Kick of Phoenix Comicon 2013′s Books and Authors programming with a brief look at what all is going on this weekend and a group interview with several of our author guests conducted by Peter Orullian.
Who’ll be here:
Writing Believable Fantasy
Join our panelists for a discussion about why they write fantasy and how they make it believable.
Who’ll be here:
James A Owen
Microsoft Xbox Panel
Xbox started as a game console. Now, it serves video, music, apps, and more. It’s gone beyond the living room, onto PCs, tablets, and mobile phones. And one of the latest Xbox technologies is Xbox SmartGlass. Peter Orullian talks about how this new technology works and provides story-tellers new methods to ply their trade across multiple screens. As well as discussing some of what you can look forward to in the future from Xbox. Orullian works at Xbox on the Xbox LIVE business around emerging technologies and services.
Who’ll be here:
The Unfettered Panel: New Tales By Masters of Fantasy
Join the editor and four contributors to Unfettered, a new anthology Learn about its creation from the editor, Shawn Speakman, while contributors Terry Brooks, Brandon Sanderson, Kevin Hearne and Peter Orullian talk about their stories.
Who’ll be here:
Magic systems and fantasy go hand in hand. Join some of our author guests as they talk about how they make it work and how they make it believable.
Who’ll be here:
The Epic Fantasy Panel
Some of today’s most popular epic fantasy writers talk about what epic means to them and how they write it.
Who’ll be here:
James A Owen
Worldbuilding in Science Fiction and Fantasy
How do writers create worlds for their stories anyway? Join our panelists and find out.
Who’ll be here:
Michael A. Stackpole
So, later this week I’ll be traveling to Detroit for Immortal ConFusion, a speculative fiction convention. While there, I’ll sit on some panels with some other cool cats like Patrick Rothfuss, Peter V. Brett, and a host of others. We’ll talk books and writing and probably get rather silly. So, good times.
For your perusal, here my schedule:
Saturday 1:00 PM The New Evil Southfield
Why is there such a prejudice against the ancient? Malevolent forces seem to need to age like fine wine before they are ready for the attention of a protagonist. Is there a reason that we ignore a new evil, some cultural bias that says innovation cannot be That Which Will Not Be Named? Or is it simply that the ancient evil is a valued, if overused archetype? Brian McClellan, Mary G. Thompson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peter Orullian (M), Sam Sykes
Saturday 4:00 PM Reading: Lawrence Schoen & Peter Orullian Model T
Join Lawrence Schoen & Peter Orullian for readings from their forthcoming works. Lawrence Schoen, Peter Orullian
Saturday 5:00 PM Mass Autograph Session Ontario
Come meet your favorite authors and have them sign things! (Unfortunately, due to Repetitive Stress Injury, we ask that you limit your signing requests to Charles Stross to 3 items per person.) Aimee Carter, Alastair Reynolds, Anne Harris, Catherine Shaffer, Charles Stross, Cindy Spencer Pape, Courtney Moulton, Diana Rowland, Geoff Landis, Howard Andrew Jones, Jennifer Ouellette, Jim C. Hines, John Scalzi, Kat Howard, Lawrence Schoen, Maria Dahvana Headley, Mary G. Thompson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Mary Turzillo, Merrie Haskell, Michael J. Sullivan, Myke Cole, Patrick Rothfuss, Patrick Tomlinson, Peter Orullian, Peter V. Brett, Ron Collins, Saladin Ahmed, Sarah
Zettel, Scott Edelman, Susan Dennard, Tobias S. Buckell, Violette Malan
Saturday 7:00 PM Changing Societies In Epic Fantasy Southfield
Why do elves never seem to progress with metallurgy? Why do the societies in a fantasy realm always seem to go back hundreds or thousands of years? What is it about magic that makes the common folk less likely to invent the cotton gin, hybrid crops, or the musket? The history of humanity is one of constant flux, of achievement and failure, but the worlds of our imagination are much more static. What is the appeal of this stasis? Why is this a common aspect of fantasy literature, and where did it get its start? Is this a good or a bad thing for fantasy? For writers of fantasy? Brian McClellan (M), Kat Howard, Peter Orullian, Scott H. Andrews, Violette Malan
Saturday 8:00 PM What’s Still Taboo? Southfield
Obviously there are things that society still deems unacceptable, but that metric is changing, and has been for many years. How is our presentation of the taboo through literature changing with it, and is this a driving force in the social discussion, or a reaction to our collectively changing mores? Charles Stross, Merrie Haskell, Michael Underwood, Patrick Tomlinson (M), Peter Orullian
Sunday 10:00 AM Too Epic? Dearborn
Multi-volume epic fantasy that takes decades to write and publish is nothing new, nor is the anticipation of fans rabid for the next installment of favorites like Song of Ice and Fire. When the composition of a narrative enters its second decade, how does that affect the story? Does the completed version of Wheel of Time bear any resemblance to the plot – or world – hinted at in The Eye of the World? Can an author maintain fidelity to the initial construct? Should one even try? Michael J. Sullivan, Patrick Rothfuss, Peter Orullian, Peter V. Brett (M)
Sunday 2:00 PM Sarcasm. Seriously Southfield
Sarcasm has a proud place among verbal styles, but it is far harder to convey using the written word. This panel delves into the nature and pratfalls of sarcasm in dialogue, description, and as a narrative technique, including a conversation of some author favorites. Charles Stross, Diana Rowland, Doug Hulick (M), Peter Orullian
I’ve done some panels on “evil” before. They’re always fun. Also, talking about “epicness” and “taboos” . . . well, this weekend should be lively.
So, a good friend of mine plays in a cover band. It’s for fun. Well, all music is for fun, but Hairstorm (if the name doesn’t give it away) is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek good-times collection of great guys playing well-known tunes. It’s akin to what Steel Panther is doing.
Anyway, my buddy asked me if I’d come out to their New Years Eve show and sing a couple tunes. Let it be known that I love being on stage. Stephen King has gone on record–relative to his long stint in the Rock Bottom Remainders–as saying that the immediacy of playing music live has certain advantages as a creator of entertainment. Or something like that. I’m sure I slaughtered the language he used, but you get the point.
