Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What I read: Dec 2009

I might as well post this now, because I'm not likely to finish another book tomorrow. I mean, it's a good book I'm reading, but I started it in August, so there's no rush.

"Ghost Story" by Peter Straub. This was recommended on the VP list, I think, or maybe OWW, as a most awesome example of horror. It was fabulous. It has an excellent example of a prologue that is a prologue, and is totally necessary to the story (this has been a very hot topic on both afore-mentioned lists lately -- apparently lots of people don't read prologues). The ending would make little sense without the prologue, and it set up a bunch of characters nicely. There were numerous points-of-view, and I loved the way they all conflicted with each other. People misread other people, misinterpreted them. Stella saw everything. I wish there was more Stella.

"The Pyrates" by George MacDonald Frasier. It was mentioned on some blog I don't frequent, but I have a colleague who occasionally does a rant about how we shouldn't make light of piracy, because pirates are real and evil and not fun, and this book is anathema to his position. I got it out of the library, and Ed picked it up and read the whole thing, foregoing several WEBGriffin books in the process. Tres strange. This book constantly amazed me. It's a massive sustained send-up of pirate movies. A normal writer can sustain something like this for maybe ten pages. GMF manages to keep it going for over 400, and still adds new cliches and tropes, sustaining the farce right until the end. GMF is truly a master of whatever genre this falls into. And Prtzlprnln is the best name ever. And without pirates, we in North America would probably all be speaking spanish. So take that, pop-culture-pirate-hating colleague.

"Boneshaker" by Cherie Priest. After two books written in the 80's, it was important to read something new. I'd heard a lot about it, and I'm not quite sure what I expected. I didn't like the use of time. There are two characters who separate early on, and are then travelling in the same space. They alternate chapters. One is half a day ahead of the other one, as far as I can guess. I spent a lot of time reminding myself that this has already happened in that person's timeframe, and that threw me out of the story a little bit. I'm not sure the story would have worked if it had been written strictly chronologically, though. The world was really well-built and convincing, and the characters were good, and the line about Briar being 35 years old and not looking a day younger will probably stick with me forever.

"Kitty and the Midnight Hour" by Carrie Vaughn. The writing and plot seemed a bit like that Charlaine Harris stuff I was reading in the summer, like Laurel K. Hamilton but without all the sex. The wolf pack behavior bits were great.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Scenes about food

While editing away on Unicorn yesterday, I had one of those stunning realizations that stems from VP. It starts with a comment that Bear wrote on my manuscript, during a long restaurant scene: "This is not interesting". Um, yeah.

Anyway, my VP roommate Marion read Unicorn, and she commented during the food scene that she was unclear what the story was about. I chewed on that for about a month, and finally realized that the scene was not actually progressing plot or theme, and its relationship to character development was tenuous. I immediately cut large portions of it, even though it made me sad, because those were pretty words.

So this is a Robyn's Rule: Seriously rethink any scene that involves food.

And when I went to AbsoluteWrite, my phone was in the ad. I love my new phone.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dolphins draft 3

Finished going through Dolphin VP story for the third pass. Now it's down to 5156 words. I removed around a thousand! This may be close to its natural length. I think the story shape is there, and right now, I'm to down to smoothing.

Snowgnarok?

Last night commenced for me the holiday party season. We were discussing last year's 24-hour snowpocalypse (or was it snowmageddon?) drive, and whether one can have Snowpocalypse 2009, Snowpocalypse 2010... The concensus was there can only be one snowpocalypse. If you're still alive after it, snowpocalypse it was not.

Which led to the title above. You know, there's no good way to insert the word "snow" into Ragnarokr. Those crazy vikings!

Friday, December 11, 2009

I SO didn't finish rewriting Dolphin last weekend

Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, maybe I did. Maybe I finished a seocnd draft. Certainly, it does seem like I finished changing the POV.

Last night I rewrote the ending again. It's less tragic now, and doesn't end with my POV character drowning. In fact, it ends on a spot of hope. I'd love to get it on OWW by next weekend.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Shockingly, italian sausage and PC Memories of Szechuan don't go that badly together

I have a cleaning-related injury that prevented me from wearing the nanoboots today. I stepped on an unpopped popcorn kernel whilst sweeping the dining room on Saturday, oh the irony. See? Cleaning is dangerous. I shouldn't do it.

Short stories and markets are much in the blogosphere right now, and it's a topic I think about a lot. Must finish Unicorn, and get rid of it. Anyway, I've also been reading Learn to Write with Uncle Jim on Absolute Write (I'm on about page 18 or so, with a long way to go). Uncle Jim says that there's no point revising a short story. As I write, revise, rewrite Unicorn and now Dolphin, I think the stories get better. I got Ed to read Unicorn a few weeks ago, and he thought it was better.

Maybe I should make a tag for LtWwUJ, because there are lots of places where I have a comment, but I can't exactly post it because that's all, you know, seven years ago. There are some people there who make me crazy, anyway.

This frigging Dolphin thing won't get shorter, by the way. Yesterday in trying to fix the ending, it blossomed to 6143 words. Tonight is for deleting, I think. And figuring out how to make my camera work here again.

Monday, December 07, 2009

My superhero name is Miss Interpretation

Every conversation can be turned into "Did you call me fat?" though more often lately it ends with "that's what she said."

Friday I sent a draft of a manual to the team, and today the engineer who makes all the changes and doesn't tell me (or anyone else) about them sent me comments. "I've been looking at your manual. It's wonderful!" I had no idea how to respond. My best guess is he noticed that I'd noticed all the things he'd done to the interface. That was, naturally, followed by four pages of corrections of everything I'd got wrong.

I should send this to the rest of my team at work. They misinterpret each other's writing all the time! We're tech writers, of course, so that's a problem.

Today it snowed about a millimeter, but I was wearing the wrong shoes and I skidded home. But B has snowtires, so the trip to yoga was safe. Now, I guess I should get to the end of this story's second pass. I want it under 5000, but it's crept somehow up to 5800 (last draft was 5400). Not sure how that's happening.

And I got boots in the mail. They fit over my giant calves, and they are purple.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Pre-writing procrastination

But now the floor under the dining room computer is really clean!

And I did a few pages of edits to Dolphin. This weekend, I will finish the activity of changing the POV, add in the bit about the nightmares, and rewrite the ending. And then, I will have written the second draft.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Back to editing

Yeah, it's true, I'm back to working on the VP dolphin story. It's messy. I have so much stuff to work on. I'd like to get this one up on OWW before Christmas, and also get Unicorn in circulation, and write Mary Alice, and finish the first draft of Bezoar...

I should also work on Water Leopard. And type St. Praxis. Maybe in January.

Monday, November 30, 2009

What I read: Nov 2009

When I decided to do NaNoWriMo, I suspected it would cut into my reading time.

"The King of Elfland's Daughter" by Lord Dunsany Various people talked about this book at VP, so I put it on my list. It was published in 1923 or so, but I didn't find it stylistically difficult to read. Lots of exposition. Seemed really archetypal. Elfland was more fully alien than in a lot of books, the king and his daughter sort of like the Sithi in Dragonbone Chair. The feel itself was more of a cross between "Stardust" (not a surprise, as Neil Gaiman wrote the intro to the edition I read) and Catherynne M. Valente.

Yeah, that's it. Next month will be better, I'm sure, but partly because I have two library books our right now, and another in transit. I also knit three hats.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Today: 5147; Total: 61,798 the end, I win

Yeah, that's a wrap. It's been a good experience. I bet this first draft isn't any worse than most of the other ones I've produced. And it's done. Now, I think a reward. Perhaps a nice, hot bath. Oh, and to read a book again. Haven't done that in a while.

Tomorrow, maybe I'll edit a short story.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Today: 5046; Total: 56,351

Every Saturday morning I go out for what I refer to as my weekly run. It's about 5k, less than 40 minutes. I take various routes through the neighbourhood. This morning I left the house at about 11:15 and ran south through the wooded park there.

I was on the west side of the creek that runs through the park, and there was someone crashing through the undergrowth on the east side of the creek. There's a trail over there, but it's not paved like the one I was on, and the last time I was on it, a couple of trees were down, which disrupted my gait. I took little notice, except to think it was a little cold (7 degrees C) to be running in shorts, but whatever. And then he turned his course towards me. I ran along, and he ran along, and then he stopped when he got to the river, and he stood there. Full frontal.

With his pants in his right hand, and his genitalia in his left.

Yeah.

Having watched Criminal Minds last night, I decided not to laugh. I picked up the pace, maybe, and stayed on my side of the stream.

In 50 meters or so, I encountered some dog-walkers. We said hello. In another 20 minutes, I saw the same dog walkers again on the other side of the circuit, and they said hello, as cheerily as before. So I guess he didn't provide them the same display as he provided me.

Ed thinks I should have turned around and run home and called the cops. I bet he wasn't out there anymore by the time I got home. Isn't flashing more of a summer activity?

On the wretched zombie novel, things I need to learn about: ice roads and the res -- northern Ontario in general. I wonder if I can get a grant, like this woman I used to know, Erin, did? She got thousands of dollars to spend like ten days in Peterborough (!). I guess I should ask. It would be an interesting way to spend March break, researching a novel.

Today: 555; Total: 51,306

Got to the end of Chapter 17. Maybe tomorrow I'll get 18 and 19 done. That would be sweet. The outline has 23 chapters, but I may be able to do away with two or three of them. Then I could finish by Monday.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Today: 528; Total: 50751

Yeah, yesterday I crossed an important milestone, but I'm keeping going at the same alarming clip until next monday, when I expect to type "The End" and be happy.

Maybe I'll buy some books then or something, as a reward. I have a list...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Today: 1149; Total: 50,223

Today I had an epic fail. (I started telling the boy this story at dinner, and he told me I couldn't use that phrase, so Ed said it was a catastrophic mistake. Later the boy agreed it was epic. And a fail.)

