State of the Book/State of the Self

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[I wrote this on Saturday night, before news struck of the deadliest mass shooting by a civilian in this country’s history. Rather than let it go live at the scheduled time, I’m just going to post it later in the week, along with my wish that sensible gun control be enacted in this country, starting with a lifting of the ban on CDC’s ability to study gun violence.]

You’ll be reading this tomorrow, but I just tweeted this:

If you’re not a long-time reader, let me explain: When I finish a draft of a novel I treat myself to a bottle of Arrogant Bastard Ale.

Which means that I’ve wrapped up the zero draft of ONE MAN, and what a fucking relief it is. I started this book in March of 2015, according to the creation date of my Scrivener file. That’s a long time for me, even if you count the amount of time I spent traveling on vacation and taking a digression to work on side projects, like The Way into Fate, the rpg game supplement that closed out my Kickstarter campaign, and short fiction, too.

So, that’s a long haul, and I’m still not done. I have a list of 90-some changes that need to be made, from small ones like adding a couple characters to a scene or changing someone’s name, to systemic ones like giving certain characters their own slang. Then, once those changes are done, I have to manage the numerous comments I’ve left myself recommending I check various details in the book. Then, once THAT’s done, I have to reread the whole book, smoothing out the text, searching for word echoes, and generally prettying things up. If I were sensible, I’d do that twice.

Only then will this draft be truly done and ready for my agent to read. If you’re waiting for THE TWISTED PATH, which is the next Twenty Palaces story, you’ll have to wait until then. Sorry. Gotta get this book on the market.

Personally, I’m relieved to have accomplished even this much. This has been a difficult book, and I’m not entirely sure why. It’s a fantasy with a made-up setting. It’s a crime story. It has a bunch of POV characters. It has stakes and magic and betrayals and secrets.

And if this book flops, too, I’m going to have to rethink my whole approach to writing.

All the binge-watching suggestions I received:

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In my last post, I asked people to suggest movie series or TV shows that would be appropriate for a birthday binge-watch. I asked for TV shows, genres, creators, sequels, anything. I knew I’d get a lot of responses, but damn.

Here’s a list, in no particular order, of all the marathon suggestions from Twitter, Facebook, G+, LiveJournal, Goodreads, my blog, and the whispers from the crows that nest outside my bedroom window.

Harry Potter
John Carpenter
Coen Bros
Season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The Fast and the Furious
Season 1 of Poldark
Every movie titled CRASH
Movies with Roscoe Karns in a supporting role
Movies starring Warren Oates
Planet of the Apes
Movies scored by Michael Small
JW Tarzan
70’s disaster films
Ray Harryhausen movies
Hitchock movies
Tati movies
Val Lewton movies
Top box office movies from the year I was born
Clint Eastwood: bit player
Jurassic Park
BBC’s The Musketeers
John Hughes Comedies
1940s noir
1990s neo-noir
Jason Statham movies
Older Sci-fi/Fantasy: Dune, Barbarella, Blade Runner, Highlander, Ladyhawke, Beastmaster, Dr.Strangelove, Red Sonja, Secrets of NIMH, & Willow.
MST3K
Philip K. Dick-a-thon
Quatermass movies
Rocky movies
She-Ra
Whose Line is it Anyway
Monty Python’s Flying Circus/Fawlty Towers
Occupied (a Finnish TV series)
Person of Interest
Foyle’s War
Orphan Black
Burn Notice
Covert Affairs
White Collar
Tremors movies and TV series
Alias
Step Up movies
Avengers movies
Tinkerbell movies
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Slings & Arrows
MCU movies
Chow Yun Fat movies
John Woo movies
The Lost Room + BBC’s Ultraviolet
Kenneth Hite’s 10 Westerns to Watch
Jackie Chan films
Jet Li films
Donnie Yen films
Shane Black films
Twin Peaks
Miyazaki films
Cronenberg films
Firefly & Serenity
The Wachowski films
The Middleman
Enlisted
Red Dwarf
FlashForward
John Hughes movies
Broadchurch
Resident Evil
BBC’s Sherlock
Toy Story
How to Train Your Dragon
Marx Brothers
Game of Thrones
Peaky Blinders
Dexter
Banshee
Creature Features
Lonesome Dove
Fargo (TV series)
Back to the Future/Jason Bourne movies
Star Wars (Machete Order)
Luthor
Best of Schwarzeneger
John Cusack movies
Best of [insert decade here]
Alien(s)
Karate Kid
[New suggestions since this post went live]
Freaks and Geeks
The Prisoner looks like 14-15 hours.
Series 1+2 of Being Human
Con films: Ocean’s 11-13, Lucky Number Slevin, Now You See Me, Catch Me If You Can

There were fewer repeat suggestions than you might think. One thing I didn’t expect was that my wife got involved; she wrinkled her nose at some stuff that I would like, but even though it’s my day, if I can spend some of it with my wife, that’s a plus.

Still not sure what I’ll pick, but thank you all for your suggestions.

Actual Question: What would make a great movie binge marathon?