The point: It’s thrilling!
Thing is, I got almost no notice, and while I knew the three tunes he wanted me to sing, I only had any real command from a memorization standpoint of one of them: Jet City Woman by Queensryche.
Let it also be said that I’m a Queensryche fan. The original. Not this new stuff that’s going on. Why? Because of the vocals. Geoff Tate is one of the great voices in the modern rock era. His work was instrumental in getting me to move half way across the country to study with the same voice instructor who trained him. David Kyle, rest his soul, was a great man. A tutor of life as much as of music. I miss him.
Getting on stage is always a bit of an homage to David.
Also, rocking is awesome.
So, I threw in with my buddy’s band for a tune on New Years Eve. Was really fun. Got several of those shouldery man-hugs when I came off stage. In body-lingo, that means: Well done, sir!
The audio here is the crappy video camera sound card. Can’t be helped.
And I did take away from this little dealie that my resolution to lose weight was well-advised.
Finally, I did this through a cold. So, there’s that.
Thanks to Myke Cole for the suggestion to Youtube it.
In any case, have a listen. With luck, when I get the concept album for my fantasy series done, I’ll do some dates here and there. Ty Frank of S.A. Corey and Leviathan Wakes fame has signed on to play bass. He’s got aweseomely long hair.
So, Les Miserables. The film version. The MUSICAL film version. Here’s what.
First, about award nominations. There’ll be some for the film. And for some of the talent. I won’t be surprised if Jackman (Valjean) and Hathaway (Fantine) and even Redmayne (Marius) get nods. Hathaway has the best shot here. Since I don’t think Edmayne can win for supporting role, and I will KILL THE UNIVERSE if ANYONE but Daniel Day Lewis wins best actor (Lincoln). Honestly, if you haven’t seen that film yet, drop what you’re doing in your life right now. And go!
And, to take a step back: why am I a’bloggin’ this? Well, it’s a marriage of music and story, isn’t it. So, yeah, that. I mean, in addition to four years of classical voice training–the which I’d intended to take me to Broadway before my spousal until put the kibosh on livin’ in New York–I’ve had my hand in one musical project or another for more years that I care to count. Been doin’ composition, performance, what have you. So, where music meets story . . . I’ll often be found–either creating or commentating.
In fact, one of the things I think shines through here–that doesn’t so much in the Broadway production–is Hugo’s story. It’s not perfect, by any means, but such things never are, so that’s kind of a throwaway comment. Particularly powerful is Hathaway’s descent from a run-o-the-mill (almost literally) job to prostitute. I also liked seeing a depiction of the baricade and the narrow, crypt-like streets and buildings. Evocative.
Oh, and seeing Colm Wilkinsin, who plays the bishop and was the original London and Broadway Valjean, was a treat. And you know, if you want to distill this whole thing down to a single moment, it’s got to be when Valjean is returned to the bishop a thief for having stolen the holy man’s his silver, and the bishop corroborates Valjean’s lie that the silver was given to him, AND THEN mildly chastizes Valjean for forgetting to take it all.
Now to the music. Or more accurately, the voices.
First, I was pleasantly surprised. Mostly by Jackman. He was better than I’d anticipated. Right good, in fact. The only place where I was consciously disappointed was with his most important song, “Bring Him Home.” See, here is where a goodly trained voice will hit all the notes but achieve many of the higher ones with softness–covered tones my vocal instructor often said. They’re more impactful (not always, but certainly in this tender song) when reached more delicately. Jackman’s too loud and resonant in the masque of the face when he sings them. Still, he does a fair job of it. To see a master sing this tune, check out Colm:
I’ll say, though, that any misgivings (and those are few) in Hugh’s performance are overcome by his final scene–the dying one. (Hope that doesn’t kill it fer ya. Like, you DO know the story, right?)
Now, which were the finer voices: Samantha Barks (Eponine) and Eddie Redmayne (Marius). Redmayne was at times a bit too glottal for me. I’d have liked a brighter tone in places. But that’s a bit of a knit.
What about Hathaway, you say? Well, she does a really good job. But there are enough places where her vibrato is too irregular, etc, to keep me “in” from a vocal standpoint. But here again, what is lacking in her vocal performance is more than made up for in her acting. Her great song, “I Dreamed a Dream,” is superb for the visceral and array of emotions she takes you through as you watch her deliver the music. Heartbreaking.
As for Russel Crowe, the man was miscast. Entirely. His voice is the weakest. Just no resonance. No power. No conviction. And then even as Javert, he was not nearly tortured enough. By which I don’t mean physically, but emotionally. Not sure what they were thinking casting him for this role.
Jackman, on the other hand. Lordy. The opening sequence, where it appears he’s been starving himself for the role (extreme method acting, akin to what Christian Bale did for The Machinist) . . . well, it’s convincing.
I’ve performed many of these tunes. For most of my acquaintance with the music, “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” (Marius’s song after his friends have all been killed) has been my favorite. Here’s a clip of me singing that tune. And I’ll say that akin to Hathaway’s stirring delivery of “I Dreamed a Dream,” Redmayne’s delivery of this song is gutwrenching. Loved it.
And personally, the love triangle piece has never been my favorite part of the musical. In part, I think, because the music seems a bit sacharine. That said, this bothered me much less in this version of the film. And I really loved Bark’s performance both of “On My Own,” and “A Little Fall of Rain.” Because I can’t help comparisons, I’ll say that she’s not as good a vocalist as Lea Salong, who sang the 10th anniversary role of Eponine, and who I think has “owned” it ever since. But Barks is really damn good. And a better actress. Still, to see Lea rock “On My Own” all awesome like:
And you know, for me anyways, the film made more clear the story being told through songs like “Red and Black.” Also, “Drink with Me,” on the eve of the battle (and consequent deaths), were much more effective in this theatrical version.
