Still more plugs from San Antonio . . .

Continuing my pay back for all the beers bought down in San Antonio . . .

I'd never met Jim before San Antonio, but I had heard a lot of good things about his book. Larry's book hadn't shipped yet, unfortunately, so we didn't have any for the signings at the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Medical Center in San Antonio.

David Hagberg was his usual affable self. Even though he's not technically a Forge author, Stephen Coonts (and his wife) came out and gave away books and met with vets and their families as well.*

As I said a few days ago, the pleasure really was ours. The work done at both facilities is truly amazing, and of course we owe a debt of gratitude and more to the men and women who have sacrificed so much to preserve our freedom.

* I know I'm forgetting a couple of guys, which is only going to add to my bar bill next time we meet . . .
What's wrong with publishing today

The publishing industry's major convention, Book Expo or BEA, is being held this weekend in New York City. It's not really of much immediate use to writers, except as an excuse to party, and if you're a writer, since when do you need an excuse?

Yeah, I went anyway.

Friday morning before hitting the floor I ran down one of my old editors at Starbucks a few blocks away. Without getting all dopey-eyed about it, the guy was one of the best fiction editors in the business.

I say was because he was so good his publisher gave him cookbooks to edit.

No joke. This encouraged him to get another job, which quickly turned out to be so ludicrous he left publishing all together.

Well not all together; he does free-lancing now and then, but that's about it. He's given up looking for an editing job, at least for the time being. Nobody's hiring, and the people who are hiring want him to edit . . . cookbooks. He's doing pretty well in other fields.

Editing fiction is a lot more difficult than people - especially writers - think. It's a strange kind of talent. A big part of it has to do with handling the writers who, rumor has it, can be difficult to deal with. Even when they arrive in the office unarmed.

Anyway, my former editor looked a hell of a lot more relaxed than while he was at the publishing house. I'm not sure whether that says more about the publisher, or me.
More shameless plugs . . .

Randy and Bill provided a running commentary on the Alamo while we were in San Antonio, proving that having a few beers with historians is even better than just having a few beers.

The Quick and the Dead isn't Randy's latest book, but it's one of my favorites. I haven't had a chance to read Bill's latest, but it's on the shelf waiting . . .
Shameless promotion

Mike's name is small, but he had a big contribution to this.

He was one of the gang who visited the hospital down in San Antonio, and besides driving a mean pickup he plays a hell of a guitar.

This link gets you to some of his stuff on Amazon.
Fun with Staples, part II

A response in less than three hours - and a favorable one as well . . .

We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you. The missing ream of paper will be reshipped to you at no charge. Delivery is scheduled for 5/28/09 via UPS between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

To track your order just click on the following link:

I'm impressed. Almost makes me want to double down on my next order of Gel Impact pens . . .

Seriously, that's good customer service. Have to give them a plug in the next book . . . or at least not blow them up . . .
My latest Staples order

Or fun with stationery . . .

Order No.: xxxxx6368
Customer No.: xxxx7468

To whom it may concern:
I just received my order.
While I appreciate the prompt delivery, I was dismayed to discover that not only had the case of paper been opened but paper was removed from one of the reams.
I'd appreciate either a credit or a new ream.

Sincerely yours,

I'll settle for a copy of what they wrote . . .

Even more fun with banks . . .

Baseline Scenario is a blog that has had the Money Meltdown nailed from the get-go. Here's the latest blast. . .

From the headlines of the Wall Street Journal: “Banks Aiming to Play Both Sides of Coin — Industry Lobbies FDIC to Let Some Buy Toxic Assets With Taypayer Aid From Own Loan Books (subscription required, but Calculated Risk has an excerpt). I thought the headline had to be a mistake until I read the article.

To recap: The Public-Private Investment Program provides subsidies to private investors to encourage them to buy legacy loans from banks. The goal is to encourage buyers to bid more than they are currently willing to pay, and hopefully close the gap with the prices at which the banks are willing to sell.

Allowing banks to buy their own assets under the PPIP is a terrible idea. In short, it allows a bank to sell half of its toxic loans to Treasury – at a price set by the bank. I’ll take this in steps.

