Archive for January, 2008

1/31/08: It’s like an involuntary writing retreat

Word count: 119225 | Since last entry: 7115

We’re finally back from Kennewick. Actually, we came back on Tuesday, but it’s been crazy busy since then as we tried to get done everything that we should have gotten done while we were away. (As noted here and here, we were stranded in Kennewick for five days by an ice storm.)

As disasters go, it was a doddle. We were at Kate’s parents’ house, where we were warm and dry and got hot homecooked meals every day. I like Kate’s folks (the big stinky dogs? not so much) and it was actually kind of nice to get to hang out with them for an extra couple of days. And I got a ton of writing done. I’ve been saying I needed a writing retreat and this is just about that (except for the can’t-go-home-even-if-you-want-to part) — though I did more writing before we figured out how to connect my laptop to their wi-fi. (The two LJ posts linked above were posted from my phone.)

I am now within a few thousand words of the end of the first draft. The carnage has been massive — I’ve slaughtered almost sixty humans (at least five of them named characters) and thousands of aliens (only one named character there, but I made sure every one of those deaths was meaningful to the viewpoint characters) in the last week. The writing here has been fast and fun, as I’m writing stuff that I had in mind from the beginning of this book, over a year ago. It hasn’t come out quite the way I envisioned it back then, but on the other hand I’m finding ways to tie in themes, characters, and details from earlier in the book that I hadn’t realized could be tied in. It’s faster, heavier, fresher than I’d thought it would be. I just hope it’s big enough emotionally to justify the amount of sturm und drang I’m putting in…

Also in the last week I read over the page proofs for my collection, which is now definitely called Space Magic. Reading all these stories, some for the first time in five years or more, I’m actually very impressed with them. It’s been long enough that I can actually enjoy them as stories rather than seeing the flaws. I hope that I will feel this way in five years about the stuff I’m writing right now.

I’m getting really excited about this collection. It’s now listed on Wheatland Press’s home page, there will be a signed and numbered limited-edition hardcover available exclusively from Wrigley-Cross Books, and I have seen a preliminary cover design which is Totally Made Of Awesome. (I’ll share it with you as soon as I can.) A special pre-publication edition will be available at RadCon, at which I am Short Story Guest of Honor, and the real thing will be released in time for WisCon.

A whole book, just for me! ::squee::

I have one other bit of writing news to share, which is that Baen Books is currently offering a story of mine as a sample chapter from the anthology Transhuman (which is scheduled to be published in February, which means that copies have probably already shipped, though I haven’t seen one yet). So if you want to read one of my stories, you can read “Firewall” for free here. I don’t know how long it will remain available. Two other stories and the Introduction are also available (in a nice framed interface that lets you set bookmarks and adjust the font) here.

1/24/08: Death and destruction

Word count: 112110 | Since last entry: 2103

This being the final chapter, there’s been a lot of death and destruction. In fact, I just murdered almost all of my human characters and stranded the few survivors thousands of light-years from home.

Fortunately, I have a plan.

In other news, I have been accepted to the Taos Toolbox Writers’ Workshop! This two-week workshop (in Taos, New Mexico in June), taught by Walter Jon Williams and Kelly Link with special guest lecturer Stephen R. Donaldson, is a “graduate-level” workshop for writers who have already been to Clarion or Odyssey and/or have made some short fiction sales, and has an emphasis on the craft of the novel. It should be a lot of fun. (If you’re interested, and have two weeks and $2800 to spare, applications are still being accepted.)

The only downside is that it conflicts with the Fourth Street Fantasy Convention. Oh well, there’s always next year.

I have been accepted to the Taos Toolbox Writers’ Workshop! This two-week workshop (in Taos, New Mexico in June), taught by Walter Jon Williams and Kelly Link with special guest lecturer Stephen R. Donaldson, is a “graduate-level” workshop for writers who have already been to Clarion or Odyssey and/or have made some short fiction sales, and has an emphasis on the craft of the novel. It should be a lot of fun.

