Cheeseburger Gothic

The Killer Awoke

Posted February 7 into Books by John Birmingham

Had a pleasant surprise this morning when I found a cheque—yes, an actual paper cheque, possibly delivered by carrier pigeon—in my PO Box. It was from Baen, for a story in John Ringo's Voices of the Fall anthology. I'd forgotten about that piece, and the money turned up fortuitously. The Aussie dollar is in free fall on rumours of an interest cut, and my car rego was due.

So I dips me lid to JR and Baen. (Even though I had to totally murder Tom Kratman and Larry Correia to earn my Del Rey challenge coin).

The book is due out in early March. You can pre-order here. For those who don't know Ringo's Black Tide Rising series, it's a fun zombiepocalypse saga, unusual in having an Australian family as the lead characters.

For my contribution to the anthology I decided to revisit an old favourite, Caitlin Monroe. We join her, as we did at the start of After America, recuperating in a Paris hospital, but this being Ringo's story world, the details start shifting early:

Caitlin took a sip of cool water and closed her eyes for a moment.
She knew this was bad.
Echelon never put anyone in the field without due preparation. But she’d been yanked out of her deep cover run against al Banna’s network and thrown at these wingnuts on half-a-moment’s notice, with a ten-minute briefing and a surprisingly painful shot in the ass of some unnamed anti-viral magic potion that gave her the worst dose of flu she’d ever had.
Caitlin cursed softly under her breath. She had no idea what day it was. No idea how long she’d been out, or what had gone down in that time...

...Caitlin’s hand was throbbing and her head was starting to spin. She desperately needed a moment to herself, to get her shit together. She forced herself to breath slowly. Stilling her racing thoughts. Her flu had mostly cleared. She hadn’t turned rabid. She needed to reestablish realtime contact with Echelon. Overwatch must have arranged for her to jump the line if she was in a private hospital room. She did remember that hospitals were already turning people away when she was in London.
“Eh up? What’s this then?” blurted Celia.
Everyone fixed on the TV screen, where an impeccably groomed Eurasian woman with a perfectly modulated BBC voice was struggling to maintain her composure. “…the quarantine, which was not agreed to by Washington, will be enforced by NATO using all means necessary according a spokesperson from the Prime Minister’s office. Outbound commercial flights are either returning to their points of origin or diverting to Halifax and Quebec in Canada, or to airports throughout the West Indies, where the plague is reportedly nearly as advanced as on the continental US.”
The women all began to chatter at once, much to Caitlin’s annoyance. On screen the BBC’s anchorwoman said that the US president and vice President had been evacuated ‘under fire’ from the capitol. A hammer started pounding inside Caitlin’s head as she watched the reporter stumble through the rest of her read.
“…US forces are heavily engaged at Guantanamo Bay, using heavy weapons on hundreds of naked victims.”
Interesting word, thought Caitlin. Victims.

7 Responses to ‘The Killer Awoke’

HAVOCK21 mumbles...

Posted February 7
I'll say it, having read the post and then looking at the cover art, I really didn't get much further...than re looking at the cover art!!!!!

Prolly un PC or isI it art appreciation?

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted February 7
It’s Baen.

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 7
Wow, the 80s called and wants its cover art back. Although the art explains the House of Del Rey's feud with Baen, no wonder they're getting their authors to murder their Baen rivals

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HAVOCK21 puts forth...

Posted February 7
I'm really starting to think , that Caitlin and Captain Jane Willet, my two spanky favs might just well have been replaced!

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Murphy_of_Missouri ducks in to say...

Posted February 7
I never imagined Caitlin looking as good as the ones on the cover.

Oh, and Thank God for Baen.

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Vovchara would have you know...

Posted February 11
Tom Kratman wouldn't be a big loss. But if you touch David Weber or Eric Flint...

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HAVOCK21 ducks in to say...

