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No rest for the wicked

I just finished the first draft of a novella (for next summer's short story collection) and am feeling tired and lazy; writing a novel and a half in six months while making five international trips does that to me.In fact, I've been falling behind on the news coverage and not even keeping up with my daily intake of blogs (although yes, I have noticed Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac falling through the floor, thank you very much, and the idea of the two companies that hold 50% of the USA's collective mortgage debt of $12Tn imploding at the same time does not fill me with optimism for the future).

Current activities: kicking back with a good book (in this case, an ARC of "A Snowball in Hell", by Christopher Brookmyre — out on August the 14th, and a major return to form after the last couple of near-misses; and then, I think, "The Caryatides" by Bruce Sterling); making sure I've got all the travel adapters, spare underwear, and general kipple I need to tow around for three weeks on the road (starting on the 22nd); and spending some quality time with my nearest and dearest (who aren't coming along on this trip).

No, I am not buying an iPhone 3G: thank you for asking.

Incidentally, packing for this tour is ... annoying. Last time round, I was only gone for a week, so I was able to take two pieces of hand luggage — a backpack and a wheeled flight case. The flight case flew over in the hold on the first flight (from the UK to the USA) due to the one-bag-per-passenger restriction, but once I was in the USA I could fly with two pieces of hand luggage; and the flight case was big enough to hold all my clothing.

This time round, I'm going to be gone for three weeks, and in addition to the signing tour I've got a formal/semi-formal event (the Hugos) to pack for. I'm not inclined to hire a tux and I don't think I can comfortably cram three weeks' stuff into a hand-luggage sized package, so this time I'm going to break rule #1 of signing tours, and travel with a hold bag. Luckily I've got no multi-sector flights between tour destinations, so opportunities for the hold bag to go missing are restricted to my arrival and departure flights: in both cases, I'm staying at the destination long enough for a bag to catch up with me. Still, I'm avoiding Rule #1 of long-haul travel in and out of the UK this summer: Avoid Heathrow Terminal Five.

Oh, I hinted that I was going to be on a signing tour, didn't I? Silly me!

The tour dates aren't 100% set in stone yet, but they should be nailed down by early next week. So far what I've got looks like this:

July 23-27: I'll be at Comic*Con in San Diego.

July 28th: I'm doing an evening reading at Mystery and Imagination in Glendale, Los Angeles.

July 29th: I'll be on KUSP radio (live) from Santa Cruz in the morning, and doing an evening reading at Borders on Post Street, San Francisco.

July 30th: I'm doing a reading at Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Phoenix.

July 31st to August 5th: I will be Officially Dead from Overwork™ (but trying to pull myself together for the next fixture ...)

August 6th to August 10th: I'll be at Denvention 3 in Denver.

August 7th: I'm doing a reading and signing at Tattered Cover in Colfax (Denver).

There are other things going on in between these events — these are the public ones. I'll post more details next week (when I've got them), including addresses, times, and stuff like that.



You have something against Powell's in Portland?


No, they're just not flying me up the coast -- this tour's hitting the south-west rather than the north-west.


When you're going to be at Comicon, do you know what booth/ what company you'll be signing with?

I'm going (more for work than pleasure), so I'd love to say "Hi" if I get the chance.


Max: yes.

Look for me around the Mysterious Galaxy booth, which they'll be sharing with Ace. I may also be dragged out by Tor, who've got a presence there (I'm published by both). Finally, I've got a panel: Saturday 26th, 10:00-11:00, "Looking at our World: Eye on the Future", table AA1, to be followed by a signing in the autograph area.


Good to hear about the new Brookmyre. Though I thought that, while All Fun And Games was disappointing, A Tale Etched In Blood And Hard Black Pencil was quite passable. Though I still haven't read Unsinkable Rubber Ducks; should I bother with it?

As far as Brookmyre goes, A Big Boy Did It still sets the benchmark for me.


I bounced off A Tale Etched (due to going away on a long trip) -- need to pick it up and try again. I bounced off Unsinkable Rubber Ducks because, while I share its author's view of matters religious, I don't need to read more shit about fundamentalist fuckwits.

But this is an explicit sequel to A Big Boy Did It ... and The Sacred Art of Stealing. Yummy.


Feeding " Avoid Heathrow Terminal Five" to an anagram generator with a bit of prior letter removal, I discover:

Aim Violent Warhead - Thor Five

Which seems rather appropriate. Nothing else is likely to fix it, after all.

