Friday, December 21, 2007

The Nerd Handbook

Lots of posts for me today... It's slow at work since nobody is here (I have one of those jobs where I'm either daydreaming about product enhancements with my headphones on, or I'm calling programmers and people that can actually code things, and with Xmas approaching nobodty's around). Erm... where was I? Oh, yeah.

Saw this article called The Geek Handbook over on The Rabbit Cave, and liked it so much that I thought it needed... NEEDED... to be reposted. I see more than a little bit of myself in his descriptions of the archetypal nerd, even though I'm certainly not a programmer, coder or web designer. I found this particularly true, and the moment I stopped laughing I started looking for the tiny cameras the author had obviously planted in my house to observe me:

How does a nerd watch TV? Probably one of two ways. First, there’s watching TV with you where the two of you sit and watch one show. Then there’s how he watches by himself when he watches three shows at once. It looks insane. You walk into the room and you’re watching your nerd jump between channels every five minutes.

“How can you keep track of anything?”

He keeps track of everything. See, he’s already seen all three of these movies… multiple times. He knows the compelling parts of the arcs and is mentally editing his own versions while watching all three. The basic mental move here is the context switch, and your nerd is the king of the context switch.

The ability to instantly context switch also comes from a life on the computer. Your nerd’s mental information model for the world is one contained within well-bounded tidy windows where the most important tool is one that allows your nerd to move swiftly from one window to the next. It’s irrelevant that there may be no relationship between these windows. Your nerd is used to making huge contextual leaps where he’s talking to a friend in one window, worrying about his 401k in another, and reading about World War II in yet another.

Seeing as how I'm typing this post in Firefox, where I currently have 44 separate web sites open, each on its own tab, I think he hit the nail square on the head here. Not bragging... just sayin'.

Anyway...enjoy, and, once again, Happy Holidays!

Jackson will produce "Hobbit" films!

From Reuters, via Wil Wheton's awesome blog - Peter Jackon will produce not one, but TWO films based on Tolkein's The Hobbit. Read the whole story HERE.
One word. Effing YEAH baby! Wait... that's more then one. Whatever. Go jump up and down, screaming like a little girl already. Or is that just, you know, me?

Anyway... this is great news. I'm not sure about the idea of a sequel film that they're proposing will cover the period between the Hobbit and the beginning of the Lord of the Rings (has a bit of a weird Rogue Squadron feel to me, for you Star Wars geeks out there), but if anyone can spin up new content set in Tolkein's world and make it palatable, it's Jackson.

The power of games

I don't know why, but I found this entire article deeply fulfilling. Easily the best gaming-related article I've read all year.

GREAT quote:

At the main entrance, a much larger setup is dedicated to Rock Band. Tellingly, the guitars are both Guitar Hero 2 era wired Explorers, the workhorse standard in the guitar game universe. The drum kit features duct tape in several places. As I walk by, 4 teenage boys are playing "Maps" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, a choice not only unlikely due to the song's laconic and decidedly non-hardcore tone, but also due to the fact that one of the boys is actually singing, amplified, and doing it quite well. That Rock Band has brought baggy-trousered boys out of their basements to actually sing in public is a testament to the game's power. That my four year old son Jake is also singing every word with perfect diction and not-half-bad tone is a testament to how many hours I've played it, not any expression of talent on his part.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Update

I'll likely be distracted by family and holiday activities to post next week, but I wanted to let anyone reading what's going on with the book.

First, I managed to show up in Heidi Ruby Miller's "Pick Six" interview section (thanks so much, Heidi!) - you can read my fascinating answers to her questions HERE. It's probably not anything new to anyone that's been reading my old posts, but it was a fun exercise anyway. Maybe I should have focused on questions like "Celebrity Crush" (definitely Kate Bush when I was a young man... evolving to the much more kick-ass-tic Sarah Michelle Geller ne: Buffy later on), or perhaps "Food You Could Eat Every Day" (sushi, sushi and more sushi, please).


I also wanted everyone to know that I'm practically finished with the finale for Nights of Sin - I've been working hard nearly every morning at Panera Bread before work and the odd evening, trying to meet Juno's deadline. The finale is much grander this time around, with many more moving parts, and keeping track of everything in discreet, hour-long chunks of time is... challenging... to say the least. I'm feeling pretty good about it though and I look forward to getting the end result into the hands of my crack beta-reading team by New Year's.

Here's hoping that everyone's holidays are happy and joyous, filled with the warmth of friendship and family.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Torture as The One Ring

I ran across this interesting blog post over on Andrew Sullivan's site earlier this week, comparing the recent US policies regarding the torture of terrorism suspects to the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings. Sullivan had this to say about it:
The point is not that between America and al Qaeda, there is any equivalence. It is that no country is good enough to trust itself with the evil of torture. And semantic denial is not renuniciation. That's why we have the rule of law. That is why those who treat it as an expedient will lose themselves before too long, whatever their initial motives. And they have, I fear. They have.
It really hit a nerve, so I sent out the link to my best friend, Dave, who had this to say (I think he summed it up even better for whatever that's worth):

Sherrian and I heard/read some blowhard talking about how the success of Lord of the Rings was proof that people had developed an appetite for Good vs. Evil, and tried to cast the "War on Terror" in the light of the War of the Ring. Sherrian and both looked at each other open-mouthed, and Sherrian said what we were both thinking: "Don't they get it? HE'S SAURON!"

The truth is, though, as that article points out, is that it's much worse than that, which is why so many of us watching get soul-sick, and finally just weary. We're not Sauron -- we're Isildur, we're Aragorn corrupted, we're Nazgul, we're Gollum. Bush, in the most sympathetic light imaginable, is Boromir or Denethor if they'd gotten the ring.

It's ridiculous that we frame so much of what we do as a battle of good and evil, when, given the opportunity to make the choice ourselves, we blow it.

