Why Daddy is not Allowed to Dress Athena

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Any questions?

Actually, though, today Athena’s school is something called "Clash Day," in which all the children are encouraged to dress in clashing clothes. Also, the school intercom is playing selections from Sandinista! all day long. Okay, not so much with that last part. But the first part of that statement is certainly true. So she’s supposed to dressed this way, honest.

Be that as it may, I can’t say I was entirely pleased to overhear the following conversation yesterday:

Athena: Tomorrow is clash Day at school. We’re supposed to wear clothes that don’t match.

Krissy: We’ll have daddy dress you, then, sweetheart.

Look, I understand my role is to be the befuddled sitcom dad. But that’s not to say I don’t have style.

Oh, shut up. I do.

In Honor of a Special Day

 

Arrrrrrrrr!

Yes, that’s all I have for you today. My brain feels like it’s collapsed like the proverbial flan in the cupboard.  

 

An Unusual Request for Help

Readers of the Whatever, I need your help! I have to verify a very unusual thing, and if you’ve bought Old Man’s War from Amazon at any point (or just even put it into your shopping cart), perhaps you can aid me in my hour of need.

It all began yesterday, when Kari of Inkgrrl.com sent me the following message:

Attached is a screenshot of Amazon’s recommendation for my purchasing pleasure – when I clicked on a link which would supposedly tell me why this amazing artifact was recommended to me, well, the screenshot pretty much says it all.

Draws some interesting corollaries between book-buying habits and other habits… I’m not sure how I feel about this one.

You’ll have to follow the cut see what it was that Amazon supposedly recommended, because, well… you’ll see.

Read More »

Play Ball, Part II

A couple more pictures from the other day. Because I feel like it, that’s why.

Off for a day o’ family fun. See you all later. 

Catching Up on News

Aside from the "Being Poor" piece, I’ve largely been out of the news commentary business around here for the last couple of weeks, so let me catch up on a couple of things briefly:

The Roberts Confirmation Hearings: I don’t really have anything useful to say on this matter, largely because I’m of the opinion that Roberts is the best we’re likely to get out of Bush in terms of a Supreme Court candidate, and because I think he’s a reasonable choice for the bench — probably not my top choice for Chief Justice, I suppose, although anyone’s preferable to Scalia, who would have been my next guess. I’m not at all convinced he’s anything approaching the stealth fundie boogyman some of the more fervent of liberal set adjudge him to be, so my opposition is correspondingly lower; so low, in fact, that I guess I would actually have to say I don’t oppose him at all.

Bush and Katrina: Bush wants to spend $200 billion to rebuild the South, which is good in theory, but I expect his administration to do a good job at the effort about as much as I expect my cat to whip up a light and tasty souffle. Word has reached my far province that Karl Rove will be in charge of the reconstruction, which I find as appalling as can possibly be, since it just about assures that everything related to the rebuilding will be turned into an exercise in ideological fealty to the administration. Which means that my cat-fashioned souffle is actually more likely than this reconstruction being done in any way other than the most petty and political way possible.

I also note the Bush doesn’t expect we’ll need to raise any taxes to pay for the $200 billion. This is not in the least bit surprising, since the current crop of tax jihadists would try to rescue a choking man by giving him a tax cut instead of the Heimlich maneuver, and then when he’s dead would try to comfort the grieving family by assuring them they’re working to repeal estate taxes. But it does remind me yet again that anyone who still actually believes that the Republican party is the party of fiscal intelligence needs a 2×4 upside the head. There hasn’t been a day in the last five years that Bush adminstration has shown even the slightest bit of fiscal acumen, and when Bush says the answer to finding the $200 billion is to slash through the federal budget, if you think those slashings are going to be balanced across the ideological spectrum, you need another wood kiss from that 2×4. Leave it to this administration to take a national tragedy and turn it into an opportunity for some nice political ball-cutting.

"Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People": I don’t think this is true at all. He cares about black people just fine, as long as they make more than $100,000 a year. His concern for white people runs at roughly the same level. Outside of interns and a few lackeys, one does wonder if Bush has ever spent any useful amount of time with people who makes less than that amount. Certainly growing up as a scion of the Bush family he did not, nor does anything in his work life suggest that he did, either. He’s got a blind spot at the 100 large line, which is a real shame because that’s where most people live, including the vast majority of the people who voted for him, being as they were under the impression that he "got" their needs.

Mike Brown Resigns: Well, yeah. He may have been dim and incompetent, but was not so dim and incompetent as not to realize the Bush administration couldn’t been seen firing him, because that would be an admission that they’d hired a moron. One does wonder what would have happened had Brown not resigned; whether he would have been actually fired, or whether the administration would have simply kept routing around him, leaving him to stare at empty walls for the next three years. Naturally, I would hope for the former and honestly expect that eventually the Bush folks would have pulled the trigger, but one does wonder how long it would have taken.

Pledge of Allegiance Ruled Unconstitutional: I find it deeply amusing to see so many conservatives get so worked up over a bit of doggerel that was written by a rock-ribbed socialist, but other than that I find this a true waste of time. I have no more objection to the "under God" portion of the Pledge than I do the "In God We Trust" saying stamped on my coins, and God knows that hearing "One Nation Under God" thousands of times over the course of my educational career did absolutely nothing to endear Him to me, as evidenced by the fact I am entirely agnostic, and will likely be so up until the moment before I die, at which point I might believe it to be prudent to hedge my bets. But even if I do that it won’t be because of the Pledge.

There, I think that gets me all caught up for now. 

New Amazonian Sickness

Because the people at Amazon are sadistic bastards, they’ve implemented yet another way to drive authors (and other people who have thing stocked at Amazon) absolutely insane: They’ve implemented daily tracking of the Amazon ranking, so you can see where the ranking is today and you can see where it was the day before.

For the twitchy bags of neuroses that are known as authors, who already track their Amazon numbers with unhealthy zeal, this means that everybody else now knows if you’re selling more or less than you did the day before. Sometimes this may be good (for example, the ranking of Old Man’s War is #3,992 as I write this, up from #6,381 as of yesterday) and everyone can see you’re on the way to the top, you big success, you. But tomorrow, when the sales of the book inevitably dip, it’ll be clear to everyone that one’s career is in a flaming death spiral, and who will want to buy a book that is going to take them down with it?

And yes, dear readers, authors are just the sort of people who will think that a visible slide in sales rankings will turn you off from our books. We are silly that way.  

One thing I find interesting about this new and sadistic Amazonian tool is how it makes you aware of how much noise and jostle there is in Amazon rankings. For example, today’s ranking for my very first book, The Rough Guide to Money Online, is #1,365,312, which is several hundred spots higher than it was yesterday. Of course, in real world terms, this means nothing: No one bought the book yesterday, no one’s going to buy the book today, and it’s highly unlikely anyone’s going to buy the book tomorrow (and for good reason — it’s five years out of date). Any ascension or decline of this book is simply the Brownian motion of Amazon’s vast collection of salable items. Among the books that are selling, a book could sell exactly the same number of copies on two adjoining days but have vastly different Amazon rankings, because the rankings are relative to what other books are selling as well.

If Amazon wanted to drive authors to the ragged bloody edge of madness, in addition to the Amazon Rankings, it would also post the number of units any particular book sold in a week or month. The reason they won’t is that no one is that cruel, and also it’s not in anyone’s interest to expose just how low-volume a business bookselling is: A public that thinks a movie is a failure if it doesn’t have a $50 million opening weekend or that an album is underperforming if it doesn’t go double-platinum is not going to be impressed that a book has sold, say, 20,000 in hardcover (which would be absolutely fab for most books). Shhhh. Don’t tell.

Nevertheless, this new wrinkle will be sufficiently maddening that you can expect authors to begin fretting about it… well, about now. No, no. I’m not fretting about it at all.  

