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.

I will be at ECCC

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For the first time ever, I’m going to Emerald City Comic Con. I’ll be there on Sunday April 10, signing books at, I believe, noon for the University of Washington bookstore booth. After that, I have no idea what I’ll be doing.

I’ve never been to ECCC before so I don’t know what to expect. There will be books on sale (I’m being hosted by a bookstore, after all) but mostly I’ll be happy to see folks and say hello.

 

State of the Self, 2016 (aka, the “We’ll see” post)

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On Tuesday, I hit 100K words on the work in progress, currently titled ONE MAN, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to assess where things stand in a general way. No encouragement or advice, please, especially about the medical stuff.

Me, personally

I turned 50 last year, which I guess is supposed to be a big thing but it didn’t feel like it. Mostly, it felt (and continues to feel) like a timer ticking down. As more and more of “my” pop culture figures pass away (and more and more of them are closer to my own age) I’ve become increasingly aware that my own time is growing short. Right now, somewhere inside me, I probably have a cancerous tumor that’s lying quiet, small for the moment, but ready to expand aggressively under the right circumstances. If I’m very very lucky, I’ll live long enough to see my son married and living a stable life, to have earned a sense of accomplishment with my work, and to feel as though I’ve lived enough.

I can’t really imagine that, but that’s my hope.

The petty medical issues that have plagued me since 2012 haven’t gone away, but I’ve decided to work through them to focus on my weight. I’m down 10lbs in the last two weeks and plan to continue. The first few are always the easiest, of course. We’ll see.

Finally, for a long time I’ve pretty much avoided social situations. I talk to my wife. I talk to my son. I order coffee at the cafe. Beyond that, it’s extremely rare for me to speak to anyone aloud; all my interactions have been online. I guess the only exceptions have been the two-hour SF2W meetups that Django Wexler arranges, and I’ve been to, I think, two in the past year. Once in a rare while a reader drops me a note and we’ll meet face to face. Very rare.

Aside from that, I’ve been actively avoiding social events. I don’t go to conventions. I haven’t contacted the roommates I had 20 years ago to suggest we grab lunch. It’s been a very quiet life, and I like it.

But a week ago I cashed in the Christmas gift that my niece gave me: a tour of some of her favorite brewpubs in Ballard. It was extremely mellow, and we got the chance to just hang out and talk, which I don’t do much.

The following Friday, I had the event at the UW Bookstore, where a number of authors in the anthology Unbound signed books for readers. I suspect most of them were there to see Terry Brooks, but people were nice and it was good to talk to them. It had no noticeable effect on my book sales, but I enjoyed myself, and I enjoyed hanging out with the other authors afterwards. (What I could hear of it, anyway. People in bars are noisy.)

So I’m thinking I should put more energy into that sort of thing. Talking to people. I dunno. Maybe.

Family

My wife is doing pretty well, especially now that she has an APAP machine to help her sleep through the night, which she can do now, sometimes. She’s also spending more of her time painting. Making art was hard for her after her father died. She and her siblings inherited his canvases, which no one outside the family wanted and no one inside could bear to dispose of.

She began to feel the same way about her own work. Our apartment is already crowded, and she didn’t see a point to creating more stuff that her kid will have to deal with when we die. Slowly, she’s moved past that and is doing the work for its own sake, which is fantastic and makes me very happy. She’s also gotten into a couple of shows. Did I say it makes me happy? It really really does. Now I just need to write a hit book so we can afford a place with a studio. North-facing, naturally.

My son turned 14 a few months ago and starts high school in the fall. Homeschool is coming to an end, and I’m hoping that a) he’ll make more real life friends and b) I’ll have more writing time. It’s going to be a rough transition, but he’s ready for it. His sleep schedule might not be, but he is.

Games

I’m still playing Sentinels of the Multiverse on Steam. In fact, I’m playing it too much. I should probably download a program that will block Steam for most of the day. I’d get more done, and do less obsessive clicking.

BUT! I should say that, when I’m playing SotM, I don’t feel hungry, or itchy, or sad. I’m almost completely absorbed, even moreso than when I’m writing. It’s worth keeping around just for that. I just wish it was less irresistible.

Reading

After several years of feeling burned out on reading inside the fantasy genre, I’m finally feeling burned out on crime and mystery. It doesn’t help that I tried to shift from old classics to books that are popular and current, and really really did not enjoy them.

Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names, which I picked up solely out of a sense of gratitude for the social events mentioned above, is a flintlock fantasy that I enjoyed way more than expected. Recommended. At the moment, I’m reading Steven Erikson’s Gardens of the Moon because everyone on reddit loves those books passionately. I’m 80 pages in and mostly enjoying it, despite the fact that I’m not usually fond of high magic settings.

Watching

I took the family to DEADPOOL, which is an objectively bad movie, but hugely enjoyable anyway. It’s been a while since I saw a modern Hollywood film (that wasn’t SPY) that made me laugh really hard. Now I hear that the people behind Batman v Superman are planning an R-rated version, because… I don’t know, they think it was the rating that made DEADPOOL a hit and not the humor? Don’t know. Don’t care all that much.

I’ve also dropped a number of TV shows that I was watching through sheer momentum, not because I enjoyed them. Most of what I found compelling in season one of ARROW is long gone, and I just don’t have space for it anymore. After trying both LUCIFER and LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, I’ve decided that they aren’t going to do that Star Trek thing where it takes them a little while to find their rhythm and they become awesome. Both are dropped. At this point, I’m only watching ELEMENTARY, FLASH (which has been way less fun this season) and AGENTS OF SHIELD (which has been improbably improving).
I’m looking forward to season 2 of DAREDEVIL, even though it will probably be a disappointment. We’ll see.

No one in my family is remotely interested in the upcoming DC adaptations. We’ll see, redux.

Writing

As I mentioned above, last week I crossed the 100,000 word mark of ONE MAN. What I didn’t mention is that last August 26th, I was at 31,000 words.

I know this because of this horrible new record-keeping that other authors suggested I do. All it does is tell me things that make me unhappy.
For example, last fall I took a month-long trip to Portugal, and my plan to squeeze out a few pages during quiet moments never worked. I got zero new words done that month.

After Thanksgiving, I stopped writing the first draft and went back to revise what I had. Revise it extensively, which took a month and a half.

When that was finished, I realized the game supplement I promised my Kickstarter backers was way overdue, and I spent three weeks revising that.
When I returned to ONE MAN, I re-outlined the rest of the book (using the virtual whiteboard app Scapple, which I like) and now things are tearing right along.

It’ll take another long revision process, and it’s going to be a long-ass book: at 100K words, I’m still looking ahead to the beginning of the climax. Still, I feel like this is good work. I just hope the market agrees.

I haven’t decided what I’m going to work on after that. The next book in the series is TWO DRAGONS, but I have a short story due for an anthology (soon) and I might want to write something else in between. Plus there’s that game supplement.

I wish I could be more prolific.

And that’s where things stand.

I’ll be at the UW Bookstore event on Friday, 2/26

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As I mentioned before, I appeared in the anthology UNBOUND. Check out the list of authors. Pretty amazing, right? How’d I sneak in there?

Anyway, there’s a launch party at the UW Bookstore this Friday, the 26th, and I’ll be there. The event description doesn’t include my name, but I’ll be there.

Come by! Say hello. It’s a Terry Brooks thing, so there might be a whole lot of people. It’d be cool if you were one of them. (You don’t have to buy anything.)