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INC Whew

Well. A few minutes ago I found myself staring at the last line of the last page of the last chapter of Assembly Language Step By Step, Third Edition. I’m sure it’s a feeling a little like that described by some of my friends who took their time getting through college, and one morning at the end of a term found themselves thinking, “Hey! I have enough credit hours now! I can graduate!”

It took so long that I wasn’t quite ready when I realized that it was finally over.

I celebrated by playing the MP3 of David Buskin‘s “Flying Child” and singing along. Loudly. That felt so good that I played Dean Friedman‘s “Ariel” and sang along louder still. Rather than make myself a little too nuts by singing Danny Hutton‘s manic cover of “Funny How Love Can Be” I poured myself a Diet Green River and ate too many Cape Cod Robust Russet potato chips before collapsing in my comfy chair.

Ten minutes later, Carol got back from Crystal Lake after a two-day sojourn wrapping up our trip and (not coincidentally) leaving me free to work here in Des Plaines. That was a piece of timing, but Carol’s good like that. We understand one another in a quantum-entanglement sort of way that is the very best part of loving a woman for forty years.

In truth, I’m not quite finished. Chapter 12 is still first draft and needs a polish pass. I have to write a new introduction and bibliography, and add two pages to the instruction reference. After that, of course, comes proofs and so on, but it’s starting to look like I’ll have real books sometime this fall, probably by November and perhaps as early as October. It ran a little long (187,000 words instead of 175,000) but not long enough to fuss about. It soaked up almost all of my creative time and energy since last December. I learned a lot doing it, and as often as I found myself feeling ragged and annoyed at the scale or the pace of the project, I’m still glad I did it. The book has been in print now for 21 years across three editions (the first from a now-defunct publisher under another title) and could well be in print for another ten or fifteen. It paid off my mortgage. In fact, it’s made me more money than all my other paid writing projects put together, in all of the 35 years that I’ve been writing for money. It’s gotten to be kind of an institution around here, and I’ll rewrite it again if I have to.

But not this week. Please.


  1. Pablo says:

    I’m a professional programmer but never learned assembly even though I’ve always wanted. it has always intimidated and overwhelmed me. I’ve been reading you for a long time now and following you as you complete the project has made me excited for the book to come out. For me this is monumental. I can’t even remember the last time I purchased a book for my own use. Easily more than 6 years. Keep us posted.

  2. Rich, N8UX says:

    Would love to hear about the tools of your writing trade, i.e., word processing or outlining software, as well as anything that you use to help you get “in the zone”. As you may have guessed, yes, I am a writer. Not payed my mortgage off yet, but I did earn enough last year to buy another pack of my favorite pencils! As such, I’m always curious to hear about other writers, and the tools & techniques that work for them.

    1. Well, in truth I don’t do anything particularly special, nor are my tools bleeding-edge: I use Word 2000, as I have ever since I gave up Word 97 in 2001. I’ve tried outliners and don’t much like them. I take freeform notes in Word, and then massage them into more detailed form as required by the project. If somebody needs a formal outline (as a publisher might for, say, a book proposal) I use Word to write a formal outline, but that’s for someone else’s benefit, not to clarify my own thoughts to myself.

      I sketch technical figures in pencil on a quadrille pad, then draw them in Visio 2000.

      But as a writer what I do mostly is…write. If I have a secret it’s that I read a lot, and broadly. More words in, better words out. That’s how it’s been since before I can remember. There’s a separate question of energy, focus, and discipline, but those are not issues pertaining solely to my life as writer. I’ll try and take that up in Contra at some point.

  3. Jeff: Congratulations, old chum. Break open a bottle of bubbly: Carol deserves it, even if you don’t…

    You’ve (almost) convinced me to take up the writing again, but I wish I could do it during the day instead of a job — writing in the evenings & at weekends is hard. I can’t even remember how I managed it last time. As I say, “almost”.

    Cheers, Julian

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