Monday, December 19, 2011

Jobs for Kids

My five-year-old Max doesn’t want to wash off his autograph from Buffalo Sabre Tyler Ennis. “What? You want to be a piece of memorabilia all your life?” I say. To which he answers yes. It’s not a bad line of work, really. I’m just not sure of growth potential.

All of which got me thinking about Newt Gingrich and his wish to have poor kids work an janitors in public schools in order to fashion a work ethic, while earning money. I’m assuming Newt grew up on London in the mid-1800s. I would have guessed as much from the Dickensian first name. While I applaud efforts to teach our children about the world, I’d like to get more value out of them. My kids are not, by nature, cleaners. Of anything. If you want to get some work out of them, we should play to their strengths. There are some jobs my kids could perform.

iPhone coach. To earn a little money after school, kids should hold seminars for people over 40 who use their iPhones for making calls. I’ve seen kids make backing tracks using voice memo, place reminders by location and Facetime homework assistance. They use technology in ways older people don’t immediately grasp.

Negotiator. If you’ve ever seen my two-year-old niece have ice cream for dinner, you know what I mean. I may never sit down with my publisher again. I’m going to send her. “More” “Now” You think the teacher’s union is powerful, wait ‘till they start employing their little guns.

Racketeer. You can try to organize children into a work force, but organizations, like guns and fire, can lean a lot of ways. Informing your local 711 that you can keep a roving band of six-year-olds out of their store for a small monthly fee could prove to be a lot more lucrative than sweeping floors.

Friday, December 2, 2011

It takes a hack

‘To Catch a Thief’ was on the other night and it occurred to me that I should be more like Carry Grant for all kinds of reasons. Stealing jewels isn’t my thing – due to high coffee consumption my hands are only steady when I sleep (and even then only in delta stage) – and I tend to hum when I’m nervous, which has got to be all the time if you’re a criminal, so the whole stealth thing is out. What I can do is write things, twisting words to my will. So, a la The Cat, in the spirit of “it takes one to know one” I’m going to start calling out other people who abuse language.

Today, it’s the pollster Frank Luntz. Frank is on my watch list for turning the estate tax into the “death tax.” The kind of cleverness one might expect from Lex Luthor or Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Frank spoke at the Republican governors’ conference on the last day of November, and showed off some new verbal judo moves.

According to Frank, raising taxes on the rich should be called “taking money from hard-working Americans.” The spirit of the phrase is disingenuous, but he means it. Franks feels that Warren Buffet and crab fishermen should be lumped together. (They’re not taxed the same now, but that’s a different diatribe.) The real problem is technical. Taxes don’t take money from you. They are imposed on a transaction yet to take place. They are a cost to doing business. If you made $22 million like the hard working Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz did last year no one is going to take it away from you. Taxes are on thing to come.

My other favorite quote from Franks’ speech is this:
“You should occupy the White House because it’s the policies over the past few years that have created this problem.”

He’s actually telling you he’s performing a trick. He’s taking your eyes from one focus to another, like a stage magician. Except, you expect illusions if you you’re watching an illusionist. The fact that the White House has been ineffectual in getting any of its economic policies passed in the last two years doesn’t matter. The real leaders of the economy are not in the White House, they’re not even in Washington, and Frank’s slight-of-word wants to keep from seeing them.

And that’s the saddest part of Frank’s misdirection to Republican governors. Legerdemain works. If you don’t believe me, watch ‘To Catch a Thief.’ Carry Grant’s character could sell derivatives to Occupy Wall Street. But, don’t forget, he was burglar.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I sold 429 copies of Cinco de Mayo last year. It's great, in a way, because I think I personally met everyone who purchased a copy. There's no way Dan Brown can make that claim, eh? E-books account for just 21 Cincos sold. Not the digital revolution I've been hearing about. Perhaps I don't attract early-adopters, which is a difficult position for a new author.

A cheery person by nature, there really isn't a great way to spin 429 unless . . . unless it's the size of the engine you're dropping into your '69 Mustang. Now that's a different story. The story I should've written. Hitting the open road, burning a gallon of dead dinosaurs every 8 miles, to make thunder and speed. The roar of a 429, not the whimper. If only I could adjust my vocation to meet my numbers. Ha. Then I'd go for batting average. Even better.

Monday, October 24, 2011


I bought an unusual car. Not Jowett Jupiter unusual, but a Saab in an odd shade of gray. A friend of mine bought the same car at the same time and now parks next to me daily. Originality is not a constant.

