of which is The Ramal Extraction.

As always in such negotiations, terms get poked and prodded, and a deal that doesn't completely please anybody is struck. 

One of the boilerplate provisions currently in vogue and hard to get rid of involves a ban on publishing excerpts from the novel-in-progress without the consent of the publisher. 

Until the information age blossomed with computers, phones, tablets, and other gimcrackery, this wasn't a problem; however, now that there are blogs and tweets and Facebook and all, the only thing necessary is for an author to upload a file and touch a button and stuff is out there. 

Adjustments have been made to book contracts to deal with this.

Basically, a publisher doesn't want anybody stealing their thunder; having a story about the characters show up in a competing market might cost sales, so they want to head that off. Can't blame them for that, though sometimes the wording gets exceedingly convoluted and tricky. If you aren't careful, you might find yourself owing somebody a pound of flesh and your firstborn ...

More than likely, as the publication date nears, a sneak peek, either in the back of somebody else's book, or on a writer's blog, will be allowed, since it will help generate sales. But until then, I won't be sticking chapters up here for public consumption. I can talk about it all I want, I just can't post actual extracts.

Book contracts on their best days are arcane, some of what they want is downright immoral, and you need an I.P. lawyer to go over the paperwork with a magnifying glass to spot all the traps and snares therein. I've been doing this for a while, as have my agents–we have a person who does all the contracts at the agency–but even so, it's a rat's nest, so if you get a sale and a contract, keep that in mind. Some of what is there you can't change. Some of it you can, and it would be a good idea to know which is which. Regular attorneys aren't a good idea because they don't really know the market. You want an intellectual property specialist, and preferably one who has dealt in such matters.

(This doesn't matter in work-for-hire in somebody else's universe. You don't own any of those rights, you get paid, either a flat-fee or an advance with a tiny royalty, and that's that.)

So, off to work. Got about ten thousand words done on the initial book, some fun stuff, and I'll keep you posted as to how it is going. 

And on the Matador front, Dan and Amy have moved quickly to get those books moving. The mss are cleaned up, the artist has given us cover concepts that we have fined down, heading for a final selection, and while I don't want to start a ticking clock by naming a pub date, I'm guessing it will be pretty soon. 

All of the Matador backlist will be available as ebooks from FSAnd–and exclusively so until you hear otherwise. 

Addendum: Oh, yeah, Dan has prodded me into writing an introduction to the electronic editions. It's not huge, and I didn't do an individual one for each book; however, I did touch on what sparked the original trilogy, and then how I came back to the series and added stuff. Might add a bit for hardcore fans who find such stuff interesting.

Stay tuned ...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fantasy Writing

People sometimes ask me how I come up with my crazy ideas for science fiction and fantasy stories, and while there are a bunch of funny and silly answers writers have worked up over the years to address that, the truth is that ... what passes for the truth is way stranger than fiction.

Case in point:

A Portland woman, Dawn Davenport Johnson, who just got out of prison after nearly two years, for assaulting a couple of homeless men with a knife, is suing the city for excessive force during her arrest. You can read the full story here, and you should, lest you think I'm making any of this up. 

The gist:

According to the Portland police, they were summoned on a call whereupon they found Dawn, an exotic dancer down on her luck, naked save for one boot, waving a knife, and in hysteria. They told her to put it down.

Not the best neighborhood, there was a homeless camp, and therein, a couple of cut homeless guys were bleeding.

The LEOs chased her, cornered her near a kiddie pool, and brought out the tasers and bean bag guns when she wouldn't drop the knife. Zapped a couple of times, put a bean round into her, and it still took the police and a team of firefighters to subdue her. They say she was doped to the gills.

She was charged, copped a plea to Assault in the 2nd and Attemped Assault 1st, and went off to the graybar hotel.

But: According to her lawyer, what happened was, Dawn was sprayed with bear Mace by her then-boyfriend, and all she was trying to do was get the stuff off her. She stripped and ran for the kiddie pool. (Earlier reports said that it wasn't her boyfriend, but a homeless man who maced her.)
And how did the homeless guys get cut? Well, apparently, she didn't see the tent they were in, accidentally ran into it and "inadvertently" cut the two. According to her lawyer.


The woman was nekkid, save for one boot, but she had a knife? One wonders: Why did she she have a knife? You aren't supposed to run with scissors, much less a knife. And I bet trying to wipe Mace off yourself with a knife in one hand is really tricky. And how does one accidentally cut two men? It seems, I dunno, a really freakish accident, doesn't it?

