Archive for March, 2008

3/29/08: Sequences

So we’re still trying to declutter the house.

One of the things I want to get rid of is this big pile of stuff upstairs.

One of the biggest components of that pile is the old PC which we replaced with a shiny new iMac in October. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of old computer hardware but that PC (and its monitor, keyboard, etc.) are still there because there is some data on it that I have to get off of it before I can send it away.

The biggest piece of the data is 16 out of the 19 issues of Bento, which are in FrameMaker binary format. FrameMaker is not available for Intel-based Macs (it’s a Classic app), and there’s just about nothing that reads FrameMaker binaries other than FrameMaker itself, so if I’m going to get those issues of Bento out of FrameMaker and into something else (like, say, posted on it will have to be done on the old PC. (I could install Windows on the Mac, of course, but I don’t want to have to maintain a Windows environment. Too much work to keep it updated and secure.)

So I’ve spent most of the last three days turning those old Bentos into PDF, PostScript, and HTML format. This is an unfortunately manual process, especially the HTML part. FrameMaker does have an HTML export option but both the usability of the workflow and the quality of the emitted HTML are crap. So I’ve been going through and inserting the HTML codes by hand.

A big part of this process is doing the opposite of a lot of the things I did when I created these issues in the first place: turning em-dashes back into –, un-curling quotes, and so on. (I could turn them into the equivalent HTML codes like ’ but that would be error-prone and even more work.) It’s tedious and repetitive and takes longer than I’d hoped, but once I have done that, the rat will begin to gnaw the rope, the cat will begin to chase the rat, the dog will begin to chase the cat, and I will finally be able to get rid of this fershlugginer PC.

The good news is that I get to re-read thirteen years of Bento. There’s some good stuff in there. It will be posted to the web soon, once I’ve finished (just an issue and a half to go) and Kate has proofread it.

Meanwhile, we’ve been having fun with people from Seattle. Dave Howell crashed on our futon Thursday night, Hal O’Brien is there tonight, and we just came back from a lovely Thai dinner with Janna Silverstein (Jay Lake, Adrienne, and Bronwyn were there too, along with Robin Catesby, Dave Howell, and Karen Abrahamson from Vancouver BC). And tomorrow is Kate’s birthday.

3/25/08: If I’m not writing, do I exist?

Looks like it’s been over a week since I blogged, and I don’t even have the excuse of an Easter-weekend convention. I guess if I’m not writing, I have nothing to say. It’s not that I’ve been completely unwriterly, but I’ve been spending my writing time reading for the upcoming novel workshop. I have completed critiquing 7 chapters-and-outlines and am now slogging through my one full novel assignment, an 800-page naval adventure. Fortunately I am enjoying that one.

The author of the naval adventure is, meanwhile, reading my novel, as are Dean Wesley Smith, my agent, and a few of my writer buddies. I hope they don’t ask for major changes. The first novel was recently rejected by a small press and is off to another even smaller. Also, I was disappointed not to make the Hugo ballot, and I don’t hold out much hope for winning the Nebula (by the way, if you are a SFWA member, remember that the Nebula voting deadline is 3/31). In this situation it’s a bit more work to retain the necessary optimism. Writing requires a combination of great sensitivity (for writing and revision) and a cast-iron ego (for submitting and rejection).

Being in town for Easter, for the first time in who knows how long, we went to our neighborhood Easter brunch. Lots of people there from blocks around, many of whom we don’t know, but the food was great and we had a fun time.

We talked with several people at the brunch about bathrooms. Yes, having failed to learn our lesson from the kitchen remodel, we’re going ahead with the bathroom. It’s a smaller room, so should be easier, right? On the other hand, doing without a kitchen for eight weeks might just be a tad easier than doing without our one-and-only bathroom for the same time. (You know the story about which body part is in charge and why, right?) We have already found — and purchased — The Perfect Tub. Despite the fact that we don’t even have a signed contract with our designer yet, or more than a vague idea of a floor plan, this 1930s tub we found at Rejuvenation was just too wonderful (and rare!) to pass up.

The perfect tub

Apart from that I’ve been running a lot of errands and doing a lot of to-do list items, including some decluttering (not enough, must get back on the stick about that). I also have met with my financial adviser, tax guy, trainer, hairdresser, and doctor. They all tell me everything is in pretty good shape for a guy my age. Later this week we have several out-of-town friends visiting, and next week Missy the organizer will show up for another day of decluttering. The days, they really are just packed.

3/17/08: I made this!

Word count: 129179 | Since last entry: 787

“The Dark Behind the Stars,” my second novel, is now a finished manuscript! This is the first time I’ve printed the whole thing out. (I bought a Brother HL-5250 to do it, since the HP 1022 I wanted doesn’t seem to be made any more…) Copies will shortly be on their way to my agent and other beta readers.