Posted February 13
hmm, that title. I think, now, in retrospection that its really code...you know, for " HAVOCK's ALARM CLOCK WNET OFF" hence, the KILLER AWOKE!

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Comments

Posted February 5 into House keeping by John Birmingham

Quite a few peeps have emailed and messaged me directly about being unable to comment. I’m aware the comment fuction is wobbly and will probably get some renovation work done on it in the next few weeks, depending on cost. But I’m also looking at a site overhaul and don’t want to burn money on work which I then throw away in a month or so.

4 Responses to ‘Comments’

HAVOCK21 is gonna tell you...

Posted February 5
Sheeez. If I can make it work then those that are somewhat disenfranchised with the functionality might want to reconsider their positions.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon puts forth...

Posted February 5
Mine did a double post a couple of days ago but i was working off the mobile.

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she_jedi mutters...

Posted February 5
Perhaps the site has become sentient and is moderating your readers comments based on its definition of the commentee's status as a favourite? If this is the case I welcome our AI overlords, please don't kill me :D

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Naut mumbles...

Posted February 5
All my comments are appearing with less wit and cutting insight than they had when I typed them.

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The writers’ room

Posted February 5 into Telly by John Birmingham

I've always had an outsider's curiousity about writers rooms. They've become the standard way of beating out stories for TV, and particular rooms—The Simpsons, SNL—have become legendary beyond the industry. But most writers are solitary creatures, preferring to sit in the dark and pick at their wounds. So how does that play out?
I got to work in something like a writers room yesterday, and will be back there most of today. I can't give up the deets but the process was fascinating. It was similar in a way to what I do in the week or two before starting a new novel. Interrogating characters, pushing storylines out to their logical or more often illogical conclusions, looking for plotholes, asking why this story at this time. But it was half a dozen people in the room, not just me wandering around talking to myself (and the dog, if I can convince to her to stay with a tasty bone.)
It was mentally exhausting, but only because I was being forced to press a week or two's thinking into one day. By the end of that, we'd filled a whole wall with notes on characters, story arcs, themes, antagonists, sub plots and more.
This is TV of course, so as with movies the chances of this story ever being told aren't great; not compared with a book I decide to write. With books its relatively simple because its just me. If there's a trade publisher they dont really get involved until after the first draft is done. If the title is gonna go indie, there's a budget for cover design and editing, but that's the only outside complication. With television and movies, budgets are just one complicating factor. A huge complication, to be sure, but not the only one.
Anyway, interesting day. I'm looking forward to going back today.

12 Responses to ‘The writers’ room’

HAVOCK21 mutters...

Posted February 5
Interesting; just how much rough and tumble is there, would these rooms be able to survive the likes of me or are they full of fragile entities?

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HAVOCK21 ducks in to say...

Posted February 5
mmm, crystalline souls would have been better.

Dave W asserts...

Posted February 5
They have better mouthfeel when you devour them.

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she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 5
Writers room as a concept are intriguing and baffling. I can't imagine how you can corral a roomful of creatives together without it turning into a Lord of the Flies type apocalypse, considering the natural state of a writer is to sit alone in the dark picking at their wounds. And then produce something functional and coherent without the deadline whooshing past. Sorcery.

Nocturnalist puts forth...

Posted February 5
You might be surprised. I mean, I was. I'm in the early stages of one collaborative project with a bunch of other writers and designers, and the late stages of another with one other collaborator, and they've both been amazing. It's not quite the bullpen JB is talking about since we're not all in the same room and doing more of it virtually, but it seems like there are parallels.

It's certainly a very different experience to working alone, but when everything clicks and someone picks up on an idea you weren't sure about, or a minor side-note on the setting, or what you thought of as a throwaway line, and runs with it in a direction you hadn't imagined, and then you see something in that and bat it back across the table with a new spin, and someone else sees a whole new level to the thing growing out of that that then the rest of you build on in turn... It can be really exhilarating.

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HAVOCK21 ducks in to say...

