Archive for February, 2008

2/29/08: Suckitude

Word count: 128416 | Since last entry: 23

Nothing like getting a rejection, a difficult critique, and a deadline in the same week.

I’ve been spending every waking hour not spent on something else (yes, that’s a tautology) on getting my second novel ready for the April novel workshop. The deadline isn’t until March 10, but as we’re leaving for Potlatch this morning and won’t be back home until March 9 I have to get it in the mail today.

As I mentioned in my last entry, I put down the revisions a couple of days ago and have been working on the synopsis and other supporting documents. It took me about a day and a half to write a 22-page synopsis, then about half a day to cut it down to 14 pages.

What a load of fetid dingoes’ kidneys.

Writing the synopsis gives me a 40,000 foot view of the novel and shows me all the places the plot doesn’t fit together, all the places the characters are just marching in place and angsting over the same things over and over, all the places I set something up and never followed through, all the places I had something happen without proper setup, all the places I did the right thing in the wrong place. As with the last novel, the synopsis makes more sense than what’s on the page. But this time I intend to take what I’ve learned and make the novel more like the synopsis (after the workshop).

In a couple of cases this is going to be a challenge. Specifically, I decided to take the critique feedback I got on the ending and write a completely different ending in the synopsis (with a few related changes in the last few chapters to set it up properly). I feel that I can get away with this here because most of the workshoppers will only get the first 50 pages and synopsis. Only two workshoppers will get the whole novel, and that isn’t going out until later. So I have from now until later to rewrite the ending to match the synopsis. How late is “later”? I don’t know, but probably shortly after March 10. Which means I should try to work on this while I’m on vacation. That didn’t work too well while I was in DC, but we’ll see. Worse comes to worst, the two workshoppers who get the whole manuscript will get to compare and contrast the two endings (but I don’t want to do that, it would be unprofessional).

Yesterday I also got a rejection on my first novel. It has now been rejected by all of the major publishers and several of the more respected minors. It has maybe three minor publishers left to try before I trunk it. The rejections have been fairly consistent and the problem is structural. Basically, I should never have tried such a nonstandard time structure in a first novel. Theoretically I could take the novel apart and rewrite it with a more normal structure, but I think that time would be better spent writing another novel from the ground up. I also thought about chopping the novel into short stories, but I don’t see any single section that can be made to have a satisfying ending.

I remember how good I felt about that first novel when I finished it.

And now I look at this pile of scribbled-on paper ready to go to the workshop and I wonder why I bother.


Nebula nominee Nebula nominee Nebula nominee.

(Doesn’t help as much as you might think.)

2/26/08: David’s Birthday (Observed) and the day after

Word count: 128393 | Since last entry: 827

As you may recall, my actual birthday this year didn’t go as well as I’d hoped (it didn’t suck, but it wasn’t special) so I rescheduled it for 2/25. This turns out to have worked quite well. The day started with Kate playing me John McCutcheon’s birthday song “Cut the Cake”, a much cheerier alternative to the usual Happy Birthday song, and presenting me with a delightful card. I also got a card from the Rosetown Ramblers.

In the morning I had a haircut, went to yoga class, and stopped at Powell’s to pick up a couple of copies of the recently-published anthology Transhuman, which includes my story “Firewall”. I haven’t yet received my author copy, so this was my first opportunity to hold the book in my hand. Hardcover, even.

In the afternoon I worked on revisions. I’m putting in two or three hours a day but not making as much headway as I need to in order to finish by 2/28.

In the evening, Kate and I went for a birthday dinner at Caffe Mingo. However, Caffe Mingo was closed for a private wine tasting (which, if they had a web page, I might have known, grr) so we walked down the block to Lucy’s Table, where we had a really excellent dinner. I had the vegetarian meatloaf with a parmesan-panko crust and housemade ketchup, which sounds oh so pretentious but was totally yummy.

So. An excellent David’s Birthday (Observed).

Today started off at the gym, where I met with my trainer and discovered my dissipated lifestyle is catching up with me… I weigh more now than I have in, like, ever. Admittedly that’s still only 141 pounds, but the trend is in the wrong direction. I must resume my previous good habits of diet and exercise.

In the afternoon I worked on revisions some more. However, I also received an email telling me that I need to send in only the first 50 pages on 2/28… plus query letter, cover letter, and two different synopses. As I have not yet written any of those, I’m going to put the revisions on hold for a little bit and work on the supporting documents instead, starting tomorrow. This may mean spending part of my time in Seattle and Victoria and Seattle next week finishing up the revisions, because I will have to send in the rest of the novel soon.

