Archive for January, 2007

1/27/07: In which I have a bad case of the stupids

Word count: 16606 | Since last entry: 836

First off, I’d like to point out that the deadline for the Potlatch 16 Writers’ Workshop, coordinated by Mary Rosenblum, is February 1. That is, manuscripts must be received by then. If you’ve been thinking about participating, now’s the time to take action.

Kate’s at a knitting conference in Tacoma this weekend, and I’ve been running a lot of errands. And not sleeping nearly enough — I was up until 2am yesterday, and awoke around 8am despite my best efforts. I am, surprisingly, not groggy — I suspect I may be too stupid from lack of sleep to realize how stupid I am.

This always happens when Kate’s out of town. After all this time (22 years!?) I think she has taken custody of part of my brain. I’m sure it’s mutual.

I have a humonstrous list of things I want to get done this weekend and I’m probably not going to be able to check off more than about a third of them. Some of them, like replacing the wireless router in an attempt to eliminate the annoying and increasingly frequent dropouts in our digital music system, have had to be pushed off to another weekend due to lack of parts (the sexy-looking Ruckus MediaFlex router that seems most likely to be able to overcome interference — I can now see as many as 10 WiFi networks from here, not to mention cordless phones and microwaves — is only available from a few vendors, none local). But I did manage to find the external hard disk I wanted, and ink cartridges for my printer — I was beginning to wonder if HP had stopped making them.

You know how errands always take longer than you think they will? I haven’t gotten a lot of writing done, but I have at least gotten in a few hundred words every day. One breakthrough was to realize that the 1500 or so words I’d written so far in chapter 3 were really just an outline of what really wanted to be in chapter 3. Too much tell, not enough show. So I’m going back and replacing those flashbacks with fleshed-out scenes. This does change the structure of the chapter a bit. (This is my process. I don’t leave a word, a sentence, a paragraph, or a chapter until I’m happy with it, and I’m perfectly willing to go back and rework something I’ve already done. My first drafts are slow but essentially ready for publication. I’ve tried writing faster, God knows, but it just doesn’t seem to work for me.)

A snippet:

Keelie heaved at the container. This one was cylindrical, half a length high and about the same in diameter, and felt as though it were full of liquid. It was made of the same chill, slick, damp green-and-black material as all the rest.

She hated the container. Hated it with a passion almost as intense as her old hatred of the Drur — lesser only because it was younger. It wasn’t anything about this container in particular that made her hate it; she loathed them all equally.

Sometimes I eat badly when Kate’s out of town, but this time I’ve been fortunate to be the recipient of gifts of good food. Friday evening I went out with a bunch of guys from work to Uptown Billiards, which has amazingly good food for a pool hall (the avocado soup was great, though I usually detest avocados, and the kumquat-braised lamb was to die for) and the boss was paying. And tonight there was a party at Casa Deedop with Robin and Dave’s culinary talents on display. Yum.

Also at the party: I attempted Dance Dance Revolution for the first time (the Dance Dance Government is in no danger from me, I assure you), talked with Mary Hobson about the frustrating process of trying to sell a novel, and congratulated Rob Vagle and Jimena on their recent engagement. The silent-movie wedding they’re planning sounds like a real hoot.

To bed now, before I get even stupider.

1/24/07: Ow

Word count: 15770 | Since last entry: 0 No writing tonight. Instead, we went to the clinic and got our shots for the trip. Technically, no shots are required for Thailand, but they thought it would be a good idea to get vaccinated for tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, hepatitis A, and typhoid. Ow. Because we were a good boy and girl they gave us lollipops. Mine was “artificial mystery flavor.” Speaking of ow… the post brought a rejection on the unicorn story, alas. At least Realms of Fantasy only took a couple of months to reject it. I’m not quite sure where to send that one next. It’s already been to Asimov’s, F&SF,, Strange Horizons, Interzone, Cidada, Polyphony, Aeon, Fantasy Magazine, and Realms of Fantasy. It’s a young-adult coming-of-age story with unicorns and lesbians, so Analog is right out. Any suggestions? On the other hand, I did finally get the contract for an anthology sale from last year. And I got a request to submit to a new webzine that’s just starting up. Onward and upward.

1/23/07: Bwa ha ha

Word count: 15770 | Since last entry: 1425

A productive evening’s writing at the coffee shop with Jay, Karen, and Mary. I’ve been a bit behind on my productivity lately but I hope to catch up this weekend.

A snippet:

The illness had reminded her of her mortality. She had no idea how long her kind might live, and with no educated medical assistance available her own death would surely come sooner than average. The thought of dying in slavery, leaving Reesa with no one to protect her in her old age, was too much for her to contemplate.

Now the disease had returned. And on this ship there was no one who could help her, not even the hated physician.

Work has been kind of crazy lately; we’re just gearing up for another development iteration and everything’s shifting around. There’s too much to do. So what else is new?

And I bought a coffee maker. A wonderful automated device that lets you put in coffee beans (lovely fresh-roasted Sumatra beans from Stumptown) and water and, in the morning, grinds the beans and makes the coffee all by itself. My robot army grows apace! Soon I will conquer the wooooorld!!!