Read the rest here.
Talking about writing

So we're hanging out in the hotel penthouse, ten or twelve of us, all writers and the guru. And mostly we're talking about country-western music.

Until David Hagberg (who still hasn't bought me a beer, or seen me completely sober), says something along the lines of, "It's good to have so many writers together. You can talk and be understood."

Everyone else agreed; someone even said they could talk about craft and not be looked at strangely.

There was unanimous agreement, people saying how marvelous it is to talk about craft, until the circle came around to me.

"The hell with craft," I said. "I'd rather talk about baseball."

They made me buy the next round.
The homestand

So, tying up the loose ends on the new Yankee Stadium -

- I found the sushi place. It's right behind the main hall (duh) on the main level. My spicy tuna roll looked a little battered by the time I reached my seat, but it tasted OK. Of course, you're paying Stadium prices . . .

- My bet is that the calorie counts next to the beer prices will do as much to curb excessive drinking as Anti-DWI ads will. Maybe more . . .

- Speaking of beer, the selection is much better than at the old Stadium. But it still could use some tweaking. And, of course, you're paying Stadium prices . . .

- We did find the good way out - got in the parking lot in under six minutes. Without running . . . now if I could only find a good spot for a cigar . . .
Item: Starbucks targeted in NYC bomb explosion

Could be they were out of French Roast.
Did they get it right this time?

Preliminary reports indicate that the North Koreans exploded another nuclear bomb Monday, with an NK spokesman saying obliquely that this explosion was "larger" than the last" and corrected "problems" in "increasing the power" of nuclear weapons.

In other words, yeah, the first one was a dud, but we got it right this time.

Most of the stories you'll read over the next few days will connect the explosion to political maneuvering over Kim's successor. (One theory: the successor is demonstrating to Kim and-or others his worthiness as a leader.)

But the explosion is also one more step down an increasingly barren path: it lessens North Korea's leverage rather than increasing it in any sort of international negotiations. The weapon(s) can't be used, since everyone knows what the response will be - complete destruction of the North Korean leadership. Once it's clear that North Korea has the technology, the incentive to make a deal with them lessens. The terms for any deal will also become more onerous from North Korea's point of view, since it will always be possible that they are hiding one or more of the nukes somewhere. (See Rogue Warrior: Dictator's Ransom for a plot built on this premise.)

And what does North Korea do if no one wants to negotiate with it? Blow up something, like maybe South Korea?

The rhetoric that comes from North Korea is so psychotic that you can't rule that out. However, assuming at least a modicum of self-serving preservation is still guiding the leadership (whoever it may be), the options are slim and none. At best, the North Koreans could hope for an arms race kicked off by Iran, allowing it to sell technology to the highest bidder (which of course could be the West and-or China).

Iran's successful missile launching earlier this month - coming after North Korea's own failure - was an interesting coincidence. The two countries are presumed to have traded technology before; what the case is now remains pure speculation - or the stuff of techno-thrillers.

The truth is, Monday's nuke test only made North Korea more irrelevant. The problem is, they don't realize that yet . . . and I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for them to do so.
Not everybody's lost in the Bronx

Some smart fans have a plan to save Gate 2. Details here.
Everybody's still figuring the place out . . .

So I get to the Stadium early and I'm looking for a good spot to smoke a cigar, when John Sterling* walks up, looking kind of lost.

I pointed him in the right direction.

* John Sterling = the voice of the Yankees.
The Center for the Intrepid

I just got back from San Antonio, where a small group of novelists was privileged to spend a day at the Brooke Army Medical Center and the Center for the Intrepid, meeting with patients and staff.

The Center for the Intrepid is an incredible, state of the art rehabilitation facility that helps severely wounded soldiers and their families. Their patients are amputees who have withstood untold pain and horror. Built by private donations, the center provides a comprehensive program for helping the wounded psychologically as well as physically.

Here's a good overview of what the center does.