3:O)> Cadbury.


I hope you have fun on your signing tour, Charlie. I've heard writer mates of mine moan that these marathons of pain are the most tiring things ever. After the fifth flight or the sixth twilit ride, I bet one is fit to go all stabby-stabby-stab-stab with a fountain pen. Ahem. So I'm told.

I'm reading The Great Gatsby at the moment. Best descriptions ever. I'm just marvelling at the way I'm on chapter 3, nothing whatsoever has happened, and yet I can't stop reading. That must be old school writing. Yes, I believe that's the technical term for it :P


David, I did a signing tour last year. Death march territory. This year's schedule looks no better ...


Do you have any early plans for a tour further east?


You're teasing me with Brookmyre again!


Travel tip. Try a hotel with a washer and dryer. Start the washer while you recover in your room. Much less stuff to carry.

Tour dates in the UK? I am going to be visiting the week of July 19th. Any suggestions on good sci-fi oriented sites, book stores, or other sights to see? I have seen that standard stuff before, Big Ben, St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower of London, Stone Henge, etc.


Last time I had to go to a formal event out of town - I fedexed my gown to the hotel - called the hotel to open the fedex and fill out a form to have the dress pressed and it was waiting nice and bagged and wrinkle free when I checked in.

Saved a ton of space in my bag and I didn't have to lug it around before hand.


The Tattered Cover is a national treasure, much like Powell's or the late lamented Cody's of Berkeley. If I recall correctly, there was (as of a dozen years ago) a damned good little music store around the corner as well.

I can ask some local friends about the available veggie dining options as well - contact me if that works for you.


I'm going to nitpick: Glendale is not in Los Angeles, it's its own city. It's the filler that keeps Pasadena and Burbank from running into each other.

(This store is right in the center of Glendale: Brand is a major street. Look north at the mountains, if you get a chance.)


Charlie: Tattered Cover signing, you say? On my day off, you say? The whims of quantum particles are kind this summer. I look forward, with restrained amusement, to seeing how you are holding up on the tour. Let us know if you have any reasonable requests, like no questions which require answers in greater volume than monosyllabic. Or cookies. Sadly, the con falls on workdays. See you for the reading however.

If you find yourself in the mood for oddities of Denver, try the Petticoat Bruncheon weekend fun at Bump&Grind. I'll leave it to Yelp to describe the effects. Be warned, play hats and drag queens are not optional, but its definitely worth the trip and the tip. (Not certain about the non-meat eater's options, if this is of concern, but a call might confirm for you).

17: If you'd like to use my washer dryer while in Scottsdale, I am more than happy to accommodate you. I live about 1/2 mile from Poisoned Pen, and was in fact the person who suggested you to them.

Terminal 5 managed to not lose either my bags or my wife's even though we were doing the risky thing of having the connecting flight in T1.

(Why BA still flies to about 4 destinations from T1 and the rest from T5 is a mystery to me)

I don't know how many thousand bags go through T5 every day but I suspect that the 1000 that are reportedly lost are something like 2% of the total. I do kind of wonder what the rate is at other airports...


On washer/driers -- while I'm on tour, I've got an expenses tab and I'm expected to work it for things like dry cleaning and express laundry service, because I won't have time to hang around in a laundry room. The hotel I'm ending up in in Denver is on my own tab, but has a laundry room and I'll have time for hanging around (and recovering from the tour). I'm well used to living out of suitcases in hotels; I can cope.

FedExing stuff to the hotel in Denver in advance would be a good idea, if I wasn't going to be on the road for a week before-hand.

My publisher hasn't pointed me at a tour further east, because I tend to hit the east coast a couple of times a year anyway. (I often go to Boskone in Boston in February, partly because I can combine it with a side-trip to New York to drop in on my agent and editor. I like to do lunch with them at least once a year; it's easier to maintain a good working relationship with folks you see face-to-face from time to time.)

Francis: the T5 problem is apparently really bad for folks who are transfering between a domestic flight at one of Terminals 1-4 and an international flight out of T5; their loss rate tends towards 8%. There's no automatic hook-up between the baggage system at T5 and the rest of Griefrow's baggage handling systems, so if a plane comes in late (a frequent occurence at Griefrow, because ATC is running the airport at about 98% utilization of the available landing/takeoff slots, and it tends to suffer from morning fog) there's no provision for rushing the bag between terminals to make a connection.