I also received email comments from a member of my critique group, indicating that the ending of the novel (which he missed critting on Saturday through no fault of his own) is broken. The other crits of the ending were also, alas, mildly to moderately unenthusiastic. I see his point, and though I don’t think I have the time to make all the changes he suggests I want to try to make some of them. I really don’t want to lose the SF maguffin from the ending, even though every single one of my critters says it doesn’t work. I know that a broken ending can be made to work, without change, by changing the setup, though this would require a lot of rewriting; alternatively, I might have to slay that particular darling and write an entirely new ending, which would require even more rewriting. Color me not completely happy about this. Still, better to find out the problem exists before submitting the book.

In the evening we had a lovely dinner at the home of Barb and J.C. Hendee, authors of the Noble Dead series, who just recently moved to Oregon. Very nice people.

And so to bed. Another busy day tomorrow.

2/21/08: Today is not my birthday

Word count: 127462 | Since last entry: 179

I was born on February 21, 1961. Today is February 21, 2008. I’m just getting over a mild cold. Kate got it too, but she’s a couple of days behind me, coughy and achy and low on energy, so she didn’t have the wherewithal to get me a card or anything. That’s okay. And my parents are away on a trip to Phoenix, so they didn’t send a card and couldn’t call today, but they gave me a call yesterday. That’s okay too. At least I got an e-card from my dentist.

In the morning I did some revisons, then we went to a play (A Feminine Ending, which I greatly enjoyed) and had a nice lunch at Henry’s and did some preliminary research for our forthcoming bathroom remodel, but in the early afternoon we ran out of energy and fell over until dark. When it came time for dinner, Kate said “you eat, I’m not hungry.”

As I was making some toast to put leftover curry on, I decided that… well, I have pretty low standards for birthdays, really, but this doesn’t cut it.

So I have decided to reschedule David’s Birthday (Observed) to 2/25 this year.

2/20/08: Radcon, etc.

Word count: 127283 | Since last entry: 2134

Unlike the last trip, I did not get stranded in the Tri-Cities by a snow storm this time. In fact, the weather was quite pleasant. I just didn’t get around to blogging about it until now, due to busyness and a general lack of energy. Kate and I are both mildly sick.

Radcon was fun, if a little strange. 1800 people at the convention and I knew about 30 of them. It was like a weird alternate-universe OryCon where almost all of the fans had been replaced by similar, but not identical, other fans. Even though I was Short Story Guest of Honor, I had very little interaction with the fan-on-the-street, and spent most of my time hanging out with other writers and a few Portland-area fans I knew. I was on eight program items, of which two were cancelled due to complete lack of audience and one (my reading) was attended only by writer friends of mine.

The highlight of the convention was the presence of a stack of pre-publication copies of my collection Space Magic at the Wheatland Press table. Deb sold all but 6 copies and I signed most of the ones she sold. It’s a real book! The cover is gorgeous! I am so thrilled! The final edition will be available for order from in May, and will also be at Wiscon.

The other highlight of the convention for me was a tour of the Hanford nuclear reservation on Friday morning, with Jay Lake and Adrienne Loska, G. David Nordley and his wife Gayle Weiner, and author/editor Lizzy Shannon. Hanford’s entire job today is cleaning up the mess of nuclear waste that Hanford made over the last 50 years. The coolest thing we saw was the FOLDTRACK, a hydraulically-powered device designed to fit down a 12″ pipe, fold itself into bulldozer mode, then push radioactive, toxic, caustic, explosive sludge into piles so it can be sucked up and out of the tank for proper disposal elsewhere. Jay Lake has posted a video, toward the beginning of which you can hear me exclaim “it’s a miniature folding robot bulldozer!” as I realize what we’re seeing.

Another cool thing was the Heroes panel on Friday, which started off with me and writer Rhonda Eudaly doing the usual “writers talking about some random TV show” thing but changed character drastically when media GoH Dragon Dronet arrived and dumped Hiro’s samurai sword and armor on the table. The actual props. We spent the rest of the hour talking about how the props for the show were made, changes that occurred at the last minute, and the thrill and panic of life in Hollywood. I had to duck out a few minutes early so I could be on TV — one of the local news channels was running a live feed from the convention and I got 40 seconds at the end of the program.

Bob Brown, Radcon’s programming head, treats the attending pros very well. We were given plenty of food, and provided with both a Green Room and a Small Press Room to entertain ourselves in when we weren’t on programming. But he was very cruel to us in the Artists Vs. Writers Pictionary game — the writers had to try to draw such concepts as “gay Vulcans,” “genital herpes,” and “the Pythagorean theorem,” while the artists were given clues like “cow.” We’ll get him next year.