A seemingly simple concept, originality. Be new, be different. One might think writers would be rewarded for being such. And one would be wrong. Originality, like ouzo and Oxycodone, works best in moderation.

Editors, movie producers and a good portion of the public want something new. Not everything new. They want evolution, variations on a theme. Too new is frequently too much. Titrating the amount of originality that goes into a piece of fiction is tricky and, I think, an overlooked key to wide success. Novels in particular must avoid cliché and boredom while remaining accessible to humans in the 21st century.

Originality is also as relative as time or motion or most other things besides the speed of light. A work's degree of originality depends on your experience. I tell my five-year-old knock-knock jokes all the time. He thinks they’re great. Because, obviously, he hasn’t heard then a zillion times before. There’s a lot of popular literature that falls into the same dynamic. At any given time, everything up on the big screens is trite to movie-goer over the age of 25.

If you go too far – bend time, twist language, use characters that are completely alien – and you can lose your readers. They need access into a work of fiction. The farther you stray from the norm, the fewer people you take with you.

There are also readers-viewers-aficionados who appreciate the effort. They'll come along for the ride. Eventually, no matter how unusual your car, another just like it will pull up next to you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fantasy Fantasy League 2011

The term Fantasy League almost always means contests surrounding baseball, football or some other sphere-based game. While I don’t disagree that there is a huge fantasy content in professional sports (Psst, none of the Bills are really from Buffalo) I’m outraged that the fantasy community has left the field unchallenged. So, now in its second year, I throw down my own, tiny gauntlet. The Fantasy Fantasy League.

Fill in the ballot bellow. Make your picks before midnight Oct. 29. If you figure them all correctly - based on the winners, as decided Oct. 30 at the World Fantasy Award Banquet - I'll send you a signed copy of my novel Cinco de Mayo AND a vintage signed copy of The Misspellers. Ties will be settled by . . . song. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. (If it doesn’t work, I'll randomize.)

Enter once and now.
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Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Way of the Writer

In feudal Japan, samurais were taught how to write poetry along with how to slice people in two and put an arrow through a neck. I’ve spent most of my adult life trying (and trying and trying) to hone my writing skills. I can’t help wondering if I shouldn’t have tried to pick up a little kendo on the side. Maybe it works both ways. Writing makes you a better warrior, warring makes you a better writer. I certainly think the way of the samurai might make a writer more mercenary. That could be helpful.

Ending my year-long book tour in Erie, Pennsylvania (the perfect choice. Everyone should finish his or her tour of anything in Erie. The place embodies the concept of ending.) I had the honor of sitting with acclaimed artist Charles Urbach and his wife for several hours at ErieCon. We ate pizza and drank Bawls energy drink (proud and appropriate sponsor) and couldn’t help but chat. We ripped through a number of interesting topics. Charles has had a splendid career doing illustrations for games like Magic, The Gathering and Star Wards Galaxies. He’s insightful, talented and making a living. That last part proved the most interesting to me.

Charles asked me how much the market directed my writing. In his business, artists are frequently asked to create something along the lines of someone else. In a particular style or with a certain feel. It is not art for art’s sake. It’s for a card or a box or a poster printed to lure buyers. It’s still art, though. He couldn’t really do it otherwise. He needs to find an angle of approach in each piece he’s asked to do, that intrigues him as an artist.

I, and I think a lot of writers, work the opposite way. I write what comes to me and hope I can find an audience for it. More or less. I’m not totally ignorant of market forces. I’m not enthralled by them, either. Nor can I make a living writing fiction, like Charles can. We all trade in frustration. Artists deal with clients who want the last big thing. Writers face audiences who fear new writers like the dark. Accountants face rules. Astronauts face gravity. Doctors face insurance companies. Insurance companies do whatever they want, they’re the exception.

Whether we’re dealing out frustration or sucking it up, our capacities determine our successes. I can’t help thinking, if I’d learned to attack, retreat, parry, thrust, riposte, I might have gained a little more control along the way. Control beats frustration. (Life beats control and frustration beats life, just so you know all the rules.)

And the bonus of bushido: You get to kick ass. Writers don’t get much of that from under the laptop.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Diving in

While it’s always fun lounging around other writers – it is such an insular vocation most of the time - hanging out with Carol Weakland at Eriecon last weekend was extra fun. Carol is actor, currently running a series of one-woman shows. Most are based a classics, like a Turn of the Screw. One is based on her new novel. In fact, Morgen of Avalon started out as a single-actor piece set in Arthurian Britannia. The novel was thus forged in live audience. That’s different.