AdvancedEntryEditing Plugin

Ah, this is much better. One of the small but annoying things about Movable Type is that the editing window for the main entry is tiny, so it’s difficult to see much of what you’re typing at any one time. However, I just installed a plugin called AdvancedEntryEditing that, among other things, allows you to expand the size of the editing window, so you can see a much larger amount of your actual text at one time. It also institutes a WYSIWYG interface, so that people who don’t want to hand-roll their own html code don’t have to do it anymore. I’ve been using html code in MT entries for so long I don’t even really notice I’m doing it anymore, but even so, it’s nice just to be able to see the entry closer to what it’s actually going to look like once you post it. The only minor inconvenience I can see so far is that there’s a tiny pause when one backtracks.

Anyway, if you’re using Movable Type, this is a plug-in that might be worth your while to check out.  

Recent Books, 9/16

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As I’ve been jabbering about these things, a quick look at four books I’ve recently acquired:

* Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, by Kate Wilhelm (Small Beer Press): I actually bought this one, since I was interested in it anyway and because I wanted to support Small Beer Press, co-run by the excellent Kelly Link (Small Beer also published last year’s Nebula finalist Perfect Circle, by Sean Stewart, which I enjoyed). Wilhelm, if you can’t guess from the title of the book, was intimately involved in the creation of Clarion, the premier writers’ workshop in science fiction, and taught there for years.

I bought it because frankly I find the whole writers’ workshop thing fascinating. Many excellent SF writers have gone through Clarion’s guts over the years (here’s an incomplete Alumni list, upon which, if you are an avid SF reader, you will see several familiar names), and there is no doubt that the workshop setting is extremely beneficial to many of them. However, I could never wrap my brain around the workshop concept, at least from the point of view of being a participant, either before I was published or especially now. Earlier in the year I was at convention and chatting with another science fiction writer when he mentioned that he participated in a workshop and casually (and in a very friendly manner) offered me a place at that table. I think he was surprised when I declined rather strongly, and I expect I could have declined the offer in a more politic fashion. The fact is, the problem is with me, not the workshop concept in general. Generally speaking the person I want telling my how to improve my writing is the editor who bought it. Yes, yes, raging egotist who will be one day put in his place, I know, I know. What can I tell you. Welcome to me.

For all that I think one day I would be interested in teaching in a workshop setting. At Penguicon this last year I rather unexpectedly got thrown in to a workshop teaching session (Literally, it happened like this: “So, John, thanks for agreeing to help teach our workshop this year!” “Uhhhhh… I didn’t agree to that, actually. This is the first I’ve heard of it.” “D’oh!”), and I found it to be an interesting and positive experience, and I think the people who I critiqued got something out of it as well. Although you’d have to ask them about that. Left unargued here is whether someone who does not see the value of a workshop for himself as a writer has any business trying to teach writing in a workshop setting. One day either I’ll find out or I won’t.

In the meantime I found Wilhelm’s experiences very interesting, both as a personal history of the Clarion Workshop over the years, and also, by way of that personal history, lessons in writing well. People who are interested in workshops, either as writers or as readers, would probably benefit from checking this book out — consider it an extended brochure on whether Clarion (and its various offspring, and other writing workshops) are going to be a good idea for you.

*Remains, by Mark W. Tiedemann (BenBella Books): Fun fact: on the Amazon page for this book right now, the top listing on the “People Who Bought This Book Also Bought” list is… Old Man’s War. Make of that what you will.

This was sent to me a couple of weeks ago and I still haven’t had time to do much with it, because of writing The Ghost Brigades, but I was exceited to see it nevertheless because it’s the first book I’ve seen from BenBella, who is a relatively new publisher, going back only a couple of years. The company seems to be carving out a niche with their “Smart Pop” books, in which folks contribute essays that blather on in an educated fashion about various pop culture things, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to NYPD Blue, but they also have a sf/f line, which include originals and reprints. I’ve been interested in seeing how they did in terms of the production of their books, because I’m just a geek that way.

