Monday, December 06, 2010

Nanowrimo redux

This year when I mentioned to Ed and the boy that I was thinking of doing NaNoWriMo, they said "see you in a month!" and "what do you think you'll get out of doing that again?" I guess they're annoyed with me because I haven't finished rewriting Chapter 1 of last year's novel, and I need to pump up the tension at the climax, so I haven't sent it out yet.

Anyway, I ignored them, and decided to do it anyway. I've been writing a lot of short stories lately, and I wanted to do something longer.

I have lots of novel ideas, but nothing was really fully baked. The only idea I had that came with a plot was "Pampelmouse". Unfortunately, since most of the characters are parrots, they have some limited communication skills, and their POV is limited, and I thought it was outside my current skillset.

I don't know at what point it would have been within my skillset, but whatever.

I started anyway. Sometime in October, I outlined (eight words each probably) the first 18 of my 30-chapter novel. And I started typing at midnight on November 1, getting 700 words before I went to bed.

For 2009, my strategy had been to write 500 words per day Monday to Friday, and 5000 words each of Saturday and Sunday. I also wrote my normal page-a-day Monday to Friday (I gave myself Saturday and Sunday off) on I can't remember what, the novel I was working on last year (that's grim that I can't remember, I'm pretty sure it wasn't St. Praxis). November started on a Saturday last year, and this meant that I had a good headstart.

This year, if I had followed the same strategy, I would have been more than 5000 words behind on Friday. I don't know if I could have recovered. So, this year I set a quota of 1000 words per weekday, 3500 Saturday, and 3500 Sunday, which came out to the same amount, and had me only 3335 words behind Saturday morning, meaning I could look caught up Sunday. I also used my page-a-day amount as part of my wordcount. Each morning I would write, longhand, my usual 250-300 words just after I got up, and then in the evening, I would type those into the manuscript and finish the 1000 words, leaving myself a note about what I was going to write about the next day on a sheet of paper. Then, after midnight, I would enter my wordcount (this is where that first 700 words after midnight on Nov 1 became important, because I was always entering the words at the start of the day rather than the end, so I could always feel my status (I was always behind the first two weeks, except for about two days) was overly negative, and I wasn't really doing that bad. It allowed me to keep motivated by pretending I had words in the bank.

This clearly didn't work too badly. I got to 50,000 words on November 28, though I didn't tally my wordcount on the NaNoWriMo website and collect my winnings until I'd written "The End" the next day.

The real crisis came on November 21, when I got to the end of my 18-of-30 chapters outline. I knew how the story was supposed to end, but I was like 17,000 words from there, and I had nothing to write about.

What did I do? Um, I kept writing anyway. I fell back on my old standby, I had my characters eat. (I have this rule that I have to reflect on any scene where my characters are eating more critically than other scenes, because I tend to write pointless eating scenes, but now I think I know why.) While two of my characters were eating, a third character walked in, carrying a prop, and suddenly, I had the missing 11 chapters, and I could finish the book. That was the turning point.

Now I have a list of "next tasks", and when I've got a little bit of distance, I've got an exciting new manuscript to read! And I think it doesn't have all the usual problems my other manuscripts have. If I recall correctly, the first chapter is pretty good.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Miranda's Challenge

One of my VP peers, Miranda Suri, posted a challenge a few days ago. It's kind of about deliberate practice. There are a lot of things I could do.

However, I think for the next five days, each day I will read one of my stories.

Yeah, aim high, Robyn.

I actually can't read my own stuff, so this will be brutal. Read, just read, don't devolve into rewriting by the second page, and then never get to the end. I have five short stories chosen, in varying states of completion: "Bezoar", "Rabbits", "Apophis", "Succubus", and "Mary Alice Goes to Hell".

And I've written it down, so now I'm accountable. Mrrmmm...

SFContario redux

Two weekends ago was SFContario, and as part of my whole goal to, you know, meet actual writers in the genre and be a pro writer, I attended. Due to its being on a weekend and my being extremely overscheduled like all the time, I went down Sunday for 11am.

I went to three panels:
  • Family Trees of Fantasy: Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Ed Greeenwood, Jo Walton, Michael Swanwick, and James Alan Gardner riffed for an hour about books I should read.
  • Review and Criticism in the SF Field: Leah Bobet and someone I'd never heard of didn't show, but TNH, Tony Pi, and Brett Savory seemed to think accurate reviews were good. I sat behind Jo Walton. I always hope some awesomeness rubs off; you never know. I was too shy to say hello.
  • Will No One Free me from this Troublesome Book?: Violette Malan and Stephanie Bledwell-Grimes (who I saw at Ad Astra) carried the day, as David Nickle didn't show. Maybe this is some Sunday con thing? I'd never noticed Violette Malan's books before, but she was entertaining so I might look one up. This was a good panel to help me get through NaNoWriMo (the con being on the penultimate NaNo weekend). I especially liked what they said about how some days it's hard to get your 2K (words), and some days it's easy, but when you go back later to read the manuscript, usually you can't tell which were which.

I abandoned my jacket by accident after the first panel, and the thought of having to take the TTC home without it was grim, because the sky was making feeble attempts to snow. When I found it at the registration desk, and hadn't even realized I had left my wallet in the pocket. It still had all the money in it!

Next time I go to a convention, maybe I will talk to someone, or, horror of horrors, what a consuite is.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

What I read--Nov 2010

I'm surprised I managed to read this much, considering November was NaNoWriMo, so all my spare time was filled up with Pampelmouse. Nevertheless, here's what I read:

“I am Legend” by Richard Matheson. Should have been subtitled “and other stories,” as this was a short novel and several short stories of varying quality. The boy read it before me, and he was extremely confused when he got to the short stories, and abandoned it. It was about vampires. I had somehow gotten the idea it was about zombies. Anyway, the science was good, but its age showed. There was an incredible amount of alcohol consumption, and the female characters were treated badly, both by the main character and the author.

“Brains: A Zombie Memoir” by Robyn Becker. Very funny, very entertaining. I laughed on every page. The boy read this one first, too, and I wonder if he got the jokes. There were a lot of cultural references. He said he enjoyed it, though. Not only was it good zombie research, but also, written as it was from the POV of a zombie, it was interesting to see how the author solved the problem of their lack of an ability to communicate. The parrots I’m writing about now in Pampelmouse have a similar problem, because they know stock phrases and can’t mix and match.

“Bridge of Birds” by Barry Hughart. This one has been on my list for years, and finally I got around to it. The voice was good, charming, funny. I can see why it’s beloved. Master Li seems like a recurring type in Chinese literature. The ending was as awesome as it said it was. It totally reminded me of “Pyrates” by George MacDonald Frasier.

In process--Nov 2010

Troll. 1000 words of first draft, on hold for NaNoWriMo. Ed and I spend a lot of time in culverts when we’re out walking, because Toronto is a weird place. It seems relatively flat, but that’s because everything is a bridge over a river, or a rail line, or... well, I guess I need to finish the story. Went back to this one on November 30.

Apophis. 1200 words, first draft complete, working on second. I'd really like to get it on OWW this month, since it's the October challenge... I'm a little slow.

Pampelmouse. 2010 NaNoWriMo novel. Wrote 53, 386 words and reached the end on Nov. 29. Stay tuned for my NaNoWriMo redux...

Out There--Nov 2010

"Unicorn". Still at market #7.

"Dolphin". Still at market #1, with requested changes.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why I like Andrew Bird

Every once in a while I'm sitting all innocent-like at my desk listening to music while I work, and I realize something like:

The song I'm listening to seems to be about trepanning.

How often does that come up?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Nanowrimo: week 1

So this year's Nano project is "Pampelmouse", what I refer to in my own head as "Watership Down of parrots", though I'm nervous about saying that outloud. It sounds sort of pompous.

I have 11,693 words at this very minute, with another 577 to go for my morning target. (Yes, apparently blogging is what I do with my breaks?!?)

After a week, I am loving the fact that I can't explain my jokes, because a parrot doesn't have words to explain its jokes. The joke either works, or it gets missed.

And also, it is thus far impossible for my characters to sit around talking about what they're going to do, especially while eating. I do have some boring eating scenes like I always do, but at least they can't pretend to progress the plot. There's a lot more action than I normally write. Also, I'm making my main character suffer horribly.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Out there -- October, 2010

"Unicorn". Sent to market #7.

"Dolphin". Still at market #1. OMG I got an email of proposed edits, 24 October, 2010. Sent the changes back 27 October.

What I read -- October 2010

“Annabel” by Kathleen Winter. I had requested this book from the library a couple of months ago (there are 114 holds after me, so it must be good?) but had no recollection of why, and stubbornly resisted trying to figure out, in case I changed my mind or something, since it was coming anyway. And now I see it’s longlisted for the Giller prize, so I guess I’m lucky to have it now, since there will be a run on it later.

Turns out it’s the story of a hermaphrodite in Labrador, from when he’s born (he’s brought up as a boy) until young adulthood. I was trying to decide, after reading it, whether it was more about gender, or about Labrador. The lives of people there (Wayne is born in I think 1968 – can’t check, had to take the book back because it was overdue) are very much about the bush, and subsistence living. Really good, really made me think. It took me a while to read because it had uncomfortable bits for me, but fortunately I had another thing I was reading at the same time, so I’d read 40 pages, and then switch to the other book, and then pick it up again when I’d gained some distance.

But the story is a lot about gender. There are a lot of strong female characters who influence Wayne, and really the only strong male influence is his father, who was an amazing character, really well-defined. I highly recommend this book. The characters, the setting, the choices that Wayne makes are so strongly drawn.

