Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bali Bombers...

This just struck me as a little ironic - three men who killed 202 people in Bali a couple of years ago want to be executed painlessly. Beheading - and not with a butter knife - rather than a firing squad. One might, of course, ask where these sensibilities were when they were plotting to kill as many as possible without reference to making the process painless. Asking that, however, would be gauche.

On the other hand, they're not asking to be let go (though I assume that would work for them too). They're still looking death squarely in the eye. Is that a saving grace?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Drilling for Oil...

Of course, we all want to pay lower prices at the pump. And yes, it looks very tempting to drill the hell out of Alaska because, let's face it, no one lives there anyway - certainly not at the tippie-top of Alaska where all the good stuff is...And in the end, this ANWR region is a place where no one is ever going to go - for all we know there are ten thousand Russians there already draining the place dry.

But none of these are really good reasons for digging in Alaska*.

Here are five reasons why we should:

1 - American oil companies have all pledged that the oil found there will be refined and sold in America and not on the open world market where they might be able to make more money in an unpatriotic way.

2 - OPEC has already agreed that they will not artificially keep prices high by reducing their output to match America's extra output. OPEC likes us and wants to see us do well.

3 - Pumping oil out of ANWR will not halt the march of progress Americans have made in reducing consumption of oil and in seeking alternative fuel sources. A march, by the way, that has been well underway since at least the late days of April.

4- How the hell many caribou do we need? Think about it. When did you ever need even one? Now what about ten thousand of them?

5 - People working for the EPA have not had a damn thing to clean up in years. I don't mean little spills here or there, I mean supersites --the truly toxic stuff that can leaves miles of dead zone for generations. We talk about government waste, yet we do nothing to keep the EPA busy. Instead, they shuffle reports all damn day. They'd like to be busy, but they can't do it alone. They need big oil, unfettered, doing what it does best...

If these five don't convince you about the crucial need for opening up all of Alaska not just the dribbly bits, then I don't know what will. Perhaps if you had a financial incentive. For instance, I happen to have the title deeds to over five thousand acres of territory in those oil fields that I'd be willing to part with for a low, low...

* That is, that Alaska National Wildlife Reserve, not the rest of it

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What Obama Should Have Said...

When I saw the cover of The New Yorker, I thought it was hilarious. My initial reaction about what they were trying to do and the statement they released coincided perfectly. I got it. Glad to have the confirmation, but...

Mr. Obama overreacted. Way overreacted. I think he should have laughed when he saw it and figured out what they were doing. After all, I got it. And I'm no Ivy League scholar.

When the press came around, he could have laughed and applauded the cartoon and spun it any way he wanted (What is The New Yorker going to do? Say, "Nope, he misread it, it was an all out attack on him..."?). Or, he could have gone with an uncomprehending stone face and said "I haven't seen that issue, but I also don't normally comment on CARTOONS!" Because, really, if he's worried about how he's portrayed and caricatured now, just wait. That smile, those ears, this guy is a caricaturist's dream*.

Just to save myself grief, let me say, I like Obama. I like him a lot**. Of course, I think either of the current candidates would be an improvement on the current president so vast that only astronomers can think in those terms. I just think Mr. Obama needed to handle this differently. Now, of course, that he's added fuel to the fire, he needs to never mention it again. Ever. And he needs to be seen reading a copy of The New Yorker in a couple of weeks.

* So is Mr. McCain.
** Not that way. Sheesh.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mi Gente!

This past Friday I did something that I never would have imagined for myself when I was a kid growing up in the South Bronx. I gave a keynote address at a gala event. The Puerto Rican Day Parade organizers of Fairfield County in Connecticut asked me to talk to about 200 people, and I did. Proud to do so in fact. Of course, good food, good music, good people were a given.

My speech was short - the salsa band was supposed to take the stage right after me and you never want to be the one keeping an audience of Puerto Ricans from their salsa music - still, I was told by several that what I had to say was inspiring. Of course, that was the point. In any event, it was a great event and only the second time that this author, the author of the PRECINCT PUERTO RICO series, has spoken to a group of Puerto Ricans. Strange, this business I'm in...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Bouchercon Enigma, Part II

Yesterday I posted about my dilemma concerning this year's B'con. I've been to every B'con since Las Vegas (not the streak that some have recorded but still...). I got advice from a variety of people concerning what I should do. Just to make clear, the money isn't the problem, though I can't really consider it a business expense when I don't expect to come across anyone who wants to publish my books just because of my charm or even because of the quality of the books quite frankly.