Sometimes I think about the cheap seat I'm in. It's pretty easy for me to sit here and spout about how people ought to behave when they're doing the hard and dangerous work involved in actually identifying threats and removing them. But it's this argument, ultimately, that heads off most appeals to more moral behavior. Those who ask for patience rather than paranoia or vengeance are presented as being soft and used to safety, and so are rarely to be able to claim enough credibility to make the argument. And if they can, undermining that credibility becomes the A-1 priority of the opposition (see: swift boats). I'm surprised that we didn't hear something about McCain being a pushover for not liking torture just because he experienced some.

Heinlein saw the only way out of that as making every citizen a soldier. Tolkien had some faith that the comfortable could still be strong and moral when the time came. Not sure of the answer myself.
I'm not sure either, but I know that asking the question is better than just blindly trusting that what we're being told is the truth.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Expresso Book Machine... Scary? Wonderful?

I'd never heard of the Expresso Book Machine until today, but as a writer and reader of Sci-Fi, I always knew this day would arrive. The $50k device can churn out a paperback book, complete with color cover, from a digital file in 5 minutes, and was just named Time Magazine's "Invention of the Year", over the iPhone.

And they say that print is dead.

Between this and Amazon's all-electronic Kindle book reader, if I were a traditional book retail outlet like Border's or Barnes and Nobles, I'd be dropping a load in my pants right about now. I can easily imagine all those cathedral-like book outlets replaced with mall kiosks. Hardcovers would have to be sold via existing channels for years to come, but you know that a bigger and better version of this thing would come along eventually.

I'm not sure how I feel about that. The futurist in me geeks out at the idea of my book available literally everyplace, printed on-demand. The book lover in me, however, insists (perhaps illogically) that the experience of book shopping - the hushed, almost reverent quiet in the store, the smell of the paper and the glue, the rows and rows of shelved titles, some spine-out, some displaying their covers - is just as important to the satisfaction of the reading process as the content.

Well, maybe not as important...

What do you think? Is a "ATM for books" a good thing in the long run?

Either way, I think the Expresso is here to stay.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fox News Porn

"He blanked my blank. Then blanked my blank blank 'till 5 AM. I danced for him. Then he stuck a blank blank up my blank. I blanked all over us in bed."

Honestly... as a fiction writer I'm constantly in awe of real life. You simply cannot make this crap up.

(Thanks to: The Huffington Post).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Numerus Subtracticus!

Holy shit. Can you imagine them trying to get this to fly in an American school, no matter how badly it was performing?

I can almost hear the Pope's head exploding.

But you can't argue with the results of this previously-failing, now Top 5% Primary school in England. Can't wait to see this duplicated in University.

Fun quote:

During the most recent visit from Ofsted, the inspector witnessed a maths lesson where the children were motivated to learn about subtraction by pretending that it is a magic formula created by Harry Potter.

Pupils were not allowed to answer questions without first saying a spell - "numerus subtracticus", which they devised themselves.

The official report describes achievement at the school as "outstanding".

"Pupils enter the school with standards well below average. Over the last three years, standards and achievement have improved greatly and were above average in Key Stage 2 tests in 2006," it says.

"Pupils are enthusiastic about their work in mathematics and particularly enjoy practical tasks and those that allow them to investigate mathematics. Some pupils said they enjoyed calculations because they knew what they were doing and they liked getting things right."

Sex and Drugs and Rock n' Roll


I remember the good old days when Rock and Roll was the music of rebellion. When it was about taking chances and doing stupid things. Now it's been supplanted by Rap and (surprisingly) Country and Western music for drug references. Country? Really? The music of the Heartland?

Whatever happened to Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll?

Guess I have to start encouraging my daughter to listen to more Punk and less Travis Tritt or "Fitty Cent".

Oh, wait... I already do that.

Carry on, citizens...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Star Trek Redux... Not bad, actually

Last night, Dave, Grafton, Jake and I went out to see the newly-remastered Star Trek episode "The Menagerie" at one of our local cineplexes. Seems as if Paramount, in all their infinite wisdom, has decided to "re-master" all of the Original Series episodes. What's interesting (and somewhat alarming) about this is not only do they plan to up the resolution to true HD-DVD, cleaning up the color, removing old dust, scratches and repairing the faded contrast from the original negatives, but they also plan to re-shoot the cheesy model shots using modern digital FX.

While I was at first very, very wary of this - I hated the "updated" Star Wars Episodes 4-6 - I have to say that, overall, I was very impressed with the Star Trek redux. The new visual effects are certainly noticeable, but the re-mastering team seems to have done a good job in replacing only the things that were "distractingly bad" while retaining all the stuff that was "charmingly bad", if you get my drift. Cheesy sound FX, weird, rubbery alien suits, pancake makeup, inches-long fake eyelashes (on the chicks... and possibly Shatner... he definitely has some old skool goth eyeliner action happening in some episodes) - all of that they left wisely alone. In other words: the new Special FX shouldn't have worked, but somehow they did. They felt... respectful. Proper. Well-intentioned.

And the color! Oh, the color! And the contrast! And the sharpness! I really have to say that seeing a 45-foot tall image of Cap'n Kirk in full Technicolor glory was a geek dream come true. When I think of all the hours, days really, that I spent at Star Trek cons, squinting at badly-dubbed Laser Disc or (shudder) VHS versions of the show, projected onto plain white walls, all while packed cheek-to-jowl with unwashed 20-somethings with rubber Vulcan ears... well, let's just say that it was a breathtaking moment.

The one-night-only movie release was really just a big advertising ploy for the Season 1 HD-DVD set that will be released on November 20, but, you know what? It worked. I was indeed the target audience, and they impressed me. They really seem to be doing the remaster not to "milk the cash cow" (as Jake said), but because they really cared about bringing the show up to more contemporary specs and maybe, just maybe, make the show a bit more accessible to the latest generation of viewers. I know that as soon as I get my set, I plan to introduce my son, Grayson (now age 5) to the show, in the hopes that it will stick. Wish me luck and if I might be allowed a total geek moment:

Live long, and prosper.

