Saturday, July 31, 2010

That Period of Peace Following a Deadline

It's a sunny afternoon in Annapolis. I've spent the day trimming back trees in my mom's backyard, and cutting away new growth from the hedges in front of my house. I just finished having a few slices of Domino's pizza (and maybe a few chicken wings). Iron Chef is on the television, and I've got a novel (Dark Creed) I'm flipping through while my wife reads through the foodie issue of What's Up, Annapolis. The Corgi is outside flinging her rubber red frisbee around the yard. She looks like she's having a blast.

For the first time in months I'm at peace, because for the first time in months I don't have a submission deadline hanging over my head. I sent off my novel package (three chapters, a 1,000 word synopsis, and a complete breakdown by chapters) to Black Library on Thursday night, and it'll be weeks before I can expect to hear anything back. I don't have anything else I'm particularly desperate to work on, and I just got my copy of Starcraft II (which is living up to the hype quite well), so I'm considering this a free weekend.

And then the doubts start creeping in: "I kind of rushed the query letter; could I have done better?" "Was it really necessary to mention that I've been published by these guys before?" "Should I have explained that the book could kick off a trilogy, if they're interested?" "Why the hell did I throw that twist in at the end of the synopsis? They're going to kick it back for sure!"

I look at the book I'm reading, and I see some dead brilliant descriptions of Imperial Guardsmen meeting a Space Marine for the first time. "Why couldn't I have read that even a week ago?" I say to myself, groaning in pain. If I'd seen this level of prose even a day before the deadline, I could have made my sample better. Fat lot of good it does me now.

The dog's curled up under my feet, having worn herself out in the yard. My wife's chatting with a friend on the other side of the couch. I've got a queasy feeling in my stomach just from thinking about all the things I might have done better, and it'll be weeks before I can expect to hear anything back.

And suddenly I'm not at peace anymore. I need to get my mind off of this. Maybe I had better start working on something else...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Crape Myrtle

Oh, right, I still have this blog thing. Possibly I should pay it some attention before it withers and dies in the summer heat.

This image is a Crape Myrtle. It is an extremely beautiful blooming plant that comes in a wide variety of colors. I've seen white, yellow, the pictured pink, and a deep wine-colored Crape Myrtle that filled my wife with a desire that only a female actively planning her dream home can comprehend.

The problem is, the Crape Myrtle is like cats. You see them as kittens (or bushes in this case), and you think "Aww, how cuuute!" Then you take one home and you turn your back and before you know it that cute little bush has turned into a tree that's coughing up hairballs on your couch and blocking the gate in your fence.

It's July. It is hot, possibly due to global warming; there's still some debate on this point. And yet for some reason I found myself outside last night hacking apart an innocent post-shrubbery whose limbs, laden with rainwater and pink bloom, had drooped so far into our yard that they could be accurately described as a wall in some sort of saccharine hedge maze.

I filled four lawn bags with the amputated foliage, and I've still got a pile of the stuff in my backyard, along with three more limbs that will need to come down shortly. And I should point out that the net effect of all this, aside from regressing the Crape Myrtle back into a cuddly shrub, is to reduce the amount of shade available in the yard.

There will be sweat. In massive quantities.

In less organic news, I'm coming down to the final revisions on a novel pitch for Black Library, whose submissions window closes at the end of next week. (Oh, did you think I'd link this golden opportunity in time to give you a fair shot? For shame, sir.) I think I'm writing good stuff, but I haven't got a ready stable of readers who know the background and are willing to wade through my rough copy, so... we'll see what happens.

At the moment I'm alternating between writing this post and reading the sixth book in Penny Arcade's print collection, The Halls Below. This book features one of my favorite strips, along with the glorious news post that came with it in black and white. So basically, I've just given you a sample page from someone else's book.

Don't sweat it. I'm generous like that. But you should probably go buy the book anyway, just to be safe.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Week in Comics

Because I'm trying to ramp up to writing something productive for my work in progress (WiP), and because I have nothing better to blog about (not strictly true - I've been on vacation all week and I feel freaking great), here's evidence that I shouldn't be reviewing new comic book releases.

All of the books listed here were purchased from Third Eye Comics, my regular comic book shop in Annapolis, MD. If you live in Annapolis and you like comic books, you will want to go to there. If you live in Annapolis and you like those shirts Sheldon wears in The Big Bang Theory, you will want to go to there (they have scads). If you live in Annapolis and like manga, you will want to go someplace else, probably online (sorry Steve).