Still, I've just paid for my registration. I'll be hunting airfares and hotel space later this week. Here are some of my reasons:

1 - I like the company. I've come to know a bunch of writers, editors, reviewers and fans. It's great meeting them even if only for a few minutes in a hallway (or as has happened, a few seconds as up and down escalators cross).

2 - There are bound to be some great panels - the people who congregate at these things are very intelligent and very witty (and need I say handsome?).

3 - I will do all I can to draw attention to Russel McLean's new novel The Good Son. I'll do all in my power to make sure it is as well known a book as The Da Vinci Code*.

4 - Did I mention the company?

See you there.

* Of course, since I've never been able to shift any of my own books, this isn't much help at all, still, I'm trying. What are YOU doing to help Russel? Huh? HUH?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

To Bouchercon, Or Not To Bouchercon... With Lists!

Through some quirk of my intermittent talkativeness, some of you may know i started my college career as a music major. I wanted to be the next Mozart*. It didn't quite work out. See I had to take two courses in my first semester - Music Theory which i got an A in with no trouble, and sight singing which was a long hard struggle. At the end of the semester, the sight singing instructor asked me to step out into the hallway and explained:

"I'm going to give you a D for the semester. This means you move on to the next level where I hope you pick up some of the abilities you haven't got the hang of yet."

The instructor said all this shyly like he was afraid of hurting my feelings.

"Wait," I said. "What did I actually earn for the class?"

"Oh, an F," he responded.

"Then," I said. "Just give me the F. Then I won't have any false hope, and I can move on to something I can do."

The professor quickly agreed to fail me, and I did move on. I put my energy into being an English major and I was successful at that. Now I'm an English professor.

As the story illustrates, having a proper estimate of yourself - of your worth, of your abilities - is crucial to me.

When it comes to writing, however, I've found the waters to be muddy. In fact, I'm not even sure who is supposed to give me my grades.

See, I know I'm a good writer - I have talents in that way, and I've written good short stories and novels. Editors and reviewers have agreed with me on my talent. But the large numbers of readers that make an author commercially viable have not agreed. Most haven't even heard of me though I've done just about everything I could think of to change that. However, just as in college, an INC does not allow me to move on to the next level.

Currently, the career stands at this: St. Martin's Press has a fifth Precinct Puerto Rico novel that they bought from me years ago. That's supposed to be published in late 2009, but might go into 2010 or, if they decide to cut their losses, it'll never be published. My agent has tried selling other books that I've written and gotten back very gracious rejections: "Steven is a very talented writer but given his sales figures we can't..."

I have, therefore, three options:

1 - I can publish my books at ever smaller publishers (especially if I can find a publisher that is interested in"growing down" their sales). Dorchester has said, for instance, that they simply can't take my books anymore - apparently, their current business model doesn't call for losing money...

2 - I can publish under a pseudonym. Something that hasn't been burned up with booksellers. I'm thinking "Laura Lippman." Of course, I couldn't continue the series under the new name.

3 - I can switch genres - write sci-fi for instance. This would also probably go along with a name change. I'm thinking Isaac C. Clarke...

Of course, there is the fourth option: Stop writing.

People will say that a real writer NEEDS to write (for publication) like writing (for publication) is oxygen, but I've never thought that. I think I've proven that I'm good at writing. I've also proven I can't sell for beans. Unless something happens soon, it simply won't make sense for me to spend hundreds of hours a year to write a book that no one will pay to read. Sorry that it comes down to money - money often controls where it should enable - but there you have it.

So then, the initial question - Bouchercon or not? I've no doubt that the Baltimore Bouchercon will be talked about for decades. The Jordans are smashing people. There are also a lot of people I would like to see - friends I only see once a year. That is a strong draw. But...