Posted February 5
Laughed when I read " FUNCTIONAL" and in a WRITERS THREAD no less......

she_jedi would have you know...

Posted February 5
HAHAHA! See? Sorcery.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 5
I think the trick would be in the person collating the group. Would be a massive advantage being able to put talented people that would work together in the same room. Which might mean not necessarily the best - you get a better result with a group of like minded people vs one massive talent rail roading everyone else into their vision. I definitely work better in groups - i am very slow in my own creative juices or leading a group and work better bouncing off other people in the room and contributing/refining.

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Naut puts forth...

Posted February 5
It was 1,000 monkeys with 1,000 typewriters, wasn't it?

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Vovchara is gonna tell you...

Posted February 6
Everytime I hear about Screenwriters sitting in a room and gaming the script, I am wondering, how is it possible that we get more often than not some incohirrent crap as a story in a TV-Show or a Movie?

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Leftarc mumbles...

Posted February 6
Would have had some similarities to home. I assume there would have been one writer snoozing under a desk, farting away.
And ready to claim all the credit when it's done.

Nocturnalist swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 6
I don't know if the process here is the same as the Hollywood one but there's an interesting old blog post by John Rogers about how credits on writing teams actually gets handed out and decided on:

http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/2007/03/writing-arbitration-letters.html

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This pasta will end me

Posted February 2 by John Birmingham

I have a shameful secret. Well, it's shameful to me. I go to restaurants and I order the same things over and over again. The chicken and pork ragu at Vine. The Roman carbonara at Enoteca. The lamb kebabs at The Lamb Shop. Seriously, I eat a lot of fucking lamb kebabs. Sometimes with chips.

But it's that fucking fettuccine carbonara at Enoteca that's gonna kill me. Not by clamping my heart in a deliciously creamy stranglehold and squeezing until it explodes – although there is a fair chance of that – but more likely through frustration.

When I lived in Sydney I used to have fettuccine carbonara three or four times a week at a cheap trattoria in King's Cross. It wasn't silver service dining, but it was pretty good, and reasonably priced at a time when I couldn't afford much more than cheap pasta. Fast forward a couple of decades and the Roman variation served up at Enoteca in the Woolloongabba dining precinct is a revelation. About three times more expensive for starters, but so good I can't get past it, and they can't take it off the menu. Motherfuckers got cut last time they tried.

But because I can't afford to eat there every night, and because it's supposed to be a simple dish, I've tried recreating it at home. The restaurant guys have even talked me through how to do it. It should be ridiculously easy. You boil up some fettuccine, natch. Choose your porkalicious protein, I usually go for smoked speck, which I gently fry in a pan while the fettuccine is cooking. The pasta comes off the boil and get strained. A couple of eggs, sometimes more depending on the size of the meal, are gently folded through, say, a minute after the pasta has come out of the water – otherwise you're a fair chance of scrambling the eggs in the heat. Toss through the chopped up smoky pigmeat. grind over some fresh parmesan. Plate that bad boy up.

It's delish, honestly, even when I do it at home. But I'll be damned if I can get my carbonara to the same thick, heart stopping consistency as the restaurant’s. Seriously. Theirs is not even a sauce. It's more like a gravy. I normally program a couple of hours high-intensity interval training before I eat there and then, like a bear in winter, I don't eat again for months afterwards.

I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. There is just… something… missing. And I cannot rest until I find out what it is.

10 Responses to ‘This pasta will end me’

Oldy asserts...

Posted February 2
Vegeta? Often the difference between "yum" and "wow"

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted February 2
I'm think I should have added some pasta water.

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insomniac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 2
I'd beat together the eggs with cooking cream and fold that through. I'm sure it's a healthier option. Dairy, right?

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Dirk puts forth...

Posted February 2
add a little of cheese/parmazan to the meat and gravy and let that simmer for a few minutes. I think that is the trick.

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jl puts forth...

