I’ve finished two novels since my last blog post. Okay, one of them was already
almost finished, and the other was well along — but now they’re actually finished.
In early February, I finished and turned in Mercy Kill, the next Star Wars: X-Wing novel. The Monday after I finished it, I turned to Growing Up Dead, the humorous
vampire adventure I’d written and mostly completed in 2010 and 2011. Across February
and early March, I polished it into completed form and passed it on to my agent. The
day after I completed it, I returned to Mercy Kill to proofread and amend the copyedited
manuscript, then returned that to Del Rey.
So — yeah, it’s been a little busy.
And during that time, I passed a milestone: the three-year anniversary of my
heart attack, which started March 27, 2009 and was diagnosed (when I was
hospitalized) on March 29, 2009.
It’s good to still be here, and to be completing projects. Thanks go to everyone
who’s offered help during those three years.
I just updated my Appearance Schedule page
with loads of information about my
summer convention schedule.
The fun starts on May 5, when I do a signing at Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy
in Austin, TX in celebration of Free Comic Book Day. Peter Mayhew, portrayer of
Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies, will be signing at the same event.
Then there’s an updated schedule for my attendance of the Origins Game Fair at
the end of May/beginning of June. There are notes on ArmadilloCon in July and Celebration VI in
August. Rounding out the list is information on my activities at Dragon*Con at the end of August/beginning
of September, including a complete listing of the writing seminars Michael A. Stackpole
and I (joined this year by Alison Richards) will be conducting there.
So, basically, a busy winter/spring is going to be followed by a busy summer.
Connect the Dots
(An Essay About Something That Confused Me)
Once upon a time, I used to watch soap operas. These were the CBS daytime
soaps in the early 1990s — The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful,
Guiding Light, and As the World Turns. I did this chiefly to learn about sustaining plots and
character arcs across months and years, possibly across thousands of episodes.
I also occasionally read entertainment-industry news stories about various soap
stars. A story that came up occasionally, apparently as a universal consequence of
being a soap star, told of actors being stopped by ardent fans of their shows. The fans
would speak to them as if they, the actors, were their characters. The fans would
criticize (even harangue) them for villainous behavior or offer sympathy for personal
tragedies… all without apparently being aware that these characterizations and events were
I never could quite understand that behavior. Surely most of these fans actually
did understand they were watching TV shows. I know there are delusional people out
there, but the frequency of these stories seemed out of proportion to the
number of delusional folk I have personally encountered.
More recently I rewatched a favorite movie of mine, Bob Clark’s brilliant A
Christmas Story, in which one incident has young Ralphie dealing with the fact that his
grandparent can only think of him as being a very small child.
And, believe it or not, that’s when the question of delusional soap opera fans
clicked for me.
Picture this: Grandparents visit their grandchildren, who are now teenagers. An
awkward silence ensues between the grandparents and the grandchildren. Grandma,
uncomfortable, makes a noble effort to break the silence.
Grandma: “So, do you remember when you were two and you dropped the ice cream in
Teen Granddaughter: “No.”
Grandma: “Oh. Or the time when Billy pulled the arms off your doll and you were so
Teen Granddaughter: “He likes to be called Will now. And no.”
Believe it or not, that’s exactly the same situation as a fan accosting a soap
opera star with criticism of the star’s on-screen behavior.
How, precisely, is it exactly the same?
It has to do with context.
Grandparents who selcom have the opportunity to see their grandkids have only
a few points of context, of connection, with those kids. And those points of connection
are often events from early in the kids’ lives, events they may have forgotten or prefer
not to remember in light of their current, striving-to-be-cool lives. But the grandparents
invoke those old events anyway, in a desperate attempt to bridge the gap of years, and
get eye-rolls and dismissiveness as a response.
Back to the soap opera star. A fan approaches and is desperate to connect, just
for a moment, with a TV idol. But what are the fan’s points of connection? Only the
star’s character’s behavior and life events. So the fan slips into a conversation just as
awkward as the grandparents’. Except such a conversation is bound to sound more
interesting to onlookers.
Fan: “Do you remember when you had Sir James chained up in his
basement and the control panel caught on fire? Why did you run? Why didn’t you save
It’s easier for writers. People read our work and don’t somehow transfer us into
the events on our pages. (Which is good. I assure you that if I tried to fight a werewolf,
pilot a starfighter, or wield a sword, tragedy would ensue.)
What’s the solution? Hell if I know. I’m just pleased to have come up with an
explanation for a behavior that confused me for years. Even if I’m totally wrong, other
people can argue about it while I sit back and relax.
But if you run into someone you’re a fan of, and you’re stuck for something to
say, try this: “Hi, I’m so-and-so, and I really enjoy your work.” You won’t sound like a
(Disclaimer: No, I don’t disparage soap operas, and I don’t think most soap
opera fans are nutbags.)