Here's a helpful hint: Heathrow would not be my local airport, it would be my connecting hub (I'm based in Edinburgh). Do I want to go through a hub with a known major issue in forwarding the baggage for connecting passengers? Is the Pope Jewish? Do Bears build Boeings?


Charlie @19:

Hey I understand. One of the nice things about the Riviera is that there are direct flights to all major european hubs and quite a few minor ones so normally you have multiple options for intercontinental flights. I was pretty nervous about the flights we took (Nice-Tokyo and back via Griefrow). Unfortunately a combination of rip off prices on Lufthansa/Swiss, the fact that I don't trust Air France not to go on strike, and truly awful (as in 6+ hour) connection times with other affordable airlines meant that BA was the best option.

When I fly Nice-London it's never BA or Griefrow. I take Sleazyjet to Stanstead, Luton or Gatwick depending on prices and times. Although I may investigate London City next time since there now seem to be relatively cheap flights there (allegedly).

Oh and T5 as a terminal is definitely up there on the pleasant (for a terminal) place to be list. Far better than the grotty T1,2,3.


Charlie@6: Fundie fuckwits= depressing.

Jack Parlabane ranting about fundie fuckwits= funny

Plus, it has stage magic in it. And murders.


Charles, since your Email tells me I am trying to spam-bot it:

May I inquire about the use of German language in your works? I interpret the incorrect spelling of it in "Merchant Princes"-Series ("Hochsprache") as intended. In the "Laundry"-Universe where German language references to Nazi organisations are made, I think you did not intend any spelling mistakes. Is this correct?


I can confirm that it's pretty easy to check details of the Nazis.

I've been writing some stuff for a furry shared-world setting. The Nazi secret-police types were a little too inclined to think they can't be touched, and there are now some vacant posts at the Embassy.

A young lady reached for her pistol. If you want equalisers, go for John Moses Browning and the Shanghai Municipal Police. Stir well and kipple[1] to taste.[2]

The SS, in particular, is very well documented on Wikipedia. It's almost worrying.

[1] Teacher "Do you like Kipling?" Student "I don't know, I've never kippled."

[2] OK, people seem to like it, but it's nothing like as good as Charlie's stuff.


Francois, he's going to be at the LoDo Tattered Cover, which is in a restored building. The historic Tattered Cover (used to be in Cherry Creek) moved to a new location to avoid stifling rent payments. But the LoDo store is worth seeing.

Alas, I have to work a dozen hours or so on August 7.


@Sebastian (22): I wondered about that, too.


Obviously if you can fly out of Edinburgh that's the way to go.

I flew in and out of there a couple of years ago and it seemed, for an international, a nice small airport. Though I felt like absolute drek after the arrival; went from Colorado Springs transferred in Houston where delayed for an hour, made it to Newark just in time to meet up with my brother and father, then six hours over the Atlantic with a major migraine. Then the father getting irate after being handed a bunch of coins as change for a 10 pound note at the Forth Road Bridge toll booth, before he realized they were 1 pound each. (I've been trying not to write so much about myself --just can't help it sometimes.)

Charlie, I gather that you're going to Denvention as a fan, not as a guest? You're not mentioned as a guest on their site.

Sebastian @ 22: Is it German or is it Yiddish? That would explain 'spelling mistakes'. Charlie has dropped bits of Yiddish in the blog before.


Sebastian @22: my German is non-existent. The stuff in the Merchant Princes is glommed-together not-German from another timeline; the stuff that's wrong in The Atrocity Archives is, er, wrong. OK?


Too bad you won't be in NYC Charlie ...


I have often thought about being an author (of actual readable fiction, not of tech books, which I've done and is less fun). For the chance to pour my mind out on paper. For the high-octane whirlwind lifestyle of cons and signings and interviews (stop laughing at the back). For the money (no no really stop you'll hurt yourself). But now I have an actual reason. You get early access to Brookmyre books. And it's an Angel X book. Damn you, Stross.


Stuar @29; and don't forget you'll do it for the joy of the ego crushing rejection letters, until you actually get that ms just right!

Well Mr S. I have no where near as many long hour flights logged as you, so my advice can only be of the 'pat on the back' variety.

Try and enjoy yesself between all that hard work.


I read at the Tattered Cover and the staff there were terrific, right up there with the folks at Elliott Bay here in Seattle, Booksmith in SF and Busboys and Poets in DC. Folks like that make touring a book so much more pleasant...