So, yeah. Well worth your eleven bucks. I mean, the singing has bright shining spots. And where it’s clear you’re listening to an actor sing–rather than a singer act–you can virtually pass off the mistakes in sustain or pitch or power or resonance as . . . part of the performance. Like, well, people singing their lives to you. Y’know? It would be imperfect and disrupted by emotion. And verisimilitude would suggest that since not everyone is a trained vocalist, that this is all just fine. And mostly, it is.
But, then, we do suspend some disbelief with musicals, in general. Right? I mean, while it’s normal for ME to be caught singing every damn place–and much to the embarassment of people who hang with me–it’s not really the way with most folk. As such, it’s also defensible to say that–from a vocal standpoint, anyway–this could have been better. Much better in some places, marginally better (to almost no better) in other places.
Doing that, though–getting finely trained voices to do film, I mean–might have compromised some of those emotionally stunning scenes I mention above. That is, if you hold with the idea that performers who are vocalists first don’t generally act as well as . . . well, actors. And that’s tenable. I’ll not argue with ya about it. But having said that, at one of the performances I saw of Les Mis, one where the I was close enough to see Valjean’s face as he delivered his performance . . . That guy! I’d like to have seen him do the theatrical role. And you may have noticed that there’s virtually no dialogue in the film, just as there’s not in the musical. The connective tissue that seems dialogue-y, is all recitative–speech-singing. Vocalists are quite good at this.
Anyway, there you go. Some thoughts there fer ya. I could have gotten levels more technical on the music stuff, but there’s not point to that. Music, at the end of the day (no pun intended), is intensely personal. One man’s awesome is another mans bafoonery.
But, if you haven’t read the book, or seen the musical, or seen the Liam Neeson film, then go see this. And don’t dispair of the music. It’s really well done. And some of the acting is top drawer.
My mom went into emergency surgery recently. I don’t live close to home anymore. And so I was getting information in texts, mostly. I was grateful for this, but the brevity often ready something like: “Emergency surgery. Life-threatening.” At least, that’s how it distilled down in my mind.
And then yesterday, there was the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I’m on the other end of the continent. My kids are safe. And this hit me like a two-ton heavy thing.
Both these frightening events took place during the Christmas season, when happiness and good will are typically in greater abundance. And they both got me thinking about: sustain. Here’s why.
When traumatic things happen, people rally. They pull together. They invest themselves. They declare. They make decisions. All good things. My quiet worry? That after the emotion and good intention of those initial responses are gone, the very right and needful follow-through will go missing.
Some of this is just life. It moves on. We’re all facing our personal, private demons, hardships, challenges. In practical terms, there may be little one can do. That’s for each of us to decide. But it’s the difference between the noble sentiment, “I’d die for you,” and the slightly trite, but no less true response, “Yes, but would you live for me?”
Staying in for the long haul, whether it’s sitting at a bedside, clearing tubes that are draining away body fluids, or becoming the involved parent or citizen you need to be if you mean to affect change . . . that’s the man or woman I respect. It’s the kind of guy I want to be.
There’s a saying that goes something like: Character is the ability to carry on with a worthwhile decision after the emotion of making the decision is passed. I like that.
And y’know, those are the heroes we don’t hear about. The ones laboring in obscurity in the constant service of others. Don’t get me wrong. Running into a burning building is right brave. And we have fine examples of those folks. I wonder now, though, if they aren’t the same ones who are committing silent acts of heroism all the time. Living that way, even when no one is watching.
I’m really not trying to soap-box this. Kind of writing it out, is all. But I think about that little community of Newtown and those families. For the world, this tragedy will pass. There’ll be new headlines to chatter about on social networks. Our own holiday celebrations will go forward. And those aren’t bad things. That’s the flow of life. But the effects will be profound for a smaller set of people, whose tables have empty chairs today. And I don’t want that to not cause some change in me. I’m still trying to put definition to that feeling, but I’m holding on to it until I figure it out.
See, because I think there’s power in sustain. The real kind.
In my day job, we ship product all the time. Relatively speaking, that’s the easy part. What we don’t always do well is sustain our support for those products. “Launch and leave” it’s often called. Always another product to launch. In that world, we call those new products the “shiny penny.” Everyone wants to be associated with the next thing. It’s not terribly sexy to work on generating awareness for a product that’s already out there. We lose sight of the fact that just because we’ve been living and breathing a thing for a year or more, that the rest of the world has no idea. Not really. In point of fact, the real work, the important work, comes after a thing is available. Marketing and PR people fail to understand this so often that it’s mind boggling.
Musical Notation for Sustain. Cool inferences here.
And how about music. While there’s great use and effect in staccato notes, when you hold a note, letting it ring out . . . it does something inside both the performer and the listener. There’s power in it. The chance for harmonies and resonances to play against that single sustaining sound. It suggests endurance and strength and settles into your bosom. Yes bosom. You see, music requires the words of poetry to be understood.
Anyway, the next time you attend a concert and one of the musician’s holds out a note, you’ll maybe now notice the audience when they begin to cheer. It’s like a rallying cry, really. A cool kind.
Even Christmas has a play here. Don’t we think every year: “Hey, why can’t we make this Christmas thing last?” Many of you who read this will be athiest; but even my athiest friends agree that for whatever reason at this time of year: people hold more doors for others when entering buildings, they give more liberally of their substance, they find more patience. Take a moment and listen to this:
Why can’t we sustain that? Wouldn’t we agree there’d be power if we could? Real power.
I’m going to go ahead and say that love is the underpinning for sustain. It’s the best motivation I can think of. I didn’t know those children who died in Connecticut, but I understand the love a parent has for their child. And I’m going to do my damndest not to lapse into solipsism; by which I mean, I love my mom, and there are simple ways for me to share and sustain that, even in the midst of my overwhelmingly busy life.
These are notes I wish to play, that I intend to sustain. Because I will resent myself if I go entirely awash again in trivialities and don’t allow these things to change me, at least a little, for the good.