“In the Dojo” by Dave Lowry. Here I could kill two birds with one stone. It’s research for the karate zombie novel, and it’s on Sensei’s reading list! This was the book that I kept switching to when “Annabel” became too stressful. It was also a library book. I got a lot out of it in terms of expected behaviours I think I’m not meeting in Sensei’s eyes, and the background of different things.

But one thing I kept thinking about as I read it was language. A lot of the Japanese terms used in the book were not the same ones we use in my dojo. Some of them (Kagami Baraki, for example) have a different meaning for us than for the author.

There’s a woman in our dojo who is Japanese. Japanese is her first language. Sometimes when I’m teaching, I’ll turn to her and ask if something is correct, and she shrugs. Apparently the Japanese we use in the dojo is not the same as the Japanese spoken in the real world. That made me think about secret languages, and what happens at work, for example, where we have all these crazy acronyms, or when Ed starts using a huge amount of medical jargon. And that made me think about my parrot novel, which I think I should start drafting soon.

“The Forest of Hands and Teeth” by Carrie Ryan. It’s about zombies, so it’s research! It’s YA, and it’s written first person present, just like my zombie novel, so I can be insecure! This book was an incredibly quick read. A couple of things that bugged me: I never got a clear picture of some of the characters. Like, there are two brothers, Travis and Harry, and I’m never entirely clear on which is older. Maybe she said sometime at the beginning, and I missed it because I didn’t realize it was important.

“The Dead-Tossed Waves” by Carrie Ryan. The sequel to the above. The first chapter seemed weaker than the previous, and I’m starting to notice differences between how the author handles the first-person present voice, and how I do it. I guess that’s what Caitlin Kiernan meant when she was writing about the interauthor a few weeks ago. Why is the narrator telling the story in this way, and why? This voice makes flashbacks potentially awkward, I think. While the ending clearly indicates that there will be a third book in the series, I thought this book was better-written than the first one. It’s a lot more complicated, with a lot more stuff going on, various different problems and threats, and that’s what I like.

In process -- October 2010

"The Rabbits". Short story. 10,000 words or thereabouts. September I finished the second draft. I want to get this on OWW, but it needs at least one more draft. Often people who read my stories say I've ended it at the point where it just starts to take off. I think I've just realized why -- it's because my main characters are often passive victims of whatever circumstances I've created. I can fix this, I think. At least in The Rabbits.

Karate Zombies. Still 61,792 words. I have now read the first 6 chapters. I’m rewriting the first chapter. This post is making me worry.

“Succubus”. Short story. 12,000 words. Page-a-day. First draft complete. While I was “researching”, I came across the Japanese Yuki-Onna, which pleased me greatly because of Catherynne M. Valente, whose writing I respect very much.

Troll. Around 1000 words of first draft, on hold for NaNoWriMo. Ed and I spend a lot of time in culverts when we’re out walking, because Toronto is a weird place. It seems relatively flat, but that’s because everything is a bridge over a river, or a rail line, or... well, I guess I need to finish the story.

Apophis. 1200 words, first draft complete. The monthly challenge from OWW was to write a story from the POV of a rock. I’d never done the monthly challenge before, but I had a scrap written in an email that could be easily moulded. And I often find that when I write something under duress (I.e., have to finish before nanowrimo; to the challenge’s specifications) I surprise myself. And contrary to what I regularly say, I don’t hate surprises. Well, not all the time.

I know Apophis isn’t actually going to hit the Earth anymore, but for the purposes of this narrative, let it go.

Pampelmouse. 2010 NaNoWriMo novel. I’ve written a one page, 30-chapter outline, not because the story needs to be 30 chapters long, but because November has 30 days in it, so if I write a chapter per day I can accomplish my goal. Because November doesn’t start with a weekend this year, I’m using this as my “page-a-day”, which will get me started every day.

Back and left front finished. Realized I’m going to have to re-knit the sleeves, so I packed it in a box. I don’t want to look at this sweater right now.
Anhinga. Back, left, and right front finished, center panel started.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A quote from my sister

"These towns around here are pretty safe, but they are infested with eager cops."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I wonder if I can harness the power of the morning words...

... in the service of NaNoWriMo this year. Because otherwise I may be screwed by the alignment of the days of the week.

I have just realized that my grand plan to take Nov 1 off and get a head start is a massive fail, as November is also United Way month at my office, and I'm the campaign chair, and I should probably attend the kickoff event I haven't planned yet.

Stupid, stupid do-gooding, it gets in the way of the writing, too.

Also, my immediate family thinks NaNoWriMo is a bad idea, because "What will you get out of it?" they asked. Well, another first draft, for one thing. (As if I need more of those?) And a sense of community.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Writing is easier when I turn the TV off

Last year NaNoWriMo was a breeze. I had a really fast start and was always ahead of the game. There was a reason for that: last November started on a Saturday. My system last year was to write 500 words each day M-F, then 5000 each on Saturday and Sunday, which was 12500 words per week, or 50,000 words over November. Friday at midnight I started by writing 2000 words. Saturday I wrote 5000, and Sunday I wrote 5000. So by the end of that first weekend I already had 12000 words, which meant that when I did 500 words per day on the weekdays, I didn’t feel like I was falling behind.

If you write 1667 words per day, you wind up with 11,669 in a week, or 50,000 in 30 days.

This year, November starts on a Monday. I will have 2500 words by Friday, and be 9000 words behind already. Psychologically, this will of course be devastating. I don’t know if I’ll be able to surmount it, but I also don’t know if I can write more than 500 words in a workday. Maybe I should take November 1 as a vacation day and try to write 10,000 words?

Friday, October 08, 2010

Word of the day: disconnect

I must hear it every day:
I hate this tawdry, overused word, and I dread the day I catch myself using it in a sentence.

In other news, I have to decide whether to do NaNoWriMo this year. I want to write the parrot novel, but I'm afraid I don't have the skills for such stunt-writing.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Out there -- Sept 2010

"Unicorn". Waiting to be sent to market #7. Came back over a month ago. Not good.

"Dolphin". Still at market #1.

Apparently these stories won't sell themselves, so I need to devote a time/date to this.

Monday, October 04, 2010

In process -- Sept, 2010

"The Rabbits". Short story. This month I made it through the second draft. I want to get this on OWW, but it needs at least one more draft. It’s down from 14,000 to just over 10,000 words, so it would have to go up in two parts. I’d like to get rid of another 2500 words before I get it critted, but I’d still put it up in two parts... better for the critters, and I have plenty of points to use.

Karate Zombies. I have now read the first four chapters. I’m rewriting the first chapter. I would love to get this on OWW. I even did envelope calculations: I have 47 points right now. I have 24 chapters. If I put up one chapter at a time (2-3K words at a time, a good length for the ‘shop) at 4 points each, I’d have to do 49 more reviews. If I could put up one chapter per week, that would be such a great structure for me to work within.

The Water Leopard. 1st short story draft complete. Need to type it up. Don’t think it’s very good.

“Succubus”. Short story. This became my page-a-day when the water leopard short was done. 30 pages or so done, maybe 5000 words, maybe half complete.

Morrigan. Shudder. I’m about five inches above the armholes on the back, so the end is in sight, I guess. Went shopping for inspirational leather jackets as motivation, but it didn’t help. I am so burnd out on this sweater.
Gift Socks. Finished.
Kingdom Gloves. Finished.
Anhinga. Back started.

What I read -- September 2010

“A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens. Started this at the cottage, because I found it in the shed. I don’t think I ever had to read it before, but as I told my dentist, you can’t go wrong with Dickens.

“The Flooded Earth” by Peter D. Ward. I got this out of the library because I read some favourable references to it online, probably in Salon and the Toronto Star, and also because I love true future disaster books. It took me less than a week to read, but I had some problems with it. Like for example, my mind would wander because of the excess of compound complex sentences. There were like two simple sentences per page! He was trying to cram as much information into each sentence as he could, and that’s good, but I would lose track of the subject, or the sentences wouldn’t lead smoothly into each other. It was sort of like reading a really long essay by a precocious high schooler, sometimes. He was very passionate about the content, but sometimes he’d go on a crazy tangent. Like, there were two pages in the section about salt intrusion where he ranted about road salt. I mean, I agree that road salt is really damaging to the environment, and we ought to rethink our excessive use of it, but it did nothing to support his thesis.

I found the rhetorical devices not very subtle, and some of it was kind of Malthusian. I thought the definition of peak oil was over-simplified, and that made me question the rest of the book. I don’t like Stephen Harper (because I have a vague feeling he hates women), and yet I don’t think he’s fairly treated. I didn’t feel like the futures he depicted were consistent with each other (maybe they were and it was a failure of my imagination) from chapter to chapter.

This book was frustrating I guess, because as I think Bertollucci said, you can only argue with someone with whom you basically agree. But for example, I don’t feel like the government ought to be planning more than 50 years in advance, for example. It would be great if they did, rather than planning four years in advance, like I feel like they do, but didn’t this guy read “Foundation”? Doesn’t he know that in that amount of time, the Mule will appear, and all your mathematical predictions will have to be thrown out the window? So yeah, perhaps this wasn’t the book for me.

“Wizard’s First Rule” by Terry Goodkind. Never sure how to pronounce the last syllable of the last name, so it’s just as well I’m writing this down. The boy has read this series, beginning to end, about three times, and he basically forced this book on me. Fortunately, it’s very easy to read 60 pages at a sitting. Goodkind does know how to end a chapter so I’ll say “oh, just one more.” However, I found it kind of emotionless. I had no idea Richard was so filled with repressed anger until I was told; up until then I’d thought he was filled with teenage angst. Also, I found the politics exhausting, especially the gender politics. The fight scenes were fantastic, though.

