Archive for September, 2006

9/28/06: Writing-related program activities

Word count: 3113 | Since last entry: 877

Another post-Hugo rejection in today’s mail, this one from F&SF. Alas, he just bought another post-Katrina ghost story. I’d been afraid that might happen.

That made three stories requiring resubmission, so I went ahead and resubmitted them. As it happened, the story that F&SF just bounced went to Asimov’s, and the story Asimov’s bounced earlier in the week went to F&SF. The Jupiter story, which I’d intended to send to Asimov’s as soon as they replied to the previous story, had to be held back again because I wanted to send the post-Katrina story to Asimov’s before it gets any staler than it already is. So rather than let it languish any longer, I sent it to Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show — my first submission there. The story is really a better fit for Baen’s Universe, but that market’s closed until further notice (though I now see that it could reopen as early as October 1… oh well, the story’s in the email already).

It took entirely too much time to update my spreadsheet, decide where to send the three stories, and prepare the packages and emails. But I did get some more writing done. The action is cracking along nicely — in fact, I think it might be moving too fast, because the main character has some backstory that I have to lay in so that the climax will make emotional sense. (I don’t have a written outline for this one, but by now I know everything that is going to happen.) Ponder ponder ponder.

Changing topics completely… I’m considering changing my phone — I want to carry a single device instead of my web-enabled phone, Palm V, and camera. It has to have a QWERTY keyboard, and I would really prefer PalmOS to Windows Mobile, so it comes down to a Treo 650 (Cingular) or Treo 700p (Verizon or Sprint). But it seems that the minimum calling plan I can get that supports this phone’s data capabilities costs $60 (Cingular, 450 minutes + 5MB, or Sprint, 450 minutes + unlimited data), or $80 (Cingular or Verizon, 450 minutes + unlimited data) per month. My current plan (Cingular) is $40 for more minutes than I ever use + 1MB (I use maybe 50 minutes a month, but 1MB is a little too small). $240 or $480 more a year seems like a lot to pay for email and web on my phone. Any advice?

9/26/06: Chugga chugga

Word count: 2236 | Since last entry: 623

The story’s moving along, and the rivets are flying. I may need to engineer a pause soon to work in some critical backstory. (“Engineer.” “Work in.” “Critical.” Yep, it’s a Baen story all right, with a protagonist who’s an engineer and a soldier.) Also, I’m almost halfway into a 5000-word story and the real problem hasn’t even appeared yet. Some of what I have just written may have to be jettisoned. (“Jettisoned.” Yep.)

As important as it is to me to finish this by this weekend, I still have some critiques and submissions and stuff to do this week, so I’m setting down the draft right now in favor of some of that. Sleep would also be good — I have an early meeting tomorrow.

But first, this public service announcement: the deadline for the R. L Fanthorpe Write-Alike Contest is October 10, which is remarkably nigh. The contest is a benefit for the Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund and is a chance for all you writers to get some bad writing out of your systems, aid a worthy cause, and maybe even win some cash money. Click the link for details. Enter early and often!

9/25/06: Damn

Word count: 1613 | Since last entry: 119

As you may already know, we lost Mike Ford last night. A fine and wise and quiet man with amazing eyebrows, he wrote extemporaneously on nearly any topic, often in highly structured poetry, and the more you knew the funnier it was. He will be sorely missed.

We spent most of the evening at our neighborhood book group. Unusually, we managed to spend most of the time actually discussing the book, 40,000 in Gehenna by C. J. Cherryh. When we got home I read over my work in progress (tentatively titled “Firewall”) and realized that it would really be happier in first person. I think I’d been avoiding it largely because my last two stories were in first, but when I went through and changed it, it was like loosening a belt that’s too tight. After that I added one paragraph and a few scattered sentences and I’m calling it a night. I’ll take the train tomorrow.

Much else ought to be done. I have two stories to put back in the mail, two short stories and two novels to critique, and I still have to unpack from Foolscap, plus the usual groceries, dishes, and other life maintenance. Too bad. Not gonna happen right now.

9/24/06: Back from Foolscap

Word count: 1494 | Since last entry: 268

Foolscap was a small, pleasant convention, and we had a nice time talking with Jay Lake, Dave Howell, Kate’s sister Sue, Sue Mohn, Hal and Ulrika O’Brien, Amy Thomson and Edd Vick, and artist/author guest of honor Mark Ferrari. But, as has often been the case, it felt a little underpopulated… just not quite enough people for critical convention mass. Many Seattle fans were missed (although I’m sure they all had good reasons not to be there). Also, the last panel I was on, which concerned “why do so few science fiction characters go to church or have any religion at all?” was fairly stressful both because of its touchy subject matter and because of some argument over what the exact topic of the panel should be, so my convention ended on a slightly sour note. But many people congratulated me on the Hugo win and we had some fine meals.