And here we go:
  • Brightest Day #5: This issue is a winner just to see Aquaman take on BP (who go unnamed in the comic, but come on). There's also some stuff about a guy named Deadman trying and failing to raise the dead, and Hawkman and Hawkwoman facing off against animal men, and you stopped paying attention because you haven't been following the series, haven't you. You see that link up there for Blackest Night? Maybe you should go read that first.
  • X-Force #13: Okay, so the world's mutants have all been sterilized or turned human and there's only been one mutant born since that happened, and her name is Hope, and she went to the future for awhile but now she's back but now a robot named Bastion is trying to kill her and all the other mutants and oh God don't get me started. The art is really pretty and if you've been following the X-Men recently you'll like this issue, otherwise run.
  • Irredeemable #15: Superman turned evil! Lex Luthor took over Jimmy Olsen's indestructable body! The Justice League teamed up with the Devil to take him on and in this issue they get smacked around real good. Except, y'know, all the names and faces were changed, because this isn't a Superman comic. Still, really good series, go get the trade paperback and read it from the start.
  • Shadowland #1: Finally a first issue! Daredevil (not Ben Affleck) has taken over as the Kingpin of New York, and it's getting to him. His friends try to keep him on the goody-two-shoes path, but... well, they're a bit late. This should be a good story, but I don't care about Daredevil enough to be interested. If you like him, enjoy.
  • Secret Six #23: Six DC villains you've never heard of (except maybe Bane) get caught up in a "The Most Dangerous Game" scenario, and things get bloody. Decent filler.
  • Batman and Robin #13: Forget about Joel Schumacher, okay? You should be reading Grant Morrison's Batman stories, period. This is not a good issue to start with: go find the Batman and Son trade. If you are following the series, it continues excellent in this issue, go get.
  • Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier #1: Captain America has passed the name onto his sidekick, but he's keeping busy as the new super-spy of Marvel Comics. In this book, Steve's tracking down a scientist threatening to sell the super-soldier serum to terrorists, but nothing goes the way he expects. This looks to be a good spy series from Ed Brubaker, who's been telling great Cap stories for years now.
I've been at this for half an hour and I'm running out of steam. Here goes the final push:
  • Amazing Spider-Man #636: Grim Hunt, part 3. The resurrected Kraven the Hunter (read: insane big-game hunting Russian with super-strength) gets himself oriented, acts loopy, and challenges Spider-Man to hunt him down for killing his clone. Yeah... it's cool if you're following the series.
  • X-Men #1: Curse of the Mutants. It's the X-Men versus vampires, and they're already taking casualties. This promises to be fun.
  • Red Robin #14: If you liked Robin in the Nineties, he's got a new name and he's fighting the current Robin, who is Bruce Wayne's kid. Actually pretty good, but not if you're not following the Morrison stories. Sorry.
  • Batman Beyond #1: If you liked the cartoon you should like this. Good to see Terry McGinnis again.
  • Brightest Day: The Atom Special #1: Does what I suspect are some rewrites to the Atom's (aka Ray Palmer's) history to set him up for a new story-arc that I don't care about, because the Atom's successor (Atom aka Ryan Choi) just died for no good reason and the writer couldn't be bothered to even mention it, and there's no relation between this issue and Brightest Day and I feel ripped off.
Enough already, I'm done. Cripes. Go get some Green Lantern graphic novels if you want something fun to read, or almost anything by Warren Ellis. I'm never doing this again.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

BP Broke The Gulf

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past few months (and that rock would have to be outside the Gulf of Mexico), you're aware of the oil spill BP has foisted on us. But unless you're really following events, you're probably not aware that the well is compromised "down hole", and that short of getting the relief well drilled before the entire Gulf floor collapses there isn't a damn thing we can do about it.

And you're probably unfamiliar with the Kremlin report that the sea floor is fractured, and that unless we nuke the damned thing post haste we're looking at an unstoppable ecological catastrophe.

Why isn't the media reporting about this? I don't see anything about it in the Washington Post, or the New York Times, or on CNN or Fox News or MSNBC. Hell, there's barely any reporting on the subject in the first place. The Kremlin article, and others, suggest that BP and the United States government are working together to cover up just how bad the spill is. In fact it's pretty hard to deny that we're being told some kind of lies by people who should damn well know better.

I am not, in general, a passionate environmentalist. Mostly, I only get concerned about pollution that might keep me from eating more Maryland blue crabs.

I am delicious.

This is one of those things.

If you're at all worried about the prospect of a shattered Gulf, if you even think there's a possibility that this stuff might be true... Please, write your Congressman, repeatedly. Print the articles out ten times each and send them in. Make sure the people who can, conceivably, do something about this mess are paying attention.

And if that doesn't work... well, there is an election coming up soon, and I know of at least one candidate who doesn't appreciate people messing with the sea floor.

Still a better choice than Palin.