There were a lot of things wrong with this book. There were things that I found unintentionally funny (the double-down Star Wars ending amused...) But the fight scenes were great, as was that 60-page torture scene. Wow, it made me wonder if Mr. G. had written some hard core porn in a previous life.

Also, looking at his author’s photo, I’d be afraid not to like this book, lest he beat the crap out of me.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Just like the other oboists do

This is sure to become a scene when I finally get around to writing my Christopher Guest-style sendup of a community band.

Last night after I arrived at band practice, one of the other members sought me out in the washroom to ask me if it was okay if another member (who currently plays bass) plays second oboe. She's playing oboe in "the other band", and having so much fun, she just doesn't want to play bass any more. Did they think I was going to lock myself in a stall and have a crying jag at the prospect?

I said yeah, she was fine, it would be fine. I am secure in my first oboe-ness.

But then the conductor came up to me (in the actual band room) to ask if it was really okay. And I said yeah, it would be good to have someone else playing oboe, for those times when for some reason I can't make it to a concert, and I have guilt, and I'm on vacation in Maine, sitting there thinking to myself that if I was home right now, I'd be at some mall, playing a concert, and they need me and I'm letting them down.

But apparently that was crazy talk, and they didn't. But whatever. So I asked if they really think I'm that thin-skinned, and the conductor said no, he's had bad experiences with other oboe players saying it was okay, then quitting when the other oboist showed up.

And I do profess to be the highlander oboist (there can be only one). But maybe not. Maybe there should be two.

Actually, this particular musician sometimes says to the conductor things like "I think my note is wrong on this minor ninth..." which is just something I would never pick out because I'm just not that good, so maybe I should be intimidated.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

At 1:30, I turned on the light...

Last night I started reading my karate/zombie novel, because after 9-and-a-half months, I really couldn't put it off any longer.

Okay, actually the real reason I started reading it was because I was on the TPL website, and I discovered the writer-in-residence this autumn is a YA author. If I want to submit the first 25 pages to him for crit/review, I probably ought to read it first, and do at least a little bit of clean-up.

The first chapter, the way they are, is about three-quarters giant stinky fish head that needs to be lopped off. The second chapter didn't offend me, the third chapter didn't offend me, and I liked parts of the fourth chapter very much. That's probably as much as I'll get to submit. I think I will focus on the first chapter before I send it in, I hope by the end of the weekend...

I lay awake last night rewriting the opening in my head, and at 1:30, I had to turn the light on and write it down. Sad but true.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Caught myself a baby bumblebee

Yesterday I earned my first bee on OWW!

A few days ago I was chatting with one of my karate buddies, and he said to me "you're by far the most naturally athletic of the people in your Kyu."

I nodded and said thank you, and thought to myself, "Yeah, but that's just because I'm the youngest (!). It's because everyone else is injured right now."

And then I thought to myself, "hey, wait a minute, I don't have to make excuses for being good at something." And anyway, we all know my karate problems are mental.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rifle his pockets and look for loose change?

As Miracle Max in The Princess Bride says, "Your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. "

Friday, September 03, 2010

Worrying pointlessly

Something Catherynne M. Valente said on her blog a few weeks ago is nagging at my brain. She said she can smell a story written to fulfill a SFWA requirement a mile away.

And then a few days later, someone asked me why I write, and after having a hard time coming up with an answer, I said I couldn't imagine not. And that's true. And then somehow in the same conversation, I said that I turned from editing my novel to working on some short stories because they seem like something I can finish. Not like a novel, which seems like it will go on forever.

I can't even imagine writing a story to fulfill membership requirements in SFWA. And if I did, I can't imagine anyone buying it. But do I look like I fall into that category? I don't know.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Out there -- August 2010

"Unicorn". Back from market #6, with a nice note. Need to get it out of here again, but vacation got in the way.

"Dolphin". Still at market #1... Kinda sucks, because there's another thing I would have sent it to if it had been rejected, but that's closed now.

In process, August 2010

"The Bezoar". A short story, up on OWW during crit marathon. Got seven crits, useful stuff.

"The Rabbits". Short story, first draft completed August 14. Typed August 16. It’s over 14,000 words long, and I’m now working on the second draft. I want to get this on OWW.

The Water Leopard. Started a short story for this (it’s linked shorts with connectives). Would like the short done by the end of the week.

“Succubus”. A short story started, just wrote a few words and a page of notes. Probably I’ll write this to its conclusion when I’m done the Water Leopard short.

Morrigan. Armholes! We have them!
Tempting II. Fin.
Gift Socks. First started.
Kingdom Gloves. First started.

What I read -- August 2010

"The Great Wall" by John Man. Ed had gotten this out of the library. It’s part history, part travelogue, part a description of modern China. Ed had recently read a few books about Ghengis Khan, and we both read GGK’s “Under Heaven”, and this gave a nice historical perspective. The only problem I had was sometimes I would lose track of what historical figure we were talking about. I wished he used what I think of as the Rolling Stone style – where after you mention someone, you come up with a mnemonic for that person – you know, Kublai Khan, grandson of Ghengis, or something like that. Oh, the other annoying thing was occasionally the author would say “for that story, see my other book.” Um, no.

“Who Fears Death” by Nnedi Okorafor. A book about genocide and female genital mutilation, how can you go wrong with that? People need to talk, write, think about these issues, because the alternative is even more horrific. It is a truly beautiful book. I loved the main character, the voice. I loved the mix of future and magic.

“The Weapon Makers” by A.E. Van Vogt. He wrote one of my favorite SF novels I read in high school, “Slan”. I’d also read something else about the weapon shops of Isher, and so when I found this in the cottage shed, I picked it up and read it. Wow, it was a silly book. I cannot explain the dancing girl on the cover.

OWW: August was the crit marathon, and I read 21, plus one yesterday.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Out there: July 2010

"Unicorn". At market #6, but I got actual comments on rejection #5! Ed thought they were harsh. I thought they were one editor's opinion.

"Dolphin". Still at market #1. I followed up. They're still deciding.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

What I read -- July 10

"The Sorceress of Venice" by Salman Rushdie. I'd read somewhere that if the SF community could go back in time and save Salman Rushdie, they should have given him a Nebula for his first book, and then he would have fallen into genre obscurity forever after, and no fatwa ever would have been issued. And that made me curious. I'd never read a book by him before. It reminded me of Catherynne M. Valente. After a while I started to get the characters all confused, because there were a lot of them. This book really seemed to want to be read out loud.

It's a story-within a story, and the inside story steals bits of the outside story. I felt like I didn't get the maximum value out of this book, because there were in-jokes I'm sure I missed. You know those footnoted versions of, say, TS Eliot, that you have to read in high school or university English classes? This book seemed like the modern equivalent of those, but without the footnotes. I found myself wishing I had better knowledge of the renaissance, or of Indian and Persian mythology. It's a book for well-read people. I'd say, if you're going to read one book this year, this shouldn't be it. But if you're the sort of person who reads a hundred books a year, then this would be a good choice.

"The Windup Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi. Nebula winner, and it had been on my list for a while, so I requested it from the library. To be honest, the only reason I requested it was because one day I logged into the library's system and it told me there was a problem with my account, and would I please contact their customer service? So I did, and then I felt like I had to let the very pleasant customer service rep do something for me, since I was about the thousandth person to call her that morning with a problem, and everyone had been very polite about it, and...

I found the first fifty pages or so confusing, but then I started to get into it, and the place and the characters (there are multiple POVs) started to make sense. What really worked for me about the POVs was that everyone was not chasing the same thing. Anderson was trying to find the seedbank, and the fact that Hok Shen was trying to get the plans for the spring was totally irrelevant to him. The spring was just a cover. Kanna's actions kept thwarting them both, and Emiko needed to be free and was a tool for everyone. It was like the opposite of a heist, where everyone wants the same thing.

"Pretty Monsters" by Kelly Link. Since I've been writing and editing short stories lately, it seemed appropriate to read some, so I've pulled out some anthologies. I'd read three of the stories in this book before, don't know where (well, one of them was in the other book by her I read), but they were still very good. She has a distinctive voice, that's for sure. I don't think I should try to emulate it.

Monday, August 02, 2010

In process -- July 2010

Manners. I wrote "Done" on this sucker on July 5. I'm so glad it's over. Don't know why I kept going on it.

"TheBogWitch". Fifth draft included changes from the two crits I got on OWW. Needs at least one more draft.

Karate Zombies. Brainstormed to define the zombieism disease. I have some outstanding questions: How did patient zero become infected? Climax -- time and logistics?

"The Bezoar". Seemingly abandoned, though I'm still carrying a draft around. Strange, because I think it's not that bad of a story. It might have made it up on OWW if my USB key hadn't stopped working on my desktop computer at work (I'm pretty sure it's the computer, not the key, because my iPod doesn't sync properly either).

"The Rabbits". Short story that needs a better title. Started writing this as my page-a-day on July 6. It's nice to have a page-a-day that I'm actually enthusiastic about. I musst have been at one point able to write more than one page at a stretch in "Manners", but if so, I sure don't remember it. I was able to make the boy uncomfortable by asking Ed questions as research for this story (he knows way more about the endocrine system than I do, even if he says it's his weakest area as a medic).

Rather than doing my usual disturbing online stalking activities, I managed to do a bit of research. And I typed pages as I went, rather than leaving the typing for later. This helped me keep track of teh storyline and things I'd meant to hit as I progressed (sometimes the page-a-day thing losese its narrative thread and descends into pointless dialog, mostly while characters eat). I have around 8000 words, which is too much, and it's not done yet (almost!).