Every writer, swimming through his or her own personal pool of darkness, gasps for feedback as if it were air. Carol claims the audiences did not have a huge influence on the course of the novel, but I can’t help thinking, that even subconsciously, a set of smiles and applause helps shape the text a little. I’m fascinated by the idea, regardless.

Carol spends a lot of time in front of crowds. She writes in and around her performances and appearances. She plunges into her audience. It doesn’t sound easy, but I’d love to take a dip.

Friday, August 26, 2011

On the Set

I got to lurk around the set of King’s Faith – a feature length motion picture being shot in and around Rochester, NY - for a day, watching Director Nick DiBella and his crew work. Accent on work. These people moved like a hurricane was in the forecast. Which, in a way, it was. Outdoor scenes were scheduled while hurricane Irene built up steam in the Atlantic. Rain isn’t even the primary problem. Mottled cloud cover can be just as debilitating, throwing down ever-changing shadows. Consistency, I learned, is key.

This is something every writer knows. Consistency in your chosen grammar, tone, characterization, whatever rules you’ve given your world, basic logic – it’s all critical to a clean reading experience. You never want the audience to see your seams.

Unlike the author, the director can’t easily go back and fix things. Do-overs are not just costly, in many cases they’re quite impossible. Every moment, no mater how much control you have, is unique.

I wonder if directors learn to cherish moments and lead happier, more efficient lives? Are they more fulfilled than writers? Or jealous of the chance to go back and fix things right.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Wrong Perry

I wish the other Perry was running for President. Not Rick Perry - a 00s reboot with attitude – no, I mean Steve Perry, the former lead singer of Journey. I don’t know anything about his political views. I’m quite sure it doesn’t matter. George Bush the younger ran as a compassionate conservative and proved real light on the first half of that phrase. Barack Obama allowed the impression of his practical progressivism to linger through election day and no longer. So, in politics, you don’t get what you pay for. Making any prior knowledge of Steve Perry’s leanings irrelevant.

Here’s what we do know about Steve. He won’t stop believing. I can get behind that. He’s also got open arms and claims to do things faithfully. Both are big pluses in my book.

Steve Perry is a celebrity. Already. He’s not trying to become a celebrity, with bus tours and reality shows and crazy statements about how his state should secede or how Jimmy Carter is to blame for the swine flu. Rolling Stone named him the 76th greatest singer of all time.

Which is another plus in Steve’s column. He’s a true entertainer. They tend to be much more honest. Entertainers want to entertain you. That’s their nature. There’s no hidden agenda or behind closed doors cigar smoking. There’s applause or no applause. Regan understood this.

Steve Perry’s got nothing to do but try to be a decent president. If I could have it any way I want it, I’d go separate ways from the current line up and follow my foolish heart. Steve Perry in ’12.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Every one should have to sit on the other side of their desk once in a while. Whatever desk you happen to have. I’m working on an advertising campaign and this week participated in the casting call for the central talent. It’s not exactly playing editor for a day, but in some ways maybe a little worse. Watching people try out, smiling laughing, frowning – basically doing anything you ask them to do, and then deciding, nope, next, within seconds, is surreal. Nearly any one of the people we viewed could’ve done the job. Deciding exactly who plays the part best becomes a matter of slicing things really, really thin.

Of course, in the end, it’s all about me. How often do my stories end up tossed immediately? How often to they end up on the floor with the other split hairs? All the people I’m about to cast out into the dark will be left wondering, too. Just like I spend most of my time. I wish I could say I felt a surge of compassion, but this is the way things go. Rejection comes in silence.

You only ever get the details of success.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I don't usually like writing tips, but . . .

I like this little piece. It validated a lot of things I already thought, but had never heard from anyone else. Like "Don't be boring." Of course, I don't agree with everything on the list. I never agree with everything, not even my own stuff two hours after I've authored it. "Get a routine and stick with it." Really? People can do that? When it comes to writing I'm more of a lion, waiting for the right wildebeest to stroll by. When the opportunity comes up, I take it. I can only dream of a proper schedule.