So even though I knew hardly anyone at the con, I had a good time hanging out with people I did know: Jay Lake and Adrienne Loska (who very kindly provided transportation there and back), Ken and Jen Scholes, M. K. Hobson, Sara Mueller, Deb Layne of Wheatland Press, and Kami and Carole of the Immaculate Novelists Kult (who bought me a very nice dinner and invited me to make a presentation to their Kult in May).

And I was there when Janna Silverstein got humped.

After I got back from the convention I put up a bright pink stickie on my bathroom mirror that said “This week, writing IS the day job.” But I failed to actually take any action at all on Sunday or Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday, though, were good solid writing days. I am now about 30% through the novel on the first revision pass (which might be the only pass it gets this time around) and have added over 2000 words of new material to address comments I got from my critique group over the last year or so.

Also today, we met with the lawyer and signed my new will, which now includes a clause establishing a literary trust to manage my writings after my death (based on this sample will provided by Neil Gaiman). We also signed our medical advance directives. It’s all gray areas, and no fun to think about, but it’s done. You should do the same, if you haven’t yet.

2/13/08: I can haz book!

Word count: 125149 | Since last entry: 35

Back home from Washington DC.

On Thursday before the fly-in we spent the morning at the Air and Space museum, goggling at such actual craft as the Gossamer Condor and SpaceShipOne, and also saw a Greatest Hits exhibit of the under-renovation American History museum (including Abe Lincoln’s last hat, Judy Garland’s ruby slippers, Mister Rogers’s sweater, and part of ENIAC).

We had lunch at the Museum of the American Indian, whose cafeteria includes Native American cuisine from all over this hemisphere, then toured the museum. But though I loved the architecture, I had trouble respecting the cosmologies presented, which looked to my European-American eye like the stories of very small children (a creation story: “all the people were living like ants in a hollow log, but then a holy man came and let them out, but one woman was pregnant and couldn’t get out.” Huh?)

After a nap, we headed out to Silver Spring for a dinner with fans, arranged by Colleen Cahill, at a Burmese restaurant. Fine food and conversation, marred only slightly by a train breakdown that left us sitting on the train for 15-20 minutes on the way back.

On Friday, another local fan, Peggy Rae Sapienza, who had not been able to make it to dinner, volunteered to help us move from the Tabard Inn to the fly-in hotel. And, as long as we had the use of her car, we visited the other Air and Space museum, the one by the airport.

The other Air and Space museum is bigger than the Tillamook blimp hangar and features the space shuttle Enterpise, a Concorde, an SR-71 Blackbird (which Kate thought looked like a bad guy’s spaceship), and the Enola Gay. Also Willy Ley’s Hugo (for Conquest of Space), a Babylon 5 Usenet fans’ jumpgate symbol (<*>) pin, and a spider that flew on the Space Shuttle (in formaldehyde). We could’t possibly see it all, and eventually hunger drove us to a nearby strip mall for surprisingly good Vietnamese.

Peggy Rae took us back to the hotel, from whence we immediately took off for the Renwick museum, a very small branch of the Smithsonian that has some surprisingly good modern American craft-art (by which I mean furniture-making, glass-blowing, and other “craft” activities raised to the level of fine art). Recommended. And then it was time for the fly-in to start.

Had a great time at the fly-in, where the quality and especially the energy level of the dancing were phenomenal; I had faster and smoother dancing here than at some lower-level fly-ins. We also had a grand time on Saturday night playing “Munchkin” with friends C.J. and Stephen (I won).

On our last day it was bitterly cold — we stopped at Filene’s Basement to buy gloves and earmuffs — and we visited the lobby of the Willard Hotel (said to be the place where the original “lobbyists” hung out) and the National Building Museum, which had an amazingly impressive atrium and several keen exhibits including one about David Macaulay. Then we flew home, uneventfully. That was Monday.

We’ve spent the last couple of days mostly scrambling around to try to get everything done we didn’t do during our week in the nation’s capital and getting ready for our next trips. I’m going to RadCon, where I will be Short Story Guest of Honor, and Kate’s going to a knitting workshop in Tacoma.

On Tuesday we saw an excellent production of Twelfth Night (the funny parts were actually funny, the songs were left in and actually worked, and Viola and Sebastian actually looked a lot like each other). Before that I got in an hour’s work at the coffee shop, where my Wheatland Press editor Deb Layne stopped by and handed me a copy of Space Magic. It is an actual book! And the cover is even more goreous in person! There are still a few glitches inside, but copies of this preview edition will be available at RadCon.

Note that I said “an hour’s work” rather than “an hour’s writing.” My goals for February are in revision hours rather than words written — my goal is an hour and a half per day but I’d really better do two hours or more every day if I’m going to get this thing revised and the synopsis written by the end of this month for an April novel workshop. I didn’t do any writing work while we were in DC but I did an hour and a half on the plane and have kept up at least that pace since. Don’t know if I’ll be able to keep it up while I’m at RadCon.