"Pukka". The 6000 words I have here of probably a novel would seem to be a stream-of-consciousness explanation of what goes on in my deranged mind. Part of it comes out of a crazy conversation I had while making illicit use of the office printer late one Friday afternoon. The other person was photocopying Puff the Magic Dragon sheet music. It's SF. It's a novel. It needs a lot of research.

And in knitting...

Morrigan. I have about a foot of body, with 18 rows to go to the armholes. Thanks to this: for confirming the error I thought I was seeing in the side chart.

Noro Henley. Fin. Worn three times. Best compliment? "Very professional." She meant the execution, not that it looks like office wear. Though in my office, it does just fine.

Tempting II. Excellent carry-around project. I've just attached the sleeves.

Duck booties. Made these for a pregnant coworker. The shower is next week. Very fiddly, but cute.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The problem

Yesterday I found out from or somewhere that Kelley Armstrong had taught a week-long workshop at U of T about writing dark urban fantasy. And I thought to myself, I should have gone to that, if I had qualified, and I could get the time off, and, and, and. But the real problem was that I didn't know about it until afterwards.

So today's question, for all my faithful readers out there is, how would I have found out about that? I don't think online stalking of Kelley Armstrong is the answer, because what if it's not her, it's Carrie Vaughn next time? I can't online stalk everyone. I can't keep watching U of T wherever they would have listed something like that, because what if next time it's at York, or Ryerson? I can't watch all institutions. And what if it's not even at an institution?

Is there a clearinghouse type place, preferably online, that would tell me about things like that happening in, say, a 100-mile radius of my house? Even a bulletin board at a store or library that I should be looking at once a month?

I guess rather than just ranting about it here, I should be using my awesome research skills to find it myself. If in fact I have awesome research skills. If I find it, I'll post it in the comments.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Proving some forgotten English teacher wrong... or maybe it was Strunk & White

We've had sackings here at the dayjob. There are people who are "affected by the layoffs". These are people who have been laid off. Well, not really. There's no hope of rehiring, and that's what I always think of layoffs as meaning. But firing isn't the right word, either. I guess restructured it is.

Anyway, the woman in charge of transferring a satellite office's stuff to my office told me someone was "very affected by the layoffs", which meant not only was she being laid off, she was also angry about it.

You know how your high school English teacher said that no sentence is ever enhanced by the addition of the word "Very"? This one was.

Monday, July 19, 2010

This week in crazy

I got an email from the CEO of the professional organization I belong to (it wasn't personal -- I assume she sent it to everyone). In it, she outlined in over 500 words why she'd changed her name.

It reminded me of this woman I worked with (same first name, now, actually) who sent us really long emails about how much flute therapy (playing her flute for seniors) was helping her depression.

I sit to the right of the flutes in my band, and I wear an earplug. This actually makes the nearest one, who used to be an audiologist, happy.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I wish insects would discover my shoes

I'm not going to be able to wear out these rope wedge platform sandals before they go out of style (mostly because I can't get up sufficient speed to go anywhere in them).

I wish termites would discover them, so the heels disintegrate as I walk. Today would be a good day for this to happen, because I have spare shoes in my desk.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Nail Polish obsession

This evening I took the boy to the mall to buy season 2 of Smallville. Whilst there, I continued my search for the perfect nail polish. And I found it. Turns out the nail polish of my dreams is "Rumple's Wiggins" from OPI's Shrek ever after collection. And all the 14-year-old girls beat me to it, so it's sold out at the mall, because being 14-year-old girls they don't have jobs.

The color I wound up with (because once I'd found the color I wanted, and discovered it was not in stock, I was committed to buying something, somehow) was "Panda-monium Pink", which I think is a Kung-Fu Panda tie-in color. There's a whole world of movie tie-in nail polish that somehow I had missed out on before. And now I'm wearing it, at work. Normally I don't wear nail polish at work (just on my toes, which my coworkers rarely see), because I have enough problems being taken seriously already, what with the bad seated posture and whatnot. But now I am wearing not only light pink nail polish, but it's movie tie-in nail polish that is SO last year.

Maybe this is a message that I should be working on that story about nail polish I have a first draft of?

And also, in order to put a picture of Morrigan on Ravelry, I had to take it with my phone, upload it to facebook, copy it to my computer, then upload it to Ravelry. There has got to be a better way... except that my camera seems to have forgotten how to communicate with a computer.

Oh, and Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Windup Girl" is waiting for me at the library. Whee!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


I don't know how long the link will work, but

It kind of reminds me of when I was pregnant and one of my (male) coworkers came up to me and asked me if I really thought I should be riding my bike, in my condition.

And then someone else who overheard the comment went to human resources, and HR made him come and apologize to me.

I continued riding my bike, to my doctor's appointments, even. I hope scientists "discover" soon that being extremely bored and housebound is bad for fetuses.

And also, the themes of the short story that is in my brain and needs to be written make me feel awkward.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

What I read -- June 2010

"Specials" by Scott Westerfield. He's really good at the ending that concludes the story and yet leads to a desperate need to start the sequel. Most irritating. This one took me a little while to get into, but then I finished it in about two sittings. I found the ending satisfying, and don't really feel the burning desire to read book 4, which is fortunate, because we don't have it around the house.

"Under Heaven" by Guy Gavriel Kay. After all the YA stuff I've been reading, the first chapter of this book was harrowing. Ed told me the first chapter of a GGK book always is, except the first book of Fionavar. The second chapter just flew by.

I didn't really finish this book in June, but I felt ridiculous only having finished one book. That's lame, I guess.

I love how he manages foreshadowing, and how he ties up various characters with expository sections (i.e., Rain), and handles multiple POVs.

Friday, July 02, 2010

In Process, June 2010

Manners. First draft novel. 98% complete. A few days ago I wrote a list of the next five things that need to happen, and then I can end this wretched mess. I think it will be done and gone in July. Maybe even next week.

"TheBogWitch". I hadn't reallly finished the fourth draft (character/dialog) in May, so I finished that (4500 words). Then I let Ed read it and did the fifth draft (prose) which took me to 4080 words. By the time I put it on OWW for feedback, it was down to 3934 or thereabouts.

After reading the feedback I got, I think I may have cut too deeply. It has less than half the words it had before, having started around 8900. Atmosphere, setting, and characterization may have suffered. The only thing I really added was a different ending. This should be done-for-real by the end of July. That's a reasonable goal.

Karate Zombies. The boy became my third reader on this novel, and when he finished it, he asked me "What do you think was the climax?" I told him what I thought the climax was. He said "Don't you think it needs some tension, then?" Um, good point. I'm now collecting notes for how to punch up the crisis there. they have a massive logistics issue that I don't know how to solve, and a time issue. So the problem isn't that there's no tension, I can throw that in. I don't know how to solve the issues that I would raise. Maybe I'll have a useful dream, now that I'm thinking about it.

Then we went hiking in the forest, and Ed and the boy had a long, in-depth conversation about how patient zero would have become infected, so I guess I need to decide that, at least in my own mind, too. I should know, whether my narrator does or not.

"The Bezoar". I let Ed read this story, and he didn't hate it. And then I started reading it, and I had to apologize to him for making him read something that was so obviously not finished. I mean, I had sentences that went into a paranthetical clause and then just stopped. But he said no, it was charming.

Since I'd already been working on this one before the new editing system came into place, I started with prose (I was in prose mode anyway, and I'd spent a lot of time before) and now I need to put it on OWW. I came across a note I'd written when I started the first draft, back in August of 2009. I don't think I hit the theme very well, but maybe it works as a story anyway.

"Rabbit". A couple of hundred words of notes on a short story.

I have about nine inches of the body.
Noro Henley. Back complete in May; front, neck, and both sleeves in June. Now there's just the collar, buttons (to be purchased), and five seams to go. Should be done by Sunday.

Out There -- June 2010

"Unicorn". Still at market #5.

"Dolphin". It had been read by five people now, so I figured it was time for a last pass and then to ship it out. And so I have finally graduated from VP. That only took me seven months. At market #1...

I so wanted to have a third thing out there by the end of June, but it was not to be. I think I was trying to fit the story into too short of a package, and now I need to add part of a thousand words back in. Different words, though. And it's not so far from being done, really. I totally want to send that one to Weird Tales, as I've heard really entertaining things about their rejection form, not that getting rejected is the goal, but, oh, you know what I mean.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

In which I behave in a thin-skinned manner

One of the crits I received on my story on on OWW said the only person he'd seen successfully manage that type of witty banter was Joss Whedon.

Well, surely I shouldn't try, then.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

More from Fortress Toronto

I was watching the helicopters and gunships fly over, and thinking about my sister, who is in Tel Aviv right now, and who once said to me "I guess they have to practice somewhere" about the military aircraft there, when I realized I had another Uncle George story to tell.

This one is before he winds up in the Salween Delta, and maybe explains why he's gone so far away. It involves rabbits, not dolphins. Oh, Uncle George, stop with the creepy experiments.

Three things

Regarding the protesters at the G20 in Toronto, which mercifully I am not watching on TV any more, due to Ed having a cigarette and therefore losing the remote control to the boy, who is playing a video game:

When I'm in charge (I.E., PM, though that is highly unlikely, as I just live here), things will be different:

  1. The leaders of the 20 nations will have to drop on strings from helicopters into the security zone, like Tom Cruise might have done in a Mission Impossible movie (don't know for sure).
  2. The staffers of the leaders of the G20 nations will have to enter through a laser field, like Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Entrapment". If you can't do that, sorry, you can't come.
  3. My wife (Ed) will have to wear a nicer dress than I was wearing at the restaurant while we were watching the PM speak (I was dressed to watch polo, which unfortunately had been cancelled). And he will have to wear less make-up than Stephen Harper.