So at my day job, we've been sued for trademark infringement by an Even Bigger Company (TM). My task for the last few days has been to remove the offending "similar" name from all product documentation (not as easy as it seems -- we have until the end of 2010, and there are lots of places where the word still appears in software, etc.).

I'd promised a draft "early in the week" and so today I was putting the finishing touches on it, slapping a cover on, renumbering the pages, and sent it out at the last minute just before leaving. Maybe 30 seconds went by and I was putting on my coat, when I got an email reply.

"You might want to take the old name off the cover."

Today: 1230; Total: 49074

More than I planned to write, but I got to the end of the scene I wanted to write, and the story is progressing. I think I may need to combine a couple of chapters tomorrow, or the action is going to slow down too much.

Congratulations to Sean Craven, by the way, for his first pro sale. I read that story at VP. I remember trying to figure out why an ex-military guy was having such a hard time with PTSD, and it turned out I'd misread Amy for Army. That's what happens when I don't get enough sleep.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Today: 590; Total: 47,844

As I just tweeted, I'm pretty sure I'll hit 50K, but I won't feel like a winner unless I type "the end".

I have eight chapters blocked and unwritten. Maybe I'll get my certificate, but I won't print it until I'm done. I may run to 70K. I would hate to lose the drive that I've had to finish this, and if I stop at the end of November, I'll have 60K.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Today: 5066; Total: 47,254

Moving in towards a win, if not a "the end". Today's massive word count was two chapters, which is good because I'm moving along. I'm on Chapter 16 now of the 25 in my outline, though I might be able to take out some of those later chapters, near the end, because I'm not sure I need them all.

Maybe I'll do a quick clean-up of the rest of the outline, and then some yoga and bed.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Today: 5046; Total: 42188

That went better than I expected. This morning I wrote 2148 words in an hour, then I went to karate and had dinner, and did shift two (the subsequent almost 2900, don't ask me to do math right now) in two hours. I am quite pleased with myself. Things took an interesting turn while I was trying to justify previous odd behaviors.

Not so confident in tomorrow, but maybe I'll just start a new chapter.

Today: 527; Total: 37,142

Tomorrow could be rough. I don't have much enthusiasm right now.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Today: 736; Total: 36,615

Today's word I didn't know how to spell: Makiwara. I accidentally ramped up the tension on my main characters.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Today: 708; Total: 35,879

I had to un-kill a character today. Now he's just missing. That's much easier to progress the plot forward, when there's uncertainty.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Today: 561; Total: 35,171

Well, that's interesting. Apparently the thing that happened overnight in my story, while my heroine was grounded, was there was a bar fire. Thus is the triumvirate completed. A week ago my local had a fire, and now I can't go there anymore. Then last Saturday I saw a (small but exciting accidental) paper fire in a bar. And now a bar fire has solved my story problem.

So I guess I'm safe from having a bar burn down around me next Saturday. This is good.

Today: 813; Total: 34610

I have no idea what happened overnight while my main character was grounded from fighting zombies. I hope I find out tomorrow.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Today (total): 5214; Total: 33,786

I"m not seeing this as a 50,000 word story right now, which is too bad, because I'd love to write "the end" on November 30, rather than have more story to write.

So we were out rollerblading earlier in an industrial park near the airport (they're the best place to blade -- no weekend traffic, few parked cars.) We played in a loading bay and I discovered muscles I didn't know I had. And I said to Ed, when he suggested one particularly steep hill that he had no intention of going down himself, "I don't think I could win NaNoWriMo with two broken wrists."

Seriously, the combo of karate and NaNoWriMo is giving me tendonitis. Maybe I should just read a book for a while now, rather than knit.

Today (so far): 2606; Total: 31,178

Half of today's quota achieved, and it went by pretty quickly. I wrote a big zombie fight scene. Now my heroes have to figure out what to do with the bodies. Oh, and all the other zombies running around town. I sense they are going to get very tired, very fast.

Today: (total, finally) 5008; Total: 28,573

I shouldn't do this while I'm watching TV. It takes much longer.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Today: 3137 (before karate); Total: 26,702

This evening I took Ed to the Chizine book launch. I've been to a few book launches before -- my former boss's wife had two, I think. This one was very pleasant. As Ed said, "It's okay; we have to eat." This one was in a restaurant, which was fine.

I wanted to go because I still totally enjoy David Nickle's columns in the North York Mirror, and it's always good to go out and represent. I bought a book. It has a hand-drawn cyclops in it.

And now for the two degrees of separation moment. I recognized Leah Bobet from her blog. I probably scared her in my own special drunk way. Now I guess I'll have to comment over there sometime. She was not wearing her cool hipster glasses.

As Ed said afterwards: "That was fine. I guess we'll have to go to more of these. Hopefully one with your book." Yeah, really. Just another reason I need to take improv classes. I need to learn a persona that can interact normally with other humans.

Guess I should go write that other 1863 words now so I can call my day a success.

Linking is harder with IE8.

Today (so far): 1802; Total: 25,367

That would be half-way to a win. Though I'm not sure how this story can sustain itself for another 25,000 words. And it's all crap, crap, crap. Today there are zombie wolves.

Today: 836; Total: 23565

I wrote a really tension-less zombie discovery scene, but that's what revision is for, right?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Today: 522; Total: 22,629

Tonight was karate pub night, so I got home at 11:30 from that (glad I went though) and then I had to write my 500 words, or not achieve the daily goal. At least I had a good plan for the next scene.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

today: 547; Total: 22107

Not a bad write today -- watched "Planet Earth" at the same time, and it was distressing.

Also, my local bar seems to have had a fire. I don't know where I'm going to go on Saturday.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Today: 520; Total: 21560

The neatest thing happened in the story. About a week ago I realized that Katalin was an immigrant from Romania. Then, I was writing a scene where Tanner suggested to her dad that there may be someone running around biting people and infecting them with... an affliction. Katalin's dad got to totally dis that, because he knows from vampires, and they're not real, because he's been to Transylvania (in Romania).

Sweet.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Today: 703; Total: 21,040

That wasn't so bad. And I even baked a cake today, a reprise of my birthday cake from three weeks ago, for the United Way bake sale.

I find baking cakes vaguely stressful. Sure smells good, though.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Today: 5114; Total: 20,337

One of today's scenes involved a zombie bear, except none of the characters realize it's a zombie. Though I have a character who's a full-out zombie now, no one realizes he's zombified yet. Anyway. Google is not a good source for finding out how bear tranquilizer works.


Failed again.

I was having flow. The last 400 words flew by, and all of a sudden I was at 20,000, and I was being surprised at what Tanner said, but it seemed so genuine. He really meant it. I guess this is the good thing of NaNoWriMo. This morning, when I had to cut out every word from my brain with a rusty spoon, that was the bad side.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Today: 5105 (cumulative); Total: 15,223

At around 13,000 words (I have a thousand words of outline below the point where I'm currently writing chapter 6) a zombie finally shambles into the scene.

Twitter is awesome. My VP classmate seancraven said: @WriterRobyn See, that's what I love about you. The mix of hip chik/family gal/literatus/dealer of death. We need more of that

This was in response to my writing a nasty fight scene whilst watching UFC and thinking I don't miss knitting *that much*.

Yeah, I'll just miss all the new sweaters and socks, all winter. The sacrifice!

Today (so far): 1600; Total: 11711

Today I am writing on the computer that has MSWord 2003, not 2007. 2003 does not provide me with a running word count. I write until I drop, rather than stopping when I hit a number. Still, I'd like to get another thousand before I go to karate, which will leave me with 2400 to finish the day's quota.

Still no zombies, although the Floridians are staging a bloodless coup. And this is awesome, because I only threw them in originally to give the story a little "color". I didn't expect them to do anything.

They will be some of the first to go when the zombies show up, sometime after dinner.

(yesterday): 518; total: 10,112

I seem to have missed a day or two on the updates there, but I didn't miss the writing. Oh no. Today will be a writing-ful day. I want to have an actual zombie by the time I go to bed.

Yeah, that means more than ten thousand words of my zombie novel, with nary a zombie in sight. I'm sure they'll make up for it, when they arrive.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Today: 827; Total: 9136

Today I had to research weather on Okinawa (accidentally learned how to spell that correctly, also) and whether a skidoo requires a key for its ignition system (yes).

I was having trouble getting started, and one of my fellow VPers suggested I throw in some bacon. It worked! I wrote a sentence about a bit character eating some bacon, and then I was off!

So it's my first NaNoWriMo tip is this: When you get stuck, throw in some bacon. Everything is better with bacon.

Today: 543; Total: 8303

I am having a hard time progressing the plot. I think that's why I skipped a couple of chapters yesterday and wrote something violent (that I moved today, wasting 40 minutes of precious Tuesday writing time).

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Today's count: 644; total: 7766

Last night after I gave up, having done a terrible thing, in order to get any words at all (I abandoned Chapter 4, skipped Chapter 5, and started Chapter 6), I was standing in the shower singing "St. Brendan's Way" by Lowest of the Low, and I realized a really important thing about my main character. She's an immigrant. Her parents used to be doctors, back in the old country. I also realized, standing in the shower (EBear said something about plot points being soluble in hot water or something...) that the 500+ words I wrote to start Chapter 6 actually belong at the end of Chapter 1.

I wrote a fight scene.

Unfortunately, when I move those words, I might wind up with a net loss tonight. That sucks.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

NaNoWriMo

How this happened to me:

So Thursday I'd tweeted that I wasn't doing it, and as soon as I did that, it started to nag at me. And Friday, I was sitting in the lab and the computer was really slow, and I had scrap paper, so I started calculating... 50,000 words, 30 days.

That's only 1667 words per day. Or 12,500 per week.