As it happens, as a matter of design, Remains seems slightly off to me. It’s a little wider than most of the trade paperbacks I have, and the paper is different quality, and that combined with some of the interior design (including too-wide text columns) makes the book feel vaguely like vanity press. Bear in mind that this has nothing to do with the quality of the story itself, which appears to have been well reviewed, in Booklist at least (its review is on the Amazon page), so if the book sounds interesting to you, don’t let that stop you from checking it out. But like I said, visually it was a little off to me. I contrast this with Chris Roberson’s Here, There & Everywhere, which was put out by Pyr, another fairly new SF publisher. His book (which I did read, and enjoyed) had a somewhat friendlier design, which made it easy to read, and gave the book a professional feel; you wouldn’t question that it came from an established publisher. Maybe these little design things shouldn’t matter, but they do.

Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to reading Remains; if Tiedemann and I share an audience, I suspect that means something.

* The Road to Dune, by Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (Tor): Think of this book as the DVD extras disc for the original Dune series of books: It includes cast off chapters from Frank Herbert’s original set of books plus some of Herbert’s notes and letters. For people like me, who dig this sort of thing (I’m one of those people whose favorite Tolkien work is The Simarillion), this stuff is catnip.

The book also includes a new short novel based off Frank Herbert’s notes, from Brain Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, who have recently been writing all those Dune prequels. I’m not a fan of the new Dune novels at all, largely because Herbert fils and Anderson have a combined writing style that is just all too underwhelming for the Dune universe; Frank Herbert’s writing had a sort of stentorian majesty to it, and that style richly permeated the Dune universe just as much as the melange spice. Herbert/Anderson’s prose is like a stick of Big Red by comparison, and continues to be so here. This makes me sad, as I’ve enjoyed Anderson’s writing in other settings, but I wish they’d found a writer whose writing style would have been more appropriate for what had come before (A China Mieville Dune novel — now that would be fun).

But if you do like the Dune prequel novels (and given their healthy sales, apparently many do), you’ll have no reason to complain. For me, the Frank Herbert bits are what make this well worth looking at.

Trivia note: The Road to Dune is a “SciFi Essential” book, which is a distinction that OMW and The Ghost Brigades will have in January 2006.

Starwater Strains, by Gene Wolfe (Tor Books): Another book I’ve not been able to get to yet, alas, although the day Gene Wolfe puts out an underwhelming collection of short stories is the day either the fourth or fifth seal is cracked, so I don’t worry about this not being worth my while (it got a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, for what it’s worth). In the meantime, I’m enjoying it just for its very whimsical cover:

Yes, I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover and all that, but come on. How could a book with a dog wearing a virtual reality helmet not be worth your time? Impossible, I say!

Guidelines for Publicists

As threatened, I’ve written up guidelines for people who want to send things for me to mention here in the Whatever. If that’s you — or if you’re just interested in what I have to say on the matter — the guidelines are here. I’ve also put in a permanent link on the sidebar.

Left hanging in the air here is why anyone would want to send things my way. You know, I wonder that myself, sometimes. On the other hand, I have been a professional critic for a decade and a half, so they could do worse.

Also, and specificially relating to science fiction, the daily readership of the Whatever paces or exceeds the monthly circulation of some of the most significant science fiction-related magazines (including Locus and Fantasy & Science Fiction), so for the SF genre, getting exposure here might actually be significant. And yes, incidentally, I find that the Whatever having comparable reader numbers to these magazines is disturbing (note, however, that circulation is not the same as readership, since more than one person may read from a single F&SF or Locus subscription; even so). But that doesn’t mean I’m not happy to exploit it if it means free books. I mean: Free books! It’s every geek’s dream come true.

Shelby’s New Album

Hey! One of my favorite indie bands, Shelby, has finally released their latest album, The Luxury of Time, and it’s choc-a-block full of snarly guitar goodness. The band is previewing three of the tracks here: I’m particularly fond of “The Golden Boy” but every track at the preview is worth the listen. And if you’re in or near Philly tonight, apparently they’re playing at the North Star Bar. Solid.

Seven Years

Completely (and appropriately) lost in my wild textual stampede to complete The Ghost Brigades was the fact that Tuesday marked the seventh anniversary of the Whatever. As I’ve noted before this makes it the single writing thing I’ve done the longest at one stretch (I’ve been reviewing movies longer, but that comes in chunks, first as the film critic, and then as the DVD critic (both five years each)).