1 - It'll cost a thousand dollars.
2 - I won't have a new book out to flog.
3 - I will have a brand new bouncing baby.
4 - It'll feel awkward telling people "Me? A writer? Well, that depends..."

Anyway, this is the conundrum I'm working through this week. Help me if you can...

* As the saying goes "By the time Mozart was my age, he was dead three years..."

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Over at The Lipstick Chronicles...

Friday, July 04, 2008

'Bout Friggin' Time!

This is old news by now, but I thought I should say something. Not sure why. Okay I take that back; I do know why.

I'm not usually not the most up to date guy in the world, but even I've noticed that the news of the world has been particularly crappy the past few weeks and months. Gas prices, mortgage crisis, inflation, the dollar being near worthless overseas, the resurgence of the Taliban funded by dope sales which, I'm just guessing here, probably means American citizens are paying a sizable chunk into the Taliban's war chest.

It gets worse, of course. Muskrats undermining a levy, tornadoes erasing neighborhoods and towns, Israel wants to strike Iran, Iran seems happy to throw down, and if all that isn't enough, Voyager II has left the solar system and taken pictures which show the solar system is severely dented. I have no doubt the solar system's insurance won't cover that. Even if it does, the deductible has to be massive.

In my own life, not only am I finding out that that I'm not a commercially viable writer (that's painful - I thought if anything I'd be one of those...) but the corn I planted with such care a few months back and which has been growing strong all this time is finally growing tassles loaded with pollen. Just no ears to pollinate. Those look likely to come out a couple of weeks from now when the pollen will be all gone. Ah well.

So when finally a piece of unmitigated good news comes along, I shout HALLELUJAH! I say ABOUT TIME! Can you imagine? After years of raids, negotiations, mediation, threats and other stuff, all it took to free fifteen people FIFTEEN! was a con job. No shooting, no killing, no bloodshed, just a battle of wits. And finally, in this battle of wits, the bad guys came unarmed.

I'm not a drinking man - never had a drink in fact - but to the people who planned this and to the people who carried it out, I say you deserve a case of the finest scotch (or rum or Grape Nehi) and an expenses paid vacation to someplace great. Then you should all be cloned to solve other problems around the world.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Where you've been...

Incredible to me, someone from Indonesia was on my site yesterday. And someone from the Netherlands and someone from Australia and someone from the UK. Not only that, someone from Fargo North Dakota was on the blog today. Now, not many people show up at this blog*, but I'm always surprised where they come from. There've been people from Japan and many nations of South America. Most of the nations of Europe too. Some in Africa and some in Asia.

Does this not prove beyond any shadow of doubt that I, personally, have international appeal?

On the other hand, there was the time I wrote about a Ben Rehder book that introduced the workings of Chinese dwarf porn stars. This was on my website, and I got hundreds of hits off of that. Whodda thunk it?

Leads me to think there are people all over the internet looking for strange things and occassionally they wind up at this blog. Perhaps tomorrow someone will stumle here from Mongolia...looking for Chinese dwarf porn stars.

* A dozen on a good day.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Where I'll Be

I was invited to write a blog post for the 4th of July weekend over at The Lipstick Chronicles. Not sure if i was supposed to disperse that information into the cyber-wilds, but then on my blog, it's not about dispersal...

In any event, anyone who knows me and the Lipstick Chronicles will immediately see how this is a perfect match. In fact, if it paid something over 50k w/benefits, I'd quit my job and write fulltime for them. Then they could get the kinds of traffic I get here*.

I've also been asked to write a short story for an anthology and another short story I wrote years ago is supposed to be included in another anthology. We'll see how those go** before I post any specifics.

I'll be a keynote speaker for the first time in my life on July 11th. Not sure what I'm supposed to say just yet and, given that it's for a Puerto Rican Day Gala event, I'm not sure which language I'll be speaking.

Have I given up on my writing career though nary a publisher will touch my books? Nay! I struggle on like a mighty carp, fighting the tide of destiny and doom that threaten to wash me out of the writing game forever...

Okay, that was a strange metaphor, but I stand by it.

* Mostly quite slow and usually only here by accident.
** That is, whether checks clear.