In fact, I do sometimes. While other people yearn for vacations in the Greek Isles, I long for days in a big chair with my laptop and endless cups of coffee. We all need our dreams.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The future of 2001

The year came and went without much deep space travel, computers going mad or giant monoliths. We did get the Segway – something science fiction writers didn’t quite expect. (Too much focus on jet packs.) The two-wheeled gyro scooter is actually much closer to vehicles Dr. Seuss envisioned.

I finally got to ride one. Indoors. I didn’t kill myself because the thing is too damn easy to use. You can’t show off skill, like on a skateboard. They don’t have the history and sport of the bicycle. For six large, you can pick up a used Miata and share the fun.

Segways will never be as cool as they are fun. The dorky position, the handle – does a surfboard have a handle? – and the battery life will keep it as far from the hip crowd as a hip replacement. The technology is amazing and Segways have all kinds of interesting, practical uses.

But they’re still great examples of a future that just doesn’t fit. Rolling alongside manned space flights to the edge of the solar system, and huge slabs of humming stone.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fun to frustration ratio

I gave up playing golf 15 years ago. I can blame the house, kids, costs but the real reason was – and is – skill level. There are kangaroos hitting the ball farther and straighter than I ever could. There comes a point at which the frustration outweighs the fun. It’s no longer worth it. You’re faced with a choice – go all in (lessons, play three times a week, video tape yourself, read the magazines, buy new clubs) or get out (everything else in life). Hanging up the putter was easy. It would allow me to write more, while still staying in touch with my family.

So, when a rejection letter comes in from some Podunk anthology for a story I tossed them out of the goodness of my heart, because I feel like slumming sometimes, and because other times, if you’re as sweet as I am on the inside, you need to show it outside. You toss a nice piece of writing to little publications that can use it.

Not to have it tossed back like I’m some kind of towel boy at the club. What’s that? I have half a mind to go back to playing golf, where my fate becomes my own. Paring a hole is not subject to someone else’s whims. It’s just me. And the wind. And the greenskeeper’s got to do his job, right?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What was she thinking?

I don’t want churn national news, but when it comes to the Casey Anthony verdict, I can’t help thinking, a little bit, about “Cinco de Mayo” – the novel, not the holiday. For those who aren’t familiar with the premise, go get a copy and read it. No, seriously, it’s a good book. It starts like this: Everyone around the world suddenly shares complete memories with someone else. Names, languages, first kisses and what you had for dinner the previous night. Everyone gets an “Other”, an ultimate pen pal.

And I really wish Casey Anthony had an Other, like in the book. I can’t stand the vagaries of her story. It’s incomplete and I’m fearing it will remain that way, along side Jon Benét Ramsey’s tale, for ever. Were this a novel, it couldn’t be published. Too infuriating. It wouldn’t even make a good cautionary episode of “Law and Order”. People like stories. That’s why everyone made up his or her own as the trial proceeded. And why everyone’s so frustrated now. The story didn’t work.

It’s too bad we don’t have an Other – or an author – to provide more insight, to sew this all up into a package. Not a nice one - that was never going to happen – but at least something tight. Something done. Sometimes, sadly, fiction is better than real life.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


I got a great e-mail yesterday from Dave in Alberta, telling me how much he liked Cinco de Mayo. Just a nice note, out of the blue, to compliment the work. It’s so incredibly rewarding to receive compliments without any strings attached. They’re pure. He liked the book, wanted me to know, end of story. It made me feel great.

Then I felt bad. I never send authors notes about how much I like their stuff. I know how they salve away in the dark, wondering if that last line worked. Too much, too little? Is this making any kind of connection at all? I know what it’s like to wander through a manuscript, a maze you created, and still don’t fully comprehend, unsure of any more, knowing you can’t stand still. When somebody, who wants nothing else from you, says they liked it, the whole struggle is suddenly worth it. It’s a prize. Most times, praise is the only prize. I should be handing out more.

It’s not hard to do, either. Authors have Web site, blogs, Twitter accounts. As of today, I’m going to start sending compliments to writers I’ve enjoyed. Knocking on a door to give someone something. Unsoliciting. I’m starting with Time O’Brian, whose “The Things They Carried” is remarkable. He shouldn’t be too hard to find.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Robert Kroetsch

Author and poet Robert Kroetsch died in a car crash yesterday. I had the double honor of meeting him in Red Deer last month and having my book sit along side his in the same contest. The local library - and the mayor and his wife - held a dinner for the writers and I got to sit next to him. Funny, engaging, charming - I had a ball. He taught English at Binghamton for a spell, but his heart and his kindliness were rooted in Western Canada. Born in 1927, he was an Officer of the Order of Canada, authored nine novels and 13 poetry collections.

