Friday, September 28, 2007

Writing Progress

It's in the mid 40's as I type this.  Every autumn I'm surprised at the abrupt drop in the temperature.  We're still painting the house and the rains have come.  Luckily, we've covered most of the exposed wood.  

In writing news I think I wrote about 300 words -- some of it was unplaced snips that needed connective plot and some of it was brand new.  I'll need to sit down and go over the story to make sure the dialog isn't too melodramatic and Serves The Plot.  

This weekend is a scraping weekend, so it looks like I'll have to finish this story by next Friday instead of by this Tuesday as I'd hoped; I've decided to go to the Wordos table the first and last Tuesdays of the month, and use the other Tuesdays for large chunks of writing (and mailing finished stories to varous markets).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Point of View

I've been reading an anthology by Bruce Coville. It's interesting to see how his young adult/children's lit short stories from the mid 90's are different from the speculative fiction going across the Wordos critique table today. I think what I notice the most is that Coville's stories are frequently written in first person past tense ("I'll tell you what I did twenty years ago..."), which is supposedly harder to do because it kills the tension in the story (if the narrator is telling the story, chances are they're still alive). Anyway, his stories make me wonder if I couldn't press some personal boundaries by writing in a similar style -- or if Coville's narrative choice is genre specific.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

WOTF Reflections

The WOTF workshop was over by the time of last month's lunar eclipse. It's been a full lunar cycle and I've been looking at my writing process, and this is what I've discovered:
  • I produce more written material not when I stay up late writing (or blogging) but when I get enough sleep.
  • I have an easier time with plots when I start out with a better understanding of my characters (instead of using plot and scene ideas to try to discover the characters).
  • E-mail (and blogging) feel like writing sometimes, but they aren't -- so I'm trying to schedule one or two times a day to do internet things instead of jumping on it all the time.
  • Spending time with other writers is good for my mental health -- especially if we're discussing writing.
  • Using a laptop to compose out of the house is a good thing

Now it's back to work for me.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


This weekend's book signing has been rescheduled to another time. I'll know when soon. I guess I'll be doing more painting.

In other Writing News, I got a Wordos critique this evening. The critiques were kinder than I expected, because I think my fantasy stories are better than my Sci/Fi stories, and I've been pushing myself to write more Sci/Fi. Most folks liked my aliens, and wanted them a little weirder (but not too much weirder); the best suggestions was to comb through the manuscript and replace mammal-based descriptions. Jerry Oltion pointed out a cliché -- a future dead Earth with still-active deadly traps -- that I'll need to iron out a bit. I can do it, but it will be interesting as the trap plays a big part of the story.

I've got one new story that I'm working on -- I'd thought I'd try to hand it in next week, except that I've decided to go to Wordos only twice a month. I'll see if I can keep next week's deadline... there's a backlog of stories that I really need to tweak and then mail out, and it would be great if I could find a good balance between writing new stories and mailing out post-Wordos-critique stories.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Writing Progress

Finished tweaking a short science fiction story to hand in to the Wordo's tomorrow -- this is the one that I hammered out during the WOTF week. Writing to get stories through the Wordo's table is a good motivation, and the story I handed in last week is ready to be shreaded to bits by the table. Of course, I have to polish critiqued and then send them out and I'll confess there's a backlog to work on. I'm still working on a much longer urban fantasy piece that I hope to have finished by the week.

Sunday was a painting day, and this evening between the time Mark got home from work until it was dark I painted as well.

WOTF 23 Released

Writers of the Future Volume 23 officially released this past week. Folks outside of the United States can go to to order. WOTF 23 is currently #20 on for SF Anthology.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

WOTF Book Signing

Today was my first book signing (along with Damon Kaswell) in Eugene!

We were at Waldon Books in Eugene's Valley River Center, an indoor shopping mall. Stephen Stanley (WOTF XXI) and the only person to win both Writers and Illustrator of the Future showed up to support us. We sold seven books (which is good as it's more usual to sell none).