Good luck. And remember the Purell! It really cuts down on travel colds...


Alex, there's a new Busboys & Poets in Arlington, too.


D'oh! (palm to forehead) @ 26 I said "Charlie, I gather that you're going to Denvention as a fan, not as a guest? You're not mentioned as a guest on their site."

If I'd given it a little more thought I would have hit on the fact that you mentioned your publisher's booths at the other cons.

On the other hand, you didn't correct my (possibly) wrong notion.


Throwmearope@24: It is a crying, bleeding, spastic shame that they had to move out of that building. It was gorgeous there, and it was in a way a site of 'influence' where a bookstore could lurk. In the latter days of the old Tattered Cover building, they were renting out the very top story for various business functions/conventions/etc. I guess that didn't offset the rents enough. Very sad.

Alex Steffen@31: You had to bring up others of my favorites. Elliott Bay was awesome when I was living in Seattle, though I spent a lot of time at the used stores on the good old college-shoestring budget. Booksmith in SF is awesome, but so was Cody's in Berkeley. Now gone, unfortunately. the SF Bay Area has a great number of amazing bookstores, however.

And I have a feeling the ARC of new releases is one of the best reasons to be a writer. Or, possibly, join the ranks of the enemy and become a reviewer with nothing published under their belt. Though I also used to get ARC's from a lovely placed named Moby Dickens in my home town, since I was their local 'voracious reader who has purchased one of everything in the entire SF/Fantasy section', and they knew it.


James @33: Denvention is the worldcon. Being the author guest of honor at a worldcon tends to mark a high spot in a 30-year career; and it only happens to you once. It's a special honor, and I haven't been around remotely long enough (in the public eye) to even make the long list.

Us ordinary (non guest-of-honor) folks are expected to pay our own way (although most worldcons reimburse the not-inconsiderable membership fee for those who help out or participate in enough program items that they're working rather than kicking back and enjoying the show). And there are a whole lot of "ordinary folks" on the program participant list, which is where I show up ... in the same place as Robert Silverberg, David Brin (last year's worldcon guest of honor) and Joe Haldeman, to name but three out of a couple of hundred.

I'm going because (a) I enjoy worldcons, (b) I get a chance to dine out on my editors' expense accounts and talk business, (c) I've got a lot of friends who I'm most likely to run into at a worldcon because it brings together the geographically scattered, and (d) I'm on the Hugo shortlist and the winners are announced at the Hugo awards ceremony on the Saturday night. Oh, and (e) I'm on the right side of the Atlantic, thanks to a signing tour that ends a week before the con kicks off, thus saving me a trans-Atlantic flight. (I get to spend the money on extra time in a hotel, instead.)


I'm afraid that a Martin M-130 or a Boeing 314 just wouldn't be much use for getting to Denver, but that, or a Zeppelin, would be the way to travel.


@27: if you need someone to proofread your non-existent German ...


Joyce, the owner of the Tattered Cover lost a bundle of money fighting an idiotic subpeona to turn over a list of books purchased by some wannabe terrorist (I think, details foggy.) She's one of the people I admire a lot.

By the way, on your recommendation, I am glomming on Elizabeth Bear, some guy named Scalzi, some other guy named Stross (maybe you've heard of them) for my hubby. Thanks, I was getting desperate! If you have any other ideas, I'd take them. (Used to post as Jackie L until some wack job romance writer threatened me with malware.)*

Anyway, good luck at DIA. There's a reason we native Denverites call it Dumbbell International.

*Sounds idiotic, I know.


As a bonus included with your San Diego visit, you could take a tour of some of the places featured prominently in the Fannie and Freddie "This Was Your Life" reel.


Techslave @34, I belong to a bookgroup at a public library. The library system gets a lot of ARCs and the librarian in charge of incoming sends us all the SFF. Nobody reads most of them, based on the descriptions, and the few someone read have not been so good. I suspect Charlie gets better quality ARCs since most of those folks are looking for a blurb.


Charlie, you might be better off just buying new clothes when you get to the US rather than going through the hassle of packing three weeks of luggage. The exchange rate is favorable, and you could always mail them home on the way back and save your self the hassle on that leg of the trip too.


Don't travel with hold luggage - FedEx your clothes instead.


Jay @39: The what reel? Never heard of it.