And his poetry captured the spirit of his up-bringing and let slip all the wisdom he wanted. I will remember him quite fondly for that.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Vanishing Point

I got one of those wonderfully frustrating rejections today. The story made it to a second round, then got kicked, with a very apologetic note. The editor “had questions” and didn’t care for the ending. She said she loved the premise, the writing and would like to see more.

Which always leaves me wondering: Did she just not care for the ending – the way I simply don’t care for cottage cheese or Ralph Fiennes – or was the ending wrong. I don’t like the endings ‘Of Mice and Men’ or ‘Crime and Punishment’. Doesn’t matter. They ended they way they must.

There is probably a point at which an editor trusts that the writer’s right, whether from the power of the writer’s voice or stature. (There’s a point beyond this where the editor trusts too much. Different problem, different day.) I’m certainly not at that point. In fact, I can’t see it at all. But I’ll keep looking.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Wide Right

I didn’t win the Alberta Reader’s Choice Award. Helen Waldstein Wilkes’ Holocaust memoir Letters from the Lost has been picked as the book everyone in Alberta should read. I want to thank all those who voted. Especially those who voted, and voted again. It was a valiant – or obsessive compulsive – effort.

Cinco de Mayo always had the long odds. Not just because I’m American and not writing about a cause, but because more people read non-fiction than fiction. I have no idea why. Good fiction frequently represents the truth much more clearly.

It was exciting to be nominated. I loved hearing all sorts of nice things about the novel. The people who enjoyed the book despite not usually liking this kind of fiction, or even fiction at all, made me smile. I never expected to win, though I always held hope. The fiction between the two was not pleasant. It wasn’t ‘nice’ being nominated. It was rewarding and challenging, but never nice, like volunteers at a bloodbank or cupcakes.

Not that I wouldn’t do it all again. Nope, I would. Only better next time.

Monday, June 6, 2011


The Horizons anthology just came out. I mean just, it's not even at Amazon yet. But I'm excited because I've got not one but two stories in it. "World Without Boats" and "Elements of a Champion" both of which I like because they're fun and odd and the kind of story you don't see a whole Hell of a lot in the monthly print magazines anymore, with all their brooding and blood. I was quite happy when these two were accpeted not just because I wrote them and I always want my stories to find a home, but because it was so nice to discover that some editors somewhere still appreciate stories with a little quirk

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

That's it

Today is the last day to vote for Cinco de Mayo in the Alberta Readers' Choice Award. It'll be over and won't that be nice. It's tough to devote a month to voting for one novel. I mean, Black History or Fire Safety, sure. They can sustain a whole month. Me, reminding people to vote? It's been fun, but I'm ready to obsess about something else now.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Two Days Left

After tomorrow I won't bother any of you with this again. The voting ends with the month. So, honor our veterans, eat a hotdog and vote for Cinco de Mayo.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Please vote

Only three days left and what I learned in Red Deer is the competition is fierce and worthy. Each of the other books is real, and good and from a heart. Each deserves to win for it's own particular reason. Cinco de Mayo does, too. So, if you can manage, please cast a vote. Often.

If you're feeling weird about it and haven't gotten around to reading the tale, try a sample here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Live from Red Deer

Tomorrow night is the Alberta Readers` Choice Awards big event. May 26, 9:00pm (Eastern) 7:00pm local. They are broadcasting it live. Click here if you want to watch me, and my champion, apologize for Cinco de Mayo. Not like were sorry for it or anything, you know, the other, older definition, where you explain why something`s right or solid or deserving.

And even if you don`t want to watch - and I can`t imagine why as American Idol is over - at least vote.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Rapture Happened

I think Harold Camping was dead on right in his calculations. Don’t believe the lame-stream media. The Rapture happened yesterday. Jesus returned, took a look around, and didn’t find anyone worth assuming up into Heaven. Perhaps there were a few here and there, just not enough for us to notice. No legions of people gathered into the clouds. Most of us have been weighed down with sin, hypocrisy and, in my case, materialism, as I really want to win that Alberta Readers’ Choice award. So go vote. I think I may have given up paradise for a chance at the honor.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Janet Lane in sync with Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo's champion for the Alberta Readers' Choice Award talks about how the novel won her over. And how you can help Cinco de Mayo win. Vote. Again. As many times as you can stand it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Vote. Often.