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My birthday celebration is coming up next month. For the last two years, I’ve taken the day off to watch the extended edition of LOTR and I have loved it, but this year maybe I should try something different.

But what? The Indiana Jones, Terminator, Star Trek, and Mad Max movies have some duds mixed in. The Three Stooges would be too repetitive. Star Wars has those damn ewoks, and I’m feeling like I’ve had enough Batman for a while.

It doesn’t have to be movies, though. I could do season one of Veronica Mars, or all of Jessica Jones, or take a heavy dose of Wallander.

Or, I could choose a bunch of different but related movies: martial arts fantasies, post-apocalyptic movies, or spy films, or something.

So I’m turning on comments so I can ask for help from you, dear reader: If you were to design a binge-watching marathon that ran from 12-20 hours (approximately) what would it be?

Sadly, the Cornetto trilogy is too short. The James Bond films are too long. Most TV shows are too long, especially if they run over several seasons. This website helpfully lists movie and TV lengths, but I didn’t see anything that made me jump up and salute.

Now, obviously I’m asking because I’m looking for ideas. Equally obviously, you probably don’t know me or my tastes. Don’t let that hold you back. I generally hate zombies and Saw-like psychopath movies, but any suggestions at all would be welcome.

I will say this: I’d like for them to be available on Netflix Streaming or on DVD (so my library will have them). That rules out semi-obscure series like the old Zatoichi films.

If I can’t come up with a better idea, I’ll probably be stuck with the Harry Potter films, and who needs that?

What do you say? Any ideas?

Want to see the cover for the German edition of The Way into Chaos? (train trip wrapup)

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I should have written this post last week I guess, but I returned from vacation and landed with both feet on the run. I’m working hard on One Man again, and making good progress. Homeschooling is on again. My wife has a computer station I need to set up. My niece, who has been housesitting for us so kindly while we’ve been taking trips, is having a birthday.

So I haven’t really had time to write an in-depth report on the 30-day train vacation I just took. Here’s the short version: It was great to see family. It was great to see friends. I was lucky enough to eat a bunch of regional foods: jambalaya in New Orleans, pepper steaks in Philly, Italian beef sandwiches in Chicago. Splashing around in the ocean in Miami was fantastic, and so was seeing the monuments on the National Mall in Washington DC.

And then there were the long, quiet moments with my family on the train. Sometimes we played games, or read, or talked with other passengers. Sometimes we just stared out the window.

Sleeping was a bigger challenge than I’d expected and those east coast trains carry more people than this Seattleite is used to, but it was a beautiful trip with a lot of family time, and that’s what I wanted.

We also stopped in at every bookstore we could find, but none of my books were on the shelves. It’s just been too long, and I need to finish this one asap.

Speaking of which, the German edition of The Way into Chaos has come out, and I like the cover. Check it out.

Sitting in the train station in Los Angeles

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Awaiting my last train ride home. In an hour, we board the Coast Starlight which will return us to Seattle about 35 hours from now. I’ve enjoyed the trip, but I’m so very ready to be home. I guess that means a 30-day trip was exactly right.

We slipped out to Olivera St.–the “Mexico replica” street beside the station, but every place was closed except one. We had delicious Mexican breakfasts and bought burritos for the train. I loved it, although my son scorched his tongue and the experience was therefore ruined.

I haven’t been following blogs, or LiveJournals, or anything except Twitter, and even that has been pretty sporadic. You can see some pretty terrible pictures at https://twitter.com/byharryconnolly/media mixing in among my other stuff.

As for my books, I’d hoped to finish One Man on this trip, but it’s too hard to write on the train. Too chaotic and distracting, even with my headphones on. Plus, a month of iffy sleep hasn’t left me at my best.

Soon, it will be over. I’ve really enjoyed this trip, but I’m ready to be back at my book in a big way.

Trip is nearly two-thirds done

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And who would have guessed that Amtrak would turn 45 on the day of our big train vacation? That happened yesterday. Here’s an article from Vox on why Amtrak sucks so hard.

I don’t think it sucks. I do think it has problems, and that (like any huge organization) some of its employees do not do it credit. For example, the bathrooms are routinely awful, and on the last leg of our trip, there was no running water in our car. We had to go to the car behind us to wash our hands or whatever.

Anyway, we put sunscreen on yesterday, but for whatever reason still burned the hell out of ourselves. Can’t go on the beach again without feeling like we’re on fire, so I’m in this Starbucks working on my book.

As always, there are pics on our Twitter feed. I’ve never seen ocean so green, but the city itself is sorta unpleasant. Sorry, Miami.

Brief trip update

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As I write this, I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Chicago. Last Wed, the 13th, my family boarded a morning train and arrived in Sacramento about 6am the next morning. We ate a (too-) big breakfast at a place nearby, then caught the California Zephyr to Denver.

We took a lot of amazing pics from the train (check my Twitter account for them) and arrived in Denver just in time for a spring snowfall of about eight inches. Things were so overcast that we didn’t get to see the mountains. We stayed at the home of a friend of mine, a guy I’ve known for more than 30 years, and spent most of our time hanging out and talking.