We had fun arranging the books into a Stonehenge Monument (yes, I sang, "Stonehenge! Where a man's a man and the children dance to the pipes of Pan!"). Damon put the books back into a stacked wedge shape; which I had rearranged into a stacked wedge shape that arced toward the front of our table. (And you know what, if you're actually doing something at a table instead of just sitting there with a pen in your hand, people will stop and give you a few more seconds of attention.)

The bookstore had us just outside the magnetic theft detector grids, so we were out in the mall. On one hand this was nice because we got to interact with the S.M.A.R.T (Start Making A Reader Today, a volunteer organization that reads books to young kids) table in the middle of the mall. On the other hand, this was too bad because it was so loud (and echoey) there was no way we would have been able to do any kind of reading.

Someone wanted (jokingly) to know if either Damon or I were L Ron Hubbard. We replied "No!" in chorus, and I added, "I'm much younger."

We also got a few "Eeuw, Science Fiction and Fantasy!" folks. Most of them were nice, and we tried to get them to tell us what they did read.

We got a quite a few averted eyes (which we were expecting), and by the end of our stint we were almost shouting out. "We're local authors! We won a contest! We're published in this anthology! Buy our book! Here, have a free bookmark!"

Somebody wanted to know where we got our ideas and kind of implied that we might get them when we're drunk or high. Stephen and Damon said something about imagination being the best high. I confessed my dependency on chemical stimulation and held up an empty Pepsi can (thank you, Tim Powers).

I was very glad that I visited the bookstore ahead of time because the staff already knew who I was and I had a good idea of what to expect (and what to bring). The bookstore staff were very nice.

We're scheduled for at least five more book signings before the year is out (see schedule at the right). Some are in Corvallis and Albany. If you're in town, come see us!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Writing Progress

There was a long nap today so I managed to get in about 950 words in the latest short story.  With any luck I'm not writing too much of a soap opera.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Writing Progress

Had a really good writing night Tuesday -- the Wordos had a marathon writing session and after about two hours I had about sixteen pages of really rough draft. There was one point where I was writing a magic ritual scene, and Vartinna was playing on my iPod and the scene was gelled in my mind and I was swaying to the music because I was there in the scene and the POV character said, "I love you," to the love interest and she said, "I know."

And I burst out laughing because I'd channelled my inner George Lucas. Luckily, Jerry & Kathy Oltion, Damon Kaswell, and everyone else at the table were tolerant.

This morning I've managed to trim out the Han Solo / Princess Leah dialogue. I've got about eight pages of useful writing and it's inserted into the rough draft of the short story, which is sitting at about twenty pages.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Home Scraping

The weather has turned and the house is still being scraped. Luckily, it really hasn't rained all that much. But the nights are down in the low 50's and it's been overcast. It's hard to remember that last week it was 90-something. I enjoy the cool temperatures, but I'd forgotten how the dank and damp go to my hands (and feet). Usually we have another few weeks of cold followed by hot weather.

Yesterday I watched Arthur while Mark and my dad scraped the house. Today Mark and Arthur are going off on a hike and it's my turn to scrape. If it were up to me I think I'd start painting. There are some places we have to calk the house, and we need to powerwash the shingles.

Arthur continues to grab any stick longer than he is tall and prance about with it singing the first phrase of the Abbot's Bromley Horn Dance. He also requests the Bromley procession music daily.

On the writing front: I consolidated various snips of my short story from my palm pilot into one word processing file and now I need to sit down and write the connective plot.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Got the Art

The UPS guy dropped off the illustration Lorraine Schleter did for my Writers of the Future story, "Mask Glass Magic." I'm going to have to find wall space in the closet (literally) where my writing "office" is so I can see it and be motivated -- Lorraine so obviously got my story that it gives me a thrill every time I look at it to know that I got into somebody's head.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I Guess We Wont Quilt Anytime Soon

Today I decided that I wasn't stimulating Arthur enough. "Arthur, do you want to play with right triangles?" I asked.

