Not a Blog

Vote Rustbelt

November 24, 2020 at 9:46 am
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Hey, Wild Carders…

Rustbelt is running for city council, and he needs your vote.

You can read all about it in the next Wild Cards original coming to, a brand new story by Ian Tregillis.

You can read it — for FREE — on December 2.

Meanwhile, here’s an advance peek at the cover art, from Micah Epstein.   We all love it, and I think you will too.


Current Mood: amused amused

Words For Our Times

November 21, 2020 at 9:19 am
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Farewell to Jerry Jeff

November 18, 2020 at 10:28 am
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I was saddened to read (somewhat belatedly) of the death of Jerry Jeff Walker.

While I never had a chance to listen to Jerry Jeff perform in person, I always liked his music… going all the way back to the 70s, when I first discovered him.   (Yes, I do like country, especially the sort that used to be called “outlaw” country, as performed by the likes of Willie Nelson, Townes van Zandt, Kinky Friedman, and Kris Kristofferson, all favorites).

Even if you don’t listen to country, you probably know one of Walker’s songs: “Mr Bojangles,” which was a hit for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and has been covered by many others.

Here’s another of my favorites from Jerry Jeff.

Current Mood: melancholy melancholy

Old Favorites, New Favorites

November 16, 2020 at 8:05 am
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I read.   A lot.

Since I was a kid.   Whatever else may be going on in my life — writing, traveling, speaking, buying railroads and cinemas — I have a book or three by my bedside.   I read every night before sleep.   A few pages, a chapter… but the best times are when a story really gets its hooks into me and I find I cannot put it down.   Then I read late into the night, and resume reading when I get up in the morning.   Mind you, that does not happen often.  Most books, even some very fine books, do not have that effect on me.   But I love to find the ones that do.

Bernard Cornwell is one of the writers who never fails to grab me by the throat.  I have loved his Sharpe books, several of his stand-alones, his Thomas of Hookton series, his Arthurian triad… but my favorite is his long-running Saxon series, the tales of Uhtred son of Uhtred, some of which have been brought to television in the excellent series THE LAST KINGDOM.   The latest installment in Uhtred’s saga is WAR LORD, which arrived here just a few days ago.   As always with Cornwell, it went right to the top of the stack, and I gulped it right down.   Excellent, as always.   No one writes better historical fiction than Cornwell… and the Saxon series is especially cool in that it brings to life a part of British history that I knew almost nothing about.  (Other eras, while fascinating, have been done to death, in good books and bad ones).    The battle scenes are terrific, as ever.  Cornwell brings battles to life like no one else, whether he is writing about the shield walls of the Dark Ages or the musketry of the Napoleonic Era.

There was only one thing I did not like about WAR LORD.    It reads as if it is the last Uhtred.   We have been following him since childhood, but he is very old now, and on his third king, and the epilogue definitely gives the impression that his tale is at an end.  If so… well, he had a great run, but I will miss him.   Though maybe Cornwell will continue with tales of Uhtred son of Uhtred son of Uhtred, who knows?   Whatever he writes next, I am sure it will be well worth reading.

(If you like historical fiction, read WAR LORD by all means.   But don’t start there.   If you have not been following Uhtred previously, you want the start with THE LAST KINGDOM.  Despite having “last” in the title, it is actually the first book in the series).

While my shelves are full of books by old favorites like Bernard Cornwell, writers that I have been following for decades, I am always looking for new writers as well.  I do try to keep up on today’s SF and fantasy, though I wouldn’t say I do a great job of it… there is just so much of it (these days publishers sent me the first volume of almost every new high fantasy series in hopes of blurbage, so the pile just keeps getting higher).  And I like to read other stuff as well: historical fiction (like Cornwell), history, mysteries, mainstream, horror, classics, non-fiction… hell, all sorts of things.  As well as rereading books I have read before,  stories dear to my heart like LORD OF THE RINGS.

But I digress.  The point is, last summer in Dublin at the Irish Worldcon, I met a newer writer at my Hugo Losers Party at the Guinness Storehouse.  Her name was S.A. Chakraborty.  She was not a Hugo Loser (yet — though I suspect she will be), but she had been a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and had lost that, which was more than sufficient to qualify her for the party.  In any case, she came up and introduced herself and we chatted… very briefly, things are always very hectic for me when playing host at the Hugo Losers Parties, and someone or something interrupted us and I had to break off… but she was bright and charming and interesting, and I told myself “I really must check out her work.”