It was great. Also, the weird food reactions I get were much reduced there, which helped convince my wife that many of our nagging but minor health problems were related to our apartment/the city of Seattle.

Now we’re in Chicago. We ate German food and had an Italian beef sandwich–exactly as good as we’d heard. Now we’re resting before we catch a night train to Boston.

No lie, it’s been more difficult to get the sleep I need on the train than expected, and this is only the first week. Luckily, after Boston we have several days of very short trips. Maybe we can catch up.

Otherwise, it’s been great.

And away we go! Off on our train trip

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I scheduled this to post at about the time of our departure, so when you read this, I will have said goodbye to the relative who’ll be watching our apartment, ridden the bus to the King St. Station, boarded a train, and begun my 30-day family tour of the country.

I don’t know how much connectivity I’ll have so I don’t know how often I’ll be able to check my LJ friends page, Twitter, Facebook, etc. If I don’t note some important event in your life, it’s not that I don’t care. It could be that I’m in the middle of the Rockies with no connectivity.

Also, I have an iPhone (borrowed–thanks, Jeff!) so I hope to tweet pictures of our adventures. Give me a follow if you want to see.

In the meantime…

Wish us luck!

Last announcement: I’ll at ECCC signing books today

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Today, I’ll be at ECCC (my first time there) signing books at the UW Bookstore booth (space 5100) at noon. The bookstore will be bringing the Del Rey novels but I’ll be packing in the books from my Kickstarter: copies of The Way into Chaos/Magic/Darkness, copies of A Key, an Egg, an Unfortunate Remark, and copies of Twenty Palaces, the prequel to the Del Rey books.

I’ll also have a few (rare) copies of King Khan, the game tie-in novel I wrote about the gorilla who’s an Oxford professor and his pitched battle against an intelligent fart from space.

(Spoiler)

Stop by! Visit! You don’t have to buy something and I promise not to make sad pathetic expressions if you don’t. Nor will I touch the covers of my book and sigh loudly. In fact, depending on the level of ambient noise, I’m more likely to squint at you and shout: “I’m sorry, did you say you wanted me to climb a hook?”

The more stuff I sell, the more space I’ll have in my back to pack stuff home, and I sorta promised my kid a t-shirt. But no pressure! Just drop by!

The Long Train Trip

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Today I picked up the USA Rail Passes for my family and myself. The short description, for those who have not clicked that link: With a pass, you get to travel for a set number of days to anywhere in the US. We have a 30-day pass, which means we get 12 “segments.” Get on the train, get off the train, that’s one segment. We get 12 of them to use in 30 days to go anywhere we like.

It’s my birthday present, delayed from last summer because I wan’t sure how much money we’d have after Uncle Same came around for his share of last years book sales.

Can I take a moment to say “Thank you,” to everyone who bought a copy of my books, and “Thank you very much” to everyone who helped spread the word? We wouldn’t be doing this without you.

Anyway, we have a set list of cities to visit, mainly to see family and friends. Denver, Chicago, Boston, NY, Philly, Washington DC, Miami, New Orleans. I think that’s the list.

Most of our time in these places will be catching up with old friends, hanging w/ family, or being tourists. I won’t be meeting online friends or readers on this trip, because there just won’t be time. We’ll be spending, like, a day in each of these places. Maybe two. Philly gets three because that’s where my family is and I haven’t seen any of them in a dozen years. My son was a toddler the last time we visited; now he’s a teenager.

Did I mention that this is a birthday present for me? We’re spending 30 days together, and if you add together all of the segments (none of which will be longer than 30 hours, I think, until the leg home) they come to about 10 days out of the 30.

That’s a lot of time to spend on trains. If we were flying, we would probably spend 4 days tops, including TSA checkins. We’d have more time in the cities, seeing folks, maybe even visiting a few bookstores. So why the trains?

Well, for me, the time spent on the train is the whole point. We’re together, without TVs, or internet. We can’t retreat to various bedrooms, have no chores to spend our time on. All we can do is hang out together, talking, playing card games, reading, or just being family.

As I mentioned above, my son is a teenager now. He turned 14 last winter, and he’s almost too old to go jaunting around the country with his dorky parents. Not quite too old, because we mostly get along pretty well, but he’s starting to suffer from the stormy teenage temperament, and he can be a bit of a pill.

Still, we have a good relationship. I’m pleased to be hanging with him, and I’m always pleased to spend time with my wife.

Plus, we’ll get to see the Rocky Mountains, travel through the southwest, and Florida, and the eastern seaboard, and we’ll visit the National Mall and Freedom Tower, eat po’ boys, walk on Boston Commons, snorkle, and who knows what else.

Maybe I’ll even get to finish this damn book.

Anyway, on Sunday I’ll be at ECCC signing books, and the following Wednesday I’ll be hopping the Coast Starlight for some intense family time. If I won’t get to see you on the trip, I’m sorry. Hopefully, I’ll sell a shit ton more books and we’ll get to do it again soon.