That is all.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Someone left the cake out in the rain

I was 12 minutes late to this week's band concert, due to traffic and the exceptional farness it was from my house. I gave myself 45 minutes to get there, but it was not to be. Then I had to acquire a parking pass and run it back to my car, and my candies aren't exactly for running in, so I ran barefoot on pavement. And my feet have forgiven me.

We played the above-quoted song, which made me curious as to what it's about -- either a failed relationship, or hashish.

sad songs and waltzes aren't selling this year

I have no idea what the title means, but it popped into my head (from my iPod, so not a great distance).

Heather wants me to buy a Beatles box set. And two books that I would actually consider, if I was feeling like buying books right now: Anathem by Neal Stephenson (never read anything by him, but there are a couple of books around the house) and A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire. I read "Wicked" a couple of years ago. The other three recommendations, though... meh.

Le Weekend

For the first time in a while, I didn't have any activities planned for Sunday. This meant that by 2:30, groceries were bought, the bathroom was clean (!), we'd eaten, I'd finished the front of a sweater, I'd read a book, and I'd read the entire internet (the good bits). Now there was nothing standing between me and editing a story (except maybe one of my sewing projects, and if it's a choice between editing and sewing, I'll always choose editing, because I hate sewing; I just like buying fabric and fantasizing).

So I pulled out Bezoar, and then I got to the end of it, and I started editing Bogwitch, and got about halfway through. Two stories edited in one weekend, I can't think of any time that's ever happened before. Also, two stories out on submission, that's never happened before, either. The world is full of firsts for me.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Have I mentioned that I play oboe?

Excuse this, it's very late and I should be in bed. Alas, I will forget what I want to say if I don't write it now, and history tells me that if I write a draft, it will stay a draft forever and never get posted.


My band, a community concert band, did a concert this evening. We played with three local high school bands, each band playing two pieces for each other, and then everybody getting together and playing one final piece for the twelve people left in the audience. I wasn't particularly in love with the pieces we played, but that's neither here nor there.

There were no other oboes in any of the high school bands. I've noticed a gradual decline in the number of oboists in these things, but this was the first time I was all by myself. Our bassoonist was solo, as well. I'm sure it's not solely due to my wish to drive all competition from my band (I may be mean to other oboists, but these high school students would only have to deal with me once a year, and I might even be able to be nice to them, if I know it's just one evening a year).

Aside: How I became an oboist. I started playing clarinet in grade four or five. There were only a few instruments to choose from in that first band -- clarinet, flute, trumpet, trombone, maybe drums. Then we got to junior high, and all of a sudden, playing better music just didn't work with our limited instrumentation. What can you do with 17 clarinets? So the music teacher took the good new clarinetists and gave them interesting things, like oboes, horns, and tubas. After a couple of months, the talented clarinetist decided she hated to suck, and wanted back on clarinet. So they offered the oboe to me.

And I did suck, for quite a while. But I kept playing, and now I'm not that bad. I can make reeds. I can play in tune.

It would seem that for some reason, they don't do that anymore. So, grade nine music students, dare to suck! Take up oboe! Negotiate a bonus mark for being a team player!

Just a suggestion.

Friday, June 04, 2010


Finally this morning I clicked "submit", and sent my VP story to an actual paying market. And with that, at last I can consider myself a graduate.

I think I deserve a beer.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Out There: May 2010``

"Unicorn". At market #5, but it's a slow market so it could be there for 3 months...
I really wanted to have Dolphin out there by the end of May, but that's today, and I don't see it happening. Maybe tomorrow. Definitely it will be appearing on the June list.

What I read -- May 2010

"Uglies" by Scott Westerfield. Belongs to the boy, but I probably bought it for him. He compared it to "Hunger Games" because they're both future-dystopias. This was a very quick read. One evening I sat down and read 150 pages, which annoyed the boy. (He read "Bitten" after me, by the way, and told me to buy the other books in the series, so I guess he liked it. This is shaping up to be a month of sequels, because I bet I start "Pretties" when I'm done the library book I just got...) The ending was highly unsatisfying, though I do have books two and three lying around, fortunately.

"Maelstrom" by Peter Watts. Sequel to "Starfish", which I read last month. It's kind of weird to come across something that I enjoy so much due to such sucking circumstances on the part of the author, but whatever. The future where the internet has become almost useless in its corruptedness seemed true to me.

"A Paradise Built in Hell" by Rebecca Solnit. I first came across her in newsmagazine stories about the Haiti earthquake. Specifically, there were references to "elite panic—the conviction of the powerful that their own Hobbesian corporate ethic is innate in all of us, that in the absence of centralized authority, only cannibalism can reign." Hence, I looked her up and read her "Wanderlust" a couple of months ago, because there was a waiting list on this one. I really like her writing style and turns of phrase (coercive utopia, etc.) It feels to me like she takes pains to note the counter-arguments to her position, and I like that. This book made me a little bit sad, because the social changes that take place during disaster seem so not permanent.

"Queen of Candesce" by Karl Schroeder. He was the Writer in Residence at the Merril Collection (maybe still is?) and I'd read the first book in this series (Son of Suns) back in February. He talked a bit about the writing of this book when I met with him back in April. And it was cool, so I thought I'd read it. The plot was good -- early on Venera Fanning loses the Key to Candesce, and while she's not exactly the person I'd want having something like that, even less are the people who take it from her. It's set in Virga again, which is a really cool world. Once again, the romance portion of the story seemed sudden, and I felt like I'd missed something about 80% through, but the ending was reasonable and wow, what a great world. As awesome as Ringworld, but with better characters.

"Coraline" by Neil Gaiman. I loved the running Caroline gag. NG really knows how to put a story together.

Update--last minute addition. "Pretties" by Scott Westerfield. These are awesome and addictive. The world is so interesting, and the main character's voice is so interesting, because she's so awesomely an unreliable narrator, with the pretty brain and being bubbly and all. And hoverboards rock.

I started this just before karate camp, and finished on the bus back from the reception at the Merril Collection for Karl Schroeder. I need to get out there and learn how to interact with other writers or something. Someone told me about a crit group that I might try.

In process -- May 2010

Manners. First draft novel. 95% complete.

"Dolphin". Got reviewed 3 times on OWW. I really meant to have this finished and sent out to its first market by the end of the month, but that just doesn't seem realistic today. I'm just doing a last pass to tighten it up, and then it's so out of here.

"TheBogWitch". Typed May 6 (9900 words), second draft structural -- made a beginning and an ending May 10 (7300 words), third draft pacing -- cut each backstory reference in about half May 18 (5500 words), fourth draft character/dialog -- decharacter'd someone, gave everyone motivations May 25 (5416 words).

Karate Zombies. Karate camp weekend seemed like the time to target reading this, so I printed it out, but I read "Pretties" by Scott Westerfield instead. Sigh.

Morrigan. I have about four inches of the body.
VK Gloves. Finished.
Noro Henley. Back complete, front... nowhere near.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The connection

Today's recommendations (chosen just for me!) were:

"From Dead to Worse" by Charlaine Harris. I did buy the 7-volume box set last year from Heather, but she seems to think it's the only thing I've ever bought.

"Hunted" by PC Cast & Kristin Cast. I know nothing about this book.

"The Summoning" by Kelley Armstrong. Heather really wants me to have this book, obviously.

What had I been searching for on the website before this email came in? That German Zen Archery book. Hmph.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It just seems wrong to be happy I couldn't sleep

I'd been editing BogWitch and come across a missing scene, and when I was lying down, it kept popping into my consciousness. Obviously I wasn't going to sleep until I wrote it down, so I got up and, well, I wrote a dialog spine. Just the words the characters said, no attributions, nothing.

161 words. Awesome.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Maybe she knows me after all

This week I have received two missives from Heather. On Monday she suggested six "fresh new faces in fiction", one of which sounded interesting: Angelology by Danielle Trussoni. The amazon reviews were patchy, though.

And today she suggested The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, which was funny, because I'd put it on my list last week, even though the amazon reviews said the writing (or maybe the translation) was cliche-ridden.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Word of the day: pseudepigraphia

I would hate to name the sequel to Apocryphal this, because I don't think I can say it.
Also, that would imply I would have to write a sequel to Apocryphal, and I think I need to re-draft Apocryphal first. (If redraft is the right word -- I may need to start again and rewrite the whole damn thing from scratch.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Word of the day: Ommatidia

At work, we were trying to think of a new name for a product we make that shows lots of little images (because we were being sued because of our old name). Thumbnails seem similar to the complex or compound eyes that bugs have, and we started looking for technical terms for that. Comparing our products to a fly eye turned out to be a bad idea, because flies are kind of short-sighted, and blurry vision didn't seem like the kind of thing we'd want to imply about our product. Dragonfly eyesight, on the other hand, is excellent. This name never got used on the product, not because it's not absolutely genius, but because we never suggested it to marketing. We're tech writers, you know. Last I heard, the product was going to be named something about Airwolf.

It would be an awesome name for a collection of short stories.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Justin Bieber?? Really?

Today Heather suggested, again, that I pick up "the Reckoning" by Kelley Armstrong, which is not an unreasonable pick for me, though I don't know how she arrived at it.

But Justin Bieber? Clearly, Heather thinks I am 12 years old. I just downloaded some Andrew Bird to improve my cool-cred.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Freaky meta

About four pages from the end of the short story I just typed, suddenly things went all meta and my characters started ranting about how the story had no ending. The strange thing is, it sort of worked, and (if I rewrite the beginning) it might sort of work work, and I might leave it in.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

How does she do it?

