I woke up grumpy yesterday morning. The night before I had spent 2 hours at parent meetings for my youngest son's high school swim team. The first hour was a boring presentation by the Athletic Department, an hour of my life I will never get back. The second hour was specifically for the Boys Swim & Dive Team and it laid out expectations for the kids and parents, the schedule, fundraising, etc. This is our first foray into high school sports and with our ongoing commitments to band boosters and, you know, employment
, it seemed rather overwhelming. Even before the meeting I had had to make changes to my schedule and life - I have been teaching a Sanchin-Ryu karate class on Thursday nights for the last two years and pretty much expect to continue doing so for an indefinite period of time. But the swim meets are on almost every Thursday night starting in December and running through February. So I have already made arrangements for other people to take over my class. And the Swim & Dive Team has team meals together the day before the meets and after the meets and... well, you get the idea. Sean isn't the only one joining the swim team. Mom and Dad apparently join, too.
So I woke up grumpy and I was running over to MSU to pick up Ian and, well, you know, life. But before I left I took Frodo for a walk.
And I walked past the house where one of Sean's friends, Shane, used to live. Except Shane doesn't live there any more because he committed suicide last spring.
And I realized that Shane's parents would probably do almost anything in order to sit through parent meetings for Shane. To volunteer for fundraisers and timing, to bring casseroles or desserts to potluck dinners, to cheer on their son in something he was passionate about.
So I am thankful for all the inconveniences and commitments and demands of life. I am grateful that even when my writing job goes through downturns, I'm still working a job I love and still working. I'm grateful for my lively, brilliant, talented, challenging, wonderful sons, and for my brilliant, talented, challenging, loving, beautiful, capable, sexy wife. I am grateful for Frodo and for dogs in general. I am grateful for Sanchin-Ryu, which expanded my world and took me to unexpected places and became an odd and delightful family. I am grateful - very - that I am healthy. I am grateful for family and friends.
I am grateful.
NaNoWriMo & Me
November 15, 2012
Ah, yes. November is National Novel Writing Month, better known, at least by aspiring scribblers, as NaNoWriMo. I'm not a fan. Partly because for me, I write all the time. So in theory I don't need a month in which I'm inspired to write.
In theory. I'll get back to that.
And prior to the so-called ebook-self-pub revolution, I typically felt December was then Agents Run Quaking In Fear Month, less-well-known as AgRuQuFeMo.
Now, I suppose, with a million people or so cranking through a novel in a month (supposedly), they are then slamming their scribblings up on Amazon and B&N PubIt and Smashwords, et al. with barely a chance to take a breath. Or, you know, edit. Or rewrite. Or hit the delete button.
Oh well. Not to worry. I'm not ripping on people who participate in NaNoWriMo, really I'm not. As John Scalzi pointed out recently on his blog, I'm not trying to be a dick about this, but I make my living as a writer, so every month is NaNoWriMo.
Except, for me, it's been more like, The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions Month (TRoTHellPaWiGoInMo????). 'cause, with the pressures to actually turn a fairly mediocre 2012 into something resembling keeping my head above water financially, I've tended to put my nonfiction on the front burner and the fiction on the back burner (or in the oven warming up, or, you know, never pulling them out of the styrofoam box in the refrigerator to warm up at all, if y'all don't mind me extending the metaphor to ridiculous levels).
I've been writing fiction. And, in fact, with several major clients crashing and burning this year for various reasons, I have noted that my regular fiction royalties have more or less saved my ass financially this year.
So I chose November to be get-my-shit-together month, better known as Get-My-Shit-Together Month! So I've been trying to write fiction every day. Okay, ALMOST every day. And without necessarily using the NaNoWriMo template of about 1600 words per day, I am, nonetheless, producing something like 1000 to 3000 words per day.
Part of the problem is that I'm working on three projects. Just one would be better. But I had two that I really, really wanted to keep alive, and that meant not abandoning one for weeks on end. Then, because my publishing numbers are obvious and several people have, in fact, pointed this out to me, the Derek Stillwater novels are the bestselling (by far) works. So I decided to start working on another prequel Derek Stillwater novella, this one titled GRAVEDIGGER. It'll be out something in 2013.
The other two are novels. An espionage novel about a CIA agent named Monaco Grace. That book is titled CHINA FIRE and it's coming along fairly well.
The other is CRYSTAL STORM, which is a tech thriller, and it's coming along okay, but it too I expect to come out in 2013.
Also, I today started rewriting/editing a novel with my son, Ian. It's a sequel to my novel MONSTER SEEKER, and it is called MONSTER SEEKER 2: RISE OF THE DARK SEEKERS. He finished his rough draft last night and I'm starting on the rewrite. He's a lot edgier than I am with this series and took it in some very unexpected places, but I'm enjoying it a lot.
So, happy NaNoWriMo, or as I prefer to call it, Get-My-Shit-Together Month.
What I've Been Reading
November 14, 2012
Here are the last 10 books I've read.
The Secret Soldier by Alex Berenson
Espionage. This one deals rather strongly with the House of Saud, which was an education, for sure. Berenson's pretty damned good and this is no exception.
