Always a Rush

A manic writing schedule, as usual…but this summer it’s even more than usual.  Even so, you have to make time for the best things, the coolest things.  Like, say, a Rush “Clockwork Angels” concert in Denver on Friday, August 2.

Rebecca and I have seen Rush in concert dozens of times (I’ve been backstage at least once on every tour since the release of Presto) and this was my third time seeing the “Clockwork Angels” tour, but each time is an incredible experience. Besides, I have a bit of a personal connection to Clockwork Angels.

The summer’s “headlong flight” started out in June, when I had to dive into writing THE DRAGON BUSINESS, a tight-deadline humorous fantasy novel about a group of medieval con-men selling their services as dragon slayers from kingdom to kingdom; will be releasing the book as a serial starting in October, a chapter or two per week until it’s all done, after which they’ll publish the hardcopy novel. But first I had to write it—so, every day I would write 2-3 chapters.  Meanwhile, Rebecca was giving her final line-edit on the 830-page manuscript of THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS, the first novel in a new trilogy set in my “Seven Suns” universe.  As she finished each 100 pages, I would take the stack and key in all the corrections.

When I finished dictating the first draft of THE DRAGON BUSINESS, I gave that a quick polish, then turned it over to the test readers while I finished keying in all of Rebecca’s editing on DARK BETWEEN THE STARS.  In the meantime, I gave the 650-page manuscript of MENTATS OF DUNE a last once-over, then delivered it to Rebecca for her final line edit.  Took a break for half a day to discuss DRAGON BUSINESS with the test readers, taking copious notes of ways it could be fixed, expanded, improved, and made funnier, then I went back to my final edit of MENTATS before turning to work on revising DRAGON BUSINESS, while Rebecca began to do her final line-edit on MENTATS.  Again, she would hand me 100 pages at a time as she finished, and I took breaks from THE DRAGON BUSINESS to key those in.  Meanwhile, I took a few days in the mountains with my brother-in-law Tim so we could hike a 16-mile segment of the Colorado Trail—during which I dictated eight chapters in my new novel with Brian Herbert, HELLHOLE INFERNO.

But when Rush comes to town, that takes priority.

Friday afternoon, we headed up to Denver to the Pepsi Center so we could arrive in time for sound check, pick up our badges and tickets, and spend a little time with Neil Peart. We arrived during the setup (invariably, there is confusion among the venue security staff, the parking attendants, the backstage access crew, so we were directed one place, then another, then another to where “VIP Parking” was for our car.)  We got inside to the bowels of the venue, met up with Neil’s majordomo Michael who gave us badges and tickets; Rebecca went off to Neil’s dressing room to wait for him, while I was sent out, yet again, to move the car to the appropriate place.  As I was walking out of the dim dungeon area to the bright outside of the loading dock, I saw a large silhouette of a man coming toward me, suddenly arms raised, “Hey!” and I got a hug before I realized that silhouette-man was Neil, coming back in from a ride.  He went off to hang with Rebecca in the dressing room while I moved the car (parked in between tour buses, where it stayed for the concert).

We had about fifteen minutes to talk before Neil got whisked off to sound check, and Rebecca and I went out into the venue to watch.  We’ve done this many times, but it’s always a terrific experience, listening to a handful of songs played in an empty concert hall.

The band requests that no photos be taken of the stage or performance, so I respect that.  You can find many other photos of the show posted around.  After soundcheck, Rebecca and I joined Neil for a very nice private dinner, and a real chance to just relax and converse. This has been a long tour for Rush, but the Denver show was only one away from their last stop. The novel of Clockwork Angels has been a resounding success, bestselling and award winning, and we talked about that, plus looked at photos of the spectacular off-the-beaten-path scenery Neil had seen on his treks across country.

But the show must go on. After a rushed/relaxed dinner, Neil had to warm up, and Rebecca and I went out to find our seats, while I met our guests outside the Pepsi Center—our WordFire Press Assistant Editor Peter J. Wacks and local author Guy Anthony de Marco—to give them their tickets and usher them inside. The arena filled up (as of that morning, there were only 140 seats left out of the 18,000 the Pepsi Center held). Our seats were row 6, dead center—possibly the best seats I’ve ever had at a Rush show.

We also met several friends and Rush fans, people I knew from RushCon in Toronto and other shows; it’s amazing how warm and welcoming the fans have been, and I’ve gotten to know several very well.

And the concert was amazing, as expected. Seeing some of the Clockwork Angels songs performed, watching the visuals that so closely match my own imagination from what I translated into the novel—it’s a very moving experience for me.  I long to return to that lovely steampunk fantastic universe…but other projects call first.

After the show, Rebecca and I worked our way backstage, like salmon swimming upstream, during the frenzy of tear-down and loading up. We got out to our car so we could escape before the buses departed, and drove home (with little conversation, due to our ringing ears).

Then, next day, back to keying in changes in MENTATS and editing DRAGON BUSINESS; Rebecca kept editing, while my typist worked on transcribing the chapters for HELLHOLE INFERNO.  In our other work for WordFire Press, we have several books going through the production process—print versions of my own early novels BLINDFOLD and CLIMBING OLYMPUS, my Nebula-nominated novel with Doug Beason ASSEMBLERS OF INFINITY, new anthology FIVE BY FIVE 2: NO SURRENDER, the novelization of a forthcoming fantasy film THE CROWN AND THE DRAGON, scanning and cleaning up our CRYSTAL DOORS trilogy for reissue, as well as the Pulitzer-prize winning political novel ADVISE & CONSENT and two other classics by Allen Drury.

Always a rush.  Who would have guessed that spending a few hours at a spectacular concert was the most *relaxing* part of the month?