Other links:

Official ST:TOS Re-master Site

Remaster Compendium - with side-by-side shots, broadcast schedules, etc.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Candidate Guide

Honestly, I have no idea how I found this... one blog led to another, led to another, which had this linked somplace in the body text of... something. You get the drift. But anyway, I'm glad I found it.

The site is, and they have a great little poll thing that lets you rate issues that are important to you and then see how well your favorites Agree or Disagree with your priorities.

Largest surprise? Dennis Kucinich agrees with 88% of my choices. Plus, his wife's a FLILF, which is, like so totally hot (kudos, Jason Jones). Obama agrees with me 76% of the time. Best of all, there's a "find out why" link that shows you how the candidate in question voted on certain issues and made campaign or debate promises. This is what the internet is for, people...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I'm home...

Three days and 2,300 miles later and I'm finally home.

We found a replacement car for our dearly departed "Nano" - in Los Angeles. Turns out the car has an interesting history and story, and I just couldn't turn it down.

There's lots of details in this thread over on, a MINI Cooper site for those that want every detail (ImagoX is my user ID over there in case you were wondering), but in a nutshell, the car we chose to replace the one that was wrecked belonged to a lady named Dawn out in L.A.. Dawn had cancer, and her husband, Larry, bought the car for her as a 40th birthday present, Right after, she got very ill from her condition and really could not drive it. Unfortunately, Dawn died about eight months ago. What's strange though is that Larry decided to finally list the car for sale on the day we wrecked the orange car. Coincidence? I think not...

Long(ish) story short, I flew out to L.A. on Wednesday and spent the next three days driving home. Kara and I decided to name the car "Dawn" after her (yes, we named it - car people are weird, what can I say?) I could have shipped the car back, but I quite honestly wanted to meet Larry and shake his hand, which I did as you can see.

Along the way, I stopped by the VLA in New Mexico, which was over 200 miles out of my way, but was something I've wanted to see for my whole life, so it was worth it:

As well as dealt with a case of pea-soup fog in Oklahoma:

It was really something to drive so far... I was honestly worried that I might be too old for such a long road trip, but it went just fine - thank God for audio books on CD!

Now that I'm home, I really must buckle down and get Book 2 complete!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Feeling MUCH better...

Well, I'm back from World Fantasy, and I'm happy to report that, in the end, I had a completely wonderful time.

Much of this feeling came from a friend (and former Writeshop member), Jaime Voss, who, using her awesome Social Powers managed to introduce me to a large number of incredibly charming and intelligent people, all of who allowed me to sit at their tables and accompany them to the parties. Going to social engagements of this kind are generally incredibly awkward for me, given my inherent shyness, and going in the company of such wonderful people made the experience so great. Thanks to everyone that let me hang out!

I can't easily describe how flat-out cool it is to spend a chunk of time in the presence of not only Sci-Fi and Fantasy fans but also with writers of the genre. They, quite simply, "get it". For instance, at one point, I found myself in the midst of a conversation about the depth of the story in the Pixar film "Ratatouille", and the commentary that it makes on the challenges and rewards of being an artist... it was, in a word, awesome. The next day, I happily geeked out with a new friend, John Hay, who agreed with me that, as good as the recent adaptation of CASINO ROYALLE was (it's the best Bond film since From Russia With Love, if not the best Bond film ever, IMHO), a straight-up adaptation of Ian Flemming's original James Bond books, done as proper historic, Cold War re-tellings and not modern movies would be best. Finally - someone that agrees with me!

Again, thanks to everyone that let me go with them to breakfast, talked to me in the hallways, sat beside me in panel discussions and had drinks with me in the stiflingly-hot room parties - your attention was noticed and very much appreciated, and I can't wait to see you all again next year (hopefully sooner)!

PROGRESS REPORT: Blood Magic Book 2: Nights of Sin is still chugging along, only slightly delayed by my recent car crash drama and the massive distractions of WFC. I began Chapter 22 yesterday and worked on it again this morning. The climax is unrolling right before my startled eyes, and, as is par for the course, the characters are already doing things that I don't expect. The body count is rising... Kirin is more tempted than ever to use the power that she swore she'd never employ again... the final enemy is about to be revealed... Good stuff, and I hope you find it as startling as I do. I can't wait to get it done and into Paula's hands.

I'm leaving Wednesday morning for Los Angeles. There, I will pick up my new Purple Haze 2005 MINI Cooper S convertible and attempt the 2,000-mile solo journey home. Alog the way, I'll pass through places like Flagstaff, AZ and Albuquerque, New Mexico (where I'll try to make a side-trip out to the Very Large Array just west of Socorro, NM - something I've wanted to see for years and years). I hope to document the entire trip and possibly get a magazine article commission out of the entire thing - wish me luck! I should be back this weekend, tired but hopefully intact, and will blog along the way if it proves to be possible.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Overwhelmed at World Fantasy

I've fled from the Saratoga Hotel and Conference center.

I'm typing this at the counter of Uncommon Grounds in lovely, scenic Saratoga Springs, surrounded by the pleasant buzz and chaos that always seems to be present, as pervasive as the scents of roasted coffee beans and fresh-baked muffins, in the best cafes. I'm sipping my drink and posting here, to try and regroup. To get ready to plunge back into the mass of people, commerce and creativity, that I've recently retreated from.

I've come to New York to attend the 2007 World Fantasy Convention. Paula Guran, my editor, felt that it would be a good thing for me to meet and mingle with the luminaries of the writing and publishing worlds. As I'm in possession of a manuscript that Juno cannot use (Juno is very specific about the stories they're looking to publish, namely ones featuring strong female leads, something my book, Rowantree, does not have), she felt that I might be able to pitch the book to one of her numerous editor contacts. My only goal here is to meet some new people, authors or agents or, just maybe, editors, and see if anyone's interested in my story.