I need your vote, everyday if possible. Cinco de Mayo is one of five finalists for the Alberta Reader's choice Award. It's kind of like American Idol for writers or publishers based in Alberta. Librarians chose the initial field. Five 'champions' chose the final field. Now voting opens to the world.

And I really need your vote. If you haven't read the book and feel funny about voting for it, trust me, it's the best. I read a lot of books, so I know these things.

It’s Chicago rules: Vote Early, Vote Often.

Ask me questions

I'm the online guest at Bitten by Books, May 4 and 5. Stop by and ask me questions. Deep questions, personal questions, questions most normal people would find disconcerting. It'll be more fun than The King's Speech, now in 3D!

And please,
vote every day

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I need your vote

Cinco de Mayo is one of five finalists for the Alberta Reader's choice Award. It's kind of like American Idol for writers or publishers based in Alberta. Librarians chose the initial field. Five 'champions' chose the final field. Now voting opens to the world.

And I really need your vote. If you haven't read the book and feel funny about voting for it, trust me, it's the best. I read a lot of books, so I know these things.

It’s Chicago rules:
Vote Early, Vote Often

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

At Erie Con

This weekend (4/29 - 5/1) I'll be attending Erie Con, in Niagara Falls, NY. While not technically in Erie County or on Lake Erie, I imagine it will, like most cons, at least be Erie, with an extra 'e'. I'm on panels Saturday and Sunday, talking about low-budget film making, the futur, war and envy. All of which fall under my expertise.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Review from SFF Chronicles

My friend Ian Sales reviewed Cinco de Mayo and he deserves an award for Bravery in an Awkward Position. We’ve been friends for more than a decade. He read early chapters and actually helped me shape one the book’s central characters, Sultan. Anyone who knows Ian, knows that doesn’t make a wink of difference. The work is what matters. He takes the craft of writing very seriously, and science fiction a little more so. Putting him in an odd position. He could’ve ignored the whole thing. Instead, he plunged in.

Luckily, my book is so vastly awesome Ian found a galaxy of nice things to say. My book really is like a holiday that way. It makes everyone happy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review from October Country

Cinco de Mayo just received a great review at October Country. Of course, if it wasn't great I probably wouldn't be linking to it. Though, I don't know for sure. I haven't had any bad reviews, so I'm not certain how I'd react. It might be a huge post on how ignorant people shouldn't be reviewing books. How some people don't 'get it' and I won't be hailed as a genius until after I'm dead. Luckily, I don't have to do that right now. I got married in October. My wife's birthday is in October. It's nice in October Country.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Slow Draw

My friend Tom runs everyday. Not usually into a tree, as he just did, making the event fit the old 20th century journalism school definition of news. I saw the river of blood running down the front of his face, like he’d been fighting the English, and thought, ‘there’s a story.’ That’s what I always think. I’ve been writing stories my whole life. I didn’t think, ‘there’s a blog post, Facebook post or Tweet.’

Nor did I think, ‘snap a photo.’ Aside from the fact that image capturing equipment doesn’t snap anymore, I should have at least remembered that I’ve got a camera in my pocket all the time. It’s built into my phone. I’ve got the gadgets, but not the instincts.

And that’s what puts me perhaps my generation in the right lane, watching other whiz by on the left. I’m not whining about it. I’m trying to adapt. I went and got a photo of Tom after I thought about it for ten minutes. Sadly, he’d cleaned himself up at the same rate it took me to realize everything I wanted to do with everything I have available.

Were I a gazelle on this techno-Serengeti, the lions would’ve been watching me today, licking their fuzzy chops. Although today, they may have actually caught Tom.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Kids with e-readers. Yeah.

The Misspellers Kindle edition is up. Actually, a bunch of electronic versions are up. I didn’t want to leave out the Nook, and other e-readers. So they’ve got versions, all of which I find kind of weird. The book is for 9 to 12-year olds. Apparently, a lot of them have devices only dreamed about way, way back in 2002, when the book first came out.

Initially, I found it odd that intermediate readers were moving their line on e-reader stats. Then I realized I’m just old enough to be outside the new model. They learn how to operate Blue Ray players before they can form full sentences. I have a two-year-old niece with an iPod touch that she manipulates with the casual skill of a Star Trek, The Next Generation extra.