Today: more errands, more editing (two hours, and now I’ve got all my notes from chapter critiques typed up), and our virtual Valentine’s Day dinner, as we will be apart tomorrow night.

One last thing: last week we met with our lawyer to add a clause to my will about what should happen to my creative works in the event of my death. Nobody likes to think about this sort of thing, but every writer needs to do this. Neil Gaiman explains why, and provides a sample will. Don’t put it off.

2/6/08: Capital!

Word count: 125114 | Since last entry: 2206

I am in Washington DC, touristing about before the “ACDC” square dance fly-in.

First off, I finished the first draft of novel #2 on the plane. I typed THE END just as the pilot was telling us to shut down all electronic equipment for landing. I am right chuffed about that.

After we landed we had an amazing dinner at Bistrot du Coin, a fabulously authentic French bistro in Dupont Circle. Excellent food, not pretentious at all. Our hotel is the funky and character-filled Tabard Inn, which doesn’t seem to know if it’s a hotel, a restaurant, or a bar, but it works.

Today we started off with a visit to the Eastern Market, which is unfortunately under construction and has been temporarily replaced by a small, characterless stand-in. We also got a quick visit to the Supreme Court, which was not in session, where we were accompanied by a crowd of attractive college-age young women, all with long dark hair, and most with the Ash Wednesday cross on their heads. (Who were they?) I have never seen so many ashy forehead crosses as I saw today; I guess it’s true that Portland is one of the most unchurched cities in the country. Then we joined local fan Colleen Cahill, a librarian at the Library of Congress, who treated us to lunch at the Senate Office Building and then gave us a whirlwind tour of the Library.

We got to lunch, half a mile away, via a bewildering series of tunnels, stairways, elevators, and little trains and passed through at least three security checkpoints in each direction. At one point I had to eat part of my luggage (okay, I had a Clif Bar in my belt pouch, and ever since the anthrax scare, food cannot be taken into the Capitol by tourists). Lunch was very nice, but we did not sample the famous Senate Bean Soup. Back at the Library, we got to see the Great Hall, a view of the Reading Room, a keen exhibit of the Bob Hope vaudeville collection, and the even more keen vault and backstage areas of the maps section where Colleen works. She took great delight in showing us many old maps of Portland. We also saw a group of Chassidic Jews, who I realized after a bit were all deaf. (Two had cochlear implants, and they were all signing to each other; I don’t know if it was ASL or Hebrew sign language.)

After that we were exhausted and took a nap. Dinner was at Heritage India, upscale versions of Indian street food. Much was unlike anything I’ve ever had before, and by selecting various small dishes we had a very nice meal for not very much money.

And then I got back to the hotel and checked my email, and found that artist and writer Darin Bradley has posted the cover design for Space Magic, which I have been aching to show you ever since I first saw it. Is it not gorgeous? Here’s another link in case you didn’t click on the first one.. I also got to see Bruce Holland Rogers’s introduction to the collection, which is amusing and very complimentary (he spends the whole introduction urging the reader to stop reading the introduction and read the stories). It’s almost a real book!

No writing today. Probably not tomorrow either. Still a good day. A capital day, even.

2/5/08: We’re off, you know

Word count: 122908 | Since last entry: 3683

Posting via the free wi-fi at the Portland airport. (I love this town.) We’re on our way to Washington DC for the ACDC square dance fly-in, with a few days of touristing beforehand.

I’m into the final section of the novel, and I expect to finish the first draft on the plane today. Nothing left but one final crisis and an emotional resolution for the surviving characters. But I’m a week and three days behind The Plan, and with the amount of traveling we’re doing this month I’ll have in effect about two weeks, rather than than a whole month, to revise the novel and write the synopsis. That should be enough, though. I’m not sure how much revision I’ll be able to do while we’re in Washington, since my critique comments are all in a file drawer at home, and I don’t know how much time and energy will be available after a full day of touristing or dancing anyway. But there are some high-level and word-level things I know I want to do and I can take a first pass at the synopsis. I don’t have a grand revision strategy, but will probably take several passes (one to perk up the main character, one to remove redundant adjectives, etc.).

Meanwhile… the Hugo administrator points out that nominations close in about five weeks. May I suggest that you consider “Titanium Mike Saves the Day” for Best Short Story (you can read it here, for free), Kate Yule for Best Fan Writer, and Bento for Best Fanzine? Anyone who is a member of Denvention or was a member of Nippon 2007 is eligible to nominate.