In the year, I haven’t done anything different in terms of how I write the Whatever — indeed, the whole “write whatever the hell I feel like writing about” concept has been remarkably robust since 1998 — but I will share a few observations about the whole writing online thing here that have come to my mind in the last year.

* First, I’ve reconciled to the idea that the Whatever is a blog. The Whatever, mind you, predates the common use of the word “blog,” so I’ve never been entirely comfortable with the word — when I started doing this thing, the most common description of this sort of thing was “online journal,” which I also didn’t like, for various fairly stupid reasons. I could go into all the reasons why the Whatever is different and special from all the other things people write online and how it is so singular it deserves its own category, but aside from the fact that it really isn’t notably unique in form or content and I’m getting tired of finding new and exciting ways of maintaining the fiction that this isn’t a blog and everyone gets what you say when you say “I have a blog” so do you don’t have to say anything else about it, the fact is, there are worse things than writing a blog. So: Fine. The Whatever is a blog and I’m a blogger, and however silly a word “blog” is — it’s exactly onomatopoetic for the sound of a toad dropping a turd — it’s the word everyone has for things like this. Let us now move on.

* I’ve also given up the illusion that I am doing the Whatever in a manner that is either completely carefree or unrelated to the rest of my writing life. The latter, frankly, is obvious: The fact that something I wrote here appeared in one of the largest newspapers in the country yesterday demonstrates the permeability of the wall between this amateur writing and my professional writing (not to mention those two novels I sold off the site). The Whatever has been useful enough in this regard that recently, when discussing a book project with a publisher, he actually suggested serializing the writing here before he published the book in order to increase the value and visibility of the book. These are interesting times, writing-wise.

The flip side of this, however, is that first point: The Whatever is important enough to me now as marketing that it’s also something that’s worth maintaining, even when I feel like taking a break. One of the reasons for the fabulous, fabulous guest bloggers in July was the simple fact that I didn’t want to leave this place fallow for a month; I didn’t want readers to break the habit of checking in on a daily basis. In the blogsophere, regularity matters. It’s better to write something banal, say, “my cat’s breath smells like cat food,” than to write nothing at all (especially if you also then post a picture of said cat).

It pays off: This site is now clocking in at between 10k and 20k unique visitors a day — it fluctuates wildly between those poles on any given day — which makes it one of the better-read personal sites out there, especially when you consider that the Whatever is not a mono-topic site (i.e., all about the politics or geekery), or a link farm, nor is it written by a pretty woman (this makes Wonkette the perfect storm, Internet-wise). But on the other hand, I don’t just want to write one line about my cat and pride myself on very basic audience maintenance; I do prefer the delusion that people who read the site would like me to write about something. And now you see why it’s not entirely carefree. These are constraints and obligations I place on myself, mind you, but it doesn’t mean they are any less there.

The one thing that has remained constant during all this obsessing is that I still do write about whatever the hell it is I want to write about; I don’t bother to ask myself “hmmmm, is this something that’s going to alienate my audience” because then I’ll get sulky and petulant (stupid audience! They won’t let me write what I want), and that’s just silly. Also, honestly, I figure anyone who comes here on a regular basis knows I’ll write what I feel like; to some extent, that’s why they drop by. This is an unabashedly egotistical site. And God knows, when I want to write about my cat, I do.

For the record, her breath does smell like cat food.

* I am also increasingly aware that it’s not just me who regards the Whatever as a quasi-professional space; having a deserved-or-otherwise reputation for being a “prominent blogger” means I now get press releases sent my way (eh), and also books (yay!). One of the more interesting recent anecdotes of this type is when the publicist for Annie Jacobsen’s book Terror in the Skies contacted me about the book, wanting to know whether I’d be interested in looking at the book for possible inclusion in the Whatever. Ms. Jacobsen, you may remember, is the writer who lost her composure on an airplane last year after she noticed a large group of swarthy fellows sitting together; I wasn’t particularly impressed. The reason I was contacted, I think, was simply because I did write about Jacobsen at one point, even if not in a particularly complimentary fashion. I told the publicist to go ahead and send the book, although I made no promises regarding reading it or mentioning it, which is the appropriate thing to say at a time like that.