So, if I did 5000 words each weekend day, that would mean I only had to do 500 words on each weekday, and I'd have two weekdays off in case I fell ill or disaster struck. I'll be fine.

Right now, I have 6506 words, because I started at 12:01 am and did two thousand words before I went to bed. This evening, I wrote an outline of sorts. That counts as words, it does, because I'll be fleshing them out later. So I want to get up to 7000 words, then I can do some yoga, and finish that sock heel, and maybe read some of that book, and go to bed!

First person present

At VP, George G. said to someone that writing in first person present can be a really interesting experience, so that's what I'm doing.

I just updated my NaNoWriMo page. I've written 4515 words since midnight (that's about 2000 last night, and 2500 this morning). My novel is called "Not Quite Cold Enough". It's a YA novel about a karate club in a northern medical outpost that finds itself in a battle against zombies. Justine Larbalestier had made a post a month or two back about not enough YA books with female athlete protagonists, which gave me the idea for my main character to be a girl brown belt. Perhaps I would have gotten there anyway, once I started writing. Probably, considering.

Yeah, I'm like 9% done.

I'd really like at the end of the month to be able to write "The End", not just "Well, there's 50,000, I guess I win!"

Saturday, October 31, 2009

What I read: October, 2009

"The Drowning City" by Amanda Downum. The boy bought this book about the day after it came out at the Borders Express in North Conway, NH, I think because necromancers are cool. He read 65 pages and then abandoned it because there wasn't enough magic. The storyline was maybe too much about politics for him, and not enough about reanimating an army of dead and having them swarm the city.

I did not have that problem. I started this book in the Porter terminal on the way to VP, and finished it a couple of days after I got back. I did not read more than maybe 10 pages while I was there.

"Palimpsest" by Catherynne M. Valente. I'd read one of her other books, and it stayed in my head, and this one had just come out, so I put it on my list. It's really good in a sublime sort of way. Palimpsest is a city that people from our world can only get to in their dreams, and via having sex with someone else who has been there. It's like a drug, with all the attendant issues -- some people seem to be able to manage it, some not. The story follows four people who got into Palimpsest for the first time on the same night, and are therefore linked. This must have been an incredible challenge to make work, structurally, but it did work. And the city was wonderfully realized, with that thing that was talked about at VP -- giving readers the information they need at the time, rather than all the information about something the first time it's encountered.

"The World Without Us" by Alan Weisman. I gave this book to Ed for his birthday a couple of years ago, and have finally gotten around to reading it myself. We've also been watching the TV series "Life after people" which covers the same ground. The two are interesting complements to each other. This book has a story idea on every page (except the Petroleum chapter, which I didn't understand). It made me want to read 1491. I guess I should pick that up, with a few research tomes for Apocryphal.

Three books this month? I feel I am not living up to Justine Musk's expectation that a writer first read obsessively. And I don't think I'll do better next month, as I just signed up for NaNoWriMo. In fact, I'll probably do worse.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I named her Honorine

At work, I have been copy-editing a manual that I unfortunately may have released prematurely. See, a coworker left (a couple of years ago) and I'm not sure now if he didn't say something like "I put final files out for that manual, but you might want to give them a once-over before you post them" as he waved and walked to the door. Anyway, I did some minor revisions, and realized the content was really good and I'd like to steal some of it, but then I realized that there are some errors. So, this is a quote from a section of body text in a released manual:
What is this thing all about

Yeah, not with even proper punctuation. I laughed and laughed, but that was to hide the tears. I have to take frequent breaks from this task, so I don't become too engrossed in how nobody ever cared enough about this poor manual to point out to me that it needed a once-over. After reading writing blogs and the paper, I'll check out the knitting sites. Today I found the name for the girl in the dolphin story... in my continuing attempts to file off the serial numbers.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Disturbing patterns

Today I let Ed read the Unicorn story, and he made some suggestions to improve the ending. I read it through and found some continuity errors, which is good, I think, because now I'm down to continuity.

Then I switched to my VP story -- the one I wrote there. I'm changing the POV still. I noticed a disturbing trend: uncles manipulating young women. I wonder what it means.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Upped a level in editing

I made a discovery about all those pages of endless dialog that appear in my first drafts and fail to progress the plot. From a scene I was working on last night:

"

Do the wings grow in later?" My Dad asked. They were disproportionately small
compared to the rest of the body. "I can't imagine it could fly with those."
"Maybe it's like a bumblebee," said my mom. "Scientists used to say they
couldn't fly. It's too heavy for its short little wings."
"I would imagine it's magic," said Uncle Dave.
"So can it fly now, with those wings?" asked my Dad. "And more importantly, can we expect its mother to pop out of the woods to protect it from us?"

Became:

"Do the wings grow in later?" My Dad asked. They looked insignificant, like a
bumblebee's. "Surely it can't fly with those."
"I would imagine it's magic," said Uncle Dave.
"Can we expect its mother to pop out of the woods to protect it from us?" asked my Dad.

Apparently my characters don't actually have to say everything. Some of that endless dialog can be metaphors.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

All Unicorn, all the time

Last night as I was going to bed I had a stunning realization about the want/need of my main character in the Unicorn story. So I festered about that while I slept, and woke up in a very bad mood and yelled at the boy (he was leaving for school too slowly; he deserved it).

Anyway, so I came to work and wrote a page of notes on improvements, and now I feel much better. But the question is, when will it end? When will I ever finish this story? It's been about a year! How will I know when it's good enough, or time to cut my losses and move on to something else?

Actually, I am doing something else(s). I worked a bit on Dolphin yesterday (that's my VP short story).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Oh wait, I do still have a day job

Words one should never see in a computer manual:

"For the purposes of this discussion, we will assume..."

I took it out, the whole paragraph. I play this game now where I try to guess what engineer wrote the previous seven editions of this manual that has finally come my way.

Today, I actually had fun with it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Enough about VP; let me tell you about my VPstory

We each had to write a 5000-word story. It was for an editor for an imaginary steampunk magazine. We had to pin them on the wall for our peers to read. Friday afternoon during our oath, we had to promise to work on the story, and send it out until we had exhausted all markets for it.

So this morning, I started editing it again. And since we normally start too early in the story, what I did was, I tacked 150 words onto the beginning! Much better now.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Still about VP

Today I subscribed to Locus, because of Viable Paradise. Yeah, I want to see my picture.

The strangest question I've been asked, since I got back, was one I was asked twice. And the gist of it was: "So what's your next step -- revise the book, and then take it back next year?"

Um, no, I tell people. The next step is to revise the book and then send it to agents and publishers. Completely different. My goal is not to wind up in that cycle of just going to workshops all the time. Workshopping is a level-up for me, but it's not the level I want to sit at for years and years.

And on that note, I've made it all the way through "Unicorn" (the short story I had up on OWW) again. It's 1K shorter, which is good. I think one more pass, and it's good to go.

Though I keep saying that. I've been working on this story for a year.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It will be days still before I stop talking about VP

Yesterday, on my first day back to work after Viable Paradise, I was sitting all innocent-like at my desk raving about how fabulous it was to the other tech writer I work with. Probably I went on and on about all the amazing things I'd learned, and after a while he cut in with "don't you wish you'd done that 20 years ago?"

Um, no, actually. If I'd done that 20 years ago, it would have been wasted on me. This was the right time.

Of course, that was the same guy who thinks he's too old to be the next Joss Whedon, or go skydiving, or learn to rollerblade... Age is in your mind, dude, and dude, you are old.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

VP was full of awesome

I have an idea of how to fix the story I wrote. If Elizabeth is the POV, not George, well, then want and need are easy.

I need to learn to be mean to my characters.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Best TW feedback ever

Over at the dayjob, SMEs are feverishly trying to get documents back to me all marked up, in preparation for the release that's supposed to happen the week I'm back from VP. Today's best comment:

Unfortunately not true.

SMEs, they're so cute.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Books Sept 2009

"The Magic Thief" by Sarah Prineas was on the Cybils 2008 . I was on a waitlist for ages at the library, but it was worth the wait. The first hundred pages took me a while to read, but then I totally got into it and read the rest of the book in basically one sitting. The beset scene for me was when Conn was at school memorizing spells, and he noticed an error in the spell. He called the teacher on it, and the teacher said that was on purpose, so students wouldn't accidentally turn themselves into animals. Conn accepted this, and began memorizing the next spell, wondering what the mistake in this one was. Fabulous character-building.

Tastes like chicken: Skulduggery Pleasant.

"Horsemen of the Esophagus" by Jason Fagone was listed in a top-10 underrated books list linked to by Jeff Vandermeer. I loved the title, so I requested it from the library. Sadly, there was virtually no wait.

This book brought together so much fascinating stuff -- social media/connecting with fans, the american dream (which apparently is more about fame and community and less about money), the pursuit of happiness, the motivations and interactions of a community, journalistic ethics (distance from sources or lack thereof, etc.). There were aspects this book that were distressing -- and not for the reason you'd think. I didn't find the eating gross, or even the discussions of vomit ("reversal of fortune"). Maybe that was because the writing was so matter-of-fact and personal. The book follows three eaters in different stages of their careers, with different contests as their targets. What was distressing was some of their motivations, and the author's soul-searching, and the way the sport was progressing towards professionalism and organization. There were really interesting character studies. I felt like I knew some of these people better than I know my closer coworkers. Also, the acknowledgements section in the epilogue was a thing of beauty.

Tastes like chicken: "State of Play". Irrational, I know.

Monday, September 28, 2009

one week and counting

To Viable Paradise.