1/22/08: Cheese pancakes for dinner

Word count: 110007 | Since last entry: 1279

Neglected to mention in yesterday’s blog entry that I also got our hotel for the Worldcon yesterday. Unlike many people, I got a room through the hotel’s web page (we picked the Courtyard because it looks like it has a bit of character and is equidistant between the convention center and the party hotel) and didn’t have a lick of trouble doing so — we even got a rate that was lower than what the convention web page quoted. I did pounce as soon as reservations opened.

Today we watched half of the last Lord of the Rings movie, decluttered one shelf and one drawer (mostly videotapes — we have 17 pounds of videotapes to go to GreenDisk now), and I shifted to the new wallet I just bought. This is my first new wallet in at least 15 years; it’s noticeably smaller than the old one and has Velcro of Titanic strength by comparison. This is going to take some getting used to.

The 1279 words of writing above includes about 250 words of chapter-level outline. This is a tricky chapter and I felt I needed to outline it a bit before beginning. Those words of outline will gradually be replaced by actual text as the chapter grows towards its end — and the end of the book. The end is in sight!

About 2/3rds of that was written at the coffee shop with Jay, Ken, Karen, Grant, and Theresa. A good day’s work and I’m getting to bed before 11pm, woo hoo!

1/21/08: Many and varied

Word count: 108728 | Since last entry: 1204

I had a half-dozen things to do on my list for today. I did almost none of them, but did many other useful things instead. Got a haircut, went to the gym, did dishes, bought a new wallet, bought an outdoor thermometer and hung it up on the porch so we don’t have to stick our noses out the door to find out how FREAKING COLD it is out there. Also nailed down our travel plans for the first week of March.

As we have a science fiction convention and a square dance, both in Seattle, on the first two weekends of March, we thought we might be able to go to Victoria BC for the week in between. Well, for a while there it looked like it wouldn’t be possible, as the ferries don’t run very frequently during the winter. But there is also a seaplane option…

Seaplane? And it’s only… how much?

So we’re going to take a seaplane from Lake Union to Victoria’s Inner Harbor. And then (as if that weren’t cool enough) we’re going to stay at the Empress. See Kate’s blog for details.

The writing has slowed down a little bit. For the last couple of days I have not quite made the thousand words a day I estimated I needed to finish by my deadline, and I did just 568 words today. But I stopped today because I just hit the end of the next-to-last chapter and I haven’t the energy to start right in on the next one (especially since it’s a PoV shift).

Yes, I have only! one! chapter! to! go!

And I have ten days to write it, so I should be okay.

Just goes to show what happens when you put your nose to the grindstone. This is two or three times my average daily pace from previous years.

For my next trick, I will figure out how to maintain this pace and still get eight hours of sleep a night.

1/19/08: Polishing my rocket

Word count: 107524 | Since last entry: 3088

Spent a good chunk of today completing the decluttering of the mantelpiece, by taking down everything that remained on both the mantel and the old Panatrope-Radiola (a beautiful antique radio the size of a sideboard, which we always meant to rebuild into a cabinet but never completed), dusting it, and putting back only those pieces that really wanted to go back. The Hugo and James White award trophies now rest in the place of honor at the center of the mantelpiece, where books to be read were once piled, and are surrounded by photographs of family. I also took the time to polish the silver James White trophy, which had become quite tarnished.

We took some of those photographs to the frame shop and found frames for them. These were photos that had been displayed, some for years, in the cardboard folios provided by the photographer. One of those was a tintype of my grandmother, from approximately 1929. The cardboard folio on that one is a beautiful embossed thing but I still think a frame is better.

A few other errands, a lovely dinner and dessert with square dance friends Bo and Don, a thousand words on the novel, and that was the day. The writing is going quite rapidly now, a big bombastic scene of violence and destruction as the Big Bad bursts out and threatens to destroy the entire universe. Only a little more than a chapter to go, if I stick to the outline. Mind you, I’m having trouble getting everything from the outine in. I might have to do one additional chapter if I decide everything has to be there.