Besides, if a kid wants to read a book, we should do everything reasonable to make it possible. If there’s a gadget that makes reading more fun, more accessible, more like all of the other forms of entertainment thrown at them, then fire it up. I’ll try to stoke it in my own little way.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The terror from below

So I’m swimming today, like everyday, in a big collegiate pool, in my lane, lost in thought, when a black shape passes beneath me. I mean holly crap. My vision is stupid without my glasses, but holly crap. After yelping in the water and splashing around for a second, I realize it’s a scuba diver. What else could it have been, really. He’s picking stuff up off the bottom, looking for cracks. I don’t know. He swims to the side, then I don’t see him, then, foolishly, I forget about him. Lost in thought and there he is, passing beneath me. I yelp and flail around for a second time, like some kind of goldfish with a 40 second memory.

I think there’s a writing tip in there, somewhere, with regard to the unexpected, but completely plausible. How context and habit create their own absurdities. There’s a bigger lesson about pool safety, though. I’m not sure they should be scaring the swimmers. At least the half-blind science fiction writers who immediately assume every dark form in the water is a robot shark. Killer robot shark.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Interview: I Just Finished

On Monday, March 28 at 11 AM EST, I get interviewed on the blog radio show I Just Finished. I have no idea what a blog radio show is, never quite conceived I'd be doing one and I'm not entirely sure how the whole thing works. My whole life seems to be a work in progress, making the I Just Finished moniker for the show funny to me.

I don't finished things. Yes, Cinco de Mayo came out in print, because EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy was smart enough to take it away from me and give it a wise and patient editor. Otherwise, I'd still be fooling with it. There is an upside. I haven't finished promoting this book. Don't think I ever will. Hell, I'm still pushing The Misspellers, which came out in 2002, when that Tweet bird wasn't even an egg, a facebook was an actual book your college gave away and the radio blog . . . I don't know. Still trying to figure it out, and will, shortly.

If you're home next Monday, or hate what you're doing at your desk or, my friends across the pond, just got home - log on, tune in or click through. Not sure of the phraseology.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Remembering Manny Fried

Playwright, actor, union organizer and pretty much the patriarch of theatre in Buffalo, Emanuel J. Fried died Feb. 25 at the age of 97. Though always conscious of his presence around here, I only met Manny once, when I was 12. I never forgot it. He was a writer, after all. I hadn’t read or seen “Drop Hammer” or “Dodo Bird”, but that didn’t matter. My father liked his work. The man was the real deal.

“So you want to be a writer?” he asked me, all knowing. I think I nodded. I don’t remember saying anything.

“Write everyday,” Manny told me. “If you’re sick, even if you don’t want to. Especially if you don’t want to. Writers write everyday.”

I took his advice. I still take his advice, like a vitamin – daily.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Academy Award for Best Makeup

One of the artists my publisher - EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy - uses won an Academy Award last week. Dave Else won for Best Makeup (he worked on "The Wolfman"), and is the cover artist of the new Sherlock Holmes anthology GASLIGHT ARCANUM: UNCANNY TALES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. I'm very impressed.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Life Editor

I almost sent out a thank-you note to someone who didn’t attend the five-year-old Max’s birthday party. Can’t decide if that would have looked sarcastic, stupid or a really asinine combination of both. Luckily, the wife Sarah caught the mistake as she applied stamps. Kind of like a good editor. Proving, once again, the need for lots of people on any one of my projects, including, apparently, my whole life.

Which makes me wonder if being a writer is perfect job for me, because there are all kinds of literary lint traps to keep my work light and bouncy and that’s why I’ve chosen it. Or, do all these safety nets just make me more reckless, figuring subconsciously, someone will fix up my little messes?

It’s probably some asinine combination of both.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The bane of the bon mot

I have a love – hate relationship with little bromides. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Clever sounding, worth thinking about for a moment, but repeatable? I’m a fan of clever. Still the problem with quotes like these is one of applicable force. They sound so absolute. Big blanket statements that must always be true. This one, for instance, is probably true of people who push themselves, who need new stimulation to feel alive, who measure themselves by challenge. There are other people thriving quite nicely in their comfort zones. They beat cancer and got their lives back to normal, survived a foreign war or three years for possession.