I arrived on Thursday, expecting to get checked in and maybe have a nice meal, but not long after arriving I met my friend Tim Waggoner and his friend, the very charming Nayad Monroe, who invited me to tag along for dinner. We went off for a wonderful meal of Thai food and sushi. Returning to the convention, I ran across Paula at the 2007 Horror Writer's Guild awards, and from there it was off to meet and greet any number of people at any number of crowded, hot parties, following at her heel like a well-trained puppy.

I was still in the grungy clothes that I'd been sitting in for the almost 10-hour drive, but soon after, I found myself face to face with an editor from Tor Books, stammering out the basic plotline for my urban fantasy novel, struggling to remember all of the carefully laid-out plot points that, I feel, sets my book apart from the herd. He was polite, but I think he wrote me off as a stammering buffoon and proto-amateur, and soon left to rejoin his friends.

This whole thing has been, so far, so completely and totally overwhelming for me. Everywhere I look, I see names of people that I've read and admired literally for as long as I can remember: George RR Martin (who read the introductory chapter of his upcoming novel), Gene Wolfe, Alan Dean Foster, Holly Black. Stephen R. Donaldson is on the attendee list, but I've not seen him. The list goes on and on and on...

In the dealer room, Juno has a table, and on that table, up high, out of reach (but with better visibility, or so Paula tells me), is my book. It looks so small, perched up there. So tiny in the vast room, packed with uncounted millions of words, all written by men and women much, much more talented than I.

It is, in a word, humbling.

I feel like a boy wearing his father's too-large suit, coming here. Around my neck is a cardboard sign, made out of a shoe box top, dangling from a frayed, discarded shoelace. The word "author" is proudly scrawled upon it in shaky Crayon. As I walk through the halls, trying to recognize names and catch eyes, people look at my sign and smile, somewhat pityingly, somewhat self-indulgently (for, just maybe, they were where I am now, many years ago, and perhaps they remember this feeling of awkwardness - maybe I simply amuse them with my pretensions). Thankfully, for they are good and decent people, they spare me the embarrassment of pointing out that the word "author" is spelled wrong. And the "R" is backwards.

Like I said... overwhelming.

I suppose this was inevitable. I spent the first few months after selling my book frankly stunned at my good fortune, then the first weeks after it's release riding on cloud nine, convinced that now that I was finally a published author that things would be somehow different. That Big Things were happening to me, and happening fast. That I was a Very Important Person, someone that people wanted to get to know, who said things that people wanted to listen to.

While that may be true, some day, this experience has, so far, done nothing but remind me (in increasingly mocking tones) of my own words. There ARE no short cuts. Nothing replaces hard work. No matter how good you are, or might be one day, there are always people far, far better, with audiences much, much larger.

Please don't get me wrong: everyone I've met have been completely wonderful and welcoming, willing to talk about anything I've been able to nerve myself to ask. The honesty I'm experiencing all around me is refreshing and inspirational, as are the authors, publishers and editors themselves. But it was nobody folly but my own to think that any of them would be even the tiniest bit impressed by my single author's credit, no matter how proud of it I am. No, that vanity was purely my own.

Oh well... I've talked enough I suppose. Time to write a few pages and finish my drink, and listen to a few more songs in the cafe before going back. Maybe I can pay back Nayad for dinner last night, and try and remember how to relax. How to take a deep breath. I know that some day, probably very soon. I'll re-read this and chuckle at how scared I am right now, but right now, at this moment, I'm feeling very, very far from home.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fatty fatty fat fat

I ran across this ad on a blog and I just had to stop and marvel:

Please GOD let this disgusting water buffalo lose 25 pounds and get her disgustingly rounded little tummy off my computer screen! As a father of a 16 year old daughter, this sort of marketing (which, let's face it, is everywhere), really freaks me out.

On more serious news - I've been wrapped up with the saga of my wrecked car all week, but despite this I'm still on target for a November completion of my manuscript first draft. Worst case would be that I deliver the first 95% to my editor in November (which should keep her plenty busy) and the last 5% in December.

Look for an interesting update to the car saga in the coming days, as well as my take on World Fantasy when I get back this weekend - I'm leaving for New York early tomorrow morning. Wish me luck on my pitches to the big NY houses for Rowantree!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Near-death experience

I dont normally use the blog to document daily life events, but this one was a doozy. With so many of my friends and family asking me for a recounting, I figure its best to just put this up here.

First of all, let me say up front that Im OK, and my family is OK. Nobody was physically harmed by the event Im about to describe beyond some bruises and scrapes and a hefty dose of terror.

Last weekend (the 20st of October), my family and I drove down to North Carolina. While there, we decided to drive on the famous Tail of the Dragon, on Rt. 129 on the Tennessee/NC border. We had a blast down there, visiting with friends and driving our 2006 MINI Cooper S convertible on any number of challenging, twisty roads.

On Sunday the 21st we were ready to head home. My wife, who had never driven the Dragon, asked to make one final run up the road as the first leg of our trip home to Ohio. She'd been up and down the road many times in the passenger seat, and wanted to drive it "just one time", so she could say that she'd "slayed the Dragon" like so many others have. Conditions were favorable: dry roads, just after sun up, so no motorcycle or boat trailer traffic was on the road. My wife started her run well, moving easily through the roads many challenging curves.

A little past the 1/3rd mark, Kara approached one of the Dragons infamous decreasing radius curves. With a road challenge like this, the driver can be lulled into a false sense of complacency by an early gentle curve, only to be surprised when the road turns tightly in on itself, like the curve of a particularly nasty fish hook. Anyone thats driven competitively, or has interest in racing can tell you that there are few challenges harder than a decreasing-radius curve. The Dragons turns are even more treacherous because often the roads banking flips over and actually leans outwards at the apex of the corners, forcing the car to fight against its own momentum as well as the slight pull of gravity at the worst possible time.