I still have not solved the problem of Chapter 12 (apparently every chapter is going to be a problem). However, I know how to fix "unicorn, Drake, Missing Uncle" (short story, workshopped at OWW) now! I hope everything goes smoothly enough that I can fix it tonight.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

CONvergence

So in my ongoing plan to, you know, become a published author, I thought it would be a good idea to go to a FSF convention. Every few weeks I think of this, and today I went to the locus website to check out if their Convention listings had been updated so I could find one that I could go to that wouldn't cost me a lot of money (I've kind of blown my FSF budget for the next little while, with VP and the netbook, etc.).

And in fact, there was a listing for Ad Astra 2010, April 9-11, and I clicked on the link and it's within a 20-minute bike ride of my house. And has been probably since I moved there (I didn't actually look in archives to find that out, but still).

And then I went poking around in the "other guests" section, and there was the name David Nickle, apparently a horror writer. And I thought to myself, hey, is that the guy who writes articles and opinion pieces about city hall in the Toronto Community News, with such a wry sense of humor? He's the only thing I like about that paper! Well, other than the sudoku and the crossword and the community news. Anyway, his columns are a highlight, and I look for them specifically.

Yes, it is the same person.

And then I went to Whatever, and apparently in 2010 John Scalzi will be there, too. Freaky.

Though his name does not come up with interesting acronyms at all. Must be the z.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Misplaced priorities

I finished the sweater, anyway.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Self-defeating priorities

After being accepted into Viable Paradise, I had planned (well, actually, after sending my submission, I had planned) to take the 63 chapters that are the remainder of the novel (after the rather worked-over submission chapters) and make them more closely resemble the synopsis I sent in.

Yeah, not so much. I got stuck most recently at chapter 11 or 12.

Also, after being accepted into Viable Paradise, I decided to make a VP commemorative sweater. Its name is Space Invaders, and I made it out of two shades of left-over yarn from other projects. I finished the knitting on Friday last.

Oh, and then I was thinking, on my way to work today, about when I'm going to find time to sew the underarm seams and tie in the (maybe) 12 danglers before blocking. I guess that will be tonight. Another evening of not working on poor Apocryphal.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Luggage

Two weeks to Viable Paradise. Yesterday I bought luggage.

fabulous timewaster.

http://wordsmith.org/anagram/

How can you go wrong with an anagram like "Labyrinth Moon". Obviously I should write fantasy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"The Hallowed Hunt" by Lois McMaster Bujold

Why I read it: Ed got got it out of the library and read it and loved it, and kind of pressed it on me. What made him so happy was the way the ending tied everything up. I bought him two other books by LMB for his birthday.

Bookmark: Library receipt.

Tastes like Chicken: I read a book a long time ago that had Crom Cruach in it, that this reminded me of. I can't remember what that book was, though, and I couldn't find it at Amazon.com. It was quite a while ago, probably 15 years. And Crom Cruach didn't come up in this book at all.

What I liked: The magic system was cool, and Ed was right -- it wrapped up nicely. The characters and their situation were interesting.

Not so much: I haven't read that much high fantasy lately. Maybe it's all like this. When I was reading, I was kind of wishing the author had found some way to set the story in a mythical Ireland or present-day something, so there wouldn't be the need for some of the world-building core-dumps.

Lesson: Really, the lesson for me was an inside-my-head editing exercise, because I was thinking about how this plotline and situation and these characters could be fit into a different world, and the story would still work. Though then it might be a different story.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

"The Book of Lost Things" by John Connolly

Why I read it: Recommended by the librarian when I was taking out "Troll's Eye View". Saturday, when I was on about page 185, and I'd left the book sitting on the reading nook while I read the entire internet at the dining room table, Ed picked this book up and started reading. He'd read the whole thing by dinner.

Bookmark: Library receipt.

Tastes like Chicken: There was a little bit of Narnia, I suppose, because of going to another world, and the WWII associations. It's sort of a meta-fairy tale, because you'll enjoy it much more if you know at least some of the fairy tales that David, the main character, encounters on his travels.

What I liked: This book was written for grownups, but it had that texture of something that will find its way into the hands of whatever people should read it, regardless of age. The main character is a youth, but I've never really seen that as a criteria to make something a kids' book or a grups' book. The fairy tales involved were all twisted horribly, and that seemed really fun.

Not so much: There was a lot of exposition, a lot more than I'm used to. For me, this worked better at the beginning than at the end.

Lesson: First of all, I'll take that librarian's recommendations again. Second, this was a lot about writing what you know. The author knows fairy tales, so that was what he wrote about. Also, just because there's lots of tell, not showing, that doesn't mean it won't work. Or maybe that's just because the author isn't North American.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Word of the day: spoliation

According to the Oxford dictionary on my desk, this means plundering or pillaging, but according to the corporate records retention course I just passed, it's about shredding documents that should have been retained.

Now I know.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Club Dead” Charlaine Harris

Why I read it: To keep the boy reading book four, so he could stay ahead of me. He told me he didn’t have a clue who they were talking about in Book 1 with Elvis, and it only became clear to him in book 3, because book 1 never named him directly. I was thinking that would be a problem. Teens are not the target audience of this series, and he’s had little exposure to Elvis culture.

Bookmark: White Birch Books, North Conway, New Hampshire.

Tastes Like Chicken: “Tea With the Black Dragon”, but maybe only because there was time spent in a car trunk. Also, Sookie took a lot of damage in this one, lost a lot of blood.

What I Liked: The thread of her having no money and Bill being kind of oblivious, while everyone else noticed, was good. He’s not a really good mate.

Not so Much: This is the second one in a row that has gone to a different city for its middle, and I find myself hungering for the small town.

Lesson: Once again the mystery thing. I see how it simplifies plotting to have such an obvious goal. The multiple threads are cool. I think I’m trying to do that in my novel, not sure if it’s entirely successful yet. Something to work on. Also, while the voice works, I wish there was more depth. These are like candy. A few references to the “word-a-day” calendar and paperbacks as a source of education aren’t enough. Maybe this is what happens when you write like three books per year? I am hungering for something richer.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

“Living Dead in Dallas” by Charlaine Harris

Why I read it: So I could converse about it with the boy.

Bookmark: Still with the bill for the brakes.

Tastes Like Chicken: “Sarah”

What I Liked: The dinner conversation with the boy about the orgy scene was pretty funny. That was a depressing orgy. I think Charlaine prefers her sex fairly conventional.

Not so Much: I don’t find it terribly believable that all these creatures have just been sitting around for years and years, and now they’re suddenly out in the open.

Lesson: It’s interesting to read these and watch the world-building go on. The plot is good, very standard mystery fare I suppose. The hook is the weres and vamps. Neat to see how they’re put together.

“Burmese Days” by George Orwell

Why I read it: It was lying around. In an interview I read a while back with a former coworker who was running for public office, she’d said her favorite author was George. That made me curious. I may look for some of his essays next.

Bookmark: That bill for car brakes again. I don’t seem to want to forget I paid that.

Tastes Like Chicken: “An Icecream War”, probably because they were both about the collapse of the British empire.

What I Liked: The introduction (there were two – this was the first one – said that I would find it hard to believe that the British behaved like that in the 20th Century, and that is true. The characters and place were very believable.

Not so Much: I found it a vaguely distressing read, and had to put it down frequently. I think that’s because the characters were very believable and I didn’t want to see Flory get hurt. Also, the ending wrapped everything up nicely, but I wasn’t happy with Flory’s outcome. I was quite satisfied with Elizabeth’s, though.

Lesson: This was nothing at all like “Animal Farm” or “1984”, which proves one doesn’t have to stick to a genre.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dead Until Dark” by Charlaine Harris

Why I read it: I bought the boxed set because I’m curious about urban fantasy, since I claim to have written one. The boy had already read the first two.

Bookmark: Bill for car brakes – front and back rotors and pads, $722.

Tastes Like Chicken: Laurel K. Hamilton.

What I Liked: The idea of telepathy as a disability, and how it has limited Sookie’s relationship and education, seem well thought-out. The small town atmosphere was well-created, and the voice was natural (first person).

Not so Much: Got confused occasionally. There were a lot of named characters.

Lesson: This isn’t urban fantasy. It takes place in rural Louisiana. Genre names are meaningless.

“Troll’s Eye View” Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling

Why I read it: There was a review on Salon, and I like many of the authors.

Bookmark: Library receipt

Tastes Like Chicken: Stuff by the same authors

What I Liked: What I thought I would – familiar stories turned on their heads. I particularly liked the Holly Black werewolf story, the Kelly Link mashup, Nancy Farmer’s blend of Othello and Bluebeard (I always like bluebeard) and James Cadnum’s Rumplestiltskin. Of thosefour, the only one I’m not familiar with is Cadnum, so I guess I’ll have to look him up.

Not so Much: references to iPods and the like will, I think, date some of these stories quickly.

Lesson: Particularly liked how Othello worked, because it blended two stories. He had two strikes against him, and he still won, which was nice. Not so much for children, that one.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"City of Glass" by Cassandra Clare

Why I read it: Wanted to know what happened next, and the boy will probably ask me why I hadn't, if I didn't read it.

Bookmark: Chapters Love of reading fund

Tastes like Chicken: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the series. I tried to turn the boy onto Buffy after finishing this book, but he wouldn't even put season 1 in the DVD player. Wimp!

What I liked: Jace's conflict was good.

Not so much: The boy told me one of the key plot points (maybe I should have waited until I forgot before I read the book, so it wouldn't have been ruined) so I spent a lot of time knowing something I shouldn't have known, and therefore guessing something about another character that should have come as a complete surprise.

Lesson: I can read a series from start to finish. Sometimes I wonder.

Monday, August 10, 2009

"City of Ashes" by Cassandra Clare

Why I read it: The boy was nagging me to. I finished book one what, three weeks ago?

Bookmark: Chapters love of reading fund (this one is getting a lot of use)

Tastes like chicken: Book one? That's pretty uninspired, I know.