Andrew G: Buying new clothes would be a great policy ... if I wasn't spending up to 16 hours a day working, in unfamiliar cities. I don't have time to go shopping, much less to do the legwork to find the shops I need and then figure out my sizing in an unfamiliar system. (Yes, clothing sizes are different in the UK.) Having said that, while on tour I get a room service tab drawn on my publisher, and I'm expected to use it for things like express laundry service.

Sam: FedExing your luggage is great if you happen to be an executive with a PA and a company FedEx account. It's not so great if you're paying the FedEx bill out of your own pocket, travelling to a new city every day for four days on the run, and don't have time to sit around waiting for a FedEx pickup. (Plus, traveling on single sector flights with no luggage is a good way to attract TSA attention.)

As it is, my itinerary is such that I'm unlikely to become separated from my hold luggage, and I don't particularly feel like adding $500-1000 plus a load of aggravation to my trip.

Interestingly, in Japan they have a large logistics company (think: home grown equivalent of FedEx or DHL) who offer a specialist we-move-your-bags-to-your-next-hotel service, with pick-up and drop-off at the hotel concierge desks and a fee of around $25 to move a 25 kilogram suitcase 400 kilometres the same day. If FedEx or one of their competitors set up a service to do that (aimed at business travellers) I think they'd clean up, and they'd get my business.


Charlie@43:Interestingly, in Japan they have a large logistics company (think: home grown equivalent of FedEx or DHL) who offer a specialist we-move-your-bags-to-your-next-hotel service, with pick-up and drop-off at the hotel concierge desks and a fee of around $25 to move a 25 kilogram suitcase 400 kilometres the same day. If FedEx or one of their competitors set up a service to do that (aimed at business travellers) I think they'd clean up, and they'd get my business.

I think that all three major Japanese parcel companies - Sagawa, Yamato and Pelican - offer this service or something similar.

They also do the same for the to/from the international airport trip which is a wonderful idea and would work for people like you who have to take some sort of other public transport to get to your international departure point. So instead of flying to Griefrow you would be able to let the train take the strain ...


....."I have noticed Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac falling through the floor"

Etc ... What worries ME is that, to avoid the shit really hitting the domestic fan ('cause the Rethuglicans are going to be wiped-out at the next US election) ... the Shrub will try for his religious war with (even-further-round-the-twist-religious-fruitcake) Ahmenidjad REAL SOON NOW - and, in any case, before the electioneering really gets going. If you want previous dates for starting this sort of insanity, any time between, oh, er, let's say: 28th June (already passed) and 3rd September.


G. Tingey: point of note -- Ahmedinijad isn't actually the Iranian head of state: "president" in their constitutional set-up doesn't mean what it means in the US. (For head of state you have to go to Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, who, while conservative, is much more circumspect in what he says, because he's the guy in charge of the armed forces. And he's in a position to remove Ahmedinijad whenever he feels like it.) Paying attention to Ahmedinijad when he gets into his sabre-rattling groove is a bit like listening to the Mayor of New York talking about the war on terror -- stirring rhetoric but ultimately it doesn't signify anything because he doesn't have any armoured divisions to deploy.

I suspect the recent mutterings from the House about impeachment not necessarily being off the table any more may be a shot across W's bows; if he starts bombing Iran without a bloody good excuse, what are the chances that he won't be impeached?


A little ways down on this post on Schneier's blog someone mentions the brilliant little hack of packing a starter pistol in your checked bag, and declaring it to the ticketing agent on check in, forcing them to take extra care tracking it. I don't know if this would work internationally, though.


This is what I get for my fascination with Jack Chick.

This Is Your Life was a television documentary. [...] The format of the show was simple: the host would surprise someone (usually a celebrity or public figure, occasionally an ordinary citizen) and, consulting his "red book", conduct a biography of the subject in a television studio.
Jack Chick's "This Was Your Life", and yes, I'm glad for the "rel=nofollow".

Of course you can't post a link to Jack Chick without "Who Will Be Eaten First".


It's a shame you're tour won't be bringing you to my area. Tell your publisher that you have a fan (there might be others) in Detroit that needs a book signed. I'm sure they'll fly you in. As an added inducement, I offer to put you up in our basement. And it has spiders!

Stross, I hope I. M. Bank's Matter is on your reading list.


Jay@48: Thanks! That Chick-spoof made my day!


Well, never having been to a book reading, but having an author who I have ready every book I could find of yours come to withing 60 km, I'll try to come to see you at the Poisoned Pen. ;-)



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