As it turned out, this small extra force would prove to be our downfall.

My wife wasnt even going all that fast; certainly much slower than Ive gone through that particular section. Our five year-old son was in the rear, watching DVDs, and racing through the Dragon's 311 curves at warp speed wasnt in the mornings agenda. She went into the tight spot in the curve at only slightly elevated speed, but even that proved to be too much.

All I can figure is that she felt the car go light on the suspension as she drove over the negative camber banking. Instinct tells the average driver, even a careful one like my wife, to let off the gas at that point, and try to let the car slow down. As it turned out, however, that instinct proved to be the total opposite of what should have happened, for once the car was robbed of the force from its engine, the implacable hand of momentum grabbed the car and pulled it into a gentle, outwards slide.

It wasnt much; just a few feet of predictable skid. On any other road, she would have gone a few feet into the roadside gravel and corrected, getting us back on course with no damage beyond a little dust on the paint.

But as anyone that's been there will tell you, the Dragon is no normal road.

The cars passenger-side front corner clipped the rock cliff face standing about 48 inches from the side of the road, smashing it into modern art and lofting the entire right side of the car into the air. Safety glass exploded all around us in a glittering cloud as the car gently tipped over onto its side and then onto its roof, still skidding along the verge of the tarmac and the gravel shoulder. My stomach did that roller-coaster thing as I hung from my seatbelt. I remember watching the painted line on the side of the road sliding past the other side of the windshield glass, which, a moment later, began to craze and crack as the weight of the car buckled the convertible top over my head.

I didn’t even have time to be scared. All I wondered, in that moment, was if we had hit the cliff hard enough to rebound us across the entire road, and if we would plunge over the steep drop-off on the other side. Any moment, I expected to see tree limbs whipping past as we tumbled over the precipice.

As it turned out, somehow we kept hugging the cliff face, never entirely leaving the ditch beside the road. Thank God we did, for a tumble down the cliff would have certainly hurt us much more badly than we were. We stopped, resting on the drivers side door, and waited while hurrying feet ran towards us. Other drivers stopped and helped me, my wife and my son through the ruin of the shredded convertible top. The smell of talc and explosives from the deployed side-curtain airbag mixed with the flinty smell of pulverized rock and dirt. I had glass and sand in my hair, and my elbow ached from a scrape I had received but did not remember.

In short, we survived the ordeal, but our beloved car was destroyed in the process. But, it did its job, and sacrificed itself to keep us safe, and for that Im forever grateful to the safety engineers at BMW and MINI. Even though our car was a convertible, the reinforced top kept us from harm or even any real damage, something Im frankly amazed by.

Now that the insurance company has totaled the car, weve begin to search for a replacement, but Im certain that locating a new car in our exact model and color will be next to impossible. Wish me luck, and if youre the praying type, send a quick word of thanks on our behalf to whatever deity was watching over me and my family on that fateful Sunday morning.

Some photos:

The last beauty shots taken of my car, on Saturday afternoon, at sunset, on the Cherohala Skyway in North Carolina. Little did I know that 12 hours later Id be upside-down in this car, hanging from my seatbelt.

The final resting position of the car. We struck the cliff face on the lee side of the cliff, and somehow managed to not bounce off and over the other side. Thank God we didn't.

The wrecker on-site, ready to drag my beloved car onto the flatbed and from there to the wrecking yard. RIP, Nano you were an awesome vehicle

UPDATE: A friend of mine, Paul, put up a wonderful TRIBUTE to the Nano Car over on See post #15 for his full eulogy/tribute, but heres a wonderful quote:

While we wish our motoring companions could be with us forever, Nano left us in the way a great car is meant to - protecting his family from harm, while taking all the Dragon could dish out. Matt, Kara and Grayson walked away intact due to Nano's strength when it mattered. And that beats the heck outta rusting in some shed somewhere.

Too true, Paul thanks.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"The 99" - Islamic comics... I'd read it...

Saw this over on Andrew Sullivan's blog and found it so interesting that I thought I'd link back to it, too.

The 99 is a superhero comic book that features heroes that have powers based in the teachings of Islam. Here's the quote that really intrigued me:

In many ways, the vision for The 99 grew out of this moment. Al-Mutawa's hope is that the comic book - introduced in the Arab world in the summer of 2006 - will showcase a positive, tolerant, and heroic side of Islam that rarely gets much attention. Many of the characters have Arab-sounding names, and the series' premise derives from the 99 positive attributes of Allah, but there are no prayers, nor passages from the Koran, nor dialogues filled with religious jargon. Unlike the efforts by some evangelical Christians to co-opt pop culture (like rock music) and use it as a tool for proselytizing, al-Mutawa's agenda is subtler, and his emphasis remains on telling a good story.

Read the rest of the Boston Globe magazine article HERE.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Published again - Mini Cooper Calendar

Some of you may know that besides being a writer I also like to take photographs. I haven't done as much with it as I used to, mainly because after art school I had no regular access to a dark room or the funds to stay stocked up with film and photographic paper.

Luckily, the digital revolution has done quite a bit for photography - no longer must a photographer invest thousands in a darkroom, enlarger, chemicals and other paraphernalia to make images. A few years back I made the jump to digital and bought a basic, low-end Canon Digital Rebel, and I've never looked back.

Some of you might also know that I love my cars. I have a pair of Mini Coopers, a red 1275 from 1976 and an orange convertible Cooper S from 2006. They really are financial black holes and eat up way more of my time and money then I can afford, but hey, I've wanted a classic Mini since college (I saw my firrst Cooper way back in 1987 and have been in love with the little beasts ever since), so owning them is something of a "life goal".


I'm boring you all with this because I just got one of my photos published in this year's's annual calendar contest. HERE is a thread on their forums announcing the winners (my car is the "May" entry).