He did.

So I got some red and some purple construction paper, scissors, and a paper cutter. I cut strips of red and purple and began to cut them into right triangles.

"Arthur, no; don't rip the strips. I need them to make triangles. Is this one red or -- No, don't scrunch the triangles. Scissors aren't for Arthur. Wait, buddy, that paper cutter is sharp. DON'T eat the triangles. See, you can make a pinwheel out of -- hey! Keep those on the table. I said the paper cutter is sharp. OK. Look, see how three triangles makes a -- eeuw! Don't blow spit on them, that's gross. OK. Nice try with the scissors. Look, I'll arrange these triangles, and these triangles are for you. I think I can make an octagon; don't blow mine off the table. Blow yours off the table." (Why God, Why?)

Of course, I thought maybe I'd have better luck with wooden right triangles; except that they'd have to be wider than four inches at their narrowest point. And speaking of points, everything would have to be bevelled to prevent its ready insertion into an eye.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Quick Notes

Survived the Faire. During our last act on Sunday, the winds were so strong a tent line for the stage's canopy snapped and a Very Large Pole fell near us. We were singing Percel's "I Gave Her Cakes" (I was in Renaissance Oyster Girl Drag at the time), and we kept singing as we propped up the pole for the stage manager folks to stake it into place. I think it was technically one of our better performances of the song as we were all bunched together to keep the pole from flying into the air (the canopy was an old, recycled parachute).

Arthur got to watch the Abbot's Bromley Horn Dance multiple times, but declined to play the triangle.

And... as I'm the guy who organizes the opening and closing parades, it was with great mirth that I managed to get the faire's troup of belly dancers to agree to dance in the final closing parade. I've been wanting to do that for years.

Mark was a sweetie for watching Arthur all weekend (and standing in for me at my Mother's birthday party).

I'm currently working on a short story I hope to have wrapped up by next week... we'll see if House Scraping and Painting permits this. And I have a ton of Book Signings coming up with Damon Kaswell.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Early September

It's a few weeks before the Equinox and the leaded crystals in the kitchen window are throwing rainbows around the room again. During the months when the Summer sunlight was too high to hit them, I'd forgotten how much I enjoy the dancing sparkles.

It's time for the Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire. This faire is going to be interesting; this year I'll have to see what busking with the harp will bring me in terms of purchasing faire momentos. I enjoy the faire, and it's turned into a time of year when I catch up with a bunch of folks I really only see once a year. My favorite vender wasn't there last year and I hope they return: they have a coin mint where they drop a Really Big Weight onto a blank coin to impress their designs.

Arthur is really interested in the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance horns (deer antlers on poles). He calls them "clackers" and will start to hum the processional music when he sees them. He really wants to whack things with them (in the dance the horns clash at various points in the procession), and was dissapointed when we told him he could clang a triangle during the dance (which is traditional).

In writing news, I've received at least three manuscript rejections... and I've one manuscript that I'm hoping is under consideration and not in some kind of sumissions limbo.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Gimli and Galadriel Moment

My recollections of WOTF would not be complete if they didn't include my final really cool discussion with KD Wentworth.

We were speaking about writing, and KD was telling me about some of the Tulsa area authors, and then she gave me some market hints, and then we started talking about the WOTF submission process. I said how Mask Glass Magic was my twelfth entry and that my very first submission to WOTF, Briallen Dreaming of Myrmidons (in something like 2002) was a semi-finalist (meaning it was in the top twenty stories submitted that quarter -- you have to be one of the top eight for a chance at first through third place); and being a semi-finalist right off the bat was hard because I expected each and every one of my stories to place that high (at least). It got to be a routine; every year (roughly the same quarter), I'd get a semi-finalist critique of my story. I'd gotten three critiques from KD before winning.

