Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sometimes it doesn't have to make sense

That's a line from a movie I just watched, Grand Canyon. One of the great movies. It even mentions Thanksgiving in it, so there. It seemed appropriate to me to watch it tonight, I don't know why. My son wanted to watch his Babylon 5 DVDs, and I suggested we watch the last episode of season 5, which he told me was supposed to sum up the series but which we never saw. So he pulled it out and we watched the last two episodes, in which various characters go off and do their various things. I was never a big fan of the series, I always thought it was both too preachy and poorly acted, or written, or something. Every episode seemed like half the dialog was busy recapping the action of previous episodes, when it wasn't being monological and preachy.

But the last episode did somehow inspire me to watch Grand Canyon, a movie I always get more out of every time I watch it, even if it's only to figure out where I've seen that actor before. This time I see that the failure of Davis to learn from th opportunity life handed him is due to his excessive rationality. The whole point is that, I don't know, 'rationality is a subset.' Reason is a great way to get from here to there but not a great way to pick a there to go to. The greater part of life is faith, and trust. There was a philosopher who wrote years ago on the importance of trust, that we live every day, trusting that other people aren't going to do us harm. That we take so much on faith because we don't know barely anything, much less everything. Everybody needs faith, and everybody has faith. Not necessarily A Faith, mind you, and in fact I'm distrustful of Faiths with a capital F simply because I think they take the place of a more natural faith that a person can and should come up with on his own. I see no reason to take seriously a Faith that's so simplistic it can be turned without serious revision into a fantasy novel.

As a writer I know this very well. I create the stories but even I don't know what's going to happen next, a lot of the time. I can get my characters going down the forest path, but that's a pretty boring story and they have to get off the forest path PDQ, but how will that happen? I don't know, until I'm driving down the road or doing some shopping and an idea pops into my head. My stories are about faith, all stories are, or should be, but I know that they'll never be complete and they'll never be true. By writing them, I put some elements of my own faith into words and thereby change them. It is my hope that someone reading my stories will see that and perhaps have his own faith changed thereby.

But I'll never know, and they may not either.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A good event

I don't normally post about my book-selling events here but I really have to congratulate the people who run the Mount Sinai Middle School craft & gift fair. I did it for the first time yesterday and had a really great day. First off they had a great crew of volunteers who helped me unload my stuff (boxes of books are heavy) in the morning and then load it up again at the end. It's amazing what a drain that is, doing it by ourselves. Second is a young Girl Scout I'd met the night before, as she was selling cans of nuts and other snacks at a local supermarket. I mentioned at one point how I didn't see how chocolate and cashews worked together, and she immediately pointed out that they had cans of cashews without chocolate. That was exactly right, and I congratulated her for it. It turned out that she was a reader, and I pointed out that I would be at this event. Sure enough she came by, and picked up three books (The Secret of Bailey's Chase, Zamora's Ultimate Challenge, and Cynthia's Attic: The Missing Locket, if memory serves)! Third, of course, is that we sold a lot of books to a lot of people. One woman bought two sets of my own novels, my first sale of the day and a very good omen, I thought. While my own books were the best-selling titles, the best-selling category was the juvenile/YA group. Nice to see parents willing to put up money to get their kids reading early!

Then I got home and watched more Medium. It's kind of weird, but it seems like some of the episodes I've watched of season 4 so far have been easily recognizable variants on movie plots I've seen over the years. One episode reminded me of Fargo, another of The Whole Nine Yards. On the other hand, I was watching one extremely powerful episode, and got a story idea from it. I wonder if Mr. Caron, the producer of the show, would be interested in it?

Probably not.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Coincidence? I think NOT!

We just finished watching the the last three episodes of the third season of Medium, and let me tell you, the parallels with Tru Calling are scary. There are some spoilers here, so if you haven't seen either show don't read any further unless you don't plan to.

I really loved the show Tru Calling. I watched all the episodes and thought it was a really cool, provocative, insightful show with lots to say and an interesting way of saying it. And I liked Davis. It was one of the great tragedies of TV when they cancelled the show, especially when they did it in mid-season, without even a hope of future production to lend closure to the storylines. Many of the other shows that I've loved that also got cancelled at least were able to do that much. But Tru Calling ended with a bang, the villains apparently winning, no hope in sight. I even wanted to write a book to give it that closure, but I was told that TV tie-ins are contracted by publishers not authors, and the show had been off the air for a while already.