It's not much... just a photo credit and a free copy of the calendar (EDIT: maybe), but for those in the Mini community it's a bit of a status symbol. Plus, it's always good to get validation from others that your artistic work is pleasing and has merit. Thanks for the opportunity to appear in your calendar!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Apologies and a Freebie

I'm sorry that posts have slowed over the past few days... I'm simply slammed with work. Between my day J.O.B., getting set to take a few trips for said time-sink, and desperately writing to meet my editor's deadline for Book 2, I'm swamped.

Some quick news: I'm working with some local Barnes and Noble's and Border's stores in Central Ohio to see about doing some book signings - check back for news. I'll post any scheduled appearances here well in advance and I hope to see you there.

Also, Juno sent me a link to a little thing they prepared as a give-away - a .PDF file for a Blood Magic bookmark. I like it - hopefully they'll print out a bunch of these suckers sometime soon as giveaways. In the meantime, you can download a copy HERE.

No luck with the agent search yet, although I did get some preliminary replies... We'll see if any pan out. Something's telling me that nothing will really move until I can meet people face-to-face at World Fantasy next month, but we'll see.

Until next time!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Another review and interview - Monsters and Critics

Wow... busy morning. Another review and interview, this time by Jason Sanford over on, just hit the web. Here's a quote from the review:

Part sword and sorcery tale, part monster-drenched horror, part personal exploration of pain and loss, Blood Magic is one of those rare novels which refuses to be explained by the sum of its parts. The story follows Kirin, a shy woman who lives in her twin sister's shadow until her twin's murder. Seeking revenge through the dark magic she has learned, Kirin sets herself on a journey in which her yearnings for life and freedom crash against her deep-seated morality and the dark deed she has done.

Thanks so much, Jason. Glad you liked it. I'm still thrilled every time I see someone favorably reviewing the book. Plus, it's so gratifying when people see beyond the blood and gore to the story's deeper themes. As a first-timer, it's hard to know if you're being too subtle with these things (or too obvious for that matter), so comments like this really mean a lot.

A reminder: if anyone out there has a review on their blog or finds a mention of Blood Magic out on the web, please drop me a line so I can link to it here. Positive or negative, I want to hear about it.


Darque Review and Interview

Darque Reviews just put up a write-up of Blood Magic - you can read the entire review HERE, but here's a snippet:

Blood Magic is dark fantasy that at times crosses the line into horror. Kirin has seen and caused more than her share of death and destruction, but the battle against the Mor rages on. Set in a fast pace of alternating timelines, Mr. Cook builds a strong world for his heroine’s dangerous journey and fills it with dark magic, fatal combat and just a touch of love to encourage hope. Compelling, dark and most certainly deserving of a sequel.

Also, Katie's Reading posted an interview she did with me on her blog. Here's a snippet, and you can read the entire interview HERE.

How can you not work from an outline? I always find myself getting lost without one.

MC: The answer is... I have no idea. I like to have a few pages written sketching out the overall flow of the story... This happens and then this other thing happens and somehow this last thing ends up happening as a result... that sort of thing. But I seldom know all the deeper connections until I start working. Most of the time, even I end up having those "Oh,... so that's why this guy was so hostile to my main character back in Chapter five!" moments. I like to think it's my subconscious playing shell games with my sanity.

Friday, October 5, 2007


Thanks very much to Heidi Ruby Miller, who took some photos of me at Context. Pics of my charming mug can be found HERE and HERE. Heidi's blog also features an interesting interview series called "Pick Six" that's worth checking out.

Thanks again, Heidi!

More on Finding An Agent - The Resnick/Malzberg Dialogues

As promised, I'm putting up a reprint of an older article, written by Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg, on finding an agent. The article originally appeared nine years ago in the SWFA Bulletin and talks at great length about the process of finding a literary agent, on what questions to ask, Hollywood and it's perils (and pay-offs) and many other things of interest to a writer in search of representation.

Thank you very much, Mike, for giving me permission to re-print the article - I hope that it proves useful to all the writers out there that read this blog (all five of them). :)


The Resnick/Malzberg Dialogues

IV: Agents

Mike: There are a lot of misconceptions about agents.

One is that you can't sell without one. This is demonstrably

false; I think most of us sold our first novels without an agent.

Another is that an agent can sell an inferior book. Also

false. An agent can get your manuscript read faster, and can

probably negotiate a better advance (though you should remember

that if it's only 10% or 15% better, it's going right into the

agent's pocket), but no agent can make an editor buy an inferior


(Well, yes, they can -- but only if it's "You buy Joe

Phan's first novel or you don't get the new Stephen King/Tom

Clancy/Danielle Steele book." But while it's theoretically

possible, consider the reaction of King/Clancy/Steele when this

gets out -- and it always gets out -- and ask yourself just how

long Mr. or Mrs. Eight-Figure Advance would stay with such an

agent.) ...


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Writer Seeks Agent For Strict Management, Light Manhandling...

So there I was at Context on Saturday, sitting with fellow author Jim C. Hines, signing copies of our books, and who should appear other than... Mike Resnick! Resnick, it seems, had been the victim of a scheduling SNAFU and had nothing to do, so he decided to sit for a spell with us.

(A sidenote: this was the second time that's happened to me with Mike - last year he was cast adrift from a panel in a similar manner, and he took about 45 minutes of his free time to chat with me about the writing biz... Thanks as always, Mike, for your generosity if you're reading this...)

Anyway. While we were sitting there, being the mercenary little proto-author that I am, I decided to pick Mike's brain about agents and the process of finding one. He was very nice about it (I think my spastic thrashings and attempts to sound "like a real author-ish type" amuse him or something), and he ended up giving me about half a dozen names, all of ethical, hard-working professionals, and suggested that I contact them.