I finally got around to it, a year and a half later.   I read THE CITY OF BRASS, the first volume of her debut high fantasy trilogy, and I am so glad I did.   I get sent a lot of fantasies, as I said, but this one really stood out.  I loved the protagonist, there was a nice cast of supporting characters, and the plot had some twists and turns that I did not see coming… and her style is vivid and colorful and very readable.  The best thing, though, was the setting.   Instead of drawing on the European Dark Ages and Middle Ages, like me and JRRT and a thousand other epic fantasists, Chakraborty evoked the flavors of the Middle East and ARABIAN KNIGHTS and the legends of the djinns.   I enjoyed the novel hugely, and I just ordered the second and third books in the trilogy so I can may continue the adventure.   And if I should ever run into the author at another convention, I hope I get to speak with her a little longer.

So there you have it.   One old favorite, one new one.   Cornwell and Chakraborty, names to remember.

Now pardon me.  I have more books to read (and one to write, I know, I know, I know).


Current Mood: enthralled enthralled

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Ryan the Collector

November 14, 2020 at 8:58 am
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When Ryan Condal, the showrunner on HOUSE OF THE DRAGON, is not hunkered down in King’s Landing… er, London… casting roles and writing scripts, he likes to collect movie memorabilia.

And now he’s started a podcast about it, with his friend David Mandel of VEEP and SEINFELD fame.

Take a look at this interview with the two of them for a taste.   (Ryan talks a bit about HOTD as well). Then check out their podcast.

Myself, I collect toy soldiers and miniature heraldic knights, as long time readers of this Not A Blog will know.   Books too, though only by happenstance.  I am more a reader than a collector; I never seek out rarities or firsts myself, though I admire those who do.    So I understand the collecting passion, and movie (and television) props and costumes are a cool thing to collect.   Actually I have a few old TV props myself… though more from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST than from GAME OF THRONES.   A pity I never got that severed head… maybe on HOUSE, who knows…


Current Mood: geeky geeky

The Queen of Agents

November 11, 2020 at 4:37 pm
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A very dark year got even darker a few days ago, when I learned of the death of Kay McCauley in New York City.

Kay had been my literary agent for many many years, and a big part of my life for even longer.   I have been trying to recall the first time I met her, but the memories are blurry.   I suspect the first time we spoke was by phone.   I had signed on with Kay’s brother, Kirby McCauley, along about the mid 70s, when I was a struggling young writer and he was a struggling young agent.   Kirby had come out of Minnesota to set up shop in the Big Apple, and in the early days he flew solo, working out of his apartment, representing the estates of a few giants and a lot of upstarts and neopros like me.   But he climbed, he climbed.  His client list grew, and some of his clients became stars… in no small part due to Kirby.   To the best of my recollection, Kay came out from Minnesota to join him in the early/ mid 80s, to help him manage a business that had become ever larger and more chaotic.   She soon became an indispensable part of the agency that was variously known as Kirby McCauley Ltd, then the Pimlico Agency, then Aurous.

Kirby died in September 0f 2014.   Hard to believe that it has been six years.  The years go by so very swiftly now.   I made a long post about Kirby and all he did for me shortly after his death on my old LiveJournal version of Not A Blog.  It is still up, so I won’t repeat myself here, beyond posting a link to: 

The agency carried on after Kirby’s death, and so did Kay.   She had been pretty much running things for a decade or more in any case, with Kirby advising from the sidelines, semi-retired.   And if Kirby had been the King of Agents at his height, his sister was indisputably the queen.

I have been trying to write this tribute to Kay for two days now, but the words come hard.   She was such a big part of my life… and the life of all her clients, I think.   Hers was an old fashioned sort of literary agency.   She did not have a long list of clients, and… indeed… was not eager to take on anyone new, though from time to time she made exceptions.   She took on Gardner Dozois when he finally left the agency he had been with for decades, and did great things for him.   (Gardner, love him, was such an Eeyore that he tried to argue when Kay got him MUCH bigger advances than he had been getting previously, protesting “No, that’s too much,” but Kay was having none of that).   She took on Vic Milan when so one else would touch him and made him the biggest and best sale he had ever gotten.   She did amazing stuff for many of her other clients too… but I will let them tell you about that.   And of course she and Kirby did great things for me.

Being one of Kay’s clients was not an ordinary writer/agent relationship.   To Kay, we were all family.   She loved her clients, and her clients loved her back.    There is no one like her.

(Mind you, Kay could be fierce as well.   She did not forget, and she did not easily forgive anyone who she felt had screwed her, her brother, or any of her clients.   You messed with Kay McCauley at your own peril).