Pretty much captures the last five minutes of writing book two
Book two of The Vault of Heaven is done! Holy I-never-thought-this-frickin’-day-would-come Batman! So, yes, done. Er, kind of. Which is to say, I finished the book months ago. At which time I promptly began the second pass “polish” that you’ve maybe seen me posting about here or there. It’s this non-trival “polish” that I’ve just finished and sent off to my editor.
And while this is a major milestone–read as “Orullian will float back down to the earth sometime after Christmas”–there’s still work ahead, kids. Real work. The editorial process starts its slow-grinding engine now. Nevertheless, I’m feeling like I could wrestle a bear, or climb Everest, or clean my office (which I’ve put off with some self-righteousness ’cause I was a’writin’ the great American novel or somesuch bull).
I’m reminded of a story Stephen King tells in which, after he finished The Stand, he ran to the bathroom and laughed and cried and laughed a cried. See, The Stand is kind of this epic story. He’s quoted as saying that the writing of this book was the only time he left The Gunslinger’s world (The Dark Tower). Anyway, I understand King’s post-Stand feelings. I didn’t get myself into the bathroom to laugh and cry. But the immensity of the emotional release might as well have. This has been one of the most sustained creative endeavors of my life. Lots of blood and sweat went into this one. I’m hoping when readers get this one, those fluids of mine get all over their fingers.
I'm stickin' this in because it's kinda germane, and it's kinda got COD in it, which is also awesome
Anyhow, many of you have asked as to length. No, not like that. I run a respectable . . . nevermind. Here’s the thing, I’m not feeling like publishing a word count just now. Seems too much like keeping score. I will say that it clocks in at Epic. By which I mean that, length-wise, it lives in the neighborhood of such tomes as The Way of Kings, Dance with Dragons, and the like. Now please note, that’s a length association. I’m not suggesting anything more than that. I’m just hoping that ballparking it will suffice tome-searchers for now.
Is there a title, some ask. Yes, there is. But strictly speaking, it’s possible it could change. My original title on book one did. That said, I like my current working title on book two. So does my editor. I’m holdin’ on to it since I think it might be fab to have it hit with the cover treatment, whenever that is.
Also, some have asked about a publication date. Simply put: It’s not up to me. I dearly hope they get it out next year. But, we’ll see . . .
The next obvious question is: What’s next? That one’s easy. I have a concept album to finish that’s set in the universe of my series. The music to that is 90% written. My collaborator and I have to ship a few Microsoft games and services (just, y’know, because groceries are nice things to have in the cubboard when you want some Goldfish crackers or peanutbutter), after which we’re gunna go hard at it. We’ll kick that into gear a few weeks hence. (Heh, heh . . . hence.)
I have to tell you, I’m really excited by the concept album. For many reasons. First, it’s no secret that I love music. But beyond that, this tells a kinda cool story around Belamae, the Maesteri you met in The Unremembered. It also ties to something else I’ll talk about in a moment. And second, it’s gonna get me on stage again. Not in any world-arena-signing-breasts sort of way. More in the small-club-tour-and-maybe-German-metal-festival sort of way. And for those of you who’ve never performed music live, I will just repeat what the inimitable Stephen King has said: There’s an immediacy about it that writing will simply never have. Plus, and to crib Patrick Stewart: “Live performance is a real moment of truth.” I love that rush. So, yeah, rock.
If you have to ask, you'll never know
I’ve also got six short stories to write, all set in The Vault of Heaven. Gots me a publisher for them, too. I’ll share more on those in the weeks and months ahead. I’m actually really looking forward to writing these, as they tell some seminal stories that I think will make parts of the longer works resonate that much more. Part of my whole master transmedia plan to take over the universe.
Not lastly, I have a big story coming out in Shawn Speakman’s Unfettered anthology. I say big, because it’s about 23K words. Hefty. Thick. Meaty stuff. It deals with the music magic in a way that many of my readers have been asking about. Well, I wrote a chunk of this and gave it to Shawn, a good friend. I’m going to do a whole separate blog post on that at some point–but later, since I’ll need to include spoilers.
A book of awesome!
And my story, entitled “The Sound of Broken Absolutes,” relates to the concept ablum above in some interesting cross-pollinating ways. See, I just can’t help myself from going all meta on you guys. Again, I’ll post more about this in the months ahead. For now, get yer arse over and order a copy of Unfettered. Honestly, it’s going to have Brooks, Sanderson, Williams, Rothfuss, Brett, and a metric ton of other fantasy heavyweights. Worth every thin dime, it is.
And last, but not least, I’ll start working on a deeper outline of book three. You know, I have to tell you a story there. Literally today, as I finished the last frozen mile of book two, I had several flashes of incredible pieces I needed to write for book three. It sounds kind of . . . I don’t know, maudlin? But you gotta trust the process. I’ve learned that. And while I had a plan for book three. Today, as I closed down this mile marker, I had a big fat wonderful turnpike open up before me for the next volume.
I simply have to clear the decks a little before I tackle it. And as I mentioned, there’s still all the book two editorial fun to wade through. But, well, between the day job and all the preceeding stuffs, there’s no rest for this kid.
And that’s my last thought for you. And please take it in the spirit in which it’s intended. But to reflect on book two at this moment in my life.
I worked my tail off on this book. It’s epic. It goes into territory no one is anticipating and required a lot of me. None of that guarantees, gentle reader, that you’ll like it. Those of you who pick it up will be the judge of that. But I’m satisfied that I put all the heart I had into it. What’s more, I did it while working twelve hour days at the day job. There are times when I’m green with envy at those writers who write full time. And if I’m honest, there are moments of aimless ire at the whole situation.
You see, I get up at 3:30 a.m. to write before a long day at the “salt mines,” as mom used to say. Work ethic? Just something dad taught me. It’s second nature. If the day comes that I’m able to write full time . . . well, I anticipate a rather healthy flow of story for those who care to read it.
So, yeah, I’m a little proud of myself. A smidge because I finished. A smidge more because I did it while holding down a job at ole Microsoft, which as anyone working there can tell you . . . well, I’ll just leave it there.
It ended with a warm tap on the shoulder. Remember that. I’ll come back to it.
