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Archive for September, 2007

Never Seen Clouds Like That

I tried to take a picture from the airplane on the way in, but it’s not everything I’d hoped it would be:

Problem with shooting from a cellphone camera out the window of the Coach cabin, I guess. What doesn’t come across is the depth of these clouds, their flowing structure, the literal way they formed and shifted before my eyes. It was, to use an awful cliche, like watching a special effect. Two masses coming together in an archaic arch, almost forming a perfect circle, as if creating a gateway through which to fly. On descent, I look down and see receding glaciers, can make out the termination point, the multiple fractures splitting further apart by meltwater that’s thawed, frozen, and thawed again. The forests go on beyond comprehension, the sheer size of the wilderness is stunning, and it is all, without a doubt, terribly, gloriously beautiful.

I have suspected for a long time now that I am not, for the most part, a terribly adventurous soul; at least, I’m not anymore. Maybe it’s a product of age, but I suspect it’s much more a product of personality. I had some bad experiences traveling alone when I was young, and they did damage such that I’ve never fully recovered. While I like travel, and while I love visiting new places, the actual process of leaving my “comfort zone” is something that I find harder and harder to do these days, and the burden of such things as language difference is such that I inadvertently balk before committing to such trips. This is one of the reasons that Michael Palin is one of my heroes, all things Python aside. And I suppose it’s yet another reason that I write; after all, I get to visit on paper all the places I will most likely never set shoe-leather to in my life.

Alaska is beautiful, and I can say this with tremendous authority on the basis of one flight and three long walks, but saying Alaska is beautiful ain’t a newsflash to anyone that’s ever heard of Alaska. Anchorage itself oddly reminds me of growing up in Salinas, California, before the Salinas Valley had a population explosion and, in true California style, began pumping out mini-malls and housing estates as fast as the migrant construction workers could raise them. Same feel to the architecture, the small town intimacy. You can walk all of Anchorage in less than a day. Biggest difference? Salinas didn’t have a tourist economy, or at least, the tourist economy it had was devoted to the handful of Steinbeck scholars came, making pilgrimage.

It’s that tourist economy that does it, that creates such a powerful feeling of not belonging here, of not having earned the right to it all. After all, the temperature is still hovering in the 40s, and there’s sunlight, and the snow I’m seeing is on the Chugach Mountains and not on the streets here. This isn’t winter, this isn’t close. It doesn’t take walking around with a camera hanging from your neck and a guidebook in your hand for the locals to make you as a tourist. I’m a PNW boy — and anyone who want to challenge me on that, they’re in for a fight — I’ve got my denim and my flannel and my boots and my Columbia Sportswear cover, and yes, Portland ain’t Government Camp, but I know what it’s like to live in the shadow of mountains and forest. The locals I’ve met at the con, they ask what I’ve seen of their state, and I tell them, and I add that it’s all lovely, and they cluck and shake their heads, because, y’know, Anchorage with its population of 300,000, that’s the city, that’s not Alaska. Makes no difference where you came from, and it’s not how I look, I know that; again, it’s that sense of belonging, of having earned this place, and I so clearly don’t have it, and I can almost all hear them thinking, “Pussy.”

More and more when I travel, I look at these strange and wonderful places, and I wonder what it would be like to live in them. Not simply idle imaginings, but thoughts of quite literally and wholly decamping from Portland and moving to the Strange New World. It’s not quite fantasy, and yet not quite serious consideration, either. Somewhere in between, fed by curiosity and something…else. Something I haven’t yet put a name to. And no, it’s not dissatisfaction with my life or my home, it’s not that. Wanderlust, maybe? A desire to reclaim that curiosity and sense of adventure that I lost when I was far too young to be traveling in France on my own? I don’t know.

It really is something else, here, though. Certainly a place I wish to return to, when I can bring with me the people I love, and take the time to see just a little sliver of the so-much-more that I’m missing.

Because, you know, I’m not here to see Alaska, or to even see Anchorage. I’m here for a mystery convention, to sit on a panel and to sign my books and to read my writing and to, mostly, catch up with DHS and meet some of his other clients, who are, uniformly, pretty terrific. In particular, I’ve gotten to finally meet Michael Koryta and Sean Doolittle and Theresa Schwegel, all of whom I greatly admire, and all of whom, I’ve discovered, are wonderful people. Doolittle won the Barry Award last night for his novel, The Cleanup, Best Paperback Original. Pick it up. It’s good.

Me? I’m done for the day, at least until the drinking starts tonight, and back in the hotel room, writing. Because, you know, when you’re surrounded by snow and ice, at least in the distance, that’s the time to be writing Whiteout: Thaw.

Update on Anchorage

I’m going to be in Anchorage next week from Thursday until Sunday. This may or may no be newsworthy.

What is of potentially more interest, if you’re in the Anchorage area, is that I’ll be doing a signing at the Bosco’s Comic Shop on Spenard Road (2606 Spenard Rd
Anchorage, Ak 99503, (907) 274-4112) from noon until 3pm on Saturday the 29th.

I’m very much looking forward to this, actually.

So all you people in Anchorage who complain I never come to Alaska for a signing, well…now you can’t complain.

(This last statement should in no way be taken to mean that I’ve ever actually received such complaints, mind. I’m just getting a jump on things.)