Yesterday was another lovely dinner and dessert, with SF fan friends Marc and Patty, followed by a viewing of Cloverfield with them and another friend, Anthony. I’d call it the best monster movie in years, though it’s not suitable for anyone who’s susceptible to motion sickness or has problems with flashing lights. Kate got through it only by closing her eyes for half the film. Even I got a little woozy and headachey, and I don’t have issues with motion sickness at all. I understand the desire for the immediacy of a post-9/11 cellphone-cam-verite style, and there’s no question it’s a technical achievement, but I really think that 90 solid minutes of unrelieved unsteadycam was too much.

Oh, one more thing… Wheatland Press has officially announced the release date and title of my collection. It’s called Space Magic and will be released on May 1, with a special pre-publication edition available at RadCon (at which I am Short Story Guest of Honor) in February. I have also received the galleys to be proofed, which is a first for me. I hope to have a cover to show you soonish.

1/16/08: A day cut into little pieces

Word count: 104436 | Since last entry: 1003

Today kind of vanished, starting with yoga class and continuing with a variety of small tasks that had me waiting around for someone else to show up. For the whole middle of the day I don’t think I had more than 45 minutes at a stretch of continuous, focused time. But I got some bills paid, handed off some decluttered stuff to be auctioned for the Sue Petrey Fund, and met with a guy about moving the OryCon and OSFCI websites to a cheaper, better hosting company.

This was my second yoga class ever (the first was last week). Kate’s been going for a while and asked me to join her this term. I’m finding the poses much less difficult than I’d expected, though after the first class I was surprised how sore I was the next day. I’m not seeing a lot of benefits so far, but I forsee that it will help my core strength, stability, flexibility, balance, and posture, and possibly also calmness.

In college I took calculus 101 and physics 101 at the same time, and each one helped me to understand some aspects of the other (calc gave me a better understanding of the math I needed in physics, and physics showed me how calc was useful). Yoga and training at the gym are similarly complementary, both being about improving the body and learning to use it better, but having different focuses. I’m also seeing that yoga, weightlifting, meditation, tantra, and Body Electric are closely related — nearby points in a multi-dimensional space, each having some aspects of the others. One thing they all have in common is concentrating on how to breathe.

Yesterday, I see I failed to mention, I spent a good chunk of the day clearing out the large quantities of stuff that had accumulated on the floor on my side of the bed and atop my bedside table. This was one of my Yuletide presents to Kate: a pledge to clear the mantelpiece and my bedside by January 15. Deadlines are useful things.

I filled a bag of paper to recycle and a box of books to be sold, generated a foot-tall stack of reusable paper for the printer (good, we’d been running low), added a dozen books to the to-be-read shelf (which is no longer on the mantel, but upstairs), and made the pile of fanzines to read in the bathroom nine inches taller (that’s a problem for another day). I also dusted and vacuumed the place where all that stuff had been. I am pleased.

One of Kate’s Yuletide presents to me was the Lord of the Rings extended edition DVD box set. We’re about halfway through. A fine, fine set of films, though I’m finding that some of the added material is a little draggy (the hobbits sitting around reminiscing about Gandalf right after his death in the mines at Moria comes to mind). Most of the added material, though, is an improvement, and I’m glad I’m finally getting to see the films as the director intended they be seen.

We also saw The Bucket List in the theatre. Save your money.

Another thing I see I failed to mention is that I passed the 100,000 word mark on my novel. Yay me. I anticipate around 120,000 words for the first draft, just like the last one. I am currently working on the last chapter but one. All of the secrets are out in the open now (well, except for one thing that a character’s been hiding from herself and won’t come out until the denouement), and all that’s left now is the climactic, physics-defying battle. It’s going to be fun.

To bed at a fairly reasonable hour, for once!

1/15/08: A few small repairs

Word count: 103433 | Since last entry: 4912

A good night writing and chatting at the coffee shop with Jay Lake, although most of tonight’s output is a huge expository lump that will probably have to be slimmed down and redistributed later.