Today I got an email from "my good friend Heather" suggesting some books I'd like to read. They were:
  • "Pretties"
  • "Marked" by Kristin Cast
  • "The Summoning" by Kelley Armstrong
How did Heather know I'd just finished "Uglies" on Saturday? I bought it probably a year ago (and I already have "Pretties", so she's out of luck on selling me that). I finished "Bitten" by Kelley Armstrong what, two weeks ago? How did she know? I didn't even buy it from Heather, I got it as a gift. And the last crop of books I bought from Heather were "Creating Language Crimes", "The Book of Jubilees" and ... oh hell, I forget what. Not YA. Neither of which I read.


Typing up a short story I wrote longhand a while back, I can only hope that this character is named Jiles, because I don't think even I would have named two characters in the same short story Julia and Jules. Well, not unless they were related, and they are not.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Surprisingly un-negative

It only seems like I'm posting a lot today, really I'm just cleaning out my draft folder.

Apparently the Merril Collection is not the enemy, contrary to what I wrote somewhere around here before.

I had a one-on-one meeting with the TPL writer-in-residence at the Merril Collection, and it was a surprisingly positive experience. I was left with the feeling that I could actually publish this stuff. We discussed my editing issues extensively. Like how I don't like it and that makes it kind of hard to even get started, and that maybe I don't like it because I don't know when to stop, and it's out of control and I need a strategy for when to quit it and let the market be the judge of the crapness of my work, rather than being that judge myself.

Though I have some lovely form rejections to argue that point.

And I learned the term "fish head" which is where I've got that boring infodump at the start of the story (in the case of this story, the page-and-a-half of exposition before the characters start talking to eachother. Because when you've caught a fish, the first thing you do is chop the fish head off.

I explained the origin of the story, and where I'd stolen the main character from, and he suggested I let the reader know the timeframe and the place, and maybe explain what that platform is doing out in the mouth of the Salween Delta. And that the only real problem is that my main character is very passive. I mentiond that originally, one of the other characters had been the POV character, and he said that could be interesting. But I don't think I'm going back, at this point. Uncle George is an odious character in my mind, and I can't really come up with a "Pat the dog" moment for him (another phrase I learned -- you can make the character as nasty as you want, and then you give him a moment when he does something surprisingly decent, and everything is okay between that character and the reader).

Out there -- April 2010

"Unicorn". Rejected by market #4. Need to get this sucker out again.

Read two stories on OWW in April, also, which is good but not good enough. I think I've got a system now.

In Process, April 2010

Manners. First draft novel. 95% complete. While I was at Ad Astra watching a panel on Time Management for Writers, I realized that I just have to finish this thing, so I can move on to something else. It's around 90,000 words, and time to wrap up.

"Dolphin". Short Story. Editing. I decided that it was trying too hard, and took out any sentence that seemed overworked. This got rid of 300+ words. Then I sent it to the TPL writer-in-residence. I also let Ed read it, and he said he didn't understand what was going on with the experiment with the dolphin, and what George's goal was with the surgery on Honorine, so I guess I took out too much. Oh well, back to the drawingboard.
I rewrote the intro and realized that I was just moving things around, and each draft is not better than the last because of that. So I stopped. This story is now up on OWW.

"Bezoar". Short Story. I find myself putting back things I've taken out. I think I'll try one more draft and then let people look at it, too.

"Troll". Short story. 400 words of start.

"Cats". It's a flash fiction that I've typed up and am thinking through.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

What I read -- April 2010

"Pirate Latitudes" by Michael Crichton. It wasn't "The Pyrates" by any means. I think I tend to read more challenging books than this. It connectss interestingly (to me anyway) to the discussion Justine Larbalestier started about "crap" books. I don't think "Twilight" is any worse than "The Davinci Code" or this. I don't think it's a YA problem. It's that easy-to-digest books might sell better than harder ones sometimes. The flap said that this completed manuscript was found in Crichton's files after he died. I think it had been in there a long time, and needed a good copy-edit. Though the section about navigation into an island surrounded by a reef, directly into the sun, was really interesting and cool.

"Starfish" by Peter Watts. The boy says it should be called "Sea Star", because starfish aren't fish. And then he calls "Bill 157" because fish swim in schools, and therefore bill 157 applies. Bill 157 is an Ontario (I think) law that says that students can complain when other students offend them (or more accurately, I think, teachers can complain when students ought to be offended). I read it because I came across the author's blog due to his recent "situation" and I guess personal debacles are good marketing after all. The book was good. I read it in two days. I didn't find it overly depressing, and the characters were interesting. I liked the multiple POVs, especially where the psychologist has his breakdown. Funny.

"The Genius in all of us" by David Shenk. Ties in nicely with the "if you want it, you'll find time to write" theme that I got from Ad Astra. Also, deliberate practice: need to get me some of that. It's full of the 10,000 hours meme.

"Bitten" by Kelley Armstrong. Saw her on two panels at Ad Astra. This book totally sucked me in. By the time I was in chapter 2, I was totally interested in the main character and how she was going to handle the complex situation she found herself in. Also, the prologue has the main character running as a werewolf through the ravines of Toronto, and those same ravines are a big part of my life and my novel Apocryphal, so that made me happy.

The boy took it with him on a school trip. I wonder if I'm going to get questions from the staff advisors when he gets back...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Another freaky moment in parenting

Last night I made Rachael Ray's Steak Nicoise for dinner. As the boy was sitting down, he asked if this was "the one he likes", which would either be Brutus Salad or Italian Cobb Salad. I said no, this one was a cross between those two. And if he likes those, then he'll like this, also.

The boy said "Not necessarily, mom. I mean, you like ponies, and you like monkeys, right?"

And I replied "Maybe you used too many monkeys."

Yep, that was an odd moment of Jonathan Coulton bonding.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Robyn's rule #3: if you find a problem, fix it

When I'm editing a story, I have this horrible tendency to move things around rather than fix them. Maybe I write a paragraph on scrap paper during a meeting at work, or I decide some piece of text belongs at the beginning of the story to explain the world (I often move all the boring exposition to the start of the story, for example, in a second or third draft, making the intro nigh unto unreadable). I drop this text into a spot as I move through the document to the end, and then I make another draft, rinse and repeat.

And as I progress, each draft doesn't get better. Well, maybe the ending does, but the beginning gets heavier and heavier and that's what people read first so I'm kind of screwing myself. I'm not sure; I have this thing in my head that generally each story starts out not that bad after the first draft, and then through subsequent edits got worse and worse. But that's wishful thinking and the first draft was probably crap and all subsequent drafts are crap also, but for a different reason. Like the first draft the POV was all wrong, and now the POV is functioning correctly but I've lost any sort of narrative flow because I've dropped a whole bunch of paragraphs next to each other, just sticking it somewhere so it's out of my way and I can move on.

This nasty habit probably came from my TechWriting day-job, where you can just stick in a heading, and make the text go any way you want, because it's not a narrative and doesn't have to flow. And people won't use it in a linear fashion, anyway.

So I resolve, Robyn's Rule #3: when I move a block of text to a new spot, I have to make it so it fits. I know it's broken and doesn't flow smoothly from one paragraph to the next, so I have to do the massaging now. That text isn't going to massage itself into the hole while I'm sleeping, or somehow during the printing process, or when I save the file.

In the story I'm working on now, I made an actual dumping ground for blocks of text that I love, but just can't find a spot for. I guess it's the darlings graveyard.

And the next thing I start editing is going to be the zombie novel, and I don't want to screw that up like I've screwed up everything else. This fear is probably holding me back from starting, actually.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ad Astra 2010

This was my first con ever. On Friday I went and Ed came with me, and that might not have been a good idea, because what he wants out of something like this and what I want are completely different. I went back on Saturday morning and attended two panels:

"Editing your own work". Concluded here that I might be doing too many drafts. When I make a second draft, I don't think I'm working with the expectation that the next draft should be better and more readable than the first, and this is why subsequent drafts get worse and worse until the story is completely unreadable. Starting today, I am revising my process with Bezoar and Dolphin, which I would like to have "done to me" (send to OWW or somewhere) by the end of the month. Then I can move on to Zombie, which I would really like to not ruin.

"Young adult novels". Heard the concept "new adult novel" to refer to books about 18-21s, the black hole of fiction. This was the most packed room I was in all weekend, I think. All it did was confirm that I need to finish Zombie.

Sunday I attended three panels:

"How to get an agent". I liked the fact that the four people on the panel had all got agents in different ways. Adrienne Kress is clearly very passionate about this topic. Apparently I need to learn to be polite and professional, like all the time.

"Crossed Genres". I asked a question. That was very exciting for me.

"Time Management for Writers". Yeah, the conclusion wasn't that there was a trick, but that if you want to do it, you'll find the time. And that's completely fair.

The location worked great for me. I rode my bike down both Saturday and Sunday. Maybe next year I'll try to go to a reading or a book launch or something. Or maybe at Polaris, which I guess I can't ride my bike to.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Robyn's rule #2: write first, then knit

Every time I write first, and then knit, the writing goes better. And the knitting always goes fine, regardless. Why do I repeatedly forget this lesson?

Today I reached the end of "The Bezoar" again. This one may be progressing past the "too embarrassing to share" stage, which is nice.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Word of the day: Schoolcadian rhythm

Yeah, that's two words. And I just made it up. But the boy had four days off in a row (Good Friday, the weekend, and then Easter Monday), which has disrupted his schoolcadian rhythm, his ability to get into gear to go to school on time.

Monday, April 05, 2010

It's for our own good

Last hour, I was watching "Cities of the Underworld", which is awesome. Now I see this.

Oh, Toronto. Stop being so safe.