In addition to the 268 words above on the work in progress, also participated in an exercise where I wrote a 700-word scene based on an artwork. I might finish that up into a whole story, I might not. Not right now, anyway. I have too many excuses not to start on novel #2 already.

Came home to find the first post-Hugo rejection, from Asimov’s as it happens. That’s okay, now I can send them the Jupiter story.

9/21/06: We continued on

Word count: 1226 | Since last entry: 679

Had to choose today between taking the train (writing, no gym) and driving (no writing, possibly gym). After yesterday’s nightmare commute, leaving the driving to Tri-Met sounded like a real good idea. I’d hoped to get 1000 words for the day but it was still productive (though a bit heavy on the exposition… which is to be expected for this stage in the story).

I mentioned yesterday how I felt the story expand when I added the internal conflict to my concept of the story. I’ve been meaning to say something about a concept I think of as a story’s “trajectory.” The best analogy I can draw is to Evel Knievel’s aborted attempt to jump the Snake River Canyon. If you look at films of the event, you can easily see that his “motorcycle” (actually a one-man short-range rocket with decorative wheels) was plainly on a perfect parabola to the other side of the canyon when its parachute accidentally deployed. If it hadn’t been for that chute, there’s no doubt in my mind he would have made it. In the same way, I can feel this story taking off at a certain angle. That angle tells me that the end is about 7000 words away (plus or minus about 10%) and I can take a thousand words or so to set up the situation. If the story were accelerating faster I’d know I’d have to get to the action right away and defer or cut that exposition.

(Okay, that’s not a very good analogy, but it’s the one I’ve got.)

Several people commented on yesterday’s entry to the effect that “why change your working style when the old style is demonstrably working extremely well?” A fair question…

  1. I don’t feel that I must change my style, I just want to try another way. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to write as well, only faster? I’ll never know if I can unless I try.
  2. I’m working on a project that has a deadline. In order to get it critiqued in time to incorporate critique comments before the deadline, given that the group meets every 3 weeks, it has to be done by either 9/30 or 10/21. Sooner is better than later, and also there’s a chance I might be out of town for the second (10/28) meeting, so I’m shooting to be done by 9/30. At my usual working speed this would be a stretch, especially with Foolscap this weekend.
  3. Now that I’ve gotten that external validation, I feel confident enough that I can try messing with the way I work and see whether it helps or hinders.

None of which is to say I’m actually achieving a faster speed. But I’m still trying.

Got interviewed tonight by a reporter from the Southeast Examiner. It was fun — the reporter’s an SF reader and we spent a good part of the time swapping recommendations — and the piece should appear next week, I think.

9/20/06: De-slugging

Word count: 547 | Since last entry: 547

I have been a slug. A slug most foul and slimy. I haven’t been to the gym, and I haven’t been writing. Well, I did write over 1500 words of notes on the new story (“Firewall”) on Monday and Tuesday, but yesterday I sat and read fanzines during the hour I should have been writing. A slug, I say.

Today didn’t start well. I had an 8am meeting followed by an all-day planning session, so I awoke in the dark and didn’t expect to get much done all day. But the 8am meeting lasted only half an hour, giving me time to type up some notes from yesterday’s UI review. Then the planning session finished unexpectedly quickly, right after lunch, so I got in some actual productivity and even managed to go to the gym for the first time this week (go me!). Homeward-bound traffic was insane, but I took advantage of the situation to make some phone calls. (Usually I would never make a phone call from a moving car, but… well, I wasn’t moving.) I set up an appointment to talk with a reporter from my neighborhood paper (the Southeast Examiner) about the Hugo.

Got home and warmed up the ratatouille we’d made yesterday from the magic vegetable basket — it’s always better the next day, so we made it ahead — and then sat down to write. Again, go me.

I know who the main character is. I know his backstory and his current situation. I have an internal problem for him that parallels his external problem (and when Kate gave me that idea I felt the story expand from 5000 to 7500 words — weird, never had that happen before). I have a general idea of the shape of the plot, and I know what happens at the climax. I’m not 100% sure how to convey what happens after that point, but I’m pretty sure I know what decision he’ll make. I even have some secondary characters. What I don’t have is an outline. For me, this is working without a net.