Posted February 2
This sounds amazing.

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balders is gonna tell you...

Posted February 4
try adding an extra egg yoke or two and some Parmesan and make sure that there is still some fat in the bottom of the pan from cooking the speck

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Leftarc mutters...

Posted February 4
Add a little bit of the water from the pasta, has all that gluten in there to thicken up the sauce.

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John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted February 5
These are all excellent ideas. I will have to eat a lot more of this pasta to try them out.

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Naut reckons...

Posted February 5
Have you been here http://www.kalimerasouvlakiart.com.au/?

If you haven't, happy to take you next time you are in Melbs.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon asserts...

Posted February 5
All this talk of pasta is driving me crazy. My better half has to cut gluten out of her diet (medical reasons) and this has flowed on to the rest of us. I tried making gluten free lasagne the other night. The flour just doesn't work the same. RIP (Rest In Pasta)

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Del Rey Challenge Coin

Posted February 1 by John Birmingham

Sometimes publishers send you things. Usually books. But my publishers sent me this cool 'challenge' coin for Christmas. As the text explains, challenge coins have been given as tokens of 'valor, service and camaraderie' since Roman times. Legionaires who'd proved themsevles particularly stabby on the battlefield got an exta coin in their pay pouch at the end of the week.

Apparently some military units still gift their members with special one-off coins, and the soldier who cannot produce their coin when challenged is up for an expensive round of drinks.

Del Rey's heavy coin of solid black Adamantium was minted solely for Del Rey's authors and the letter professes that it is given as emblem of the comradeship of the house and in appreciation for our work.

But just quietly, to get one you have to straight up murder at least two authors from Baen Books first.

12 Responses to ‘Del Rey Challenge Coin’

she_jedi mumbles...

Posted February 1
In an age of disappearing publishing houses and the sense that just to be published is an honour and a privilege, it makes sense for publishers to expand their operations into complementary industries like covert assassinations, and cross skilling their authors to contribute to both business models. Handing out sexy black coins would be a fairly cost effective way of identifying the more, shall we say, productive authors....

she_jedi puts forth...

Posted February 1
This triggered an idea for JB’s next airport novel to replace the City and the Tribe. A novel about how the world’s publishing houses are fronts for secret groups of authorial ninjas who are at war with each other. An up and coming author gets their first book contract, only to discover that in order to be published they’ll have to train to become an assassin, and they’re horrified to discover that the world’s deadliest woman is a beloved children’s book author. The new author gets teamed up with a world weary international super author/assassin who writes books about ‘splosions and is renowned for his research and the realism of his fight scenes, but what the critics think is fiction is based on his exploits in his secret shadow career.

“Just be grateful you got recruited by Del Rey,” Birmingham murmured into his whiskey glass. “They just give you a black coin once you’ve made you bones taking out a couple of authors from Baen. Those psychos at Hachette take your pets and your family members hostage until you’ve earned your book royalties back.”

The ageing assassinauthor leaned back in his armchair and smoothed the lapel of his smoking jacket. “And leave the cooking book people alone. Christ, they make the stabby happy jerks at Simon & Schuster look well adjusted. Never trust someone who can poison you a thousand different ways AND has the tools to carve you up like a Christmas ham. They get worse when they cross genres too. The shit the Sales and Crabb team have pulled over the years…. I didn’t want any of this. I wanted to be a serious writer, creating dissertations on the fracturing of society as we know it. Instead I write airport novels where I’ve destroyed the world in six different ways, all with a contractually obligated number of explosions, in between book tours where I’m inhuming tinpot dictators and wannabe supervillains and dodging the freelance hitters at Amazon.”

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted February 1
"A novel about how the world’s publishing houses are fronts for secret groups of authorial ninjas who are at war with each other."

Jesus Christ.

How are you not in charge of Random House already?