Or there there is that other word, bespeaking male bovine feces that might apply.

Her version, and according to it, as soon as the police told her to drop the knife, she did, but they zapped, shot, and beat on her anyway. 

Yeah, I don't think if I was the city's attorney, I'd be too worried about this one. At the end of the article, there is this line:

"Today she (Johnson) was taken from the women's prison in Wilsonville to the Justice Center Jail in Portland to serve time on an unrelated charge."

Doesn't say what the charge is, but if it involved drug use, I confess that I wouldn't be all that surprised. 

Summer Arrives ...

Summer Arrives

96º F. here in beautiful Beaverton today for a high, down to 94º at six p.m. So we got summer, finally, and in Portland, they got a record high by a degree.

Feels kinda nice, actually. Of course, it's only supposed to drop to the mid-seventies tonight, so that might make sleeping a tad warm. Barbecue chicken and fruit salad for dinner, I think. Lemon juice, soy sauce, maple syrup and Tabasco for the chicken, and just lemon juice for the salad ...

Dark Star

I caught the end of a discussion on the late writer Philip K. Dick on a site I visit, and I thought I'd poke around a little ...

If you are science fiction reader, you know Dick's writing. If you aren't, but are a movie-goer, then you probably know him from pictures that have been adapted from his work: Blade Runner*, Total Recall, Screamers, Minority Report and Paycheck.

Dick, whose output of SF novels was prodigious–mostly fueled by amphetamines–died in 1982. In a Rolling Stone interview, Dick once claimed that the first book he wrote when he wasn't on speed was A Scanner Darkly, published in 1977, which means that forty-some odd novels–some of them very odd, and some of those manuscripts lost and hitherto undiscovered–were cranked out while under the influence over the course of twenty-five or so years. This would include the Hugo-winning, The Man in the High Castle. He was fast, routinely writing three or four books a year, and one report I remember reading years ago said he once wrote four books in one summer.

Dick admitted to experimenting with other drugs, and Harlan Ellison once made the comment that a story Dick had written for one of the the Dangerous Visions anthologies was done on LSD resulted in a public feud that ended their friendship. Harlan's comment was probably not meant to be literal–writing anything under the direct influence of acid during a trip would be a notable accomplishment. Dick said that he tried once, and what resulted was a page of Latin with some Sanskrit thrown in ...

However, Dick apparently did more than dabble with acid. According to an article by Philip Purser-Hallard in The Guardian, published when the movie version of A Scanner Darkly came out:

"In 1960s California it was inevitable that a writer like Dick would become a counterculture guru, expected - practically obliged, in fact - to flaunt a drug-rich lifestyle of his own, and he rose enthusiastically to that challenge. His writing had always been fuelled by vast quantities of amphetamines, but he soon branched out into marijuana, mescaline, LSD, sodium pentothal and even PCP. After the breakup of his fourth marriage in 1970, Dick's home became open house to the eclectic collection of speed-freaks, dope-heads, junkies and dealers on whom the characters in A Scanner Darkly are based."

Purser-Hallard's article allowed as how the drugs worked in Dick's case, driving his stories, albeit they hastened his demise, rotting his liver and pancreas.

In March of 1977, Dick had a religious experience triggered by a delivery woman's necklace that he apparently spent the rest of his life trying to sort out–all of his subsequent work was  connected to this, and it seemed to have tipped him over the edge. 


"The apparently mundane arrival of a delivery woman whose necklace bore a Christian fish symbol had triggered a cascade of bizarre impressions. He thought his unplugged radio was insulting him, his cat was trying to tell him something of vital significance, and that the KGB were sending him post-hypnotic triggers in the mail.

"Taking a truly enormous dose of vitamin C to help him cope, Dick believed that pink laser beams from space were firing information into his brain, beginning with thousands of paintings flashing past his eyes - works by Klee, Kandinsky and Picasso, but far more than any of them could have painted in a lifetime."

In 1982, he had two major strokes and died. He was fifty-three.

* The Dick story upon which the movie Blade Runner was based on "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" Alan Nourse, (pronounced closer to "nurse,") had written a novel, The Bladerunner, published in 1974, which had nothing to do with Dick's story, but whose rights to use the title were bought by Ridley Scott. Scott also bought the rights to the title of an unproduced script by, of all people, William S. Burroughs, which also used Nourse's title, just to be on the safe side.

What I've always found amusing is that Alan Nourse (1928-1992) was a physician as well as a writer. So when he was addressed at the clinic, it would have sounded a lot like "Doctor Nurse ..."