I also am trying to write fast (after much good advice on this from Jay Lake at the Worldcon). So far, it’s not working. 500 words in 76 minutes isn’t fast — I keep backing up and tweaking with the current sentence until it’s perfect, which is my usual habit. I will try again tomorrow to break that habit.

Oh, almost forgot: I have an entry in the current Brain Parade over at

9/14/06: Briefly…

I put the fershlugginer novella in the mail to Analog on Monday. Thanks to Elizabeth Bear, who posted a LiveJournal entry that made me realize the time had come to stop tweaking and send it out to seek its fortune. The “A Hacker, a Machinist, and a Writer Talk About Craftsmanship” panel at the Portland PerlMongers meeting on Wednesday went well. The audience seemed to enjoy it; I know I did. It was like a good convention panel, but without the convention. There’s a podcast of the whole thing here: Fall has arrived. It rained today, for the first time in I forget how long. Also, I had a dentist appointment first thing today and I wound up working late, so I woke up in the dark and got home in the dark. This will become increasingly more frequent in the coming weeks, alas, until it’s dark and rainy all day every day. (But it beats shoveling snow, and the summers here are gorgeous.) I’ve been catching up on my critiquing, and my reading. Finished 40,000 in Gehenna and Fun Home (the latter is absolutely brilliant) and started in on His Majesty’s Dragon. No writing. This must change soon.

9/10/06: OryCon Writers Workshop deadline approaches (9/15)

Kamila Miller writes:

I’d like to have folks spread the word that OryCon’s writer’s workshop deadline is coming up fast, and I hope that you can encourage people to submit. Have them contact me, Kami, at for more info. We’re still building the workshop and so right now there is lots of room.


More information is available at

9/9/06: A day worth blogging about

Started off the day with a trip to the Belmont Street Fair and a visit to the old firehouse there, which is now a museum. Great use of firefighting stuff to make up the practicalities of the museum, such as ladders as display elements and fire hoses as railings. This particular firehouse has been in use since fire engines were pulled by horses, and still has the old hayloft and hose tower. I got to slide down (a segment of) the fire pole, and see the mechanism of a fire alarm (a very simple spring-powered clockwork to send out the alarm’s location code). And you know those big round things they used to use to catch people jumping out of burning buildings? They stopped using them because, although it might save one person’s life, a single use would often destroy the shoulders or backs, and hence careers, of three or four firemen.

Next came a dim sum expedition to Fong Chong, to celebrate the return of Robin Catesby to Portland. Mary Hobson was there, along with numerous other writer-types, and I talked with her about the Damn Novella, which she has read in its current state and assures me it’s fine. (Which is not to say it doesn’t have any problems; they always have problems even when they’re done and published — see this post by Elizabeth Bear.) I will give it one last quick pass tomorrow and put it in the mail on Monday.

After that, we returned to the Belmont Street Fair and wandered the booths and storefronts, drinking coffee and counting black dogs. I love my town, and my neighborhood. I got to ride on a Segway — it was strange and freaky, like standing on a wobbly wheeled chair that, for no apparent reason, doesn’t tip over and dump you on your butt. Along the way we hit a couple of rummage sales and picked up a bunch of used CD’s. Next to us some teenaged or early-twenties kids enthused over CD’s from the 1970’s. “Dude! It’s Boston! If I owned these I’d never sell them!” Oddly disturbing.

Back home for a nap and a quick dinner of peanut butter sandwiches before heading out again for Garrison Keillor at the Symphony. Between Garrison and the opening night of the Time-Based Art Festival (maybe other things too), the whole area was rocking. Though it was hard to find a parking place, I’m glad to live in a town with a vibrant and lively downtown. The performance itself was as entertaining as you’d expect, an interesting integration of Garrison’s usual radio show schtick with classical music. I wonder how much of it was improvised.

And so, after an evening snack of corn flakes, to bed.

9/7/06: Progress, I think

Took the train to work today, determined to push through and finish work on the novella. Wrote a new 670-word scene, second from the end, intended to address a couple of problems with the climax and anticlimax. Not sure whether it works, or whether it’s just a huge steaming redundant infodump. And sappy. I’ll sleep on it. Maybe I’m done, maybe not. If not, I will be soon.

Also, I’ve been invited to appear on a panel discussion at the Portland PerlMongers meeting next Wednesday: “A hacker, a machinist, and a writer discuss the question of Craftsmanship.” Sounds like the lead-in to a joke; should be fun. Follow the link for more information.