Thursday, February 28, 2013

What I read: February 2013

Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure by Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith. This was a gift. So, mine is: “Still trying to monetize my daydreams.” What’s yours?

“PercyJackson 5: The Last Olympian” by Rick Riordan. Now I can stop. Phew. The server at our Saturday restaurant had been bugging me to finish.

“Conrad’sFate” by Diana Wynne Jones. She is just such a good writer.

“TheLast Ringbearer” by Kirill Eskov. I don’t know why I started this, since I had two things going already. This is basically a fanfic, not worth reading unless you know the Lord of the Rings pretty well. In true fanfic tradition, the  dialog was occasionally painful. Every time Faramir called Eowen “baby” I just cringed, and I just can’t imagine Gandalf calling Saruman an asshole.  It was originally written in Russian, and there are some problems with the verb tenses – past perfect seems to have turned to present tense. This made some of the time flow difficult for me to follow. There was a whole sequence in the middle with a thriller-style thing happening with a Gondorian spy/baron that I found quite confusing. I somehow expected Frodo to be the ringbearer referenced in the title, but no.Ultimately it was a fun read, if you like that sort of thing.

Monday, February 11, 2013


At the climbing gym yesterday, I climbed a short 5.8 for a warmup, then went over to a short 5.10- I had failed on the last time we were there, thinking it would be good to try while I was fresh (I might have been fresh the last time I tried it, too, actually). It took a lot of flailing and fighting and tugging, but I did it! My first 5.10-!

And then Ed climbed something, and then I tried a longer 5.9 (while I was still fresh) that was rather easy in comparison. There were hand and footholds everywhere! then Ed climbed the 5.9, which was really awesome because he hurt his elbow a few weeks ago and he's been trying to build himself back up to climbing things that require arms.

And then I tried a 5.9 on the stalactite, which is the highest part of the gym. There was a staff guy belaying kids the next spot over, and when I finished that 5.9, he said yeah, he thought that was actually harder than the 5.10- on the other side of the stalactite. So I tried that too. And he was right, the 5.9 was harder.

Then I did a short 5.9, that the guy said ended with a 5.11 move with 5.9 holds. It was one of those things where you have to practically lay sideways on the wall to get up. There's this little muscle just under my ribs that is saying "hello" now.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Tense and POV

One of last month's short stories had some tense and POV problems. I might have intended to do it as first-person, but I started in third for some inexplicable reason, so there are spots in the first draft where I'd write something on scrap paper and integrate it later, and it wouldn't match.

Anyway, that was an obvious place to start the second draft, cleaning up the tense and POV. So I picked one. Changing the verb in every sentence and a noun in about half gets boring really fast, so I resorted to search-and-replace. "Jeremy said" and "said Jeremy" became "I say", which is reasonable. Then every other instance of "said". Then every instance of "was" became "is", but this was a problem because I apparently overused the word "wash" in this story, about 50 times or so it seems. I should have chosen "was " (with a space after it) to "is " I think. "They" became "we" and "were" became "are". I started searching for "ed" but that was too tedious because I couldn't just replace it with "e", "es", or nothing.

And then I started reading the story and it read sort of like something written by one of my beloved non-native Engish speaking colleagues, some of whom I think get text strings auto-translated. Does anyone know of a good list of words to search and replace for, and also what would be the best order?

Friday, February 01, 2013

What I read -- January 2013

“Fragile Things” by Neil Gaiman. I’d read some of these before, so the entire thing didn’t take long to read. I realized about 2/3 of the way through that as much as I love NG books, I would never have written any of these stories. The things I obsess about are so different! I read this while also editing a too-long short story, and got an infusion of how to write cleaner, I think.

“Changeless” by Gail Carriger. TNH had tweeted a link to a Jane Eyre/Firefly fanfic mash-up as part of (I guess) a discussion about how much exposition readers really require (less than you think). And I had gotten this book out of the library because I had to get out something, since I had to renew my library card. It’s book 2 of a series, and I haven’t read book 1 (and it wasn’t in at the branch, though 3&4 also were). So it was neat to read and rely, for a change, on that exposition that you have to wade through when you start a second book and you already know what’s going on. Either it was done really well here, or maybe I would be happier if I didn’t tend to read series so much back-to-back-to-back. Though when I finished this one, I was totally ready to start the next one (if I had it). The story was a bit soap opera, but moved right along, and so much changed at the ending.

“Speed Tribes” by Karl Taro Greenfeld. Holly Black mentioned this book in an interview in Locus, as a place where she got ideas for her Curse Workers series. It’s a series of journalistic (not that short) stories about different young adults in Japan in the 90’s. While I would have loved to know how these people are doing now, that’s entirely not necessary. Each little tale had a wonderful ending. The one about the motorcycle thief was my favorite. Some of the one-star reviews on Amazon said it was racist, but I didn’t see that. Maybe I lack the context to be able to tell. At a certain point the stories started seeming not totally verifiably true.

“Quatrain” by Sharon Shinn. It’s a collection of four novellas, each set in one of the author’s distinct worlds. The first one the world was really neat, but the story was ruined for me by a problem that wrapped up way too easily near the end. The second one was great – I loved the use of language(s) in the dialog. The third one went deeper into detail on how one becomes entranced by faerie than anything else I’ve ever read. That was neat. I didn’t really get the motivation of the fairies, though. Maybe if I knew more of the world it would have made sense. And the main character of the fourth one was really interesting, though it left me wondering what else was going on. The lengths were nice.

In process -- Jan 2013

First Draft

“Don’t Choose Astronaut”. Short story. My IM status was the title of this story for a few days, and one of my TW peers asked me what it meant, so I explained, and he told me he chose demolition expert, which was good because he immediately understood what I meant when I explained the story. So I’m on the right track! This story came out of a conversation with the boy at the restaurant in maybe October. 

“Useful Things to Know”. So I didn’t have anything planned but I was thinking about memory, so I started this with a character from St. Praxis. And then on about page 3 it tied in with a theme from “The Water Leopard” and started being its own story, and quite neat, I think. 


 “XTree”. (short story) This is the story I realized I hadn’t opened since March of last year and felt bad about (see a previous post). Other than being too long and flabby, it seemed good on a re-read, so I tightened it up over two drafts and sent it away.

Probably the hardest thing for me as a writer right now is figuring out when a story is done. I have no problem writing first drafts, and I’m on my way to having a system for editing (whether I follow that system or not is another story). However, I do not know when to stop. Other people have pointed this out to me, too… or at least one person did – Karl Schroeder, when he was the writer-in-residence at TPL a couple of years ago. He drew me a revision circle that had first a plot cycle, and then character, and then setting, and then style or something like that (it’s not in front of me right now). And he told me to go through that cycle maybe twice, and then say “okay, it’s done” and send it away. I of course have not done that.

With this story I decided that when I got it down to the length I thought it was supposed to be, I would quit. Then, in order to give characters a reason to go back to the farm, on p. 7 I wrecked the ending. So I had to fix that. At a certain point I wasn’t making the story any better anymore, so it was time to move along. 

“The Delicate Art of Clairvology”. Opened it and tried to fix something I’d left a note about when I was ploughing through the first draft, but gave up. 

 “Don’t Choose Astronaut”. So I decided to try something different. This was one of my ugliest first drafts ever. There were problems with POV all over the place (like I changed from 3rd to first and then back)  so I typed it up immediately after finishing it and started a draft 2, where I’m trying out 1st person present, which I think will work for the voice.


“Biohazard”. (pullover) Second sleeve is my carry-around project. 
“Ceremonial Armour”. KF cardigan. No progress.
“Tenny Park.” Body almost done.