Although, look, I did just mention it. And here’s the link again! And somewhere, another publicist earns his wings (no, I haven’t read the book yet. I was busy writing one of my own, remember).

I am now getting enough books and swag and publicity releases that I will very shortly create some guidelines for publicists as to what’s appropriate to send along to me. If you were to ask me if I ever thought I’d get to a point where I’d ever write publicist guidelines for the Whatever, you would hear me engage in a nice, hearty laugh. And yet, here we are. Not that I mind. Hey: Free books! Whoo-hoo!

* One minor interesting thing I’ve noticed is that in the last year, thanks I suspect to the combination of Old Man’s War, the AOL Journals gig and the growth of the Whatever, I’ll occasionally get the “internet celebrity” thing, where I’ll drop a comment on someone’s blog and their reaction is “OMG!!! It’s Scalzi!!” I find this deeply, deeply silly. Being a minor Internet celebrity is like being the second most popular steel drummer in the Netherlands. Yes, it’s nice, and people who share your enthusiasms know you, but really, that’s about all it’s good for. Anyway, even though I’ve been doing this for seven years and I blog professionally and I’ve sold not one but two books to publishers from this Web site, I never get invited to speak at Ivy League blog conferences or panels. So clearly, I’m not a real Internet celebrity anyway. It stings, it does.

* One thing I’ve definitely noticed in the last year — and has been noted by others — has been the “community” activity around here, by which I mean a strong and vibrant set of both regular and infrequent commentors. I remember a few years ago, before I had implemented comments (and before I knew the following), I read Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s comment on her site that said something along the lines of “if you’re not reading the comments, you’re missing out on half the fun.” I was, shall we say, rather skeptical of the observation. But as it turns out, she was absolutely correct: the community of commentors at Making Light matters, in no small part because they are smart, engaged and passionate, and because TNH also serves as an able moderator — any person who can think up and/or popularize “disemvoweling” as a punishment for comment stupidity deserves a medal for Service to the Blogosphere.

I do not judge myself as facile a comment moderator as TNH, but I do think the Whatever community of commentors is one of the best out there, tending toward thoughtful and diverse enough in opinon to make the comments less like an echo chamber and more like a round table of people talking. And, they tend to be grownups to boot: Usually the least-mannered person in a comment thread is me.

So to the folks who hang around the Whatever: Thanks. I appreciate it.

The Shiny New Toy

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As promised, here’s the shiny toy I bought myself the other day: a Nikon D70s, along with a bunch of various ridiculous trappings (lenses, filters, tripods, etc) which I may or may not ever end up using, but I decided that if I was actually going to get a camera like this, I might as well dive into the deep end. Also, since I don’t actually expect to buy another camera after this one, like, ever, I might as well get the bells and whistles.

I initally had my eye on the D50, which is a slightly less expensive version of this camera designed for people graduating from point-and-click cameras to SLRs, but I decided — per the “never buying another camera ever again” bit — that in all it was best to get something I was less apt to outgrow. The reason I wanted a new camera at all is that I was bumping up against limitations on my otherwise perfectly excellent Kodak EasyShare (which I still recommend for people who just want snapshots). A camera that gives more options than I will probably ever use makes rather more likely I won’t have an expensive upgrade twitch a couple of years from now.

Two things make this purchase especially sweet. One, I bought it with a royalty check I wasn’t expecting, so it was “free money” (i.e., money not in the budget), and therefore it’s psychologically like getting this bitchin’ camera for free. Two, because I do a photography thing for “By the Way” every week — and I get paid for writing “By the Way” — this is quite legitimately a tax-deductible business expense. Sometimes the life of a writer rocks, I tell you.

The one fly in the ointment: The camera package I was sent was missing a lens, the 18-70mm jobbie that one would actually use on a daily basis (the lens here is the 70-300mm lens, perfect for seeing into the next county). I called and they’re shipping the lens to me even as I type this. And when I get it, oooh boy. Picture time down at the Scalzi’s.