Sunday, April 04, 2010


Back last year sometime I developed a weird, freakish affection for a pair of parks in my neighbourhood. One is Charles Sauriol, which consisted at the time of a boarded-up house, some nasty gardens, and a narrow trail that travels along the east side of the East Don river. Once we followed it (the trail disappeared in places, but we persevered) all the way from Lawrence, where the park starts, to Eglinton Ave. The other park is Moccasin Trail. It's on the west side of the Don Valley Parkway, and has a graffiti-laden tunnel under the highway, and then an archway (the DVP rainbow) under a railway line. The two parks look at one another from the two sides of the Don river, but there's no way to cross except over a rail bridge, of which there are two options, if you walk south and kind of out of Moccasin Trail park. Except last year for a while there was a construction bridge -- footings and a metal slab that they apparently drove a backhoe over. I thought it was a great place for a bridge, but I can see where the people in charge might have thought that it was a bit close to the highway, and hence the city would be sued if I crazily wandered out into traffic or something.

In my urban fantasy novel, I put North York's hellmouth (Scalzi suggested I make it a hellhole, and I might do that, so as not to seem too Buffyish) near the intersection of the two rail lines, in these parks.

Anyway. Having not been there for several months, because Ed hates to go to the same park over and over, and it was winter and all, on Friday I rode my bike past the barrier and down the hill to the park.

Much to my chagrin (because I was looking forward to an extremely short ride) I could ride all the way almost to the second (lower) rail bridge. At some point over the course of the fall and winter, the city, or the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, took the trail from being a narrow dirt footpath to being a pedestrian mall. It's covered with wood chips now, but I bet that will change. They put a bridge in (it's blocked off for now, but when has that ever stopped us?) so we no longer have to trespass on rail lands to cross the river, but they're already starting to fence off the areas around the rail bridges.

Bitterest of ironies, signs around the entryway of the park announced woodland naturalization.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Out there: March 2010

"Unicorn" - Out to market #3. Still.

In process, March 2010

Manners. First draft novel. 90% complete. When this is done, I think I will do some short stories as my daily words. I am sick, sick, sick of this pointless crap.

"Dolphin". Short Story. Editing. I decided that it was trying too hard, and took out any sentence that seemed overworked. This got rid of 300+ words. Then I sent it to the TPL writer-in-residence. I also let Ed read it, and he said he didn't understand what was going on with the experiment with the dolphin, and what George's goal was with the surgery on Honorine, so I guess I took out too much. Oh well, back to the drawingboard.

"Bezoar". Short Story. Third draft. Returned to this, made it a bit less disgusting.

"In a Nutshell". Short Story. 233 words of start.

"Mary Alice Goes to Hell". I had about 1500 words from January, and I finished the draft, which came to around 5000 words.

Friday, April 02, 2010

What I read: March, 2010

"The Man from St. Petersburg" Ken Follett. Oh. My. God. I read it because we had two copies lying around. Ick. This book made me feel dirty. I made some negative comment about this book to my sister, who repled "I've read every book he's ever written." I think she's mad at me now.
This book was all tell, no show. There was no tension. The sex was funny. It reminded me of my dad's novel. It seemed well-researched, from what I can tell. When my friend said that of my karate-zombie novel, I took it as damning with faint praise, so there you go. There was no female character with whom I could identify. Or male character, for that matter. I don't need a woman to be a role model. I really strongly disliked this book.

"Wanderlust" Rebecca Solnit. I'd come across her name in a discussion of the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, and came across this when I was looking for her other book on the TPL website. As walking is an integral part of my creative process, of course I was interested. I was afraid this book was going to be a slog, but I was regularly surprised by how quickly it went. It made me think how lucky I am to live where I do. In Britain, a lot of places you can't walk because the land is privately owned; in a lot of times and places women especially were thought to be questionable if they walked, especially if they walked alone, that I live in an inner suburb, so it's not so bad as being in a genuine suburb for walking, but made me want to move closer to the centre of the city. Interestingly, the book confirmed some of Ken Follett's heavy research -- e.g., Mrs. Pankhurst, a suffragette leader in Britain in the 1910's. The section on urban environments, especially, reminded me of "Palimpsest". Sometimes when I read non-fiction, I find the book getting repetitive after the first third or so. Not this one. She had enough material, covered in enough depth. Solnit's sentences were nicely crafted, and the book was well-structured. I highly recommend this book.

"Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins. The boy got this for Christmas and then lost Hunger Games, so he bought that himself so he could read it again before reading this. I did not do that. I keep getting emails from "My good friend Heather Reisman" about the third book in the series, which I can pre-order now, coming out August 24. My favorite part was the second email, now with a title: Mockingjay. That's a surprise (not). I picked it up and started reading, and realized it's written in first person present. So's my karate zombie novel! So it can be successful!
I didn't read "Hunger Games" again before starting this one, and the only thing I kept wondering about was the bit about the poison berries. It was good, but not as good as the first. The ending left me a little unsatisfied, and not just because I have to wait for the sequel, but because I wish there were more clues about what had been really going on coming up on the last chapter, like the way in the first book I spent so much time yelling at Katniss not to be so dense. I wanted more of that feeling of being smarter than her in this one, and I didn't get it, and that made me sad. I wonder if the boy got that, though? I should ask him.

"Monstrous Affections" by David Nickle. Bought this at the signing in Toronto in November (or was it October?). Once I knew who he was, his name started cropping up everywhere, which amuses me. He co-wrote something with Karl Schroeder and was thanked in the Karl S. book I read last month, he's mentioned on Scalzi's blog and Making Light with regard to the whole Peter Watts debacle. He's at Ad Astra. Anyway, the stories are good.

OWW: One short story (I also read a story by one of my VP classmates). I need to practice this reviewing thing more. Once a week? Is that achievable? the story I chose, the author had a specific writing problem she wanted reviewers to address. That was easier than just reading a story with a vague admonition to point out any flaws. Maybe I will use this as my approach to reviewing in the future.

Today in research
Bought two books: "Creating Language Crimes" by Roger Shuy
"The Book of Jubilees" which is an apocrypha, or maybe a pseudepigraphia

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Indian Winter

If that's not a racist thing to call it, it's what we're having now. I made it up, but it's defined as when the weather goes back below zero after the first commercial patio day. And we went to the Firkin's patio last Friday.

Indian winter is nice for running, though. There's a construction site on my run, and a lot of mud. Today it was nicely firmed up, though I had to run around, not through, because they were working (on a Saturday!). I guess they're behind schedule already.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Word of the day: Wendigo

I first encountered this word a few weeks ago on Leah Bobet's blog, but I skipped over and paid it no nevermind. Anyway, it caught my eye again today when I was reading a short story. So I googled it. In November, I did like an hour of research of first-nations (specifically ojicree) mythology when I was writing the zombie karate novel. How did I not find this? How did I not learn about wendigos (wendigoes?) when I was learning mythology in high school English? And manitous? One of my friends goes to Camp Manitou every summer. How did I not know? Was I asleep? Is this proof of my ADD which no one else agrees I have? What?

I'm not needing to culturally appropriate or anything, but it would have been cool to know.

Also, this is awesome: Not sure I ever finished a Heinlein novel. I know I didn't finish "The number of the beast" on account of I found it totally sexist. When I was 15.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The weirdest thing happened

Last night I opened the file with my newest short story in it, and found the spot where I'd left off, and put my fingers on the keyboard, and about 600 words fell in. Nice.

I realized I just can't stand to edit all this crap

So I started writing new, fresh words.

How can I make things not get worse when I edit them? I am so scared to even look at the zombie thing.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Jobs I don't want

Today I was surfing a job posting website in my field, and I came across this skill/requirement:
Ability to gather, clarify and apply information transmitted verbally,
while exhibiting a genuine interest toward the speaker.

Too funny.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Seems like spring

Last Sunday we went cross-country skiing. Yesterday (Sunday) we went rollerblading. Weird.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Readers, having them

Yesterday my friend finished reading the karate zombie novel, which I find amazing. He got through the whole thing! He suggested I add a couple of chapters to give closure on some of the minor characters, which I don't know, may be necessary. I haven't read it.

And I sent off Dolphin to the TPL writer-in-residence, which should provide interesting feedback. We'll see.

So I think I'll give Dolphin a couple of weeks of rest, and work on Bezoar in the meantime.

And maybe start reading my karate zombie novel.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

In process, Feb 2010

Manners. First draft novel. 85% complete.

"Dolphin". Short Story. Editing -- just finished the 4th draft? Got the POV right now. Trying to heighten the horror or tension or, well, anything. If every story has a flaw that you just have to get the reader to ignore, I think the flaw of this story is that nothing much happens in the first half. Maybe somehow I can fix that, or make my poor innocent readers ignore it.

"Bezoar". Short Story. Third draft.

"In a Nutshell". 233 words of start.

Out there, Feb 2010

"Unicorn" - Out to market #3. Still.

I need to get something else in circulation.

Monday, March 01, 2010

What I read -- Feb 10

I intended to read five books this month so that I could keep on track to 52 books this year, but somehow that didn't work out. I blame Maire (sweater) that I was knitting.

"Sun of Suns" by Karl Schroeder. He's the TPL writer-in-residence right now, so I thought I should read something he wrote in case I decide to go to one of his lectures or submit my work to him (I was thinking I would submit something, but I'm afraid he'll be all full up by the time I'm ready). He thanks David Nickle in the acknowledgements, another Toronto one degree of separation thing. Does every F/SF/H writer in TO owe David Nickle? V. strange. I didn't like the italic font, and the love interest sub-plot for the main character seemed very sudden. Other than that, it was a neat world, with neat characters. Way better than Ringworld.

Clearly I don't read enough hard SF.