The Butcher of Anderson Station by James S.A. Corey
This is actually a short story. James SA Corey is a pseudonym for two writers and so far they've had two novels out together, LEVIATHAN WAKES and CALIBAN'S WAR. This short story provides some background on one of the recurring characters and backstory on one of the events that introduces him. If you're into Science Fiction, I recommend all three.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
I'm slowing re-reading the series. This is actually my least favorite of the books, but it has its moments, certainly.
War Lord by David Rollins
A Vin Cooper thriller. This one goes all over the place, but the setup is fairly interesting. Vin, who is an Air Force special investigator, is on leave when he's "hired" to look into a possible kidnapping. Well, sort of. His now-dead partner's sister's friend, who is a showgirl in Vegas (got all that?), has a boyfriend who is former Air Force, but now works for a company that ferries jets around the world. I.e., people buy a private jet and it needs to be flown to wherever they are. Except he's apparently disappeared. And the girlfriend gets a FedEx box with a severed hand in it with the boyfriend's AF ring on the finger and a note indicating there's a ransom ... except the ring is his, but the hand isn't ... Anyway, this gets Vin all tangled up in an international case that involves a possible missing nuke, a psychopathic arms dealer and a bunch of other stuff, all told with a great deal of humor. Loved it.
The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
This MG series involving Greek and Roman demigods continues. I didn't think it was quite as good as the previous book in the series, THE SON OF NEPTUNE, but I still think it's one of Riordan's best books in his 3 or 4 series for kids. In this one, seven of the demigods, some Roman, some Greek, must team up on a quest to get to Rome to prevent Gaia from returning and, um, destroying everything. No pressure. Has a fantastic cliffhanger ending and Riordan does a terrific job of really letting us get to know the kids with all their various strengths, weaknesses, and concerns. Excellent.
Mad River by John Sandford
Reliable as always, this is a Virgil Flowers novel. This one is essentially about a trio of spree killers running around Minnesota killing people, seemingly just because they can. Virgil is heading up the investigation and hoping they can track them down before they murder more people. Very, very good.
Dick Francis' Bloodline by Felix Francis
Hmmm. Felix is taking over for his late-father, Dick Francis. All the elements are there - horse racing, first-person narrative, the feel, for the most part, is the same. In this case, the main character is a racecourse announcer and TV personality whose twin sister is a jockey. After an argument she seems to commit suicide. Felix handles the post-death grief and guilt thing quite well, which doesn't exactly make for an enjoyable read. Then the plotting starts getting out of control, and there is at least one murder too many, and the whole thing wraps up in a way that I sort of threw my hands up with a, "Thank God this is over," sort of feeling. I've been reasonably pleased with the books Felix wrote with his father, and thought the one prior to this was fairly good, but I really didn't care for this book overall. It definitely had a less-than-the-sum-of-its-parts feel to it.
Extraction by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston
A short story, and a fairly creepy one at that. A different spin on the tooth fairy, that's for sure. Enjoyed it.
Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva
Good, as usual. Another novel featuring Israeli spy/assassin/art restorer Gabriel Allon. In this one he ends up working to track down a jihadi mastermind by using a billionaire heiress from Saudi Arabia, with things going pretty much to hell and staying there. I didn't think it was Silva's best work, but it's good, and, like Alex Berenson's THE SECRET SOLDIER, delves into Saudi Arabia's problems with jihadists. If you're into espionage, recommended.
Robert B. Parker's Fool Me Twice by Michael Brandman
Okay. Parker had essentially 3 series going on. Spenser, which was a classic. Sunny Randall, which has disappeared, and Jesse Stone. Since Parker's death the Spenser novels have been picked up by Ace Atkins. The last one, LULLABY, was pretty damned good and I'll stay open-minded about Atkins. It's not quite Parker, but it's close. Now, honestly, I had gotten pretty tired of Jesse Stone before Parker died and had skipped the last couple, but this sounded interesting. Unfortunately, Brandman, who is better known as a TV writer for the Jesse Stone TV movies, is not Parker. Or Ace Atkins. And frankly, I thought this book sucked. The basic plot was okay. Three plots going on, two of which are fairly inconsequential - a 17-year-old girl who is troubled and spends a lot of time texting and driving - a water commissioner who is faking higher water meter readings and sending the extra money to international water charities - and the primary plot, a movie is being shot in Paradise and the star's methhead husband is on the way to kill her. Mostly the problem was Jesse Stone, who in Parker's books was a brooding, complicated, flawed character. In this book he's a brooding, dour, asshole. His focus on the girl does, as a number of people tell him, border on harassment, the water subplot is a bore, and the way Jesse recommends Crow to act as a bodyguard makes no sense. So he's all law-and-order when it suits him, but is willing to disregard it when it doesn't. I don't recommend it and I won't be reading any more in this series.
Redshirts by John Scalzi
A re-read, because I was getting so frustrated by Fool Me Twice that I wanted something that didn't piss me off. SF, of a sort. Andy Dahl is a new science officer on the spaceship The Intrepid, where some really weird stuff seems to be going on. Primarily, he and others have noticed that any away team that has the captain, the science officer and the astrogator on it tends to suffer high casualties in very strange and dramatic ways. This book is a riot. It's not perfect, but it's very funny, and the three "codas" at the end give it a lot of power. Highly recommended, whether you like SF or not.