So, yes, I found a perfectly appropos Queensryche title for last night (my first night) in Paris. There’s something cosmic going on with that. I’m sure of it.
Anyway, it starts with my apprehension about coming to Paris in the first place, since I’ve heard so many stories about how the people hate foreigners who can’t speak the language. And y’know, I just don’t have any skill there. So, when my colleague texts me to say that he’s missed the flight out of Seatac, I’m like, “This sucks . . . for me.”
See, even the most interesting man in the world thinks so.
I grant you that’s pretty selfish. But, I suddenly get a picture of me winding up on a Metro train to nowhere. Hold that thought, please.
Well, as soon as I land there’s a security breech at the Paris airport. Everything’s on lockdown, and there are what appear to be whipthin teenagers all over the airport carrying assault rifles–French Army. Among other things, they’re keeping a great throng in a narrow hall, where it gets hot and sweaty and . . . aromatic fast.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the stench resembled that odor that arises from a teenager who hasn’t learned yet that he needs deodorant. Then, multiply that by a bajillion. And layer on that I am already losing valuable Paris time. During which, I get another text from my colleague. He’s now being re-routed throgh Minneapolis and won’t get into Paris until Sunday. I’m on my own. Great.
Well, eventually I get untangled from security breeches and stenches and get my bag. I need to draw some Euros, and my Corporate Card isn’t working. Awesome. I manage to get some with my own credit card, which will likely mean I’ll wind up paying some of these expenses out o’ my own pocket, since receipts haven’t been flowing up in this French hizzie.
I mean, as soon as I get checked in and drink a 5-Hour Energy Drink–’cause it’s like O’dark’thirty back in Seattle–I go to catch the RER C into Paris proper. The guy behind the glass gets rather chummy. Seems he has all kinds of friends up in Tacoma and whatnot. What I realize later is that he’s all distracting me, as he swindles me out of 10 Euros.
Sorry, for me, all train ticket sellers are the guy out of Frosty the Snowman.
I let that go pretty easy. ‘Cause, if you must know, I’m also the guy who buys home made rap CDs off the street in Time Square. There’s one of me born every minute, you’re prolly saying. Yeah, that about sums it up.
Despite the fits and starts, I do manage to find the Catacombs. Actually, it’d've been hard to miss them. The line must be half a kilometer. But, one of my unpublished novels has scenes down in this place. I am seeing it come hell or high . . . um, let’s not ask for trouble. Suffice to say that the balls of my feet start to scream from standing in line. The Catacombs are tres cool, though. And grim, too. So, y’know, score.
The Catacombs are lined with neatly stacked femur bones and such, plus skulls used to decorate . . .
Come to that, there are a great many places in France in this unpublished thriller novel of mine. But kismit is suggesting I exercise discretion in how many of these scenes I go see. Which means–you can all be glad–this post won’t run on too long.
Well, the Catacombs exit in a different place than they enter, so, yeah, I’m lost in Paris. I wander around for a while without any data or wifi and kind of freaking out. Finally, I return to the little curio shop just outside the Catacomb exit and ask a guy for directions. He proves plenty useful, but gives me what I can only describe as a very French look when I ask if the Metro is like the subway. “No,” he says. “Subway is an English way of referring to it.” He shut his eyes in a perish-the-thought kind of way. “Metro,” he reiterates.
Good news is, his directions get me to the Cite and Notre Dame. Been wanting to see this place for ages. Now that I have, I can say with authority: It’s awesome! That said, it ranks third in my Cathedral visits. St. Paul is still my fav. Could have a little primacy factor going there; it being the first. But nah, St. Paul is top drawer. Second is Kölner Dom in Cologn, Germany. Then Our Lady of Paris.
You'd have to be a thousand feet tall not to consider this place majestic
There was a bone or two in the Notre Dame Treasury, too
By this time, I’m feeling pretty proud of my Parisian-ness. Why wouldn’t I? So, I get walking, thinking I’ll go take in the Eiffel Tower. That’s the next step, right? I don’t, though, quite realize how far away it is. But, I walk quite a while along the Seine, checking out some really cool street vendors selling books in collector dust wraps. Plus old photos and other assorted awesome bits.
But my feet are starting to kill. So, I find a Metro entrance. Again, I’m doing pretty good, right? Anyone would say so. I check my little map, see I have a ways to go, and the next thing I know I wake up in a train, that is at a dead stop, with its lights off, in a dark tunnel, and is completely empty.
Yep, you guessed it: I’ve fallen asleep. My 5-Hour Energy has run out, and so have I. I have to tell you . . . I’m scared as hell?
Where am I? I suddenly flash on that old film Warriors, where city gangs prowl the night and beat up laggards for fun. Well, I tear out of there like a crazed idiot, and run down an abandoned train platform. It’s like one of those dystopian novels: I wake up and I’m the last soul alive, until I find a few others who will help me fight the zombies or somesuch.
Note: I still have no idea what happened there. It’ll forever be my Paris mystery.
But I eventually find humans and a terminal to pick up another train toward the Eiffel Tower. You see, by this time it’s become more than a sightseeing trip or a tourist stop. It’s a friggin’ pilgrimage.
And I do find it. It’s hella impressive, just so you know. It’s like the first time I saw St. Paul’s or the Dom. Pictures are pale, pale, pale shadows of the real thing. Just as saying I am standing in a long Eiffel line is a pale, pale, pale shadow of the extremity of this line. After today’s Catacomb and Eiffel Tower queues, I could medal in line-standing.
And you know what, that’s just getting in, too. Once inside, there is another line to get onto a second lift to go to the top. And I’ll a’be damned if I’m not going to her “sommet” after blowing out my arches. Then, more lines to come back down. In all seriousness. That’s just insult to injury. Making a person wait to leave? Not even Disney does that. And oh, the woman who gave me info to get into that line? Yeah, the absolute snottiest woman on the planet. She oozed condescension. That’d be her Olympic medal, were it a category. Condescension.