What I liked: The story was really fast-paced and had plenty of surprises -- Simon, for one. And it was good, because it was so well planted, what wound up happening to Simon, and yet I didn't expect it, because there was so much else going on. I guess that's the trick -- have lots of stuff going on.

Not so much: Just one quibble: on page 70, Simon says he's kosher. He is so not kosher. People are treyf. Surely a good jewish boy would know that. Also, the introduction of a new character to set up book three on the second-last page of the book, to set up book 3? WTF? This seems like an example of editorial interference to me...

Lesson: Seeding the story -- different than foreshadowing, and yet similar.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Oh and another thing

When I was at my local McNally Robinson store the other day, I happened by the Horror wall. OMG, what has happened to horror? There was one measly wall (maybe 5 feet wide) of this genre, and it included True Blood HBO tie-in books. Are we beyond fear?

Someone could make a living at this

There's this blog I read called Techdirt. It's full of stories about the new economy and copyright and patent and trademark law, and it also has tales of new media success. Most of the media success seems to be musicians making a living by harnessing the power of social media. They manage to sell t-shirts (I've been hearing since I started being interested in music that bands make their money not from CD sales, or concert tickets, but t-shirt sales).

I read a while back, I forget where on the internet, that unlike music fans, fiction readers don't buy t-shirts. It was probably something to with romance writers, probably linked to by booksquare. So anyway, the argument is that publishers need to keep charging huge sums for ebooks and stuff, because there are NO synergies (I know, 90s weasel-word) for novels, like there are for music.

And maybe I'm extremely rare, but I do not believe this to be true. Back long ago when I was reading that George R.R. Martin stuff, I desperately wanted a Winter is Coming t-shirt, probably grey with a wolf on it. In fact, I still do. Before I even realized that authors had websites, I had found a place to buy it. Or so I thought. After six months or so, Paypal returned my money to me, because the website could never get it together to send me a shirt.

There are other places on the web to get a Winter is Coming t-shirt. But I suspect that George R.R. Martin would not get my money if I bought from one of those places, and that makes me feel bad.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Joiner

Finally after probably a year of saying I was going to, I joined the Online Writers Workshop. I've got two goals here.

1. I've read on a whole bunch of different blogs that writing crits is what really improved people's ability to review their own work.

2. I need to learn to receive feedback. I can sense myself doing that thing that I do, so I won't be too thin-skinned about stuff. I've been not looking at the stuff that I sent to VP (which is really hard, actually) and just trying to make the rest of the work more closely resemble the synopsis I wrote.

The boy made us see the latest Harry Potter movie last night. It really brought home for me how much book 6 was only really there to set things up for book 7.

On Sunday, we went to the local McNally Robinson. I went around looking for books by my future instructors. They had five different Scalzi books, and three Bear books. In fact, on the YA Feature wall (the theme was summer reads for older teens, maybe even boys (!) I believe), there was a stack of "Zoe's Tale", which I thought was nice. If they hadn't been trying to close shop around us, I might have bought something.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

"Greenwar" by Steven Gould and Laura J. Mixon

Why I read it: Another VP instructor book. Also, some of the story takes place in Melbourne, Florida, which I have a personal connection to.

Bookmark: Library receipt.


Tastes like chicken: Those submarine thrillers Ed likes so much (I'm only guessing, as I've read only one of those, and he didn't think it was the best one ever). And a manual on how to scuba dive or build a deep ocean research station.


What I liked: Strong female character.


Not so much: Too much detail.


Lesson learned: Writing present or near-future is tough, because the detail you put in gets stale really fast. There were references to Internet email and Eudora and stuff like that, and those sorts of detail don't age well.

Monday, July 27, 2009

"Land of Mist and Snow" by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald

Why I read it: Another book by my instructors. It's not something I would have picked up myself, the civil war not being something I... well, I care about it, but I don't read about it, and I didn't watch that documentary series. Though the thing about "United State of Jones" on the Daily Show last week sure sounded interesting.

Bookmark: Library receipt

Tastes like chicken: "The Liveship Traders Trilogy" by Robin Hobb, except with more boat-tech. When I explained to people what it was, I called it "Master and Commander and Magic", though I've never read any Patrick O'Brien so I don't really know. Had something of the "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell" in it, too, with the two dueling wizards, and the history.

What I liked: Pages 120-121 were magic. So was page (I think it was ) 249, where one of the minor characters says "Oh, belike," and you can hear the sarcasm dripping, and it's like the way we say "Whatever" now, or "Yeah, right." I really like "belike", and Ed and I have been saying it for two days now.

Not so much: When I read the amazon reviews of something, I tend to go for the 1-stars first. Maybe I like to watch train wrecks or something. Anyway, the complaints there fell into two categories: too many boat-words, and un-huggable characters. For the first, I think that was voice. The main character is a sailor, so he's going to use the boat words for things. I think that's a good thing. If he was using 20th-21st century words for things, or explaining them, or calling them "the sail strings" and "that thing at the front of the boat" and stuff, I would have found the character quite unreliable. One of the problems with the liveships books for me might have been that the main character didn't use enough boat words for me to really believe that it was her boat, and they ought to give it back. As for unlikable characters, so what? What Ursula K. LeGuin said.

Lesson: It was neat the way this book was put together. There were letters, diaries, and the narrative of John Nevis. Structurally similar to how "The Historian" was put together, in fact. I would like to try that structure sometime. Maybe when I've finished some of this other stuff. Maybe that would be how to handle the karate zombies story...

Friday, July 17, 2009

"Tales of the Unexpected" by Roald Dahl

Why I read it: Short stories -- seemed like a good carry-around book. I bought this at a flea market a while back because I'd heard RD's adult-targeted fiction was disturbing and haunting.

Bookmark: Tag from a "two-journal set" someone must have given me. I love gifts of paper products.

Tastes like Chicken: After a while these stories began to be predictable in their unexpectedness. I started to read them the way one reads an Encyclopedia Brown collection -- trying to guess what their twist ending was going to be. There was no magic, no supernatural, only humans being asses to one another.

What I liked: Interesting to read short stories. They were structurally sound. They all had endings, which is nice. Also, Roald Dahl seems to have had a lot of knowledge about a lot of different stuff, because the details seemed believable to me -- about art, wine, music, etc.

Not so much: As a kid, I loved Roald Dahl. These stories, though, seemed more Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. They all went on too long, and the voice was always the same. They were also sort of sexist, in a 60's way. They made me yearn for Kelly Link. I found her stuff much more disturbing and haunting than these.

Lesson: Roald Dahl's kids' stuff good, grup stuff bad?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Jumper" by Steven Gould

Why I read it: The boy had bought the movie tie-in cover, so it's been around the house for more than a year. He's read it twice. Ed has also read it twice. When I was explaining to the boy about Viable Paradise, he was quite jealous that I was going to get to meet SG, and asked if he could come too. I told him he had to go to school. So anyway, since I got into VP, it seemed logical to read some books by some of the instructors.

My sister asked if this book was by the famed (dead) naturalist. Um, no.

Bookmark: marketing for Uhuru Street by MG Vassanji

Tastes like chicken: On Wednesday, the boy was casting about for something to read, so I pulled out a few things. One of them was "On a Pale Horse" by Piers Anthony. On Friday he asked me to pull out the other six, which fortunately we have. I know lots of people malign Piers Anthony for being a hack and writing weak, lame, sexist female characters and writing four books a year, and especially for those ridiculously self-absorbed author's notes that he puts in, but there are not that many other authors that can appeal to a teenaged boy. Jumper is another one of those, kind of a thriller for late teens.

What I liked: The beginning was awesome. Hayden Christiansen wrecked the next section, before we got to the terrorist stuff. He played the main character in the movie, and I couldn't stop hearing him whine the dialog. The boy suggested I replace him in my brain with a different actor. I tried Hayden Panettiere. It created a totally different effect, that's for sure. That problem went away when the terrorist/hijacker storyline developed.

This book had really good sense of place, lots of detail about places, which was important to the character, because he had to have a good mental image of a place in order to be able to get back there.

Not so much: Some of the relationship/dialog sections made me uncomfortable, and in the terrorist-chasing sections, sometimes I had to put it down in order to de-stress.

Lesson: We were trying to guess, over dinner last night, since everyone has read this book, who was the target audience. Ed's guess was the movie producers, so it could get made into a movie. The boy disagreed with that, because the movie was so different from the book. I disagreed because there was so much time between when the book was written and when the movie came out.

Maybe the lesson is that there are books out there for teenaged boys, and the problem isn't the publishers, it's the bookstore people, who make the displays.

Friday, July 10, 2009

"City of Bones" by Cassandra Clare

Why I read it: The boy asked for it for his birthday, and then he asked for the other two books in the series in quick succession. So we own them all. And he told me they're way better than Twilight, so I went for it.

Bookmark: Receipt for sunglasses from the drugstore.

Tastes like chicken: When I started reading it, it seemed a lot like "Tithe" by Holly Black. I don't know how much I was influenced by the blurb (from Holly Black) on the cover. So when the boy was casting about for something to read, naturally I forced Tithe on him. I'm not sure if he finished it, but he did mention that the Seelie (or maybe Unseelie) court comes up in book 2 (City of Ashes) so clearly he got pretty far in it.

What I liked: This was an entertaining read that had some good twists. I always wonder about books where youth and teenagers seem quite unsupervised, but this one made that believable. I really liked the way Clary didn't know what she was. That seemed well done.

Not so much: The boy kept trying to tell me what's going to happen next.

Lesson: The mythology here didn't make me nervous at all, even though there are angels and demons, vampires and werewolves, and especially crossbreeds, all of which my mythology has. It all seems well worked-out, but completely different from my mythology, which is reassuring.