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 1
I'm sure if you flashed your challenge coin around your fellow Del Rey authors we could get a hit squad together to arrange an "accident" for the incumbent at Random House and get moving on this :P

HAVOCK21 has opinions thus...

Posted February 1
Did somebody intimate violence?

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted February 1
I'm very excited by this.

Dirk mumbles...

Posted February 2
One word and Dan Brown sleeps with the fishes ...

WarDog mumbles...

Posted February 2
OK, I'm hooked, what's the release date? I think it would be a real writing challenge to keep it fresh past book 2.

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ShaneAlpha would have you know...

Posted February 1
Poul Anderson and Bob Asprin never saw it coming.

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insomniac would have you know...

Posted February 1
I suppose you'll have to keep it about your person at all times, just in case there's a random book deal or some such. No pun intended.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 1
None taken, guvnor.

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jl reckons...

Posted February 1
This means I need to carry a coin with me everywhere now. In the past I'd only have one on Memorial Day or something.

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Free martinis

Posted February 1 into House keeping by John Birmingham

The post below is an extract from The Seven Stages of Drinking Martinis, the anthology I collected over two years of writing Alien Side Boob. But specifically the non ranty, non political bits. Looking back, they're my favourites.

Because I've grown so weary and sick in my soul of social media, I'm making a real effort to pour the energy I would've spent composing tweets or drooling thru Facebook (not a typo) into slowly renovating the ol' blog here.

I like the idea of a quiet clubhouse where I can retreat from the madness of the online world. And I gotta feeling I might not be alone. So although I've published Martinis as a book—Kindle exclusive for now, so its free for KU readers—I'll be running a piece here every now and then. Partly to pimp the book, but mostly to warm up the joint.

I get so little joy from Twitter anymore. And I've pretty much always hated Facebook. Opening those sites and apps feels like compuslive self abuse, and not the good kind.

So pull up a chair, pour yourself a drink and get cozy. But observe the one and only house rule. Be awesome to each other.

11 Responses to ‘Free martinis’

Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted February 1
Good to see you Mr Birmingham, things have been awfully dull around here... Now you're on this, I hope we are going to see some gratuitous sex and violence.

Murphy_of_Missouri puts forth...

Posted February 1
Never Say Never Again.

Excellent film.

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Leftarc ducks in to say...

Posted February 1
Good to see you back in the saddle JB.
Whilst I enjoy a short, pithy snark as much as the next person, watching you dismember a topic or person limb by limb (sorry, watched Kill Bill this morning) in the long form is something to savour.

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HAVOCK21 ducks in to say...

Posted February 1
I fkn SECOND BARNES'S FKN MOTION. I for one find the OTHER fkn worlds out there to be all of the above and somewhat more. Actually, a FKN LOT FKN MORE to be honest! And when I say that, I mean, full of the unwashed, tree huggin, lets slap somebody within an inch for a small comment, lets get angry and protest, lets not fk about, buut be PC and fear to tread ANYFKNWHERE!

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DarrenBloomfield mumbles...

Posted February 1
Hazzuh! Normal service has been resumed.

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HAVOCK21 reckons...

Posted February 1
Um, when you mention the house rule, is that with the same " intent" as the house rule at the former CBG Smack Down, octagon that was eighty versions of pure fkn awesome? Just trying to qualify what ya sayin.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted February 1
We all know the rules don't apply to you.

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tqft ducks in to say...

Posted February 1
In a fit of efficiency a few weeks back I added the burger to the list of startup sites.
I could add it to my rss feed script but that almost guarantees not being read.

To ditch twitter or not, I don't know. If I had a life outside of work I might.

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jason reckons...

Posted February 1
I may be missing something here. Exactly where do i get the free martini. It's 5 o'clock on a Friday so a casual libation would be appreciated.

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Murphy_of_Missouri puts forth...

Posted February 1
Hell, I might have to resurrect The Pondering Tree.

Then again, I might want to work on some new fiction first.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted February 1
Yes, you might.

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