I checked my back pocket obsessively. Probably looked like I was fiddling with my arse
But I survive. And at the end of all this, I’ve seen three of the things I meant to see in Paris. To celebrate, I go across the street and get some sausages and fries. The sausages are awful. The fries, that is, I say, “French” fries . . . were SUPER. No foolin’. They taste like actual potatoes, but are thin-cut, hot, liberally salted, and yummy. I chase them with, what else, a Perrier. Best Perrier I’ve ever had, too. No lie. Though, in fairness, it may have something to do with my Olympic-level line standing and the fact that I haven’t had a drop to drink all friggin’ day. Still, the Perrier was super.
Then, the tower starts to sparkle. It’s cool. But also kinda . . . I don’t know, showy. I like the orangish lights in a steady glow better. Prolly because I’m a bit traditional.
Not a sparkle fan
So, then, I’m thinking: Do I have time to go by the Moulin Rouge and take a picture of the windmill. It’s the kind of thing one must do. Another pilgrimage, if you will. But I have no idea where that place is, my feet are aching, and I’m starting to feel like I’m pressing my luck.
In times like these, the only intelligent thing to do is consult your map. A taxi could get me there, maybe. So, I sit down in a beautiful spot along the Seine just outside one of those cafes you think only exist in a Bogart film. I’m doing my best to read the map. I even start to wonder: Would the Tourist Bureau put a strip club on thier official map? It IS the Moulin Rouge. But it’s still a strip club. But it IS France. But it’s still a strip club. And the same map has Paris Disney on it. So, I’m wondering if a conscientious editor really tries to sell sex to family vacationers.
As it happens, I never find out. And that’s because as I’m scouring the unpronouncable names–by me, anyway–I feel a warm tap on my shoulder. My first thought is that someone has thrown something not too hard at me, like an acorn or something, just to let me know that they know I’m a damned tourist with my map on their bench in their cafe. But it doesn’t have the consistency of an acorn, and certainly couldn’t be a rock. Then, I look down at the bench at the same moment my mind hits on the awful epiphany.
There on the bench, are dozens of white and black splotches. And that’s when I understand why the tap seemed warm. A pigeon has shat on me.
I have nothing to clean it off with. So, I march up the sidewalk, into the cafe, steal some napkins, and proceed to struggle with wiping away bird poop from my awesome SxSW t-shirt. For that alone, I hate that bird, ’cause I love this shirt.
But it didn’t help me decide about my windmill picture. I couldn’t very well stand out in front of a place where people get all gussied up in their finest cabaret-attending clothes and costumes . . . in my birdcrap shirt. Could I?
In the end, I catch a cab back to the hotel. My weiners at the tower had gone in the trash, and the fries weren’t holding me over. So, I am looking forward to room service or raiding the snacks they always put out. Right? Not so, my patient reader, not so. They have none of this. So, I lumber down to the first floor in my socks, cause I am done with shoes for the day, to a corner place in the lobby where they say I can buy snacks. Let me tell you, this snack bar is an embarrassment to snacking and snackers and snacks. I wind up taking a couple of hard rolls they had out and grabbed a bag of salt and pepper chips.
So, now, I’m typing you this with a growly tummy, and wondering if, with the few hours I have tomorrow before I prep for work stuff, I can take in the Louvre or something. Do I dare? The woman at the lobby counter says a great many things are closed on Sunday, as folks like to spend it with their families. That I get. But, I could do with a chance to make things even with that pigeon.
So, yeah, last night in Paris was strange . . .
A rare self pic. Don't I look tired, but still awesome.
So, I have this thing about karaoke. I don’t like it. If you’re a karaoke fan, don’t hate on me . I don’t dislike the people that do karaoke (for the most part), just the thing itself. So, how did I wind up in a Missoula bar singing some Queensryche and Journey. The answer is Ty Franck.
Now, before I get to all that, I have to tell you that this con, Miscon, is pretty awesome. The organizers are absolutely top drawer. Bob, Justin, if you ever read this little blog post, guys, your really do rock. Models of efficiency and caring you are. I find that rare.
Also, I’ve been given plenty of opportunity to feel all kinds of humble. Firstly, I’ve been honored to sit on some panels with George R.R. Martin. I mean, on a panel about “What Makes a Monster,” George gives this incredibly erudite and witty answer to the opening question. Then he hands me the mike (yes, that’s how you actually spell mike, not mic). Now, what am I going to say after this master of the genre? I went with: “I agree with George.” Then he and I proceeded to get into a really interesting conversation about Jekyll and Hyde–a favorite of mine. Twas awesome!
But Ty–half of the hugo-nominated duo James S.A. Corey (the other half being the equally awesome Daniel Abraham)–well, Ty and I have been kind of chillin’ a lot. And once or twice, as we stand chatting with one con-goer or another, Ty asks them, “Hey, I’ve been looking for Peter Orullian, I really want to me him. Have you seen him?” To which these lovely folks show him a puzzled brow and apologize that they haven’t. I, of course, am standing close enough to smell the rum on their breath. So, y’know, thanks Ty.
Actually, it’s funny as hell. And really, the crowd here is four times its normal size with all the fans who’ve come with the expressed purpose of meeting George. Who can blame them, right?
For my part, I’ve had the good fortune of taking a few meals with the man, and Ty, who’s Mr. Martin’s assistant and muscle.
Now Ty is funny. Sarcasm is kind of his schtick. And it’s a good thing he can make you laugh. Otherwise, it’d be easy to be bitter about just how unfairly the universe has endowed this walking vodka tonic with every gift imaginable. He’s the first one to tell you this, too. It’s storybook. As he says, “It’s like the universe feels it owes me something.”
And this is how we get to me doing karaoke. I’m still not sure how it happened. Because, as I said, I have a visceral dislike for it. And yet, there we are, in a rather unremarkable bar, amidst a handful of barflies, listening to some incredibly caucasian guy named Tito doing rap tunes. And there’s Ty, without actually sounding whiney, convincing me to go pic up the crappy mike and sing. Of course, both Eldon Thompson and J.A. Pitts were there to pile on.