Monday, July 06, 2009

"Vietnam: A Natural History" by Eleanor Jane Sterling, Martha Maud Hurley, Le Duc Minh, and Joyce A. Powzyk

Why I read it: My brain needed some information to process in order to work on "Water Leopard". It's a library book.

Bookmark: Chapters Love of Reading Fund

Tastes like chicken: I don't think I've ever read a natural history of anything before. Reading it seemed a lot like that history of Finland I read a couple of years ago, where towards the middle it started to feel like work. Though this book picked up again at the end.

The book started off with a description of the plate tectonics and other actions that have led to where this particular chunk of land is now, and how that makes this chunk of land interesting and unique, in terms of climate, landforms, flora, and fauna. Then the authors explained the various types of forests that exist in Vietnam, and an overview of the various animals. After that, there were three chapters, one each for northern, central, and southern Vietnam. The north is dominated by the Red river delta (does every country have a red river? Here in Toronto we have the Rouge), and the south by the Mekong river delta. These chapters were long and difficult. They introduced creatures and plants, mostly following their common names with their latin names, and then their bleak conservation status. It was kind of depressing. Each of these chapters ended with a few pages about the various national parks (and the like) where one might be able to experience the local flora and fauna. The end of the book described challenges.

What I liked: This book was published in 2006, so it's quite up-to-date. The story of the Soala is awesome. A soala is a bovine-type animal with horns like an ibix that apparently has never been seen live in the wild by a researcher. They have no photos. They know it exists because they've seen heads of them in hunting lodges.

Not so much: I did not love the watercolors, though I see the reason for them (no photos of soalas, for example). Also, the fact that so much conservation work still needs to be done makes me very sad.

Lesson: One thing is, I don't think the water leopard is a ridiculously large cat. Vietnam has a couple of really interesting cats: fishing cat and leopard cat. The fishing cat has webbed toes, dives into the water to chase fish and waterfowl, and swims.

Also, I love the idea of mythical creatures with no magical powers at all. The saola is just a cow.

VP13

Apparently I'm accepted. I'm weirdly giddy.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne and Dave King

Why I read it: I was in need of some polishing tips, last minute, for "Apocryphal". I tore the house apart looking for it. I pilfered it from my dad 18 months ago. Now I've read it, I should give it back. I distilled it down to a single checklist for myself first.

Tastes like chicken: All the editing courses I've taken. None of the story structure. This book is about the scene and paragraph level.

Bookmark: Checklist I made.

What I liked: There were some pretty simple things I could do to brush up my prose. That was nice. I searched for "said", and for "ly", "as" and "ing", just to quickly polish things. Other tasks took a lot of time.

Not so much: After a while I got bored and started skipping the samples.

Lesson: Well, make that checklist for myself. I read all the "Apocryphal" stuff out loud, and wow, that was interesting. I use too many commas.

A pickled onion is a poor substitute for a raspberry

But Sunday we were out walking in a park in Scarborough (not the blight that people say it is -- Meadowvale park is really cool -- and the river was totally in flood. I'd love to go back and see what it's normallly like, on a dry day) and saw raspberry bushes with unripe (a week or two out) berries. That's probably why I was craving them. Unfortunately, they're just not something I keep in my fridge.

Friday I sent in my application/submission package for Viable Paradise. Now, I wait. And work on the other 63 chapters. I hope I can keep some of the drive going. It would be nice to be able to let someone read the whole thing, maybe in August, with a reasonable sensation that all the scenes are there, and in the right order.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sea Leopard" by Craig Thomas

Why I read it: The title had Leopard in it, and as my brain was working on "Water Leopard", and "Sea Leopard" is sort of similar, when Ed left it on the floor in the living room, I picked it up. It's a library book.

Bookmark: Chapters Love of Reading Foundation

Tastes like chicken: I guess that Hugh Laurie book I read a couple of years ago was a send-up of this genre, though I didn't really realize it at the time, as I haven't read much of this genre. It's a submarine thriller. I think Hunt for Red October (the only other submarine thriller I've read, even though they're lying everywhere in our house) is a better book.

What I liked: Written in the early 80's, so it didn't know what we (think we) know now about the USSR at the time, and their resources, and stuff.

Plot: British invent a cloaking device and put it in a submarine. They fail to take it out when they send the sub out on manoeuvers, and then the Russians enact a plan to steal the sub (temporarily, until they can steal the technology) and then give it back by normal diplomatic means. They have some pretty cool weapons (the catherine wheel is nice). The sub-plot involves Hyde trying to find the cloaking device's designer, a recluse whose only confidante seems to be his college-aged daughter.

Not so much: I guess the world in the 80s was populated 95% by men? Maybe if Hyde had been a woman...

The main character was a cloaking device for a submarine that had a "cloaking device vs. self" conflict. The self of the conflict being the backup system, and the automatic switchover for it. Seriously. It's the only character that changed.

I had a hard time keeping track of the humans.

Lesson: If I was making a screenplay out of this book, I would consolidate Hyde the Australian and Clark the American into one character and have them not run their late-book adventures simultaneously. Though for all I know, these are recurring characters from one of the author's previous works. (update: I read in the Amazon reviews that this is in fact the first appearance of the recurring Hyde, who I would have cut. Interesting.) The last third of the book (especially when Hyde was out with the girl getting shot at by the Russians) did not entirely work for me.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

"The Dragon Prince" by Thich Nhat Hanh and "Children of the Dragon" by Sherry Garland

Why I read them: A few weeks ago I was on a long-ish drive, and I was thinking the way I do. There's this billboard near my house that had a Spanner ad on it for a while, and in the ad the model was wearing a leopard-spotted skirt. The background was white, with black rosettes with blue in the middle. I was thinking of stealing the colourway for "Leopard print cardi" from Knit.1 Fall 2007. So then I was thinking, it needed a better name. I chose "water leopard". And a story idea was born.

At around the same time, one of my coworkers told a couple of stories about his life when he was a little kid in Vietnam. It blew me away that someone who had been a boat person was now leading a normal middle-class life... I guess I had a failure of imagination and somehow thought that once a boat person, always a boat person. My bad. So the water leopard story had to take place in that sort of place. To get a feel, I got some library books.

Bookmark: Library receipts ("Children of the Dragon" was pretty short and aimed at a younger audience, so I read it in a sitting).

Tastes like chicken: One thing that surprised me was the story of the Spiral Palace, because it made me think of Spiral Castle in "The Book of Three", and so much other Celtic mythology.

Things I liked: Both books had the story of why there are monsoons, and that was especially neat, because I got to read the second one with a certain amount of acculturation to the tale. When that happens, it makes me happy.

There were tragic endings, which I don't associate so much with western/European fairy tales, at least the Disney-fied ones I was brought up with. There were divided loyalties that could not be reconciled, and, as mentioned in the introduction to "the Dragon Prince", rather than good-vs-evil, more of a progression (the Magic Gate, where a swordsman leaves his master all innocent, and doesn't realize as he becomes one of the demons he's fighting against, until he tries to go back to his master).

Not so Much: In "The Dragon Prince" especially, some of the stories seemed to have a jarring structure. The story would start at a moment of tension, and then wander backwards, and then backwards again to explain how everyone had gotten there, and then skip forward. I wonder if Vietnamese has different tenses than English and this was a failure of translation, or if that's a natural story structure for their culture.

I'd love to see some of these stories fleshed out, the way those Terry Windham-driven series did, into novels.

Lesson: Monsoons, more rivers than roads, different trees, different fruit, how to grow rice...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Asthenosphere

I really hope I'm spelling that right. Elizabeth Bear, when she's working on a project, sometimes has a daily list she fills out... how many words, mean things, etc. One of the items is "Words Word don't know". Asthenosphere is one for me. Whee!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

"The Virtu" by Sarah Monette

Why I read it: Because I'd read the previous one ("Melusine") and wanted to find out what happened next.

Bookmark: Library receipt.

Tastes like chicken: "Melusine", obviously.

What I liked: Started right where teh other one left off. Didn't make me wade through pages and pages of recap, but explained the necessary bits, in character, very quickly. I suppose it didn't hurt that Felix had little memory of what had gone before, which meant that he couldn't explain it, and that Mildmay is quite a reticent dude, so will only tell what you really need to know.

The voices still really worked. I liked the new characters, and the ones that improbably popped up again. I liked the timbre of the world. The storyline had a sort of inevitable progression, which made none of it seem contrived.

Not so much: Tough one. I didn't have that much time for reading in the last month, so this took a while to get through. But I read the last 150 pages in a binge last night.

Lessons learned: On her blog, SM has mentioned that the book is no longer in print, which seems freakish to me, since the library copy I had out had a sticker on it that said "new until Sept 2007". It just doesn't seem old enough to be out of print. But then, I suppose publishing is a dark art, like hardware engineering. (And perhaps I am attracted to dark arts?)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The best conversations happen in the car

Last night while driving around, the boy asked me why he couldn't read my novel (I changed the name again, by the way. Now it's called "Apocryphal").

I said "because I'm afraid my writing comes off like Stephanie Meyer's."

So he said "Then just add in a secret fantasy boyfriend, and everyone will love it."

I hemmed and hawed about that, and he said "Add in an Angel secret fantasy boyfriend. Maybe two."

And I said "All the angels hate my main character."

So he suggested "Add in some demons, then."

And I said "There's already about fifty."

To which he replied "Cool."

There you go, success awaits.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What I deleted

When I finished typing the first draft, I printed a copy out, and did a mark-up where I deleted all the sections that were completely not relevant, and tagged ones that needed to be rewritten to a different end, and did some of the more simple rewrites.

Friday I finished the data entry of those changes. My new word-count: 106,656. That's down just shy of 19K words. Now, I get to go through the vast pile of notes I've written on scrap paper, and see what needs adding, and then print it out again. Last print-out was 531 pages. Ouch! I wonder what the next one will be?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

If knitting books had a plot

... as a tech writer, one time someone in QA suggested to me that I write a manual with a plot, where the user has various problems putting the product together and getting to work (it was a hardware manual). I got out of doing the revision by saying that it would probably increase the word count.