I made this!

3/14/08: My submission tracking process

Word count: 128392 | Since last entry: -24

The -24 words above is hilarious. I have been writing very head-down this week and have chopped off the entire last half chapter, replacing it with a new chapter-and-a-half. And this just HAPPENS to almost exactly equal the word count the last time I blogged. In point of fact I’ve removed almost 5000 words and written the same number of entirely new words. I hope to have a new complete draft ready to send to my beta readers today or tomorrow.

In the last week I also saw the excellent touring production of Twelve Angry Men, with Richard Thomas as Juror Eight, and have done a bit of decluttering. I’ve also been mildly sick. Not too surprising given the number of sick people at Potlatch.

The main reason I’m blogging right now is that I posted the following as a comment in kmckiernan‘s blog, and I thought it might be helpful to others.

For tracking story submissions I use an Excel spreadsheet with a separate sheet for each story. The name of each sheet is the story’s filename (titles change, but I keep the same base filename for all versions) and has the following columns:

  • Date Out
  • Sent To
  • Date Back
  • Days Out
  • Response
  • Comments

Each row represents a submission (well, technically a state change, because I also have rows for Wrote, Critiqued, and Edited for each story). The Days Out is automatically calculated from the Date Out and Date Back (or, if Date Back is blank, the current date). The Response field has the following values:

  • ? – Awaiting Response
  • R – Rejected
  • D – Withdrawn
  • X – Other Non-Sale (e.g. market closed)
  • W – Rewrite Requested
  • A – Accepted
  • P – Published
  • T – Trunked

I also have a Summary sheet with a macro that pulls together all of the rows in every sheet into a single sheet (adding the name of the sheet, which is the story title, as an additional column at the beginning). I use AutoFilter on this sheet to display only those rows where the status is Awaiting Response, and that’s my summary of stories out and how long they’ve been wherever they are.

One important thing about my spreadsheet is that each sheet includes not only past submissions but future ones. The first few rows of each sheet have Wrote, Critiqued, and Edited in the Sent To field (with start and end dates and no Response value). The remaining rows are all markets, in the order in which I intend to send this story. I make up this list as soon as the story is finished. When I send the story out, I fill in the Date Out field. I use the Days Out field in my Summary sheet to see how long it’s been out and to prompt me to query.

When I get a response, I fill in the Date Back and Response fields, and if the response is a rejection I just look down one row to see where I’m going to send it next. (If I already have a story at the next market, I move the next open market up a row and send it there instead.) This helps me to keep stories in submission. I rarely have a story sit around for more than a day or two. If the response is an acceptance, I remove the remaining markets and replace them with rows for Contract, Check, Galleys, and Publication for tracking the story through production.

Here’s an actual example:

 Date Out Sent To Date Back Days Resp Comments 16-May-06 [wrote] 26-Jun-06 41 22-Jul-06 [crit group] 05-Aug-06 14 16-Aug-06 [revised] 17-Aug-06 1 18-Aug-06 F&SF 28-Sep-06 41 R "Many thanks for sending [this] my way, but I'm going to pass on this one. As it happens, I just bought a post-Katrina New Orleans ghost story." 28-Sep-06 Asimov's 16-Jan-07 110 R "The story is quite sweet, but I'm afraid it doesn't quite work for me." 16-Jan-07 Strange Horizons 27-Mar-07 70 R "This has some moving and evocative moments, but the whole thing with the ghosts feels too straightforward to me." 31-Mar-07 Realms of Fantasy 26-Sep-07 179 R Queried after 6 months and got this back: "I emailed Shawna about this one but never heard back. I'm fairly certain she passed on this one." 07-Oct-07 Glimmer Train 14-Dec-07 68 R Marked as "Complete" (i.e. rejected) on their online status form 14-Dec-07 Weird Tales 06-Jan-08 23 R "I'm not convinced it all worked for me, particularly the ending." 06-Jan-08 Brutarian 68 ? 1/16/140 Interzone Aeon Lady Churchill's Black Gate Talebones 

The story is currently at Brutarian and has been for 68 days. The notation “1/16/140” is the minimum, average, and maximum response times for that market posted at the Black Hole market list.

The Comments field in the actual spreadsheet includes the entire response (usually I can just paste this in from the rejection email); I’ve included only a representative snippet above.