He also explained in detail what things that I, as a budding writer, should look for in a potential agent. Hopefully, Mike will soon be sending me an article that he wrote a while back for one of his many publications (which I will reprint here with his permission if he allows it), but in a nutshell, here's what he had to say:

  • What is the size of the agent's current client list? Will you be one of a hundred clients, swiftly forgotten, or will the agent have sufficient time to dedicate to your career? Bigger can be better, but too big is... erm, never mind. That sounds like a setup for a bad porn joke. You get the drift.
  • What does the agency's foreign desk look like? Turns out that a book can generate significant additional profits via international sales, so who does your prospective agent work with overseas to procure those rights?
  • What about their Hollywood ties? Books that are optioned for films or other media can generate significant yearly profits simply to reserve the production rights for a studio. Most books are optioned in this manner for years and years even if they're never produced, and every renewal means dollars in the writer's pocket. That being the case, the agency will need to have a good contact on the West Coast. Be sure to ask who that is and research their other deals.
  • How to they participate in your work? Do they like to take a "hands-on" approach, suggesting edits that a potential editor might find appealing, or do they expect you to do everything all on your own? In that same vein, does the agent want to manage every facet of your career, right down to the $35 short story you just sold to The Town Drunk, or are they only interested in the bigger stuff? Best to ask this now, rather than wait until a big, fat contract chock-full of teensy-weensy writing is sitting in front of you.
  • Most importantly, do you like them? This is a person that you will be trusting with your work, so you'd damn well better like and trust them. You'll be working together very closely for years, so don't disregard the little voice in the back of your head that's telling you that the guy across the table is a shady scumbag. On the other hand, if you have a deal on the table with an agent that you like much better, but it doesn't seem quite as financially advantageous, you still might want to use the person you like better simply for trust and quality of life reasons.
  • And last - I didn't get this from Mike, but I've heard it countless times elsewhere - remember that money always flows to the writer, not the other way around! If you run into an agent or an editor that says that they charge a fee to review your work, run away fast! Everyone in the publishing chain makes money off the sales of your work, not on fees that you pay them (well, agents take 15% of your profits, but that's not really the same thing), so if someone's asking you for a check before they'll even look at your work, it's almost certainly a scam. Don't fall for it.
So, I've sent off inquiries to my half a dozen potential agents and am waiting for replies. Wish me luck! Oh, and if anyone out there that's reading this is an agent, or even plays one on TV, feel free to drop me a line and we can set up a time to chat.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Context 2007!

So, as many of you already know, I spent last weekend at Context 2007, a convention for writers and fans of Sci Fi, Fantasy and Horror. Context is held every year in Columbus, Ohio (my home town), and is run by a dedicated staff of volunteers, all of who love genre fiction.

This was my fourth Context, actually, but the first one that I ever attended as a panelist and guest (and thank you, Susan Kehner for inviting me – it was very flattering and I hope I contributed to the con’s success). I first learned about the con from my writer’s group – several members also helped with the con planning and suggested that I go. Editors and authors of every stripe were said to prowl the carpeted halls between panels, their eyes filled with an unholy, insatiable glow My first year there, I met people like Mike Resnick and Tim Waggoner as well as editors from every publication you can imagine, from magazines and fan-zines to actual New York publishing houses. Heady stuff.

Of course, I’ll always have a soft spot for Context because it was there, in 2006, that I met Paula Guran and sold BLOOD MAGIC in the hallway in a frantic 5 minute pitch session. Paula and Ellen Datlow (another famed editor) had just finished up an early-morning panel on “A Day In The Life Of An Editor”, in which Paula had mentioned her new imprint, Juno Books. She announced that she was looking for manuscripts, specifically ones that featured strong female leads and deep relationship elements. The only wrinkle: Juno was looking to publish “romance/speculative fiction cross-over stories.

Afterwards, I cornered Paula in the hallway and desperately pitched my little heart out, explaining to Paula that not only was the manuscript not completely finished yet (generally not recommended) but also that my book, while featuring a strong female lead and deep relationship elements, was not truly a romance/speculative fiction crossover like she said Juno was looking for (DEFINITELY not recommended). All the while, Ellen was tugging on her elbow urging her to go have breakfast with her so they could catch up and gossip it was madness.

Even with all of this happening, I must have made a favorable impression because she asked me for my first three chapters and a synopsis. The rest, as they say, is history.

This year, I sat on several panels, including a very interesting one on “Killing Your Characters”, as well as a very informative panel (for me, anyway) on “How I Published My First Novel”. Everyone on the panel has such different stories, and I now realize, even more than before, how there’s no one right way to catch the attention of a publisher, other than persistent hard work and a genuine love of writing. Your enthusiasm will shine through, believe me, but it must be tempered by clean writing, so practice, practice, practice!

I got the chance to socialize with Mike Resnick at my autograph session – he just sat down next to me and started shooting the shit. God, I LOVE small cons like Context. At a larger event like Marcon, an author like Mike would probably be mobbed for the entire weekend. Mike very generously offered me some advice on finding a literary agent and gave me half a dozen names of people I might contact.

Even better, I met a boatload of extremely nice people, writers and fans, all of who walked right up to me as if I were someone worth talking to. Many presented me with a copy of my book to sign. Talk about mind-blowing. Other writers gave me their cards (or even copies of their books) and invited me to contact them.

Did I mention how much I love small cons?

In the end, the Con dealer room ended up selling completely out of BLOOD MAGIC, which gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling thats only topped by a few other experiences (the birth of my kids the day I got married etc.). Thanks to everyone that took a chance on my book, and I hope you like it. If you end up writing a review, whether it be on Amazon or on a web site, please let me know and I promise that Ill link back to it, good or bad, regardless of what you have to say.

End Cap Action!

Fellow Juno author Chris Howard just spotted Blood Magic on an end cap in Barnes and Nobles in MA... I'm loving the "Dark Fantasy" action... Thanks, Chris!