I could have quoted Tina the Tech Writer, and said that "unfortunately it was not to be, because User A was not attracted to User B, because he was a bald engineer." Alas, I did not. The person who suggested this to me used to accost people on Friday afternoons and draw pictures on his whiteboard that involved the cliff-shaped kingdom of man, and the opposing cliff-shaped kingdom of God, and the cross-shaped thing that joined them. HR had warned him about doing that, but unfortunately he was a good QA guy. We all learned to stay out of the lab on Friday afternoons.

Today I got to the end of the mark-ups on Draft 2. Now I have a whole bunch of scenes to write, and I can print it out again. I had a panic while working on it, when I was trying to move Chapter 48.5 to after Chapter 48 and I couldn't find Chapter 48, which I had moved to after Chapter 6. Thank God for search-and-replace.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Why don't knitting books have blurbs?

Though if getting blurbs is the biggest problem I have with my novel... ahem. Considering the problems I'm having with its structure, that would be a pretty big problem indeed.

Last night I moved four chapters. Yay, I'm moving chapters again!

As I said before, ahem.

I'm going through my first mark-up. At p. 408, I'm down to 108,000 words. I think that's a good thing, as I have to add at least three sections in the beginning (I've written fragments of them) and three at the end. Oh, and three in the middle. I haven't written any of the middle ones, and I only have a vague idea of the end ones, though they are incredibly important, as they have to do with de-deus ex machina-ing my ending. If deus ex machina is a verb. Which it's not.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Happy Mother's Day Eve Day

So far, just about a perfect day.

I was awakened at 9:15 this morning by a raging thunderstorm that was depositing bouncy-ball sized hail on the lawn.

The rain stopped (eventually) and didn't start again until I was almost done with my morning run.

I made a pizza rustica for lunch, and it was awesome, even though I screwed up filling the breadmaker (I find dough is pretty forgiving), and I have about three more servings for later.

Now I get to go to karate.

I wrote a Fragment of a Missing Scene (I have a little pile of these). And later, I'll put some of those handwritten edits to the wretched novel.

Monday, May 04, 2009

In other news, I finished reading my novel

Yesterday was Paddle the Don, an annual event where people get to put canoes and kayaks in the West Don River just below the Ontario Science Centre and paddle down to Lake Ontario. Of course, I found out about it when the registration was already full, and I don't have a canoe or kayak anyway. We stayed up far too late the night before watching Season 2 Disk 2 of Slings and Arrows, so we weren't even awake until two hours after the event began. But, after coffee and a quick surf-o-the-web, we drove down to Portage 1. I'd never heard of it before this year, though I've been living in the neighbourhood for nine years, and one of the volunteers we talked to told us he'd been doing his post (putting in at Portage 1) for seven years. He told us he'd never seen anyone go over the falls at Portage 1, though he had seen an empty canoe go over .To me, that suggests a safe, well-run event. Also at Portage 1, I overheard that they had released water at the resevroir/dam five hours upstream, so there would be enough/a consistent amount of water to make the paddle fun. So I asked where was that water released from. Turns out there's a flood control dam north and East of Finch and Dufferin.

Then we went to Portage 3 (optional) and watched and chatted and the like. There was a Rogers crew at Portage 3, and I hope everyone else had already been there, because Paddle the Don is the sort of feel-good news story that ought to get coverage.

A few hours later, after buying groceries and dropping the boy off at the mall, we went over to the reservoir. I used to push the boy around in the park here, back long ago, in a stroller because his dad had a client in the neighbourhood. I somehow had never really noticed the dam. But whatever. There were some excellent mud flats, and a lot of former flotsam. It must have been down at least a foot or two from the night before. We scrambled to some awesome really big flood gates, and stood above the normal ones. We couldn't walk all the way around the reservoir without walking all the way up to Steeles Avenue (a long bush-whack, and I hate bushwhacking, though it's much more tolerable in early May than in August) so we walked back out to Finch and then up Dufferin to Ed's car. On the south side of Finch (I made Ed jaywalk) there was a former pond that was totally emptied because of an outflow under Finch that you probably wouldn't even know was there on a normal day. One big rainstorm, and that thing would probably fill right back up. Neat.

And there was a cemetery (Westminster, I think) that was way more Italian than any I've seen before. It seemed like these people actually remembered their loved ones.

And while we were walking, I realized how the novel should end. The right person died, sure, but the wrong person did it, and for the wrong reason, and with the wrong consequences. It might be a bit twee, but it's better than what I have now.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Reading

Last night I read 80 pages of the novel. I'd meant to read 100, so I would only have 100 left, but it didn't work out. I wanted to only have 100 left, so I could read the last pages and be done by the end of April, but the end of April doesn't include a weekend, so I guess that's not going to happen.

This is my first pass through, where I'm marking scenes to be moved, and taking out things that are blatantly repetitive or inconsistent with the characters or the plot or the world. One of the scenes I read was one (I call it the Nevis scene) that I knew I was going to have to take out, because it was a thread I had started and then abandoned. And then a neat thing happened. I was reading the preceding scene, and I realized that scene needed to connect to something, and that was why I had written the following (Nevis) scene. But as I was scratching things out and crafting it so the Nevis scene was no longer there, the scene suddenly had a point, and a completely different point. It's not the Nevis scene any longer, but maybe 2/3 of the writing there is actually usable! And it will further the plot!

Now, if I can just finish this pass through it this weekend, that would be awesome. Stupid Sarah Monette book, it sucked me in, away from my own novel.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Soul of a New Machine" by Tracy Kidder

Why I read it: We have an extremely small library in the R&D kitchenette in my office. Every day that I heat up lunch (when I don't go out, or have something that's better cold) I would pick this book up and, if no one felt like talking to me, read a page or two while I waited for the microwave. I'm sure it was better than the alternatives -- Law for Engineers, Better Designs in Half the Time, etc. This book took me two or three years to read.

Bookmark: My memory. I read the same page over and over for weeks, I'm sure.

Tastes like chicken: "Dreaming in Code" would be the closest fit.

This book traces the development of a computer codenamed Eagle at a company called Data General. It's non-fiction, and published circa 1980. I was at around page 80 when I realized that these people were making something much bigger than the computers I think of today -- not a mainframe so much, but they were really happy when it fit in a freight elevator.

What I liked: For one thing, reading this every day provoked interesting conversations with some of my coworkers. A manager, yesterday, saw I was almost finished and said "good book, isn't it?" and then we had a chat about how the teams in the book were in healthy competition, whereas the ones in my office are in competition, but maybe not quite so healthy. The teams here are very zero-sum game, very win/lose.

Not so much: I got kind of confused about who was who, but that probably had to do with the nature of how I read this. The kitchenette may be more suited to magazine articles.

Also, it seems like the world of technological innovation really hasn't changed that much in thirty years. I don't know why I would think it would, but while the products we develop get smaller and smaller, the team size and dynamics seem to say the same.

Lesson: There are stories in everything.

That should fix something?

I wrote a prologue to the wretched thing.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Melusine" by Sarah Monette

Why I read it: Jeff Vandermeer linked to her post about not having a contract for another book or some such thing. So I started reading her blog, and I noticed that she was part of what I think of the SU cabal which makes me curious. And then she had a post about please taking her books out of the library, or buyng them, or whatever it is that we do, and talking about them (even if you're just talking to yourself, as I do here). So I did -- the library thing, I mean. And I read it.

Bookmark: Yarn receipt for ten balls of Jamieson's 2-ply.

Tastes Like Chicken: "Skin Hunger" to start, maybe because of the two concurrent but relatively unrelated storylines. After while the storylines merged and it seemed more like Catherynne M. Valente's "In the Night Garden". It seems similarly literary, they use a lot the same big words, though structurally they're very different.

The chapters are very long, and the story is written from two first-person perspectives: Mildmay the Fox, a cat burglar, and Felix Harrowgate, a wizard. Near the start, Felix is used to break the Virtu, which I didn't really understand what it did and what it was, but apparently it was important. Felix goes crazy.

What I liked: The characters totally sucked me in. I've been perusing her blog since JVM first mentioned it, and she's been doing Q&A, but managed very well to keep spoilers from me. I liked that she didn't feel obligated to explain the world. I loved that in the whole thing, no one sat anyone else down and said "well, Bob, this is how magic works, for you neophytes." I'm sure the author knows, becauase she explains a bit in the Q&A (it meant nothing to me, as I'd read none of the books then, but it was there) but there was no obligation or necessity to do that. Nice.

Yesterday I was walking home to finish the book, and I had a close encounter with a fox, which seemed opportune, considering Mildmay the Fox. so I was coming up on the highway underpass I walk under 2x per day, and between the fence protecting me from the small grassland there and the giant green hydro transformer box, a fox was standing maybe six or eight feet away. I said "Oh, Hello," and he said nothing and trotted off. I know, you're thinking to yourself "Maybe it was a coyote." It was a fox. They're like a cat trapped in a dog's body. And I moved along, because you never know if it's rabid or something. Then I turned back to suggest to it that it head over to my office, where when I left a goose was sitting in a puddle in the parking lot (I hate canada geese), so there was a nice meal, but it was trotting across the street toward the golf course. Bonus question! Know why the puddle was there that the goose was sitting in? It was from when they power-washed the goose crap off the sidewalk! Oh, the irony.

Not so much: I was so sure, about eighty pages from the end, that this wasn't going to have a satisfying ending, that I requested the sequel from the library. I never do that. But she did manage to wrap it up reasonably.