Every man and woman I met had been severely wounded in horrible ways. Every one of them had an indomitable spirit that reshaped my understanding of what courage is. Meeting them was a humbling but inspiring experience. They reminded me of the greatness we are all capable of, even in the face of unfathomable pain and violence.

The staff and patients thanked us for coming, but we were the one who owe thanks. Not just for their service, but for their inspiration.
First Team

We were faced in Houston.

Out of focus, but faced.
Fans? At a baseball game?

Demonstrating the sensitivity and concern for fans that has come to characterize the Yankees' brain trust, the club's chief operating officer Lonn Trost said this week that the team's new policy of not letting most fans near the field during batting practice will remain in place.

Actually, what he said was closer to FU, unwashed fans. (Most of whom traditionally are kids, btw.)

“If you purchase a suite, do you want somebody in your suite?” Trost said in remarks reported by The Associated Press. “If you purchase a home, do you want somebody in your home?”

Which isn't that bad a metaphor, considering what they're charging for the seats.

Can we be clear - the Yankees want all our money, but the only fans they want up close to the game are the Madoff crowd who have a few billions to spill out of their pockets.

I'm starting to think my presence at the games is an insult to the top brass . . . and I'm kinda liking that.

Speaking of the Yankees, I found the sushi place last week, as well as the old Italian deli, Mike's. (Duh, they were right near the Legends Hall entrance. Shows the novelist's attention to detail the first time through . . .) The deli has now been repackaged as a pseudo-mall outlet, with expanded offerings. The bread was fresher, but not as crusty as the old place. The jury's still out.

I'm still wondering why they check the cars in the "preferred lot" for bombs, while the rest of us scofflaws are waved through as quickly as possible.

But the biggest question remains: Where is the best place to meet? Most people seem to be adopting the patio-like sidewalk in front of Legends Hall, but there are no good landmarks there. "Meet me by the bench" doesn't have quite the same ring as "we'll hook up by the bat."

Myself, I'll be under Lonn's window.

Copyright Critics Rationalize Theft
Writers, composers, designers and other
content creators need to fight back.
by Mark Helprin

. . . Their work is peculiarly vulnerable in that it is easy to appropriate....

Were this vulnerability unaddressed, the producers of intellectual property would be put out of business unless they were independently wealthy or worked either as amateurs or drew salaries at the pleasure of, and beholden to, boards, committees and overseers of every type. Always at risk, the independent voice, the guarantor of political freedom and personal dignity, would be dangerously depressed along with the arts that sustain civilization. Amateurs alone are insufficient -- unless one believes that the work of Herman Melville, Thomas Eakins and Aaron Copeland does not merit full-time employment.
Full article here.

I get a lot of spam because of my "public" email addresses via the website. It's pia mostly, and lately I've come to suspect that the spammers think so, too.

Their subject lines have become more and more prosaic. Now I can understand that - too fancy and the spam killer just bites them in half. But the from addresses show a remarkable lack of creativity.

For example, just today I received email from the following:

Asthma inhaler help
Rebate processing jobs
Shawn C. - A seriously insane rich bitch
Debt Advisor

I mean come on - I'm not even bothering to open any of these. It's almost too much effort even to delete them.

Well, except for Shawn, who's meeting me for coffee next week.
One for the road

The worst thing about traveling is that it really screws up your caffeine addiction.

It's generally impossible to find coffee that's as strong as you want it, especially at the hotel. Not to mention that the default bean is inevitably Colombian, and the roast is generally so light it tastes like it was done with a refrigerator bulb. So you compensate with quantity, not necessarily a bad thing, except you end up draining the dragon every five minutes later in the day.

Do I exaggerate?
Burger run

Joe likes his jalapenos, but the President is a mustard man . . .
What's in a mint?

Why is it that restaurants in California seem to prefer spearmint, while the ones in New York are all about peppermint?
Well, duh . . .

Headline in today's NY Times:

Pakistan Strife Raises U.S. Doubts on Nuclear Arms

Good story. Tip of the iceberg.

Ethical dilemma

So if you take a ride from the airport into town from a limo driver who you know is taking the money under the table, should you tip him?