1/18/07: Ready or not, here I come

Word count: 14345 | Since last entry: 1001

Decided today to stay up as late as necessary to finish the first two chapters, so I can print them out at work tomorrow and make copies for Saturday’s crit group meeting. I managed to finish them before midnight.

I read them over. You know, they aren’t half bad. The two viewpoint characters’ voices are too similar, and overall it’s heavy on exposition. But that’s only to be expected in the early chapters of a science fiction novel. We’ll see what people think of them.

I’ve written before about the concept of “trajectory.” In a short story the arc that started with a fast rise would have returned to earth (in a different place) after only five or ten thousand words, but here it’s still climbing rapidly. I won’t have to start pulling things together toward a conclusion for months yet at this rate. It is, in some ways, liberating.

A snippet:

Her first impression was of black glass. The aliens were hard and black and shiny, each a polished collection of too many armored limbs, knees and elbows bristling with dangerous ridges and spines like shattered glass sculptures. The nearest one stepped toward Rachel as she came into its field of vision, gleaming armor plates sliding smoothly against each other with a sense of controlled muscular tension. It moved like an athlete. It moved like a soldier. There was no wasted motion. It had a terrible beauty.

1/17/07: Another snow day

Word count: 13344 | Since last entry: 542

If I’d actually dragged myself out of bed at 6am when my alarm went off, I might have driven to work. As it was I didn’t even get vertical, never mind showered and dressed, until 7am, which is when I would have had to leave the house in order to have a chance of making my 8am meeting. Fortunately, it was a teleconference, so I phoned it in. Good thing too — the snow hasn’t yet melted, and almost everyone at work stayed home for at least half of today.

I spent most of the morning on various work-related things and the afternoon on writing. Not quite sure why I only got 500 words in a whole afternoon. I did go back and turn the Earthlings’ three ships into one, because the logistics of managing the three ships (each with its own captain, each with his/her own motivations, not to mention the question of when the aliens board one ship why don’t the other two just run for it) were starting to prove daunting and I didn’t really think it made the book any stronger.

A snippet:

“Brother James,” Gideon said, “tell anyone who’s working in the habitation section to get back to the main body of the ship right away. When they’re all inside, seal the airtight doors between sections. Sister Sarah, kill the ship’s rotation.” He paused, considering. “Is there anything else we ought to do?” He directed the question to the room in general.

“Pray,” said Keale.

“I assure you we will,” Gideon replied. His tone was serious.

For dinner, we made hash out of leftover pork, with potatoes and onions from the organic farm. Because we were both home all day we baked the potatoes, along with a lovely acorn squash, and it was all very good. So nice to prepare dinner when we aren’t rushed, tired, stupid, or stressed.

Going to bed now. I mean to go to work tomorrow, even if the snow is still there.

1/16/07: Instant weekend, just add snow

Word count: 12802 | Since last entry: 715

Was greatly surprised this morning to find several inches of white stuff piled up on the car. Turned on the TV and very quickly concluded that this was no day to brave the Sylvan Hill. Stayed home from work. Felt guilty, but the news coverage indicated that I was wise to stay home.

We did go outside, to shovel the walk, brush the snow off the cars before it freezes, and take a walk around the block. It was great snow for sleds and snowballs, and kids of all ages were having a grand time with it. Like Tina Connolly, we saw a motorcycle pulling someone on a snowboard (must have been someone different, though, because Tina lives on the other side of town). Didn’t see a single snowman, though, even though it seemed like excellent packing snow.

So, I stayed home all day, but did I write? Some, but not nearly enough. I did dishes and laundry instead, and made a big pot of mushroom barley soup, and surfed the web, and watched Buffy.

I’d like to be able to blame my writing sloth on the bad news: neither snow, nor rain, nor sleet stayed the US Post from bringing not one but three rejections, for the New Orleans story, the novella, and the novel. Argh! It’s enough to make a guy wonder if he can write at all. (I try to remind myself of how many times “I Hold My Father’s Paws” was rejected before it finally got picked up for Year’s Best. Oh, and the Hugo.) One of those three is back in the (e)mail already, the other two will be shortly. Getting that paperwork sorted out took some time, but I really should have gotten more new words written anyway.

At the moment it looks like I will have another chance to get some writing done tomorrow, as the forecast for tomorrow is for continued icy conditions.

Oh, I did have one writing insight today. I just finished The Etched City by K. J. Bishop, which I found acceptable but a bit too mainstreamy, a bit too magical-realist, for my taste. One thing that it did well was that, although it had two major point of view characters, it did slip into several other points of view for anything from a paragraph to a couple of pages. This flies in the face of the advice I’ve often received, and even more often given, which is to pick one point of view (or a defined set of PoVs) and stick with it. But it worked.

I think that advice is still good advice, even though works like this one can flout it, and here’s why I think that: the core of the adminition is that you have to learn to control point of view. That is, when we say “you have to pick one point of view and stick with it” what we really mean is that “you must learn to avoid wandering from your chosen point of view by accident.” But once you have learned to do that with grace and confidence, and to communicate PoV shifts clearly, you can change PoV as often as you like.