Lesson: Maybe about endings. This one was good, because it tied up enough, but left plenty of room to guess where they'll be going next.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"Concrete Toronto" by E.R.A. Architects (editors)

Why I read it: It was mentioned in a Toronto Star article (I can't link to it because it's behind a fee wall) about repurposing big box stores (which is funny, because I can't think of any buildings featured that were big box stores). I requested it from the library. It appeared.

Bookmark: library receipt

Tastes like chicken: Robert Fulford "The Accidental City"

What I liked: I haven't read much about architecture, so this really made me notice stuff.
It's a collection of essays, photos, interviews, and drawings about concrete architecture in and around Toronto, most of which was built between the 50s and the 70s. There are sections about proper working with concrete, the goals and objectives of different buildings (the Robarts Library, for example, may be a fortress of a building, but it seems to suit the goal of being a repository for books. It's not about being friendly and pretty, it's about keeping books in).

On Sunday, we went to Charles Sauriol park because I wanted to see if we could walk along the East Don all the way from Lawrence to Eglinton. They're building a bridge across the river, connecting Moccasin Trail park with Charles Sauriol I guess. We didn't walk across the bridge in either direction, because there was an excavator working out there right beside the highway (on Sunday! Until after 5pm! Shocking!).

There was one spot where the path we were on led us on a climb out of the ravine because (on the east side where we were) the water was right next to the mud slope. We stood maybe 200 feet above the river and could look across at what I think of as the quintissential view of North York -- the ravine, all the trees in it, and sticking out of the trees, half a dozen apartment towers. It was something along the lines of 4.4 km down, and we had our snack under the Eglinton bridge, then walked a little farther down to see where the Flemingdon Park golf course started, and then turned around and walked back along the railway tracks (it's a GO line, so pretty unused on Sundays), over two railway bridges (awesome!) and then stopping before the third because it led finally to the wrong (west) side of the river. The walk back was just over half the length of the walk out. And no Geocaching! When we were done, the boy said "That was a nice walk."

Not so much: There were some editorial inconsistencies -- a couple of copy editing errors: a missing picture, a duplicated caption, some typos, a column of text missing, things like that. Though some of the issues in producing this type of book are similar to creating a technical manual, like I do and I recognize the effort. Also, I think the pages are all going to fall out of the middle of this book.

Lesson: This book had a similar effect on me that the Fulford book did, in that it made me see the city in a slightly different light. While driving past high rises on the way to the mall, I find myself wondering about the stuff on the roofs, and about the apartment towers of the 70s and 80s versus the condos of today. I hope this helps me make my Toronto more believable to the poor readers of my novel.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Silk" by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Why I read it: I'd seen the author's name mentioned various places, so on that list of authors last year at Christmas, This name was on the list. The boy had expressed interest in the cover, and I wanted to read it before he did to vett it for adult themes. Oh, and I happened across her LJ account, and CRK seems like an interesting person with an interesting process.

Bookmark: White Birch Books (North Conway, NH). Support your local independent!

Tastes like chicken: A cross between Thomas M. Disch and China Mieville.

The book follows the adventures of a three-piece band in Birmingham, Alabama (a female singer/bass player who works in a coffee shop to pay the bills, her heroin-addict guitarist boyfriend, and the drummer, who's a mechanic by day). In their extended circle are the local goth kids who are in thrall to a woman named Spyder, who... has some issues. Some of the goth kids have an ill-advised peyote ritual in Spyder's basement, where Spyder's psyche keeps its ghosts. Nefariousness ensues and sucks the band down with it.


What I liked: This book painted a neat world, a neat set of characters. It moved, to me, at the right pace thoughout. The ending's speed seemed right, the resolution reasonable.


Not so much: There were spots where the detail seemed a little too rich, but I got used to it after a while. This certainly wasn't one of those W.E.B. Griffin books Ed likes so much!


Lesson: Drugs are bad? That's an over-simplified moral, but so what. I was explaining to the boy what a gothic horror would be, and he wandered off with the book. I'm not sure how far he'll get into it. Perhaps by the time the lesbian sex scene comes around, he'll have abandoned it, or be a little older... we'll see.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Outline

I decided to organize my novel along a 3-act structure, partly as an exercise I suppose because I have a synopsis that wants some attention.

Yesterday I made a new outline of the first act. I have to write maybe a third of the scenes still, and a couple need to be moved and sort of retasked. Today I started the second act. Of the nine scenes in Act 2 so far, I have to write six. Ack. It's like not even having a first draft at all!

You know, I wrote extensive outlines, treatments, and stuff for this novel when I first wrote it, and it still sucked. Maybe I shouldn't have bothered. Except I suspect those outlines kept me going, some days.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

If only I could market...

I was reading the techdirt blog at work today (I was making help files at the same time, which sucks up all my system's resources, so there's nothing I can do except surf and write emails to my sister) and came across a story about a band that is trying to put together an album. Rather than have a contract with a record company and an advance and all that, they are trying to get a minimum number of people to commit to paying up-front (I presume not actually pay yet, though I couldn't find the article just now to. UPDATE: it was this).

Someone should do the same thing with novels. If I could get a thousand people to commit to buying my novel for $5 each, I could distribute it as a PDF with no DRM and be probably better off this time around than if I found a publisher. Well, except that people sneer at people who self-publish, and I'm not so stupid as to think I don't need an editor. Then I'd have made $5K, and sold my novel, and if those people who paid me for it forwarded it to their friends, then it's all word-of-mouth marketing for me. Then I could charge more, or get a greater number of people to buy the next one before I put it out there, and that's how a band in theory would build an audience. Except with music, we accept that you don't need a middleman, whereas in literature if you can't find a middleman, then you must suck.

The other problem of course is that at least the writers I know are generally crap about marketing themselves, and depend on others (publicists, etc) to do that part. We're obsessed with our flaws and our process porn and the dispair being an integral part of the editing process, and we can't talk ourselves up for shit.

Maybe if I took improv classes, these problems would all go away.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Tithe" by Holly Black

Why I read it: For Christmas this year, rather than listing off a stack of books I wanted, I listed off a stack of authors, and let my sisters and dad and people pick the books for me. My dad bought me this one. Right now, I read it because I wanted something shorter and quicker than the last leaden tome, because I have a library book around here also, but it's non-fiction, and I was in the mood for fiction on Sunday.

Bookmark: What bookmark?

Tastes like chicken: Justine Musk's "Uninvited" for the edgy YA feel, and "Blood and Iron" for the seelie/unseelie court stuff, the kelpie, etc.

It's the story of a girl who grew up with fairies for playmates, but then she left town to be dragged around behind her mother's band. She's 16 now, and back in Philly where the fairies are. A little bit she seeks them out, but they fall on her as well. She spends a lot of time navigating between the human teens and the fairies, trying to seem normal, though that's kind of impossible for some people.

What I liked: The characters were well-drawn -- at least until one of them turned into a fairy. That didn't work so well for me. The human teens were not the suburban upper-middle class ones I know and am used to. Or I assume the ones I know are.

Not so much: The ending seemed kind of frenetic and rushed.

Lesson: Describing things. I need to work on this, I think. The world is painted more brightly than my writing. Something to work on with draft #2.

Friday, April 10, 2009

That took a bit longer than expected...

I finished typing my first draft. It's 125,558 words long. I think I can shorten it. The ending lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.

I converted it to manuscript format and printed out all 531 pages of it. I have some reading to do.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Sometimes being a tech writer isn't so bad

Today, in a comment where an engineer was giving me a block of text to put in a manual:

"Could you use your magical writing skills and make it more appealing?"

Monday, April 06, 2009

118K and counting

But not counting much further, because there are only 40 more pages to type. And then I get to read the whole thing and delete a whole bunch of lame stuff. Awesome. And finish my synopsis, once I know how it ends.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

"The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova

Why I read it: I was hearing a lot about this book a couple of years ago. I think it was reviewed on Salon. There were a couple of mentions on Language Log. So, I asked for it for Christmas. My sister bought it for me, but lost it in her driveway or something, so she gave it to me at my other sister's wedding in January of 2008. I started reading it just before Christmas 2009, and used it as my carry-around book until this last week, when I did the final push and finished it.

Bookmark: Promo for Rick Blechta's new book.

Tastes like Chicken: Probably that Katherine M. Valente book I read last week, because of the story-within-a-story nature of this, and those other three vampire books I read back in January.

This story is written from the perspective of present day, and follows a young woman's quest to learn her father's history, and this is entwined with his faculty advisor's history, which is entwined with a pack of monks travelling around in Romania, Turkey, and Bulgaria (among others), back in the 15th century. They are all wrapped up with Vlad the Impaler/Dracula. I would describe the story as telescoping, much more than "In the Night Garden". Different characters embellish the same story, from different perspectives. We see the story of Rossi meeting Helen's mother, for example, first from the mother's eyes (being translated by Helen, if I recall correctly) and then through Rossi's eyes through the letters he left, and then find out critical bits of missing information later on. There are lots of different first-person descriptions, different characters following the same paths at different places in history. It's also tied up in the history of repeated conquest throughout the region.

To some extent it reminded me of Dickens, also.

What I liked: This was a good carry-around book, because I could pick it up and put it down and be able to find my place because everything was covered so thoroughly from so many perspectives, and also because it paid hommage to Bram Stoker's Dracula, and because there was so much history and research involved. I found it very rich.

Not so much: It was sort of long. If I had read it in a couple of weeks, I might have found it to be boring. Also, as I was doing my last push to finish it, some of the plot twists seemed sort of obvious. Though, considering what it was based on, I don't think the author was intending to surprise the audience, really. This isn't a horror novel, or anything like that.

Lesson learned: Certainly research can always be put to good use. I was reading a couple of days ago a website about writing fantasy, and the writer there said not to go over a piece of writing too much, to just revise once. I think if you're the sort of person who can go over something lots of times, you might wind up with something like this, very dense and crafted.