Late last week I finally got fed up with the fact that the space bar on my iBook’s keyboard was ever so slightly intermittent. It probably worked four times out of five, but that was bad enough to be annoying. I even turned on the squiggly red lines in Word, which I hate, to help me spot the missing spaces. Fortunately, the computer is under warranty. I called Apple and they said that if I mailed them the computer they’d fix it… but I didn’t want to be without my computer for who-knows-how-long, and I knew that the iBook keyboard is a user-replaceable part. So I insisted. Eventually I convinced them to ship me a new keyboard. The package arrived the very next day… but it was a standard desktop keyboard. I called back and tried again, and again I had to insist that the iBook keyboard is a user-replaceable part. Finally I got the right keyboard in the mail. It took about 15 minutes to install. Happy spacebar. Now I can turn the red quiggly lines off, and my writing speed is ever so slightly faster.

1/11/08: It’s official

Word count: 98521 | Since last entry: 2304

The Preliminary Nebula Ballot has now been officially released, and “Titanium Mike” is on it! The story is now available for everyone to read at the F&SF website.

Also, we’ve (semi)finalized our travel plans for the year. It was really hard, because although we’re no longer limited by vacation days there’s still the danger of burnout, so there are many events that we could attend that we have reluctantly decided not to. Here’s where we’re pretty sure we will be:

January: Christmas in Kennewick (as many of Kate’s relatives are too busy on Christmas to do Christmas at Christmas).

February: ACDC square dance fly-in in Washington, DC, with a few days touristing beforehand, and RadCon SF convention in Pasco (at which I am Short Story Guest of Honor).

March: Potlatch SF convention in Seattle, followed by Rain Festival square dance fly-in in Seattle the following weekend, with four days in Victoria BC in between.

April: Novel workshop with Dean Wesley Smith, and Rob & Ximena’s wedding in Eugene, and probably Peel-Off square dance fly-in in Palm Springs, and probably the Nebula Awards weekend in Austin.

May: Wiscon SF convention in Madison.

June: TBA.

July: Touch a Quarter Century, the gay square dance Worldcon, in Cleveland, and Readercon SF convention in Boston.

August: Denvention, the science fiction Worldcon, in Denver, and Farthing Party in Montreal.

September: Push Open the Golden Gate square dance fly-in in San Francisco.

October: World Fantasy Convention in Calgary.

November: OryCon SF convention in Portland, and Weave the Rain square dance fly-in in Vancouver BC.

December: Christmas in Germany, details TBD.

There are, believe it or not, a few additional events that we are still waiting to find out more information before we commit. Also we will be remodeling the bathroom. Whee!

1/8/08: Productivity

Word count: 96217 | Since last entry: 2758

I’ve been very good at meeting my 1000-words-a-day writing goal since the Solstice, and the result has been that the novel is absolutely flying by. Compared to the months I spent thrashing around in mid-year, things are now happening so fast that I’m having trouble keeping it all in my head. This is both in terms of events per chapter and in terms of events per writing day, though mostly the latter.

The events per chapter count is definitely much higher, though. Where I felt before (in mid-novel) that I had to come up with more stuff to fill out the chapter, I now (just finished chapter 13 out of 16) am having trouble getting everything from the outline into a chapter of reasonable length. There may be some rebalancing and squishing-about of stuff in the revision phase.

My current writing pace has me finishing a chapter a week rather than a chapter every three weeks. At this rate I’ll finish the first draft by the end of this month, as planned. Look at the uptick at the end of this chart!

I have to point out that I have not increased my writing speed, only my writing productivity. I still draft at around 300-500 words per hour, but I’m putting in more hours per day. The downside is that most days I’ve been getting to bed after midnight (but still generally waking up around 6:30, a habit from my working days I have been unable to break). What I should really do is start writing earlier in the day (duh!) but the press of Other Things (chores, decluttering, email, LiveJournal) and stupid inertia has prevented that so far.

Today is going to be a busy day and I should really be doing something more productive than graphing my word counts in Excel (I tried to use iWork, but I couldn’t figure out how to import data from a text file) and blogging.