TGB Post-Mortem

The two hours of sleep I got between five and seven am have apparently ruined me for sleeping for the rest of the morning, so in lieu of that, let me me do a little bit of a writing post-mortem for The Ghost Brigades. Don’t worry, I won’t give away plot points.

* As I initially noted here, writing The Ghost Brigades was actually somewhat difficult. I set the bar fairly high I wrote by attempting not to write it like a sequel (i.e., you could read this without reading Old Man’s War), by changing the viewpoint from first person to third person, and also by delving into the social structures of the universe I created. While other people will have to judge how well I did on all these things, I have to say that I’m pretty satisfied with the book, although as it happens what I set out to do and what I achieved are slightly different things.

The place I notice this the most is in The Ghost Brigades’ “stand alone-ability” — which is to say, the ability of someone to read this without first reading OMW. I think that I’ve achived that to a fair degree; the book refers to events and characters in OMW and in a couple of cases uses them to further the plot (particularly relating to the Consu and the Battle of Coral), but in those cases TGB in itself contains the information you need to know about them, so one can keep going without missing anything relevant. However, what I didn’t expect, because I’d never written a sequel before, is how much the two books “talk” to each other.

In my opinion, you can read either book without having read the other, but if you’ve read both, you’ll have a richer experience overall. As an example, one of the entirely valid criticisms of OMW was that even though it’s clearly set in the future, the America that John Perry comes from could easily be our own, right now (and, additionally, the non-US readers of the book were a little annoyed with the US-centrism of the soldier). TGB makes the answer to that question a plot point for the novel, so people who read TGB after OMW will get that answer, while those who read TGB in a standalone way will simply take it as a matter of course.

I was surprised and pleased as both a writer and a reader to see how much the two books are in conversation with each other, while (in my opinion) still standing up on their own.

* When I was discussing writing The Ghost Brigades with Patrick Nielsen Hayden (who is my editor at Tor, for those of you who don’t know), one of the things I said to him was, “now, you know this one’s going to get dark.” And he said he was fine with that, for which I bless him, but I don’t think even I realized how dark parts of this book were going to get. If I may make a flawed analogy here, if Old Man’s War was my Star Wars, then The Ghost Brigades is very definitely my Empire Strikes Back. Now, personally, I’m good with this, since Empire is in nearly all senses a better film than Star Wars. But no one suggests Empire is exactly cheerful.

To be clear, it’s not all about the moodiness and dark dark darky darkness. I’m still me. There are funny bits and there are a lot — a lot — of action sequences, as befitting a book of this type, including one in the middle that I am particularly proud of. But I do imagine that folks expecting a light skip through the OMW universe will wonder if my pharmacist has been fiddling with my anti-depressants or something. The answer is no, because among other things, I’m not actually on anti-depressants. People who prefer the lighter touch will definitely want to check out The Android’s Dream, incidentally, when it finally sees the light of day in late 2006. All I will say about that book is: It’s got sheep.

If OMW is my Star Wars and TGB is my Empire, does this mean that any possible thrid book will be my Return of the Jedi? All I can say is that to each and every one of you, I make this solemn vow: Not. One. Goddamned. Ewok. Ever. Unless it’s to do unspeakably horrible things to them. In which case, I’ll have many.

* And yes, as I’ve mentioned before, if Tor comes knocking asking for a third book in this universe, I’d probably say yes. I have a vague idea what I would do for that book, and also, as I was writing, some portion of my brain I call the Evil Plotter was slipping in sequel fodder. The Evil Plotter and I would have our moments, many of which went as below:

Me (reading something I just wrote): What is that?

Evil Plotter: What, that? It’s just a little something I thought I’d put in. You know, add a little spice to the mix.

Me: It’s an open-ended plot point, isn’t it.

Evil Plotter (defensive): Maaaaybe. So what? It resolves your textual issue! Look! You need it!

Me (putting hand on forehead): We’ve talked about this, man.