The news of Kay’s death came as a total shock to me, and… I suspect… to most of her clients.   Kay was older than Kirby, and a decade or so older than me, but you would never have known it.   Her energy was prodigious.   She seemed like a force of nature, indestructible, tireless; I figured she would go on for decades.   I think all of us did.   She was working hard for her clients right up until the end.   In fact, she had just closed a deal for three more Wild Cards anthologies for us.   The contract is sitting on my desk as I type, awaiting my review and signature.  Kay would probably have phoned or texted in another day or two to scold me for not dealing with it more quickly.

She always loved Wild Cards; the books, yes, the characters… and all the writers as well.   For a number of years, she would fly out to Santa Fe on or about September 15 (Wild Cards Day) and throw a big party for all the Wild Carders.   We had one at my theatre, and several of them at Meow Wolf.  None this year, alas, thanks to Covid… but I know Kay would have made up for that next year.   Though she did not often come to worldcon, she was planning to attend CoNZealand and throw a party there.  Covid put an end to that as well, sad to say.  (FWIW, I do not believe she died from Covid).

Of course, dinner with Kay was always on the schedule whenever I visited New York.   The last one — the last time I saw her — was a year ago in October, when Kay and me and Tom Doherty and Diana Pho and my assistant Sid had a marvelous steak feast at Keen’s Steakhouse in NYC.   Tom and Kay had secretly arranged for the restaurant to present to present me with one of the clay pipes that have decorated the walls and ceiling of Keen’s since colonial days.  A rare honor.   I have never smoked,  but I was thrilled all the same.

SID & KAY at KEEN’s, October 2019

I have so many other memories of Kay… she has been a huge part of my life and career for so many years.   I remember when she went to Ashford Castle in Ireland with me and Parris, the meals we shared together, the day the three of us went hawking.   I wish I had a photograph of Kay with her hawk.   We had such a great time there, we often talked of going back.   Being Irish, Kay often talked of wanting to retire and move to a cottage in Ireland… a fond dream, but I knew she would never do it.  She might have started as a Minnesota gal, but Manhattan was in her blood.   I remember the times we visited City Island with Kirby, to feast on seafood at one of the waterside restaurants there.   So many toasts… great bottles of wine, champagne, and of course prosecco.  And great meals.   Which she always insisted on buying…  unless there was an editor along she could give the check to.   I think I only managed to pay for her dinner once, during a visit to Santa Fe, and to do that I had to get to the restaurant twenty minutes ahead of her and speak to our waiter, make special arrangements so the check next came to the table… elsewise she would have ripped it from my hands.

I remember how we wept together, on the phone, when Roger Zelazny died.

And again, decades later, for Gardner.

She was a great agent too.   And unlike many literary agents of her generation, she was not afraid of new media.   Kay never played a role-playing game in her life, but the first time I was offered an RPG deal, she learned all she could about gaming, plunged in, and got me a terrific contract.

Ah… I hardly knew how to start this, and now I do not know how to stop…

It is going to take me a long long time to get over her passing.   Years from now, I suspect, part of me will still find myself wanting to text her, or pick up the phone and call her.   She was always just a phone call away.

And I damn well better get that Wild Cards contract signed soon, or I know that Kay will haunt me.

If there is an afterlife, Kay McCauley is with her brother Kirby right now, and the two of them are negotiating better places in heaven for their clients.

((I will leave comments open on this one, but ONLY for comments about Kay.   Those of you who knew her, and have memories and tributes to share, please do.   I would like to read them)).



Current Mood: sad sad

For Veteran’s Day

November 11, 2020 at 8:27 am
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Every time Veteran’s Day comes rolling around, it brings to mind one of my favorite poems, the profoundly moving “Last of the Light Brigade,” by Rudyard Kipling.

To really understand this one, it helps if you know Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade.”   I am old enough to be part of a generation that learned that one in grade school.   It was not quite as ubiquitous in New Jersey as in the UK, but it was taught here, at least in the 50s.   In its own way the Tennyson is also a great poem… but the message of the Kipling resonates much more strongly with me.

Every November 11, we honor those who fell in our wars… even as we forget those who fought them, and survived.


Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

Back to Westeros

November 8, 2020 at 9:18 am
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Sometimes I do get the feeling that most of you reading my posts here care more about what is happening in Westeros than what is happening in the United States.

So let me assure you that, when not sweating out election returns or brooding over other real world problems, I have continued to work on THE WINDS OF WINTER.

No, sorry, still not done, but I do inch closer.   It is a big big book.   I try not to dwell on that too much.    I write a chapter at a time, a page at a time, a sentence at a time, a word at a time.   It is the only way.   And sometimes I rewrite.