"Tell me what the stories were," KD said. It turns out she remembered writing the critiques for the stories! I remembered the order wrong and corrected myself: "Oh, yeah," I said, "Skies of Dreaming was the second story because you sort of told me in the critique to throw more rocks at the main character; and so for The Colossus of Rhodes I actually had a eighty foot robot hurling boulders at the character --"

"-- You must have thought, 'What more does she want?!'"

And we laughed and I realized 'Whoa, KD understands my frustration" and that something I'd heard at Orycon last year was true. A panel of editors said, "We're rooting for you [authors] to succeed in telling a tale."

I told her that I really appreciated hearing in the workshop that her critiques were only suggestions (not commands) for how the story might be expanded.

... And then someone dragged me off to get drinks.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Final WOTF Remembrances

Arthur in front of the WOTF BannerIt's been a little over a week since WOTF.

The Saturday after the awards ceremony, we went to a Pasadena Borders for a book signing. The first book signing was right after the awards ceremony; we were all signing each others' books. Of course, sometime during the night I placed my signed copy of the book down amidst all the hundreds of copies of the book and didn't discover it until I opened "my" copy in my hotel room at 2 AM.

I think I was about to slide under the table.So everyone had to sign my copy again at Borders.

I got to sit between Tim Powers and Stephen Kotowych, this year's WOTF Gold Award Writer. KD Wentworth was on the other side to Tim. If you look beyond KD, you can see Tony Pi (my roommate for the workshop) and Damon Kaswell (fellow Wordo). Cory Docto Sean Williams was on the other side to Stephen (and Lorraine Schleter was on the other side of Sean). Stephen is a really nice guy -- I haven't had a chance to read his story ("Saturn in G Minor") yet, because I'm only about half-way through the anthology. Tim was tolerant of my antics, and just before he went off for a break he said that if I managed to sign one of his books for a reader I could have one of his Cokes. Unfortunately, nobody wanted a faux Tim Powers signature. Luckily, Mark brought me some food shortly thereafter.

Kim Zimring and Lorraine SchleterNow that I've had a little time to compile my notes and take some time for writing, I'm seeing how my approach to writing short stories wasn't exactly the best choice -- and I'm evaluating all my past work. It's going to be really hard not to go through my manuscripts and try to tweak them a lot.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Writers of Babylon

After all the Writers of the Future festivities were over, Mark, Arthur and I (well, OK, mostly Mark) dragged Aliette around LA on tourist adventures.

The tram ride downtown was pleasant, and then we tried to get on a bus. It more-or-less slammed in our faces and we were forced to walk a distance before another non-express bus picked us up. Eventually, we wound up at La Brea Tar Pits. The diorama of the mother mammoth sinking into the pits in front of a horrified baby and father mammoth was a bit much.

We went on the Miracle Mile in an attempt to help Aliette find a gift for her father. Instead we found (well, OK, it was Mark who said, "Honey, I found it") a $4000 California king bed with a purple velvet frame and golden Babalonian cows flanking its sides.

The bed was right up there with the ATHLETE lunar robot. (Pause to imagine being carried around town in the Bed of the Golden Calves by an ATHLETE...) But it was too expensive to buy and ship.

Ah well, we would have been hanging laundry on the horns once the novelty of sleeping between golden calves wore off. And we would have had to re-decorate our entire house.


During the WOTF workshop, we got to visit the JPL.

We got to see a Mars Rover, which are much larger than I originally thought. Probably the coolest thing about the Mars Rover is that it e-mail its route as a map to its drivers on Earth, which they can look at on their cell phones.

We also got to see the prototype ATHLETE, a 2000 pound, hexagonal robot they want to use to explore the moon.

This thing doesn't move quite as fast as is implied by the video, and you can see it here. . .

It's still wicked cool and I want an army of them to do my shopping for me.

Obligatory quote:

John (eyes set in Evil Genius Mode): "Wow. I want a house made out of ATHLETEs."

JPL Guy (who programs NASA robots): "Gee, you trust robots a lot more than I do."