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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The End of a Long Road

It's been far too long since I've had the time to update this blog. One of the stranger things I've noted about growing older and busier, with teenagers in the house, is that it's entirely possible to feel like you've blinked your eyes and six months have passed. I'll try to do better in updating things here.

As it's been such a long time, here are some updates from my life, in no particular order that may or may not be of interest to the handful of people reading along:

1. My daughter, Morgan, is a senior this year and heading off to college next year. We've had many, many household discussions on this topic, ranging from excitement to frustration to tears and recriminations. I suspect this happens more than I thought to other parents, too. When I did my undergraduate work, I picked the nearest college with a creative writing program, which happened to be the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. I got lucky and studied under the fabulous poet Denise Sweet, among others. There was no angst. For my daughter, there seems to be a lot of angst. As she now appears to have narrowed it down to three or four schools, I'm hopeful the end of the angst is in sight.

2. I finally finished and turned in my very last Don Pendeleton's The Executioner (Mack Bolan) novel this month. I believe I wrote nine or ten of them. That was the end of a very long road, indeed, since I started writing them in 2007. Ol' Mack has appeared in more than 600 books, and there were times when I enjoyed the ride very much, but by the end, I was more than ready to let him go. For the first time since 2000, I'm not under contract to write any novels. (There was a brief, panic-inducing blip in 2006, where I was without a contract for perhaps four months or so.) This time, there's no panic. I'm turning (most of) my attention away from work-for-hire projects and back to my own work... after a break to wrap up a short story, do some editing projects, and breathe a little bit.

3. I've been quite busy teaching for Western State Colorado University, with a really excellent crop of students. I've also been working away for Excelsior College, teaching and developing a new course for them.

4. What's that, you say? What have I been reading? I've been reading a lot over the past year, and damn you Amazon and Kindle for making it so easy to buy books. Here's a super quick list of some of the titles that I've read recently: Books 1-3 of Kim Harrison's THE HOLLOWS series, THE ATLANTIS GENE by A.G. Riddle, GUARDS OF THE SHADOWLANDS (Books 1 & 2) by by Sarah Fine, WOOL, DUST, and SHIFT by Hugh Howey, plus keeping up with some of my current favorite series by Richard Kadrey (Sandman Slim), Larry Correia (Monster Hunters), and Brent Weeks (the Night Angel trilogy). That's not all of them, of course, but a nice sampling. I try to read at least 100 books a year. If time permits, I'm going to try and do at least one or two short reviews a month on this blog, but no promises. What's in your to-be-read pile that I should take a look at?

5. Oh, and in case you've been wondering, winter this year has been like living north of the Wall in a George R.R. Martin novel. There have been times when I've looked out the window and expected to see white walkers... They say spring is coming, but I'm not holding my breath.

And that's about all the news that's fit to share. I hope you and yours are well, that wherever you are, spring has started to show signs of appearing, and that if you are a writer, you do your best to...

Write on,

Friday, August 2, 2013

Back in the Land of Oxygen

Once again, I survived the WSCU MFA Summer Residency, though I admit that in spite of clear, convincing evidence otherwise, I would swear these things get longer every year. I was quite a bit busier this year, between teaching the first year students, panels, meeting with fall students, meeting with new thesis-level students, introducing outgoing thesis student presentations, and even doing a couple of panels at Writing the Rockies.

As anyone who travels in that part of the world can tell you, altitude sickness is a real thing, and I generally avoid it without any problems. This year, I thought I avoided it, but I suspect that the altitude affected me more than usual. First, I don't think I ever managed to catch my breath. A short walk was enough to have me huffing and puffing - and not in a good, wholesome, I love Marlboro's kind of way. Second, with only two drug-induced exceptions, I don't think I slept more than a few hours a night. And third, as an added bonus, the above and the extra work combined to kick my MS into very high gear on a couple of days.

All that said, and while I'm happy to be back in the land of oxygen, and I still had a great time meeting new students, visiting with continuing students and congratulating the outgoing graduates. Plus, it's always nice to get together with the other faculty and residency/conference guests. I think the classes went very well, and I'm hopeful the students felt the same. At Writing the Rockies, Jim Minz and I were able to catch up over a few evenings out, and I got to know literary agent Andy Zack a bit better, too. (My biggest disappointment of the whole month was that I only got to say howdy in passing to W.C. Jameson and totally missed seeing his lovely wife, Laurie.)

Now that I'm almost back to normal, I've got a very long list of things to do before the end of the month, ranging from writing projects to prepping for fall classes to getting the kids ready for the school year. Like most reasonable parents, I'm very much in favor of year round education, so I can't wait for summer to end so they can be gone all day. We are going to sneak down to Six Flags - Chicago for a day, and I may try to sneak in a little fishing before they head back to classes, but otherwise, it's work-work-and more work from now until the Thanksgiving break.

And speaking of work, it's time for me to sign off from this blog and...

Write on,
Russell Davis

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Living in the Wild, Wild West

Sort of.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Gunnison, Colorado for the Western State Colorado University MFA program summer residency. I very much enjoy visiting the western slope of the Rockies, getting to see current students and meet new ones, plus spending quality time with faculty and friends. It's basically three weeks of work in a beautiful setting, capped with a small writing conference (Writing the Rockies). This year, my good friend and Baen editor Jim Minz will be there, along with literary agent Andy Zack, and another old friend, W.C. Jameson and his wonderful wife, Laurie (who's a damn fine writer, too) will also be in attendance, so a good time should be had by all. (In all seriousness, if you EVER get a chance to hear W.C. Jameson give a reading or sing, make the time to do it. The man has an incredible voice.)

In the graduating group, I've got three students who have officially wrapped their thesis projects, and in the students entering their second year, I've got three more thesis students starting their journey. If I handle it properly, the three graduating students will tell (possibly exaggerated) tales to the three second year students, ensuring an appropriate amount of fear and dismay. For the incoming class, I've prepared an entirely updated curriculum with new tortures... erm, exercises, yes that's what I meant... so that even if they talk to the students who've taken my summer course before, they won't be as prepared as they think. And, btw, if you are one of those students who've previously taken my summer course, do the incoming students a solid: lie to them about what to expect. That will be fun for you and me!

While I'm there, I'll also be busy putting the final touches on the last Bolan novel on the current contract. I'd desperately hoped to finish it up by now, but no such luck. I'm making it a point to consider this time a chance to completely catch up on things that I've been putting off, because when I return to Wisconsin, I'm 150% committed to a much better, more efficient schedule. With Sherri going a hundred different directions and each of the kids going another two hundred, getting on track and on schedule is absolutely critical. Writers sort of suck at that kind of thing, in general, but I'm going to make it happen.

In other writing news, I'm still waiting to hear back on a pitch that I sent to Steve Saffel at Titan. He's been great at putting up with my regular check-in's, and I'm still hopeful that it may result in a new project REAL SOON NOW. Beginning in August, I'll start writing the draft of a textbook I've been planning, as well as developing a new class for Excelsior College that they've asked me to put together. I think the overall response to the Vampires in Literature & Film class I developed was very good, and most of the students appeared to enjoy it quite a lot.

I don't know how much, if any, blogging I'll do over the rest of the month, but I'll try to do at least a couple of posts - with pics, maybe - about the happenings in the wild, wild west. In the meantime, I hope you continue to...

Write on,
Russell Davis