As with so many things in life, you can get away with anything as long as you can do it convincingly.

1/13/07: Control

Word count: 12087 | Since last entry: 1874

I have started coding again, at work. Although I was supposed to start coding almost three weeks ago, I allowed myself to be distracted by various design tasks. I should not have. Now that I’m writing HTML and CSS and JavaScript and Java code again, instead of making pretty pictures in Photoshop, I remember why I changed from tech pubs to software engineering in the first place. When I code, I control the user experience; when I design, I can only make suggestions. And because I care about the little details, like making controls line up and properly disabling buttons based on the states of other controls on the page, a lot more than most people, coding it myself is the only way to make sure it comes out the way I want it to. Coding is frustrating sometimes, but deeply satisfying when it works.

Yes, I am a control freak. I revel in my control freakness.

In other news, we have pretty much nailed down the details of the Thailand trip. We will be flying to Singapore with an hour and a half layover in Tokyo, then staying at the Perak Hotel in Singapore’s Little India district for a couple of days before the actual Club Geek event in Phuket. There are many keen things to do in Singapore but I sum up my plans for those two days as “sleep, eat, and goggle.” From there we’ll proceed to the Sheraton Grande Laguna Phuket for five days of corporate largess, including (if everything goes as planned) a Thai cooking class, an elephant ride, and a certain amount of speechifying and banqueting with colorful local entertainment. Then we fly back by the same route (Phuket-Singapore-Tokyo-Portland), except that this time we spend only six hours in Singapore and the whole thing somehow takes just one hour (depart Phuket 6am, arrive Portland 7am the same day). Voom!

The writing proceeds apace, 100-500 words a day with occasional days off. Today, thinking about Maria, my Earthling viewpoint character, I realized that her people, like the Pilgrims, would most likely not own their own ship. And a rented ship would have to come with its own crew. This provides an excellent opportunity for increased tension in her viewpoint and also lets me have at least one character who isn’t white and Christian. I don’t know why it bothered me to have the humans in my cast so homogenous, but it did. Maybe it’s because I grew up on Star Trek (the original series). Anyway, I spent most of today’s writing time (500 words or so) going back and inserting a new secondary character into Maria’s viewpoint. I also decided to change her name to Rachel. Because I wanted to.

A snippet:

“So,” said Gideon, turning his attention to Keale. “Our alien contact specialist assures me that the ship is not in danger. Therefore, according to the contract, your authority is secondary.” He lowered his head just slightly, reminding Rachel of a bull pawing the earth. “Is that clear, Mister Keale?”

“Yes, sir,” Keale replied. Though his lips moved, his teeth did not part.

Rachel watched the simulation spin in its frame, keenly aware of how fragile Kestrel and her sister ships were — slim pencils of metal, composites, and fabric. If the unknown craft attacked, they could all be dead in seconds. And God alone knew what an alien species might consider a hostile action.

Dance, little characters, dance to my will! Bwahaha!

1/4/07: The eyes have it

Word count: 10213 | Since last entry: 488

No writing today. I had an eye exam, with dilation, after work and I wasn’t able to focus or take bright lights until quite recently (still a bit wobbly). Spent much of the evening lying on the couch with a blanket over my head, istening to a tape of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.

We got our tickets to Thailand today. We’ll be stopping in Singapore for a couple of days on the way there. Any recommendations for places to stay, things to eat, or sights to see in Singapore?

1/1/07: Happy new year

Word count: 9725 | Since last entry: 520

Went to a spy-themed New Year’s Eve party (in honor of the year ‘007), then our usual New Year’s Day brunch at the home of local fans Marc and Patty. This is the twenty-second anniversary of the day we met, at Marc and Patty’s brunch on the first day of 1985. I always say I found Kate under the Christmas tree. We didn’t spend a weekend apart for months.

Twenty-two years. How the hell did that happen?

I’m just overwhelmed with my good fortune. I mean, so many good things have happened this year that if half of them hadn’t occurred I’d still be amazed at my good luck. And when I see how many of my friends are having health, financial, and/or emotional crises it’s all the more humbling. I can’t imagine how 2007 could be any better, except if I can find a way to spread the luck around a little more evenly.

I’ve brought my heroine’s section of chapter 2 to a temporary resolution. Next I’ll either spin up the next crisis, to leave her teetering on a cliff before the point of view switch, or leave her in peace (momentary, only momentary) while I go off and show what the other viewpoint character’s up to. After talking with another writer at the brunch today, I think I may need to bring them together sooner than I’d planned.

Hmm. I wonder what the other viewpoint character is up to?

Either way, I’ll worry about that tomorrow.

Oh, my new year’s resolution is to finish novel #2. This will be enforced by the same means I used for novel #1, which is: a new chapter for every crit group meeting or I have to buy everyone beer. This may have to be modified to “every crit group meeting I attend,” because I’m going to be out of town a lot.

I have other goals for the year, but just one formal resolution. I take my resolutions pretty seriously. (Even though I did tell someone at the brunch that my resolution is to give up sleeping.)