3/10/08: Victoria, and Seattle again, and home

Word count: 129587 | Since last entry: 1171

The seaplane from Seattle to Victoria was way cool — a terribly civilized way to travel. With only four passengers on the plane (us, plus an off-duty pilot and his charming daughter, bopping over to Victoria for a picnic) the formalities of boarding, customs, and preflight check took only a couple of minutes; we had neither the hassles of Homeland Security nor the waits of the Peace Arch border crossing. The flight took 45 minutes and the whole thing was like the cool bit at the end of a jet flight where you can see all the individual houses and cars below.

We stayed at the Empress, also terribly civilized. The location was superb, service excellent as you’d expect, and the beds supremely comfortable. But the room was rather small and located in the newer wing, so while tasteful was not particularly Empress-y. I’m not sure I’d spring for that splurge again. However, we did enjoy the curry buffet at the Bengal Room, along with many other very fine meals. Actually, we had excellent food karma this whole trip, including a breakfast on the last morning at the Cafe Vieux Montreal, where I was not expecting to cross a language barrier as we passed through the front door. Really looking forward to Farthing Party now!

Apart from eating, we had a relaxing time wandering around, shopping for books and CDs, and poking around a cool old cemetery and a museum or two. Took a nap every afternoon. Life is hard. We also attended a stitch-and-bitch at a local coffee shop, where I played the Dear Husband, sitting in the back and working on my novel. I only wrote on four days during the trip, but the 1100 words noted above actually represent 1600 words taken out and a new scene of 2700 words written to replace them: a new and more emotionally-significant death for one of my main characters.

Our flight back to Seattle was much more popular, so much so that we not only used the larger 10-passenger plane but also added a second plane. Never been on a flight that was so full it required an overflow aircraft before.

The weekend was spent at the “Rain Festival” square dance fly-in (but it’ll always be Geoduck to us), ably called by Andy Shore and Darren Gallina. GCA caller Osamu Miyabe from Toronto called a couple of really exceptional Advanced and Challenge tips, notable for fast and surprising choreo that really flowed. A caller to seek out!

Listening to Osamu call “Light and Reft Gland,” I realized that the reason it seems to our ears that the Japanese get the L’s and R’s backward every single time is that they have only one sound for both. You know the optical illusion in which a gray circle looks dark against a white background and light against a black background, even though both circles are exactly the same shade of gray? It’s the same with the Japanese L/R sound. When encountered where we expect an L, it sounds like an R, and vice versa.

During the fly-in we enjoyed the gracious hospitality of Ulrika and Hal O’Brien, not to mention Sarah the dog and Tinka, Lefty, and Spike the cats. Though Sarah did step on a very tender portion of my anatomy (“she has deadly accuracy,” said Ulrika) and we never did see scaredy-cat Spike. We also stopped in briefly at the Seattle fans’ pub meet on Sunday before heading home. Alas, there we learned that some good news we’d been hoping for had not come to pass. Darn.

Since being home I’ve felt extremely pressured by the amount of stuff left undone during our travels. I decided this morning that I would try to do four things for at least an hour every day this week: writing, to-do list items, decluttering, and exercise. Did all four today (allowing for some creative accounting on the time spent decluttering) but I got some new information toward the end of today that may require shifting into all-writing-all-the-time mode for a day or two starting tomorrow. But for now, to bed.

3/3/08: Mark your calendars

Word count: 128416 | Since last entry: 0

In conjunction with the launch of my first collection, Space Magic from Wheatland Press, I will have a reading at Powell’s in Beaverton on Wednesday, May 14 at 7pm. Watch this space for more details.

3/2/08: Potlatch

Word count: 128416 | Since last entry: 0

Potlatch has been good so far. The hotel is fabulous and many of my favorite people are here. We’ve had excellent meals with friends old and new, and bought girl scout cookies from Edd Vick and Amy Thomson’s daughter Katie.

Yesterday I was on a panel called “Man and Aquaman,” about biological and technological modification of humans. The panel started off slow and diverged radically from the original idea, but we had fun talking about what defines “human” and “self.” In the afternoon I gave a reading, which was well attended, probably because I came in just at the end of Pat Murphy’s reading and most of her audience stayed. I read the zeppelin story, which made some people want to know what else happened in that universe (I never have written two stories set in the same universe, never mind sequels, but I’m thinking that I might try that one day soon). The panel on atheism was fun and intriguing and made me say “what, is everyone in this regiment a woman?” I think that atheists really need to be more open about our beliefs, so that more people will realize how common atheism is and how we really are good and moral people.

Saturday evening was the Clarion West benefit auction, and I’m pleased to say that items we donated raised over $200. I also made out like a bandit in the “chocolate for trivia” event preceding the auction.

No writing since leaving home. Really ought to do something about that.

Oh, one more thing… got a hint of a possibility that maybe I will be getting some good news soon. Perhaps. Fingers crossed.