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