Evil Plotter: Aw, come on! Look at it! It’s so cute and useful! You know you want to keep it. And then, later, if there’s a sequel, maybe it will come in handy. I’m just saying.

Me: Another sequel, you say.

Evil Plotter (snappish): Hey, one of us has got to put that kid of yours through college, you know.

Me (throws up hands): Fine. We’ll keep it. For now. But that’s it, do you hear me? No more.

Evil Plotter (holds up shiny, useful open-ended plot point): So I guess that means you don’t want to know about this baby, then.

Me: Gaaaaaaaaaah! (head explodes)

Yes, this is actually how my writing process works. Look, don’t ask. Just enjoy the end result, okay?

* I’ve been avoiding talking about specifics regarding the novel, but I will say this: I think you’re all going to enjoy Jane Sagan in this book. She’s my wife’s favorite character that I’ve written, and it’s easy to see why: Like my wife, she’s a tough, capable, results-oriented woman, and if you get in her way she will eat your friggin’ heart. It’s no lie, people. Don’t piss off my wife, or Jane Sagan.

* What am I going to do now? I’m going to relax, damn you all. I have a short story I have due by the end of the month, but other than that, bookwise, I’m tapped out; nothing officially on the schedule for the first time in three years, during which time, I’ll remind you, I’ve written eight books and contributed to several others. A month from now, not having a book on my schedule will begin to bug me. At the moment, it’s excellent. I could use the break.

In the Trib

The “Being Poor” entry was published today (edited for space, looks like) in the Chicago Tribune op-ed section. I’m very happy about that. Seems like it’s just a good writing day all the way around.

The Ghost Brigades, Completed

At 3:28 am 9/15/05. 95,000 words exactly.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a sequel.

TGB Update

The damn book has gone and sprouted an additional chapter. I hate it when books do that. Fortunately, this means the penultimate chapter is going to be action-packed. And then there’s the final “we wrap everything up with a bow” chapter. Yeah, it’s all getting done tonight. Or death!

I was so excited about being so close to being done that I almost couldn’t get to sleep last night. But if I had tried to write straight though, the final chapter would have been mostly non-sensical strings of consonants. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just not my thing.

Pathetic Writer Motivation Trick #459

With the unexpected but reasonably healthy royalties from one of your other books (which counts as free money because you’ve already budgeted all your bills, etc), buy yourself a shiny, shiny present. Have it shipped Fed Ex ground. See if you can finish the book you’re working on before it gets to your house.

It shipped at 10:55 am this morning from Brooklyn. I figure it’ll get here on, what, Thursday? And me with one and a half chapters to go.

I can do that.

See you when I’m done. And then I’ll show you my present!

Typus Interruptus

So close to being done with The Ghost Brigades that I can taste it.

So naturally, I have to spend the morning in the car dealership, getting the car fixed.

Urg.

(Yes, I could bring the laptop. Trust me, I can’t focus.)

A September Moment

athenabat0911s.jpg

And you know what? She can hit.

Comment Donations

This fellow says:

I’ve decided to send a dollar to the American Red Cross for every person that leaves a comment to this entry by next Sunday. I’ll also send two dollars for every literary agent or person with a published novel who leaves a comment, because you folks have fans/large readerships, and fans like to participate with the objects of their attention. To the same effect, I’ll donate $10 if your last name is Nielsen-Hayden or Scalzi. :)

Mention this on your blogs, drive the comment numbers up, and donate money without spending any. I’ll post a PDF of the Red Cross receipt after I donate.

If you’re so inclined, go over and leave a comment. I did (hey, it was worth a sawbuck). Do be understanding if eventually the fellow cries for mercy and puts a cap on his contribution — I know how many people visit here on a daily basis, and if all of them went over and left a comment, he’d be in trouble. It’s a good thing he didn’t decide to name check Instapundit or Kos. On the other hand, it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes before he institutes a cap. Go on over and leave a comment and let’s see.

(Helpful hint — if you’re not a LiveJournal member and you have to leave a comment signed on as “anonymous,” let the guy know who you are in the body of your comment.)