Before I know it, I’m doing “Another Rainy Night” by Queensryche. Then later I did “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. And later still, I do “Silent Lucidity.”
I’m pretty sure that the $40 that he and Eldon put up if I would sing sealed the deal. But still . . . And I have to tell you, the little sound system must have cost all of $4 at Radio Shack, as I was clipping the speakers with my high notes. But, I guess that was probably part of the charm of it all.
An hour later at a room party, we get talking about it with George. Mr. Martin reminded me that he doesn’t treat singers too well in his books. Something about tongues being cut out and the like. I made sure to let him know that the music in my books isn’t whimpy sopranos prancing about and singing a whole lot o’ purity. No, I say, it’s rough and raw and filled with anguish and hatred. That got a sage nod from the man. Then we talked of other books with some music in them. Kind of a great moment.
So, I guess what I’m saying as that Miscon has been filled with a tonnage of delightful surprises. Mostly it’s been about cool people. In the middle of moderating panels on “The Psychology of Evil” and sitting on panels about monsters and villains and the like, I’m reminded–by these people I’m exploring these topics with–that humans aren’t all bad. More than that, some of them are like a fine song: enjoyable again and again, and pretty much anywhere. That’s all maudlin sounding. But I’m leaving it in.
So, there you go. A couple of cool guys, and a brief bout of karaoke. My Miscon memories.
So, once upon a time I meet this bald guy, see. And despite my own rock-n-roll hair, I think to myself: He could be cool; after all, David Draiman is bald, right?
Turns out Shawn Speakman is cool, indeed. And he’s gearing up for more cool. Shawn’s just beaten cancer for the second time. As a freelancer, he’s now got one whallop of a medical bill. So, what does he do? He puts together a whiz-bang anthology to tackle it. I’m more than happy to be counted among those included. Check it:
GRIM OAK PRESS TO PUBLISH UNFETTERED FANTASY ANTHOLOGY
Genre’s Best Writers to Contribute Against Fellow Writer’s Cancer Debt
SEATTLE, WA — Grim Oak Press, a new publishing company formed by webmaster
and freelance writer Shawn Speakman, will be producing Unfettered, a fantasy short
story anthology by some of the best writers in the genre, for a very good cause.
In 2011, Speakman was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He completed the
recommended chemotherapy, but lacking health insurance, the treatment left him with
almost $200,000 of financial debt. At the suggestion of New York Times bestselling
author Terry Brooks, and with the help of nearly two dozen authors who call Speakman a
friend, Grim Oak Press will publish the short story anthology Unfettered, with the
proceeds helping to alleviate the medical bills.
Authors contributing include: Terry Brooks, Patrick Rothfuss, Naomi Novik, Brandon
Sanderson, RA Salvatore, Tad Williams, Jacqueline Carey, Daniel Abraham, Peter V.
Brett, Robert VS Redick, Peter Orullian, Todd Lockwood, Carrie Vaughn, Blake
Charlton, Kevin Hearne, Mark Lawrence, David Anthony Durham, Jennifer Bosworth,
Lev Grossman, Steven Erikson, and Shawn Speakman
Some of the authors will be writing short stories set in the fantasy worlds that made them
famous. Other writers will be creating entirely new tales. The contribution by so many
noteworthy authors of bestselling titles speaks to the generosity found within the science
fiction and fantasy communities.
Unfettered will be published as a trade hardcover as well as a leather-bound, signed and
numbered edition limited to 500 copies and autographed by all contributors. Speakman
will also publish his full-length urban/high fantasy novel, The Dark Thorn, through
Grim Oak Press to further offset treatment expenses.
Orders are currently being accepted for The Dark Thorn, which is tentatively scheduled
to publish in August 2012. Unfettered will be released by early 2013.
# # #
If you’d like more information about Grim Oak Press or wish to set up an interview about
its projects, please email Shawn Speakman at email@example.com
So, there you have it. My story will be set in the universe of The Vault of Heaven. Just so you know. It’s gonna rock, trust me. And for my part, I’m looking forward to the other stories that’ll be in this volume, as well. So, thar you go.
We live in a world of automation. Specifically, today, price-bots are on my mind. Why? Well, a friend sent me a link; and wouldn’t you know, the hardback of The Unremembered is available on Amazon for $7–less than even the paperback.
Click to go to the awesome Amazon deal page
For bargain-hunters this is all kinds of awesome. Taken to its silly, theoretical end, things will wind up free. Hopefully, smart software engineers have implemented business rules to safeguard against that, if only for their company’s own solvency.
But, hey, meantime, just wanted to do the quick shout out for folks who’ve been holding out for a deal. Take advantage of price-bot warfare, right?
Some people say, “I’d give anything to . . .” Most of them are lying. ‘Cause here’s the deal: They’re not really willing to give anything. And more often than not, the thing they’re not willing to give: Is time.
The title of this post is a bit misleading. But you’ll forgive me, won’t you? I mean, you didn’t really expect me to miss the chance of repurposing the Skid Row song title to serve my blog post needs, right? I thought not. As to why it’s misleading? Well, I’m about to go into my world of time management. You know. How I tackle the day job, commute, family, music, reading . . . and oh yes, writing–not necessarily in that order.
But first, let’s get the adreneline where it should be, shall we:
If you listened closely, you heard the lyric: “I won’t be the one left behind. Can’t be king of the world, if you’re slave to the grind.” This is, again, where my blog title’s a bit off. Since “the grind” they’re talking about is a day-job. Good ole Sebastian is admonishing us that we can’t reach our “day in the sun” if we’re punching a clock. This is all well and good for a guy who is singing world tours. But some of us have a mortgage, a family, and dreams to boot. Those first two things are choices I made. I don’t regret them in the least. But it does mean if I want that last thing, I have to adopt a different strategy than the person who has no real overhead, so to speak.
And I’m gonna tell you how I try to make it work in my world.
First, the schedule.
I get up at 3:30 a.m. to write. The reason for this is simple. If I write after work, it means I won’t get to spend time with my family. Plus, my job requires a great deal of creative and emotional energy. My tank is low by the time I get back to the homestead.