But Tru Calling had a great villain, played by Jason Priestly, with a larger purpose of preventing the rescues that the heroine performs, making sure that events play out the way they 'should'. And it had a good story at one point, about how a reporter had realized that all these bizarre rescues were happening, and this woman named Tru Davies was strangely involved in all of them. She gets involved, and ends up the latest victim in need of her help.

And what was the last story arc of Medium about? A reporter, who gets involved with Allison's current case and ends up as a victim in it. The villain? Played by Jason Priestly.

I know. Spooky, right?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Astronomicon part 2

OK - most important things first. I survived the trip home.

Don't laugh. After my last convention in July (I call them that even though I see none of the panels and almost never get out of the Dealers Room), I left at 4 Pm and got home at 2 AM, mostly because of construction on the I80 in PA. So this was a distinct improvement, although I will admit to a bit of scary moment when it looked like another delay in Pennsylvania.

I must say I liked the feel of Astronomicon. The people there were very friendly and really loved the subject. The problem was that there so few people there, which they also don't understand. There are several schools in the area, but the students don't come. Quite a few people in the Dealers Room were also Panelists, constantly going in and out. On Saturday we sold a grand total of 20 books, and that's not good. I've done events where that was OK, but not any with a hotel bill attached. Sunday we did the same, which is pretty common. Most convention-goers will shop around for the first few days, and then come back and buy stuff on the last day as they're walking out the door, so they don't have to lug all that stuff around. We also got quite respectable sales from Con staff and other dealers. I also handed out a bunch of my cards for my short stories, so hopefully I'll see some activity there. It's kind of hard to push a story that doesn't come in a paper form I can hand to the customer.

As usual we didn't sell just fantasy books. These events are for people who like to read, and so we often sell a reasonable percentage of non-fantasy books. Lots of mysteries, an adventure novel, even a western. No surprises there, we sell a couple of westerns at almost every Con. I think the effort made to distinguish SF from the Western back in the early days of SF was valiant, necessary, and doomed. They have too much in common.

So as business ventures go, it was a bit of a bust, as the sales didn't really justify the expense of going. They were very nice about it, only charging us for one table instead of the two we signed up for, and they even let us expand into a third spot since there was room and no one else was using it. As a vacation it was much better.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


Live from the Radissson Hotel in Rochester NY, its...Author Guy!

Please, please, hold your applause, just throw money.

So here I am at my first ever Astronomicon, trying as always to get my deserving books into the hands of deserving readers. We got snowed on, on the way up here. My wife was so jealous when I told her about it last night. Out on LI we don't get nearly as much snow as we'd like.

We got in at around 4 and immediately set up our tables. My daughter, Julia, got a chance for a shower last night, but did I? Nooo. And guess who comes by--last night--taking pictures of everybody for the archives. On the other hand he also recorded a brief interview with me that he said will be podcast sometime in December.

I'm torn between calling my books epic fables, or new mythology. I don't think 'fantasy novel' really groks the essence, man. I've been trying for 7 years now to figure out how to describe my books in a 30-second sound bite or a short paragraph, and I still can't do it.

I've got other interviews that I did a while back on the Destinies Radio show on WUSB, and the show archives are on somewhere. I wonder if I can post them on my website? In chunks. The first interview was almost two hours long, since the follow-up DJ didn't get there in time. Fortunately I was able to speak coherently and extemporaneously for an additional hour, at midnight, until she finally got in. Howard had some good questions, so I had something to talk about.

Anyway, back to last night. It was steampunk night, and here I was without a single copy of Echelon's new steampunk novel, Thomas Riley. Lots of people in steampunk costumes too. As often happens at these sorts of events, we had a lot of browsers, and few buyers. Most con guests will browse the dealer's room several times before making selections, and then they don't actually buy them until the last day, so they don't have to carry around a lot of stuff. So I was able to spend a goodly amount of time with several people, talking extensively about my books in particular and Echelon books in general. Most seemed surprised that I could describe the stories so well, even though I read them a long time ago. Maybe that's the pronlem with both my reading and my writing, I don't just read, I work at it, so I read more slowly and lesss often but I know the book when I'm done. If I was able to just put words on paper I'd also get more words written but I don't know if they would be as good as the words I write now.

I got to shake hands with Robert Sawyer, the science-fiction author. Several of the other dealers are also panelists and such so I expect I'll meet a few more luminaries in the field before the weekend is out.

Time to see about breakfast.