Of late I have been spending a lot of time with the Lannisters.  Cersei and Tyrion in particular.   I’ve also paid a visit to Dorne, and dropped in to Oldtown a time or three.   In addition to turning out new chapters, I’ve been revising some old ones (some very old)… including, yes, some stuff I read at cons ages ago, or even posted online as samples.   I tweak stuff constantly, and sometimes go beyond tweaking, moving things around, combining chapters, breaking chapters in two, reordering stuff.

None of this is even remotely new.   It is how the first five books were written.

I was really on a roll back in June and July.   Progress has continued since then, but more slowly… I suffered a gut punch in early August that really had me down for a time, and another, for different reasons, in early September.   But I slogged on, and of late I am picking up steam again.

On other fronts… well, aside from Covd-19 slowing everything down, we are making great progress on the HBO prequel HOUSE OF THE DRAGON.  Ryan and Miguel are in London, casting has begun, it is all looking very exciting.

I wish I could say that things are also going great on all the other television and film projects I am involved with, either as a producer or as the author of the original source material (i.e. novels and short stories).   I can’t.    Very little shooting is taking place, and almost nothing is being greenlit.  Of course, development continues… but there’s a reason they call it “development hell.”   Sigh.

So that’s where all that stands.   Or at least, that’s as much as I am allowed to tell you right now.

Hang in there, friends.

Current Mood: busy busy

Happy Days

November 7, 2020 at 9:27 pm
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Joe Biden gave a marvelous speech tonight: eloquent, uplifting, stirring, a speech that spoke to all that is best in America, to our hopes and dreams rather than our fears.  Time will tell what kind of president he will be, but everything about the campaign he waged confirms the fact that this is a good, decent, and intelligent man.

It brought to my mind the classic Democratic hymn that was FDR’s campaign song, and later used by JFK, LBJ, and many others.

I fear that the next few months will be very hard, the transition the most brutal of my lifetime… but come January 20, it will be over.


Current Mood: happy happy


A Glimmer of Light

November 6, 2020 at 3:42 pm
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The past few days have been hard ones.   Like millions of others, I finally went to sleep on Tuesday night — very late, I stayed up as long as I could, watching the election returns trickle in — in a state of near despair.   Things did not look good at all.   By the time I woke up Wednesday morning, however, the picture had brightened considerably, and it has continued to brighten ever since.   A Biden victory now appears all but certain.  Arizona and Nevada are trembling on the brink, and Joe has moved ahead in Pennsylvania (which everyone saw coming) and even Georgia (which no one saw coming).   It should not be long now before he hits 270, and I can start to breathe again.

Maybe.  For a little while.

I have read too much history to be entirely sanguine, however.   I get very little reassurance from those who say “it cannot happen here.”   It can happen here.  It can happen anywhere.   Donald Trump has broken all the rules, and plainly he has no regard for democracy, for our traditions, for the rule of law, for anything beyond his own power, his own ego.   He is the worst president this country has ever had, and the first to really represent a threat to the Constitution, to the electoral process itself (no president in the past half century has ever floated the idea of a third term, or expressed admiration for the concept of “president for life,” but Trump has).    This is not the first close election in American history.   It is not even the first “disputed” election — through Trump has absolutely no proof for these absurd claims he is making — but where past candidates like Samuel Tilden, Al Gore, and even Richard Nixon had too much love for their country to risk ripping it apart, Trump loves no one and nothing but himself.   I do not expect a gracious concession speech from him, like the one Al Gore gave in 2000.   I do not even expect a grudging, sour concession.   He may need to be dragged from the White House.

And yet there seem to be millions of Trumpies who will believe any lie he chooses to tell, no matter how outrageous.   I mean, insane as it seems, when the new Congress assembles there will be a Q-Anon believer in the House of Representatives.   That sound you hear is the Founding Fathers spinning in their graves.   Regardless of what Trump may say and do, I can only hope that sanity will prevail in the days and months to come.   “Hope,” I said… but I will not pretend to be certain.   Not when armed men are being arrested on the way to the Philadelphia convention center, when militants are trying to kidnap the governor of Michigan.   I can only hope that these are outliers, a few fringe cases, who do not represent most Americans.

These are… interesting times.   And not in a good way.

I do not envy Joe Biden.   By the time he is sworn in, the death count from coronavirus may well have reached half a million.   Biden wants to unite us, not divide us, but that is easier said than done.   Let us hope that he can indeed bind up the nation’s wounds, as Lincoln once urged.  It will not be easy.

But at least there is a glimmer of light ahead.

I will dare to hope.


Current Mood: hopeful hopeful