I write for about three hours, and then do an hour commute to the day-job. For me, that’s Microsoft’s Xbox division. I have the priviledge of working with a host of passionate, driven people. And I get to be a part of an evolving industry that is anything but boring. So, that doesn’t suck.
I generally work ten hour days. Sometimes it gets longer, including weekends; this is usually when we’re in a ship-cycle on one product or another. These are demanding, exhilerating periods. Often, what it means is that I still get up at the same time, but I go directly in to work–no writing. This is as it should be. My priority is, I think, appropriately set around my employment and what that means for keeping gas in the car and Goldfish crackers in the pantry–LOVE those things.
Then, I do an hour commute back home. Some folks suggest I should move closer to work. “Yeah, I should,” I usually reply, because I’m tired of explaining that the closer to Microsoft you move, the more expensive the homes–and everything else. I’m far enough away that I can afford the mortgage and all the rest.
Once I’m home, there’s dinner and a little wresting with the young-un’s. Or we might fire up the Kinect and play a little Xbox. Just as good is sitting together and watching a flick. My son is going to be a movie critic, I tell ya. Kids got a sharp wit.
After that, bed time for the little ones. I relish this time, because it means reading stories and singing songs. It’s a bit of a production, I’ll admit. But in all reality, it’s probably some of the best time I have on a weekday with my kids. So, I’m in no rush here.
Awesome book we've been reading lately. Sea creatures at every depth of the ocean!
Once they’re down, there are few precious minutes for Cathy and I to catch up on life, or maybe sit and watch an episode of Dick Van Dyke. Yes, that’s right. Still the best sitcom ever written. Hands down.
Shortly after this, we climb into bed, and we each stick our noses in a book. It’s usually about 11 pm by this time. Sometimes I make it by 10, sometimes it’s after 11. Just depends.
Now, a few of you out there have done the math, and realize about how much sleep I get a night. Don’t panic. Even as a kid I was one of those kind that didn’t need the standard eight, or whatever is standard. The doctors among you are shaking your heads and saying that I’m fooling myself. Could be. But it’s my delusion. Leave me alone with it, huh? It’s not that I want or intend to keep this schedule forever. But it’s “the grind” for now.
And truth be told, it’s not a grind at all. I never feel put upon or like a “slave” as the lyric in the song above suggests. I’m simply a guy who has a clear idea of what he wants to achieve. Long ago, when I heard myself say, “I’d give anything . . .” I took stock of my own words and made some adjustments. Those have paid some dividends. After more years than I want to count, Tor bought three books in my Vault of Heaven epic fantasy series. The first volume of that, The Unremembered, released last year. If there was the least bit of edge in those dark, early mornings before, it’s somewhat easier now.
I keep the same schedule on the weekends. It allows me to get all kinds of awesome time in with my family. Plus, I finally get to those little things, like paying bills and buying groceries. Like that.
Also on the weekends, I get together with my musician friends, or folks who help me with my website and related writerly activities. We do what must be done to keep those projects on rails. During these “syncs,” as we call them, I’m sharing what I’ve produced by listening to minus-tracks (music, minus the as-yet-unwritten vocals). See, I use the time during my commute to write the lyrics and melodies to the songs for, say, the concept album I’m putting out–which is set in the world of my fantasy series. Or, if I’m meeting with my video and web-tech friends, I’m sharing site maps and production notes and raw footage from interview shoots I’ve done.
The above schedule is kind of the standard. Like I said, if we’re in a ship-cylce at work, I have to go into time-triage mode. Or, then there are business trips, school conferences, book deadlines, etc, etc. These things require more triage. Thus why I say I’m in a constant active, state of time-management.
Elixer of the gods
All this, plus the Costco-size boxes of 5-Hour ENERGY. I had a funny conversation with Brent Weeks about how he was a Rockstar drinker. I’m totally going for an endorsement with 5-Hour some day.
And the truth is also that I couldn’t do any of this without metric tons of support from my family. They know that when daddy says, “Five mintues,” it means 30 (or more). And many’s the time when weekend plans get blown out of the water because of this or that. It puts me in mind of something Harlan Ellison said to Dan Simmons when he kind of discovered Dan at a writing workshop before Simmons sold his first story. To paraphrase, he said, “Your family is going to make sacrifices.”
For my part, I try like hell to make sure not to compromise a single minute. But in reality, after all my best efforts, they deserve a healthy bit of the credit.
You know, I also remember listening to an interview with Art Garfunkle some twenty years ago. He made a comment that I’ve never forgotten. He said that success was being able to take October off. I know that if I get to the point that I can afford to write full time, I won’t take a full month off. At this stage, I’d have overwhelming guilt and skulk back to my office and quietly start writing. But I think I’d be sure and spend every possible minute I could jumping into piles of leaves and finding corn mazes and smelling the tang of autumn fires. And I’d do it all with my kids–probably taking them out of school for a few days to play delinquent with me. That’s gonna be a fine October, when the time comes.
For now, I’m happy in my grind. Really. I love the early, early morning. The silence. The story that lays before me, waiting to be revealed while the world sleeps. It’s pretty cool, actually. There’s a bit of magic that goes right along with the fantasy I’m writing down. No slave here. Or else, maybe a slave, but only to my own need to tell stories, and to the vision of a life I’m willing to give my time to make a reality.
So, just a quick update here, ladies and germs. It hasn’t been quite a year yet, but all the same, The Unremembered has been released in mass market–meaning paperback to normal folk. The cover’s a bit different, but not so much as to throw you off. Here, check it!
Also, I kind of dig the book copy better on the paperback than what’s on the hardcover. Prolly just me. In any case, it’s pretty cool to hold one of these buggers. It’s got some heft–over 900 pages. Can you say, “Blunt trauma weapon?”
Anyway, that’s it. Just wanted folks to know. It’s at all your online places, and at your neighborhood Barnes and Noble, too. I encourage bookstore purchase, since I think bookstores are tres cool. And people that go to them are even cooler. And you know you want some cool on you, ya?