Or, to put it more succinctly: Beware the bigotry of clever quotes.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My book is on a poster

My book is a on a poster. The kind you see in the library, urging people to read. It’s a little bit of a thrill for me, as I’ve seen so many posters like this one over the years but, you know, without my name on it. While I didn’t exactly envision this as a specific achievement the way some kids practice an Oscar acceptance speech or waving Lord Stanley’s Cup at an adoring crowd it does feel blue-ribbonish. Like I raised a decent pig or baked a flaky pie.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Writing Wet

I went to a convention in the fall that had a seminar on staying fit while writing. I didn’t catch it, but I wish I had, because I’ve had a good deal of luck mixing the two. The swimming pool is one, big sensory deprivation tank. You swim back and forth, increasing your blood flow, alone with our mind. A scary proposition for me, I admit, but if I time it right, I can work through my next line or scene or plot complication as I ply the water. I know writers who work while they run. Maybe yoga’s cool, I’ll never know I break before I bend but swimming offers next to no distractions. The only real danger is becoming deeply involved in your idea and hitting the wall. Not like runners hitting the wall. This is a concrete and tile slab that really stings. I know.

Still, it’s worth it. I know that too.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Can we 'Win the Future'

President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union speech will come to be known, if remembered at all, as the Winning the Future speech. Political pundits can swing back and forth at the thing for a full news cycle, like always, but this one calls out for new voices. As a science fiction writer, I’m honor bound to comment on the theme of the speech.

"The future is not a gift. It is an achievement," Robert Kennedy said. The President continues the thought, telling us the future is ours to win. He repeats the phrase, in varying forms, about 11 times in the SOTU hour. Of course, the problem is that ‘achievement’ and ‘winning’ have very little in common. I couldn’t win the Boston Marathon on a Harley V-Rod, but finishing? That would be an achievement. When it comes to the future, we need to be concerned about getting there, surviving, not dominating like the world is some kind of round-robin U.N. tournament. Games have rules and ends. The future has neither.

I think I speak for all science fiction writers when I say . . . that’s impossible. No one speaks for all science fiction writers. Everyone who peers ahead sees something different. Infinite paths converge and diverge from every moment. All we can really do the Speaker of the House, the label maker on the radio, the President of the United States, any of us¬—is prepare like Boy Scouts.

Obama’s future speech was actually pretty good on prep work. He didn’t sell it that way, because preparation is never all that salable. Nobody joins the football team to run through tires and lift weights. But the essence¬ education, business climate, building launch pads for the next big ideas all made sense.

I just wish it all could have been framed differently. When you look into the future, it’s easier to the see the fierce and scary than it is the bright and beautiful. There’s so much unknown. So much that can go wrong. And I’m not talking meteors, zombies, alien invasions and the flipping of the magnetic poles. Disease, war, famine, exhaustion of resources and climate change are not science fiction tropes. They’re too commonplace. Too real and in motion. Winning the future? Hell, we should all just want to be players.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Second Round

Cinco de Mayo has made it into the Albert Reader's Choice Awards top ten. I'm excited. It's nice to know that a group of librarians-presumably people who read quite a bit-thought enough of the book to put it through to the next round. Now it's up to the five champions to advocate for the novels they like best. There names are here. If you could go down the list and check to see if you had a 'thing' with any of them that they might not want widely known, that could be helpful. Thank you for you continued interest.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I hate my inspiration

I never talk about my inspiration for my novel, Cinco de Mayo, because it’s so freakin’ trite. It’s that phrase: You never know a man until you’ve walked a mile his shoes. Banal tripe. You’ve probably bowled in someone else’s shoes, ever learn anything? You can never know the whole of someone else unless you’ve lived their whole life, fought their climates, listened to the late night whispers of their friends, heard the call of a chemical that’ll set things right and leaned against the gravity of families waxing and waning and spinning in place. It’s all so much. All too much. You can’t know a person because most of the time, you don’t even know yourself.

Unless you could. What would be helpful is a second party who knew the totality of your make up. What would another person think of you and your choices if they knew your whole story? That idea, that tiny question, lead to a lot of other questions. More than I could put in a book, really. That vapid statement about walking in someone else’s shoes. Disgusting, really. All that shared sweat. Hey, what’s that other phrase, about so many parts perspiration to some part inspiration? Yeah. I hate that one too.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Anyone know a librarian in Alberta?

Cinco de Mayo is on the long list for the Alberta Reader’s Choice Awards. Only librarians in Alberta Canada get to vote. I have no idea how to persuade Albertan librarians that my book is the best. I don’t have the budget for an Oscar-style campaign, though sending out cookies might help. Or is that too forward? Again, no idea. So, if any of you know a librarian up in the Great White North, ask them to put in a good word for my book.