Blood Magic Reviewed on

A new review of Blood Magic just went up on Katie McNeal had some wonderfully positive things to say about the book - thanks so much, Katie! Here's a quote:

Blood Magic is Matthew Cook’s debut and I have to admit that for a first book I am more than a little impressed. Once I started reading I found myself unable to put the book down as Kirin’s past and present rushed toward each other in a story that simply demands to be read. Not only does Cook tell a strong story, he gives us a strong convincing female protagonist, something not all male writers can pull off.

Katie mentioned in her review that she wished I'd talked more about the Mor, the subterranean, six-limbed monsters that invade Kirin's world, and pondered whether or not I'd be fleshing them out more in Book 2. The answer is: YES. The sequel, Nights of Sin, deals with the Mor quite a bit and should give the reader a deeper understanding of their motives for starting their war against humanity.

Also, I promised that I'd be talking more about Context in here, and I am working on that post, trust me. Check back later today for my ramblings.

Thanks again Katie, and I'm so glad that you enjoyed the book. Comments like "...I found myself unable to put the book down" make the long, sometimes grueling process of writing so worth it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Blood Magic spotted!

Someone sent a photo to Juno of Blood Magic on display in Austin, Texas. It's out there!

Also, some of you know that I was at Context, a great convention for writers and fans of Sci Fi, Fantasy and Horror, over the weekend... I've not blogged about it yet (obviously) and for that, I apologize. Check back here tomorrow and I'll have a fat, juicy post up detailing the entire thing, I promise.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Table dances

First of all, let me apologize for the lack of fun or informative articles in here lately... Blood Magic Book 2 (working title: Nights of Sin) is on a November deadline, and between working on the manuscript and going to work every day, I'm pretty strapped for time. But please keep checking back, as I promise that I'll have some articles on writing and about my experiences at Context in early October.

Moving on... For those that don't know it (I know I had no idea until recently), bookstores don't display books on the "New Releases" tables and bookshelf end-caps out of the goodness of their hearts. They don't even do it simply to sell more copies, which, you know, you'd think would be the logical case. No, they actually make arrangements with the publishers for certain books to have this privilege.

That makes sense, I guess. Lots of books come out every month, and shelf space is a finite commodity, so I can see their wanting to make a few extra dollars by charging for the extra exposure a book will gain by sitting on a New Releases table.

Why am I talking about this? Because I just found out that Blood Magic will be on the New Releases table at Border's Superstores for two whole weeks, from 10-2-07 to 10-15-2007! So, if you've been having trouble finding a copy on the shelves, check back in your local Borders in early October and see if they have a copy right by the front door. While you're at it, when you find a copy, shoot a picture of yourself holding it with your digital camera or cell phone and send a copy to Juno for their "Spot Blood Magic" contest. You could win free books, and hey... those are the best kind.

Monday, September 24, 2007

More Blood Magic Mentions

I just got a nod over at Fantasy Debut, a blog all about break-out authors working in the fantasy genre. The comments there are positive - thanks a million for the mention if anyone from there is reading this.

While there, I saw this interview with Paula Guran from Juno. Here's what she had to say about Blood Magic:

Our first mass market is BLOOD MAGIC by Matt Cook (see, we DO publish guys). It is written in first person with chapters alternating between the "now" in and the past providing the back story. The heroine is an anti-heroine in some respects -- she possesses a dark form of magic she doesn't completely understand herself. After her twin sister is murdered she uses that magic to avenge her death and flee. We know from the first page she's a warrior involved in a bloody war against an inhuman foe and as that plotline develops we learn simultaneously how she gained her skills and evolved from a protected, well-bred girl to an extraordinary women. There's no "romantic" element in the traditional sense, but a relationship with a fellow soldier and a relationship she develops with another woman is part of the story.

It's still exceedingly weird to hear someone say anything about the book - I suppose the novelty will wear off eventually, but for now I positively love hearing what other people are getting from the book and what they focus on. Thanks again to anyone and everyone that's reading it, and I look forward to your comments here, in email or in reviews.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Harriet Klausner Gives Blood Magic 5 Stars

Yes, I'm totally turning cartwheels...

Harriet Klausner just gave Blood Magic a 5-star review on Amazon.

5 stars!

For those that don't know who Harriet is, she's one of Amazon's top reviewers, and has been written up in such lofty publications as Time and Wired.

This is, as they say, frickin' huge. Harriet, if you're out there, thank you.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A moment of zen...

Thank you, I needed that.

Sneak Peek - Book 2 Cover Art!

Timothy Lantz dropped me a sneak-peek of the cover he's working on for Book 2, and I have to say that, so far, it looks wonderful! I asked my publisher if I could share this, so here it is (click the picture for a slightly larger version).

Check out Lia - she looks great! She kind of reminds me of a young(er) Suzanne Vega, which is interesting, since I still listen to her music quite a lot. Hmmm... Tim - are you hiding in the bushes outside my office while I work? If so, give a guy a holler, will ya, so I can buy you a drink?

I was really hoping to see Tim's take on the Mor on this cover (yes, they will be returning in Book 2 - with a vengeance), but Paula, my goddess-editor over at Juno, tells me that the mass-market cover would be too crammed with the extra element. Yeah, OK, I get that... Maybe I can beg Tim to sketch something out for me - seems like that would be a worthwhile way to spend some of my advance.

For more of Timothy's artwork, check out his web site: Stygian Darkness. Thanks, Tim!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Gamer Dies Following 3-Day Online Binge

From the article:

Paramedics tried to revive him but failed and he was declared dead at the cafe, it said. The paper said that he may have died from exhaustion brought on by too many hours on the Internet.

The report did not say what the man, whose name was not given, was playing.

As the PC Editor over on, I find this very disturbing... I can't tell you how many of my friends play massively-online games like World of Warcraft or City of Heroes, often long into the night. I've lost myself more than once for an entire evening in such games, playing until the rising sun surprised me. But, jeepers... three days? Was he wearing a catheter?

Of course, there might be a simpler explanation: maybe they still have Ryl servers running in China. Now there's a frightening thought...