Relief doesn’t begin to cover it

Well, it took them a week, and far too many phone calls from me, but my laptop was returned to me today, and better, it works.

Which is an enormous relief.

This was far more of an ordeal for me than it should’ve been, but honest to God, I am a techkiller, and I specialize in computers. There are times when, seriously, it seems that all I have to do is think an unkind thought in the rough direction of a desktop or laptop, and the machine goes gleefully tits up. I own, at this moment, no less than three computers, and during the last week, I was reduced to using my wife’s laptop because the others were either 1) broken, 2) so unreliable as to be broken, or 3) entirely absent, ie, undergoing repair.

Until about 18 months ago, I was a dedicated PC user, having defected after selling my first novel. Why did I defect? Because I wanted to play games, and the games I wanted to play were only available on the PC. That was the reason. That was the whole damn reason.

And for that reason, I put up with All Things Microsoft, and, more, things of Dell and Gateway homebrews and — yes, I admit it — Alienware — and time and again the machines went tits up on me. Motherboards died, memory fried, hard drives failed, you name it, it happened.

Which lead, inevitably, to tech support. Hours and hours spent in the loving, tender, caring embrace of tech support.

(As an aside, Trautmann was down here for the last two days, and mentioned in passing that, apparently, folks in Seattle spent something in the neighborhood of 45 plus hours in traffic during their commutes. That’s a full 40-hour work week plus five for lunches. I think, honestly, I’ve spent twice that much time on hold with tech support in the last 10 years.)

So, when my last primary laptop was stolen, I heeded the advice of my peers and my bride and my friends, and I went to the Apple Store and I bought myself a nice, straightforward MacBook Pro. And, not being a fool, I bought myself Pro Care, because, hey, I look at these machines, and they self-destruct.

And I have to say, the laptop did what it was supposed to do, and did it well, and so what if it was making a strange kind of wheezing noise that was gradually growing louder and louder and…wait a minute, I’ve got Pro Care, I get priority service, I get a yearly tune-up, I’m bringing my laptop in for a service.

“You’ll have it back in 24 hours. Forty-eight hours at the most.”

Well…no, actually. Forty-eight hours, that’s two days. It took seven days. So, no, not really forty-eight hours, and the thing is that I went with a Mac precisely to avoid this kind of thing.

Now, the ironic thing. That full week? That’s still about twice as fast, on average, as it took Alienware to deal with any of the multiple things that went wrong with their machines, and Alienware was apparently known for their stellar tech support, at least at the time.

Irony number two, ready for it? Got the laptop home, moved my files off of my bride’s machine, booted up iTunes to sync my iPod…and the iPod doesn’t work. (And yes, I’ve tried doing this.)

BUT…I have my laptop back, the work that I did manage to get completed this week is work that I’m proud of, and to celebrate the fact, I’m going to post more art.

First, from the second issue of The Crime Bible: The Five Books of Blood, “The Lesson of Lust”–

And now a teaser by Chris Samnee–


Addiction is a horrible thing

My laptop’s in the shop.

I am without my laptop.

My wife says I can use her laptop, but it’s not the same.

It’s just…it’s not the same.

Productivity? Shot to hell.

Enthusiasm for work? Likewise in absentia.

Kinda pathetic, innit?

Image Heavy

So, after much frustration, I think I may have figured out how to use Scrapbook.

To celebrate this fact, and since I’m about to knock off for the night, and since much of the day was spent on both Checkmate and The Crime Bible: The Five Books of Blood, I thought that maybe I’d share some sketches and the like.

This first is a Tom Mandrake design sketch of The Question.

And this is a Jesus Saiz page from Issue 2, “The Lesson of Lust.”

And over on the Checkmate front, this is a sketch by Chris Samnee.

I may post more of these type things here later. And before people go flying off the handle about anything, please remember the difference between a sketch and finished art, and the difference between loose pencils and final inks.

Oh, and a request

I’m going to be in Anchorage for Bouchercon from the 27th to the 30th of this month. If there’s a comic book store I should know about to drop in on, and someone wants to share that information with me, I’d love to try to arrange it.

Well, This is Encouraging

My editor at Bantam informs me that Patriot Acts is headed for a second printing, another 2500 copies hardcover.

This is a definite Good Thing.

Tee-Vee 2

Leave it to Trautmann to find the video of my appearance on local AM television.

Let the mockery begin!

It’s not Real, it’s TeeVee!

I was on local television this morning, on KATU’s AM Northwest. Pleasant enough way to spend an hour waiting and six minutes chatting. Hyped the signing at the Beaverton Powell’s tonight, but missed the opportunity to talk about this coming Saturday’s event at Bob’s Beach Books in Lincoln City.

Of course, the major topic of conversation? Not the new novel, but rather Whiteout, in particular the part about Kate Beckinsale. Still, made sure I mentioned Steve and Oni on the air, so at least I got the shouts out, so to speak.

Now? I’m going to work.

A little more of the Patriot Acts

This was sent to me by Trautmann.

Talking about WWII, Frankling Roosevelt said, “I don’t want to see a single war millionaire created in the United States as a result of this world disaster.”

You know the saying, right? If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention?

Just thought I’d share a little ray of sunshine with y’all.