"The Invisible Hook" by Peter T. Leeson. An entertaining look at how golden age pirates (1716-1726) ran their businesses. Because pirate ships were stolen and therefore were kind of owned collectively (or not at all), and because piracy was/is illegal, they were able to make progressive-seeming business decisions. I liked it so much I guess I bubbled, because everyone else in the house wants to read it, too. I kept telling the boy there's no plot, but he insists that's fine. Somehow I made the book sound like mario cart, apparently.

On both the OWW and VP lists, there were discussions recently about how no one reads the preface, and if you have one, just make it chapter 1... Both these books had prefaces that were treated as chapter 1. This annoyed me. Especially the "chapter 1" of the pirate book put me off and made me think it was going to be a much slower, more boring read than it was. I wonder if at some point the same people who now don't read the prolog or preface or introduction are going to stop reading Chapter 1, also.

"Wondrous Strange" Lesley Livingston. I got it for Christmas, presumably because I asked for it. It was on my list, though I don't remember why. Someone must have said it was good. And it was. It covered some of the same ground as, say, Holly Black's "tithe" or those Cassandra Clare books. There was a lot of "Midsummer Night's Dream" in it, which I also have characters out of in Toothbrushing Club (need to work on that, almost pulled out the draft....) But they are different characters than I used, which is good. Toronto author.

While I was reading this, I had a moment of annoyance with JKRowling, which I guess is odd and random. There are a lot of faerie creatures that come up in those stories -- bogarts, red caps, etc., -- and if you don't read much, you think those are her ideas. I'd like her to have done acknowledgements at some point in one of the seven books. That's all.

I had a title about X-C skiing, but I forgot it...

...which is kind of lame. I did get to go cross-country skiing twice this weekend. These were probably the only two times I'll get to do that this winter, because the snow is going fast. It was nice to get some, though.

I think it's time to start planning my approach to editing the karate zombie thing. I'd like to not wreck it.

Finished Maire by Margaret Mills. Maybe later I'll photograph it and put it on Ravelry. It came out well.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I need a title theme system, because this is killing me.

Today while I was having my (adult) karate class, over in the kids' class, I heard a black belt tell the 10 to 14-year-olds, "Yesterday I went to a really interesting kinesiology convention." And I thought to myself, they probably don't think that's a really interesting convention.

Also today, my karate friend who is reading my karate zombie novel told me he's on page 205 (of 285). I'm amazed by that. He said he was trying to guess which characters were based on which members of our dojo. I guess that could keep you going.

And I just spent the last hour rolling grape leaves for a potluck tomorrow. The problem: we're having a snowstorm right now. The potluck might not have anyone at it, if no one can get to work. At least stuffed grape leaves are a meal, if I'm the only one there. What if it's only me, and someone who made a cake?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

On readers, absence of

One of my karate buddies volunteered to read the karate zombie novel from November, but then never gave me his email address. Maybe he's waiting to give me his business card or something. Maybe I shouldn't have told him so many times that the novel is unreadable. I need to practice in a mirror saying "just skip the boring parts" perhaps.

Late Night Baking

Boston Cupcakes: according to the cookbook, mace gives them a special New England twist.

Um, yeah. But everyone liked them.

I am happy to say I don't hate the dolphin story so much anymore. Sick to death of it, yes, but not hatred. This is an improvement.

A couple of days ago on there was a suggestion about taking things from conception to completion (shut up, despite having posted a link, I'm writing this from memory rather) in the shortest time possible. With the dolphin story, I have not done this. For some reason a few weeks ago in editing, I dumped like four pages of exposition into the first act of the story. It's a short story. It can't take that sort of weighing down. In the last couple of evenings, I've taken most of that back out.

What I think I can improve:
1. Write a better first draft (probably less with the endless exposition).
2. Edit more efficiently.

Maybe if I practice editing things I've written recently, I will start to write things with an eye to editing them? At my day-job I try to always keep a manual in a reasonably "close to finished" state. It reads logically from start to finish, doesn't have huge chunks of half-written crap, so that I can always fire off a draft to someone who needs it for QA purposes, or who just wants to find out what the product does. And yet my story-editing system is completely destructive of the first draft. Often it takes three or four more drafts before I am able to read a story through again, after a somewhat readable but exposition-heavy first draft.

Maybe the next story will go smoother.

But at least I have cupcakes.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Oh my god I hate this story

So it's like the third or fourth day in a row that I've been looking at the Dolphin story, and the beginning is SO boring, and nothing happens until about page eight (of 26), and there's tons of exposition. And the writing is crap, and there's no point even fixing it, until I know which paragraphs should actually stay. And I've moved so many things around now that there is no flow. Every place where two paragraphs used to flow one to the next, now there's invariably some chunk of nonsense dropped in the middle.

I will never finish anything, not even this 5000-word story.

But at least I got it back down to 5000 words. That's something, I guess.

Oh, and the ending is pretty good, I think. At least, it's good compared to the rest of the story, which is crap.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

In Process, Jan 2010

Manners. First draft novel. 80% complete.

"Dolphin". Short Story. Editing -- just finished the 3rd draft. Got the POV right now.

"Bezoar". Short Story. Third draft. Made some really good progress with this one this month. Last night in my big mission was to make it clear in the first five pages what this story is about, because I seem to have a problem with that. And rather than write first, then knit, I edited and knitted at the same time. When I try to make the changes in the soft copy today, I guess I'll see how that worked.

Printed some of the karate zombie thing, never really worked on it. Felt like going back to Toothbrush maybe.

Extremely poor focus this month. My interior life has gone all haywire. I need beta blockers or adderal or both.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Out there -- Jan 10

"Unicorn" - Just came back again. That's twice. On today's list I have to get it out to #3.

This is the first time in my life, I think, that I've ever sent something out twice. Always in the past, and remember this was in the dark ages of juvinilia, I would send something out, and no matter how pleasant the rejection letter (and I did get a few personal ones) I would always decide that the story sucked and file it away. I probably still have those files. I should pull the stories out and find out how badly they really did suck.

Writing avoidance project: Instead of actually working on the novel, I bought several books to read for research. So I guess at some point I'll have to actually read Dante and Milton, and some actual apocrypha.

This time next month, it would be sweet to have another story circulating. God, I wish I didn't edit so slowly. Though last night I did manage to do the "write first, then knit" thing that I mentioned before, and I got to the end, again, of Dolphin. It needs at least one more pass through before I can let others read it. Some sentences still seemed randomly placed.

Monday, February 01, 2010

What I read -- Jan 10

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" by Mark Haddon. I saw this book on many "best of year" lists maybe four or five years ago, but I'm not sure I ever put it on a list. The boy was reading it for school, so I picked it up and read 106 pages the first day, and then finished it two days later when the boy brought it home special so I could finish it (he'd already finished it). He thought Christopher was arrogant. I thought Christopher did some amazing things, especially considering his challenges, and his parents were a pretty disfunctional lot, and it was a good thing he had Siobhan, a sane, rational adult. I gather from the intro that the author spent a lot of time with autistic people, which made the characterization good. The details -- lists of items, etc. -- were hysterical and totally appropriate for the character to notice. Some of them I sort of skipped over, like the descriptions of the signs in the train station, but the box of meusli was brilliant.

"Debugging" by David J Agans. This looked a lot more interesting on the shelf of the R&D library than it was when I got it home, but I did slog through. It kept referring to the more interesting bits that would be in the next chapter, and laughed at its own jokes, but it was informative.

"Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned" by Wells Tower. Short stories. I read a couple of rave reviews, or maybe the same rave review twice. As I'm writing a lot of short stories right now, reading a lot of them seemed like a good idea. The first two I didn't like that much. I felt like they wanted more editing. The characters were interesting, and the situations, and the sentences were grammatical, but it felt like he didn't read that much fiction. The third story, the one about the dad with something like alzheimer's, really resonated. The other stories were okay, I got through them, but then the title story, which closed the volume, was awesome. I loved the voice in that story, because it was the same modern voice as the other stories, but displaced into whenever the vikings were doing their thing, like 700 AD, and applied our relationship values and work ethic to their social order. It was extremely entertaining. Though I'm glad there was only one of those in the book. More would have been too much.

"The Changeover" by Margaret Mahy. This was highly recommended by Justine Larbalestier. The author is a New Zealander, and as such, there were some sentence structures that seemed odd to my ear. Particularly, the use of "for" in the middle of sentences where normally I would have "because" in the first draft, and then take it out in the second and make a separate sentence. Once I got used to that, the story moved along nicely. Justine was right -- it was a neat way to show a relationship between two teenagers in an imbalance-of-power situation (she's 14, he's 17, he's a prefect and a witch...). There was magic, and that was cool, but really the interesting thing in the story was the complex and evolving relationships between all the characters. It made me think in Toothbrush, I need to work on the relationship between Claire and her sister, and Claire and her mother, and maybe even her sister and her mother....

"The Magicians" by Lev Grossman. Bought it in North Conway in August, at an independent bookstore for full price. Who does that anymore? Started it in August. It was a good story, but I found it very put-downable, maybe because it's a hard cover so not portable, and also, whenever characters in a story start doing too much coke, I tend to be put off. That's just me. It's my issue, but it makes me really uncomfortable. I can read two or three pages of that, and I have to take a break. It took me forever to read Lost Girls a couple of years ago. Unbelievably, this book took me longer to read than the sleeve of Morrigan, which I finished on January 30. There were some good sections, where I could read 50 pages at a sitting, but then it would bog down and lose its lightness and fun and become a slog for 20 or 30 pages. Not sure if it was me or the book. I loved the mash-up of Narnia and Harry Potter, and how adult interpretations of everything kind of bog them down, but the ending was harrowing.

OWW: One. Meant to read another, but also meant to put something up there, and never did that either. Feb will be better.